I love it when people tell me that Vancouver was a much safer place back in the good old days. Clearly they haven’t read my books. Vancouver was a violent place full of murders, guns, explosives and drugs. As early as 1954 Vancouver was known as the drug capital of Canada, and drugs have been a part of our city since its inception.
I’ve having the immense pleasure of wading through the actual copies of dozens of newspapers from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s for a book that I’m currently writing. Every now and then I stumble across something really special.
In 1934, the Vancouver Sun bragged that it was “the only evening newspaper owned, controlled and operated by Vancouver Men,” and on page 2 of the Sunday October 6th edition was this short sidebar that ran with the headline “Lovely Vancouver Homes.” Below, in what was clearly an early advertorial disguised as editorial, were the photos of five newish homes that had recently sold.
If you live in Vancouver, you know that the Vancouver Art Gallery is housed in the old law courts, an imposing neo-classical building designed by celebrity architect Francis Rattenbury in 1906. What you may not know, and I did not until stumbling over a photo recently, was that the VAG started out in a gorgeous art deco building at 1145 West Georgia, a few blocks west from its current location.
Did you know that a commuter train used to run right through downtown Vancouver? I found out about it when I was over at Tom Carter’s studio checking out one of his amazing paintings. There it was, a train chugging across Hastings Street.
The train came up again when I was writing a blog post a couple of weeks ago about getting the star of my next book—Inspector Vance—from his home in Yaletown to his lab at Hastings and Main Street.
I’m writing a book about John F.C.B. Vance, the first forensic scientist in Vancouver, and this week I wrote about his first day of work as the new City Analyst. My book is non-fiction, but sometimes you need some creative license. My challenge was to get to get Vance from his house in Yaletown to Market Hall, a lovely long-gone gothic building on Westminster (Main Street) which doubled as City Hall.
This great Foncie photo of two women police officers ran in Sensational Vancouver, in a chapter called “Lurancy Harris’s Beat.” Lurancy was the first female police officer in Canada when she was hired along with Minnie Millar by the Vancouver Police Department in 1912, and one of my favourite historical characters.
I worked for the Vancouver Stock Exchange in the late 1980s—the same time that Forbes Magazine published a cover story calling it the “Scam Capital of the World.” While I never met Nick Masee, the mysterious disappearance of he and his wife in August 1994 has always intrigued me. This is a short excerpt from Cold Case Vancouver.