Building The Legion Hall

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day when we celebrate our veterans. It seems an apt time therefore to look at how our newly-painted Legion Hall at 6th & Commercial came to be. The story is told through the pages of our local newspaper, “The Highland Echo”.

*****

Branch 179 of the Royal Canadian Legion was founded in the summer of 1945 at the instigation of Tommy Thompson, a wounded veteran of Vimy Ridge and long-time manager of the Grandview Theatre. Reginald A. Bowcott was elected the founding president [1]. Their meetings took place at the Masonic Hall at First & Salsbury until they moved into their own hall in November 1945.

The newly-elected executive immediately sought $10,000 to buy the old roller rink/dance hall known as Grandview Hall at 4th & Commercial. Local businessmen quickly chipped in the funds required [2].

In early December of 1945, “extensive renovations” were already being made, and the building committee organized a “midway” style event for mid-December to raise more funds.  In January 1946, weekly dances for 50¢ and regular 25¢ whist drives were keeping the hall busy. However, as March 1946 opened, it was clear that the Legion Branch had bitten off more than it could chew so soon, the executive having to admit that they were experiencing a period of “financial stringency” [3].

By March 1946 they had sold their lot to a furniture upholstery company and moved offices to the Y building at Commercial & Napier. The quick sale was described as “something of a surprise” to those who had donated the original funds [4].  However, with the assistance of Commercial Drive fixer Charles Smith, the Legion made a decent profit on the sale of the old Hall.

In April 1947 the Legion used its profits to purchase two vacant lots in the 2000-block on the southeast corner of 6th and Commercial, and they leaked ambitious plans to build a new hall. The building, designed by architect Harold Cullerne, was to be “of concrete block construction with a front that is both unique and outstanding.” On the ground floor, reading, smoking and club rooms were planned, with a spacious auditorium and badminton court for a second storey. The branch’s offices and recreation rooms were to be on a separate mezzanine level. The Legion executive also decided to ask for a local plebiscite which, if approved, would allow them to sell beer and liquor to their members and guests. This would be the first such license in Grandview and it caused quite a stir. It also took a long time to get approved and completed [5].

The first date set for the vote was October 8th, 1947. A meeting called at Trinity United Church to oppose the license was only “sparsely attended” but that didn’t stop opponents from writing to the press and pushing their claims. Even the Legion’s supporters felt it necessary to say that, in general terms, they opposed beer licenses on Commercial Drive; however, for the “boys” who had saved democracy they were willing to make an exception. The plebiscite was delayed several times but was finally held on 18 February 1948. The voting population had been established as all residents between Victoria and Woodland from 5th Avenue to Broadway, but only 254 people took the time to register an opinion. Of those, 158 were in favor of letting the lads have a drink while they relaxed. The victory was all the Legion Branch needed to announce that the building at 6th & Commercial would go ahead at an estimated cost of $30,000].  However, nothing would happen on that front for another eighteen months or so. [6]

Finally, in November 1949 the Branch announced that work had begun on clearing the site and preparing for construction of its Hall on its lots on the east side of Commercial [7]. The Cullerne design was abandoned and the executive decided to go with a less ambitious one-storey affair of frame construction built by Miller Construction Company who had just completed a similar hall for a Legion branch in Burnaby. It would be about 30 feet x 80 feet and would sit in the middle of the two lots they owned. The foundations were laid and framing begun by early December [8].

The Canadian Legion held their first members’ meeting in the newly-built Legion Hall on the southeast corner of 6th in early January 1950. It wasn’t quite complete but the heating was installed and kept everyone warm. As the year went on, the monthly meetings continued to be held in the hall, each meeting breaking the attendance record of the last.  On 1st March the club liquor license finally arrived and 27th March was selected as the official opening day. It was “a gay affair” with a packed audience enjoying Louise Gallup and her all-girl orchestra with vocals by “cowgirl” Rocky Renner [9].

After a “lively debate” in September 1950, the Legion approved a $5,000 building fund that would be used to extend the Hall twelve feet to the north, bringing it to the corner [10]. However, that didn’t go ahead and in September 1951 they purchased two lots on the west side corner across the street. They paid $3,500 and the executive revived the plans originally drawn up by architect Harold Cullerne a few years before for a new two-storey building.  In February 1954 the Legion announced that they would be building a new $60,000 hall at the southwest corner of 6th & Commercial. The Commercial Drive frontage was to have two storeys but with windows spaced to give the appearance of three [11].

They had planned to start work by the end of March but there were the inevitable delays and the construction contract wasn’t let to builders Stewart & Slade until the middle of May. By that time, the building was to be constructed using concrete blocks covered with stucco, and the cost had almost doubled to $102,500.  The company wasted no time and the basement was built by the first week in June, and the building was ready for use by the end of the year. [12]

  1. Highland Echo” 1945 May 31, Jun 14, Jul 19
  2. Highland Echo” 1945 Aug 9
  3. Highland Echo” 1945 Nov 29, Dec 6, 1946 Jan 17, Mar 6
  4. Highland Echo” 1946 Mar 27, Apr 3
  5. Highland Echo” 1947 Jun 26, Sep 4
  6. Highland Echo” 1947 Sep 18, 1948 Jan 29, Feb 26
  7. This is roughly where J.J. Bean Coffee is today.
  8. Highland Echo” 1949 Nov 17, Dec 8, 1950 Mar 30
  9. Highland Echo” 1950 Jan 19, 26, Feb 23, Mar 2, 23, 30
  10. Highland Echo” 1950 Sep 14
  11. Highland Echo” 1954 Feb 18
  12. Highland Echo” 1954 Jun 3

Grandview Database v. 19

We have today uploaded a new and updated version of the Grandview Database.  

This version incorporates almost 900 new and amended data points since the previous release:

  • Another 370 additional households have been added from the 1921 census.;
  • An additional 350 entries have been aaded from the 1914 City Directory;.
  • Almost 50 new entries have come from the Changes on the Drive series, covering recent history on Commercial Drive;
  • And more than 100 miscellaneous entries have been added from the “Highland Echo” (1935-1980) and contemporary real estate listings.

In November we will once again be concentrating on completing the data available from the 1921 Census. We hope you find the Database of value, and we encourage and welcome corrections, and additions.

GWAC’s 50th Anniversary

Today is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Woodland Area Council.

In the early 1960s, while Commercial Drive was beginning to enjoy a renewed prosperity following the wave of Italian merchants and families into the neighbourhood, there was great concern about the health, welfare and education of children in other areas of Grandview, and the apparent slumming down of the neighbourhood in general. In that period, much of the health and welfare delivery system was in the hands of United Community Services (UCS). On March 1st 1964, specifically to deal with the concerns in Grandview, UCS created the Woodland Park Area Resources Council (WPARC), the first local area council in Vancouver. It was to be the vanguard of a new style of welfare planning.

The first item of business for the Woodland Park Area Resources Council was a study of the neighbourhood which was ordered by motion of 13 May 1964. The study commenced during the summer of 1964 and reported out in February 1965. It made for stark reading:

“…industrial intrusion into the residential districts of the Area; the increasing amount of apartment housing; the mixture of old and new houses … This general physical deterioration attracts to the Area individuals and families seeking low rental housing, resulting in the further downgrading of the social environment. On the other hand some of this sub-standard housing is being replaced, in more desirable areas, by apartment buildings. The population possesses a low level of scholastic achievement and vocational skills and hence a high degree of economic vulnerability. The social and physical environment manifests a variety of socially undesirable characteristics. There is a lack of awareness of community resources and community identification. The children generally are culturally deprived and lack vocational ambitions or scholastic incentive.  In addition, there seems to exist a cultural conflict and an inability to assimilate on the part of minority groups (i.e. Italians). Among the adult population, generally excluding the Chinese and Italians, there is a high concentration of social pathology. This in turn, among other things, has resulted in a significant number of children exhibiting anti-social behavior.”[i]

In its coverage of the report, the Vancouver Sun noted that the North Commercial Drive area “is materially impoverished and socially sick.”[ii]

There was particular concern that a number of children in Grandview were failing at school. “Our teachers find that teaching in this area is very challenging but frustrating. The children are for the most part poor, materially and culturally.” The Hastings Branch Library was asked to conduct a story-based program in GV.  There was a trial one-afternoon-per-week 8-week program from April to June 1965 with sixteen children from McDonald and Seymour Kindergartens. “In most cases the parents tried to ensure the children were present and seemed aware of the need for cooperation,” said a post-trial report. “This was more noticeable with the Oriental mothers who patiently sat in the YWCA’s lounge each week.” Another report recorded that “Agencies, while not assuming a pessimistic attitude regarding citizen involvement in programs for community betterment, nevertheless made the following observations: ‘This is an apathetic community to some extent;’ ‘the ethnic groups in the area are not committed to Canadian values and sense of civic responsibility;’ ‘communication (because of a language barrier) is a problem;’ ‘local residents may not be interested in a community development program because of their cultural background and a high degree of transiency’.”[iii]

We should be careful to take note that the Report’s area of coverage included areas to the north and northwest of what we might consider to be Grandview. In particular, WPARC worked very closely with Strathcona. The relationship was so close, in fact, that the first organization map from December 1966 showed them linked, with the south end of Grandview separated.

UCS map December 1966

While the original plan for the Strathcona-Grandview area “anticipated that there will be a combining of the two local area planning operations in these adjoining areas with the formation of one Local Area Council,” that idea was scrapped. Strathcona was separated out, and Woodland Park was rejoined with Grandview.[iv]

Following the publication of the Report, the UCS issued a press release that discussed their future plans for Grandview:

“A program called the Local Area Approach will combine health, social welfare, education and recreation services in a concerted attack on social problems in selected geographical areas of Vancouver … Local community planning and self –help will be stressed.”  Much of this was designed from the work that WPARC had already completed.[v]

While it began life controlled by health and welfare professionals, the WPARC always had a mandate to gradually include more and more community representatives, and it fulfilled this mandate with enthusiasm. This was greatly assisted by expanding the role of the Local Area Worker, a position strongly recommended in the original WPARC Report. As WPARC Chairman W.H. McLaren described the change:

“Originally the job of this worker was seen as primarily related to enabling more formal coordination of services and in assisting in the more orderly delivery of services to the area. Further consideration of the whole matter of Local Area Services has resulted in an additional and most independent role being seen for the Area Worker that of developing citizen participation in the improvement of the welfare of the community.”[vi]

By March 1966, Reep Seebaran was hired for three days a week as the Local Area Worker. She was “a staff member of United Community Services, funded through a City grant,” and she would be based at the new office at 1112 Commercial Drive. Later that summer, UCS reported to its members “the Area Resources Council is continuing with the implementation task and is placing special emphasis on changing its structure and role to become the Area Council with maximum citizen involvement. The Executive Committee of the Council now includes a number of area residents.” McLaren had earlier said that “we have found that to establish a co-operative and integrated approach, considerable time is required for the agencies and certain key people in the community to develop a feeling of oneness.” However, by the summer of 1967, virtually all the Executive Council members were locals.[vii]

About 30 people attended the WPARC AGM on 25th October 1967.  E.M. Greyall was in the chair.  A motion passed changing the name to Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC). The name was changed so that “citizens of Grandview could identify more closely with the community service work the Council is attempting to do.” Another motion passed making the Area boundaries Clark, Broadway, Nanaimo and the inlet. Elementary School principal Frank Neale was elected chairman, with Bill Dey of the Grandview Ratepayers as vice-chairman. In a sort of tribute to the battles of the past, Jack Burch was selected as head of the Library Committee.

GWAC and the other groups that it spawned or assisted would become the driving force of community action through the 1970s and into the 1980s. But that is another story.

[i]A Study of the Woodland Park Area: Summary of Findings” February 1965:  CVA, Addl Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5 File 8

[ii] Vancouver Sun 19 Mar 1965, p.10

[iii] Children failing: Presentation to A.C.E. Summer Workshop” 5 Aug 1966: CVA Addl Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5, File 2; library trial:  Grandview Project 1965”: CVA Addl Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5, File 1; agency views: “Woodland Park Project Progress Report”, 31 May 1966:  CVA Addl Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5, File 5

[iv] B.A. Robinson to Chairmen of LAP Councils, 22 Aug 1966: CVA, Add Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-6 File 1; “Review of Current Status of Local Area Planning”, UCS of Greater Vancouver, 12 May 1967:  CVA, Add Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5 File 7

[v] UCS Press Release, 23 Mar 1965, quoted in “United Community Services and Local Area Planning: Some Background Notes”, 6 Feb 1972: CVA, Add Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-B-2 File 2

[vi] W.H. McLaren to R.G. Miller, n.d.: CVA, Addl Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5 File 8

[vii] “Presentation to A.C.E. Summer Workshop” 5 Aug 1966:  CVA, Add Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5 File 2; WPARC Implementation Committee, 9th Feb 1966: CVA, Addl Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5 File 2; “The Development of the GWAC – Draft”, April 1972: CVA, Add Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-B-2 File 4, p.1; WPARC Technical Advisory Committee Minutes 29 Sep 1966: CVA, Add Mss 981, 599-B-2 File 2; “Review of Current Status of Local Area Planning”, UCS of Greater Vancouver, 12 May 1967:  CVA, Addl Mss 981, GWAC Materials, 599-A-5 File 7

October Grandview Heritage Group meeting, this Thursday

Hello!
Our October meeting is this Thursday, October 19th. As usual, we will meet in the Britannia Boardroom at 7:00 p.m.

This month’s agenda will include:

  • Our regular review of things happening in the neighbourhood that are of interest to our group, led by Eric. Because we missed our Sept meeting, there’s a lot to catch up on.
  • Update on our century sign campaign…
  • Anything else you’d like to discuss!

Our agenda is always flexible and our discussions are always both educational and entertaining.
Everyone is welcome! Do come and join us!

Grandview Database v. 18

We have today uploaded a new and updated version of the Grandview Database.  

Some unforeseen difficulties slowed down work this month, However, this version still incorporates more than 400 new and amended data points since the previous release

  • Another 275 additional Building Permits have been sifted from the goldmine that is the Heritage Vancouver database of early permits. We are now caught up with their latest update, and we look forward to the next batch which will include the 1922 permits;
  • About 50 additional data points have been collected from contemporary real estate listings and miscellaneous sources.
  • We have also completely remapped and re-entered Block 144, the most unnecessarily complex block in the neighbourhood, which was shown inaccurately in previous editions of this database. A number of researchers who have worked on this block agree that the original surveyors must have had a really good time in the tavern before going to work that day!

In October we will be concentrating on completing the data available from the 1921 Census. We hope you find the Database of value, and we encourage and welcome corrections, and additions.

Next Meeting — October 19th

After our usual summer break, the Grandview Heritage Group would normally have resumed its regular schedule of meetings this coming Thursday.  However, that meeting clashes with a very important meeting regarding the future of Britannia Community Centre which has been booked for the same date from 6:00pm, to 9:00pm in Gym D.

While we consider our meetings to be important events, the future of Britannia is of such supreme concern to so many residents that we feel obliged to ensure those many members of GHG who will want to participate in the Britannia discussions the ability to do so without distraction.

Our apologies to those looking forward to a resumption of GHG activities this month..

The first meeting of our new season will therefore begin at 7:00pm on October 19th at the Britannia Board Room, Napier Street.  We will post a more detailed message closer to that date.

 

Grandview Database v. 17

We have today uploaded a new and updated version of the Grandview Database.  

This version incorporates more than 1,250 new and amended data points since the previous release.

  • Another 250 households have been entered from the 1921 Census. The 1921 census included details of house structure & size, and a raft of high quality data on rents in the neighbourhood; We estimate that we are about half way through the data collection from this invaluable source.
  • An additional 500 entries completes the 1913 City Directory and has begun work on 1914.
  • About 500 additional Building Permits have been sifted from the goldmine that is the Heritage Vancouver database of early permits.
  • A small number of additional data points have been collected from contemporary real estate listings and miscellaneous sources.

We hope you find the Database of value, and we encourage and welcome corrections, and additions.

1358 Graveley

I am sure most readers will recall that last month we presented a plaque to Donato Calogero, the owner of 1350 Graveley, the oldest surviving house in Grandview.

Donato’s family also own the house next door, at 1358 Graveley, and it too has an interesting family history which has now been reported at the Vancouver Is Awesome website.

Many thanks to Donato for all his research on these two fascinating properties.

Grandview Database v 16

We have today uploaded a new and updated version of the Grandview Database.  

This version incorporates more than 2100 new and amended data points since the previous release.

  • Another 450 households have been entered from the 1921 Census. The 1921 census included details of house structure & size, and a raft of high quality data on rents in the neighbourhood;
  • An additional 700 entries almost completes the 1913 City Directory
  • About 475 new data points have been captured from miscellaneous references in the “Highland Echo” and similar sources covering the period 1901-1999;
  • A similar number of data points have been collected from the first 49 editions of “Changes On The Drive” covering the period from 2011 through 2015.

We hope you find the Database of value, and we encourage and welcome corrections, and additions.