Vancouver History: Oddities

Comments 14 by Rebecca Bollwitt

I’m a nut for trivia and lesser-known facts. I also love feeding my brain with all kinds of nuggets of information especially when it comes to our fair region. I recently found a new section of my favourite Vancouver history website that features “Oddities“: bits of news that probably weren’t news at the time, but are certainly entertaining (and somewhat puzzling) nowadays. Here’s a sample:

  • People were a lot more brave 50 years ago, “On December 22, 1958 a French adventurer completed a swim of the Fraser River from Prince George to New Westminster’s Pattullo Bridge. (NOTE: in December!)”
  • One of my first blog pieces that I sought to write about was regarding the Nine O’clock Gun, “In 1898, on October 15, the Nine O’Clock Gun was fired for the first time in Stanley Park . . . at noon.”
  • Yikes! “In 1925 a Vancouver branch of the Ku Klux Klan, the racist organization that had originated in the southern USA, used the Tait Mansion in Shaughnessy (aka Glen Brae) as their headquarters. Rent was $150 a month. Today that building is the children’s hospice, Canuck Place.”
  • We’ve filled in a lot of what used to be ocean and waterways around here ie. False Creek, “In 1924 Lansdowne Track in Richmond opened, named for a former Governor General. The peat bog on which the track was built acted like a sponge and horses ran slower at high tide.”
  • On March 29, 1949 the sale of margarine was approved. However, the lobbying dairy industry who feared that sales would hurt the butter industry, urged that it be sold yellow and not white like butter. When it hit store shelves on April 22nd, margarine in Vancouver was sold white, in bags, with a colour pill that had to be popped and kneaded in to make it yellow.
  • “In 1909 Vancouver took its first mechanized ambulance out for a test drive and ran over and killed an American tourist.”
  • Ever wondered just how many tunnels there are under this city? “In 1965 the tunnel at Vancouver’s main Post Office, built to carry mail to the CPR station, was closed permanently for that purpose, having proved impractical. It will be used for storage and creepy movie scenes.”
  • “In 1930 a world record for egg-laying was set by No Drone, No. 5H, a hen from the Whiting farm in Surrey. She had laid 357 eggs in 365 days. No Drone was preserved for posterity and her stuffed form put on display at the World Poultry Congress in Rome.”
  • There’s always a petition to be signed in Vancouver (and now on Facebook) and back in 1947 it was about candy bars. School children circulated a petition calling for an end to wartime taxes on candy. As a result, the price of chocolate bars dropped from 8 cents to 7 cents.
  • This might make you feel better about our gloomy spring so far. Rain poured down on January 6, 1953 and didn’t stop for 29 days. It’s still Vancouver’s longest wet spell.
  • The Vancouver Grizzlies were a semi-professional football team that only played one season, in 1941.
  • I’d still buy my CD’s there if I could, “In 1958 a man named Fred Steiner sold his Toronto radio store and moved to Vancouver. He opened a shop here, and called it A&B Sound. Why A&B? A&A was taken. True story.”

All of these and more can be found in the Oddities section of Vancouver History.

14 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. MitchThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 11:06am PST

    It’s funny…

    I’d heard alot of those stories from my Gram; especially about the tunnels and of the current home of Canucks Place.

  2. carolbrowneThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 11:14am PST

    The KKK? I had no idea. Great info! Thanks!

  3. deganThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 11:21am PST

    wow, what a great resource! i love hearing about odd little trivia like that.

  4. Duane StoreyThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 11:43am PST

    I remember getting the little things from inside pop caps in chilliwack and winning discounts to A&B sound. Of course, being a kid in chilliwack, I had no idea what an A&B sound was.

  5. Keira-AnneThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 11:58am PST

    Someone once told me there’s an underground tunnel between what’s now the Macaroni Grill on Davie and Balthazar. Apparently Macaroni Grill used to be a hang-out for wealthy criminals, and Balthazar a boarding school for girls. I heard that when the boarding school was low on funds, the headmistress would shuffle her girls in the tunnel to the mansion and rent them out to the wealthy men there.

  6. Miss604Thursday, January 24th, 2008 — 11:59am PST

    Yeah I heard there was also a tunnel from the Macaroni Grill mansion down to English Bay that was only recently cut off (last 20 years or so)

  7. TodThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 1:32pm PST

    Up until a few years ago, you still used to be able to turn on and off the huge Bow-Mac neon sign on Broadway using a switch on the back (obscured by the goatfuckers at Toys-R-Us. Who fuck goats).

  8. Jeremy LimThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 1:36pm PST

    Hah, I loved the Nine O’Clock Gun story. Thanks for the list!

  9. RaulThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 2:27pm PST

    You’d be surprised to know that there was a leather tannery in Mount Pleasant (near Broadway and Main). I’ve learned a few other oddities about my neighbourhood (which I should write up and send you as a guest blog post!)

  10. teflonjediThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 7:14pm PST

    Oh dear, did something happen to A&B Sound in my long absence???

  11. fotoeinsThursday, January 24th, 2008 — 9:56pm PST

    It’ll be interesting to see with the current and future expansions to Skytrain where secondary and emergency trackwork and tunnels will go (and then promptly disappear from the public eye).

    As a kid, I remember parts of rail tracks in the middle of streets within the brick-embedded pavement in Chinatown/East Vancouver.

  12. Derek K. MillerSaturday, January 26th, 2008 — 1:35pm PST

    As for all the fill land, take a look at what would be flooded (i.e. pretty much all of Richmond and Delta, lots of other places too) if sea levels rise 4 m (Google Maps mashup).

    Also, there is a rail tunnel few people know about that runs from the train bridge at Second Narrows right underneath northwest Burnaby. It emerges near the McDonald’s HQ by Brentwood, near Hwy 1.

    And is the tunnel under the Post Office the same one now used by the SkyTrain?

  13. Derek K. MillerSaturday, January 26th, 2008 — 1:38pm PST

    Oh, and if you look at the Google Map for the area around Tinseltown, you can see the diagonal line where the railway used to run across Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside to the waterfront. The main axis of the mall atrium follows what used to be the railroad right of way.

  14. Vancouver History: Tidbits and Park Notes » Vancouver Blog Miss 604Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 — 8:31am PDT

    […] that my last few posts were pretty bullet-pointed so I apologize for yet another. The first Vancouver History: Oddities entry was well-received so here’s […]

Also on