Friday, April 11, 2014

Jungle Residents

Wednesday I told you about Vancouver jungles of 1931. Today, I will continue my narrative.

One of the residents of the 'jungle' was an elderly Scot who had lived in Vancouver for twenty-four years and had fought in WWI. The Scot's words to the reporter, C.M.F. Planta were 'the poor need little - and little do they get'. At the time Planta visited the encampment, the Scot and his buddies were stewing rhubarb a friendly grocer had given them. One of the cooks was bent over a fire, stirring the rhubarb in a lard pail blackened from months of use.

This brings up the question of how these men got enough to eat. Remember, this was before the days of social welfare payments supplied by the government. The church would give a half loaf of bread a day, two sausages and sometimes a bit of tea. Anything else, the men would 'rustle' from other sources. Now, these men didn't beg - that was for those who had nothing. Only the people who had nowhere to sleep and nowhere to live would do that. These jungle residents felt that there were too many people bumming for money. So the men Planta interviewed would get their food from the church and from bakers, butchers and vegetable stores. They found that the retailers were happy to slip them a little something as long as they didn't ask them too often.

These men were as clean as they could be. Planta visited one jungle near the Georgia Viaduct and found five men who had banded together to help each other through these tough times. Some of the men were soldiers who weren't entitled to a pension - two had spent time in a German prison. These men wanted to work but there wasn't any work available.

Of course, there was always the possibility of homesteading but that wasn't realistic for many of these men. Money would be needed to purchase the equipment needed to work the land and for food to last the winter months. It was too late in the year for planting and getting a crop in for that year.

The idea of being so far away from the centre of population also seemed foolhardy to some. Many of the men in the 'jungles' had a lifelong trade of mining, mechanics, lumbering, carpentry and such skills so they were unfamiliar with what is needed to work the land. And many were unsuited for the lonely, isolation homesteading would bring.
Those weren't the only two 'jungles' in Vancouver at the time. There was one near the B.C. Sugar Refinery and another behind the C.N.R. Station.

The general public was aware of these jungles and whispered that the camps sheltered 'reds' and hoboes. The common thought seemed to be these men didn't want to work and wouldn't if they were offered a job. It was a misjudgement.

There were hundreds of men in this position. Men with skills, intelligence, pride and drive. Yet, they couldn't find work so it had to be more than just an individual problem.

These jungles didn't last long. In fact, in September of the same year the camps appeared, they were torn down and the residents shipped off to work camps and such. Were the men better off? I don't know.

Once again, I am getting my information from the July 25, 1931 issue of the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. It is common for people to be afraid of people they don't understand and easier to remove that select group in a pack animal way. Thus the work camps. A person should take the time investigate what they are afraid of and make a knowledgeable decision by what they know not what they fear.

    1. and remember the era. It was a way to try to help the men. Or so they thought.

  2. Yes, as you had said it was a way to help but it was a way to solve an unpleasant problem as well. Hopefully we learn from history. Many of our Vietnam vets have had similar reintroduction to the world they left and were not created at others in war where. Because of that experience we older folks try to let our people know how much we appreciate there sacrifices they made for us. So we think. The thought is if we try and fail we try again another way right?

    1. All we can hope is that people continue to learn from past errors.