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May 1, 1975

It’s one of the great houses in the city, a fixture on Point Grey Road for more than 90 years. But Brock House began as the Gilman house, named for Philip Gilman, a mining engineer who bought two-and-a-half acres on the Point Grey waterfront, had noted architect Samuel Maclure design the home (with eight fireplaces), and moved in with his wife and two sons in 1913. In 1922 the Gilmans sold the house to the Brocks and moved to England.

UBC Dean Reginald Brock and his wife Mildred moved in with four sons, and Mrs. Brock named the house Brockholm — ‘holm' meaning low-lying land near water. In July of 1935 Dean and Mrs. Brock were killed in an airplane accident, but three of the sons — one of them the fondly remembered writer and broadcaster Dave Brock — remained in the house until it was sold in 1938 to David Tait.

In 1952 the Taits sold Brock House to the federal government, and it was used for a time by the RCMP. On May 1, 1975 — 31 years ago today — the property was turned over to the City of Vancouver as part of the transfer of the Jericho Waterfront Lands. It has become a busy activity centre for seniors and has a noted restaurant.


May 2, 1986

Back in 1978, in the quiet and elegant confines of the Cavalry Club in London, England three people sat around over tea and talked about Vancouver. They were Grace McCarthy, the deputy premier and minister of human resources in the B.C. government, Lawrie Wallace, B.C.'s agent-general in the U.K. and Europe, and Patrick Reid, who had been commissioner general for Canadian participation in several world expositions (San Antonio, Osaka, Spokane) and who was just about to start a term as president of the International Bureau of Expositions in Paris. That's the body that has the final say about what cities get expos.

Mrs. McCarthy said that 1986, still eight years ahead, was going to be Vancouver's 100th birthday and it would be nice to mark that occasion in some special way. Reid responded by saying a world exposition would fill the bill splendidly.

When McCarthy got back to BC she collared Premier Bill Bennett and began to push for support for an exposition in Vancouver to mark the city's centennial.
On May 2, 1986—19 years ago today—Expo 86 began. Exactly 52 countries participated. Over the six months it ran, Expo drew 22,111,600 people, a huge success.


May 9, 1891

Vancouver was perfectly situated for the early Canadian Pacific Railway. They'd signed a contract with the British government in 1889 to deliver mail to Japan and China. The mail, brought by ship from England, would be loaded aboard CPR trains at Halifax, rushed across the country to Vancouver, then put aboard CPR ships for the trans-Pacific run. The contract—which earned the company ,60,000 per year—was based on their getting the mail from Halifax to Hong Kong in 684 hours (28.5 days.)

The first ship the CPR had built for the purpose (at Barrow-in-Furness in northern England) was the Empress of India, launched in August 1890. She got here via the Suez Canal and Hong Kong in late April of 1891, and on May 9, 1891—exactly 114 years ago today—left Vancouver to begin the regular transpacific service.

She would make that run for 23 years, and one of the odder facts of her life was that the coal that fed her boilers was loaded in Nagasaki, Japan. The loading was done by women and children, each carrying sacks weighing 15 pounds.

In 1914 the Empress was sold to the Maharajah of Gwalior, who converted her at his own expense, into an Indian Army hospital ship.


May 15, 1976

It got easier to get to Vancouver International Airport when the Arthur Laing Bridge opened. It reduced the distance from downtown to the airport by more than three kilometres. Traffic had started using the bridge August 27, 1975, but the official opening was May 15, 1976—30 years ago today. It’s 1,676 metres (one mile) in total length, and more than 90,000 vehicles use it daily.

Geraldine Laing unveiled a plaque at the ceremony, where tribute was paid to her husband. He was born in 1904 in Eburne, near the south end of the new bridge, and by 1949 was the Liberal MP for Vancouver South. He later became the leader of the Liberal Party in BC, still later returned to a busy life in federal politics: He was Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources, then Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, next Minister of Public Works and finally Minister of Veterans' Affairs. In 1972, he was appointed to the Senate.

Prime Minister Trudeau announced in 1974 that the bridge would be named for Laing (the original plan had been to call it the Hudson Street Bridge), but he died at 70 on February 13, 1975 while the bridge was still under construction.


May 16, 1982

There was no joy in Vancouver (nor the rest of Canada) on May 16, 1982—23 years ago today—when the Vancouver Canucks were defeated by the New York Islanders in the quest for the Stanley Cup. It was the closest the Canucks had come to hockey's top prize. But they had been beaten in four straight games by the Islanders, and the team was inconsolable.

But the fans were not. A piece by the Vancouver Sun's Ian Haysom was headlined CINDERELLA HEROES LOST STANLEY CUP BUT WON OUR HEARTS. “Stan Smyl,” Haysom wrote, “eyes red, choking back the tears, said: 'Yes, it hurts. I guess it hurts a lot.'”

Outside the Canucks' dressing room, a crowd of almost 200 diehard fans chanted “Next year! Next year!” and “Stan-ley, Stan-ley!” That wasn't for the Cup, but for team captain Stan Smyl. “The Canucks' captain,” Haysom continued, “After regaining his composure, was persuaded to go out and meet them. They mobbed him, told him he was the greatest, they held aloft a foil-wrapped Stanley Cup, shook both his hands and cheered themselves hoarse. Smyl managed a smile and said, simply: 'Thanks, guys. You're the greatest. You've all been incredible.'”

Maybe next year.


May 23, 1937

On May 23, 1937—68 years ago today—the Palomar opened at 713 Burrard Street at Alberni in Vancouver. In its day the Palomar was the place in town for big-name entertainers: the Ink Spots appeared there frequently in the 1940s and '50s, and for those of you younger folk who just said 'Who?,' here are a couple of other names you will recognize: Louis Armstrong (February 2, 1952) and Duke Ellington (April 11 to 15, 1952.)

Dal Richards joined the Sandy De Santis house orchestra at the Palomar in the fall of 1937, and was there in the fall of 1938 when it changed from a ballroom to a night club. A Vancouver girl named Peggy Middleton joined the chorus line, and Dal remembers that she pestered him and the club's owner, Hymie Singer, to do a solo number. “It was Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” Dal said, “And she'd gone out and bought the stuff she needed for the number.” They okayed the solo, and maybe that's what persuaded 15-year-old Peggy Middleton that showbiz was for her. She changed her name to Yvonne De Carlo and went on to become a movie and TV star.

“Singer and Sandy De Santis had a falling out,” Dal recalls, “And Singer asked me if I could lead a band. I said sure. I was 20.” The Palomar eventually closed. Dal's still around.


May 30, 1985

On May 30, 1985—exactly 20 years ago today—The Vancouver Sun's front page was dominated by the Steve Fonyo story. Fonyo was a 19-year-old Vernon kid who'd lost his leg to cancer at age 12 and who'd been inspired by Terry Fox's 1980 run.

At 4:15 p.m. the day before, in a pouring rain, grinning hugely, Fonyo dipped his artificial left leg into the waters of Juan de Fuca Strait. He had done it. He had run across Canada.

His journey, the Sun's Dave Margoshes and Chris Rose wrote, had started 14 months earlier on March 31, 1984 “on an equally miserable day in St. John's, Nfld. In between he's been on the road 425 days, ran or walked 7,924 kilometres and raised almost $9 million for cancer research, education and patient services, including $1 million pledged by the federal government.”

Fonyo wasn't as photogenic as Terry Fox, his personality wasn't as attractive, his run wasn't as well organized, and his post-run life was marked with trouble with the law. But he did two extraordinary things: disabled, he ran across the entire country, and he raised those pledges in the fight against cancer to more than $13 million.

Today, Fonyo's working, living quietly, and at peace with himself.

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