Monday, August 18, 2014

Ivor/Ivan Ackery

As Ralph August mentioned in the comment section of the Orpheum Revisted post last week, no story on the Orpheum would be complete without a lengthy discussion of its legendary manager, Ivan Ackery.

On October 30, 1899, Ivor Frederick Wilson Ackery was born in Bristol, England. He lived with his family in the Christmas Steps area of Bristol - a historic area that apparently a fish and chips shop that is 300 years old. The young Ackery attended Duke of York's Military School in Dover - which happens to be a mile away from the legendary cliffs. There he learned to become a drummer and a bugler.

In 1908, when Ivor/Ivan was eight years old, his father died. A year later, his mother left for Toronto and left her son in the care of an aunt and uncle.

At the age of 14, Ivor/Ivan left school to go to work. His first job, which paid five shillings a week, was feeding paper bags into a printing machine at a paper factory. He gave his wages to his aunt and uncle who in turn gave the young man six pence a week for spending money. This Ackery spent at the cinema.

On October 17, 1914 - three weeks before his 15th birthday - Ivor/Ivan Ackery left Liverpool for Canada. His mother had remarried, was living in Vancouver and working as a cashier at the Windsor Hotel (later called The Castle) on Granville Street. She sent the money for her son's passage, anxious to get him out of Europe and away from the Great War.

Ivor/Ivan got a job at the Grosvenor Hotel, working as an elevator operator and bellboy. However, he was like a lot of young men in the day and anxious to fight in the war. So, on Christmas Eve 1915, he walked into the Vancouver recruiting office and joined up. Of course, he lied about his age since he was only 16. His mother wasn't happy but Ivor/Ivan was now a recruit for the 102nd Canadian Expeditionary Forces Battalion.

The young man was sent for training at Goose Spit, near Comox. One of his officers was Captain J.S. Matthews. (Matthews went on to become Major Matthews and he is revered in Vancouver as one of our original archivists.) Here, Ackery's Duke of York's musical training came in handy. His bugle woke the men in the morning and put them to bed at night.

On June 16, 1916, their orders came and the unit marched down Granville Street to the train station the tune of Laddie in Khaki. The men arrived in Halifax a week later and the next day they sailed for Europe aboard the CPR Empress of Britain. On June 29, 1916, the 102nd Canadian Expeditionary Forces Battalion arrived at Liverpool, exactly where Ivor/Ivan had left 21 months earlier.

No doubt, the young man was ready to fight for Canada but there was an official check of ages. When Ackery's age was discovered, he, and those who had lied about his age, were left behind as the battalion went to war. Ivor/Ivan decided to spend a bit of time in Bristol visiting relatives before returning to Canada on the S.S. Southland. He worked as a steward in the officer's mess. He was discharged on September 18, 1916. But that wasn't the end of his military career.

I would like to thank The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the information above.

I hope you find the beauty around you and see you on Wednesday when I will fill you in on more about Ivor/Ivan Ackery.


  1. Thank you for the mention. I got a double smile from your article with the mention of my name AND reading about Ivan Ackery. I don't know if the Saturday cartoons were just for the boys or were girls there too? I've always been loyal to the Orpheum Theatre more so than the other old cinemas downtown.

    I was looking earlier at the Canadian WWI Attestation Papers and found two for Ivan... Quite an adventurer for such a young man.

    1. Glad you liked it Ralph. This is going to be a long series of articles - Wednesday's entry is written and I still haven't gotten Ivan out of his teens! Thanks for commenting and stay tuned. The Orpheum is a grand ole lady, isn't she?