Last night I went to a fundraiser in Strathcona. James Johnstone, a house historian, presented over 200 slides on the Old East End. The event benefitted the Strathcona Community Centre Food Security Program. Strathcona has over 17 food related programs that serve food to an average of 200 children daily. Yesterday’s goal was to raise money for an espresso machine. Earnings from selling beverages could further support the Food Security Program; and, it could be used to train youths for the work force. The event raised a total of $752.38. Not bad for a neighbourhood group!
The two hour presentation was held in the Senior’s Lounge in the Strathcona Community Centre. The room was modest, people sat on plastic stackable chairs and images were projected onto a white brick wall. The crowd seemed to know one another and many were Strathcona residents. It was a mostly older audience and everyone was relaxed and friendly.
Many photos were from public collections such as the Vancouver Public Library, and the Vancouver City Archives, but some were from private collections. It was neat to see old photos and then having James point to people in the audience who lent them to him. You see a photo of a young girl on the wall, turn, and see the same person a few feet away, in real life, as a mature adult. It was a simple form of time travel.
One point emphasized by James was that family photos are vital to reconstructing the layout of the Old East End (Strathcona). In one photo (not shown) a little boy sat on the roof of a vintage car and from the background, a church steeple and a row of houses could be seen. A photo like that could help historians locate houses that no longer exist, but may be historically important. James is currently working on a project to collect old photographs and map out the neighbourhood. He hopes to make those photos available to the public online so that we can all remember the history of the area.
The awesome thing about historians like James Johnstone is that they can locate the sites of old photographs. They have a mental catalog of houses in their heads and can recognize old houses, even if they have been modified. The VPL and city archive typically categorize photos with general labels like “Strathcona”; historians can look at those photos, refer to their mental index and locate the streets. A priceless skill!
I took notes and wrote down file numbers of some of the photos I liked. The above photo is the Empress Theatre on East Hastings and Gore Avenue (Southwest corner), dated August 20, 1921. I never knew there was a theatre on that corner, did you?
Anna Pavlova (1881-1931), a famous Russian ballet dancer, once performed at the Empress Theatre. I have never heard of her and yet, I find it fascinating. Pavlova, a meringue-based dessert, is named after her. If Woodwardsmile can ever be the name of a dessert, let it be a meringue-based one! A dessert that is light and airy inside with a delicate shell would be most flattering. I don’t even mind that it may not look attractive, it is the concept that counts.
If you are interested in the Old East End, you can read more about it over at James Johnstones blog, When an Old House Whispers. James gives historical talks from time to time at different venues in Vancouver, and he also leads historical walking tours. You should go!