The Death of Manchester United

February 6, 2023

When I was 8 years old, my parents had very little money and we lived in what today would be called a slum. We couldn’t afford magazines or anything of the sort, but we did get the Daily Mirror. The walls of my bedroom were covered in smudgy newspaper black-and-white photos of my heroes, Manchester United, and, most especially, their young superstar Duncan Edwards.

Sixty-five years ago today, an airplane carrying the team on a flight from Munich back to England crashed on take-off in the snow. Twenty people died at the scene, including ten players and trainers, and three others, including Duncan Edwards, died later from their injuries. It was a tragedy that brought England to a standstill.

Clubs didn’t have huge bank accounts in those days and the disaster almost caused the club to fold.  In the end it took manager Matt Busby (who had been seriously injured in the crash) ten years to rebuild the team and win another championship.  Being young, I didn’t have the patience to wait, and I had already switched my allegiance to Chelsea by then.


100 Years Ago Today in Grandview, #3

February 3, 2023

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Swap Columns

The Vancouver dailies included scores of pages of ads. Many of them were corporate material just trying to sell you stuff; but a significant number were “swap” ads, where individuals offered up something in exchange for something else. For example, on Saturday 3rd February 1923, someone offered a short silk plush coat with fur collar and cuffs in exchange for “anything useful.”

Someone else was willing to swap their Edison phonograph and records for a heater or pullets.

A bed with dresser, skates and boots, a Briscoe roadster “in good shape,” 40 acres of unimproved land in the Okanagan, an 8-day clock and a Mackinaw coat were offered. A late model light touring car, a lot in South Vancouver, chickens, and a modern typewriter were sought after items.

Several people offered help around the property in exchange for rent.

It was an efficient way to recycle and re-use.

Source: Sun 1923 Feb 3, p.10


A Brief History of 1320 Commercial

January 31, 2023

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In a previous post today, I reported on the farewell party the community held for the closing of the Santa Barbara Market at 1320 Commercial. As part of the celebration, I gave a short speech on the history of the building. Several people asked me to write it down, so here is an extended version.

In 1926, businessman Clarence Webber opened the Old Mill Gas station at 1350 Commercial. He ran it until 1945 when he sold the business. With the money he received, Webber purchased three large lots which today are 1320, 1338, 1340 Commercial. Once wartime restrictions on building materials were lifted, Webber built two new buildings on his lots — 1344 Commercial which housed a hardware store on the ground floor, with doctors’ offices upstairs, and 1320 Commercial.

1320 Commercial was designed to have offices upstairs while the rear of the ground floor housed Webber’s new business — 1200 food lockers, which local residents used in the days when home fridges and freezers were far less common than today. He also built a small produce store to front on Commercial Drive. While the food lockers were a big hit, the grocery store became even more popular. It featured the first ice cream bar on the Drive and also was the first store outside the downtown core to feature muzak for the customers.

The popular market stayed in business (as Artic Food Markets, then Arctic IGA, and finally, Kaufman Meats) until the early 1960s.

In 1965, a major fire destroyed the interior of the building, which was then occupied by Thomas Furniture & Appliances, but it was restored and eventually became the home of Italian Furniture by Marano, with apartment suites upstairs. Italian Furniture stayed in the building until August 1972 when they and the suites were badly damaged in another fire.

Later in the 1970s, the building was used by the Vancouver Community College as a space for skills development, and then was occupied by Italian Sporting Goods until 1979. The offices at this time housed the Marco Polo Italian newspaper, and Radio Italia CJJC. It then fell vacant until 1981 when Paco Celador opened Santa Barbara Market, which flourished until this very day.


100 Years Ago Today in Grandview #2

January 29, 2023

It was a big day for Grandview — January 29th, 1923 — as the Grandview Theatre debuted its brand-new $15,000 orchestral organ. It was, they said, “the last word in organs.” You got all this, plus a Jackie Coogan feature, for just 30 cents!


100 Years Ago Today in Grandview #1

January 24, 2023

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One hundred years ago today, on 24th January 1923, it was announced that the School Board had purchased the block between Lakewood & Templeton, and E. Georgia and Barnard (now Adanac), for the sum of $10,500, a price that was considered “exceptionally low”. This would eventually become Templeton School.


Beyond Manifest Destiny

January 17, 2023

On this date in 1893, American business interests overthrew the monarchy of Queen Liliukalani, established their own elitist junta, and demanded that the US annex Hawaii, which (surprise, surprise) they did.

After the completion of the militarist-imperialist-racist campaign known as Manifest Destiny — which had stolen most of North America and exterminated the native populations in an officially sanctioned program of genocide and ethnic cleansing — the takeover of Hawaii was one of the first warnings that the US was moving towards a hegemonic control of the globe.

Most of the western world at that time was focused on the growing military strength of Germany and Japan.  They may have been wiser in the long run to have looked over their shoulder.


Remembering Luxemburg & Liebknecht

January 15, 2023

One hundred and four years ago today, on 15th January 1919, the Spartacist heroes Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were tortured and murdered by fascist Freikorps mercenaries of the German social democratic government.

Who remembers that government today?  No-one. But the memory of the two heroes lives on in glory.  As Luxemburg wrote on the day of her death, speaking as the embodiment of the masses: “I was. I am. I shall be!”


Driving Right-eously

January 1, 2023

Today is the 101st anniversary of the change in British Columbia from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right.  I think quite a lot of Vancouver drivers are still learning about this.

driving-change

Vancouver World 1922 Jan 3, p.1


Remembering Wounded Knee

December 29, 2022

On a cold morning 132 years ago today, the US cavalry massacred more than 250 disarmed Lakota men, women, and children near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. A few days earlier they had murdered the great chief Sitting Bull.

The massacre at Wounded Knee was one of the final and most vicious military acts in the government’s century-long plan of genocide against native Americans, and twenty soldiers earned the Medal of Honor for their part in the brutal affair.

Frank Baum, who would later write the Wizard of Oz, wrote with sadness the following in response to the massacre:  “Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”  Luckily, some of them survived

We should never forget that the strength of the United States was built on the genocide of its native peoples, and the slavery of another race, and when American statesmen complain about ISIS or Al-Qaeda or other so-called “terrorists”, they are mouthing an unspeakable hypocrisy.

We must never forget that the American’s vaunted Manifest Destiny was colonialism of the most brutal kind and meant death for millions of indigenous peoples.


Fly Me To The Moon, Again

December 14, 2022

Harrison Schmitt was the last of only twelve humans ever to walk on the moon. Fifty years ago today — yes, way back in 1972 — his ship took off from the moon and we have not been back since.

Manned space flight was the dream of my father’s generation.  We boomers pushed us into the unmanned and more machine-driven discovery of space at the same time as we were inventing programmed stock trading, robotic automation, and plugged-in entertainment.  We love machines apparently.

We still believed that this was the start of regular inter-planetary travel. But it stopped, dead, just as it as getting exciting.

I wonder where the post-millennials will take us?


Radio First

December 12, 2022

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Today we celebrate the 121st anniversary of the very first transatlantic radio transmission, sent by Gugliemo Marconi from Cornwall to Newfoundland, proving that the curvature of the earth did not affect radio waves.


RIP, Fidel Castro. A Hero For Our Times

November 25, 2022

fidel-castro

Fidel Castro died 6 years ago today and the world is so much emptier for that fact.

I didn’t support Castro’s politics (though much of it tended to be better than most — look at Cuba’s health care system, for example, a success against every barrier the US could throw against it), but I supported the bravery of standing up for fifty years to an imperialist Superpower that had missiles and a huge army less than a 100 miles away.

More than the military threat, the US for two whole generations attempted to destroy the Cuban economy and people by sheer economic terrorism. Luckily, the world would not stand for that, and even Canada never flinched from business and tourism with Cuba.

Whenever self-righteous Americans point to the wreckage of Cuba’s economy and the poverty of the people (compared, say, to most parts of the US), remind them that this was caused directly and deliberately by American leaders.


False Memory Syndrome

November 22, 2022

Fifty-nine years ago today, my mother and father and I had been visiting 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, as we were driving home, 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 gooseflesh 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.

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.


Remembering Joe Hill

November 19, 2022

Today is the 107th anniversary of the murder by the state of the great Wobbly songwriter and martyr Joe Hill.

A minute’s silence, and then back to the important work that still remains unfinished.  As he said: “Don’t mourn; organize!”


Italian Labourers’ Strike, July 1910

November 10, 2022

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I have written a short research article on the strike of Italian city labourers in July 1910, which started in Grandview and which featured action on our streets.The article can found at: https://grandviewheritagegroup.ca/blog/

I hope you find it of interest.


Happy 100th Magnet Hardware!

October 28, 2022

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Magnet Hardware, which currently operates as a Home Hardware franchise on the corner of Commercial & Graveley, has been in business for exactly 100 years today. Magnet originally opened on 28th October 1922 “in the gallery of the Cal Van Market” at 25 Hastings Street. By early 1923, the business was located at 1515 Commercial Drive.

Magnet was owned and operated by Allan P. Squires who had been a salesman at Terminal Hardware. Twenty-two years later, in September 1944, Squires decided to retire and sold the business to Fred Ross, a new arrival from Edmonton. At the time of the sale, the Highland Echo said that Magnet was a perfect example of the Commercial Drive way: starting out small and building to a substantial business.

In June 1954 he sold Magnet to E.J. “Ted” Walker, also from Edmonton, due to Mrs. Ross’s ill health; and Ross sold it on to local former-Alderman Syd Bowman in 1955.

The store and building were severely damaged in a fire on 5th April 1963 shortly after Bowman left that night sometime after 9pm. Bowman rebuilt as quickly as he could, closing the store during weekdays for renovations, but opening on Saturdays for a fire sale. It re-opened on 20 June 1963 with “a brand-new interior, new stock and plenty of enthusiasm.”

In July 1964 Bowman sold the business to Sam Buonassisi who had been a successful entrepreneurial carpenter before buying Magnet. In 1972 the business took over the old Royal Bank branch at 1575 Commercial where it remains. They appear to have joined the Home Hardware group in 1994.

When Sam died in 2020, his son-in-law Ed Wilkerson took over the store and he manages it to this day.


Happy 6,026th Birthday World!

October 23, 2022

According to the calculations of Archbishop Usher of Armargh, today is the earth’s birthday.  His calculations led him to believe that God created the world on October 23rd, 4004 BC.

Now, there are those who say his math is wrong, but let’s not quibble on our birthday!


The Drive: The Birth of a Community

October 17, 2022

I have today published a new article:  “The Drive: Birth of a Community, 1901-1907” which can be found at The Drive: Birth of a Community (1901-1907) (grandviewheritagegroup.ca)

This is the third chapter in a proposed history of Commercial Drive.  The previous chapters were:

The Drive: In The Beginning (grandviewheritagegroup.ca)

The Drive 1890s: False Start (grandviewheritagegroup.ca)

I hope you find it of interest


956 Years Ago

October 14, 2022

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956 years ago today, Norsemen from France destroyed the English army at Hastings and proceeded to overthrow Anglo laws and language and customs and economic system. England (and eventually Wales and Ireland) have yet to recover from the shock.


Beep Beep Beep

October 4, 2022

I was just a few weeks away from my 8th birthday when my father sat me on his knee specifically to listen to our old radio spit out some strange sounds — “Beep.  Beep.  Beep.”  Even through the static we knew we had never heard the like of it before.

On October 4th, 1957 — just sixty-five years ago — the space age began with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.  I’m sure the surprise in the US was far greater than we felt in Europe.  We Europeans were already terrified of the power of the grey beasts just a few hundred miles to the east of our cozy nest in West London.  It seemed to many that Russian tanks could overrun Europe at any moment, and the technological genius of Sputnik simply confirmed our anxiety.

But again, there was always that secret spot inside that reveled in the fact that a European power had beaten the Americans into space.  And for my socialist grandfather and his cadre of friends, it was yet another sign that the Workers’ Paradise was superior in every respect to the Mickey Mouse- and Doris Day-loving capitalists.

In the end, I’m sure this had little to do with the ultimate end of the Cold War.  The costs of the space race were minuscule compared to the economy-shuddering trillions spent on the arms race by both sides.  But without Sputnik and all that followed, we would be a very different and more distanced world today.