Colin Preston looks through
CBC's film vault.
Looking Through CBC's Film Archives
says the Vancouver Historical Society, seeing King George
VI and Queen Elizabeth being driven down Georgia Street in 1939
as thousands line the sidewalks and cheer... and all in colour!
That’s one of the rare chunks of film shown February 22, 2007 at
the Vancouver Museum. Colin Preston, the CBC’s Vancouver archivist,
has a fine collection of film clips from the past, and this was
one of the VHS’s more enjoyable events of the year.
Local television came to Vancouver in 1953 when
the CBC opened its original studios at the corner of West Georgia
and Bute, but the archives go back much further. There is a variety
of footage of Vancouver and its residents, shot by professional
film companies and amateurs alike. Some of it covers major events
in the city, some is fascinating visual records of ordinary days
in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Curiously, for an organization devoted entirely
to history, the Vancouver Historical Society has no organized history
Thanks to the efforts of Elizabeth Walker, a longtime
member of VHS, its archivist, and a past president, minutes of the
earliest meetings of the Society—with some omissions—are preserved
at the City of Vancouver Archives.
From those minutes we can construct a rough picture
of the Society’s earliest days.
The Vancouver Historical Society began October 2,
1936 as the Vancouver Section of the British Columbia Historical
Association. That explains why virtually all of its earliest public
meetings dealt with subjects that had little or nothing to do with
Vancouver history! The history of the Cariboo, mining in northern
British Columbia, exploring the Kootenays . . . rarely did they
venture into the lower mainland.
That 1936 organizational meeting was held in King
Edward High School. The first president was Dr. W.N. Sage. It cost
$2 to join in that seventh year of the Great Depression. A quarterly
publication was already being issued by the BCHA. Its total circulation
was 485, with 185 of those going to the members of the Vancouver
A continuing problem in the earliest years of the
Society was finding a place for its public meetings. The first were
held in Harmony Hall at 1655 West Broadway. From there they moved
to the Hastings Mill Store (in Pioneer Park at the north foot of
Alma Street since 1930), then to Room 201 of the Hotel Vancouver.
On November 27, 1940 the Society found what would
prove to be a regular home in the small dining room of the Grosvenor
Hotel, which old-timers will recall was at 840 Howe Street, on the
east side of Howe a little south of Georgia. The manager, Edgar
Baynes, provided that space to the VHS free of charge. They were
there for at least 20 years.
A digression: Edgar Baynes was a partner with Alfred
Horie in the construction company that built the Grosvenor in 1913.
A severe economic depression (although not quite as severe as the
1929 version) hit B.C. just as the hotel was completed, and the
client couldn’t afford to keep it up. So the Baynes family took
over the hotel, and operated it successfully for many decades.
Prominent names pop up all through those early years:
Dr. Sage, of course, Judge F.W. Howay, Major J.S. Matthews, Dr.
Margaret Ormsby, newspaperman Roy Brown, Capt. Charles Cates, Norman
Hacking . . .
Exactly when the Vancouver Section of the BCHA became
the Vancouver Historical Society is still a little vague: the transition
happened during years in which the minutes are missing. Further
research will pinpoint the date.
And a final note: the Societys website,
crafted by board member Bruce Watson and maintained by Quasar
Design and Data Management is a rich treasure trove
of local history.
Hastings and Carrall Streets in 1907
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