Our Community Library Thrives

December 1, 2018

Image: Tyee

Almost  four years ago we were delighted to be at the opening of the Salsbury Garden Book House conceived and constructed by our friends Penny Street and Steven Holmes, two of the most active and intelligent neighbourhood activists. Since then, the community library and resting space has thrived, lovingly maintained.

Now it is the subject of an excellent feature article this week in the Tyee.  Well worth the read.



Bruce Macdonald: Neighbourhood Treasure

August 1, 2014


In Japan, they designate a select number of senior craftspeople and artisans as Living National Treasures (人間国宝 Ningen Kokuhō.)  Those so honoured are treated with great deference and this indicates the respect that they have earned in their lifetimes in their particular fields.

I have no desire to speak for the rest of Canada, but I do want to suggest that historian Bruce Macdonald be considered and honoured as one of Grandview’s Living Treasures.

Bruce is perhaps best known for authoring the innovative “Vancouver: A Visual History” which told our story in a series of highly detailed and informative maps of each decade.  Filled with useful visuals and careful text, this is one of the primary sources of Vancouver history.  But he has done so much more.

He has written extensively on the History of Grandview, Mount Pleasant, and Kitsilano.  He has composed innumerable numbers of the Vancouver Heritage Plaques that adorn our city. He has worked with First Nations on ideas for a Salish Sea celebration.  He was a founding member and is a leading light in the Grandview Heritage Group.  He is currently working on a series of video interviews with our neighbourhoods seniors to ensure that their stories are not lost, and he is actively involved in the Our Community, Our Plan movement.

Bruce is a fine guy and I am honoured to call him my friend.  Happy birthday!

Farewell to Patricia Salmond

May 25, 2014

Yesterday afternoon we were privileged to attend a celebration of the life of Patricia Salmond, late owner of the “Urban Empire” store and well-known and well-loved Drive diva.

Salmond memorial

There was a very good turnout of family, friends, and Drive characters to say their farewells.  Thanks to everyone who helped arrange this lovely and loving event.

On the negative side, it was sad to hear that the owner of the building in which “Urban Empire” flourished has essentially locked out Ms. Salmond’s daughters and they have had to abandon the stock of zany goods still in the store.  Shame.

The Building of Grandview

May 14, 2014

It is hard to imagine a more exciting time in Grandview’s history, than the period from 1900 to 1912 when the entire area was transformed from a quiet cedar forest on the edge of a wild ocean to a thriving suburb with streetcars and thousands of people.  But it didn’t happen by itself. It happened because some people were willing to put their money down and with a mix of sweat equity and cheap but good labour, they raised houses.

As some of you will already know, I have been fascinated for some time by one particular builder of houses — Mr James Edward Guinet — who built more than fifty fine houses in Grandview between 1906 and 1912, many of which remain to give us pleasure today.

On Thursday, tomorrow, I will be giving an illustrated talk on James Guinet and his work in Grandview at the Grandview Heritage Group meeting at Britannia Boardroom at 7:00pm. 

Do come and join the conversation!

Celebrating Patricia Salmond

May 8, 2014

Many of you will recall the shock and sadness throughout the neighbourhood when we learned earlier this year that Patricia Salmond of Urban Empire had died.

I am so happy to be able to report that there will a  celebration of her life which will be held on 24th May, from 2:30pm to 4:30pm, upstairs at the Canucks Room, Eastside Family Place, the nearest building to the playground in Grandview Park.


More on Patricia Salmond

February 5, 2014

I have already reported on the sudden and sad death of Patricia Salmond who ran the Urban Empire kitsch store.  Now there is a lovely article in the Courier about her and how her daughters are dealing with their loss.

“The sisters said the outpouring from the community has been overwhelming and they consider it a testament to their mother’s attitude towards others. After word of Patricia’s death spread along the Drive, friends and acquaintances began leaving flowers at the door.  A memorial book was set up outside, but since the store is now open weekends, it’s been moved inside. While some messages refer to Patricia’s black sense of humour, others are more poignant. David Harkens started the book off with a heartfelt message that read in part, “She is greatly missed, forever cherished and her spirit will always be by my side…”

In the interview, the sisters confirmed there will be a public memorial, probably in April.

A Sad Passing

January 15, 2014

Patricia Salmond, the witty and engaging woman who operated Urban Empire on Commercial Drive since the early 1990s, has died.

This is a terrible sadness for her family, of course, but also for all of us who were happy to pop into the shop and chat with her as we bought the odd range of doodads that the store specialized in.

She will be greatly missed.

Back Into History — Hooray!

December 17, 2013

I had planned to spend the day sprucing up a speech for the Arbutus Rotarians that I am giving at lunch on Friday.  But you know how things go.

In another place I have written about James Edward Guinet who was a major developer and house builder in Grandview’s boom years before World War One.  Since I wrote that, I have become more and more intrigued by his life and career and I have been planning to write an article for BC History Magazine with help from fascinating additional material written by his son many years ago and revived by his grand-daughter.  Anyway, something came up about him this morning and I have been digging into it all day.

It seems like an age since I have been working on an historical mystery — and it is probably more satisfying, in the end, than the local activism I have been drenched in for so many months.  Still, if the Chilliwack Archives and the Chilliwack Progress could get their material for the 1930s and 1940s on line, my life would be even better!  (I wonder if they are listening?)


Penny Street: A Remarkable Woman

December 4, 2013

Grandview’s own Penny Street has been nominated as one of the City of Vancouver’s Remarkable Women of 2014.

She is a fine friend and an extraordinary asset to our community.  I do hope she is one of the twelve women who get posters honoring their efforts when they make the choice in January.

Lunch With Royalty

May 25, 2013

Earlier this week I had a delightful lunch with JoAnn Bufton, granddaughter of Catherine Bufton who was such a force in the development of Commercial Drive. The Buftons, through three generations, operated a highly successful florist shop on the Drive from the 1920s to the 1980s, and were thoroughly engaged in the social development of our neighbourhood.  If the Drive had royalty, it would be the Buftons.

JoAnn Bufton grew up in the neighbourhood in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, living for some time with her family above what is now Havana’s and was then Fera’s Heating.  She attended Templeton and Britannia School and was a genuine local girl.

0111-1She and her younger brother Hugh would go to the Grandview Theatre where a ticket cost 15c and popcorn was a dime.  On other days, between the time Grandview School of Commerce at First & Commercial was closed and when it was demolished in the early 1950s, they would play in the empty old “eerie” building.  JoAnn told me that the ice cream at the Crystal Dairy (where Wonderbucks is now) was just as good as they promised, and she remembers the horses that delivered milk who were stabled behind the Dairy.

In an earlier book I had written about how she took a long trip with her grandmother, the “formidable” Catherine. I had assumed they travelled together but, in a sign of the times, I guess, old Mrs. Bufton travelled first class on the boat to Europe while JoAnn was in economy and had to get special dispensation to visit her grandmother.

It was a marvelous lunch, at Fet’s of course, and we talked for a couple of hours, full of questions. The joy of being a historian!

An Important Fellow, Barely Known

September 24, 2012

I’ve just written everything I know about a chap called James Guinet who, it turns out, was one of the major builders in Grandview’s early days.  Amongst other buildings he was responsible for the lovely Belmont Block on Commercial Drive.

The full piece is at the Grandview Heritage Group site.  I hope you find it interesting.

International Women’s Day

March 8, 2012

My contribution to International Woman’s Day this year is a short profile of Catherine Bufton, a dynamic businesswoman and community activist in Commercial Drive’s earlier days.

The profile is at the Grandview Heritage Group site.

A Wonderful Surprise

December 12, 2009

Lina Delano is an odd bird.  In her late 80s now, she has been a colourful character on the Drive for many years.  I used to see her in Bukowski’s Bar when that watering hole was at its busiest back at the end of the 1990s.  But mostly I knew her as the grumpy old woman who scrapped other people’s posters off street lamps.   This was serious business for Lina and she kept up her cleaning work for hour upon hour, unimpressed with any interuptions, a cigarette dangling.

Once, late at night, feeling powerful from my poetry performance at Bukowski’s, I saw Lina scrapping away at some band’s poster.  After a moment’s hesitation, I approached her and asked — pleasantly enough, I thought — why she was doing what she was doing.  She spun around and, brandishing the little scraper, roared at me in a voice that could be heard blocks away: “Fuck off!  Fuck off!”  My relationship with Lina has never really developed beyond that point, although my wife has a chatting relationship with her whenever they meet.

I haven’t seen Lina on the Drive for quite a while; and I had never known what she did beside scrapping posters.  It was a surprise to me, therefore, to learn that she was an artist, having shared a studio for many years with her sister Dita Arntzen, and that Havana Gallery was holding a show of the sisters’ work.  I saw that show today.  It was, by a country mile, the best show I have ever seen at Havana.

Lina’s work consists in assemblages of wood, furniture parts, doll’s heads, beads, small items.  They are large and bold pieces that strike the eye first and the brain soon after.  They are beautiful objects.  Her sister created interesting and attractive collages.  I can’t find any images to share and can only urge you to rush to Havana Gallery on Commercial before the show ends on the 19th.

A small book of Lina’s works printed to coincide with this exhibition included a picture of the artists at a show of her work in New York back in 1966.  She was a striking looking woman then, and she has retained a deal of that power to this day.  As I mentioned above, I haven’t seen Lina for a while.  I sure hope I get to see her again soon to congratulate her on these wonderful works of art.