The Origins of Commercial Drive

September 16, 2022


I have just published a brief article on the earliest origins of Commercial Drive. It can be found at:

It will probably be the first in a series.


September 12, 2022

On this day in 1940, the Lascaux caves in central France were discovered by four teenagers. As they entered the long shaft down into the cavern, the boys saw vivid pictures of animals on the walls.


When the site was made available in the later 1940s, this cave art was wildly popular with the public. More importantly, it allowed everyone, both public and scientists, to understand more clearly that the so-called “cave men” were far more than the mindless brutes of previous imagination.

At about 17,000 years old, the Lascaux images are far from being the earliest known cave art today — several caves in Europe and Indonesia have art from about 40,000 years ago, and a recent “sketch” on a rock in South Africa may be much older.  However, the enormous trove of images (more than 900 animals identified) at Lascaux combined with the encouragement of tourist traffic to the location has allowed this cave complex to become the best known of all cave art.

The discovery at Lascaux marked an important anniversary in our understanding of who we are and where we came from.

9/11 and the Death of Democracy

September 11, 2022

Forty-nine years ago, on 9/11 in 1973, the US-financed-and-organized plan to overthrow the legally elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile was put into action.

Crowds in Santiago celebrating the electoral victory of Salvador Allende

During the violent 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, thousands of 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 extraordinary litany of 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.

Grandview’s Drug Store Tycoon

September 5, 2022


I have today published a research essay on “Louis Toban: Drug Store Tycoon and Philanthropist” — a man who had a considerable effect on the Drive’s retail environment.

The essay can be found at:

Labour Is More Important Than Capital

September 5, 2022

On Labour Day, it is good to remember words of wisdom from long ago:

“[T]here is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

— Abraham Lincoln, State of the Union Speech, 3rd December 1861.

16,435 Days

August 20, 2022

16,435 days ago, Elvis Presley had been dead four days and Groucho Marx for one; Jimmy Carter was into the eighth month of his presidency and serial killer Son of Sam had just been captured. On that day, August 20 1977, Voyager 2 was launched into space.

This morning, 16,435 days later, she is about 18.8 billion kms away from earth, still heading out. She left the Solar System several years ago, heading into the Interstellar Medium, and is still sending us valuable data every day.

Voyager 2 was built in 1976-1977 with tools that we would consider archaic and primitive today, and yet these days we have trouble keeping a toaster alive for more than six months!

It has been a glorious and useful and enhancing project and I hope it has many more thousands of days to chat with us.

Fidel Castro. A Hero For Our Times

August 13, 2022


Today would have been Fidel Castro’s 96th birthday.

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 more than 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.

Castro’s birthday is worth celebrating.

Remembering Hiroshima, 77 Years Ago

August 6, 2022

Today we need to remember the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their people, utterly destroyed by atomic bombs this week in 1945.

I spent my early life in Europe during the hottest days of the Cold War, worried every single day that these scenes would be repeated in London and Berlin and Moscow.

Let us continue to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and do whatever we can to ensure that such events never happen again.

The Buftons of Commercial Drive

August 2, 2022


I have today published a biographical sketch of the three generations of the Bufton family who ran a florist shop on the Drive for 60 years, and who were community stalwarts, engaging in all the issues that faced Grandview and the Drive in those years.

The article can be found at:

I hope you find it of interest.

Shooting The Moon, 53 Years On

July 21, 2022

On this day in 1969 I was in Yugoslavia working as a Third Assistant Director on a movie called “Kelly’s Heroes“. I was nineteen years old and having a wonderful time working with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Salvalas, and a whole wild bunch of American actors. like Harry Dean Stanton and Dick Davalos.

We were living at the Petrovaradin Hotel in Novi Sad and most nights I joined the Americans in games of high stakes poker. We took over one of the small banquet rooms and several of the hotel staff were deputed to look after us with drinks and food. These games were a useful but expensive education for me; over a few weeks, I managed to lose several months’ worth of per diem expenses.

Apollo_11_bootprintOur game on the 20th July 1969 coincided with the first manned landing on the moon and we arranged to have a black and white TV set up in the room  so we could follow the action.  I remember that, just as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Eagle and on to the moon, we were in the middle of a game with a good-sized pot of American dollars piled in middle of the the table. We agreed to pause the game to watch the historic moment.

Several of us took the opportunity to stand and stretch for a moment. As I did so, I noticed that the American actors were glued to the TV screen intent on cheering their countrymen while the hotel staff ignored the TV and were all staring at the big pile of money, mouths agape.

It was an unforgettable night.

The Coming of Self-Service

July 11, 2022


Today I have posted a new article on the development of modern shopping in Vancouver, called Bringing Self-Service to Vancouver & The Drive, 1918-1926.

The article can be found at:

The Viaduct That Saved Grandview

July 1, 2022


Today — Canada Day — is the 84th anniversary of the opening of the First Avenue Viaduct. I have written a short history of how the viaduct came to be built, and its effect on Grandview.

The history can be found at:

I hope you find it of interest.

100 Years Ago Today

June 27, 2022


Vancouver Sun 1922 June 27, p.13

I would wager this house is still there, but the price may be a touch higher.

Happy Birthday, Wobblies!

June 27, 2022
Globe logo with the letters I.W.W. separated by three stars. Encircled by the name, "Industrial Workers of the World."

Today is the 117th anniversary of the founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (the I.W.W.)

The I.W.W. was, and is, an industrial or class union aimed at unifying the working class under the slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all.” The One Big Union was in direct opposition to the trades unions that seek to divide workers into narrow crafts.

The Wobblies were founded by some of the great people of the labour movement — heroes such as Big Bill Heywood, Daniel de Leon, Eugene Debs, Mary other Jones, and so many others. The Constitution they struck was a marvelous call to arms:

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wage system.” It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. 

For Those Of Us With Long Memories …

June 17, 2022

Fifty years ago today, in a “third rate burglary”, White House operatives broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex in Washington DC.  It eventually caused the demise of Pres. Nixon.

Twenty-eight years ago today, OJ Simpson brought the excitement of a low-speed police chase to prime time television.

Only in America, eh?

In Memoriam: For All Fallen Workers

June 17, 2022

Sixty-four years ago today, an engineering error caused the almost-completed Second Narrows Bridge to collapse. The working site was filled with men almost finished their shift. Nineteen of them died, many dragged to the bottom of the inlet by the weight of the their tool-laden belts.  It was an unmitigated disaster and is forever remembered in the official name of the structure — which was later completed — as the Ironworkers’ Memorial Second Narrows Crossing.

More than 100 BC workers are killed in workplace accidents every year in this province. As we drive across the Bridge, it is important that we remember both the workers who died on that particular day and those who continue to risk their lives each and every day right to the present. People are our most precious resource, and every single death is a disaster for each family concerned.

Why It Took 50 Years For Grandview To Get A Library

June 8, 2022


I have today published a new research essay on the 50-year struggle to get a library established in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood.

The essay can be found at:

I hope you find it of interest.

House Contents, Grandview, 1922

June 3, 2022


One hundred years ago today, there was an auction of household contents at 1549 E. 2nd in Grandview. The 6-room wooden house had been owned and occupied for some time by Albert Cameron and his wife, Susannah. Albert is listed in the census of the previous year as a carpenter in a railway shop, while the 1922 City Directory lists him as a painter. He claimed wages of $655 in the 12 months prior to the 1921 census.

In these years, auctions of households were a regular occurrence in East Vancouver. They were usually a result of either a death, a move out of town, or the failure to pay rent. Albert Cameron owned the house so there was no rent to be defaulted, and he was 63 years old at the census. So, I assume (without any stronger evidence) that he died and his widow was selling the house.

Province, 1922 Jun 3, p,22

The value of the list of contents to be sold is in the view it grants us of the home of a skilled tradesman and his family in those years. As can be seen, the couple enjoyed a full range of furniture and furnishings, a china cabinet, several carpets, and some electrical appliances. The list tells us nothing about the quality of the items for sale, but I believe they allow us to imagine a fairly comfortable, almost middle-class life for this working man just off the Drive.

The Development of First & Commercial

May 16, 2022

I have today published a new research essay on the 15-year fight for the development of the old Grandview High school site at First & Commercial.

The essay can be found at:

I hope you find it of interest.

Smallpox! Grandview’s Isolation Hospital

May 3, 2022


I have today published another research essay, this one tells the history of the smallpox Isolation Hospital erected in Grandview in 1892 and which stayed in place until it became part of Templeton Park in 1912.

The essay can be read at