Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 11 – Before Kingsgate Mall

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.

Before there was the weird and wonderful Kingsgate Mall there was the Mount Pleasant School…

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Looking southeast at the intersection of Westminster Rd. and 9th Ave. (Kingsway and Broadway) from 1908. Visible is the original wooden schoolhouse and the brick replacement. Photo: George Alfred Barrowclough, UBC Digital Collections

Mount Pleasant’s first school was a two room schoolhouse built in 1888. Known as the False Creek School it was located on the corner of Westminster Rd. (Kingsway) and 9th Avenue (Broadway). In 1892 an 8-room brick school was built near the first one; it was added to several times over the years and was called Mount Pleasant School.

In those early days the boundaries of the school district it served were very large: South through forest to the banks of the Fraser, east to Commercial Drive, west to Cambie and north to False Creek. In the 1890s many school children had to travel along trails in the forest where bears and cougars were still found. Many parents had to escort their children safely to and from school with a lantern in one hand and a gun in the other.

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Mount Pleasant School ca. 1892. Photo: COV Archives, SGN 45
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Girls sports team in the 1950s. Photo: VSB Archives
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Mount Pleasant School ca. 1960. Photo: VSB Archives

For 80 years the brick school stood at the centre of Mount Pleasant, educating the youth of Mount Pleasant. Plans to build a new school building on a different site were formed and the old school was torn down in the summer of 1972. Staff and students of Mount Pleasant School moved to its present site at 2300 Guelph Street also in 1972.

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Demolition of Mount Pleasant school in August 1972. Photo: COV Archives CVA 23-19

The Kingsgate Mall we occasionally make fun of, but love dearly for its inherent quirkiness and old-school sensibility, may not have been built at all if the Vancouver School Board (VSB) didn’t decide to “go rogue” in the early 70s.

In 1971, the VSB (who own the 3.2 acre property) called for tenders to build a shopping centre that “would serve the people, providing a convenience for the neighbourhood and provide funds for the board”. The plan for a $2.5 million, two-level shopping centre from Royal Oak Holdings was chosen. The agreement would provide the board “with a continuing and growing source of revenue over a 99-year lease”. However, the plan to build a shopping centre was made by the Vancouver School Board without first consulting the community, or (apparently) the City.

According to a Vancouver Sun article from December 1972, the plan to build a shopping centre was criticized for it’s lack of public space and community facilities. The plan was also criticized for “ignoring the site’s possible future importance as a rapid transit centre”[!] The city planning commissioner John Lecky, and other community stakeholders chastised the VSB submitting that “although the school board owns the land, it had no right to proceed on its own and plan a major change in the community”. The VSB got schooled!

At a public hearing to address these issues – lack of public consultation, lack of community facilities and, complaints that the VSB was acting outside of its mandate – newly elected city councillor and former school trustee, Fritz Bowers, admitted that the Board “goofed.. (in that) we did not a year and two months ago meet here before sending out tenders… it never crossed the minds of the trustees.”

At that meeting it was decided that community facilities would be included in a revised plan. The developer said that 5,000 to 6,000 sq feet of space “was available and that community facilities would be welcome because they generate pedestrian traffic.” However, he added “that the city would have to pay the going rate for the space.” [That’s what happens when you try to bargain after the fact.]

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Kingsgate Mall entrance to Buy-Low. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Kingsgate Mall officially opened on March 28, 1974.  In addition to the 6,000 sq.ft Mount Pleasant branch of the Vancouver Public Library (the community facility), the other tenants included: Orange Julius, Brook Brothers Clothiers (not to be confused with Brooks Brothers), Safeway, Fields, Kingsgate House of Cards (my new secret name for Kingsgate), Shoppers Drug Mart, The Royal Bank, and a BCLCB store. The latter three are still tenants today.

Check out some of the great deals that were available at Kingsgate Mall, Christmas 1974: Caftans and Dashikis at ‘ETC…’; compact tape recorder at ‘Radio Shack’; Rabbit Coats at ‘Jeans n’ Tonic’; and Flintstones inflatable furniture at ‘Shoppers Drug Mart’!

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The Province December 4, 1974.

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 21 – Miles for Millions

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 21: Eartha Kitt walks Miles for Millions in Vancouver…

Miles for Millions participants vying for space with traffic on the Burrard Bridge, 1972. Vancouver Sun April 28, 1973.

Somewhere in the crowd in the photo above is my older sister and Dad starting their Miles for Millions walk for charity. My Dad was an avid recreational hiker, but I don’t think he was quite prepared for a trek quite like this:  25 miles on city pavement wearing incredibly inappropriate footwear (by today’s standards) armed only with Glossette raisins and baby powder. As I was deemed too young to participate, my contribution was limited to accompanying my stepmother to meet up with them at a checkpoint along Spanish Banks with sandwiches and snacks in hand (how this was accomplished without the aid of cellphones is a miracle). My sister remembers that Dad was absolutely “broken” by the end of it.

Starting in 1967, Miles for Millions was an annual walk-for-charity event in Vancouver and other cities & towns across Canada. Participants, many of them children and teens, would gather pledges sponsoring them by the mile with the intent of raising money for about 20 international charities, most of which helped “needy children”. By 1977, the metric system had taken hold, apathy had set in, and interest in the walk waned.

For the second annual Miles for Millions walk on May 6, 1968 singer Eartha Kitt, who was in town appearing at the Cave nightclub, was one of 6,000 walkers who completed the 25-mile trek. She was given a round of applause as she entered the Seaforth Armoury at the end of the walk. Ms. Kitt told reporters that she was sponsored at over $100 per mile by “a conglomeration of people in Vancouver“. The average participant’s sponsorship was anywhere from $1 – $20 per mile. Sporting a white tennis outfit for the trek, Ms. Kitt apparently walked the final 6 miles without her shoes “because my feet were hurting so much“. She was not complaining though, commenting that “If I had to do the walk again, I would. I was held to help children in need all over the world, and that is good enough for me“.

Eartha Kitt rests after her 1968 Vancouver Miles for Millions walk. Vancouver Sun May 6, 1968.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 8 – The René Simard Show

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:

 

 

 

Master Chef and the 1978 Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee photos

Master Chef Cafe at 2400 E. Hastings Street  – 1978. What can I say about the shirtless guy in micro jean cut-offs?! (CoV Archives , CVA 786-83.19)

Oh man, how fantastic is this photograph?!  If you ever had the privilege of dining at Master Chef you would realize how special this image is. I had no idea that the restaurant I knew as a simple “old school” diner at one time sported a cool neon sign. This space is now home to “What’s Up? Hot Dog!”, but prior to that it was home to the best turkey club sandwich and home-cut fries that I’ve ever known. Continue reading “Master Chef and the 1978 Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee photos”

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. Continue reading “Handy Meat Market”

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”