The Working Life

July 12, 2019

One of the reasons I have been so quiet here lately is that I have been concentrating on completing some historical analyses of the 1921 Census for Grandview.  It is an unwieldy set of documents, and extracting the required data for our district has taken a long time. All of the data is now included in the latest edition of the Grandview Database.

Today, I have published the first of a short series of visualisations of that data, this one illustrating the geographic distribution of population across Grandview in 1921. It can be found on the Grandview Heritage Group website.

Future visualisations will look at aspects of the 1921 rental market as revealed by Census data. I am also working on comparisons between the data from the 1911 Census and that of 1921.



Grandview House Prices

June 22, 2019

For those interested in East Van history, I have posted some preliminary work on historical house prices in Grandview at the Grandview Heritage Group site.


When Yo-Yos Were The Thing

May 24, 2019

Do you remember a year or two back when it was impossible to escape the marketing web for fidget spinners. They were everywhere, everyone gave them away.  Looking back, at just about the time I got interested in girls, the hula hoop was king.  Well, even before that there was a time when the fad was yo-yos:

Image: Vancouver Sun, 1933/4/19, p.12

Good to see our local shops were keeping up with the trends!

The Grandview Database

May 15, 2019

I have not been writing here as much I would like, but I really have not been idle.  My recent (and continuing) heavy bout of researching for a new book has allowed me to collect a great deal of information that is of value to the Grandview Database project of the Grandview Heritage Group.

A new edition of the Database was published today.

If you have an interest in a Grandview address, or in a Commercial Drive business, say, take a look at the Database, search for the address you want, and see what historical data we have on it so far.

Happy Anniversary GHG!

May 5, 2019

Today is the 8th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Heritage Group (GHG).

The GHG website has become the go-to place for anyone interested in the 100+year history of our wonderful neighbourhood, and the group has made enormous strides in its mission: to identify, preserve, and celebrate our local heritage.  The monthly meetings are always interesting, and it has been exciting to watch new people come into the group and keep it lively.

Well done everyone concerned and we look forward to more exciting work as we move into the future.

Back To Work!

April 20, 2019

Regular readers may have noticed that I have posted a lot less this week than usual.  That is because I suddenly find myself rather busy.

About eight years ago I published The Drive”, a history of Commercial Drive from 1935 to 1956. It was assumed by many, including me, that I would move swiftly onto the remainder of the history from the mid-1950s. But that proved difficult for a couple of major reasons:

First, recent local history is dependent for much of its documentation on newspapers and for many years the necessary papers (Sun, Province, Echo, etc.) of that period were hard to access without the time-consuming process of reading through the microfiches of each edition of every paper for every day. Before the writing of “The Drive“, for example, I spent a full year in the 7th floor of Central Library doing little else but reading through every edition of the Highland Echo from 1935 to 1960 — and that was just one weekly newspaper of about 8 to 10 pages an edition. Going through the morgues of three much larger daily newspapers for, say, 1955 to 1975, would literally take years. It was a daunting task.

Second, I became ever more interested in the first quarter century of Grandview’s life — from, say 1891 through the end of the First World War — and the work I put in started to concentrate on that period. This was assisted greatly by many of the early newspapers — Vancouver World, etc — being accessible on line with the context searching that that functionality makes available to the researcher. Most of my writing over the last decade has concentrated on this era.

Over that same stretch of time, I made a few attempts to pull together the history of Commercial Drive and Grandview, its hinterland.  That means I have dozens or scores of half-completed essays and research lists scattered throughout my computer. I pride myself on the tidiness of my research.  However, at times like these when a reassessment of what material I already have is required, that pride takes a bashing.

Which brings me to the purpose or reason for this reassessment.  I have decided that I will write a full scale history of the Drive from its beginnings to about 2000. The primary driver has been the very recent availability of both the Vancouver Sun and Province on line. This means that I can use the searching tools available through OCR to make my research searches far more specific and productive.  There is still a great deal of old-fashioned research to complete (including the page by page reading of the Echo‘s microfiche library from the 1960s through the 1990s that we bought some years ago for this very purpose) and, of course, grinding my way though the mountain of material I already have collected.

This is all going to take some time.  But at least you will know I am not just relaxing on the couch eating ice cream and watching game shows.

Remembering Radio Caroline

March 28, 2019

It is 55 years ago today since Radio Caroline, the first of the British pirate radio stations began broadcasting.  It was an event and a summer I remember well.

In the previous 18 months, the British music scene had exploded, first based on the incredible success of the Beatles but then quickly followed by dozens of groups from all over the country. Unfortunately, the staid old BBC held a monopoly of British radio and so many of us listened to this new music on Radio Luxemburg which broadcast in the evenings. However, the playlists of Radio Luxemburg and BBC TV’s weekly Top of the Pops were more or less controlled by the major record labels and didn’t cover the full spectrum of pop music then available.

Ronan O’Reilly, an Irish entrepreneur, decided to broaden the choice. He purchased an old ship, refitted it with high powered radio equipment, and parked it just outside British territorial waters. On 28th March 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting with a Rolling Stones song, and pirate radio — pirates because they were unlicensed — almost immediately changed the entire British cultural scene.

For the next few years, everyone I knew listened to the pirates (a number of other radio ships had joined in the fun) and no matter the laws the government tried to impose, their popularity continued to increase. By 1967, even the BBC had been completely revamped, with BBC Radio One becoming simply a copy of the pirates. That was, indeed, the Summer of Love.