The Teacher's Page

Below are some questions about local history your students might enjoy. But first...

Some years back I gave slide-illustrated talks on local history to students (mostly elementary) in Vancouver. One of the shots was of Vancouver City Hall with, in the foreground, the well-known statue of Captain George Vancouver. When that slide came up at the first school I visited I said to the kids—there were about 100 from Grades 4, 5 and 6 seated on the gym floor—“There’s Vancouver City Hall. Who can tell me who that statue represents?”

And back came a roar from 100 eager young students: “George Washington!”

I cracked up. I thought it was the funniest thing I’d heard in a long time. “No!” I said, “that’s George Vancouver. There wouldn’t be a statue of an American president at our city hall. Gee!”

But it happened at the next school. And the next. And the next. And the next. Of the nearly 50 schools I visited that year precisely one had students who knew the correct answer. Maybe they’d had a recent field trip.

That incident is one of the reasons I decided to write a book-length history of Vancouver, one that could be read and enjoyed by grownups and students alike, readable, anecdote rich, solid, as accurate as I could make it (you’d be astonished at how difficult it is to nail down some stuff, like the opening day of the first Hotel Vancouver) and as interesting as possible.

President Warren G. Harding Who was the first American president to visit Vancouver . . . and what tragic event happened to him one week later? Click here for answer »
' One of Vancouver’s sweetest stories is the birth of the Rogers Sugar Company. It’s been here for more than 120 years. More »
Malcolm Alexander MacLean His name was Malcolm Alexander MacLean, so it’s no surprise to learn that Vancouver’s first mayor spoke Gaelic like a Highlander. More »
Jack Johnson Jack Johnson, the first African-American to become world heavyweight boxing champ, fought a bout in Vancouver in 1909. His opponent later became an Oscar-winning movie actor! More »
The Flying Seven (photo: Among the most famous of all Canadian aviation groups was Vancouver’s Flying Seven, a club of seven women who performed Canada’s first all-woman “dawn-to-dusk patrol.” More »
Downtown Vancouver A lot of streets in Vancouver—Hamilton, Granville, Seymour, Nelson, Robson, many more—were named by one man. More »
The Grey Fox They called him The Grey Fox and The Gentleman Bandit. He and his gang pulled off Canada’s first train robbery. More »
Charlie Crane and his teacher Miss Conrod One of the most remarkable people in Vancouver history, Charles Allen Crane, was both blind and deaf. He couldn’t see anything, he couldn’t hear anything. More »
Top Cop Walter Mulligan, who got to be Vancouver's chief of police in 1947, looked like a cop. He was six foot two, beefy at 230 pounds, tough, seasoned and confident. But 10 years after becoming chief he was forced out by scandal. More »
Dr. Sun Yat-sen He is revered by Communists in China—and by Nationalists on Taiwan. His name is Dr. Sun Yat-sen and he's considered the Father of Modern China. What is his connection to Vancouver? More »
Charles Kingsford-Smith Why is an elementary school in Vancouver named for the Australian aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith, the first man to fly across the Pacific Ocean, and the first to fly across both the Pacific and the Atlantic? More »
1907 Seagrave Firetruck On May 28, 1886, Vancouver's first fire department was formed. Sixteen days later, the little city burned to the ground. More »
Empress of Japan Thousands of people who see the dragon figurehead of the Empress of Japan in Stanley Park think it's the real thing. It isn’t! More »
The Komagata Maru On May 23, 1914 a ship called the Komagata Maru—normally used for transporting coal—arrived at Vancouver and anchored in Burrard Inlet. What happened to her passengers was shocking. More »
Christmas 1943 It was Christmas time in Italy during the Second World War. Suddenly the roar of the guns was vanquished by children singing! More »
A 1912 Journey Recreated They drove across Canada . . . in 1912! More »
Ewing Buchan One version of our national anthem, O Canada, was written in Vancouver. It nearly became the official version! More »
Collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge A ten-year-old boy writes on the 1958 collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge. More »
The Greenhill Park Explosion A big ship blows up in Vancouver Harbor . . . and eight men die.
More »
"Wait for me, Daddy!" A little boy says goodbye to his soldier dad in 1940 and their picture goes around the world. More »
Western Bluebird - Photo by Bert Katzung, 2003 Canada’s first million-selling song was written by a Vancouver nurse. More »
Hastings Mill Store Museum at Pioneer Park (Native Daughters of British Columbia) The Hastings Mill Store . . . an unlikely survivor of The Great Fire. More »
The portal at the south end of the CPR tunnel, 1934. The tunnel used by SkyTrain once had a very different use! More »
Burrard Bridge Wait’ll you hear about all the stuff on the Burrard Bridge! More »
HMCS Discovery See the place where Arnold Schwarzenegger shot a movie in Vancouver. More »
Winged Victory You’ve likely seen this famous statue by the CPR station lots of times. Now learn its story. More »
The Marine Building Some say it’s the most beautiful building in Vancouver. The Marine Building has been around for nearly 80 years. More »
The Sun Tower The Old Sun Tower used to be called the World Building. It got its “new” name because of a fire! More »
Vancouver's Nine O'Clock Gun

Every night the Nine O’Clock Gun in Stanley Park booms out its time signal . . . except for the night it was stolen! More »

Canada's First Gas Station The first gas station in Canada opened in Vancouver in 1907 . . . using an old hot-water heater and some garden hose! More »