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

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