100 Years Ago Today in Grandview, #11

May 29, 2023

The Pool Parlour

On Tuesday 29th May 1923, G.J. Westwood received a building permit for a $3,000 one-storey building at 1816-1818 Commercial Drive. He hired William Francis Jones to design it, and R.E. James to build it, and by the following spring, Grandview Recreations was open for business at 1816 under the management of Frank Garbe. Within a few years, the pool parlour had become so popular that they expanded into the space at 1818.

There had been some controversy back in 1921 when the license for a pool hall was first issued. Baptist and Presbyterian ministers led a delegation to City Council to have the license revoked. However, once the Aldermen learned that the license applicants are “Italian, that they are men of good repute, and that one of them at any rate is a British subject,” they allowed the license to proceed.

By the time Grandview Recreations closed in 2009, it had been part of the Drive for almost 90 years.

Sources: Building permit BP A-5934; City directories; Vancouver Daily World 1921 Apr 26, p.2

100 Years Ago Today in Grandview, #10

May 28, 2023



In the early spring of 1923, shoppers in Vancouver had been buying strawberries from Washington State. However, on Monday 28th May 1923:

“The first British Columbia straws were put on sale Monday by a Chinese vegetable dealer at 1409 Commercial Drive, two crates being received from his Woodward’s Landing ranch … The inspector declared the Marshall strawberries to be of excellent quality, and they retailed for 25cents per box.”

The Chinese vegetable dealer was Hop Lee and his brother Joseph who had run their grocery store since 1919. They stayed in business until 1956 when they sold out to a son and moved to Calgary. The store was re-named Joes Market.

Sources: Vancouver Daily World 1923 May 23, p.15; Sun 1923 May 23, p.5

Patrick Condon at GWAC’s AGM

May 7, 2023


Yesterday evening was the 2023 AGM for the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC). There was a decent turnout, both live and online, and a new Board was elected.

The guest speaker was Prof. Patrick Condon of UBC who gave an excellent presentation. Images in this post are by Patrick Condon.

He noted that when he moved to Vancouver, he was a believer that additional density would produce affordability in Vancouver (and most other urban areas). However, more than 20 years of experience has proven that to be a false theory.

Since 1960, the population of Vancouver has doubled, and the number of housing units has tripled. This should mean that Vancouver would have some of the most affordable property in North America — but, in fact, the opposite is true.

Real estate fundamentals would suggest that the price of the average housing unit would stay at a more or less constant ratio to the average salary. And that is essentially true for the cost of building. However, rampant land inflation has driven up the price of land so high that, if a householder studies her tax assessment form, she will notice that the land (which used to be cheaper than the building) is now ten or more times the value of whatever building is on the lot.

Condon noted that this is true in Vancouver and Los Angeles and Auckland and many other major urban areas.

Historically, the great economists such as Adam Smith, Henry George, David Ricardo, and Joseph Stiglitz have warned about the significant perils involved in concentrating capital in land.

So, he asks, if adding density can’t make housing cheaper what, if anything, can be done about this?

“One city that solved this problem 100 years ago is Vienna. During their own extreme housing crisis, they adjusted their municipal tax structure to fall heavily on landlords. They took the money that they gained from this and used it to buy land for housing. They worked with their non-profit housing providers to build affordable housing – supplying land on a competitive basis to community groups anxious to create affordable communities.”

A very useful presentation indeed.

A Review: “School and the End of Intelligence”

April 23, 2023


It has been about a month since I announced the publication of Tom Durrie’s “School and the End of Intelligence.” I took my time getting through it because this is an important piece of work and it deserves a close and thoughtful reading.

Durrie brings together an impressive array of contexts and disciplines including game theory, merchandising, psychology, philosophy, and music to illustrate his major point that school systems as currently structured are the worst possible places to get an education.

The book is divided into three parts. In the first, Durrie piles example on example of how modern consumer capitalism, often in the guise of “choice” or entertainment detracts from personal knowledge, leading to what he calls the gamification of society. Durrie provides a devastating critique of this neoliberalism and the role of schools in its continued dominance. He notes that for neoliberalism’s “supply-side economics to be effective, a culture of believers must be created [and] school is the perfect place for such training to occur.” He quotes a Jessica Braithwaite study:

“Neoliberal policy creates an illusion of meritocracy, where all students are perceived to have equal access to a high-quality education. Given this perceived equality of opportunity, poor outcomes are attributed to individual decision making and not the state or any existing racial or socioeconomic inequalities.”

The second part of the book is a detailed look at the history of education systems starting with the Prussian experiments of the eighteenth century and working its way through the ideas of Fichte, Pestalozzi, Vaughn, Mann, Ryerson, Locke, Rousseau, Dewey and others. Durrie notes the baleful legacy of Frederick Taylor (he of the assembly line) and B.F. Skinner’s behaviourism on educational design, leading to the inevitable decline in standards we see today.

In the third part of the book, which looks at schooling today, Durrie takes apart both the rationale for and the results of the modern infatuation with testing and grades.

Several times in the book, Durrie notes that the only similar situation for adults in our society to what happens in school (compulsory attendance, strict adherence to discipline, control of eating and toilet times, etc) is prison. Children in school have no rights. “They may only be allowed privileges, and those are strictly limited by authority.”

Durrie notes that modern education is “the triumph of mediocrity — the end of intelligence. When it comes to pliability there is nothing to beat a society dulled by shabby entertainment and the constant stimulation of digital media and sports.” Modern schooling is “not an educational endeavour, it is there to impede education, to maintain ignorance and gullibility.”

What Durrie wants to achieve is “education as intellectual and personal development, not training for a job … all real learning comes from curiosity and interest, not from being taught what someone else thinks you should learn.” He concludes that

“if we want people who are trained to be passive consumers of entertainment, who will follow orders without question, and who will be devoted followers of social media, all we have to do is continue with the present for of schooling. On the other hand, if we want a populace of thoughtful, literate, and creative people, people who are passionately curious, its time we did something different.”

I fear I may have failed to stress the breadth of knowledge and context that Tom Durrie brings to this subject. Moreover, while this is an important book on a serious subject, Durrie’s easy conversational style makes it a joy to read. It is larded with numerous anecdotes from his own extensive teaching experience, and I encourage everyone to read and learn.

Parks and Greenspace in Grandview Woodland

March 29, 2023


The next regular meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) is at 7:00pm on Monday, 3rd April. The subject is parks and greenspace in our neighbourhood. As they note in their notice of meeting:

“With a growing population in Grandview, we have no new plans for parks or greenspace on the horizon. Join us for a conversation with UBC Landscape Architect Daniel Roehr and our Vancouver Park Board Commissioners.

Come share with us what you need from greenspace – play, calm, sport, relief from the heat. How should new greenspace take shape in Grandview Woodland?”

It will be a ZOOM meeting and the address is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89991400541?pwd=bmNleEpMVVduVGRmOXRJZEVDeU44QT09

World Press Photo Awards

March 29, 2023


The regional winners of the 2023 World Press Photo Awards have been announced. Here are some of those winners:

Special GWAC Meeting About Transportation on the Drive

March 22, 2023


Wise Words

December 14, 2022


“Not everything that can be faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

– James Baldwin

Changes On The Drive #127

December 1, 2022


Yes, we’re back! Thanks once again to Steve and Penny who actually did the walk this week.

First, a correction or rather an addition. In the previous post, we inadvertently omitted the Harbour Oyster + Bar at 1408 Commercial from our comprehensive listing. Our apologies!

The Cashmart store at 2245 Commercial has closed.

Pacific Ink & Toner at 2115 is closing at the end of the month. They share a double storefront with National Massage Chairs at 2125 but it is unclear if that, too, is about to cease operations.

The former Cafe Deux Soleils at 2096 Commercial is still vacant. However, there seems to be some renovation work going on there. A sign mentioned a company called Ceridian which is a human relations and payroll outfit. Not sure yet how they are connected to the space.

At 1858 Commercial, we are still awaiting the opening of Fior De Latte.

Vancouver Magazine has a quick bright paean to Persia Foods, which it describes as the most affordable grocery in Vancouver. Our version on the Drive is at 1730 Commercial.

At First & Commercial, it is disappointing to see that Il Mercato Mall has fallen victim to the city’s current fetish of window breaking.

Image: Kerry Smith

There have been rumours about the ownership and possible closing of SuperValu. Ownership is still unclear, but I am told they have been assured that they will have another ten years on their lease before that entire corner is re-developed.

The former Black Dog Video storefront at 1470 Commercial has been taken over by Soulessentials Records. And Marsala Marinated Meats has opened at 1458 Commercial.

Cafe du Soleil at 1393 Commercial was the victim of an armed robbery at brunch last Sunday. Two men with guns stole money and cell phones from staff and customers before escaping in a car.

The iconic grocery and deli, Santa Barbara at 1322 Commercial, is still the subject of rumours that they will close this year. They have been sorely challenged by the big-money competition such as Choices, and there have been problems hiring staff. The result is still not clear, but it will be a major disappointment to many of us if they are forced to close.

No longer a rumour; Fets Whisky Kitchen at 1230 Commercial — on the Drive in various guises since the 1980s — will close at the end of December; Allura and Eric are retiring. They will be greatly missed.

At 1124 Commercial, Lotus Barber and Tattooing is renovating.

At 935 Commercial, we are still awaiting the opening of Nicli Pronto, while the new building at 928 Commercial no longer has a STOP WORK order on it and heavy equipment is in operation every day.

Finally, the Kin Kao restaurant at 903 Commercial is basking in the glory of its second spot — Kin Kao Song at 317 E. Broadway — which has won a coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand award.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2245 Commercial, 2111 Commercial, 2096 Commercial, 2058 Commercial, 1858 Commercial, 1851 Commercial, 1733 Commercial, 1670 Commercial, 1428 Commercial, 1340 Commercial, 1124 Commercial, 1020 Commercial, 935 Commercial

Previous editions of Changes on the Drive

Night Music: Hey Joe

November 28, 2022

Finding The Boy King

November 26, 2022


It was 100 years ago today, that Howard Carter first sighted the antechamber to the tomb of Pharoah Tutankhamun, who had died very young in about 1325 BC.

Excavations had begun at the beginning of the month, and it would not be until 1925 that the Pharoah’s tomb would be cleared; but today, the anniversary of when the antechamber revealed its rich secrets, is generally considered the date of discovery.

The discovery and subsequent publicity made both King Tut and Howard Carter global celebrities.

Image: Street Art #3B

October 13, 2022


September 22, 2022

Oh, Canada!

July 23, 2022
Ripped from Twitter

Leisure on the Drive, 1930-1965

May 27, 2022


I have today published a new research essay called: Lawn Bowling to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Leisure on the Drive, 1930 to 1965.

It can be found at https://grandviewheritagegroup.ca/blog/

I hope you find it of interest.

Night Music: Smokestack Lightning

May 26, 2022

Night Music: Rivers of Babylon

May 24, 2022

Night Music: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

May 12, 2022

Image: Street Art #2

April 29, 2022

GWAC AGM with Andy Yan — Today!

April 2, 2022


In an uncertain era of rapidly rising land values and a dramatic loss of affordability, where is Vancouver headed? How do we house our people and keep our vibrant neighborhoods intact? And what is in store for Grandview Woodland? 

For his insights into our present and future, join our special AGM keynote speaker Andy Yan.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Andy is the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University and has a long and noted history as an analyst and commentator on urban regeneration, neighborhood development, public outreach and more.