As the City of Vancouver discusses the possibility of a subway along the Broadway corridor, it’s worth taking a look at Vancouver’s history of rail transit. 

Fifty-five years ago today, the last interurban tram ran between Marpole and Steveston, marking the end of nearly seven decades of rail-based public transit. 

The Arbutus-Steveston tram was called the Lulu Island line and was one of several interurban lines in the Lower Mainland. (They were called interurbans because they ran between cities.)

There were two lines that ran from Vancouver to New Westminster through Burnaby (the Central Park line and the Burnaby Lake line), a route that ran from New West to Marpole, and a line that went from New West to Chilliwack. SkyTrain’s Expo Line more or less follows the Central Park interurban route.

What happened to the trams when they stopped running? They were taken to the B.C. Electric yards by the Burrard Bridge and burnt.

More photos here

For the rest of the month of August, we celebrate the PNE!

The Pacific National Exhibition is a Vancouver summer tradition. It has been at Hastings “Exhibition” Park since 1910.  It’s landmark is the wooden rollercoaster, installed in 1958 and still used today.

Roller coaster at Exhibition Park
VPL Accession Number: 19145
Date: August 30, 1935
Photographer/Studio:Timms, Philip
Content Notes:  People walking past a roller coaster and a “West Coast Shows” trailer at Exhibition Park.


When former Vancouver Sun columnist Jack Scott died in 1980, his one-time colleague Pierre Berton called him “the most graceful writer I have known.”

Scott’s Our Town column anchored The Sun’s local section in the 1940s and ‘50s - his folksy approach made him the most popular Sun writer of his era, maybe of all time.

The Sun’s owner/publisher Robert Cromie certainly must have liked Scott a lot, because on May 31, 1950, Scott talked Cromie into sending him on the mother of all road trips: a cross-Canada drive with his family in a woody wagon, towing an Airstream trailer.

“Nearly everyone these days seems to have an urge to escape from the routine of day-to-day living,” Scott wrote at the outset of the journey.

“We’ve had applications from more than a hundred would-be gypsies to join our expedition, from baby-sitters to cooks.”

The opening-day photo showed Scott, his wife Grace (who he called “Brown Eyes”) and their daughters Judy and Jill, taking in the view at Brockton Point before heading off down the TransCanada Highway.

Standing in front of their handsome woody wagon, the Airstream and a totem pole in the background, the family looked like the model for an all-Canadian family.

Scott shot the rapids near Revelstoke, hung out with mountain goats in Lake Louise, and almost melted in the sweltering heat of the Prairies. He complained about the poor roads in Saskatchewan, talked to farmers about a flood in Manitoba, and fell in love with Quebec City.

It was the kind of trip everyone dreams of making, but can’t, because it takes an eternity. It took Scott four months to make it across the country to Peggy’s Cove, N.S., where daughter Judy poured a bottle of water from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic.

The plan was to sell the trailer and drive quickly back across Canada, but there wasn’t a big market for trailers in Halifax in October, so Scott and family turned south to continue his travelogue for Sun readers through Boston, New York, New Orleans, San Antonio and Phoenix. Unfortunately, Scott caught viral pneumonia in California.

When the family limped back to Vancouver in mid-December, they had travelled 28,140 kilometres in seven months, enduring 16 flat tires (12 on the car, four on the trailer) along the way.

-John Mackie, Vancouver Sun


There were two World’s Fairs held in the United States in 1939 — one in New York, and one in San Francisco. British Columbia decided to have a showcase at the latter, which opened on Feb. 18.

It was located in the Western States Building, and was decorated with very 1939 images of BC — stuffed moose heads, stuffed ram heads, a stuffed ram, a stuffed bear, and some mounted salmon. Amid all the taxidermy was one of the great lost classics of Canadian art — a 12-part mural depicting a “specialized and typical form of British Columbian industrial, social or sporting life.

Sadly, the mural vanished after the fair closed. Ian Thom of the Vancouver Art Gallery thinks it was probably destroyed.

Full story here


What I learned at the archives today: This song was written by a Vancouver named nurse Carmen Elizabeth Clarke in the late 1940s and that Chuck Davis had owned the original sheet music.

Doris Day has a rendition of the song as well.

For more info:

The Society for the Preservation of Historic Revelry will resume its unique series of dining events, known as the Arthur Erickson Dinner Series, on March 14th, 2014 at 6:30pm.

This Official Expedition, the Society’s 5th, began in the fall of 2013 with a mandate to dine, toast, and party at Arthur Erickson Projects throughout British Columbia.

Dinner#2 will be hosted at Simon Fraser University, a project that has seen its fair share of controversy, love, and hate due to its remote and austere location rumored to be a contributing factor in a high campus suicide rate.

Our members specifically chose this early Spring date to explore the project in potentially challenging weather so that we could put this rumour, and our commitment to connecting past to present through revelry to the test.

Learn about the Arthur Erickson Dinner Series

RSVP to dinner #2

Contribute to our research up until March 14th by sharing photos, video, and other media by tagging it with the expedition’s hashtag:




“Siwash Rock (also known as Skalsh or Slah-kay-ulsh; Squamish) is a famous rock outcropping in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada’s Stanley Park. A legend among the Indigenous Squamish surrounds the origin of the rock. It is between 15 and 18 metres tall (50–60 feet).

About 32 million years ago, a volcanic dike formed in the sedimentary rock that forms the foundation of the park (sandstone and mudstone). Magma was forced to the surface through a fissure in the Earth’s crust creating the basalt stack, which is more resistant to erosion that the softer sandstone cliffs. Siwash Rock is the only such sea stack in the Vancouver area.

Originally known to mariners as Nine Pin Rock for its vague resemblance to a bowling pin, the Squamish name for the rock is Slahkayulsh, meaning "he is standing up.” The hole in the rock was where Slahkayulsh kept his fishing tackle, according to Andrew Paull. In Legends of Vancouver, poet Pauline Johnson relates a Squamish legend of how a man was transformed into Siwash Rock “as an indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood.” A plaque near the rock (pictured) states that it is “Skalsh the unselfish,” who was transformed by “Q'uas the transformer” as a reward for unselfishness.

There is some controversy over the name of the rock. “Siwash” is a Chinook Jargon word for a person of First Nations or Native American heritage. Though the word ‘siwash’ in the jargon did not necessarily have a negative connotation and was used by native peoples themselves, its etymology can be traced to the French word “sauvage,” which means wild or undomesticated. The word is considered by some to be derisive, but remains in use in certain placenames and other contexts without derogatory associations, as with Siwash Rock, Siwash Sweater, etc.

Up on the cliffs overlook Siwash Rock is a lookout point off the Siwash hiking trail. While today it is an ideal spot for park users to admire the scenery, it was known as “Fort Siwash” during the wars. An artillery battery was mounted there in the First World War, as were searchlights in the next war. A runaway mountain goat, according to park board lore, lived free in this area for almost a year in the mid-1960s until he was hit by a car and died in another area in the park. Also residing in this area, until he was arrested shortly after the Second World War, was a man living in a nearby cave for a 17 year period interrupted only by his service overseas to fight in the war.

The small Douglas fir atop Siwash Rock that helped make it such a distinctive landmark for the first generations of Vancouverites did not survive the exceptionally dry summer of 1965. An article on the tree’s passing in the Vancouver Sun reads more like an obituary than news story, quoting former Vancouver Member of Parliament, H. H. Stevens as saying “I’ve known that tree for about 68 years now and I’m sorry the tree has died because it was one of our main attractions in Stanley Park.” A park superintendent felt sure that it was “virtually impossible to establish another fir up on the rock from a young plant.” Less than three years later, however, while park crews were still working to restore the park’s forest from the devastation of Typhoon Freda, persistent efforts were rewarded when new saplings finally began taking root.