Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Dry B.C.

During the 1910s and the 1920s, there was an economic boom in Vancouver. Buildings were springing up all over town - including some of our more iconic structures such as the Dominion Building and the Sun Tower. Then World War I started and everything ground to a halt.

That war cost British Columbia  more young men per capita than any other province in Canada. And what were the good folks at home doing while these men were off at war? Outlawing alcohol.

That's right. Prohibition arrived in B.C. before it was enacted in the U.S. From 1917 to 1921, the Temperance Movement convinced politicians, media and the public that if allies wanted to win the war, then alcohol had to be banned.

Alcoholism was widespread and causing damage to the Canadian family and the supporters of prohibition probably thought that banning booze would help to restore the moral fabric of Canadian society. The Temperance movement was funded by the Church and had huge political influence. These well-meaning folks were going to have all the saloons closed and this demon drink banned.

However, we all know what happens when the government steps in and tries to take away something like alcohol. The people find illegal ways to obtain it. Illegal producers and distributors of alcohol appeared, supplying product to speakeasies and illegal drinking dens.

Prohibition was short lived in B.C. and officially ended in 1921 but post-prohibition licensing laws in Vancouver meant that bootlegging operations and speakeasies carried for another thirty years! And drinking establishments varied from the classy Commodore Ballroom to the run-down drinking dens of Hogan's Alley.

The rewards from running bootleg booze were just too great to be ignored. Prohibition enabled crime bosses such as Joe Celona and Wally 'Blondie' Wallace to exert control over the city.

Officials and police officers turned a blind eye to bootlegging or else they profited from it through bribes and pay offs. A number of police chiefs lost their jobs due to allegations of corruption in the Vancouver Police.

It was in the 1950s though that events reached a climax. Police Chief Walter Mulligan was halfway through an inquiry on corruption in the VPD when he fled to Los Angeles.

 The Forbidden Vancouver website provided the information for this entry. (If you are going to be in Vancouver or live here, check out one of their tours.) The photos are of an art project on Granville Street. Students from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design supply the artwork, which is then put on these power boxes for all to see.

Friday, I will tell you more about prohibition in Vancouver.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Try and take something away and if you want it bad enough the people will find a way to get it. Drugs included and I think we are loosing the war. Love the utility boxes.

    1. I agree with you Lee. But what do we do? As for the utility boxes, what a great way to turn something boring into something beautiful.

  2. Yes with the utility boxes. Better than have some bloke tag them. The art is beautiful and if someone could do that to our utility boxes there'd be some beauty around this desert that would be worth admiring. lol