December 4, 1972
On December 4, 1972 34 years ago today the minimum
wage for adults in British Columbia was set at $2 an hour, the highest
Economic doom was predicted, especially when the NDP government
promised a further boost to $2.50 an hour by mid-1974. Even more
alarming, the new bill applied for the first time to women as well
That anniversary steak dinner you promised
your wife, the restaurant industry told The Vancouver Sun,
will cost between 20 and 40 per cent more in June, 1974. And
your morning coffee at that little diner down the street might not
be available at all because the diner will be closed.
There were cries of alarm from the hotel industry and from nursing
Prices at the time? You could see Frank Zappa live
at the Agrodome for $3.50. The best-selling paperback, The Primal
Scream, was $1.50. A loaf of raisin bread was 35 centsroughly
10 minutes work. But gas was 49.9 cents per gallon. So to buy four
gallons on the minimum wage then would take one hours work.
Today, with the minimum wage at $8, to buy those same four gallons
(18.2 litres) youd need to work about two hours and 15 minutes.
December 5, 1923
It took time before our city directories took notice
of local radio. In 1926 Henderson's Directory listed six radio stations
in the city, where there had been none shown the year before. Yet
we know that CFQC (today's CFUN) signed on in 1922, making it the
oldest radio station in Western Canada. On December 5, 192382
years ago todayradio was used for the first time in a Vancouver
mayoralty campaign: candidate W.R. Owen gave a ten-minute speech
over CJCE, which happened to be co-owned by The Vancouver Sun.
(The other owner was the Sprott-Shaw School of Commerce.)
William Reid Owen was a realtor and insurance agent
active in the Mount Pleasant area, and had been its first blacksmith.
That radio chat may have been the deciding factor in the election,
because he squeaked past his opponent L.D. Taylor by just 53 votes.
Owens timing was good: Vancouver was thriving
again after a slump following the First World War. The citys
population was 130,000, a growth of 13,000 in two years. But, despite
the good times and his campaign slogan (I stand for necessities
before fads and frills), Owens luck didnt hold:
L.D. Taylor beat him in the next election in 1925 by 640 votes.
December 6, 1969
They expected about 3,500 people to visit the Bloedel
Conservatory on opening day, December 6, 1969—35 years ago today.
More than 11,000 showed up. It's still a great place to visit, especially
on a wet, chilly December day. Dozens of species of colorful birds
fly freely through the foliage, from tiny, flitting Button Quail
and Gold-breasted Waxbills to the big Moluccan Cockatoo, the Blue
and Gold Macaw and Rosie the Parrot, who—perched on apprentice gardener
Tricia Meneghello's arm—can imitate the sound of a cell phone and
does a pretty good cough.
The conservatory was built thanks largely to a $1.25
million donation through the Bloedel Foundation from lumber magnate
Prentice Bloedel and his wife Virginia, and smaller amounts from
the city and provincial governments. Mayor Tom Campbell was joined
by Mr. and Mrs. Bloedel and Bill Livingstone, the Vancouver parks
board assistant superintendent responsible for the main creative
More than 300 varieties of tropical plants
are on display,” the Sun's Lorne Mallin wrote, from
Africa, Mexico, Vietnam, Brazil, Java, Colombia, West Indies, China,
Egypt, Fiji, Arizona, Florida, California and Hawaii.” Supervisor
Alex Downie oversees the constant work necessary as the seasons
change (lots of poinsettias on display right now) or as plants grow
too tall to fit under the geodesic dome.
It's nice and warm under those 1,490 plastic bubbles,
too. What more could you ask?
December 12, 1968
Vancouver Sun columnist Allan Fotheringham
was prescient in his comment on the opening December 12, 196837
years ago todayof the 29-storey MacMillan Bloedel Building
at Georgia and Thurlow in downtown Vancouver. No major new
building in town, Fotheringham wrote, will dare to build
out to the property line now that Massey-Erickson have shown the
advantages of stepping back to leave some welcome space for the
Architects Arthur Erickson and Geoff Massey accomplished
something else with the $14.5 million new building: its deeply recessed
windows and the gentle tapering of its two abutting towers give
it a handsome, heavy elegance. Eleven of the 29 floors were occupied
by MacBlo; the others were to be rented out.
The companys CEO, J.V. Clyne, told 250 invited
guests at the opening: "This home office in Vancouver will
testify that MacMillan Bloedel is a B.C. company, founded here and
run from here." Alas, no more. In November 1999 Weyerhaeuser,
the big U.S. forest products company, became even bigger with a
$3.6 billion takeover of MacBlo.
Today, with its original owner moved out, the building
is known as, simply, 1075 Georgia Street West.
December 13, 1934
Gerry McGeer was elected mayor of Vancouver for
the first time on December 13, 1934—exactly 70 years ago today—with
the largest lead in Vancouver history: 25,000 votes out of 44,000
cast. He wasted no time getting into action: In the first week of
his term he confiscated 1,000 slot machines in the city. He started
a push for a new city hall, and insisted it go away out at West
12th and Cambie, when the sentiment (especially within the business
community) was to keep it downtown. His role in the April, 1935
labor strife that led to his Victory Square reading of the Riot
Act—to oversimplify, McGeer (backed by 200 police officers) sided
with the power structure against unemployed men from the relief
camps—generates argument to this day. TIME Magazine, in likely its
first-ever reference to a mayor of Vancouver, called McGeer bumptious.”
He still looms large in the city's past: McGeer has more index entries
in books on Vancouver's history than anyone else. Read Mayor
Gerry : the remarkable Gerald Grattan McGeer, by David Ricardo
December 18, 1929
There was a time when Canada had a national broadcasting service,
but only on the trains. In 1923, when radio was in its infancy,
Henry Thornton, the man who ran Canadian National Railways
also quite young wanted to make his line more attractive
to passengers than the CPR. One thing he did was put radios in the
cars. Operators rode in the cars and tuned in the nearest stations,
which passengers listened to on earphones.
Thornton had stations set up in major cities along
the railways route, each with its own programming. Westernmost
was CNRV in Vancouver (The Voice of the Pacific), started
in 1925 with studios in the CN station at 1150 Main Street, which
today is Pacific Central Station. In 1927 it began broadcasting
Canadas first regular drama series, starring the CNRV Players.
On December 18, 1929 77 years ago today
Vancouverites were reading in The Vancouver Sun that the
CNR would launch a Trans-Canada radio network, with programs originating
initially from Toronto. It would be the longest single radio hookup
on the continent.
A new entity called the Canadian Radio Commission took over the
CNRs radio stations in 1934, and two years after that the
Commission changed its name to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
December 19, 1915
The Connaught Tunnel became the longest in North
America to that time when its two parts were connected on December
19, 191590 years ago today. The CPR planned the $6 million
tunnel to eliminate miles of snowsheds over the line, and to lower
the summit that had to be reached to get over Rogers Pass.
With no ceremony whatever, our report
ran, except the ceremony of touching off the fuse that fired
the big blast, the centre heading of the big five-mile tunnel of
the Canadian Pacific Railway company under Mt. McDonald, at the
highest point in the Selkirk range of the Rocky mountains, was blown
through this morning.
Deep within the mountain itself two crews had been
burrowing their way toward each other for two years. Now only a
thin barrier of rock separated them.
A group of men gathered for the 8:00 a.m. blast,
led by John G. Sullivan, the railways chief engineer. Asked
if he was sure the two holes would exactly meet, Mr. Sullivan said:
The sides will be within one-half inch of each other.
The two groups of workmen groped through the dust
of the explosion, grinning, and shook each others hands.
December 20, 1911
Professional hockey came to Vancouver when the Patrick
brothers, Lester (10 days short of his 28th birthday) and Frank
(one day short of his 26th) opened the Denman Arena. It was a big
place, squatting at the north end of Denman Street at Georgia and
holding 10,000 people. When it opened December 20, 1911—93 years
ago today—it was the world's largest artificial ice rink.
The Patrick brothers created many of hockey's rules
and features, including unrestricted passing in the central zone,
the blue line, the penalty shot, the play-off series . . . they
even changed the rule that said a goalie must stand at all times.
They also created the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, consisting
of the New Westminster Royals, the Victoria Aristocrats, and the
Vancouver Millionaires. When the Millionaires got Fred Cyclone”
Taylor to join the team, it brought them the 1915 Stanley Cup when
they beat the Ottawa Senators in three straight games.
Dempsey and Braddock fought in the Denman Arena,
Rudolph Valentino judged a beauty contest there and Arthur Conan
Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) gave a speech in the building.
But it burned down August 20, 1936, just hours after a Max Baer
boxing exhibition. The city fire marshal, J.A. Thomas, fumed that
the building had been the worst fire trap in Vancouver ever
since it was built.” If it had started to burn with the crowd still
in it, he said, the death toll could easily have reached 1,000.”
December 26, 1908
There are a couple of Vancouver-related stories
connected to a boxing match fought at Rushcutters Bay, near
Sydney in Australia, on December 26, 190897 years ago today.
It was a title match. In one corner was world heavyweight
champ Tommy Burns, 27, a Canadian (whose real name was Noah Brusso,
born in Hanover, Ontario) who had won the title February 23, 1906
in Los Angeles, defeating Marvin Hart. In the other corner was Galveston,
Texas-born Jack Johnson, 30, bigger than Burns, and eager to become
the first black heavyweight champion. Other contenders had refused
to fight Johnson because he was black. Burns didnt care.
Johnson slowly and methodically battered Burns into
submission. "The end came in the 14th round," the newspapers
read, "when the police, seeing Burns tottering and unable to
defend himself from the savage blows of his opponent, mercifully
stopped the fight."
And the local connections? Johnsons first
fight after winning the championship was a non-title bout in Vancouver
March 10, 1909. (His opponent was a fellow named Victor McLaglen,
who later became a well-known Oscar-winning movie actor.)
And Tommy Burns died in Vancouver at age 73 on May
10, 1955 while visiting a friend here.
December 27, 1965
The Vancouver Sun has had four homes since
its first edition February 12, 1912, but headquarters for the longest
stretch was in the Pacific Press Building at 2250 Granville Street.
The paper moved in on December 27, 1965, exactly 39 years ago today.
This would be its home for the next 31 years.
Pacific Press had started in 1958 as a response
to the rising costs of producing newspapers. First, the Sun
and the Province merged their mechanical and financial departments,
similar to changes happening in two-newspaper cities all over North
America. The move by both papers to the 2250 Granville building
was the next step.
The two papers had been virtually next-door neighbors
for more than 50 years already. When the Sun started in 1912
it was at 125 West Pender, just around the corner from the Province,
housed then in the Carter-Cotton Building—still there at the southeast
corner of Hastings and Cambie. Then, in March 1937, a fire destroyed
the Sun's business and editorial offices. (There was just
one casualty: the janitor suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation.)
The Sun simply bought the World Building
across the street at 100 West Pender, a funky green-topped skyscraper
that had once been home to the now-vanished Vancouver World. The
Sun staff walked across the street and set up shop, and were
there until the 1965 move.
The paper's next move, in 1997, brought them to
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