Foncie, to my knowledge, never crossed the bridge or took the ferry to North Vancouver—at least not for his work, but he did capture many of our most colourful citizens. A street photographer who worked mostly on Hastings and Granville Streets, he photographed people out shopping, going to a show, or on their way to work.
It’s estimated that he created over 15 million images with his home made camera.
Janet Turner, archivist at the North Vancouver Museum and Archives watched a documentary about him on the Knowledge Network, and then found more and more Foncie photos popping up in the collection and in donations.
She has curated a small exhibition at the Community History Centre in Lynn Valley.
Foncie photos aren’t dated unless the recipient writes on the back, so the time period is mostly a good guess, but that’s part of the fun.
There’s a photo of Dorothy Lynas, namesake of the school at Indian River.
Another shows Gertie Wepsala, who Janet tells me was a Canadian Olympic Ski Champion. She married Al Beaton, who has a place in the Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Canadian Olympic Basketball team in 1940 and 1941. Al helped develop Grouse Mountain Resorts and built the world’s first double chairlift from the top of Skyline Drive, and later managed Grouse Mountain. Both he and Gertie qualified for the Olympics, but the games were cancelled during the war years, and the couple didn’t compete.
There’s a photo of the three Fromme sisters—Vera, Julia and Margaret—spending a day on the town; one of a young Walter Draycott, and another of his friend Tom Menzies, the curator at the Museum of Vancouver in the ‘40s.
Like the Fromme family, Draycott was a North Vancouver pioneer, he has a street named after him, and his statue sits in the little square at the corner of Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Highway.
Marie Desimone, a shipyard worker at Burrard Dry Dock is captured on the way to catch the ferry to work.
There’s Bette Booth with her husband Bob, an architect who built his own West Coast modern home near Capilano River and worked on both the Burrard Dry Dock and Westminster Abbey in Mission.
And Jack Cash, a prolific photographer himself, and son of the formidable Gwen Cash, who appears in Sensational Victoria, is shown in a photo with his oldest son and wife Aileen (Binns).
And, there is a photo of Eva with her sister Jennie Conroy, taken shortly before Jennie’s murder in 1944.
When Foncie retired in November of 1979 he told a Province reporter that when he started as a 20-year-old back in 1934 there were six companies in Vancouver. Street photography, he said, really started to take off during the war. “At one time, I was taking 4,000 to 5,000 pictures every day,” he told the reporter.
Millions of photos were thrown out. “I’d keep them for a year, then throw them out. I realize now I should have saved them but it’s too late.”
Foncie Pulice died in 2003 at the age of 88.
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