Alvin Lesk and his Victory One Man Band

The first time I saw this intriguingly odd photo on the City of Vancouver Archives website, I was inspired to know more about the photo and Alvin Lesk and his Victory One Man Band.

Alvin Lesk with his dummies of public figures on the north side of the 600 block West Georgia Street. Photo COV Archives, CVA 1184-60 - Jack Lindsay, Vancouver News-Herald

Alvin Lesk with his dummies of public figures on the north side of the 600 block West Georgia Street. Photo COV Archives, CVA 1184-60 – Jack Lindsay, Vancouver News-Herald

The photo depicts Lesk and life sized effigies representing the leaders of the Axis and the Allies. The photograph, dated February 1942, is from a series of photographs taken for the Vancouver News-Herald newspaper by photographer Jack Lindsay.

I made a trip to the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch to search the historic newspaper microfilm reels to see if I could find the photograph in a February 1942 edition of the Vancouver News-Herald. It wasn’t long before I found the image (or a version thereof) in the Thursday, February 19th edition of the Vancouver News-Herald. Unfortunately, the image that appears in the paper has cropped out Alvin Lesk and only focuses on his effigies.

Photo in the Thursday, February 19th 1942 edition of the Vancouver News-Herald.

Photo in the Thursday, February 19th 1942 edition of the Vancouver News-Herald.

Here is the caption that accompanies the newspaper photo:

Here’s Alvin Lesk’s ideas of how the war should end — Churchill, Uncle Sam and Stalin standing erect over the crumpled beaten forms of a cartoonist’s version of the Axis trio — a frustrated Japanese, a sobbing Hitler and a dour mouthed Mussolini. Lesk has built life-sized effigies to enact the scene and has them on display on Georgia Street, near Granville. He originally planned to put the fascist chieftains in a jail on a trailer, but couldn’t find parking space.

When I discovered that Lesk had originally planned to put the Axis leaders in a jail, the sign that the Churchill effigy holds then makes a little more sense:

This is where We would like the Axis Gang, Help put them there! Buy the new Victory Bonds!

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry on Victory Loans states that “Victory Loans were Canadian government appeals for money to finance the war effort in WWI and WWII” through the purchase of Victory Bonds.

Save to Beat the Devil - Canadian World War II Poster. Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-1220

Save to Beat the Devil – Canadian World War II Poster. Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-1220

Victory Bond sales were slow in Canada at the beginning of WWII, so after “the slow-moving second war loan of 1940, the Victory Loan returned with the panoply of colourful posters, patriotic pleas and vast sales apparatus which had become familiar in WWI”.  Alvin Lesk and his One Man Victory Band were just one example of a local patriotic plea for citizens to buy the “new” Victory Bonds.

Though I had some success finding the photo in the newspaper, I wasn’t very successful finding out anything about Alvin Lesk himself. The city directories of the time only listed a Vera Lesk, who was a musician. I suppose it is possible that they were related, but it would be hard to say definitively. I also checked the Vital Statistics for BC and could only find evidence of members of a Lesk family that lived primarily in New Westminster. Vera Lesk appears to be related to those Lesks. I found no evidence of Alvin Lesk in the BC Vital Statistics.

So for now, it seems that Alvin Lesk himself remains a bit of mystery. He must have felt very strongly about supporting an Allied victory to put so much energy in creating his effigies and promoting the sale of Victory Bonds. I wonder how many Vancouverites were motivated to buy Victory Bonds by Alvin Lesk’s Victory One Man Band and creative street display?

 

Fun Fact: Author Pierre Berton was the News-Herald’s first city editor.

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The Pro-Rec Program (1934-1953)

Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley PArk

Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley Park, 1940.   Photo City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 1184-2355

Pro-Rec dance demonstration. CVA 586-237

Pro-Rec dance demonstration in Stanley Park, 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-237

These intriguing photos are from a series of images that depict a ‘Pro-Rec’ mass demonstration held at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park in 1940. “Pro Rec”, short for Provincial Recreation, was a community sport and recreation initiative offered through the Physical Education Branch of the BC Department of Education. It was developed by Jan Eisenhardt (program administrator) with the support of BC Minister of Education, George Weir.

Pro Rec [demonstrations in] Stanley Park, ca. 1940. Photo: CoV Archives - CVA 586-226

Pro Rec [demonstrations in] Stanley Park, ca. 1940. Photo: CoV Archives – CVA 586-226

The community-oriented scheme (initially set up in 1934) offered volunteer-run games and recreation classes for those unemployed aged 15 and over. The program proved so popular, that the Pro-Rec program was eventually made available to all in 1936. Summer displays (like these from 1940) were used to promote a changing schedule of activities.

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The city in flux: Cedar Street (aka Burrard Street)

Spend any length of time living in Vancouver and you know it is constantly changing (old buildings come down, new buildings go up). Vancouver is a city in flux.

For a relatively young city (in the global scheme of things), Vancouver has certainly gone through its fair share of changes in its 129 year history. Personally, I am amazed how quickly one can get used to the new scenery and forget what used to be there before. In my own experience, that is just in the past 40 years. Imagine how much the city would have appeared to have changed for people who lived here 80 or 100 years ago – it would be almost unrecognizable to them.

Here is a brief snapshot look at one part of that flux – Cedar Street aka Burrard Street.

Cedar St.

This sidewalk stamp found along Burrard St. near 11th Ave. dates to 1931. Photo: C. Hagemoen

This sidewalk stamp reveals the former name of the southern portion of Burrard Street in Vancouver. According to “Street Names of Vancouver” by Elizabeth Walker, Cedar Street dates back to 1885 and was named by L. A. Hamilton, Vancouver’s most influential street namer. When the Burrard Bridge was completed in 1932, Burrard St. (north side, downtown) was then linked to Cedar St. on the south end of the bridge. Cedar Street was officially renamed Burrard Street in 1938.

Looking northwest towards the intersection of Cornwall Avenue and Cedar Street (Burrard Street), July 1931. Photo: Stuart Thomson, COV Archives - CVA 99-4630.

Looking northwest towards the intersection of Cornwall Avenue and Cedar Street (Burrard Street), July 193[2?]. Photo: Stuart Thomson, COV Archives – CVA 99-4630.

The addition of the Burrard Bridge in 1932 dramatically changed this part of the city, and eventually Cedar Street permanently. As seen in the photo above, this part of Cedar Street from the southern end of the Burrard Bridge to 1st Avenue was mainly undeveloped, scrubby land – no Molson’s Brewery complex (originally Sick’s Capilano Brewery – 1953) or Seaforth Armoury (1936) to be seen.

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Handy Meat Market

We are all familiar with the adage a picture is worth a thousand words, so when I came across this (ca. 1972) charming image of a man and woman in the window of a store in Strathcona, I wondered what thousand words would describe it? Seemed like a good opportunity to delve into a little historical research.

[Handy Meat Market, 894 East Georgia Street], Strathcona , ca. 1972. Photo: Art Grice , COV Archives - CVA 677-920.

[Handy Meat Market, 894 East Georgia Street], Strathcona , ca. 1972. Photo: Art Grice , COV Archives – CVA 677-920.

Being a true Vancouverite, my first thought was: Is the building still standing? [knowing full well that many old buildings in Vancouver get torn down before their time] And if so, what was its history?  A quick check on Google Maps street view showed that, indeed, the building was still standing and a field trip to the area confirmed it.

The former Handy Meats store front, 2014. Photo: C. Hagemoen

894 East Georgia. The former Handy Meats store front, 2014. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Perhaps a little worse for wear, but actually looking pretty good for over 40 years on. I next wondered, just how old is the shop and building anyway?  The best way to find this kind of information out was to do some building history research.

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The Electric Company

As I sit writing at my computer, with two fans oscillating the warm air of my top floor apartment around me,  I can’t help to think how lucky we are to have access to reliable (and relatively inexpensive) electricity. Which reminded me of a photo I discovered online in the catalogue of the Vancouver Archives – this month’s vintage photo of the month.

Power lines and supporting structure in lane west of Main Street at Pender Street. March 10 , 1914. Photo: British Columbia Electric Railway Company, CoV Archives, AM54-S4-: LGN 1241,

Power lines and supporting structure in lane west of Main Street at Pender Street. March 10, 1914. Photo: British Columbia Electric Railway Company, CoV Archives, AM54-S4-: LGN 1241.

How crazy is that photograph? And we think there are too many overhead wires today! I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to service those power lines. It made me wonder when did electricity first come to the city of Vancouver?

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Beveridge, Vancouver and the Great Fire of 1886

Today a new regular (hopefully) feature debuts on vanalogue – vintage photo(s) of the month. This month I’m featuring the work of Scottish amateur photographer, Erskine Beveridge and some of his photographs of early Vancouver a year before the Great Fire of 1886.

1885 view of street in Granville, now Vancouver, BC. Copy of photograph titled “Main Street, Granville.’ [Looking East on Water Street near Carrall] From "Wanderings with a Camera" by Erskine Beveridge. Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP042683

[June] 1885 view of street in Granville, now Vancouver, BC.  Copy of photograph titled “Main Street, Granville.’ [Looking East on Water Street near Carrall] From “Wanderings with a Camera” by Erskine Beveridge. Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP042683. [Compare this view with the 1886 H.T. Devine (COV Archives )photo below.]

This Friday, June 13th marks the 128th anniversary of one of the greatest calamities in the history of Vancouver.  A year earlier, wealthy Scottish businessman, Erskine Beveridge was in Vancouver [then known as Granville] documenting a rough and tumble township on the cusp of becoming a city.

Erskine Beveridge (1851-1920) was not only a successful textile manufacturer  (specializing in the production of fine table and bed linen), he was also an enthusiastic historian, archaeologist and talented amateur photographer.  Beveridge was fascinated by landscapes, seascapes, buildings and archaeological monuments.  He traveled extensively across Scotland, taking hundreds of photographs that captured Scotland’s rural heritage. [A collection of his photographs can be seen on the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) website.]

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Before and After – Main Street

Heritage Hall

Heritage Hall, Main Street, Vancouver – 2012. Photo: C. Hagemoen

To loosely paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli: In a progressive [city] change is constant; …change… is inevitable. Vancouver is a city that most inevitably is constantly changing … sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. But, how much has the city really changed? Sometimes it can be hard to tell unless you can directly compare the past with the present.

Primary source documents like visual historical records, whether they are still or moving images, capture a moment in time and allow us to compare the past with the present.  I think it is really interesting to look back and compare how much (or, how little) a place has changed over the years. So, inspired by photographer Dan Toulgoet’s “Then and Now” series in the Vancouver Courier and the blog of ‘then and now’ images Changing Vancouver , I decided to try my hand at creating my own comparative pairs of ‘before and after’ images.

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