Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gold Rushes and Clubs

Are you reading this and wondering if I've gone bonkers? What do Gold Rushes have to do with this esteemed looking building/ Well I'll tell you.

Built in 1898 by Thomas Flack, one of the first to strike it rich in the Klondike Gold Rush, this building was the original home to the Bank of Vancouver. At one time it was in the heart of Vancouver's commercial district and across the street from the first courthouse. (Something I didn't know and I will have to investigate further) It was apparently the area to be in.

But as the years went by and the area declined, the building was left to fall into disrepair. Fortunately The Salient Group had the vision to save this treasure. It took 2 years and $20 million but Vancouverites are once again able to gaze upon this jewel. The limestone archway that you see here was lovingly recreated by local artists using vintage photographs. The building's main structure is made of local sandstone and has been modernized to be functional in this century.

This next building was designed by architects Samuel Maclure and  John Edmeston Parr. One write up I found described it as a rotting hulk.

It doesn't look that rotten to me so I suppose work has been done on it.

 The Terminal City Club was founded in 1892 and is a highly distinguished private club with a reputation of excellence. There is a 60 room boutique hotel, 1892 fine dining room, grill, wine bar and pub as well as a fitness centre. Truly a home for those with class.

Not far from there is the Vancouver Club.

And guess what I learned about this building? It was built 1912 to 1914 by architects Sharp & Thompson. That's all I know.

On November 1, 1892 Firehall No.3 opened at Broadway west of Main. The hall had a hand drawn hose wheel. No horses to draw a wagon but they did have a telephone.

Recently I was walking past Firehall No. 2, which I have written on before, and they had the trucks out to wash.

Personally I think these vehicles are so impressive. They are imposing, especially when they are speeding down the road to a fire. They are functional - able to carry all the necessary people as well as equipment. They also bring to mind childhood dreams of sliding down poles to get into the trucks and go fight fires and maybe save someone's life.

We tend to forget that those in careers such as the fire and police department do so much for all of us. We may disregard them, agree with funding cutbacks while the monies are spent on more frivolous items and comment that anyone in a public service position cannot expect great wages. That is until we need them and maybe due to cutbacks we lose possessions or, God forbid, lives. Before tragedy strikes and we need the help of people such as the fire or police let's support them now.

I think I have commented before on the 2010 Greater Vancouver Firefighters Hall of Flame Calender. I was in London Drugs today and noticed that the 2011 calender is out. I will put that on my shopping list for the end of next month.

And remember how I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, The Salient Group? This group was founded in 2000 and its aim is to restore the historical buildings in the downtown core and restore the buildings that represent our history. Personally, I think that is a worthwhile endeavour. As much as possible we have to keep our history alive. Whereever we are.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Today I have a little something different for you. This summer I walked around and asked people if I could take photos of their tattoos. Most people were very open to showing off the artwork on his or her body and would tell me if there was a story behind them.

The etymology of the word is interesting. In the 18th century it was tattaow or tattow from the Polynesian word tatau. In Tahitian tatu. Sailors are credited with introducing the European population to both the word and the art of tattooing.

Tattooing has been a Eurasian practice since at least the New Stone Age or Neolithic times - which began about 9500 BC. And Japan is thought to have indulged in this art form since the Paleolithic times. So although the technique and designs may have evolved the habit of inking one's body is nothing new.

The mermaid seems to be a popular choice, especially among men.

And this is probably the only time that a man will willing wear flowers!

To many a tattoo has a special meaning.

This woman had her grandmother's name tattooed on her chest as a remembrance. And this young lady tattooed this following design to cover track marks from when she was an addict. She is now clean and keeps the tattoo to remind her she can overcome obstacles.

I got the one above just before my 45th birthday this year. I wanted to commerate my tenth year with MS as well as the fact that I am making many physical changes to improve myself. And I am even more committed to my future. The Celtic design of the butterfly is a tribute to the heritage on my father's side of the family.

A tattoo's story could have something to do with who did the inking as well.

The man who got this one told me that the tatoo artist is now serving life in prison for murder.

And these ones were actually done in prison.

If I remember correctly the First Nations artist that had these designs said they were from Stony Plains Prison. The tattoo gun was made from part of a walkman and other such materials. Tattooing is not allowed in prison so these have to be done under the cover of night and with makeshift equipment. Not the most sanitary but the work is exquisite.

The young lady with the tribute to her grandmother also had a tattoo that was interesting.

This tattoo apparently continues all the way down her back but, considering we were on a city street, she didn't show me the rest of it.

This one is from a woman shopping. And the next one is from a woman having dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Tattoos are used as identification - I once heard of a woman who got a tattoo so that if she was every murdered and there wasn't much left for identification she would have this tattoo - and in Nazi Germany tattooed numbers were used to identify the Jews in the death camps. Sailors used tattoos for identification in case of drowning.

There are medical reasons to tattoo like covering skin pigmentation problems, replacing the areola in certain types of breast reconstruction, conveying medical information and to ensure the proper application of instruments during repeated bouts of radiotherapy. Of course tattooing has also been used for cosmetic reasons.

Whether you like them or hate them or are indifferent - tattoos have been around for centuries. They are used for many different applications and I can't foresee this art form disappearing any time soon.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

A Commodore

Hiya, I'm back after two days of rest. How was your weekend?

Today I am writing about a couple of places that are on the entertainment side of our history.
This art deco building is built in the late 1920s by George Conrad Reifel  and designed by H.H. Gillingham is home to two of this city's legendary venues.

First is the Commodore Bowling and Billiards. The lanes were established in 1930 but as a young man named Frank showed me today there are a few things there that predate that.

The paintings along the walls are all done by this J. Denney and apparently about two years before the place opened.

There is a write up on a gentleman by the name of Mitz Nozaki, one of the most respected men in five pin bowling. He worked that the Commodore Lanes from 1930 to 1962. Then, after the owner Frank Panvini, passed away Nozaki owned the Lanes from 1962 to 1990. Nozaki passed away in 2004.

But before then he had stories to tell of the Commodore Lanes. He recalls a time in 1932 when a gentleman rode up on a horse which he tied to a telephone pole outside before coming inside. The man was Roy Rogers. Shoes have been rented to the likes of Jack Benny, Clark Gable and Buster Crabb.

The photos on the walls tell of the history and recognition that this place has. More recent celebrity visitors include the cast of Twilight, member of AC/DC and the Jonas Brothers.

From the moment I walked down those stairs I have to admit that I could feel that I was in the oldest bowling alley in Canada.

The changes that this bowling has seen. Gone are the days when the lanes had to be sanded by one person - on hands and knees handplaning and levelling then shellac. Now it is all done by a machine. And young people don't have to risk injury by setting the pins themselves. Once again the age of machines helps out.
And you may really like the murals as you descend the stairs from street level to the basement where the lanes are.

These bowling lanes have been around a long time and I hope they are here for many more years to come.

Next we have the Commodore Ballroom - a few doors down from the bowling alley in the same complex.
In December of 1929 the Commodore Cabaret. Thanks for the Great Depression the Commodore closed for a brief period but reopened in November of 1930. It is known for the sprung dance floor - a horshair lining under the floor. My research has also just informed me that there is a grand spiral staircase leading to the upper levels.

It has known many owners since its creation. For almost forty years it showcased the talents of such artists like Sammy Davis Jr., Tommy Dorsey, bandleader Charlie Pawlett.
In 1969 Drew Burns took it over and made the night club into a rock haven. Acts such as Powder Blues Band, David Bowie, The Police, The Stray Cats, Devo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Brown, Oasis and so many others have graced the stage over the years. It did close for awhile in 1996 but after a major renovation it reopened under the banner of the House of Blues in 1999. It was voted in 2005 - during its year long celebration - as Vancouver`s favorite nightclub by a landslide. (This according to the Georgia Straight paper who held the annual contest.)
While walking around the Commodore today I happened to look down.

BC Entertainment Hall of Fame. I will have to go back, maybe next week, take a bunch of photos then write on the Hall of Fame. But this just proves that looking up can make you miss things!

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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