Image: Red Tulips #1

June 5, 2023

100 Years Ago Today in Grandview, #12

June 5, 2023


The Great Storm of ’23

On Tuesday 5th June 1923, Vancouver was enjoying a heat wave, with noontime temperatures close to 80 across the city. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a storm erupted east of the city, moving rapidly west, moving first over Grandview and then much of downtown.

“Great crashing in the heavens and flashes of flame from the black heavy clouds, accompanied by one of the worst downpours of rain experienced for years, blown by a wind of almost cyclonic velocity,” said the Province.

Two bolts of lightning ten minutes apart did much of the damage. A blue ball of electricity formed on the BCER trolley wire on Cambie Street, rolling and jumping along the wire towards Hastings Street. Trees were uprooted, windows were blown in, signboards were wrenched from walls.

At the corner of Commercial and Kitchener, lighting struck a telephone pole, splitting the timber ten feet down from the top. Another pole was struck at Commercial and Charles. A Grandview woman pressing clothes with an electric iron received a shock so great it knocked her over. People reported minor shocks near other utility poles.

Sources: Sun 1923 June 6, p,1, 12; Province June 6, p.24

Poem: Just Like In The Movies

June 5, 2023

they circled the building on foot



as the rain pelted down

hard like hail


on the street

they mugged as tough guys

in the streaming glass

of shop windows

images bouncing from the curved edges

of drops


in the back lane they each had time

to be shy with themselves

wish themselves luck

to be quiet and to suck up

the fear


the third time round

soaked to the skin

they had had enough

headed for the door

she had on a false nose and a hat

gap-teeth and a grin

he had a honey-blonde wig and a gun


the bank was silent

no more


“Hands Up!”



Image: Building Blocks

June 3, 2023

Image: Echo Density

June 1, 2023

Changes On The Drive #133

June 1, 2023


We begin this month with a note that the New York Times has yet again “discovered” Commercial Drive — or at least the bits of the Drive they consider trendy, I guess. They like our “eclectic, rough-edged vibe” and that we are “the epicenter of Vancouver coffee culture.” Businesses getting mentioned include Gateley (1136 Commercial), Dilly Dally (1161 Commercial), Livia (1399 Commercial), and Mum’s The Word (1301 Commercial).

This was also the month in which the Georgia Straight Golden Plate awards for best in Vancouver were announced. There were many Drive establishments that won or placed highly and they are listed at:

The walk on the Drive yesterday was a bit less sunny than I would have liked, and the Drive seems to have reached a stable point where not many changes have occurred.

That being said, the Dollar Grocery at 2210 Commercial appears closed, and the Chic Lash Boutique at 2115 Commercial is now open.

Image: Paisley Woodward

What I had identified last month as a graphics business at 2111 is now open as Dose Wellness. What they do is not entirely clear to me, but I suspect some form of health treatment regime.

At 2096 Commercial, the new Chancho Restaurant gets a rave review.

The storefront at 2057 Commercial seems to be in the process of becoming a Macdonald Realty office.

Image: Paisley Woodward

Hanai Restaurant at 1590 Commercial gets a detailed and positive review here.

There is an interesting profile of Kim Maust who was integral to the development of the apartment/retail complex at Commercial & Charles.

1314 Commercial has now become Larry’s Liquidators. There is also a For Sale sign on the building, so I suspect this is just a pop-up temporary location.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2210 Commercial, 2105 Commercial, 2058 Commercial, 1733 Commercial, 1670 Commercial, 1428 Commercial, 1340 Commercial, 1230 Commercial, 1108 Commercial, 1027 Commercial.

Previous editions of Changes on the Drive

Image: Echoes of Childhood

May 31, 2023

Being and Nothingness

May 31, 2023

Fifty-seven years ago this week, a Vietnamese nun poured gasoline and set fire to herself in Hue. Twenty-seven years ago today, Timothy Leary died in his sleep.

After all these years, I honestly don’t know whether Dr. Leary’s work helped us understand why the monk’s death was important to us, or whether he helped mask us from the true meaning by taking us elsewhere. Many saw no conflict in actively protesting and actively tripping. In fact, many claimed then that the “enlightenment” received through herbal and chemical stimulation was an important component of our political activism. These days, I wonder more often whether we were just bullshitting ourselves and simply following the pleasure principle.

In the end, of course, both the revered Buddhist martyr and the revered western materialist trod the same path into being and nothingness.

Image: Two Windows

May 29, 2023

The Longest of Memories and the Highest of Mountains

May 29, 2023

everestToday is the 70th anniversary of the first successful climbing of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.  News of the success arrived in England the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and I remember my father, who was very excited by the news, telling me all about it.  For years thereafter Edmund Hillary was the greatest hero of my young imagination.

I have one or two memories about my brother and me that pre-date May 1953, but Hillary on Everest is the earliest I can recall anything outside the family.  I know from photographs that there were massive street parties I attended to celebrate the new Queen: I remember none of that.  But Hillary on Everest has stuck with me all these years.

The picture is of Tensing Norgay taken by Hillary.  There are no pictures of Hillary on the summit because Tensing didn’t know how to work the camera and, as Hillary said, the summit of Everest was no place to start teaching him!

100 Years Ago Today in Grandview, #11

May 29, 2023

The Pool Parlour

On Tuesday 29th May 1923, G.J. Westwood received a building permit for a $3,000 one-storey building at 1816-1818 Commercial Drive. He hired William Francis Jones to design it, and R.E. James to build it, and by the following spring, Grandview Recreations was open for business at 1816 under the management of Frank Garbe. Within a few years, the pool parlour had become so popular that they expanded into the space at 1818.

There had been some controversy back in 1921 when the license for a pool hall was first issued. Baptist and Presbyterian ministers led a delegation to City Council to have the license revoked. However, once the Aldermen learned that the license applicants are “Italian, that they are men of good repute, and that one of them at any rate is a British subject,” they allowed the license to proceed.

By the time Grandview Recreations closed in 2009, it had been part of the Drive for almost 90 years.

Sources: Building permit BP A-5934; City directories; Vancouver Daily World 1921 Apr 26, p.2

Poem: Southern Comfort

May 29, 2023


It was a slam bam thank you ma’am kind of night.

“It’s alright,” she said with a slight frisson of uncertainty perhaps

as she unwraps and taps the money-box on the dresser.

He pays to caress her, to possess her as she bumps and grinds

and too quickly finds the kind of passion paid for.

He wants more before he’ll leave: sixteen and still hard.

But she’s on guard, body barred against free love.

Push came to shove.  Above his pleas she screamed and screamed

until the apartment teemed with neighbours and passers-by

who wondered why this nigger came by and by to be in a white girl’s room.


It’s a warm, hormone-rushing, mosquito-swarming kind of night.

Fox-fire bright, passions tightly wound and sprung.

No brass bells are rung, no masses sung, but masses gather to enjoy

the black boy toy with the last of his time on a slippery slope

as the hempen rope grips and gropes for his hopeless neck.


100 Years Ago Today in Grandview, #10

May 28, 2023



In the early spring of 1923, shoppers in Vancouver had been buying strawberries from Washington State. However, on Monday 28th May 1923:

“The first British Columbia straws were put on sale Monday by a Chinese vegetable dealer at 1409 Commercial Drive, two crates being received from his Woodward’s Landing ranch … The inspector declared the Marshall strawberries to be of excellent quality, and they retailed for 25cents per box.”

The Chinese vegetable dealer was Hop Lee and his brother Joseph who had run their grocery store since 1919. They stayed in business until 1956 when they sold out to a son and moved to Calgary. The store was re-named Joes Market.

Sources: Vancouver Daily World 1923 May 23, p.15; Sun 1923 May 23, p.5

Image: Geraniums

May 27, 2023

Image: Hawaiian Ferns

May 25, 2023

Night Music: Keeping It To Myself

May 24, 2023

Image: Birds On A Wire

May 23, 2023

Night Music: Kodachrome

May 22, 2023

Poem: In The Time Of The Dying

May 22, 2023


In the time of the dying of the leaves,

when summer’s solace is a memory passed,

and deepening shadows of evening cast

their pall ‘cross rich man’s roof and beggar’s eaves,

colours primary, raw, blast out a last

spectacular fanfare:  embroidered sleeves

to counterpoint the widow’s darkling weeds

shows off to the night no matter how vast

eternity approaching, no matter

no one escapes the black hole’s pull of doom,

and each lifes’ cloth will be cut from the loom,

no matter this, ‘tis only now that matters;

the now that paints the tree with red and gold,

regrets nothing, wants only to stay old.


Image: Fabric 1

May 21, 2023