Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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August 2017 issue of RCC News is here

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News August 2017

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Skytrain Rambler: Evergreen line connects history from Renfrew-Collingwood to Port Moody
  • Lots happening at Still Moon Arts Society
  • Photos of informal learning in Renfrew-Collingwood by John Mendoza
  • Homeless program raising funds in the neighbourhood
  • Shop local farmers markets
  • Gathering of canoes – Photo montage by Penny Lim
  • Read On! Many reasons to love Renfrew-Collingwood by Tony Wanless
  • Latin festival returns to new venues – Swangard Stadium and Rickshaw Theatre

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the September 2017 issue is August 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.


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Common Voices: The Cultural Legacy of Italian and Cantonese Opera in Vancouver

Exhibit at Italian Cultural Centre’s Il Museo runs until July 15

Chinese-Opera-Common-Voices

Rosa Cheng, Vancouver Cantonese Opera, 2016. Photos courtesy of the Italian Cultural Centre

BY ANGELA CLARKE

Spanning May and June, which are Asian and Italian heritage months, the Italian Cultural Centre mounted an exhibition on the history of Cantonese and Italian opera in Vancouver. While these two art forms evolved independently from two diverse musical traditions, they share significant commonalities as major performance genres spanning the cultural history of the Chinese and Italian communities in Vancouver.

Both art forms have been practised in Vancouver since the beginning of immigration to this area, around 1885. They are known for their elaborate costuming and make-up, as well as the immense skill required of the artists who devote their lives to interpreting these musical genres.

While both musical forms are viewed as an acquired taste, often requiring some knowledge of the music and its history before they can be appreciated, historically, they have contributed significantly over the last century to the cultural landscape of Vancouver. Both genres have enabled both the Chinese and Italian communities to remain connected with their cultures of origin as they have negotiated their way in their new home of Canada.

Art, opera and cultural discrimination

Vancouver-Opera-Common-Voices

Vancouver Opera, Norma, starring Joan Sutherland, 1963.

The story of Italian and Cantonese opera also tells the story of discrimination and isolation. For both Italian and Cantonese communities in Vancouver these musical genres were often performed as a means to create community and connection in times of duress.

The exhibition tells the story of the Italian men interned in the work camps of Kananaskis in Alberta and Petawawa in Ontario, who created a camp choir of internees. These men, surrounded by armed guards, travelled around the countryside performing scheduled appearances. Despite being under heavy surveillance they were in demand among the civilian communities around Petawawa. There was even a professional opera singer, Piero Orsatti, among them.

For the Cantonese-speaking men living in Vancouver’s Chinatown, Cantonese opera and its performance was a means to create a haven for men who could not speak English, and due to the laws of exclusion, where banned from bringing family to Canada. Cantonese opera was a means of creating a foundation of familiarity in an unfamiliar and hostile environment.

For the Chinese men who immigrated to Vancouver for work on the railway, Cantonese opera was compelling not only because of the language but also for the many female performers who travelled from China in theatrical troupes. Certainly the story of Cantonese opera in Vancouver is an important and unique vignette offering scholars important insight into the history of women in Vancouver performance history. Women performers drew large audiences in Vancouver in the 1920s and ’30s, a full decade before women were even allowed to perform in their native China. As well, despite the traditionalism of the art form, these female artists, performing along the West Coast of the United States and Canada, became renowned for their alluring sense of style and the adoption of North American silver-screen aesthetics.

Currently Cantonese opera in Vancouver still continues to be relevant largely due to the female performers. In the Chinese community, women train as interpreters of this genre later in life, desiring to reconnect with their culture in retirement. Women train to interpret both the male and female roles.

Today Italian opera continues to emerge from its Eurocentric origins, finding contemporary relevance in plot lines located in post-colonial environments. As part of the repertoire for the Push Festival in 2017, Third World Bunfight produced a modern retelling of Verdi’s opera Macbeth. This full-length opera relocated the traditional plotline from medieval Scotland and placed it into the current political realities of the Congo in territories governed by military dictatorships. This production was supported by Vancouver Opera and the Italian Cultural Centre.

This exhibition on the history of Cantonese and Italian opera in Vancouver features historic costuming and interactive video to animate this story. The exhibition runs until Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Angela Clarke is the museum director and curator at the Italian Cultural Centre Museum. The Common Voices exhibit has been supported by Canada Heritage, the Museum of Migration and the Italian Cultural Centre.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Happy 100th birthday to John Harlow

BY PAUL REID

Harlow-family

Three generations of transit operators (from left to right) David, Michelle and John Harlow in front of the family home on Chambers Street. Photos courtesy of the Harlow family

Herbert Harlow and Rose Campbell met while working at Vancouver General Hospital. They married and had their first born, John, in 1917. In 1925, John’s wife-to-be, Georgette, was attending Norquay School. John and Georgette met when they attended South Vancouver high school (now John Oliver), married in 1939 and moved onto Chambers Street. Three of their four children would also attend Norquay School.

John would later build a new house on Chambers Street in 1950. He bought the double lot for $600. This is the house he still lives in today with his son David and David’s wife Sylvia. So, we have had a Harlow living on Chambers Street for more than 78 years.

We have also had a Harlow driving city buses in Vancouver since 1945. This is the year that John started driving city buses for Neville Transit. Even before that, John was a driver, driving trucks for the Boeing company on Sea Island during the Second World War. He remembers driving up to the gate one day and the guard told him to park the truck and go home. The war was over, the plant was closed and everyone was laid off! That same day, on his way back home, John would not only find a new job, he was taught his route and started driving that day!

Streetcar

John Harlow became a motorman, driving streetcars like this one for Neville Transit.

This was the job with Neville Transit that would start the continuing legacy of the Harlow family. John worked with Neville until they became BC Electric and later BC Hydro. During this time, John became a motorman, driving streetcars.

In 1978, John’s son David would join the transit team. It was around this time that the company would became Metro and then Coast Mountain. In 2004, David’s daughter, Michelle started driving, becoming the third generation of Harlows to do so. (John retired in 1979; David in 2009.)

Harlow-baby

Congratulations to Michelle and the Harlow family on this latest addition this year. Could this be the fourth generation of the Harlow-transit legacy?

For John’s 100th birthday, his family wanted to give him a ride down memory lane. So they rented a vintage 1964 GMC bus, provided by TRAMS, and along with family and friends, the day was spent touring with John down memory lane.

This tour included John’s old routes in East Vancouver; Sea Island where John worked with Boeing; past the school where he met his wife; and the church where they got married.

Needless to say, John had a fantastic 100th birthday.

Copyright 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Collingwood Corner: Home Delivery in the 1960s

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

Once upon a time there weren’t online stores like Amazon. There weren’t personal computers, tablets or cell phones. Apparently, humanity was cut off from one another, living in a vast void.

Dairyland-Home-Delivery-1965-List

Home delivery price list from 1965. The prices are simply astounding. Image from the collection of Loretta Houben’s parents

Not quite. Growing up in Collingwood over 50 years ago, homemakers had access to home delivery options. One of them my parents subscribed to was Dairyland Home Delivery.

Please study the prices of the attached 1965 price list. For a growing family, usually consisting of two parents and four or more children, you had the option of an eight-quart family milk pack for $2.23. This was in the days before metric conversion. A quart of milk was 29 cents.

Along with a variety of milk products you could indulge in cream, whipped cream, apple and orange juice, yogurt, cottage cheese and butter. Butter was 66 cents for one pound.

The prices were comparable to a working man’s wage. My dad earned $150 per month working for the Glidden Paint Company as a forklift driver, yet he could indulge in home milk delivery.

I remember the pale yellow truck rumbling down our street early in the morning, and the bottles clanking as they were set on our front porch. Of course, the dairy products were all in glass containers, which my mom washed and set out the next week.

Another wonderful sound of a truck stopping outside our home quite often was the Simpson Sears truck from the warehouse in Richmond. Each season every home in Vancouver would receive a thick free Simpsons catalogue to dream over, filled with useful and exotic items for the home or your wardrobe.

Your order was placed by telephone one day, and your goods were delivered without charge the very next afternoon.

Once, age three, I remember a large brown paper covered box arriving at the front door. My mom paid the delivery man, and quickly hid the package in her closet. I begged her to see what it was, and so she emptied the box and gave it to me to play with.

I could smell that there had been a new doll in it! I cried and cried until my mom relented (for reasons unknown) and gave me the doll, which was meant to be a Christmas gift!

Woodward’s and Eaton’s also had home delivery, but Simpson Sears was my parent’s first choice.

Do you have memories of those long-ago days, and free delivery to your door?

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Collingwood and coordinates the Seniors Connection section of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Indigenous art project at Windermere high school: Reconciliation from the ground up

BY JULIE CHENG

Windermere-aboriginal-art-Jerry-Whitehead

Aboriginal artist Jerry Whitehead demonstrates the art of spray painting. Photos taken and edited by Olivia Lee-Chun, Harkarn Kaler and Tiffany Tu

This spring, look for a new mural at Windermere Secondary School that brings together nature and Indigenous culture. Windermere has received a $20,000 grant from the Betty Wellborn Artistic Legacies Foundation for an art project that features local Indigenous artists running workshops and working with students to paint this mural.

Fine arts teacher Alyssa Reid’s project proposal was inspired from reading Wab Kinew’s The Reason You Walk, a memoir about reconciliation and healing between father and son that may ultimately spark conversation about Canada’s own reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Coincidentally, Windermere’s former vice-principal, Alison Ogden, had once posted outside her office a quote from the same book that Reid “really took to heart.”

The quote reads: “Reconciliation is not something realized on a grand level, something that happens when a prime minister and a national chief shake hands. It takes place at a much more individual level. Reconciliation is realized when two people come together and understand that what they share unites them and that what is different between them needs to be respected.”

Windermere-aboriginal-art

Two students spray painting the stencil design they created.

Windermere’s aboriginal support teacher, Davita Marsden, suggested to Reid that local contemporary Indigenous artists Sharifah Marsden, Corey Bulpitt and Jerry Whitehead might be interested in working on the project.

“After speaking with the artists we decided on three workshops for staff and students that would give them some grounding and knowledge in Indigenous art that would lead to a large (1,000 square foot) mural on the front of the school,” Reid explains in an email.

“Our basis for the mural is a rooting in Mother Nature that links everyone to the earth and stresses the importance of nature and the earth to our Indigenous people done in the three very unique styles of each artist.”

The workshops started late April, with Sharifah Marsden teaching a beading workshop, Corey Bulpitt doing a stencilling and spray painting workshop, and Jerry Whitehead leading a design question/answer workshop. The painting begins in May.

Julie Cheng is the editor of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Adult education time machine: The history of the bookmobile in Renfrew-Collingwood

BY JOHN MENDOZA

Collingwood Bookmobile

Interior of Vancouver Public Library Bookmobile with Harry M. Boyce, Peter Grossman, and Colin Robertson, 1953, Photographer: Province Newspaper. Photo from the Special Collections Historical Collections at the Vancouver Public Library, VPL Accession Number 3403

Much has been written about the architectural importance of the Vancouver Public Library’s Collingwood Branch Library here in Renfrew-Collingwood. Its modernist architectural design was so striking that, at one time, it was the most visited modernist building in all of Vancouver.

In turn, the design won the local architectural partnership of the commission to design the award-winning main library branch once housed at the corner of Burrard and Robson Street in downtown Vancouver.

However, a lesser but equally important story is the fact that Collingwood Branch Library was once home to Vancouver Public Library’s bookmobile. When there were far fewer branch libraries in Vancouver, a proposal for a bookmobile was mentioned in the Vancouver Public Library’s 1950 annual report.

By March 1956, the bookmobile was up and running, and quite popular with library patrons. According to an old newspaper article from the Vancouver Herald from July 19, 1956, the total circulation of library materials in the bookmobile’s first four months of operation was approximately 45,000 – a number equal to a small branch library.

The Vancouver Public Library’s humble Collingwood library was connected to the bookmobile as the branch library was headquarters for the bookmobile and its book supply. The book stock on the bookmobile was approximately 2,000 books. However, the bookmobile could pull from its inventory of 18,000 books from its storage area at Collingwood library.

From its humble home in Renfrew-Collingwood, the bookmobile once operated five days a week and initially had a dozen weekly stops all over the city. According to a 1960 annual report from the Vancouver Public Library, consistently popular bookmobile stops included Kingsway and Fraser, 25th Avenue and Main Street, 54th Avenue and Elliot, 54th Avenue and Victoria and Commercial and Broadway.

This little book bus operated by the Vancouver Public Library could definitely be categorized as an important agent in the development of informal adult education here in Vancouver.

An article in the Province newspaper from April 4, 1972, chronicled that the Vancouver Public Library even began as the “ ‘New London Mechanics Institute,’ a recreation room and library for employees of Hastings Mill at the foot of Dunlevy” when education and learning was at a premium. Many of these mechanics institutes were the predecessors of more formal institutions of adult education.

Furthermore, a Vancouver Public Library annual report from 1956 revealed that “wheels have brought the Vancouver Public Library to thousands of people who do not have the advantage of branch library service nearby” and its success encouraged the bookmobile’s librarian to say that the city needed more branch libraries.

According to an existing article written by Nora Schubert, the bookmobile’s route ran past several seniors’ homes, reaching an audience that otherwise may have gone without library service.

The bookmobile may have had humble roots, but it was an agent of transformation for both informal adult learning in the city and for the evolution of the city’s library system.

Local resident and writer John Mendoza uncovered this Renfrew-Collingwood connection while looking at the history of adult education in Vancouver. This article was originally written as an assignment for the University of BC.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Adult education time machine: Witnessing adult education in the photos of the City of Vancouver Archives

BY JOHN MENDOZA

Originally written as an assignment for the University of BC, local resident and writer John Mendoza looks at the history of adult education in Vancouver and uncovers some East Vancouver connections.

Adult Education - Ladies driving

Ladies at driving education display in PNE B.C. building, 1954, photographer unknown, City of Vancouver Archives website

My assignment for a course in adult education at the University of British Columbia was to find photos that speak of adult education in a historical and contemporary setting. In finding photos, I wanted this challenge shaped by the desire to find something in the local community.

What would be in the City of Vancouver’s Archives that could articulate something about adult education? It was not an easy task to sift through numerous historical images, but slowly, four photos emerged. Of those four photos, two photos had definite links to the east side of Vancouver, specifically the Pacific National Exhibition.

Of the four photos, the two photos of adult learning opportunities captured after 1950 may seem unremarkable, but upon closer examination, reveal something far more complex. Both photos were created in the 1950s with only a one-year difference between them, and the name of the photographers are unknown.

Both photos were taken at the Pacific National Exhibition, affectionately known as the PNE. The PNE is an annual agricultural fair hosted at the Hastings Park site in East Vancouver, drawing both a rural audience from rural British Columbia and beyond, and an urban audience from the Lower Mainland. However, both photographic images forward the definitions of what adult education could be.

Both photos from the 1950s feature educational displays, where fairgoers could interact with the content any way they want. Also significant was the use of an agricultural fair as a place where learning could take place, transforming a popular attraction into “an agency of progress.” The driving display photo from 1954 was certainly timely; the end of the Second World War had ushered not only an emerging automobile culture, but also expanding opportunities for women.

Adult Education Totem Pole

Crowd watching Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) carver Ellen Neel working on a totem pole, 1953, photographer unknown, City of Vancouver Archives website

Most fascinating is the 1953 photo featuring Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) artist Ellen Neel, the first female totem pole carver from the Northwest Coast. Here we have a woman from a First Nations background demonstrating a centuries old skill (once largely dominated by male artists) in front of a diverse audience. Both these photos from the 1950s show that learning could occur anywhere, even in a humble agricultural exhibition setting.

Adult Education painting signs

Man and woman painting signs, likely attending School Board Night Classes, circa 1937, photograph by Stuart Thompson (1881-1960), City of Vancouver Archives website

The two other photos that I found speak of adult education in Vancouver before 1950.

The photos share some common characteristics. Both photos happen to be taken by photographer Stuart Thompson in 1937 as part of a series about the formal adult education sector. The two photos certainly reflected the realization that specialized labour was eclipsing unskilled, general labour. While both photos feature male students, one photo is especially telling with one female student featured in the sign painting class. It is a pertinent detail as the mindset concerning women and formal education had changed significantly since the end of the First World War.

Furthermore, that photo is significant in that women were not only choosing to pursue adult learning opportunities, but opportunities that might have been perceived as belonging to a masculine domain. Yet another way that the power differentials in the formal adult education class were changing is what is missing in both photos, and that is the instructor.

Adult Education Headphones

Men in Headphones Learning Technical Skills, circa 1937, photograph by Stuart Thompson (1881-1960), City of Vancouver Archives website

The authority of the teacher had been supplemented by the bulky presence of the radios and the sign painting models and templates featured respectively in each photo. Learning was going beyond “chalk and talk,” and placing the learner’s experience at the centre.

What’s poignant about the photos is the skills featured prominently within them – radio operation, sign painting – have been largely relegated to history as newer technologies have replaced them.

The photos do not offer a complete chronicle of Vancouver’s adult education history – certain stories and diverse communities are missing in its representation. But the few photos do offer a modern path of an adult education culture pushing through the walls of the formal classroom and out into the larger community.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News