August 1, 1936
On August 1, 1936—69 years ago today—the Olympic
Games began in Berlin. Covering the event for The Vancouver Sun
was 28-year-old Erwin Swangard. Sitting in the stands observing
the activities: German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.
This is the Olympics usually remembered for the
terrific success of Jesse Owens, a 22-year-old black American who
won four gold medals, blowing a large hole in Herr Hitler's notions
of Aryan supremacy.
But Canada was there, too. Victoria's Tom Hawthorn,
who writes extensively on sport, told me: The prominent British
Columbians at the Berlin Olympics were three terrific basketball
players from Victoria, brothers Art and Chuck Chapman with Doug
Peden. The trio were invited to join the national championship team,
the Windsor (Ont.) Fords, at the games. Basketball was making its
debut as an official Olympic sport . . . the game was played outdoors
on a clay tennis court. When it rained, the court became a quagmire.
The final game on August 14 pitted the heavily favored Americans
against the Canadians. The US won 19-8 in the mud.” The Canadians
The 1936 games, Tom added, were captured
on a newfangled invention called television; a closed-circuit telecast
carried the Games to the athletes' village.”
August 2, 1985
During World War One, 196 Japanese-Canadians volunteered
to fight for Canada. At Vimy Ridge, fought over four days in April,
1917, one of them, Sergeant Masumi Mitsui of Port Coquitlam, led
his troop into battle with such distinction that he was awarded
the Military Medal for Bravery. Of those 196 volunteers, 145 were
killed or wounded. That remarkable Japanese-Canadian contribution
was honored by the construction in 1920 in Stanley Park of a striking
monument, surrounded by cherry trees, with an electric flame that
was to burn forever.
But the flame was switched off shortly after Japan's
attack on Pearl Harbor. It would stay off for more than 40 years.
Like so many others, Masumi Mitsui and his family had been forced
from their home during the Second World War and scattered in internment
camps across the country. Their farm, their house and all its contents
were confiscated. He was so enraged he threw his medals down, onto
the desk of the confiscating officer.
But time healed this wound: on August 2, 198519
years ago todaySgt. Mitsui, now 98, one of two surviving Japanese-Canadian
soldiers who had served Canada so bravely, was brought in to turn
the light on again.
Mr. Mitsui died in 1987, five months short of his
August 8, 1917
Gustav Konstantin 'Alvo' von Alvensleben was once
a very influential Vancouverite. He was described by a local as
the very picture of a Prussian aristocrat, tall, clean-cut
and athletic, decked out in a hunting suit in the latest Berlin
fashion . . .” He arrived in 1904 with $5 in his pocket. Five years
later he was a millionaire in real estate. His lavish home on West
41st Avenue is Crofton House School for Girls today. He built Wigwam
Inn on Indian Arm.
But his Prussian background made him a figure of
suspicion during the First World War. The war began while he was
in Germany attempting to raise fresh funds, and Canada—automatically
an ally of England—declared Alvensleben to be an enemy alien and
refused him permission to re-enter the country. He and his family
moved to Seattle. The US wasn't in the war. Yet.
On August 8, 1917—88 years ago today—Alvo was arrested.
British intelligence officials had sent a list of dangerous
German spies” to the US Justice Department, and Alvensleben's name
topped the list! He was interned with others near Salt Lake City.
It wasn't until March, 1920, fifteen months after the war ended,
that he was freed.
August 9, 1942
Even for Shaughnessy, Hycroft was something special.
The papers reported that A.D. McRae, president of the Fraser River
Lumber Co., was spending $100,000 to build the mansion. In 1909
that was a huge amount. For $1,000 you could buy a modest new home,
and $3,500 got you very fancy digs.
What the McRaes got was a 30-room home (11 of them
bedrooms), a coach house, stables, a swimming pool, an Italian garden
and more, all on 5.2 acres. By 1911 Hycroft was the social centre
of the city, often hosting visiting royalty.
But after more than 30 years in the house, with
rising costs and the Second World War making hiring of staff difficult,
on August 9, 194262 years ago todaythe McRaes sold Hycroft
to a grateful federal government for $1. Shaughnessy Military Hospital
was full to bursting with convalescent soldiers and Hycroft was
put to immediate use to handle the overflow.
It served as an auxiliary to the hospital for 18
years. Then a new wing was added to Shaughnessy and Hycroft was
It sat empty for two years, then the University
Women's Club bought it, and they've occupied it ever since. Incidentally,
women were not allowed to hold mortgages in their own right at the
time and so the club was required to pay in full. It took them a
year to raise the money.
August 15, 1950
On August 15th, 1950—55 years ago today—the BC government
closed down the BC Provincial Police, and turned the policing of
the province over to the RCMP.
The BCPP had been formed in November 1858 at Fort
Langley, 15 years before the formation of the North West Mounted
Police, forerunner of the RCMP. By the time of the Second World
War there were about 500 men in the force, and they were a busy
lot. Says a web site devoted to their history, they were entrusted
to recruit for the armed forces. They also examined fishing and
hunting licenses, provided custom and excise services, did livestock
brand inspections, issued trap-line permits, were registrars for
Vital Statistics, served civil court documents and even issued dog
licenses. Besides investigating crimes they also acted as Court
prosecutors, jailers and prisoner escort services—overtime work
was a necessity but extra pay was never heard of nor received.”
Eric R. Hallam, the president of the BCPP Veterans
Association, tells us this photo of Four new corporals” in
the force was taken in 1949, the last full year it existed. Second
from the left is Phil Boulton, and third from the left is Gordon
August 16, 1910
Vancouver hadliterallynever seen anything
like it. The first Vancouver Exhibition drew big crowds, partly
because the official opening August 16, 1910exactly 94 years
ago todaywas presided over by Canada's prime minister Wilfrid
Laurier. (The Asoft opening had been the day before.) Laurier
had come all the way from Ottawa to open the fair, and 5,000 of
us showed up to see him from a population about one-twelfth of what
it is today.
That 50-cent admission was fairly hefty at a time
when the average weekly wage for a Canadian production worker was
But you got to see a lot of neat stuff. Like the
Stove Hall, featuring a good collection of stoves and ranges,
together with various novelties and appliances which will appeal
to the housewife. The Machinery Hall was an attraction, so
were the Industrial Hall, the Poultry House, King Dog (where dogs
of all kinds were on display) along with "Numerous barns and
stables, food booths and Skid Road.
That last isn't described, but a reporter there
wrote this: Upon the Skid Road it is noticeable that the objectionable
features frequently to be met with at similar fairs are entirely
absent, and there appears to be nothing to which the most fastidious
taste could take exception.
August 22, 1964
On August 22, 1964—41 years ago today—the Beatles
hit Vancouver. During their lightning-fast appearance here they
made a sensation. And that was just at the news conference!
Eighty-nine media people were jammed into a room
designed for 40. Two of them were British journalists who did nothing
but report on the activity of the insanely popular four, then there
was the CBC's royal tour expert, several writers from eastern Canada
and the US, more than 20 electronic journalists and disk jockeys—and
a thirteen-year-old Beatlemaniac named Susan Lomax assigned by The
There had been a delay at customs, which John Lennon
explained: we had to be deloused.” And when someone asked
What is the most unusual request you've had from your fans?”
Lennon's leering answer was: Oo, now, I wouldn't like to say.
Their actual appearance was a bit of a farce. Red Robinson emceed,
and at one point was told by the police to go out (mid-concert)
to tell the screaming, heaving, fainting audience to calm down.
Red was screamed at by John Lennon, too. Nobody calmed down, none
of the songs could be heard and the Sun's music critic was
unkind to the Beatles the next day.
They probably didn't care.
August 23, 1972
At 9:58 in pitch-black darkness on Tuesday night,
August 22, 1972 a nurse named Fran Cannon, 30, stepped into the
waters of Georgia Strait at Neck Point, just north of Nanaimo. Waiting
for her just offshore was the Charlotte Strait, a tug owned
by Rivtow Straits, and a smaller boat aboard which was Fran's husband,
The Charlotte Strait, with its two skippers, Joe
Gosse and John Cosulich, and its smaller companion fell into place
beside Fran as she began to swim strongly to the northeast. Her
destination was Davis Bay at Sechelt, more than 25 kilometres distant.
It was so dark the little crew had to shine flashlights on Fran
to locate her in the waters of the Strait, which now began to chop
slightly in 15-knot winds from the southeast. We'd hoped for
winds from the west, Fran says, to help push me along,
but I was never in trouble. No cramps or anything. I stopped in
the water and rested every hour or so, and they fed me Sustagen
[a fortified milk product] from a cup held out at the end of a broom
At 1:05 on Wednesday afternoon, August 23exactly
32 years ago todayFran stepped ashore at Davis Bay, almost
exactly 15 hours after she'd started.
Why'd she do it? Dennis and I had a friend,
Mike Powley, who was the first man to swim the Strait. That was
in August of 1967. I just wanted to be the first woman to do it.
Fran and Dennis Cannon live on Bowen Island today.
August 29, 1936
The Seaforth Armoury, the site a few days ago of
a stirring tribute to the late Sgt. Ernest Smokey” Smith,
VC, was formally opened on August 29, 1936, exactly 69 years ago
today. The dignitary who presided over the opening was Governor
General Lord Tweedsmuir . . . who had a second and celebrated fame:
his civilian” name was John Buchan, famous all through the
English-speaking world for his writing—more than a hundred books.
The most famous was his novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, made
into a hit Alfred Hitchcock movie in 1935 and starring Robert Donat
and Madeleine Carroll. Two more versions were made, in 1959 and
1978, and a third is in production right now!
The day after he opened the armoury, Tweedsmuir
attended the first ever service held in St. James Anglican Church,
the striking building at Gore and Cordova. A reporter wrote that
he joined in the response and bowed humbly in prayer, hardly
to be distinguished from the commoners around him.” (Tweedsmuir
would be, incidentally, the first GG to die in office.)
The Seaforth Highlanders, a reserve infantry regiment
that calls the armoury home, are moving out next year to the Canadian
Forces Jericho Base on West 4th Avenue, to allow the old building
to get a seismic upgrade.
August 30, 1953
Vancouver's Doug Hepburn was relatively small in
the world of heavyweight weight-liftersonly 5'9" (1.75
m) and weighing just 280 pounds (127 kg). Hossein Rezazadeh, for
example, who just won gold at the Olympics, weighs 323+ pounds (147
But on August 30, 1953exactly 51 years ago
todayHepburn, 26, won the world heavyweight weight-lifting
championship in Stockholm. He was the only Canadian entry, and he
did us proud, breaking the world record for the press. (A press
is a lift in which the bar is brought to the shoulders, then after
a pause is lifted overhead using only the arms.)
Hepburn's three lifts (the press, the snatch and
the jerk) totalled 1,030.25 pounds (467 kilos), and brought him
the title of World's Strongest Man, a triumph for a guy who had
to wear corrective footwear for a deformed foot, and who was teased
cruelly as a kid because of his limping gait and his crossed eyes.
Surgery fixed the eye problem, his prodigious discipline
in training and his immense strength stopped the taunting.
Hepburn died November 22, 2000.
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