Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 6 – Mount Pleasant: Jazz Central

Last year I took on the challenge of the first-ever Local History Advent Calendar! For 24 days in a row, I presented random historical tidbits I’d collected over the previous year and presented them in the form of “treats” for my 2018 Local History Advent Calendar. This year, the “Heart of Mount Pleasant” was number 1 on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List for 2019.  So I decided to choose Mount Pleasant as the theme for the Vanalogue Local History Advent Calendar for 2019.  Each day you can “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Mount Pleasant history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Inside the Cellar: March 21, 1961. Photos: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

For much of the second half of the 20th Century, Mount Pleasant was the neighbourhood for jazz in the city with establishments like The Hot Jazz Society Hot Jazz Club (1980s – ca. 2004) and The Glass Slipper (1988 – early 90s). All that jazz started with The Cellar – a co-operative founded and operated by members of the local bebop jazz scene. Opened in April 1956, The Cellar was officially located at 222 East Broadway, but the entrance to the basement bottle-club was at the side of the building at 2514 Watson Street. The subterranean space was built into the natural ravine of Brewery Creek, which ran across Watson Street between 10th Ave and Broadway.

The old Cellar Jazz building shortly before its demolition in 2014.

Until its closing in 1963, The Cellar was known as “one of the leading jazz clubs in North America”. It hosted local jazz musicians and international jazz greats such as Charles Mingus, Ernestine Anderson, Ornette Coleman, and Wes Montgomery. Some of the visiting musicians would stay at the City Centre Motor Inn or at the “bebop house”, located 3 or 4 blocks from Cellar, where a few core members of the Cellar resided. The Cellar wasn’t just a venue for jazz music; it also hosted plays, poetry readings, and featured artworks by Harry Webb.

While I was working at the CBC Vancouver Media Archives several years ago, I was fortunate to re-discover and digitize some of Franz Lindner’s photographs documenting the production of a jazz music programme filmed on location at The Cellar – a rare look inside the iconic jazz club.

“Jazz # 3” – CBC mobile unit on location. March 21, 1961. The Cellar (222 East Broadway – Entrance at rear off Watson St.) exterior. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

For more information about the Cellar and the Vancouver jazz scene, I recommend reading Marian Jago’s 2018 book, “Live at the Cellar: Vancouver’s Iconic Jazz Club and the Canadian Co-operative Jazz Scene in the 1950s and ‘60s”. It’s full of facts and great stories, like the night in 1961 when Charles Mingus hit a BC Lion over the head with a toilet plunger between sets.

Advance poster for Charlie Mingus concerts at the Cellar, 1960, designed by Harry Webb. Adrienne Brown Collection.

If you want to hear what it sounded like inside The Cellar, check out Al Neil: The Cellar Years – archival recordings from 1957… have a listen here:

Al Neil: The Cellar Years by Condition West Recordings

And here’s a video from The Hot Jazz Club in 1982:

From the archives of Don/Brian Ogilvie.

The curious case of the 1956 roll of Kodak Super XX

When I took my roll of previously exposed film from 1956 in for processing at The Lab early last year, I wasn’t expecting much.  First, it had been 62 years since the film was exposed – I was convinced the “statute of latent image limitations” had passed for this roll. Second, it was stored at room temperature the whole time. And third, the roll was wound so loosely, I was convinced it was most likely completely fogged.

When I went in to collect the film  (plus some other film I dropped off) at the appointed time, it was not ready. In fact, they couldn’t quite determine its exact location. Not only was I worried that something had gone wrong, but I was also a little peeved that I would have to make a second trip to pick it up.  So, imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from the folks at The Lab later that day telling me that there was not one roll of film, but 5 rolls of exposed film wound onto the single spool!  Even though they never said it directly, the tone used on the phone indicated that there may have been something on the film ( x 5).

And there was…

Negatives on light table at The Lab. The film is a little brittle and sadly the last image on the last roll lost a corner during processing.  Photo: C. Hagemoen

For film that was older than me… these negs looked really, really good! How was this even possible?  I saw the paper backing on the film when I delivered it to the photo lab, so I know it hadn’t been processed yet. But, I still don’t understand how (or why) multiple rolls of exposed film were wound around a single spool, and none of it was fogged?  A mystery for sure.

The film was Kodak Super XX. This film was Kodak’s standard high-speed film from 1940 until it was discontinued (in roll format) in 1960.  It was replaced by Kodak Tri-X. It could be partially due to its age, but the contrast of this film is really good. Just the way I like it.

When I first came across the film over 10 years ago it was headed for the bin. I suppose to the uninformed eye this roll of old, unexposed film did not look viable. The roll was wrapped in a paper cover with “Chinatown April 1956” written on it. I was intrigued. Since the film was being discarded,  I decided to rescue it. I thought it might be interesting to see if there was anything on the roll after all those years.  In my mind, it was worth a try.  A photo experiment of sorts.  I stored the roll in a drawer for several years, even moved house with it, before I decided to finally take a chance and process the film.  I’m glad I did.

CHinatown56-16 1
Group of children on street in Chinatown. I love this image, not only are the children (now senior citizens) adorable, but it shows the once prevalent sidewalk prisms and old wood street paving blocks exposed through the asphalt. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

What a find! These photos depict Chinatown and False Creek ca. 1956,  an area of Vancouver that looks very different today. They are also clearly shot by someone who knew what they were doing. There was a name included on the wrapper. This may be the name of the shooter, but it is hard to tell at the moment. More investigation will be required to determine who shot these wonderful images and to figure out why the films weren’t processed back in 1956.

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This image captures the yet unknown photographer. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

In the meantime, I scanned a few of the negatives…

Chinatown56_1
Man shopping in Chinatown. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
Chinatown56_3
400 Block Carrall Street. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
CHinatown56-1
Man walking by poultry shop. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
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Rooftops. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

 

*I first published this post on my (now stagnant) Expired Film Project blog in early 2018. I thought it was worth another kick at the can. I’m still working on figuring out the identity of the photographer, but I have a lead that I am following.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 22 – Junior TV Club

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 22: Harvey Lowe and Avril (Kim) Campbell on Junior TV Club…

1950 Harvey Lowe, yo-yo expert, VPL 81284; Artray Studio.

Junior Television Club was a magazine format program for children produced out of Vancouver and broadcast on CBUT (CBC Vancouver) in the late 1950s.  The show had five child hosts each with their own specialty. One of the hosts was Avril Campbell (Kim Campbell) future Prime Minister of Canada (Canada’s 19th PM)! Hosts of the Jr TV Club would often interview famous people in the community – like local hero and yo-yo champion Harvey Lowe!

 

 

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 15 – Vancouver: neon city

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 15: Vancouver: bright lights, neon city

The Granville strip in 1958. Photo: CoV Archives, CVA 672-1

Many of us know about Vancouver’s neon past, but here are a few “neon stats & facts” for you to casually drop into your next conversation about neon in Vancouver:

  • Famed Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh once called Vancouver’s Granville strip the “brightest street in Canada”;
  • By 1953, Vancouver had over 18,000 neon signs – one neon sign for every 19 Vancouverites (pop. 345,000);
  • and 7 neon companies to service them;
  • At the peak of Vancouver’s neon period, businesses were spending $2 million dollars per year on neon signs;
  • Most of the neon signs were not owned, but rented.

 

Neon sign in the MOV. Photo: C. Hagemoen

 

Source: Vancouver Sun – August 1, 1953.

 

60th Anniversary of CBUT- Part 3 – CBUT and the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games

This Wednesday, July 30th, marks the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (BE&CG) held in Vancouver –  at the time “the most spectacular event of its kind in Canada’s history and the greatest Empire and Commonwealth sports meet ever staged”. It also marks the 60th anniversary of CBUT’s (and the CBC network’s) first national (and international) live television broadcast.

The CBC purchased exclusive world rights for complete coverage of the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games in Vancouver (July 30 to August 7) for $50,000. Jack McCabe, a CBC sports producer, was appointed by the CBC to co-ordinate radio, television and film coverage of the event. In the early days of television, before communications satellites, it was one of the most ambitious enterprises ever undertaken by Canadian radio and television.

The Commonwealth looks to Vancouver. Graphic promoting CBC's TV and Radio broadcast of the 5th BE&C Games from Vancouver.
The Commonwealth looks to Vancouver. Graphic promoting CBC’s TV and Radio broadcast of the 5th BE&C Games from Vancouver.

The 1954 BE&C Games marked the first time Eastern and Western Canada were linked for a simultaneous live telecast.  This unique feat was made possible by a circuitous route totaling some 2,750 miles (4,425 km) across the United States from Seattle to Buffalo (via Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Des Moines, and Chicago), thus linking CBUT, Vancouver, with CBLT, Toronto, and the microwave-connected television stations of Eastern Canada. In connecting the Vancouver production centre with the eastern network stations, CBC television coverage of the Games was made available to Canadians the same day. Continue reading “60th Anniversary of CBUT- Part 3 – CBUT and the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games”

60th Anniversary of CBUT – Part 2 – All That Jazz

Two images of the exterior of the former Cellar Jazz club. Left- January 2014 a couple of months before the building was torn down To make way for more condos! Photo: C. Hagemoen. Right- March 21, 1961, CBUT on location at the Cellar, Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.
Two images of the exterior of the former Cellar Jazz club. Left- January 2014 a couple of months before the building was torn down To make way for more condos! Photo: C. Hagemoen. Right- March 21, 1961, CBUT on location at the Cellar to record Jazz #3, Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

I knew its days were numbered when I saw the blue construction fencing being installed around its perimeter a few weeks ago. Sure enough, two days later a bulldozer was pulling down the final remains of a piece of Vancouver’s jazz history – The Cellar Jazz Club. Officially located at 222 East Broadway, the entrance to the basement club was in the rear along the “alley like” Watson Street. The Cellar, which opened in April 1956, was a “bottle club” – it had no liquor license. British Columbia historically has had very odd liquor laws (still does in many ways) and so most cabarets would sell ice and soft drinks while allowing patrons to bring in their own concealed containers of alcohol. The Cellar was founded and operated by members of the local jazz scene. Continue reading “60th Anniversary of CBUT – Part 2 – All That Jazz”

Waxing lyrical about “wax”

The retro, analogue sound of vinyl is back in vogue. According to a recent article in the New York Times, all the major music labels and many of the smaller ones are currently releasing vinyl. There has also been an influx of new pressing plants as most of the major new releases have a vinyl edition. This is a very significant turn of events. So much so, in fact, that a retailer like London Drugs is once again selling vinyl LPs! What’s next? Saturday afternoons spent searching for 45’s and buying malted milks at the lunch counter?

Inside Neptoon Records
Inside Neptoon Records store. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Continue reading “Waxing lyrical about “wax””