April 3, 1956
On April 3, 195650 years ago todaythere
was an attempted bank holdup on North Road in which the bad guys
used a machine gun for the first time in Greater Vancouver crime
history. Just after 10:00 a.m. at the Royal Bank at 403 North Road
three masked guys burst into the bankone of them armed with
a Thompson submachine gunthreatened the tellers, stuffed $10,000
into a paper bag and turned to leave.
They didnt make it.
The bank manager had tripped the alarm and three
RCMP officers responded to the call. One of them was Constable Bud
Johnstone who got into a gunfight with the felons. Johnstone was
shot eight timeseight timesbut managed to kill
one of the men and wound another. The surviving two bandits and
their driver were all captured and Johnstone was rushed to Royal
Columbian Hospital. Two bullets were taken from his chest and one
from his hip. Five other bullets had passed completely through his
arms, hand and shoulder.
The next day in the hospital Const. Johnstone, with
his wife Edith by his side, was chatting with a Vancouver Sun
reporter (unnamed.) Johnstone was promoted to Corporal while
still in his hospital bed. Were not surprised.
April 4, 1930
In 1930 Paul Whiteman's band was a very big deal.
A Vancouver Sun story April 2 on his impending arrival from
the States to play in the Vancouver Theatre referred to the April
4 visit as an epoch . . . one of the outstanding events of
Vancouver's musical history.” The visit is being looked forward
to by thousands of lovers of music. Booking is going ahead merrily
at the box office . . .” Whiteman's big orchestra had featured players
like Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Bix Beiderbecke and a singer named
Bing Crosby. Whiteman had commissioned and first played George Gershwin's
Rhapsody in Blue. Even better, the orchestra was also going
to play for dancers at the Hotel Vancouver. His music, said the
Sun, is far superior to the regular run of dance music,
which was then mostly wild as to wailing clarinets and crazy rhythms.”
Alas, it was not to be. On April 4—75 years ago
today—Mr. A.E. Skinner, immigration commissioner, forbade the dance
concert. Musicians,” he said, are debarred from entering
Canada except as 'entertainers.'” In playing for dances, Skinner
continued, they are not entertainers.”
Whiteman responded that if his orchestra couldn't
play for the dancers it wouldn't perform in the theatre either.
And he and his band packed up their epoch and left for Seattle.
April 9, 1927
It must be fun to be a Governor General. Lord Willingdon
of Ratton, our 13th, and Lady Willingdon packed a lot of activity
into a three-day visit here, arriving April 9, 1927 exactly
80 years ago today. They went immediately to Stanley Park, with
a small mob of dignitaries, to meet a larger mob. Hundreds
of Boy Scouts, Wolf Cubs, Girl Guides and Sea Cadets, reported
The Vancouver Sun, were in waiting for Lord Willingdon,
chief scout of Canada. Lady Willingdon was president of the Girl
Guides of Canada.
They went up Grouse Mountain to watch some fancy
skiing, and enjoyed it so much they stayed much longer than scheduled.
Lord W played 18 holes of golf at Jericho, while Lady W spoke to
the Womens Canadian Club. Then they boarded the Norsal
for a trip up to the Britannia Mine, the greatest copper mine
in the British Empire.
Next they turned the first sod for what would become
the Anglican Theological College on the UBC campus, then popped
over to inspect logging operations at Port Haney.
Finally, they were guests at a fancy dinner at the
Hotel Vancouver, where Lord Willingdon spoke. And, to top it all
off, they named a street for him.
April 10, 1985
On April 10, 1985 21 years ago today
Vancouver boxer Michael The Silk Olajide, Jr. won the
Canadian middleweight title at the Agrodome with a ninth-round TKO
over Winnipegs Wayne Caplette.
Sounds straightforward, but it was anything but.
Olajide, born December 8, 1963 in Liverpool, had come with his family
to Vancouver in 1970, had been a local favorite since he started
boxing in 1981. He won his first 23 fights. The fight with Caplette
was his 12th. By the ninth round Caplette had had it. His
trainer, the Vancouver Suns Pete McMartin wrote,
tried to stop the fight by throwing in the towel.
The referee told the trainer to get back in his
corner. Caplette, who had seen the towel thrown in, dropped his
gloves. "Olajide," McMartin continued, then hit
the unguarded Caplette with a crushing left-right combination .
. . Caplette crashed to the floor.
Olajide won, but the crowd booed him. He went on
to take part in 20 more fights, losing the last three, and that
and eye injuries prompted him to get out of boxing in 1991. He wears
an eye patch today.
And makes a good living with athletic fitness programs
and working as a fight technician on boxing movies.
April 11, 1911
Did the stage performer Mandrake the Magician inspire
the famous comic strip of the same name, or was it the other way
Leon Mandrake, who became famous in the 1940s as
Mandrake the Magician, was born April 11, 1911—94 years ago today—in
New Westminster. At age 11 he was on the stage of the Edison Theatre
there, and at 16 started touring North America. He was billed then
as Leon,” and later as Leon the Ventriloquist.” By the
mid-1940s he was billed as Mandrake the Magician.”
The title character in the comic strip Mandrake
the Magician—it debuted June 11, 1934—was said to be drawn to
resemble him. But Mandrake's son, Lon, also a magician, says that
who inspired what or whom has become too tangled to sort out.
Here's what James Randi says in his book, Conjuring:
It appears that cartoonist Lee Falk had come up with the name
Mandrake independently, basing it upon the claimed miraculous powers
of the poisonous plant of the same name. Phil Davis, the eventual
artist of the cartoon strip, even changed the look of his character
somewhat to match Leon [Mandrake, whose real name is not known]'s
appearance after the two met. It was an excellent symbiosis, each
entity enhancing the other.”
April 17, 1913
Batter up! On April 17, 1913 Vancouver had a new
place to watch professional baseball. It was called Athletic Park
and it opened 93 years ago today at the southeast corner of Fifth
and Hemlock. The park was built by Bob Brown, who would come to
be known as Mr. Baseball here. Brown had purchased the Vancouver
Beavers club of the Northwestern League for $500 in 1910. He was
the club's owner, president, manager and shortstop.
The Beavers would play the Tacoma Tigers, and it
was reported that Brown was feeling quite chesty about
his teams chances. He had good reason to be: star pitcher
Bob Ingersoll would be on the mound, given the honor of twirling
the first league game at Athletic Park. Butch Belford, a former
Vancouver player, would do the heaving for Iron Man Joe McGinnitys
Ingersolls twirling beat Belfords heaving:
our guys won 8-4 before 4,000 appreciative supporters, the
largest crowd of fans that ever turned out to witness a ball game
in the Terminal City.
The Beavers went on to win the league pennant. Alas,
the club disbanded at the end of the 1922 season, and the city went
without pro ball for 15 years.
April 18, 1913
When the Canadian Pacific Railway decided Coal Harbour
would be the western terminus of their trans-continental line, they
set in motion events that led directly to the birth of Port Coquitlam.
The CPR extended its line from Port Moody to Coal Harbour, and that
made New Westminster unhappy. New West was the biggest city on the
mainland, with a population of 4,000, and they wouldn't be ignored.
So the railway—motivated by a cash subsidy of $75,000 and other
goodies—built a spur line down to the Royal City.
The point where the spur line left the main line,
27 kilometres east of Vancouver, was dubbed Westminster Junction.”
Locals just called it the Junction. It was part of Coquitlam. Then
agitation began to break away from Coquitlam and make the Junction
its own little town.
On Port Coquitlam's Inauguration Day April 18, 1913,
a little over a month after incorporation, and exactly 92 years
ago today, there was a parade (delayed by a passing train!), the
city band played and the children took part in races. To mark the
event Mayor James Mars presented each child with a small silver
medallion, a replica of the city's emblem with its motto: By Commerce
and Industry We Prosper.
Port Coquitlam was off and running.
April 24, 1955
Vancouver had 65 years of electric streetcar service.
The city's first streetcars rattled into service June 27, 1890 following
a rectangular route along Main, Cordova, Granville and Pender streets.
As the system expanded, many of our neighborhoods Fairview,
Kitsilano, Mt. Pleasant, Cedar Cottage, Kerrisdale, Grandview
would be created by the arrival of new lines.
Vancouver was quick off the mark in using electric
cars. (We beat Toronto and Montreal by two years.) In fact, the
company had already started to plan for horse-drawn transit, even
built a big stable. But then, at the cost of a delay of months in
beginning, the decision was made to go electric though some
potential passengers had to be assured by local newspapers of their
safety from electric shock. (A 2003 book, Vancouvers Glory
Years: Public Transit 1890-1915, by Heather Conn and Henry Ewert,
is a wonderful and profusely illustrated record of that era.)
Finally, inevitably, Vancouvers electric streetcar
service came to an end. Cars and trolley buses had made them obsolete.
Amidst flashbulbs and the tears of fans, the last car
(which included Henry Ewert among its passengers) clanked into retirement
on April 24, 1955 51 years ago today. That Buzzer
(from the collection of transit buff Jim McGraw) tells the story.
April 25, 1955
A new era in rail travel made it into the papers
April 25, 1955exactly 50 years ago today. The Canadian Pacific
Railway had introduced, the night before, The Canadian, an Ultramodern,
lightweight, highly attractive stainless-steel streamlined train.”
The train offered the world's longest dome ride: 2,881.2 miles.
Postwar Canada believed train travel had a healthy
future. Canadian Pacific met the demand by introducing this fancy
new service. (The last car of each train featured original murals
by painters of the Group of Seven.)
The Canadian was faster than the existing Dominion
service: Running time from Vancouver to Montreal was just over 71
hours. The Dominion, which made many more stops, took about 108.
Engineer R.J. McQuarrie pulled his 14-car train
out of the CPR's Cordova Street station at 8:00 p.m. April 24. There
were just over 300 passengers aboard, and a crew of 22.
At 1:00 p.m. Montreal time on the same day the westbound
Canadian left for Vancouver.
The Canadian was responsible for a spike in the
number of train travellers, but, sadly, it was short-lived. Today,
VIA Rail runs the Canadian just three times a week (and on CN rails).
And a trip that cost $77.85 in April of 1955 (one-way coach Vancouver
to Montreal) will set you back about $730 today.
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