Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 13

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 13: “Newsy” Jack Kanchikoff once had a column in the Vancouver Sun…

I’ve been a little obsessed with “Newsy” (or “Newsie”) Jack Kanchikoff ever since I first wrote about him on this blog in 2013. I also recently wrote an updated story on Newsie Jack for Scout Magazine. So imagine my excitement when I saw this drawing of him from an old issue of the Vancouver Sun just a few days ago.

It turns out that from 1949 to 1955 Jack Kanichikoff had a regular column in the Vancouver Sun promoting his annual fundraising efforts for the March of Dimes charity.  Since the start of the March of Dimes in 1949, Jack Kanchikoff worked tirelessly, year after year, fundraising for the charity for sick children.

“Newsy” Jack Says columns like these (below) appeared in the Vancouver Sun:

Three of “Newsy” Jack’s columns in the Vancouver Sun – Dec 24, 1949; Dec 27, 1950; and 1953.

It is interesting that the column from 1949 mentions a gift from an ex-news vendor (and Penthouse Nightclub owner) Joe Philliponi. In fact, several of the columns mentioned the generous support of Philliponi over the year’s for Jack’s one-man campaign for the March of Dimes. The columns also reveal that there were many individuals and organizations in the community who also supported Kanchikoff in his efforts. In fact, Jack Kanchikoff was such a feature of Vancouver society at this time that he garners several mentions in Jack Wasserman’s column.

Vancouver Sun, February 12, 1949.

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 12

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 12:  Rena Whitney was the city’s first female newspaper publisher…

Sara Ann McLagan may have been the first female publisher of a daily newspaper (Vancouver Daily World) in Vancouver, however, the title for the first female publisher of a newspaper in the city goes to Rena Whitney. Like McLagan, who took over as publisher after the death of her husband, John McLagan, in 1901, Whitney took the helm at the weekly paper, the Mount Pleasant Advocate, after the death of her husband publisher Mayo Whitney in March of 1900.

Clippings from the Mt. Pleasant Advocate. Available via UBC Open Collections.

The Advocate was established April 8, 1899, by newspaper publisher/editor and lawyer, (Charles) Mayo Whitney. Whitney originally from Massachusetts moved to British Columbia with his first wife Laura and son Charles Francis Whitney sometime in the late 1880s. By 1890, the Whitneys had settled in Courtenay, B.C. where Mayo and his son Charles (Frank) started a newspaper, the Courtenay Weekly News. After the death of Laura Whitney on December 22, 1893 in New Westminster, the Whitney father and son team continue to run the newspaper in Courtenay until at least 1895. They drop off the radar until 1899, when widower Mayo Whitney and his second wife Rena show up living in Mount Pleasant and publishing the Mount Pleasant Advocate.

The Advocate newspaper office was located at 2525 Westminster Avenue (Main Street) in the heart of the Mount Pleasant village. “Devoted to the interests of Mt. Pleasant and South Vancouver”, the paper was not known for its hard-hitting news, but was nonetheless an important part of the growing community of Mount Pleasant.

Sadly, there is not much known about Rena Whitney. The 1901 Canada Census for Vancouver reveals that Rena Whitney was born in the U.S.*, on July 3 1854, was a widow, working as a newspaper publisher, and living with her son, Ralph Cummings (from a previous marriage), a printer, who was born September 24, 1878. Ralph worked at the newspaper with his mother, first as a printer and later as the Advocate manager.

Vancouver Daily World February 28, 1908.

Rena Whitney sold the Advocate in early 1908 due to health reasons. The Vancouver Daily World item (above) explains that she left the city for California. Unfortunately, this is the last information we hear about this intriguing woman who was part of Vancouver’s newspaper history.

*Update: An archivist friend of mine located Rena Whitney’s California 1934 death certificate it appears that she stayed in Los Angeles with her sister for the remainder of her life. The death certificate also revealed that she was born in the US not NS (Nova Scotia) as I previously stated.

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Fun Fact: The first female publisher/editor in Canada was Mary Ann Shadd Cary who ran an anti-slavery newspaper called The Provincial Freeman (1853-1860).

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 11

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 11: Vancouver was home to the first true Canadian comic book (and comic super hero)…

The Maple Leaf Publishing Company, headquartered at 849 Homer Street in Vancouver, was the third largest of Canada’s wartime comic companies and the only one located outside of Eastern Canada. During World War II, U.S. comics were deemed “non-essential” imports under Canada’s War Exchange Conservation Act in 1940, so four Canadian companies decided to get into the game and a home-grown comic book industry was born.

A Better Comics cover featuring Brok Windsor from July 1946.

In fact, Maple Leaf is generally viewed as the publisher of the first true Canadian comic book. Their Better Comics Vol.1, No. 1 came out in March ’41 and was initially full-colour and priced at 15 cents. Later, to save production costs, Maple Leaf produced comics with black and white interiors, known as Canadian Whites, this move allowed them to drop the price to ten cents an issue.

Better Comics also introduced the first Canadian superhero –  artist Vernon Miller’s Iron Manwho appeared in the first issue of Better Comics.  Iron Man was the “lone survivor of an advanced, subterranean civilization”, and was “summoned to the surface world to aid humanity”.  His powers – “great strength, speed and the ability to leap vast distances” were similar to those of the early Superman. Iron Man’s costume was minimal, consisting of “blue swim-trunks, while boots (red or blue) were optional”. [ Not to be confused with Marvel Comics’ Iron Man, who was first introduced in 1963.  Therefore, it could be said that Vancouver is the birthplace of the first “Iron Man”!]

Other super heroes like Brock Windsor, Deuce Granville, Senorita Marquita, Bill Speed, Stuff Buggs, and the Black Wing were introduced to Canadians on the pages of the comics published by Maple Leaf.

In addition to Better Comics, Maple Leaf published Bing Bang Comics, Lucky Comics and Name-it Comics (later renamed Rocket Comics).

After the war ended, American comics were once again available for sale in Canada. Unable to compete, sadly, by late 1946 Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Publishing was out of the Canadian comic business.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 10

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 10: Steveston was once known as Salmonopolis…

Vancouver Daily World Aug 14 1897

Steveston was once the salmon town of Canada. So many canneries set up shop there that it earned the moniker, Salmonopolis – the city of salmon. Newspaper stories from the 1890s/1900s about the canning industry in Steveston used the dateline: Salmonopolis.

Portion of the key plan of the Steveston canneries, 1915 – Charles E. Goad, June 1915.

By the 1890’s, Steveston was a full-fledged salmon boom-town with a fishing season population of 10,000. Fishers of Japanese, Chinese, First Nation and European heritage flooded into “Salmonopolis” and canneries lined its shores along the Fraser. Salmon was King! So much so, that the over 120-year-old Steveston Hotel was once called the Sockeye Hotel. Manager Harry Lee opened The Sockeye Hotel and Club in the spring of 1895. It seems that when Lee opened the hotel, Salmonopolis, or Steveston, was also a popular destination for those participating in the “bicycle craze” of the 1890s. He made sure that the Sockeye Hotel was the “headquarters for bicyclists”.

Vancouver Daily World, 1895

I think Salmonopolis would make a great name for a Steveston-based craft beer – Salmonopolis Saison, anyone?

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 9

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 9: Athletic Park was Vancouver’s first purpose-built baseball stadium…

Athletic Park was sited atop an escarpment overlooking industrial False Creek at the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. Bob Brown, the owner of the Vancouver Beavers Baseball Team, known locally as Mr. Baseball, built it on land leased from the CPR on the southeast corner of West 5th and Hemlock. Brown purportedly cleared the land for the park himself using dynamite and a pickaxe! Over 6,000 baseball fans were in attendance for the park’s opening day on April 17, 1913.

Exterior of Athletic Park ca. 1920. Photo: COV Archives, CVA 99-870.

Mainly used for baseball, Athletic Park also hosted other sports like football and lacrosse, as well as labour and political rallies. Athletic Park was also notable for the first time a night game was played illuminated by floodlights in Canada.

Bob Brown bought the Capilanos baseball team with the help of Capilano Breweries Ltd in 1939. This team would eventually evolve into the Vancouver Mounties and later the Vancouver Canadians. Brown sold Athletic Park to Capilano Breweries Ltd. owner Emil Sick in 1945, but stayed on as manager until 1954. Athletic Park’s Capilano Stadium was home to the team until 1951 when a new Capilano Stadium (now Nat Bailey Stadium) opened on Little Mountain. It’s said that some of Athletic Park’s turf made it to the new stadium, ensuring that at least a piece of Vancouver baseball history would live on.

Athletic Park was demolished in the early 1950s to make way for the elevated Hemlock street on-ramp for the new Granville Street Bridge, which opened in 1954.

Baseball opening day, 1915. Photo: COV Archives, PAN N14B

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 8

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 8: 1970s teen sensation René Simard once had a variety show on CBC TV that was filmed in Vancouver …

From 1977 to 1979, René hosted The René Simard Show, a variety show recorded in the CBC studios in Vancouver in front of a live (mainly female) audience.

René was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec in 1961. He started his singing career at the age of 9, capturing the hearts of audiences in his native Quebec. In 1974, Simard represented Canada at the International Festival of Song in Tokyo, where he won first prize for performance and the Frank Sinatra trophy, which was presented by Sinatra himself. Internationally, the teenage Simard was also a big hit in Japan. He made several guest appearances on U.S. television variety shows, before he began starring in his own English-language network television show, in 1977, at the age of 16.

The CBC show was produced in Vancouver by Alan Thicke and featured Canadian and international guests, including Salome Bey, Jose Feliciano, Liona Boyd, Andy Williams, The Bay City Rollers, and Peter Ustinov in songs and sketches. In addition, the show featured sports champions, such as high jumper Greg Joy and skier Wayne Wong, and also the cringe-worthy musical combination of Rogatien Vachon, Marcel Dionne, and Boom Boom Geoffrion,  as the Hockey Rockers. A true Canadian 1970s variety show to be sure.

Behind the scenes of the René Simard Show from ICI CB / Yukon:

 

 

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 7

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 7: Vancouver’s first aquarium was located at the old English Bay bathhouse…

Before the current Vancouver Aquarium was established in Stanley Park, there once was an aquarium located on English Bay across from Morton Park. The aquarium was located in a bathhouse built in 1906 (the building was torn down in 1964) and was in operation from October 1939 to June 1956. The former English Bay men’s bathhouse was leased by Seattle’s Ivar Haglund – yes, “Ivar’s Acres of Clams”, Ivar Haglund – in 1939.  Haglund was already the owner of an aquarium on Seattle’s waterfront when he entered into a share-the-receipts agreement with the Park Board to run the Vancouver aquarium. The aquarium opened with over 100 varieties of fish, plant and animal sea life on display, all obtained from the waters of English Bay and the Gulf of Georgia. The most popular exhibits were that of “Oscar and Oliver” the octopi and “Mike and Billy” the harbour seals.  A new wing that featured non-live exhibits like a ship’s wheelhouse, microscopic enlargements, and the story of the salmon canning industry was opened in 1941 to much fanfare.

Ad from the Vancouver Sun in 1940.

However, the war years must have taken a toll, because by 1945 unfavourable stories about the aquarium started to appear in the press. Like the one by Vancouver Sun reporter Ray Gardner, where he called the aquarium “dingy”, “damp”, and “unsightly”, saying it would be “a lovely place for Frankenstein to hole up for the winter”. In 1951, Park Board Commissioner called the aquarium “a farce, a dead horse, not a credit to this board”, and another commissioner called it a “monstrocity” – yikes! the bloom was definitely off that rose. It seems that the first aquarium may have been run more like an attraction, than as an educational facility.

These cartoons accompanied the 1945 Vancouver Sun article slamming the aquarium.

The bathhouse aquarium closed in 1956, replaced by a new purpose-built Vancouver Aquarium located in Stanley Park run by the Vancouver Aquarium Association.

In 1986 a Vancouver Centennial plaque was unveiled placed on a water fountain where the bathhouse aquarium once stood:

Vancouver’s First Aquarium – The second English Bay bathhouse, which was located on this site, was the home of the first Vancouver Aquarium. Owned and operated by Mr. Ivar Haglund of Seattle. The Aquarium educated generations of Vancouverites on the abundance of marine life native to our Pacific Coast. The Aquarium was in service from October 1939 to June 1956.  This plaque is donated on the occasion of Vancouver’s Centennial by the Ivar’s Corporation of Seattle in honour of its founder Ivar Haglund, and his special role in Vancouver’s history.