Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Local model train shop Central Hobbies for sale as owner retires

Go-to destination for train enthusiasts from all over B.C. and beyond

BY PAUL REID

Kathy and Hal at Central Hobbies are looking forward to retirement. Photo by Paul Reid
Kathy and Hal at Central Hobbies are looking forward to retirement. Photo by Paul Reid

“Every train has a caboose,” quipped a customer, in reference to Hal’s upcoming retirement.

“Now that’s something I’ll miss,” says Hal to me, ”all the little fun remarks just like that.”

Yes, the caboose is here for Central Hobbies (located at 2825 Grandview Highway and Renfrew). Hal will surely miss his long-time customers, and they, him. For the past 35 years, Hal and his Central Hobbies have been the go-to destination for train enthusiasts from all over British Columbia and beyond.

You see, Central Hobbies is like a mecca for train-heads. Take Calvin, who alerted us to the store’s closing in his online post:

“I managed to find some downtime to make the pilgrimage into Vancouver to visit Central Hobbies, which is slated to close in June 2023.

“Where I live, there isn’t a model train-focused hobby shop, so you can imagine dropping me into the midst of a store the size of Central Hobbies would be much like shooting me into space. I spent over two hours browsing the store … I even had to step outside one time to collect myself – the selection was just THAT wild! I felt like a kid again.”

Every now and then a celebrity
comes to Central Hobbies - Kathy and Rod Stewart. August 2014 Central Hobbies News
Every now and then a celebrity
comes to the store – Kathy and Rod Stewart. August 2014 Central Hobbies News

So I met with Hal and yes, it’s true. “Body says it’s time,” he tells me. So, this spring, Hal and his gang (Kathy and Bill) will be preparing to wrap things up. For Hal, the owner, this means he has put Central Hobbies up for sale. Know anybody? How about that gent talking to Kathy in this photo here? He might have some cash.

Kathy has been with Hal at Central Hobbies for about 25 years. “When she started, she knew nothing. Now, she runs the store.” Hal and Kathy definitely will retire whether the store sells or not. Bill, well, I hear Hal might throw him in with the deal.

The price? That too you can iron out with Hal, but you might be looking at somewhere around a million dollars, as that is about the value of the current stock. The buyer would also receive the excellent reputation and connections that Hal and the gang have been building all these years.

And the return on investment. Fugget about it. I’ll leave that to you and Hal to discuss, but with sales booming more than ever right across North America, it sounds like the new owner will stand to pull in a fairly pretty penny.

Hal had always loved trains – ever since he was a young boy. So, later on in his life, when the opportunity to buy Gary’s Train Centre (on Broadway) presented itself, Hal jumped at the chance. Actually, he was hesitant at first, but with the encouragement of a friend, Hal went all aboard, bought Gary’s, and soon, Central Hobbies was to be born here in Renfrew-Collingwood.

So that’s the latest news from Central Hobbies. Hal, Kathy, Bill – wishing you all the best! To our readers, keep your ear to the track when it comes to a new owner.


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Remembering dad on Remembrance Day

BY BRYDEN FERGUSSON

Ian Fergusson’s army photo. Photos courtesy of Bryden Fergusson
Ian Fergusson’s army photo. Photos courtesy of Bryden Fergusson

Remembrance Day often brought mixed feelings in our family. My father had all the trappings of a successful World War II veteran – Normandy veteran who landed on Juno Beach, medals, veteran’s pension, war memorabilia – along with the respect and gratitude from family, friends and the community. We were able to buy our home with the help of a mortgage from the Veterans Land Administration, a federal board created in the 1940s to assist veterans in buying homes.

Growing up, I was the envy of my friends – wow, a dad who fought in the war – displaying and playing with war memorabilia such as bullets and shell casings. When older, I travelled to Europe, visiting Normandy, war museums, cemeteries and areas where he would have fought and eventually be wounded.

My dad would often watch Remembrance Day ceremonies on TV, but he rarely attended ceremonies in person. My mom had to persuade him after many years to get his medals that were stored in Ottawa and apply for his veteran’s pension resulting from his war wounds.

He rarely, if ever, talked about his war experiences. At most, he would describe the funny experiences, like always getting lost even though he was part of a reconnaissance unit whose job was to locate the enemy and report back their location. He only joined the Legion in his later years, even though he enjoyed a good pub.

What people did not see was what we saw at home. Physical signs such as large burn scars, deafness in one ear, an eye that wept, shrapnel embedded and never removed. Emotional scars were less visible: nightmares, excessive drinking and fear of large crowds and loud noises.

Remembrance Day means different things to different people. I often attend Remembrance Day ceremonies and have brought my children so they can better understand the sacrifice that veterans like my father experienced.

My father was part of a large silent group that found the memories too painful to attend ceremonies or participate in the benefits and gratitude of being a veteran.

D-Day letter sent to troops before their departure for Normandy in 1944.
D-Day letter sent to troops before their departure for Normandy in 1944.

Bryden Fergusson is a longtime resident of Renfrew-Collingwood.

Copyright 2022 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Collingwood Corner: Collingwood Theatre at 4926 Joyce Street

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

Did you know that a theatre was located at 488, then 4926 Joyce Road, now Joyce Street, from 1914 until 1934, according to the BC Directories? I’ve been researching this mystery for a while and recently located a few clues. One of them was discovered in the Greater Vancouver Chinook newspaper, courtesy of the University of B.C. Archives online (see photo 1).

Photo 1: May 18, 1912. The map shows the location of Collingwood Theatre. Image from UBC Archives online

The second clue was discovered when I placed a photo from the Vancouver archives in my photo editor and enlarged and clarified it, discovering a building that I believe to be the Collingwood Theatre (photo 2). You can’t see it until you zoom in, and I was startled to find it when I’d never noticed it before.

Photo 2: 1913, looking north on Joyce Road. Photo courtesy of Loretta Houben, from Vancouver Archives

The theatre was near Wellington Avenue and Joyce Street, and by looking at another image (photo 3), I have deduced that this picture shows a view of Wellington and Joyce that was taken in 1913 and is from the collection of Mrs. Walter S. Baird, courtesy of the Vancouver Archives. If it weren’t for Mrs. Baird, we wouldn’t have any scenes of Joyce Road from the 1910 era. You can see a house on the left side of the photo that stood beside the theatre. I assume it was built in 1913 as it appears in the 1913 photo, and it appears in the directories the following year.

Photo 3: 1913 Joyce Road. Photo from Vancouver Archives

The Collingwood Theatre is mentioned rarely in newspapers of the time. It was managed by Cecil R. Hall, who lived on Aberdeen Street, as shown in the 1930 directory. However, by 1932 the theatre was no longer operating, according to the directory. Cecil Hall had moved to North Vancouver and became the operator of the Lonsdale Theatre.

The property on which the Collingwood Theatre once operated for 19 years is now for sale for a hefty price. Things are always changing in Collingwood!

Loretta Houben enjoys solving mysteries in the Collingwood area, where she has lived for 55 years.

Copyright 2021 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News