Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Carleton School House: Green Thumb to the rescue

Theatre company campaigns to rebuild historic Collingwood school

Carleton School House

Patrick McDonald, artistic director of Green Thumb Theatre, unveiled drawings of how the Carleton School House could look as soon as the fall of 2012. Photos by Paul Reid

BY PAUL REID

To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News, we’re revisiting past stories that have particularly inspired us. This article was first published in October 2011.
My favourite story from the RCC News is about the Green Thumb Theatre. I like stories about local buildings being revitalized.
− Adena Lee

It looks as though the 115-year-old Carleton School House, which has been vacant and deteriorating since being gutted by fire in April 2008, will indeed be saved from the wrecking ball. The Green Thumb Theatre has come to a deal with the Vancouver school board to lease the building from the school board for 20 years as their new headquarters.

Green Thumb Theatre will need to raise approximately 1.2 million dollars to transform the currently burnt-out building into a restored version of its original self with two rehearsal halls, washrooms and a green room. The theatre company also plans to refurbish an adjacent building, “the barn”―built in 1908, to house its offices.

The theatre company creates and performs theatre works aimed at children, teens and young adults, to allow students to learn more about educational theatre programs. Green Thumb has had shows on Broadway and the Sydney Opera House, its works translated into 14 languages and plays performed by over 200 theatre companies throughout the world.

The Green Thumb solution came after much work by heritage advocates.

The capital campaign was launched at the Carleton site on September 13. Lead by Patrick McDonald, artistic director, speakers that day included Pat Munton, principal of Sir Guy Carleton Elementary School; Patti Bacchus, board chair of the Vancouver school board; Kerry Jang, City of Vancouver councillor; Donald Luxton, Heritage Vancouver; and Adrian Dix, leader of the BC New Democratic Party and our local MLA.

Bobbi Senft and Jackie McHugh

Also present were Bobbi Senft and Jackie McHugh. Longtime activists of local heritage protection, their family members have attended Carleton Elementary for five generations, since 1905.

All of the speakers were thrilled about the win-win partnership. “We’ll have a restored building, the community will have its heart back and we’ll have this fantastic theatre program,” said Patti Bacchus.

“We’re delighted because Green Thumb Theatre will be restoring our much-cherished heritage schoolhouse to its original splendour and beyond,” said Pat Munton, the school’s principal. “It’s just amazing, it brings tears to my eyes.”

Adrian Dix declared it a “wonderful day” and kicked off the campaign by donating $1,000.

Initially, Green Thumb hopes to receive $150,000 as part of a cultural infrastructure grant from the city. This would allow for the replacement of the roof, whose current tarps are covering a big hole. Green Thumb will also apply for $450,000 from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

This would leave $400,000 still to raise, an amount that Green Thumb is positive they can. If all goes to plan, the theatre company would be moving into the renovated school building by fall 2012.

Learn more about Green Thumb Theatre at greenthumb.bc.ca. You can also find Green Thumb on Facebook.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Ancient cedar’s journey home

Blessing of the ancient cedar photo

Blessing of the ancient cedar. Photo by Andrea Berneckas

BY ANDREA BERNECKAS

On June 25, 2018, community members gathered in front of Collingwood Neighbourhood House to share in the blessing of the cedar log. The event was honoured by the presence of Councillor Morgan Guerin of the Musqueam band as well a performance by Tsatsu Stalqayu (Coastal Wolf Pack).

Elder Jewel Thomas offered a blessing on behalf of the community and Jennifer Gray-Grant, executive director of Collingwood Neighbourhood House, explained the importance of this project to the community.

After the blessing and acknowledgements, participants were invited to join participants of the Families Branching Out program as they celebrated with a wonderful salmon dinner.

Lead carver Gerry Sheena has had a long creative partnership with the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. His work can be found at the 29th Avenue SkyTrain station (Guardian of the Park), CNH (Multicultural Gateway) and Synala Co-op, to name a few projects.

Gerry is joined by apprentices Yvette Muskego, Roxanne Charles and Veronica Rose Waechter Danes. Local youth will be assisting at the site.

Gerry explained the significance of the animals in the design:

The Eagle perches and watches from the highest point of the carving and represents both home and journey. She is always soaring and finding new places to rest along her way. Eagle is nesting Eaglet in her lap to say that although Eagle travels widely, she is rooted in her home and family.

Bear is the protector, supporting Eagle and Eaglet from below with strength and wisdom. Bear is the guardian of the forests and streams.

Bear holds Salmon out front. The artist holds great respect for Salmon because Salmon feeds everything in the forest. Salmon always returns home to begin the cycle of Life. Salmon appears in all of Gerry’s work.

Carving begins on the cedar log

Carving begins on the cedar log. Photo by Nathaniel Frank Piché

The carving is made of a 600-year-old red cedar tree. This ancient tree’s journey is intricately intertwined with our community’s journey. Red Cedar found its way to us to support the carver and apprentices in their journey to reveal the spirit of this ancient being for all of our community.

Once carved, Red Cedar will find a new home, standing solidly and firmly at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House Annex as a guardian and emblem of all of our journeys. Red Cedar’s presence will prompt us to feel rooted in our places together, here in this beautiful land, to honour all of the stories that led us to this place we call home.

In October community members will be invited to join in a parade and blessing as the pole travels to its new home at the Annex.

Please drop by and check out the carving project. If you would like to schedule a group visit to learn more, contact Andrea at aberneckas@cnh.bc.ca.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Annual Moon Festival lights up Renfrew-Collingwood

MOON FESTIVAL POSTER 2018

16th Annual Renfrew Ravine Harvest Moon Festival, Saturday, September 22, 2018

BY JUNE LAM

The annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival is back for the 16th year on Saturday, September 22, 2018!

A free event packed full of family fun, live music and art, the Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival has something for everyone. Each year, the festival attracts upwards of 5,000 participants from local East Vancouver neighbourhoods to enjoy displays of colour, light and music that pay homage to one of the last vestiges of urban forest in the city.

Co-produced by Still Moon Arts Society and the Renfrew Park Community Association, the festival celebrates the harvest abundance and the full moon.

The festival spans the afternoon and evening, going from a harvest celebration during the day to a lantern festival at night. As dusk gathers, a procession will form along the banks of the ravine, featuring lighted lanterns beautifully hand crafted by local artists, community members and students.

MOON FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

Harvest Fair: 4–7 pm
Slocan Park

The Moon Festival kicks off with the Harvest Fair, a home-grown harvest competition featuring entries by local gardeners of some of Renfrew-Collingwood’s best fruits, vegetables and flowers. Enter for a chance to win some awesome prizes! Alongside the presentations will be live music and food. You can also explore the booths of local organizations, artisans and non-profit groups from the community.

Twilight Lantern Walk: 7–7:30 pm
Slocan Park to Renfrew Park

The Twilight Lantern Walk is a sunset parade from Slocan Park to Renfrew Park. Festival-goers will light their own lanterns and walk the trails along the ravine, serenaded by live music as darkness falls. Passing by the river-stone labyrinth, you will be invited to join in a walking meditation surrounded by music and light. The parade will pass by art installations and maybe even surprise performances until it reaches Renfrew Park.

Lantern Festival: 7:30–8:45 pm
Renfrew Park

At nightfall, time slows down as you take in the beauty of candlelight, exquisite lanterns, ethereal music and the shimmering stream. Just outside of the stream, you will find musicians playing at the main stage, a Tea Garden full of delicious treats for you to enjoy and a final spectacle featuring dancing, stilting, fire spinning and fireworks.

PRE-FESTIVAL LANTERN WORKSHOPS

Take part in public lantern-making workshops prior to the festival. For a small fee, you can come out to the Collingwood Neighbourhood House Annex (on Vanness Avenue between Boundary and Ormidale) or Slocan Park Fieldhouse (at Slocan and East 29th Avenue) to make a lantern to bring along to the twilight walk!

Sept. 10, 11: Salmon Lanterns (47 pm) at Collingwood Neighbourhood House Annex
Cost: $25

Sept. 12, 13: Bird Lanterns (47 pm) at Collingwood Neighbourhood House Annex
Cost: $25

Sept. 8, 15: Bird-Themed Community Art Installation (14 pm) at Slocan Park Fieldhouse
Cost: By donation

Sept. 17, 18: Globe Lanterns (47 pm) at Slocan Park Fieldhouse
Cost: $15

Sept. 19, 20: Glass Jar Lanterns (47 pm) at Slocan Park Fieldhouse
Cost: $10

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES

Mooncake Workshops

Reserve your spot by calling 604-435-0323 or paying in person at Collingwood Neighbourhood House front desk.

Sept. 7 at 10:30 am–12:30 pm (Chinese)
Sept. 11 at 5:30–7:30 pm (English)
Where: Collingwood Neighbourhood House Annex
Cost: Pay-What-You-Can, suggested donation $20

Moon Music (57 pm)

Sept. 10: Renfrew Park Community Centre
Sept. 14: Collingwood Neighbourhood House Annex
Sept. 17: Slocan Park

For more information, visit stillmoon.org or Facebook @stillmoonarts.

June Lam is a long-time resident of Renfrew-Collingwood and the communications coordinator for Still Moon Arts Society.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark

Collingwood Library

An extraordinary photo of Vancouver Public Library’s Collingwood branch as it appeared before its opening in early July 1951. The glass expanse at the front of the building has since been covered up in a subsequent renovation. Source: Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections, VPL 8856

BY JOHN MENDOZA

This story by John Mendoza reflects his passion for architecture. He brings to life a little-known gem in our neighbourhood with meticulous research and tremendous detail.
I love getting stories like these in my inbox.
John Mendoza tells us that this news story from October 2010 was used by Heritage Vancouver to help defend the library’s inclusion on the 2011 Top Ten Endangered Places list. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation lists Collingwood Library as one of its Places That Matter.
− Julie Cheng, editor

Located at the northwest corner of Kingsway and Rupert Street, the Collingwood branch of the Vancouver Public Library is a colourful hub of activity. However, this humble library branch holds a secret pedigree that elevates it above the 22 other branch libraries in Vancouver.

Unknown to most citizens of Vancouver, the architectural design of the Collingwood branch was designed by two celebrated British Columbian architects and could be the most important example of Modernist architecture found in East Vancouver.

Opened in July 1951, Collingwood Library’s design influenced its community in profound ways. Designed by local architects Harold Semmens and Douglas Simpson, the new building presented a friendly face to the neighbourhood.

In contrast to the imposing, old world bulk of the Carnegie branch at Hastings and Main, the design of Collingwood branch was firmly contemporary. The design reflects the spirit and work of famous Modernist architects: the glass expanse at the front alluded to Mies van der Rohe, the use of stone a reference to Marcel Breuer, the low ceiling entrance an influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. (According to Douglas Simpson’s son, Gregg Simpson, the architect studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona.)

Yet due to its “effective scaling and proportioning,” the building presented a welcoming and accessible face to the local community.

According to one source, shortly after its grand opening, Collingwood branch recorded the highest circulation of materials for kids of any branch library in the Vancouver library system. If the architects wanted to create an open and approachable civic building, they succeeded.

The impact of Semmens and Simpson’s branch library design was far-reaching; it influenced the local and even regional architectural scene. The new design quickly attracted the curious, and it soon turned into the most visited Modernist building in Vancouver.

Its influence can even be felt in successive library projects such as M. E. Uttley’s Okanagan Regional Library (1955) and Kenneth Sandbrook’s New Westminster Library (1958).

Because of their work on the Collingwood branch library, Semmens and Simpson were commissioned to design the new central branch of Vancouver Public Library in 1954. Debuting in 1957, their new Modernist library building at Robson and Burrard Street earned praise for its design, winning the 1958 Massey Medal for excellence in Canadian architecture.

Despite this illustrious history, there are no guarantees for this Modernist landmark in East Vancouver. Due to budgetary constraints, the library itself almost closed during the 1990s. Moreover, the history of preserving heritage buildings and Modernist architecture in Vancouver has not been positive. (Ironically, Semmens and Simpson’s award-winning 1957 central library design has lost much of its Modernist features due to a renovation in the last decade.)

In a recent conversation, Gregg Simpson complained about the lurid blue paint that has been slapped on the exterior of Collingwood branch library. Ideally, the original colour of the building should be retained. As Gregg emphatically states, “To restore it to the original colour would be a great service to his legacy.”

Early photos of the building contrasted with the current condition of the building suggest that successive renovations have not been respectful of its architectural status.

The Collingwood branch therefore deserves consideration for its significance in the architectural  design history of Vancouver. It exists as an east side example of local Modernist architecture designed by two acclaimed architects.

If it meets the criteria, the building should immediately be added to the Vancouver Heritage Registry as a rare example of Modernist architecture in East Vancouver.

As the library approaches its 60th anniversary in 2011, recognition is overdue. It would be nice if the library’s building design, layout and interior furnishings could be spruced up in the Modernist spirit, sensitive of course to the library staff and patron Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark needs and to budgetary constraints.

Certainly the original colour should be restored and the signage could echo that of 1950s typography. At the very least, proper maintenance should be enforced.

For example, during Vancouver’s general civic strike of 2007, a vehicle crashed into the building, causing damage to the brick work. As of late August 2010, the brick-work damage remains and can still be seen just right of the main entrance.

The library and city should set an example for celebrating the city’s heritage architecture and design, especially in a humble  neighbourhood like Renfrew-Collingwood. Refurbishing this building and many other heritage landmarks in our area is an important step in the preservation of our shared history  and the first step of cultivating an identity for Renfrew-Collingwood. However, it will only occur if the whole community shares this aspiration and does its best to discuss this with others who can help in this goal.

John Mendoza has lived in Collingwood for almost 30 years. He is a teacher and aspiring writer. His interests include travel, reading, art and architecture. First published in the October 2010 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

 


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Cambodia

Cambodia Robert Edwards

Photos courtesy of Robert F. Edwards

BY ROBERT F. EDWARDS

My dear friends and readers, I would like to share with you my visit once again to Cambodia. This time I was not travelling alone as a single backpacker, but was with a group of well-established charity organizations. One charity was the Developing World Connections, and the other a worldwide organization known as World Vision.

To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News, we’re revisiting past stories that have particularly inspired us.
Among our ongoing contributors over the years has been the very personable Robert F. Edwards, who wrote engaging stories, offered his opinions and educated readers on various topics. The personal accounts of his travels around the world through his charity work has been inspiring. This particular story from July 2013 stood out for me as Robert talked about his experiences working with aid organizations to influence communities and bring personal joy to his own life. ─ Lisa Symons, sales and distribution

During my time spent with Developing World Connections, I had the opportunity and privilege of working alongside tradesmen and farmers in the southern part of Cambodia around Kep. This area, like most of Cambodia, is extremely poor and the farmers have no electricity or toilet facilities, just to mention a few things which they lack. Developing World Connections built not only two latrines but then went on for an irrigation system and completed smaller diversions to irrigate fields for the crops that are desperately needed. One of the most important of these crops is rice. It was a wonderful experience to help these farmers have a better life in the bare essentials that we take for granted.

The second part of my trip was equally, if not more, rewarding for me personally. I was given the opportunity by World Vision to visit four of my sponsored children in Cambodia. Along with this opportunity, I also shared some of the remarkable things that World Vision is doing. One was going to a school and talking to over 300 children about Canada. This general area has over 2,400 sponsored children through World Vision.

My most important part of my visit to Cambodia was to visit my wonderful sponsored children and their siblings as well as the mothers. My first child was from a district that the mother and daughter had to travel on one bicycle over eight kilometres with the temperature exceeding 34°C. I had a wonderful time (through an interpreter) sharing these precious moments with this wonderful girl and her mother. It made all of us realize and especially me this precious young girl was not just a face on a photograph.

Cambodia 2 Robert EdwardsIn the following days, thanks again to World Vision’s help, I visited my other three sponsored children who are much younger. The mothers and the siblings of these three children accompanied them on a long journey from one of the outposts in the district that World Vision was operating.

After sharing a considerable time with some things that I’d brought from Canada, the three children along with their mothers and siblings and World Vision personnel with myself all went to a Chinese smorgasbord. It was here when we sat down and started to enjoy the food that one of the World Vision’s personnel said to me, “you have a large family.”

We all had a good laugh for I lost count of how many children along with the three mothers were gathered around me. Walking up to the buffet, the little girl grabbed my hand and the little boy took my other hand and led the way. I truly felt not as a sponsor but as a grandfather enjoying my grandchildren.

The reason I’ve written this is not only to share sponsorships but relationships. Though these children and their parents were unable to communicate on a common language, we shared the most important thing that people can share in their lives together: happiness and love from all that were present.

Robert F. Edwards is a local resident who sometimes writes for the RCC News as The Other Guy’s Opinion.

Copyright (c) 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Youth Celebrate Canada Day 2018

Family fun for everyone – Sunday, July 1, Renfrew Park Community Centre

Young and old alike took part in a community dance at Youth Celebrate Canada Day last July 1st. Photo by Vincent Wu

Young and old alike took part in a community dance at Youth Celebrate Canada Day last July 1st. Photo by Vincent Wu

BY GABRIELLE PARMAN AND ANGUS HO

Are you seeking something fun to take part in on July 1st? Youth Celebrate Canada Day (YCCD) is back for its 22nd year to bring yet another festive, fun-filled event to the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood.

YCCD is an annual festival organized by youth from Windermere Secondary School to celebrate Canada Day at Renfrew Park. This is a family-friendly festival that brings the Renfrew-Collingwood community together in a day of joyous celebration. The event consists of stage performances and entertainment, carnival games, food concession, arts and crafts activities, and community organization booths.

This year’s entertainment will include acts such as vocal and instrumental performances, cultural dances and other displays of talent like martial arts. In our entertainment sector, we have made a commitment to promote cultural diversity and a greater sense of connectedness in our community. At YCCD, you will see the talent of community groups from a variety of different cultures.

This year, we are also incorporating interactive dances, food-eating contests and other festivities into our stage acts. By giving you fun and exciting ways to participate in the event, we hope to create a strong, lasting sense of community during and after the festival!

Children will have a superb time at the festival – whether participating in the carnival-style games to win prizes, getting their faces painted or jumping up and down on the bouncy castle.

While you are at the festival, why not check out some of our community booths? This year, YCCD has invited a number of different organizations within the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood and beyond, in order to showcase the excellent work that is done in our community.

Finally, don’t forget about the food! Make your experience at YCCD complete by swinging by the concession stand for a quick bite, a cold drink or a tasty treat.

Youth Celebrate Canada Day is planned and organized by a group of youth from Windermere Secondary School. The YCCD Core Committee is excited to bring this festival to you once again this year. We hope that you are just as excited to attend this joyous event. Through this year’s festivities, Youth Celebrate Canada Day aims to reflect the cultural diversity of our community and connect community members of all generations by creating positive, lasting memories for you all. We hope to see you at Renfrew Park on July 1st!

Copyright (c) 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Family tree tips for creating a memory box

Loretta Houben created this memory box as a tribute to her grandma Helen.

Loretta Houben created this memory box as a tribute to her grandma Helen.

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

A fun way to keep your family history alive is to create a memory box. Many sizes of boxes are available and can be purchased from Michael’s craft stores, Dollarama or Winner’s Homesense. They range in price from $3 to $25.

The focal point of the box could be a favourite photo or a personal keepsake. In my case I chose the earliest photo available of my maternal grandma, Helen Brutke. She was a talented seamstress so I lined the back of the box with fabric similar to the era in which she did most of her sewing.

I glued the fabric to the back of the box and added lace, which I had purchased years ago at my grandma’s favourite fabric store in Salem, Oregon. I included vintage buttons and a scrap of antique lace from her button box.

I played around with where to place the framed photo and the other items, and had fun while doing so! Whenever I look at this special memory box, I wish I had been able to know Grandma Helen, but she died when I was 10 days old. In this way I can’t forget her, thankful that I inherited her love of sewing.

A memory box also makes a wonderful gift for a loved one. (Remember Mother’s Day is on May 11th!) For my dad’s 80th birthday I bought a large box and included photos from all decades of his life, embellished the photos with scrap book images from the dollar store, and used coloured lettering from Michael’s craft store. It was fun to choose the pictures that represented his long life.

This year I’m working on a very special project to celebrate the upcoming First World War centenary. My great uncle, William Williams, who I wrote about in the April 2014 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News Family Tree Tips article, died after being wounded in battle in Salonika, Greece in 1917.

I plan to use a larger memory box and include a photo, a copy of his war medal card, photo copies of Salonika, a photocopy of the newspaper clipping describing his bravery in battle, and possibly his original war medal which was sent to his family after his death. (If I can coerce it from my dad’s possession.)

Visual mementos are a lovely way to keep the memory of our relatives alive, especially if they lived long ago or are ones you never met. Younger generations will appreciate the care and thought which went into making them, and one day they will be precious family heirlooms.

Next month’s installment will focus on searching old journals or diaries, notebooks and even receipts for family clues.

Loretta Houben is a member of the British Columbia Genealogy Society and enjoys finding ways to keep her family history alive and well. Please check the society’s website at www.bcgs.ca for free meet-ups once a month. First published in the May 2014 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright (c) 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News