Author: Street Names of Vancouver
[Photo: BC Bookworld]
Imagine, says the Vancouver Historical
Society, seeing King George VI and Queen Elizabeth being driven
down Georgia Street in 1939 as thousands line the sidewalks and
cheer . . . and all in colour! Thats just one of the
rare chunks of film youll be able to see (free) at 7:30 p.m.
on Thursday, February 22 at the Vancouver Museum. Colin Preston,
the CBCs Vancouver archivist, has a fine collection of film
clips from the past, so this will be one of the VHSs more
enjoyable events of the year.
Local television came to Vancouver in 1953 when the CBC opened
their original studios at the corner of West Georgia and Bute, but
the archives go back much further. There is a variety of footage
of Vancouver and its residents, shot by professional film companies
and amateurs alike. Some of it covers major events in the city,
some consists of fascinating visual records of ordinary days in
the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Curiously, for an organization devoted entirely to history, the
Vancouver Historical Society has no organized history of itself.
Thanks to the efforts of Elizabeth Walker, a longtime member of
VHS, its archivist, and a past president, minutes of the earliest
meetings of the Societywith some omissionsare preserved
at the City of Vancouver Archives.
From those minutes we can construct a rough picture of the Societys
The Vancouver Historical Society began October 2, 1936 as the Vancouver
Section of the British Columbia Historical Association. That explains
why virtually all of its earliest public meetings dealt with subjects
that had little or nothing to do with Vancouver history! The history
of the Cariboo, mining in northern British Columbia, exploring the
Kootenays . . . rarely did they venture into the lower mainland.
That 1936 organizational meeting was held in King Edward High School.
The first president was Dr. W.N. Sage. It cost $2 to join in that
seventh year of the Great Depression. A quarterly publication was
already being issued by the BCHA. Its total circulation was 485,
with 185 of those going to the members of the Vancouver Section.
A continuing problem in the earliest years of the Society was finding
a place for its public meetings. The first were held in Harmony
Hall at 1655 West Broadway. From there they moved to the Hastings
Mill Store (in Pioneer Park at the north foot of Alma Street since
1930), then to Room 201 of the Hotel Vancouver.
On November 27, 1940 the Society found what would prove to be a
regular home in the small dining room of the Grosvenor Hotel, which
old-timers will recall was at 840 Howe Street, on the east side
of Howe a little south of Georgia. The manager, Edgar Baynes, provided
that space to the VHS free of charge. They were there for at least
A digression: Edgar Baynes was a partner with Alfred Horie in the
construction company that built the Grosvenor in 1913. A severe
economic depression (although not quite as severe as the 1929 version)
hit B.C. just as the hotel was completed, and the client couldnt
afford to keep it up. So the Baynes family took over the hotel,
and operated it successfully for many decades.
Prominent names pop up all through those early years: Dr. Sage,
of course, Judge F.W. Howay, Major J.S. Matthews, Dr. Margaret Ormsby,
newspaperman Roy Brown, Capt. Charles Cates, Norman Hacking . .
Exactly when the Vancouver Section of the BCHA became the Vancouver
Historical Society is still a little vague: the transition happened
during years in which the minutes are missing. Further research
will pinpoint the date.
And a final note: the Societys website,
crafted by board member Bruce Watson and maintained by Quasar
Design and Data Management is a rich treasure trove
of local history.
p.s. Okay, one more final note: Colin will conclude his films presentation
on the 22nd with a showing of the six-minute Harbeck film, the 1907
movie made on Vancouvers busy streets a century ago.
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