Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Christmas memories from 60 years ago


In 1955 a young couple starting out in life together needed to have a place to live, a job and transportation. My parents began their married life in a one-bedroom apartment at 131 West 12th Avenue in Vancouver, in a three-storey house that is still standing.

1955 Jack Williams Apartment West 12th Ave

Jack and Susie Williams with their first their first Christmas tree 60 years ago. They couldn’t take selfies back then! Photos courtesy of Loretta Houben

They had the front apartment on the second floor and shared a bathroom with three people. The rent was $45 per month.

Susan Williams Christmas 1955My mom, Susie, grew up on a farm in Oregon so her move to the big city of 80,000 people in the Lower Mainland was a shock to the system, especially living on such a busy thoroughfare!

She commuted by bus to her job at Scotia Bank at the corner of Commercial and Broadway. My dad, Jack, drove the car to his job at the Douglass Paint Company on Granville Street.

That first Christmas was a cold one with snow. Jack and Susie visited the Woodward’s department store on Hastings Street, admiring the beautiful Christmas display windows.

They shopped at Woolworth’s across from Millar and Coe, also on Hastings, for their decorations, including the new bubble lights.

They bought a small Christmas tree for $1.25 from a tree lot on Commercial Street and set it up in their bedroom, as they had no living room. They bought modest small gifts for each other, and spent Christmas at Susie’s parent’s home in Oregon, driving down the one-lane highway to the USA.

They rarely ate out, and didn’t go on a cruise until their 40th anniversary in 1995. They never flew to Europe or Disneyland.

Between them, Jack and Susie earned enough to pay for food and rent. They also saved up for their first home, which they managed to buy in 1956—two lots at 4683 Union Street in Burnaby for the vast sum of $6,350. In 1959 they upgraded, for $9,000, to a two-bedroom house at Tyne and Euclid in Vancouver, where they lived until 1963.

With their growing family of daughters, they purchased a brand-new home for $14,500 at 3382 Monmouth Avenue, where they lived for 35 years.

What do you think? Would today’s young couples be able to purchase a single detached home with a yard after saving for one year like young people 60 years ago? Do you think times have improved since 1955?

Any way you look at it, I think my parents did a fantastic job of “pinching pennies” and making their married life work in the growing metropolis of Vancouver. In September 2015 they celebrated their 60th anniversary.

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Renfrew-Collingwood. She coordinators the RCC News’ Seniors Connection page.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Lunar New Year, Ramadan, Winter Solstice or other festivals of light, do you have a favourite holiday memory to share? We’d love to hear it! Email

Copyright (c) 2015 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca at Il Museo


Judith Praying in the Desert

Judith Praying in the Desert. Image courtesy of Il Museo and Lilian Broca

On November 12, 2015 at Il Museo in the Italian Cultural Centre, the contemporary artist Lilian Broca unveiled her new mosaic series Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca.

While the artistic genre of mosaic is an ancient art form, it is ultimately modern, even post-modern. Like a computer screen that relies upon diverse pixels to create an image, the image of the mosaic is based on a combination of small light reflecting coloured fragments. When organized and arranged by a skilled artist, these fragments of glass can not only create a complete picture, they can also recount an entire story.

In this mosaic series, Broca has masterfully arranged thousands of coloured glass tesserae to tell the story of Judith, a heroine from the ancient text of the Biblical Apocrypha.

Broca’s work brings to the attention of modern audiences the story of an ancient heroine who is as complex as she is contemporary. Traditionally, Judith has been represented by Renaissance artists such as Caravaggio, Botticelli, Orazio Gentileschi and his equally famous daughter, Artemisia Gentileschi Judith, as a seductive and violent woman who is a threat to the social order.

However, in pursuit of this depiction important elements in the Judith tale have been overlooked and Judith has been much misunderstood. For this reason Lilian Broca has revisited the Judith story in its entirety. From her more detailed examination, Judith is not simply a problematic woman, a virago, but a courageous and devout leader who single-handedly saves her community.

By depicting this heroine and her complete story, constructed from thousands of pieces of Venetian glass, Broca reveals a figure wholly modern in character. As such, Judith remains an archetypal figure who continues to fascinate and inspire. It is Broca’s new vision of Judith that makes her not only a heroine of the past, but also for the 21st century.

Angela Clarke, PhD, is the curator of Il Museo at the Italian Cultural Centre. The exhibition Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca runs until March 31, 2016. Museum hours are 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday.

Copyright (c) 2015 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Skytrain Rambler: The Seabus—A unique Vancouver experience



The view from the Seabus is amazing. Photos by Julie Cheng

The scene is a familiar one: silver-grey surroundings, the echoes of footsteps on the ramp, the sign counting down to the departure time. However, the voice is new.

It’s a rare fare check. “Please have your tickets ready for inspection,” said the transit employee.

Awakened by this change of routine, I showed my transit fare and proceeded to go through the turnstiles. Even though my commute takes 45 minutes to one hour to get home to East Vancouver, I look forward to this part of my commute—the 15-minute crossing from Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver to downtown Vancouver’s Waterfront Station. It is one of Lower Mainland’s most graceful and fulfilling urban experiences.

With the sharp toot of the Seabus’ horn, the sleek catamaran slowly makes its way out of the station and into the busy waters of Burrard Inlet. Inside the modern cabins of the newest Seabuses, the scene usually starts with an audiovisual reminder of the emergency evacuation procedures, but then gives way to one of the city’s most interesting people-watching scenes.

Seabus terminal

When you reach Waterfront, it’s worth checking out the beautiful Seabus building, which was originally a Canadian Pacific Railway Station.

During the afternoon, the scene is of commuters checking their smart phones, catching a quick nap or talking to coworkers on the journey home. For a more interesting scene, I prefer a night-time commute. While the night-time trips from the North Shore are not as frequent compared to the daylight hours, the scene is compelling. Subdued shift workers share the marine vessel with the North Shore’s bright young things dressed for the city’s nightlife, and it feels more spacious.

Outside the windows yields a dramatic urban panorama. To the north, you see the stately Coast Range Mountains green and verdant in summer, snowcapped and frequently shrouded in clouds in winter. There are familiar landmarks: the yellow piles of sulphur; the spinning Q of Lonsdale Quay market, the newish condominium towers sprouting around the Seabus terminal, the stoic, muscular grain elevators well to the east. To the west, you see the green oasis that is Stanley Park and the lattice work of Lions Gate Bridge linking downtown to West Vancouver.

Personally, I like sitting at the south end of the Seabus. I enjoy seeing the glass skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver, the graceful sails of Canada Place and the buzz of the seaplanes landing and taking off from the harbour waters. There is much dignity in this part of the transit commute: civilized conditions and some interesting scenery help make the journey home worthwhile.

Fat Duck

Worth checking out are the food trucks Fat Duck and Arturo’s near the Seabus building, at the corners of Cordova and Howe.

There is no doubt that this is a highly idealized view of the transit experience. You are reminded that our transit systems has its shortcomings upon arrival at Waterfront station: the broken escalator, large crowds and the occasional Skytrain breakdowns remind us that our transit infrastructure needs to be taken care of and expanded as the city’s population grows and changes.

ArturosHowever, the Seabus part of our transit system is one of the city’s most spectacular yet relatively inexpensive experiences. It easily rivals that of other cities that use the water for their transit system, such as Hong Kong and New York City. If you haven’t yet experienced a ride on the Seabus, a mere purchase of a transit ticket affords you this most unique experience of life in Vancouver.

From East Vancouver, travel to Waterfront Station on the Expo line, then transfer at Waterfront Station and follow the signs to the Seabus. Your transit fare is good for about 90 minutes.

John Mendoza has been a long-time resident of Renfrew Collingwood. His interests include travel and books.

Copyright (c) 2015 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News