Monday, November 14, 2011

More 1936

Do you remember the show Beverly Hillbillies and the character of Jethro? Well on August 19, 1936 his father Max Baer Sr., a heavyweight boxing champion fought in Vancouver's Denman Arena. His opponent James J. Walsh - the Alberta Assassin -was apparently terrified and lasted one punch. Ancil Hoffman, Baer's manager, had a premonition that Baer wouldn't last long so he arranged for Baer's brother, Buddy Baer, to box ten rounds with his older brother. It was the first time that the Baer brothers had appeared together in the ring.

 A few hours after the Baer fight the Denman Arena burned down and with it a valuable piece of Vancouver history. The arena had been the site of the Vancouver Millionaires winning the Stanley Cup in 1915; Dempsey and Braddock had fought there; Valentino had judged a beauty contest at that arena and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, had given a speech there.

With the Denman Arena fire three neighbouring shipbuilding plants were also destroyed. This was not determined to be deliberately set but the fire marshal at the time, J.A. Thomas, stated that the arena was the worst fire trap in Vancouver since it had been built. Although the estimated monetary loss was around $500,000 if the fire had started while the crowd was enjoying the bout, the death toll could have easily reached 1,000.

Also on August 20 (that was a busy day for Vancouver) was a visit from the Lord Mayor of London Sir Percy Vincent. One of his duties with this visit was to unveil an 8-foot-high statue of Captain George Vancouver. Sir Percy also presented the city with a civic mace.

The statue - made of bronze and granite and carved by Charles Marega - and the mace are still at city hall. Another one of Sir Percy's gifts was a sprig from a tree in the orchard where an apple fell on the head of Isaac Newton and gave him the idea of gravity. Where that sprig is today is anyone's guess.

Two days later the beginning of the credit union movement began in BC. A self help group established during the depression, the Army of the Common Good, started with six charter members and $10.25 in deposits to form the Common Good Credit Union. Within two months the deposits had more than doubled to $25.10 and the first loan of $27 was made in May of 1937.

Visiting Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir officiated at the opening of the Seaforth Armories. (I have written on the armouries before and you can read that entry here). Tweedsmuir was also known as John Buchan and was the author of a best selling mystery, The Thirty Nine Steps. Not one movie was made from the book but two were.

On August 30 Tweedsmuir was one of the congregation for the first service held iin the St. James Anglican Church at the corner of Gore and Cordova Streets. Legendary Vancouver Architect Arthur Erickson said that this was the best single building in Vancouver. I thought I had written on it but I can't seem to find the entry.

On October 2 UBC Stadium opened.

On December 1 Vancouver's new city hall opened.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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