[This post has been updated since it was first published in 2016]
I was a shy child. Consequently, I spent a lot of time avoiding eye contact by looking down at the ground. All this time looking down at my feet allowed me to regard the ground upon which I was walking. Thus it was as a Vancouver kid of the 1970s that I first noticed the glassy purple squares embedded in sidewalks.
Have you ever been walking in an older part of the city and noticed a checkerboard grid of purple squares under your feet?
No, they are not simply sidewalk decoration [wouldn’t that be nice?] but rather a system to illuminate spaces under sidewalks called areaways. Sidewalk prisms, also known as vault lights (or pavement lights in the UK), are glass prisms set into sidewalks in order to reflect the natural light from above, safely illuminating these subterranean spaces. [Why are they purple? The answer to that is at the end of the post].
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.
In the last century, bread was very much the staple of our diet. There were bakeries all over the city and Mount Pleasant had its fair share of them. But, there is one bakery in particular that stands out… The Woman’s Bakery.
The Woman’s Bakery started in 1905 in a small building at the south-east corner of Main Street and 6th Avenue. Mr. & Mrs. Coulter arrived in the city in 1905 and shortly after settling in Mount Pleasant they opened their bakery business. The Woman’s Bakery was one of the few female-owned and run businesses in the city. Mrs. Sarah Coulter was the baker, and Mr. Allan C. Coulter did the merchandising. As the story goes, when the bakery first opened it had no specific name. Soon the bread and cakes that baker Sarah Coulter produced earned a favourable reputation in the neighbourhood (and eventually beyond). So, when guests started asking their hosts where they got such delicious baked goods, the host would simply reply “at the woman’s bakery”. Eventually, the name, “The Woman’s Bakery”, stuck and was adopted.
As the popularity of their product grew, so did the business. By 1915 there were three branches of the bakery, in addition to the main store, and a bread factory at 66 West 4th Avenue. Ten years later, there were 17 locations in the city:
The Woman’s Bakery continued as a family business even after the Coulters retired in 1924. Sarah Coulter’s cousin, James Chester Brault, bought The Woman’s Bakery in 1924. Like the Coulters, the Braults ran the business together; Mr. Brault was the “master baker” and Mrs. Grace Brault was in the business manager. The Brault’s also introduced confections to the bakery’s repertoire under the brand name Brault’s Chocolates.
Woman’s Bakery Ltd. continued operations in until at least the 1970s, however, by that time it was under the umbrella of Canada Food Products Ltd.
“She could start fires by rubbing two notes together!” – Vancouver Sun columnist Jack Wasserman on Eleanor Collins (December 1953).
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!
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
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.
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.
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.)
Happy to announce that I have another exhibit of (mostly) new works up all this month at the Whip Restaurant & Gallery on East 6th at Main St. The works are a continuation of what I was working on earlier this year, which I described in an earlier post.
Many people have been asking if there was any online catalogue of my work, so that has inspired this post. Here you go!
So, if you are unable to visit The Whip (209 E6th Ave. Vancouver) to see my show, or missed the last one, here is your chance to not only view my works, but an opportunity for you to purchase one (or, two, or three…)
The holidays are coming up, and these would make great gifts for the historyphile, fashionphile, Vancouverphile, or sewingphile on your list ,or even a great gift to yourself! Many of the collage “scenes” are situated in historic Mount Pleasant, East Vancouver, or Chinatown.
Here’s the offer: Order a print by no later than December 1, 2019 and I can have a framed print ready for you by December 16th, 2019 (local pickup/delivery only)*.
The images are 12″x16″ ink jet prints on archival fine art photo paper, matted and framed in Ikea Ribba 16″x20″ frames. You have a choice of a black (my preference) or white frame.
1. Christine Hagemoen East 10th human scale, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
2. Christine Hagemoen East side auto service, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
3. Christine Hagemoen Off to School, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
4. Christine Hagemoen B.C. Sugar Refinery, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
5. Christine Hagemoen I love you, booth, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
6. Christine Hagemoen Chinatown alley, 2018. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
7. Christine Hagemoen Mount Pleasant Demolition, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
8. Christine Hagemoen East Georgia Street, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
9. Christine Hagemoen Window Shopping, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
10. Christine Hagemoen Mount Pleasant Pulp Fiction, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
11. Christine Hagemoen Breeze block backdrop, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
12. Christine Hagemoen Helen’s Cafe, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150
*I am able to mail the artworks framed (or unframed) for additional postage costs. Last summer I mailed a framed print to Toronto via regular parcel mail (cheapest) it was about $30 for the postage. Contact me and we can discuss options. Please Note: In 2020, the prices for my artworks will be going up (inflation baby!)
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…
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 on 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.
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.
In the meantime, I scanned a few of the negatives…
*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.
It would be great to have these images printed up and displayed in a photographic exhibit.
I just realized that it has been quite a while since I last posted on Vanalogue. I have been quite busy these first 4 months of 2019, so I hope you will forgive me. Let me tell you what I’ve been up to.
I’ve been working on getting things ready for not one, but two photography exhibits this year. This is the very first time I have had a solo exhibit of my photographs, which has been a personal goal of mine for a long time. The first one was during the month of February and was held in the bright tasting room at Off The Rail Brewing. The second one is currently on view at The Whip Restaurant and Gallery until April 30th, 2019. The Whip is a Mount Pleasant neighbourhood hangout in a funky loft space that features a rotating exhibition of local artists. This space along E. 6th Avenue in the historic Ashnola building (1913) was the original home of the Grunt Gallery from 1984 to 1995.
My exhibit of digital photo collages is called Simplicity.
Absence of complication;
Brand of sewing patterns.
I was inspired by a collection of vintage sewing patterns that belonged to my friend’s grandmother along with my own collection of vintage magazines and recipe pamphlets. Attracted to the mid-century illustration style depicting the uncomplicated, “Barbie-like” ideal forms of femininity (and masculinity), I wanted to incorporate the mid-century figures into my own contemporary photographic scenes of Vancouver – juxtaposing these idealized ‘catalogue fashion’ figures of the past against realistic backdrops of the present.
The process of creating these digital collage is, in many ways, very similar to using sewing patterns to create your own clothes. After scanning the pattern covers, I needed to carefully “cut out” the figures and then seamlessly “stitch” them into photographs of Vancouver that I had shot. I had to resize the patterns, adjust them, and often I had to use my best Photoshop skills to make them fit within a particular scene.
In a few of the images the backgrounds are not as they appear in reality. In those cases, I have collaged buildings or features from other photographs to create a new tableau.
Since I am a “digital immigrant” I decided to try my hand at analogue collages. So, using my collection of late 1940s and 1950s magazines as source material, I channeled my inner “Richard Hamilton” and created this collage (below) I call “Just another Saturday night in suburbia”.
This collage was made manually by cutting out the individual componets and arranging them into a compostion. Unlike digital cutting, where you can fix your missteps by “stepping backward”, manually cutting requires a good pair of scissors (or Exacto knife) and a very steady hand. Before I permanently affixed the cutouts to the support surface, I scanned them individually so that I could recreate the scene for the print version (see above). The original is hanging on the wall in my hall and everytime I pass it, I smile. The exuberance of mid-century product advertising is infectious.
The world these days can often seem dark and complicated, these works are meant as a respite from all that.
If you are in Mount Pleasant over the next few days I invite you to drop by The Whip and check out my exhibit which will be up until Tuesday, April 30th.
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…
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“.