The curious case of the 1956 roll of Kodak Super XX – Part 2

Last September, I wrote a post about a roll of unprocessed Kodak Super XX 120 film (which turned out to be 5 rolls) that I developed – 62 years after it was shot. You can read all about what I now refer to as the “miracle of the 5 rolls” here.

The skillfully shot photographs that emerged depict Vancouver’s Chinatown and False Creek in April of 1956. As I mentioned in Part 1,  there was a name included on the wrapper that I thought may have been the name of the shooter, but I needed to investigate all possible leads in order to determine who shot these wonderful images and to figure out why the films weren’t processed back in 1956.

If you aren’t aware of the story thus far, I strongly recommend you take to the time to get up to speed before continuing with this post.

Men’s public convenience at Main and Hastings, 1956 (cropped). Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

After finishing my investigation the mystery the photographer behind these images has been solved! Well, sort of.

From 2006 to 2013, I worked at CBC Vancouver as a Media Librarian in the English Television Archives.  While I was there, I saved an exposed but unprocessed roll of film from being tossed out.  The roll was in a box of odds n’ sods (unexposed film rolls, take-up reels, and other related non-photographic material) kept with CBC staff photographer Alvin Armstrong’s collection of still photographs – negatives, positives, prints, and mounted enlargements. Armstong was the in-house still photographer at CBUT from April 1, 1954, to April 3, 1973. During his 19 year career, he took about 10,000 photographs (negatives & transparencies); all of which were shot on either 4×5 sheet film or 35mm roll film.

 

Paper wrapper found around the roll of film(s). Photo: C. Hagemoen

 

The unprocessed 120 roll film was wrapped in a paper label with “Ron Kelly in Chinatown in April 1956” written on it. Since I was intimately familiar with Alvin Armstrong’s work I immediately recognized his distinctive handwriting on the label. Was this film shot by Armstrong but never developed?

 

It was possible but seemed out of character with what I knew about Armstrong and the way he worked. He kept meticulous records and this film was not recorded in his logbook. It was also 120 medium format film – he didn’t shoot medium format film for CBC. Also, the fact that is was kept separate from his collection was also a red-flag, but I added him to the list of people that were possibly responsible for these images.

 

What about the name on the wrapper? Ron Kelly was a producer/director at CBC Vancouver in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1956, he produced and directed a CBC Vancouver film unit program that was set in Chinatown called ‘Summer Afternoon’.  It is a fantastic visual document of mid-century Chinatown. [More about ‘Summer Afternoon’ at the end of this post.] It is very likely these shots were intended to be used as location scouting shots for ‘Summer Afternoon’ and the exposed film was given to Alvin Armstrong for safekeeping. But they were never used as such, or even processed for that matter! Why? So, Ron Kelly was also added to the list of potential photographers.

 

My former colleague and (now retired) Senior Media Librarian at the CBC Archives, Colin Preston, suggested a third possibility – Jack Long, the cinematographer for ‘Summer Afternoon’. It would make sense that he would be the one to take scouting shots for this production. Sadly Jack Long, now deceased, would not be able to provide any insight into this mystery, so we would have to rely on the memories of others.
 
One telling image shows the photographer reflected in the window of a boat that he is taking a photo of.  We can’t see the face of the person, but you can see his hairline and that he is wearing a trench coat (neither very distinctive). It also looks like he is using a Leica-style or folding medium format film camera.

 

The photographer is reflected in this image (detail). Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
Since his name was on the wrapper, making him the obvious person responsible, I started my search with Ron Kelly.  It took a little digging, but I was able to obtain his landline phone number as, at 90 years old and living in small-town Ontario, Ron Kelly did not use email or social media.  Colin Preston made the cold call since he was more familiar with Kelly’s work at CBC. He told Ron Kelly the story of the photographs and that we believed that they were associated somehow with the production of ‘Summer Afternoon’. During their conversation, Ron Kelly revealed that he was not the photographer and that he was quite sure Jack Long wasn’t either.

 

Ron Kelly was generous enough to provide his mailing address so that I could send him a hard-copy of my original post and prints of some of the photographs including the image of the photographer above. This way he could review the material in case it might jog a long lost memory and to see if he recognized the person in the reflection.

 

Several weeks passed when out of the blue I got a telephone call from Castleton, Ontario, it was Ron Kelly. We had a nice chat during which he confirmed that he did not take these photographs and neither did Jack Long. He explained that Long was a very short man, only 5’3″, and he didn’t physically match the photographer in refection. He wished me luck on my search.

 

So then we were back to CBC staff photographer, Alvin Armstrong now the primary (only) candidate.  He died in 1989, but I had contact information for his son, Arthur, who I had first met in 2012  at the launch of the  VHF The WALL outdoor installation I curated that featured one of his father’s photographs.
In my email, to Arthur, I gave him the background to the mystery and explained the reasons why I had doubts and didn’t think it was his father who shot these images.  I also asked him to take a look at the reflection image to see if he thought it was Alvin. This is what he wrote back:

 

I had a look at the photo that you sent me along with the photos on your blog. I cannot say with a certainty that the photo you sent me is my father. I am attaching a photo of Dad taken in 1956. As you can see the hairline is similar. I can also tell you he wore a long beige raincoat as did many men of that era. I recall there was a Leica camera around the house, but that was 35mm. Dad did shoot 120 film but used two Rolliflexs that he owned.

If his handwriting was on the film wrapper, he must have been given it or taken the photos. However, two things lead me to believe it was not my father. Firstly, he would never have put 5 rolls of film on one spool. Secondly, he would have cataloged it in some manner. Neither of these actions fit with his personality.

I am sorry to add to the mystery of these photos and hope you get it sorted out. Please keep me posted! Thanks for keeping the memory of old Vancouver alive.

 

I had to agree with Arthur on his perception of the situation. Though he thought there was a possibility that the man reflected could be his father, the other evidence does not fit with Alvin’s photographic practice. For some reason, Armstong was the caretaker for this film, but we both believed he was not the shooter.

Having run out of possible candidates, the mystery of who is responsible for these images is “solved” in that we have come to the end of the investigation. Therefore, unless new evidence appears (highly unlikely due to how much time has passed) all we know is (with some certainty) who isn’t responsible (Armstrong, Kelly, or Long) for these fabulous documentary images.

Every time I look at the images I am glad that my curiosity didn’t allow this collection to be lost forever. If you ever find an old roll of exposed film I urge you to take the time and expense to get it developed, you never know what exposing the latent image could reveal.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy some more of these images:

Men reading newspaper. Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

 

Girl in by entrance to Ho Sun Hing Co. Printing on E. Pender Street. Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

 

Double exposure False Creek. Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
House boats/shacks on False Creek. Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

 

I love all the black in this image. Chinatown alley 1956. Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
More of the same theme – narrow view from an alley. Photo: Photographer unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

[More images can be seen in Part 1 of this post]

If you haven’t seen ‘Summer Afternoon’ yet, I strongly recommend you take half an hour to do so. When you compare the visuals in the TV film with those found in the still photos found on the 5 rolls of Kodak Super XX 120 film you can clearly see that they are connected.

Columnist John Kirkwood had this to say about “Summer Afternoon’ in the August 22, 1956 edition of the Vancouver Sun: “The program skillfully produced to capture the desired mood and with a light touch of humour was, of course, a work of art, and, except for a rather too insistent musical score, was an outstanding show”.

The Province Newpaper’s TV critic, Les Wedman, was more critical about the program.  Here is his review from August 21, 1956:

I think the passage of time has improved the overall impression of “Summer Afternoon” as we view it with a nostalgic lens.  I’ll let you be the judge…

Pacific 13  – Summer Afternoon,  air date: 1956-08-20, length: 28:25
“Presented without commentary, this exploration of Vancouver’s Chinatown follows the wanderings of two young boys at play in and around the shops, streets, and False Creek waterfront.”
Credits:
PD/DIR- Ron Kelly
PH- Jack Long
ED- Stanley Fox
MUSIC- Ed Baravalle [John Avison, conductor]
CAST- Andrew Mar, Chipper Mah

Happy 100th Birthday, Eleanor!

“She could start fires by rubbing two notes together!” – Vancouver Sun columnist Jack Wasserman on Eleanor Collins (December 1953).

Eleanor Collins Photo: Franz Lindner

There are not enough adjectives to describe the luminous, talented, inspiring… Ms. Eleanor Collins. Jack Wasserman does a pretty good job (above) describing her singing performance. And in an article from 2006, Red Robinson said that “[Eleanor] lit up our city by her very being”. On November 21, 2019, Eleanor Collins celebrates her 100th birthday. Time to celebrate and honour this amazing centenarian.

I first wrote about Eleanor, in 2014, in a post called All That Jazz which was about the history of jazz on CBC-TV in Vancouver. 3 years later, I wrote a longer biographical post about her that you can read here. A version of that same article appeared in Scout Magazine  February 22, 2017.

Since that time I have discovered some new (old) photographs of Eleanor and found some great newspaper clippings and links. I’ve gathered them all together to share on the occasion of Eleanor’s 100th birthday. Let’s go!

Eleanor Collins, 1965. Photo: Franz Lindner

 

By 1963 Eleanor had earned the epithet “Vancouver’s first lady of Jazz”. The Flat Five jazz house was located at 3623 West Broadway.

 

This article from the Vancouver Sun (July 16, 1955 p50) appeared at the time she got her own nationally broadcast TV show. This made Eleanor the first Black artist in North America and the first Canadian woman to host a nationally broadcast television series.

 

Publicity print of Eleanor Collins ca. 1950s.

 

In the 1970s the kind of music that Eleanor sang went out of popular favour, so an article like this one appeared “whatever happened to singer of yesteryear, Eleanor Collins.” Fortunately, by the end of the 1980s and early 90s Eleanor’s type of music was re-discovered and became popular with a new generation of Canadians. Source: The Province, August 16, 1973, p36.

 

Eleanor Collins on the set of Quintet, April 1962. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

I was in love with her then as now. It isn’t just her music; it’s the whole package. Collins has a magical personality and a wonderful philosophical view on life and living, and to her, family is everything. – Red Robinson, 2006

Red Robinson (a Vancouver icon in his own right) wrote this ‘love letter’ to Eleanor Collins in 2006. Source: Vancouver Sun, Feb 16, 2006 p.44.

 

CBC Television News Career Highlights and Investment into Order Of Canada November 21, 2014

 

More recently, at the Yucho Chow exhibition opening last May, an unidentified author at the Ollie Quinn blog did a Q&A with Collins and her daughter Judith Maxie.

One Hundred Years of Jazz: A conversation with Canada’s First Lady of Jazz, Eleanor Collins, C.M.
Eleanor Collins and her daughter Judith Maxie at the Yucho Chow exhibit, May 2019. Source: Photography: Garfield James, Lori Vance – Ollie Quinn blog

So then, what is the key to living a long life like Eleanor has? I think one aspect must be a lifelong love of singing and music that keeps one young. Just look at another Vancouver music icon Dal Richards he lived to the age of 97 and Ms. Eleanor Collins at 100 is still going strong. Eleanor practices healthy living and carries a positive spirit as part of her daily routine, filling her days with “lots of good music, good television, good food, and good family and friends”. And, of course, an overall joie de vivre is essential.

Ever since  I first saw Eleanor sing on an old CBC TV Kinescope over 13 years ago I have been a big fan of hers. Her elegance, her stage presence, her beauty (both inside & out), her voice! It was magic! Eleanor, you are an inspiration to me with your energy, positivity, and enjoyment of life.

Happy Birthday, Eleanor!

P.S.  Here is the link to the CBC Vancouver TV news story on Eleanor Collins’ 100th.

And the link to the CBC Radio jazz program Hot Air’s hour-long tribute to Eleanor Collins on the occasion of her 100th Birthday! Of course, the best part of the show is not only hearing her singing voice, but to hear her speaking today, which is just as entertaining! (Special thanks to CBC radio host Paolo Pietropaolo for giving props to the local CBC Vancouver Archives staff for introducing him to the wonderful Eleanor 10 years ago.)

 

 

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 16 – CBUT is on the air

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 16: 65 years ago today, CBC-TV in Vancouver first started broadcasting…

CBUT, Channel 2, Vancouver, officially began programming at 6.00 p.m., Wednesday, December 16th,1953 when a button pressed by A. Davidson Dunton, chairman of the CBC Board of Governors, set the inaugural transmission into motion. Prior to CBUT, the only television stations available to lower mainland residents originated from Washington State – KING Channel 5 in Seattle and KVOS Channel 12 in Bellingham. Another Seattle based TV station, KOMO Channel 4 began operation 6 days prior to CBUT on December 10, 1953.

Newspaper print ad for the CBUT opening.

This Vancouver station was the fourth CBC-TV station in Canada and the first in Western Canada. The plan for CBUT included studio and production facilities downtown (in a converted Packard dealership), a few blocks from the existing radio (CBU) studios in the Hotel Vancouver and a transmitter on Mount Seymour.

Several special programs marked the initial transmission of the station on Wednesday, December 16th, at 6.00 p.m. They consisted pre-taped (filmed) special greetings to the new station and entertainment programs that featured many “Vancouverites”.

Rear slide projection graphic image for CBUT.

In 2013, wrote a series of vanalogue posts commemorating the 60th Anniversary of CBUT television (CBC-TV) in Vancouver and British Columbia. I invite you to check them out if you want to learn more about local early television. You can look at them here: Part 1 – CBUT on the Air, Part 2 – All that Jazz, Part 3 – 1954 Commonweath Games, & Part 4 – Drama from the Left Coast

The following video shows excerpts of the opening comments from the first broadcast for CBUT (CBC-TV Vancouver) on December, 16th 1953. Also, excerpts from the 1960 CBUT program “Image of CBUT” showing some of the behind the scenes of early TV production. “Image of CBUT” was produced to promote CBUT to potential advertising clients.

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:

 

 

 

Eleanor Collins: Vancouver’s First Lady of Jazz

Several years ago I worked in the CBC Vancouver Media Archives on a film preservation project. The content introduced me to much of Vancouver’s moving image history as well as the artists and technicians who created that legacy. One of the most fascinating artists to catch my eye and ear was Eleanor Collins.

Publicity portrait of Eleanor Collins. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Photo Collection
Publicity portrait of Eleanor Collins. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Photo Collection

My fascination with this amazing woman all started with a single photograph (see above) from the CBC Vancouver Still Photograph Collection. I was mesmerized by her radiance. As a jazz fan, I had to find out more about this performer. Viewing some of her television work from the 50’s & 60’s, I was enthralled by her luminous appearance, her sultry sound, and her magnetic screen presence. But, there is so much more to this fascinating woman… Continue reading “Eleanor Collins: Vancouver’s First Lady of Jazz”

60th anniversary of CBUT, Part 4 – Drama from the left coast

On this 4th and final installment celebrating the 60th anniversary of CBUT, we take a dramatic turn and look at a few interesting stories in the “long and honourable” history of television drama on CBUT (CBC Vancouver).

The recent series of CBC cutbacks and layoffs announced by CBC-SRC’s dispassionate president, Hubert Lacroix, were essentially the fatal blow at the end of a long slow death for all original (non-news) programming on CBC TV. There was a time (long, long ago) however, when the CBC was at the forefront of original programming.

Many Canadians (especially those of a certain age) will be familiar with the history of CBC-TVs documentary and music programming, however many may be unfamiliar with the history of its dramatic programming.

Production still from the set of Spectrum's - Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody (1958).
Production still from the set of Spectrum’s – Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody (1958). Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Like much programming on the CBC, drama had its start on CBC’s radio service.  In it’s early years, CBC radio’s national and regional drama series featured the best of both domestic and international drama. This dramatic tradition continued on the small screen when CBC started its television service. Continue reading “60th anniversary of CBUT, Part 4 – Drama from the left coast”