Monday, April 30, 2012

Entertainment in the Big City

Before I start today's blog, I want to thank Beverly Akerman. In Saturday's edition of the Globe and Mail, she wrote a really good article on my friend and fellow writer, Martin Crosbie. In the print version, in a sidebar, she also mentioned me and my book, Let Us Play, A Rock 'n Roll Love Story.

When Vancouver was first established going out for entertainment was a rarity. Most people entertained themselves at home however, there were a few exceptions.

There was a touring troupe that visited to entertain the soldiers with the Royal Engineers. The group was out of San Francisco and one singer was a sixteen-year-old girl named Lulu Sweet. Ms. Sweet quickly became a favourite of the troops. One day while touring the local waters with Col. Richard Moody, she asked the name of an island. Moody replied that it didn't have a name but in tribute to her it was named Lulu Island. That was in either 1860 or 1861.

A club by the name of The Midnight Adieu Club held dances in the 1880s. Every couple of weeks the club would use Blair's Hall in Vancouver, a structure that was also used by the Catholic Church.

June 5, 1886 was the day that the Columbia Hall opened and the debut performers were Webster and Stehle, an acrobatic song and dance team.

In April of 1887, Vancouver had its first band concert. The opening song was The Maple Leaf Forever.

December 5, 1889 the Imperial Theatre hosted a production of Richard III. This was the first time that Vancouver had a Shakespearean production.

In February of 1891, the CPR opened the $200,000 Vancouver Opera House on Granville Street. It was a 1,200-seat theatre and the first production was by the Emma Juch English Opera Company. It cost the CPR $10,000 to have these US entertainers put on a production of Wagner's Lohengrin.

In September, Sarah Bernhardt appeared at the VOH. It was something special to have the great Bernhardt appear in a town of 13,000 people. And we knew it.

The theatre may have been called the Vancouver Opera House and operas were performed there. However, variety shows were also common. It was the same with the Imperial Opera House.

On April 15, 1895, Mark Twain visited the Imperial. He had the crowd laughing so hard that at times he couldn't be heard. Twain was also sick with a bad cold.

Poet Pauline Johnson read her poems to a large crowd at the Methodist church in October of 1897.

Robert Jamieson leased the Vancouver Opera House from 1895 to 1902. Jamieson brought in operas, musicals and vaudeville. His son, Teddy, went on to become one of Vancouver's best-known musicians. It was Teddy Jamieson that led the orchestra when today's Orpheum in 1927.

Thanks goes to the History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the above information. There is a lot more that I will share with you in another entry.
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Friday, April 27, 2012

Adventures of a Haberdasher

He was born in Lanarkshire Scotland in the 1845 and his first job was as a grocery clerk. However, Robert Clark wanted more out of life and 1871 the twenty five year old left Scotland for Canada. Clark was going to work for a Captain Dick in Fort Frances.

Once in Fort Frances, Clark and others decided to travel to Lake Manitoba. It was on this journey that Clark and his companions contributed to Manitoba history.

Clark and a few other men walked for many days through the Lake of the Woods area until the moccasins were falling off Clark's feet. The group was starving and, in desperation, they caught a few muskrats for nourishment. However before the group could partake of their wild feast they stumbled on a lumber camp. The occupants of the camp fed and sheltered the men before they continued on their journey.

No longer in bare feet Clark was now outfitted with high heel boots. These weren't easy to walk in though and the skin on Clark's feet was soon rubbed off. He faced a dilemma. He couldn't keep up with his party with such sore feet so he discarded the boots and walked barefoot through the snow and brush.

The party of adventurers did stop for one night at Point Lachine where the men slept on a floor wrapped in blankets. Then they proceeded to walk the thirty-six miles to Winnipeg.

Robert Clark was lame, quite lame actually, but he soon began active work and built the first steamer that sailed on Lake Manitoba.

But what, you may ask, does this have to do with the fine city of Vancouver BC?

Clark moved to the United States and worked in various cities there. After that he moved to Victoria in 1875. In 1880, he opened a men's store in Nanaimo, which he moved to Yale a year later. That store burned down and Robert Clark decided to give a brand new city a try. In 1886 he moved to the newly incorporated Vancouver.

Here he opened our city's first men's clothing store on Hastings street. As well, on September 22, 1887 Clark chaired a meeting of local businessmen. Out of that meeting the Vancouver Board of Trade was born.
If you would like see a photo of Clark and Vancouver's first men's wear store then visit this page at the History of Metropolitan Vancouver website. There is also more information on this interesting fellow.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Good Evening Mister

Most people who go into broadcasting or writing or the performing arts wants to have their name known. In fact, it appears that many will go to great lengths to make certain that the audience is well aware of who the performer is. That is their right, after all most have worked hard to get where they are. However not everyone is the same.

In 1925, an Australian born to Irish parents stopped in Vancouver on his journey eastward. Michael Aloysius (Earle) Kelly got a job at the Daily Province where he later became a night editor.

Kelly had been with the Intelligence Corps of the Australian Army and had worked as a journalist in several Commonwealth countries.

The Province had its own radio station, CKDC, and in 1929 a 17-year tradition began when Kelly's distinctive, booming voice sounded over the airwaves and wished everyone a 'good evening'. This newscaster would later work with CNRV and CKWX and he became a news legend east to Alberta and Saskatchewan with the help of the CRBC network. Kelly also became well known to the south in places like Washington, Oregon and California.

However, Kelly wanted to be anonymous and therefore was known as Mr. Good Evening. The intro for his fifteen-minute broadcast was simply, 'the nightly news service of the Vancouver Province'. He would stand for his entire broadcast and even though he may have had numerous news items to report and Kelly's delivery was slow and articulate, yet he always managed to time it just right and wrap it up in time.

Earle Kelly was a tall, good-looking man. He was a bachelor who was over six feet tall and lived at an exclusive businessman's club on the waterfront. On Saturday nights, Kelly would deliver the broadcast dressed impeccably in evening dress. His white mustache would be bristling and his hair would be slicked back. He must made quite the figure whether he was broadcasting, playing a strenuous game of tennis or dancing in white tie tails at the Commodore Ballroom downtown.

When Kelly broadcast he would use the editorial 'we' or 'us' and naturally that ended up seeping into his everyday speech as well. Every night he would wish the elderly a good night but only if they were over ninety years old or had been married fifty years or more. He would end his broadcast with the message: “Wish all our listeners, on land, on the water, in the air, in the woods, in the mines, in lighthouses, and especially (a salute to different groups each evening), a restful evening. Good night.”

One night he decided to wish the 'Ladies of the Evening' a special good night. As you can well imagine this brought a bit of controversy from some listeners.

'Canada's first personality broadcaster' passed away on April 14, 1946 at the Tranquille Sanatorium in Kamloops. He was sixty six.

I have to thank the website the History of Metropolitan Vancouver and in particular an article by Gordon Lansdell for the above information. I have to thank my Kodak camera for the photos and God for the subject matter.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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