November 22, 2017
Fifty-four years ago today, my mother and father visited their closest friends, Ron and Betty, who lived a few miles from us in West London. I was in the backseat of the small black car. It smelled of leather and my parents’ cigarettes. I was sullen because I was just turned 14 years old and I had far better things to do than visit my parents’ old fogie friends to play cards.
I remember this all so clearly because, just as we pulled up outside Ron and Betty’s row house, the car radio broke off its normal programming and a solemn voice replaced the happy chatter. The voice announced that President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been shot and probably killed. I can still feel the goose-flesh that crawled over my skin. I remember the loud gasp as my father realized what had been said. John Kennedy was one of my father’s heroes, and he was mine too. He was our hope for the future, and now he was dead. Nothing else about that evening do I remember. I’m sure my folks and their friends discussed the assassination, but that has passed from recall.
Within two years of that day, though, JFK had — in my eyes at least — fallen from the pedestal upon which his charisma, his beautiful family, and his martyrdom had placed him. He was quickly revealed as just another centre-right US politician who was happy to send the boys to war, who was happy to squander the nation’s wealth on weapons and imperialism, who had no answer to segregation but brother Bobby’s federal agents. We also learned (perhaps we always knew) he wasn’t quite such a great family man, either; that Camelot was an expensive sham.
Kennedy and his people lived in the tuxedoed world of High Society that was soon to be swept away by the real world of Soul on Ice and Revolver. We might have hated that big Texas bully who followed Kennedy, but it was Kennedy not Johnson who pushed the US into South Vietnam, and it was Johnson not Kennedy who brought forward the Civil Rights Acts. Looking back, we can now see that both Kennedy and Johnson were equal participants in the cabaret that is America the Superpower. Unfortunately for the truth, Kennedy will always have the smile, the beautiful wife, the cute John-John and Caroline, while Johnson will always be pulling the ears off those damn beagles.
November 19, 2017
Today is the 102nd anniversary of the murder by execution of the great Wobbly songwriter and martyr Joe Hill.
A minute’s silence, and then back to the work that still remains unfinished.
November 10, 2017
In honour of Remembrance Day tomorrow, I have put together a brief history of the founding of the Canadian Legion Branch in Grandview and the building of the Legion Hall at 6th & Commercial.
The piece can be found at the Grandview Heritage Group site and I hope you find it of interest.
October 25, 2017
Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Woodland Area Council, an institution of the highest importance in Grandview’s post-war history.
At the Grandview Heritage Group site, I have written a short history of how the group came to be founded.
September 11, 2017
On 9/11 in 1973, the US financed and helped plan the military overthrow of the legally elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile.
Crowds in Santiago celebrating the electoral victory of Salvador Allende
During the military assault, the President died (assassinated or committed suicide to avoid capture) and over the next few years of the vicious and inhuman dictatorship of US-supported Pinochet, several thousand Chileans were imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
What happened in New York on this day 28 years later was also vicious and inhuman. However, it is about time for some reconciliation and regret for the war crimes the US has committed. If any US network or major media even mentions the Chilean anniversary during what will almost certainly be today’s spasm of Trump-like breast-beating, that would be a tiny start.
September 7, 2017
On September 7, 1907, white racists rioted in Vancouver. They attacked and rampaged through Chinatown, and they attacked and were beaten back from Japantown. No one died, but only through luck. The riot was spurred by a march of the Asiatic Exclusion League, a labour union-supported group of racists seeking to exclude all non-white labour from British Columbia.
We can tell ourselves that this was now a hundred and ten years ago. Unfortunately, the riot was only the beginning. Over the next fifteen or so years, these same racists managed to have laws passed that reduced Japanese, Indian and Chinese immigration to a trickle. They also had Native Canadians moved to reserves, and set up residential schools with their own horrific scandals. Peaceful law-abiding Japanese-Canadians were moved to internment camps and their homes and business were confiscated. The Chinese Exclusion Act stayed on the books until 1947; and indigenous peoples were not given the vote until as late as 1960.
Canada’s racist past is nowhere near as deep nor as broad as that in many countries, but it does exist, and we will be obliged to repeat our sins if we choose to forget those of our own history.
August 30, 2017
For those of you interested in my “day job,” the latest updated edition of the Grandview Database is now available at the Grandview Heritage Group website.
The idea of the database is to capture in one place all the information known about each of the 6,500+ properties that exist, or have existed, in Grandview. This includes building permits, water permits, census data, City Directory information, newspaper reports, real estate listings, auction postings, property tax sheets, and numerous other sources.
There is an extraordinary amount of data available for collection, and the collation of it into property-sized chunks is a labour-intensive process. The database is, at this time, heavily weighted to the earliest years but there is also a significant amount of material already entered from all time periods up to and including the 2000s.
An updated database is released at the beginning of each month and, since its first edition, we have added more than 12,000 data points. Each release is a pdf file that is fully searchable by full text — so search on an address or a name or anything else you may be interested in.
GHG and I welcome comments, suggestions, additions, and corrections.