Wednesday, June 1, 2016

One Fine New Year's Eve

There were many changes during Louis D. Taylor's four year term as mayor of Vancouver. City Hall abandoned the old building on Main Street for a temporary location in the Holden Building; the institution of civic planning under the late Alexander Walker and the projection of a magnificent civic centre on the slope of the north end of the Burrard Bridge (that dream never came to be); the planning of the bridge itself and the city gained its first automatic traffic signals in those four years.  What an exciting time to be mayor!

The first signal lights were installed at Main and Hastings and the second at Robson and Granville. Before this, the police had directed traffic at these busy corners, using portable "stop-go" signs that were hand operated.

In 1927 and 1928, the province was experiencing an ostentatious prosperity like it had never seen before and the city of Vancouver's material progress was happening in this time.

The night skies were garishly filled with electric signs. At the BC Electric Station as Hastings there was a three-storey bottle forever pouring golden beer into a two-story glass. The glass would fill, foam white then blink out and begin to fill again. (Sorry, I couldn't find a photo of it!. On Granville Street, an immense rooster marked the Chanticleer Restaurant where young social lights gathered for afternoon tea.

One New Year's Eve, 1000 party goers danced at the Hotel Vancouver, 400 at the Elysium Hotel. Lavish parties were held at the Terminal City Club, all the private golf clubs, at the Harrison Springs' new hotel, at Grouse Mountain Chalet, and the Rotary Club took over the Stanley Park Pavilion. The parties were white-tie-and-tails affairs though some of the younger generation were slack and showed up in dinner jackets and black ties.

The event of the evening though, the affair that only the upper crust were invited to, the invitation everyone longed for was the fancy dress ball in the Hycroft Manor on the brow of the Shaughnessy hill. There General and Mrs. A.D. McRae annually entertained in baronial magnificence.

The next day, the McRae party was celebrated with two picture-filled pages in the social sections of the newspapers and all the ladies who weren't able to attend view the photos with envy and gossiped about the affair.

Less prominent citizens still celebrated. 16 cars were stolen, 73 drunks were arrested and the next morning, 18 citizens were photographed in the English Bay. (Polar Bear Swim, every New Year's Day) One brave woman stayed in the water, endured the freezing temperatures for 33 minutes!

One traveller noted that, as the New Year began, the city lights were visible in the water, reflected against an overcast, as far east as Chilliwack.

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


  1. Always wanted to be invited to an upper crust party. Simply to see all the fuss.

    1. Me too Lee! Can you imagine how fancy it would have been back then?