Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


Leave a comment

All’Italiana: Italian fashion in the spotlight

The knit pom poms on these two outfits hark back to clowns, a popular stock character in Italian opera. Italy has a long history and strong heritage in professional theatre with Commedia dell’arte (“Italian comedy”). One of the most famous Italian operas is Pagliacci (Italian for “clowns” or “players”). Photos courtesy of the Italian Cultural Centre

New exhibit at the Italian Cultural Centre

All’Italiana
Italian Cultural Centre
3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver
http://www.italianculturalcentre.ca
Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm

BY DEANNA CHENG

The latest exhibition at the Italian Cultural Centre focuses on the highlights of Italian fashion in the 20th century, featuring garments by Pucci, Schiaparelli and Fortuny.

Guest curator Ivan Sayers wanted to focus on Italian fashion because the spotlight is usually on French, American or British fashion. “Italy is extremely important, especially in leather goods and accessories but also with mainstream garments.”

The show is an opportunity to admire Italian ingenuity, wit, craftsmanship and quality, he said.

On display until April 25, All’Italiana (“in the Italian style”) is part of a celebration of craftsmanship by the Craft Council of BC. The theme of this year is “voices of craft.”

Sayers said, “Craft usually means handwork.” And handwork is visible in the handmade raffia lace of the Fortuny dress, he said, and in the decoration on the Schiaparelli coat. “It’s beading. It’s eccentric. It’s still labour intensive.”

He added, “When you look at the Prada suit, initially, it seems banal but when you start to look at the seaming and the skirt, you start to appreciate what’s gone into it, lifting it from boring to intriguing.”

There’s construction, decoration, ratio and proportion that people tend to ignore, but it still has value, he said.

Museum curator Angela Clarke said the exhibit explores craft because it often gets a bad name. “Craft is often looked at as something that you often find in your grandmother’s place. You know, doilies.”

It’s often seen as surface design without much in terms of artistic integrity, originality, a voice of the artist or social commentary, she said. “Craft is often recreating a tradition. There are often patterns incorporated into craft that have been used almost like a stencil.”

When you knit, you base it on a pattern, Clarke said. If you embroider, you base it on a pattern. “And that is sort of a counter to this notion that all art creation is individual and it’s a one-off. So craft gets a bad name for that.”

Garments are considered like that because they have a pattern. The world of fashion is changing because it’s the name of the designer that we come to for and that often separates craft from art, she said.

Historically, there were some names that were developing such as Schiaparelli through the 1930s and Christian Dior in the late 40s and 50s. It’s not to the same degree as today, she said, where the name is everything. “We now have celebrities with clothing lines and certainly, they’re not the ones designing and making the garments at all.”

She said, “Today, everyone wants to be a designer but no one wants to be a tailor.”

“The fact is that craft often represents underrepresented voices,” added Clarke.

Guest curator Ivan Sayers said Italy is the birthplace of lace. Italian lace comes from the fishing culture in small Italian towns, drawing inspiration from fishing nets.

For example, textiles and embroidery were considered the realm of women’s history, she said. “And for the most part, that’s all we’ve got of women’s history for the middle and lower classes. Anything out of the household, the domestic space, it’s all about women.”

Italian fashion also constantly refers to its own history from the materials to the construction. For example, Clarke said, Italian lace arises from fishing culture as an improvisation of the fishing net.

The fishing net has become part of the cultural consciousness of Italian villages because it’s the major industry. “You get these towns, these whole towns, that are in Italy that are devoted to certain craft industries such as Venetian glass and ceramics.”

It’s partially so they can share resources, she said. The other part is due to technology used for the flammable arts.

If you were to make anything glass or ceramic in Rome, Venice or Milan, the whole city would go up in flames in half an hour if there was an accident because buildings were made of wood, Clarke said.

Legislation was created, stating these industries had to be 10 miles outside of a major city centre.

Another sign of Italian heritage is the knit pom poms on the Paoli dress. The colourful fluffy attachments refer to the clown, popular in Italian opera, she said. The significance of this character spread across Europe by travelling Italian troupes.

“Clowns show up repeatedly because it’s the stock character of a figure that can say anything, do anything, and you feel compassion for them,” Clarke said. “It’s like the joker in Shakespeare. He’s the one who entertains the king but he’s the only one that can actually speak the truth.”

Rich Nguyen, an attendee, visited Italy last year and the selection of Schiaparelli and Pucci within the exhibit speaks to him the most as “Italian.”

This collection features garments from the collection of fashion historian Ivan Sayers, the Museum of Vancouver and the Society for the Museum of Original Costume.

Deanna Cheng is a freelance journalist and copy editor. Her work has been published in New Canadian Media and Vancouver Courier. She has also been a resident for the last 15 years. Contact: dmwcheng7@gmail.com.


Leave a comment

Collingwood Corner: A brief history of Connaught School 1913–1932

Bayley’s claim with house at 650 Rupert Street and school beside it. Could this be the schoolhouse on the lower fields of Grenfell School that Loretta Houben’s dad remembers? Source: Vancouver Archives

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

For quite a while I’ve been fascinated with old school buildings, and Sir Wilfred Grenfell School is no exception. The school opened on December 3, 1958 and recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, but when I attended its hallowed halls from 1965 to 1973, it was quite new.

However, behind the cement structure that faces Wellington Avenue there is a much older building made of wood. According to the BC Directories online, John Norquay Annex was at this location from 1933 to 1955, showing the annex located at Price and Rupert.

From 1913 to 1932, another school was located here, on the lower section. A steep set of stairs leads from the upper level where the present school buildings are, to the bottom where there is a large empty playing field.

When I attended the school, there were two sets of stairs. My dad remembers long ago in the 1940s that there was a schoolhouse on the lower fields.

Recently I decided to investigate. I checked out the Vancouver School Board website (www.blogs.vsb.bc.ca/heritage) where there are many old photos of Vancouver schools, and noticed that to date, there were no photos of Connaught School, which was the name of the first school at that location.

I recalled that I had seen a photo of Rupert School in the Vancouver Archives. Could this be Connaught School? By patient searching in the BC Directories, and by looking at Rupert Street from 1913 onwards, I verified that Rupert School was located near Price Street on Rupert.

The school appears in two photos under the name “Bayley’s Claim.” I assume this is referring to Charles W. Bayley, who lived at #650 Rupert, and his house is in the photos next to Rupert School. There’s also another photo showing the odd numbered houses across Rupert Street, also in Bayley’s Claim.

Connaught School was named for the Duke of Connaught, Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert (1850–1942), Governor General of Canada and brother of King Edward VII.

The 1913 BC Directory states that Euphemia C. Jones was the principal. In 1913 she lived at 1848 7th Avenue.

Besides studying the streets in the directories, you can also look up names of people and see their occupations next to their address and name. Euphemia Jones was only 21 years old but due to the drastic increase in population growth, schools were expanding rapidly.

Using my Ancestry membership, I looked up the Jones family. On the 1911 Canadian census, I found Euphemia living with her parents in Vancouver at age 19. She was a teacher earning $860 per year. Euphemia married in 1915, and most likely that was the end of her teaching career.

Back to Bayley’s claim. After studying old Vancouver maps until I was quite googly eyed, I examined the Goads Fire Insurance map from 1912. Zooming in closely I discovered pay dirt!

Closeup of Price and Rupert area from 1912, showing a drawing of the school and house. Photo source: Goads Fire Insurance Map

The school is on the lower grounds facing Rupert, formerly called Collingwood Road, with Charles Bayley’s house to the right of it. I assume the buildings across the road are the rest of the claim.

Connaught School photos haven’t been found until now because they are named incorrectly in the archives!

The houses on Rupert Street were renumbered in 1930. By closely matching the names of the occupants with the old and new set of numbers, I noticed that #650 changed to 4530, which was vacant in 1930, and gone in 1931. Could this be the time frame that the second school building on the upper ground, made of wood, was built and renamed John Norquay Annex?

Of the four houses across the street, 4535 Rupert was built in 1912 (formerly 665) and 4543 Rupert was built in 1910 (formerly 657). This is according to the BC Assessments online.
When you go past the corner of Price and Rupert, maybe you can imagine it in your mind’s eye, and hear Miss Euphemia Jones ringing the school bell, and wonder why Charles Bayley purchased a claim at that corner.

I believe I’ve solved the Connaught School photo mystery and learned quite a bit more about the Collingwood area.

Loretta Houben has lived in the Collingwood area for more than 54 years and receives extreme satisfaction at solving local historical mysteries.

Copyright 2019 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


Leave a comment

Collingwood Corner: The Birds’ Paradise

Albert Jones playing violin at 5207 Hoy Street. Photo from the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1215

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

Thanks to Allen Doolan, a subscriber and moderator on one of the Nostalgic Vancouver Facebook groups I’m in, I recently discovered that a bird aviary was once in the Collingwood area at 5207 Hoy Street.

The bird aviary was quite well known and was even mentioned in a letter to the editors in the February 24, 1941 edition of Life magazine. The owner was Charles E. Jones, who was also briefly the 26th mayor of Vancouver until passing away September 1, 1948.

Charles E. Jones was Vancouver’s 26th mayor. From the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1191

I can’t find out much about Charles Jones, but he certainly loved birds. If you visit the Vancouver Archives online, you will be able to see many postcards of the birds. Some of them will make you smile! I’ve included my favourites here.

Dog resting at the aviary with feathered friends. Photo from the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1193

The old house on Hoy Street that once contained these delightful creatures is still standing. It was built in 1910, and still has its original charm with a lovely garden. I’ve often been drawn to this house while walking in the neighbourhood, and now I know why. What a fascinating history it has.

According to the B.C. Directories online, “Birds Paradise” was listed along with Charles Jones’s name in the 1939 edition. I think it may have been a lucrative or at least a most interesting pastime for him. He was listed as retired in 1932, but in later editions of the B.C. Directories, he is listed as alderman, and then he is mayor in 1947.

Postcard. From the Vancouver Archives CVA371-1199

The letter to the editor of the Life magazine in 1941 from Clyde Ragsdale states that Charles Jones “revived a childhood dream when he created this sanctuary, where thousands of birds, wild and domestic, representing some 35 species, from Chinese nightingales and Indian bulbuls to South American finches, have found haven.”

Copyright 2019 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News