Friday, December 12, 2014

Russians and Americans

Peters wasn't the ONLY international spy to come to Vancouver. Douglas MacArthur II, nephew to the legendary general, was assigned to Vancouver in 1935. His assignments were mundane tasks such as stamping visas but the labour situation on the west coast made his life a little more interesting.

While I was doing this work, the old Seattle-Alaska line went on strike. They were controlled pretty much by Harry Bridges’ left wing union on the West Coast. There were several strikes, stranding a ship in Vancouver… The shipping job was interesting, particularly the discharge of a striking crew. There was the usual tough-minded labor union labor on each ship, if the crew was unionized, as they were on the West Coast. The union leader always wanted to be present when a crew member was questioned so he could intimidate any seamen not favoring a strike. I got involved in what the French call a prise de bec, a nose-to-nose, with union representatives, saying the seamen had the right to speak alone with the consul and the captain when he was asked the question of whether he accepted the discharge voluntarily or not, or why he was striking.

The same year, General MacArthur made changes to the "War Plan Red", which was a contingency plan to invade Canada if relations with Britain soured. Now, he considered Vancouver to be a “priority target comparable to Halifax and Montreal.” Was this amendment inspired by the possibility of Communist success in B.C.?

Was General MacArthur being paranoid about Communists in Vancouver? Well, in 1934, a police spy - Operator #3 - had this to say:

“I learned that the World Hotel 396 Powell Street is quite a hang out for Reds, and a lot of the waterfront workers are now using it for their red element to gather,”

A man by the name of Charles Hanson, is now using this Hotel for his headquarters. I learned from a most reliable source that this man Hanson has in the last fourteen months made two trips to New York to get money and instructions as to carrying on of the Communistic movement in Vancouver.

A later report stated there was a large fund in New York from Russia and its sole purpose was to fund strikes. As well, Hanson handled some of it.

a lot of grief can be expected from Charles Hanson. This man is continually talking among the men and is telling them there is no doubt but the Reds will pull off a big strike in May or June 1935, he claims there won’t be much difficulty as its a cinch to get the lumber industry tied up, and that is where it will start.

There wasn't a general strike in Vancouver in 1935 though there was Communist-led labour unrest in 1935. None of that seems to have been funded by Russia.

Are there spies here today? Probably. If you ever had the opportunity to watch the television show "Intelligence" with Ian Tracey, which was filmed in Vancouver, one of the story lines was CSIS - Canada's spy network - had been infiltrated by US spies. Could it be?

This is my last post for 2014. Usually I would end next Friday but I have a lot to do in order to get ready for a sale starting on Christmas day. My book, On The Right Side, My Story of Survival and Success will be on sale for 0.99 in the US and the UK from December 25 to December 31, 2014.

First, I want to thank Past Tense Vancouver website for the information on the spies. Second, I want to thank all of you, my readers, for continuing to support this little venture of mine.

The Vancouver Vagabond blog started July 6, 2010 because there was construction on the suite above me and I didn't want to stay home and put up with the noise. So I started walking and taking photos then learning about the history of the places I'd seen. It snowballed from there. Now, 688 entries later, over 159,000 page views and the Vagabond is still going strong. Next year, I will continue to show you awesome photos of the area I live in and tell you why I love Vancouver so much.

May you stay safe and secure this holiday season. As always, I hope you find the beauty around you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Nest of Spies!

Mysterious Man Named Peters, Ostensibly a Barber, Left City Yesterday on Receipt of Cipher Message

For Months he Spent Most of His Time on the Waterfront, Carefully Noting Nature of Cargoes for the Orient

Those headlines appeared in the Vancouver Daily World on January 7, 1905. Here's the rest of the article:

Yesterday afternoon a well-furnished barber shop in a down town hotel was closed and Charles Peters, the erstwhile proprietor of the shop, sailed on the Aorangi, having in his possession a ticket for Honolulu.

Charles Peters arrived in Vancouver some four months ago and his actions while here were something of a mystery to those with whom he came into close contact. His first move when he reached the city was to rent the barber shop in question and then he hired a man to look after the business. It was soon learned that Peters was a native of Russia, although he gave a name that would indicate he came from one of the English speaking countries. He was a man of about 26 years of age, had a college education and spoke several languages fluently.

It was noticed by those who had patronized the barber shop that Peters spent little of his time in working at his trade. He put in hours on the waterfront and, although he paid little attention to the movement of freight, close observers say that he seemed to take a particular interest in freight consigned per the Oriental liners. It was further noticed that he met Russians who happened to pass through Vancouver and that while in his rooms overlooking the waterfront, he spent many hours in writing and that occasionally bulky packages were mailed from the local post office, carrying letter rates of postage.

 A cipher telegram from the Russian diplomatic headquarters at Washington D.C. apparently accounts for the hurried closing of the barber shop and the departure of Mr. Peters on the first boat sailing from this port after the receipt of the message.

The young Russian was a splendid conversationalist and while here he made many friends. He had thrilling tales to tell of adventures by land and sea, but when the subject of the Russian-Japanese war was broached he had nothing to say. The conclusion drawn by the men who knew Peters best is that he was an attache of the Russian diplomatic service and that it was found that his services would be more valuable to his government in some other part of the world than in Vancouver.

What a stir that report must of made! On the International front, Japan was on the verge of defeating Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. Soon jubilant, local Japanese were celebrating the victory in the streets. This was the first time an Asian power had defeated a European power.

Intriguing, don't you think? At the very least, mysterious. But Mr. Peters was not the first, nor the last spy to make Vancouver their home. Friday, I will tell how a famous US general is connected to Vancouver and its nest of spies.

I want to thank Past Tense Vancouver website for the information above.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Our Dangerous Streets

The "100 Deathless Days" of 1939 may have been a failure but that didn't stop Vancouver from trying again. In 1955, it was for "80 Deathless Days" in response to the "80 Dark Days of Danger". (This refers to the dangers caused by shorter winter days)

In this campaign, the old people got the blame. After all, they were out at night, in the dark, wearing drab coloured clothing, which made it difficult for motorists to see them.

If the city’s seniors refused to remain in the safety of their homes, the Sun suggested they should at least ask themselves “Is this journey necessary?” before venturing out onto the dark, treacherous streets.

The "80 Deathless Days" campaign was also a failure. In 1960, a reporter for the Vancouver Sun reported Trail, BC hadn't had a single traffic fatality in five years but Vancouver had only managed 54 consecutive days death free in the same time period.

What made the streets of Vancouver so dangerous? After the 1939 campaign, the head of the Traffic Safety Council said the problem was with the pedestrians. Motorists were perfectly cooperative during the campaign, but as for pedestrians, he said, “there was no evidence of any co-operation whatsoever.”

Perhaps it was the way the campaign was presented to the public. The Sun used "traffic morality", a "moral panic" formula. This was the traditional way Vancouverites were motivated to do things as with the campaigns to crack down on drugs.

Victoria, on the other hand, took a different approach. They were demonstrating a "traffic conscience" with a more ambitious campaign of "Accident Free Weeks".  While Vancouver was “half-heartedly pretending not to KILL people,” wrote the Sun, “Victoria is determined not to HURT people.”

These campaigns weren't unique to Vancouver. Providence, Rhode Island had a similar problem and they virtually eliminated traffic deaths by lowering the speed limit to 25 miles an hour. Looking back, these campaigns seem to signify when larger amounts of traffic deaths are accepted as the cost of this mode of transportation.

Car manufacturers have made their vehicles safer for both pedestrian and driver. Unfortunately, advancements like more powerful engines being operated by inexperienced drivers or drivers (and pedestrians) distracted by cell phones and such have increased the hazards of the road.

This information is from the Past Tense Vancouver website.

I hope you find the beauty around you.