Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Collingwood Corner: Renfrew Auto Camp

RenfrewAutoCamp1930s

Vintage postcard image found online, circa 1930s. Located at 3690 Renfrew from 1927–1946. Image courtesy of Loretta Houben

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

The lure of the open road in the summer months beckons to all who are ready for fun and adventure! Even when automobiles were new, people wished to pack up and go exploring. The Model T Ford car was available for purchase in 1908, 110 years ago, although at first the ordinary working man couldn’t afford a car.

By the 1920s, automobile ownership and use increased, especially for holiday travel. The price had fallen dramatically so more people were choosing to buy a car, and the concept of camping with one became popular.

According to the 1927 BC Directories, there were a total of 11 auto camps in Vancouver and the vicinity, including one in Central Park in Burnaby, which “provided every facility for the convenience of motorists.”
One such camp existed from 1927 to 1946 in the Collingwood area. After finding a Renfrew Auto camp postcard image online, I turned to the BC Directories for more information.

The Renfrew Auto Camp was listed at 21st Avenue and Renfrew. In 1930 the address was listed as 3690 Renfrew. Edgerly Payne along with J. Flander were the first owners. I checked out where Edgerly Payne lived, and was surprised to discover he lived at 3177 East 22nd Avenue, a few blocks from the camp. In 1945 my paternal grandparents bought this house, and my dad grew up there.

In later years, Mrs. K. Ellen Leighs was the proprietor of the camp, remaining until 1946, the last year the camp existed. When auto camps first became popular, tents were available, then cabins or bungalows. A common open space, or court, provided safety and a place to park the car.

Motels, a word combining motor and hotel, took over and became popular in the 1960s. Kingsway had a number of motel courts. You can see the last remaining auto court motel, built in 1946, at 2400 Kingsway near Nanaimo. The name, 2400 Court Motel, reflects the address. There are tiny white bungalows on a green lawn on three acres with picnic tables and a place to park your car. For more information, you can read about the history of auto courts on this website.

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Collingwood and a frequent contributor to the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Collingwood’s humble kitchen expert

Barry Londry and Esther Yuen

Barry Londry tells writer Esther Yuen his story at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House community kitchen. Photo by Julie Cheng

BY ESTHER YUEN

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 January 2013.
I got to learn about Barry’s rich and fascinating backstory. He’s a significant contributor to this community and it was an honour to interview him.
− Esther Yuen, writer

Barry Londry stands out from the crowd, literally. At six feet tall, he towers over most people in the Collingwood  neighbourhood, yet his warm smile and kind words put people around him at ease.

Barry’s a humble expert in the kitchen and can be often found tending shrubs in the Cheyenne community gardens. He’s also well known to improvise and create delightful dishes out of discarded food materials.

Just like these dishes, Barry could have easily thrown away parts of his life, but chose to create a meaningful life for himself that has positively impacted those around him.

You see, Barry had a thriving career as a chef―but this all of this came crashing down one day.

Years before Chef Barry joined the Renfrew Collingwood Food Security  Institute, Barry was just another kid growing up in the Vancouver eastside  neighbourhood called Diaper Hill. His parents, who moved here from the Prairies after the Second World War, fed Barry the typical Prairie diet of meat and potatoes―and on the rare occasion, they would cook him a delicious steak dinner.

Barry’s tastebuds were more adventurous, and even though Vancouver’s population then was quite homogenous, Barry was still able to develop a palate for exotic flavours. Every so often, Barry would hang out at his friend’s parent’s Chinese restaurant, and would visit ethnic restaurants with friends.

Whenever he found a dish that he enjoyed, he would ask the cooks for the recipes. Thus began his fascination with international foods.

While cooking was a hobby, he pursued a career in sports and business during his 20s. He studied restaurant management and completed a diploma in international business. He became a ticket distributor for sports games and even managed sales for the Stanley Cup games in the 80s. He also sold cider to the States!

Barry was business-savvy, but eventually realized that he couldn’t deny his passion for cooking. After he was laid off from a job in the beverages industry, he enrolled into the top cooking school in Vancouver, and then worked across the Lower Mainland in various food services capacities. Eventually, he found full-time employment as a chef in an assisted-living seniors’ centre.

In 2005, doctors discovered Barry had dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition  common among taller athletes. His heart was enlarged and was only at 13% capacity. As a result, he would often be tired and short of breath.

Determined to get well, Barry entered a recovery program. Unfortunately, weeks into the program, the heart specialist told him he was never going to be able to work again.

This hit Barry like a tonne of bricks. His life was going to be radically changed. No longer could he be independent, but had to be government-dependent, take on disability status and give up his car.

After dealing with the shock and the self-pity, he asked himself, “[Am I] going to sit here and moan or do something about [my life]?”

Barry went into action mode, and motivated himself to complete the  paperwork that accompanied his diagnosis.

Soon, Barry moved into the Collingwood area. Who knew that this would be another turn in his life?

In 2008, Barry went to an open forum at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House, intending to voice his opinion about the transit system. Instead, he met Stephanie Lim, then coordinator of the Renfrew Collingwood Food Security  Institute, who relentlessly pursued Barry to be involved with her programs.

He got his feet wet by building the Cheyenne Gardens with Jason Hseih and Steph, then eventually led and taught in food programs.

A few months later, Barry was asked if he could volunteer with Nadjia, who coordinated the community kitchen at Collingwood  Neighbourhood House. Barry thought he would volunteer for a few weeks, but eventually became a consistent participant, assisting Nadjia run the program to this very day.

Barry is still committed to perfecting the fine art of experimental cooking. He rarely writes down any of his recipes and almost never cooks the same meal twice, but he knows how to exactly combine foods to bring out the flavours.

His friend George, from John’s Market, once said, “[Barry’s] a better cook than me!” Those who have tasted his cooking would probably give him the same type of praise.

Esther Yuen is a communications specialist and graphic designer. She is passionate about positive social change and is active with the local arts and culture scene.

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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Family Tree Tips: Begin at the beginning

Family-Tree

An example of a family tree. Also look online for examples of pedigree charts. Image courtesy of Margaret Houben

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

The majority of us are the descendants of immigrants. Not too far in our distant past, either our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents relocated to this wonderful country of Canada, and somehow wound up in the Renfrew-Collingwood area.

While growing up here I was aware that my mother’s side of the family lived in Oregon and my father’s side of the family lived in the Lower Mainland. While researching my dad’s past in 2011, I became obsessed with the “hows and whys” of their move from the prairies where they previously lived.

My dad was born in Spalding, Saskatchewan, but his parents both came from Wales. His father came alone to Canada in 1910, and his mother arrived in 1927 as a young woman of 19, along with her parents and siblings.

Although my grandpa was born in North Wales, and my grandma in South Wales, they met on the prairies and eventually wound up here on the West Coast.

My mom’s family are German and moved to Texas, USA in 1910 to escape political and religious turmoil in the land of Russia. They got out just before the Russian Revolution and the First World War erupted close to their farm. Due to their farming expertise, they were able to save up money and purchase acreage in Amity, Oregon.

Through a series of events, my parents met and wound up in the city of Vancouver, far removed from their farm roots. It’s fascinating how the dots connect and if you know how to research you can connect them even further back and discover clues as to how and why your ancestors chose Canada or the USA to move to.

The word genealogy means “a record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person, family, group; the study of ancestries and histories; and the descent from an original form or progenitor; lineage; ancestry.” Everyone’s genealogy will of course be different and unique, which is why genealogy is now so popular, especially with the TV show series Who Do You Think You Are in Britain and the USA.

Thanks in large part to digitized documentation being uploaded to the internet by various organizations, a search into the past is now convenient and fairly easy, although when I began my journey of genealogy research I never knew how addictive it would become! If you have patience and your family information is intact, you will be rewarded as you search.

The first thing to be done is to fill in a family tree. Begin with yourself and your birth date and place of birth. Add your parent’s names and their birth dates and place of birth. If your parents are living, ask them for the names of their parents and dates/places of birth. Hopefully you will have this much to begin with.

I keep my paper copies in binders, inserted into clear plastic sheets. I found some lovely binders at Daiso Dollar Store in Aberdeen Mall in Richmond, which already have the clear sheets inside. They are a reasonable cost of $2 each and have 40 pages. Also keep a copy of everything on your computer and remember to do weekly backups.

A home photocopier/scanner unit is a marvellous asset in your family tree hobby. A clear concise way of keeping track of the information you will be adding is a definite must in genealogy research. You need to make files and update them regularly. Each person has their own system.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. Part of the hobby of genealogy is gathering information which is turned into charts but the fun part is the stories that come to light!

Here is a chart so you can begin as soon as possible. The best goal in your family tree research is not to put off to tomorrow what can be done today! And who knows, maybe you have someone famous or well known in the branches of that tree.

In the next installment, popular genealogy websites will be discussed, as well as a local British Columbia genealogical society who host free monthly meetings at the Vancouver library central branch.

Loretta Houben is deeply involved in researching the mysteries in her paternal family tree and has been quite successful in 2013.

First published in the September 2013 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

 


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The little house on Park Avenue

ParkAvenueStation

A snippet taken from a photo by Major Matthews in 1908, showing the Park Avenue station at Vanness and Boundary Road. No houses have been built on the hill up to Kingsway yet. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

Once upon a time there was a little house in Collingwood. The city of South Vancouver grew and changed all around, while two World Wars and a major Depression took place. A BC Electric Rail tramline came and went on the left of the property, with the Park Avenue station just steps away.

In 1986 a modern new SkyTrain shadowed the view where the tramline once ran. The one-lane road in front changed to many lanes as it was widened, and its name changed from Park Avenue to Boundary Road.

ParkAvenueHouse

5515 Boundary Road in 2009, the little house where the Rickard family lived. Photo by Loretta Houben

The little house began life with an owner from England. Maybe he built the house himself. The first mention of Park Avenue in the BC Directories happens in 1914, when Cresswell B. Rickard, builder, is shown living in the modest little home at 129 Park North.

In 1917 he’s listed as a carpenter at the Vancouver shipyards, but then his occupation is a cabinet maker at 2993 Kingsway in 1920, a year in which there were only four households listed between Kingsway and Vanness Avenue on Park Avenue North.

In the 1921 Canadian census, Cresswell Rickard appears at 129 Park North in South Vancouver, with his wife Louisa Jane and their three sons, Reginald, Sidney and Earnest.

In 1925 Rickard is still at 129 Park North but working at 2902 Granville as a cabinet maker. He appears consistently until 1929, when he’s a cabinet maker at 1427 West Broadway.

Then in 1930 his home address changes to 5691 Boundary Road. The next year the address for the little house is 5515 Boundary Road, the number it remains until it’s eventually torn down in the 2010s to make way for a complex which consists of three large condo towers.

I’ve always been curious about old houses. I took a few photos of 5515 Boundary in 2009, as the look of it fascinated me. I tracked down the name of the owner by digging online and checked out C. B. Rickard’s marriage certificate where I discovered he was married in 1911 in Vancouver.

He remained in his little home until 1973, when he died at age 98. His death certificate states that he lived in the municipality where he died for 67 years. So, although I can’t find a trace of Boundary Road before 1914, where Rickard first appears in the directories, he may have lived here since 1906.

In a few more months, the brand-new Annex for the Collingwood Neighbourhood House will open. It sits on the spot where the little house at 5515 Boundary Road once sat, where the Rickard family lived.

As our neighbourhood changes dramatically, it’s good to stop and remember the pioneers who forged the way before our modern world evolved, and imagine what life was like as they raised their families in the tiny little homes with the large gardens and fruit trees, as the BCER tram rattled past, and the brand-new automobiles chugged up the hill to Westminster Road (now Kingsway).

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Collingwood and a regular contributor to the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Turning 50 with Chatty Cathy

Loretta Houben's Chatty Cathy collection. Photo submitted

Loretta Houben’s Chatty Cathy collection. Photo submitted

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

September 2010 introduced RCC News readers to Chatty Cathy and Loretta Houben’s memories of receiving this doll. Loretta’s article is
utterly charming and took us back to a simpler time — when you could pull a string to get a doll to talk.
Loretta would go on to write many more entertaining and informative articles, notably on genealogy (Family Tree Tips) and history, and she currently coordinates our seniors page. Thank you, Loretta, for your many contributions to the RCC News over the years.
− Julie Cheng, editor

1960 was a great year in more ways than one.

In 1960, I came into the world, and Chatty Cathy made her first appearance. I wonder how many of you remember Mattel’s talking doll. She said 11 different phrases such as “Will you play with me?” “Please comb my hair!” and “I love you!”

I received my first Chatty Cathy doll when I was four years old. I’ll never forget opening her box and seeing the top of her pretty blonde head. I pulled the string on her back, heard her speak and squealed with delight!

My mom had to put my doll on her Simpson Sears charge account as she was $11.95―an expensive toy in 1964! Mom took a few months to pay off the bill, as my younger sister also got a Chatty Baby doll at the same time.

The Dee & Cee Toy Company in Canada was taken over by Mattel in 1962, and produced the Chatty Cathy dolls until 1964. To this day they are sought after by doll collectors because of their superior facial colouring and peachy coloured vinyl limbs.

Dee & Cee contracted local housewives to sew the clothes for Chatty Cathy. A pale blue dress with a white eyelet pinafore can fetch up to $100 today on the eBay auction site, and the seams are unfinished! That may be hard to believe, but there’s no understanding the mind of a collector who is hunting to add to a valuable collection.

Loretta Houben received her first Chatty Cathy at age four.

Loretta Houben received her first Chatty Cathy at age four.

Chatty Cathy was first produced in Canada with short blonde hair, freckles, blue decal eyes and a blue dress with a white eyelet apron. She had a variety of clothes to choose from, including PJs, fancy party dresses, a red velvet hat and coat, and play outfits.

I became interested in Chatty Cathy in 2002 while browsing eBay. I discovered that Mattel had made a re-issue of Chatty Cathy in 1998, sold only in the JC Penny stores in the USA, so I bought one, and the rest is history.

Currently I belong to two Chatty Cathy groups online, and have made many friends. I’ve added to my collection and I own over 20 Chatty Cathy dolls, including Chatty Cathy Baby and Tiny Baby dolls, Baby Brother, Singing Chatty and Charmin Chatty, which were added by Mattel in later years.

Thanks to the internet I’ve had a chance to learn more about one of my favourite dolls. I also purchased Chatty Cathy’s vintage clothing patterns made by Simplicity and McCall’s. I’ve sewn quite a few dresses for her and have a sewing boutique online, which has added to the pleasure of meeting more friends, as every Chatty Cathy needs a new outfit from time to time!

Turning 50 together is an exciting adventure. I wanted to share some of the joy of doll collecting with you, especially such a cute doll as Chatty Cathy! I’d be interested in hearing if any of you have a Chatty Cathy from the 1960s.

First published in the September 2010 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

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