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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Summer cycle to New Brighton Pool

BY JULIE CHENG

Bike then swim at New Brighton Pool.
On a cloudy weekday, you may have a lane all to yourself at New Brighton Pool. Photos by Bryden Fergusson

A bike ride to and swim at New Brighton Pool is one of the great joys of summer. I love the view of the working waterfront with its grain elevators – it’s so uniquely East Vancouver.

There are lanes to swim laps and a huge shallow end that’s perfect for kids. The pool is heated at 23 C, so it’s a warm swim even on a cool day.

Best of all, I top off the day’s exercise with a delicious salmon burger from the concession stand. As an incentive to work extra hard, on the ride back I sometimes pick up a treat from one of the Italian bakeries on Hastings Street (one near Kaslo and the other near Penticton).

The salmon burger from the concession stand is the best part of the ride. Or try the fish and chips.
The salmon burger from the concession stand is the best part of the ride. Or try the fish and chips.

Depending on where you start in Renfrew-Collingwood, the bike ride can take from 30 to 40 minutes. There’s one big hill and a few small ones, but generally the ride follows bike routes and is easy and safe.

The ride up Slocan Street just before Broadway is the worst part of the ride.
The ride up Slocan Street just before Broadway is the worst part of the ride.
From Slocan Street, turn right at Adanac then left at Kaslo.
From Slocan Street, turn right at Adanac then left at Kaslo.

For a small fee, you can purchase tickets online to reserve for one of several time slots at the pool (vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/new-brighton-pool.aspx). I like to reserve the 9:30 am to 11:45 am time and go early to avoid the crowds. The pool is generally open from May to Labour Day in September.

It’s important to bring water and get an early start, especially on a hot day. On a cloudy weekday, though, you may find you have a lane all to yourself.

Renfrew-Collingwood bike route to New Brighton Pool

  1. Take the Slocan Street bike route. Going up the hill next to Van Tech high school and just before Broadway is the worst part of the ride.
  2. Continue on Slocan. Rest in the shade and hydrate at Clinton Park and 1st Avenue, if you like.
  3. Turn right at Adanac. Turn left at Kaslo.
  4. Follow Kaslo until you hit the Portside route. Take in the views of the waterfront. Ride past the horse barns of the PNE’s Hastings Park racecourse on your right.
  5. Continue on Portside, going under the train bridge, until you reach New Brighton Pool.

Copyright 2022 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News