Friday, February 5, 2016

The Morning Sun

In 1917, Colonel J.W.Stewart left the running of the Morning Sun newspaper to his accountant, Robert Cromie, while Stewart went overseas to become a general. Cromie emerged as the owner of the paper - how is the basis of many legends but has never been proven - and began to make his mark on Vancouver.
Veteran Province editor, D.A. McGregor noted that Cromie "was never afraid to make mistakes".

It only took a few years for Sidney Walker, the historian of North American newspapers, to call Cromie "the last of the great individual publishers." Cromie was eccentric, bold, ruthless, resourceful and was determined to identify the Sun with Vancouver and Vancouver with the Sun. This was a success in many ways especially after Nichols disposed of the Province to the Southam newspaper chain in 1923, making the older newspaper subject to reproach for being foreign controlled. A year later, the Sun absorbed the World and issued morning and evening editions.

It wasn't long though before the evening edition of the Sun was challenged by the Evening Star. This new paper was managed by General Victor W. Odlum.

In 1926. a deal was made. The Star shifted to morning circulation and took over the Morning Sun's circulation. The Evening Sun absorbed the Evening Star's circulation and became known as the Sun. The Star continued on until publication was suspended and the staff replaced the paper with the Herald. It later became the News-Herald and soon went out of business - one of the few failures of the Roy Thompson chain - and made a negligible factor in the city although it was a good training ground for beginning in newspapermen.

After Cromie's death, the Sun maintained his policies in a less stringent form and surpassed the Province in circulation during the strike of the International Typographical Union against the Southam chain in the late 40's. It maintained it's superiority until 1957 when, along with the negotiated demise of the News-Herald, the two papers joined forces in the Pacific Press, the Province taking over the deserted morning field and the Sun continuing as the only evening paper. 

But that was in the future. A future which was a long ways off from Robert Cromie in the 1920's when he was establishing his paper. He would continually hammer and provincial and federal governments to facilitate the grain trade of the port by cutting the mountain freight differential  and improving Port facilities and to "open up" the Peace River Block by extending the PGE - the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.

Locally, he was all for the large projects such as a bridge over the First Narrows, a civic centre and auditorium, a civic airport and construction of the University of BC in Point Grey. The Province was less vociferous than the Sun and, to be realistic, the Province was less concerned in seeking advantages for the city. This measured deliberation of tone probably carried greater weight both locally and abroad.

In any case, the period between the two World Wars was a time of vigorous press and diverse editorial personalities such as Jim Butterfield, Francis Bursill (Felix Penne), Bob Bouchette, Lukin Johnston and cartoonist J.B. Fitzmaurice entertained the city's population.

Thanks to Alan Morley and his book, Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Saturday Sunset

The 1920's were eventful years in Vancouver and the city itself was building towards its modern form. The city's objectives were increased commercial traffic, increased industrial activity, and eventual amalgamation with the suburbs, Point Grey and South Vancouver.

Vancouver remained dependent on its basic primary industries such as lumbering, fishing, and on shipping. The twenties also saw increased immigration and commercial activity, which was common to all of Canada and particularly British Columbia. Much of the city's progress was the result of federal and provincial policies and politics but, locally, Vancouver's vigorous press and persistent civic administration played important parts.

Our newspapers had a lively history. There were a few minor and eccentric publications that lasted only a brief time but by 1925, the Fourth Estate assumed its modern day form with the Sun and the Province dominating the field. The Province was originally a Victoria publication, which first appeared in 1898. It was under the management - and later ownership - of Walter Cameron Nichol.

Nichol was an enterprising editor noted for his readiness to stir up trouble, often resulting in libel suits. However, Nichol had a sound appreciation of news values and reader interests. With such valid newspaper policies, Walter soon had Carter-Cotton's pioneer News-Advertiser closing its doors.

That left Louis D. Taylor's World newspaper as the main competition for the Province. Taylor left the running of the World in the hands of John Nelson when Taylor became immersed in city politics.  Unfortunately, Nelson dealt with inadequate financing and in 1924, that paper folded.

"Both are good papers," said the neutral Saturday Sunset. During these years, Nichol restrained his violent editorial outbursts and- with the help of F.J. Burd and Roy Brown - was producing a paper that was noted for sound conservatism and comprehensive news coverage.

The Sunset was founded in 1907 and taken over by a syndicate headed by F.C. Wade in 1912. Wade was a prominent Liberal and on February 12, 1912, it re-emerged as the Morning Sun and was tied to the Liberal Party and the party policies.

It trudged along with very little success and was foreclosed on. Then it was snapped up by Colonel J.W. Stewart - than a railroad contractor who was concerned with the construction of the PGE Railway. Stewart conducted it not as a newspaper but more like a political organ.

Funny thing is though, Stewart selected an account he hired to manage the paper and appear as its publisher. The accountant, Robert Cromie was a newspaper genius.

Thanks to the book, Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

Monday, February 1, 2016

Loss of Influence

The Vancouver of the 1920's was building row after row of small, undistinguished houses through the areas of Fairview, Kitsilano, the East End and South Vancouver. These houses were constructed on 33-foot and 50-foot lots.

This Vancouver was overflowing into North Vancouver and West Vancouver. Every morning and evening,  people crowded the ferries and gasoline rail-cars that ran toward Howe Sound on a detached fragment of the PGE Railway. The latter service was augmented by the West Vancouver ferries, which ran from the dock at the foot of Columbia Street out through the Narrows to Ambleside, Hollyburn, and Dundarave.

This was the Vancouver of labouring men, artisans, clerks and small business owners. Many were newcomers from Eastern Canada and the British Isles. They radically changed the character of the city as it grew.

The attitude of Vancouverites, pre-war, was one of reckless daring. But these newcomers changed that since they were more sober and cautious. Politically, these newcomers were opposed to the factious "plunderbund" which had dominated provincial politics, a Liberalism, which contained the seeds of a welfare-state philosophy; economically they resented and fought the concentration of power in the hands of the few.

The early 1920's contained a cynical licentiousness in Canada and the United States. The battle lines were soon drawn and often the main issues were overshadowed by a moralistic fervour.  Racism, speculation and moralist views came bursting forth in 1924 with the death of Janet Smith. I wrote about this in 2013, and here are the links if you want to learn more. Death of a Nanny and Justice Denied?

This was a murder case - or was it? - and the social and political repercussions were profound. The prestige of the police and the legal authorities in Vancouver were never great but this case lessened it even more! The influence of the "old families" in politics was reduced to the point where they were no longer able to openly tell people who to vote for.

That was a good thing because then mayors like W.H. Malkin and Gerry McGeer were elected on their own merits, not because of whom they knew. The city's politics became divided into east and west. Those candidates who were radical carried the polls east of Ontario and Carrall Streets while the more conservative officer seekers succeeded only in they carried the large majorities in the western division.

Finally, the "high society", which had developed in the pre-war and post-war booms lost the respect of the community and fell an easy victim to the economic turmoil of the 1930's. They never again achieved their former brilliant extravagance.

Thanks to the book, Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill