Aida Knapp – A Life in Dance

Aida Knapp was a dance teacher in Richmond who taught many hundreds of students ballet, tap, jazz, modern and ballroom dance for 40 years in her studio on Railway Avenue and in various halls and auditoriums in Brighouse, Steveston, Ladner and Marpole.

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Aida Knapp outside her dance studio 1965. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 19.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1911, she was an only child to parents Frank and Amy Trueman. The family moved to China in 1917 when her father, a textiles engineer, was sent there by his company. Aida was introduced to dancing while attending an American boarding school at Kuling in the Lushan District. Her first ballet lessons were in the Russian method of dance taught by an Australian instructor, Madame Kelly. Aida loved dancing and took as many lessons as she could, determined to be a professional dancer someday.

Aida and her family left China after she completed her high school education, around 1928. They settled first in Vancouver, where she resumed her dance lessons with the Duncan Barbay School of Dance, and then on Lulu Island. She financed her lessons by working in various theatres and clubs in Vancouver where she got her first break into show business when a travelling road company from England played a theatre where she was working. They needed some girls to dance in their production and Aida eagerly accepted the offer to go on the road with the company.

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Aida Trueman, photo taken in Paris in 1934. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 13.

Aida’s job was to travel ahead of the company, training new sets of dancers in each town, thereby reducing the need to travel with a large group of dancers and lessening expenses. The cost cutting measures were ineffective however as the company went bankrupt, stranding Aida in Ottawa.

Undaunted by this, Aida got on a train to Rhode Island where she stayed with her aunts and worked as a dancer in a Chinese Restaurant, making enough money to take more dance classes. She moved to New York where she attended auditions for dance companies and theatre productions, eventually landing a job in Atlanta Georgia at a luxurious hotel and theatre.

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The Twelve Aristocrats in a scene from the movie, “Calling All Stars”, London 1936. Aida Trueman on the far left. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 14.

It was in Georgia that Aida was asked to join an act called “The Twelve Aristocrats”, a very successful dance troupe known for their versatility and the variety of their dance styles. The Twelve Aristocrats played all over the United States and Europe in the years leading up to World War II and took part in the filming of a musical movie called “Calling All Stars” while in England. An excerpt from the movie on YouTube, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YehBT1MFIxY , shows Aida performing with the Twelve Aristocrats.

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Aida Trueman flies through the air during the Twelve Aristocrats’ dance routine. Photo taken in Indianapolis in 1936. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 15

As World War II grew nearer, the Twelve Aristocrats split up, some settling in London and others in New York. Aida returned to Lulu Island where her parents still lived. She was hired as the choreographer for the Palomar Theatre where she helped several girls get their start, including a young Yvonne de Carlo who went on to become a star in film and television.

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Aida and Al Knapp outside their home on Railway Avenue in 1992. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 20.

It was during this time that Aida met her future husband, Elwood (Al) Knapp, who was working as a horse trainer at Brighouse Racetrack. In late 1939 they were married. Al built a house at 928 Railway Avenue where they lived and raised two sons, Wesley and Frank. Aida decided to start a small dance school to help make ends meet, moving the furniture out of their kitchen every day to make room for a small dance floor. As her school grew the space became too small and she rented space in halls in Brighouse and Steveston to hold her classes.

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Aida Knapp with a student inside her dance studio, 1956. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 18.

In 1950 Al built Aida a dance studio behind the family home. The dance school became a full-time job for Aida with as many as 200 students attending lessons six days a week. During her career Mrs. Knapp continued with her own education, attending dance workshops and conventions where she took additional training as well as giving instruction to other teachers.

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Aida Knapp with a group of young dance students in her studio, 1968. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 22

Every June Aida would put on a dance recital where her students would perform the routines that they learned during the year. Costumes were made by the student’s mothers, and the events were eagerly attended by parents, grandparents, friends and neighbours. Proceeds from the recitals always went to benefit a variety of community activities, such as in 1948 when the funds were given to the Fraser River Flood Relief program in Richmond.

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Dancers from the Aida Knapp School of Dance strike a pose prior to their annual recital. Shown here are, L to R, Margaret Parker, Linda Dixon, Louise McMath, Beverly Bull, Frankie Knapp, Sharon Michaud, Marilyn Gates, Patsy Marshal and Elsie Brad. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 21.

Her students performed at many venues in Richmond and around Greater Vancouver, such as the Kitsilano Showboat, the PNE, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, as well as in senior’s centres, for various community service organizations, etc.

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Aida Knapp’s two sons, Frank (L) and Wes (R) pose with Sharon Michaud in this photo from 1958. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2003 28 16.

While some of her students went on to pursue dance in professional and semi-professional ways, most ended their dance instruction as teens, but with a great appreciation for the art of dance and with love and fond memories of the woman who taught them.

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The acknowledgment from the end of program from one of Aida Knapp’s annual dance recitals, “Frolics of ’64”. City of Richmond Archives 2003 28.

Aida taught dance until 1984 when she was in her 70s. The dedication and love that she demonstrated for the art of dance and for her students have made her a Richmond legend, remembered sentimentally by the generations of young dancers that she instructed. She passed away in 1998 at the age of 87 having left a legacy of contribution to her community that lives on long after her passing.

Dr. R. W. Large – Medical Missionary in Steveston

The Japanese Methodist Mission was established in Steveston in 1896 to serve the needs of the Japanese fishermen of the area, offering spiritual and moral guidance as well as providing medical assistance when needed. A small building was erected on the property of the Phoenix Cannery to house the mission.

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The Methodist Japanese Mission in Steveston, ca. 1898, with several early missionaries posing on the stairs. Rev. Thomas Crosby is at top right, (with beard), Dr. R.W. Large directly in front of him. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 8)

 

Almost as soon as it was ready, an outbreak of typhoid fever made it necessary to use the building as a hospital. The hospital operated for two years with the help of volunteer Japanese nurses.

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The Methodist Japanese Mission set up as a hospital ward. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 3)

In 1898 the Canadian Methodist Church hired Dr. Richard Whitfield Large ( 1874 – 1920 ) to work at the mission during the fishing season.

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Rev. R.W. Large, MD. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 1)

Dr. Large was the son of a Methodist Minister in Ontario and graduated from Trinity Medical College in Toronto.  The photographs shown in this post were taken during his two seasons in Steveston and offer a view into the primitive conditions encountered by doctors serving the small communities on the coast of British Columbia. They were donated to the Archives by a member of his family.

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Dr. and Mrs. Large in the Doctor’s office in Steveston. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 6)

Dr. Large married Bella Geddes in 1899 and she assisted him during that season in Steveston. The next year he was appointed to take charge of the Mission in Bella Bella and worked there until 1910 when he transferred to the Mission Hospital in Port Simpson. The R.W. Large Memorial Hospital in Bella Bella was named in his memory after his death in 1920.

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Dr. Large performs the first operation in Steveston. Mrs. Large assists as the anaesthetist. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 7)

In 1900, the Japanese Fisherman’s Hospital took over the medical needs of the Japanese community in Steveston and operated until 1942 when the internment of Japanese-Canadians took place.

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The Steveston Japanese Hospital took over the medical needs of the Japanese community starting in 1900. Image ca. 1920. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 1978 14 10)

Registered Trademark – Commercial Art from the B.C. Packers Collection

The City of Richmond Archives acquired a large number of records of British Columbia Packers Ltd. at the time of the closure of its head office in Steveston. Among the records transferred to the Archives were an extensive series of files relating to the application for, registration, and maintenance of trademarks used and administered by the company and its predecessor and related companies. The records include trademark registrations, correspondence, product packaging, and hundreds of different labels that were in use from 1890 to 1999. Shown in this posting are a few of the trademarked labels owned by BC Packers which illustrate some of the themes used in marketing salmon.

Alexander Ewen was a pioneer in the canning industry on the Fraser River. In 1902 he became the president and largest shareholder of a new firm, The British Columbia Packers' Association. Shown here Ewen Brand Sockeye Salmon label from that era.

Alexander Ewen was a pioneer in the canning industry on the Fraser River. In 1902 he became the president and largest shareholder of a new firm, The British Columbia Packers’ Association. Shown here is an Ewen Brand Sockeye Salmon label from that era.

From the earliest years of salmon canning, the graphics used on the labels tended to be colourful and eye-grabbing to attract the consumer. Some of the earliest labels were printed in Victoria by the Colonist.

An 1891 Excelsior Brand salmon label. The cannery using this label was at Ladner's Landing, owned by E.A. Wadhams. The company shipped its product through its agents in San Francisco, D.L. Beck & Sons.

An 1891 Excelsior Brand salmon label. The cannery using this label was at Ladner’s Landing, owned by E.A. Wadhams. The company shipped its product through its agents in San Francisco, D.L. Beck & Sons.

Labels were sometimes printed and applied closer to the final market of the product, the cans being shipped “bright”, ie. without labels.

This label, also from 1891, was printed by the Canada Bank Note Co. in Montreal and included handling instructions in English and in French.

This label, also from 1891, was printed by the Canada Bank Note Co. in Montreal and included handling instructions in English and in French.

Trademarks had to be registered with the appropriate government department, in the case of Flagship Brand, the Department of Agriculture, Trade Mark and Copyright Branch in Ottawa. The registration document included a complete description of the label as shown below.

The trademark registration document for Flagship Brand Salmon, 1893.

The trademark registration document for Flagship Brand Salmon, 1893.

The Flagship Brand label was enticing on a number of levels. The “Flagship of modern pattern” and the Ensign and Union Jack made a patriotic connection to the British Motherland. The beautiful, wild British Columbia scenery showed the beauty of the land where the fish was caught, a wilderness tamed by the modern steam train on the right, all surrounded by a bright, eye-catching orange.

Flagship Brand, 1893.

Flagship Brand, 1893.

The majority of the BC fishery’s output was shipped for sale in Britain and nations of the British Empire, and as such, labels often carried some reference to the Monarchy or the Empire to encourage sale to patriotic shoppers. This could be done symbolically, as in Rex Brand, or directly with the words “British Empire Product” on the label, or in both ways.

Rex Brand Salmon's trademark showed a salmon leaping through a crown.

Rex Brand Salmon’s trademark, ca. 1906, showed a salmon leaping through a crown. The brand was registered in Australia and New Zealand starting in 1905.

Dominion Brand Salmon labels bore the image of the British Lion with

Dominion Brand Salmon labels bore the image of the British Lion with “British Empire Product” written in a banner below. This image was seen on many BC Packers labels.

Emblem

Emblem Brand, first registered in 1903, also bore the British Empire Lion Logo, as well as a Union Jack and the floral emblems of the United Kingdom. Emblem Brand was registered in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and France.

Products sold in other countries often had distinct labeling. Rex Pearl was a brand registered in Australia.

An Australian label for Rex Pearl Choice Canadian Salmon.

An Australian label for Rex Pearl Choice Canadian Salmon.

Trademarks had to be registered in all the countries where the products were sold. Cascade Brand was a registered trade mark in many countries, including the Netherlands, as shown below.

A Dutch Trademark Registration Certificate for Cascade Brand Salmon, 1947

A Dutch Trademark Registration Certificate for Cascade Brand Salmon, 1927

Labels were often thematic, trying to reach the consumer by appealing to their aesthetics. Many gave colourful representations of the magnificent scenery of British Columbia, sure to catch the discerning housewife’s eye as she did her shopping.

Sunset Brand Chum Salmon, with beautiful scenery.

Sunset Brand Chum Salmon, Trademark first registered in 1907, showing beautiful British Columbia scenery.

Canyon Brand

Canyon Brand Canadian Red Salmon, from the 1930s.

Arbutus Brand

Arbutus Brand White Spring salmon. Arbutus was first registered in 1906.

Occasionally, Canadian stereotypes were used to sell salmon. Nansen Brand in particular used scenes of ice and snow to represent the wild country that the fish came from. The brand was registered in Australia, New Zealand and Canada starting around 1918.

Nansen Brand with a polar bear on an ice floe.

Nansen Brand with a polar bear on an ice floe.

Nansen Brand with dog sled and trapper

Nansen Brand with snowy scenery and a dog sled and trapper on skis.

Some labels attempted to evoke feelings of hearth and home and good times with friends. Examples include Dinner Bell, Household and Table Talk brands.

Dinner Bell Brand

Dinner Bell Brand Fancy Pink Canadian Salmon. Dinner Bell was registered in New Zealand from 1938 to 1951.

Household Brand Salmon

Household Brand Fancy Canadian Red Salmon, registered in Canada from 1919 to 1969.

Table Talk Brand

Table Talk Brand Choice Red Cutlets.

Others used sports and other popular modern activities to promote the sales of their products.

Derby brand for the horse racing fan

Derby brand for the horse racing fan, first registered in 1906.

Lacrosse brand

Lacrosse brand.

Aviator Brand

Aviator Brand.

Of all the labels used to market salmon, the one with the longest history must be Clover Leaf. One of the best known brands, it was originally registered by a New York company in 1890, being transferred to the British Columbia Packers Association around 1908. The Brand was used on many varieties of canned goods such as vegetables and soups as well as the seafood products that it is best known for. The brand is still in use today, passed on from BC Packers, and can be seen in just about any supermarket.

The Clover Leaf Brand is perhaps one of the best known and longest used trademarks from BC Packers.

The Clover Leaf Brand is perhaps one of the best known and longest used trademarks from BC Packers.

So, while BC Packers has gone and most of the trademarks controlled by it have vanished, one at least remains to remind us of the company’s long history of quality seafood production and its long connection to Richmond.

Traffic Congestion in Richmond – Bumper-to-Bumper Through the Years

Traffic congestion has been a major topic of conversation among Richmondites from the early age of motor cars to the present day.

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Traffic on No. 3 Road, as viewed from the Ackroyd farm, ca. 1915. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1988 95 1

Roads like No. 3 Road have always been problematic for traffic, witness Council minutes and resolutions like this: “Decision to place Danger Signs near the corner (curve) at the end of No. 3 Road on the River Road owing to two bad curves and congested traffic.” (June 25, 1923)

Traffic at Brighouse Park Race Track, 1921. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1978 13 5

Traffic at Brighouse Park Race Track, 1921. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1978 13 5

Special celebrations and events have always caused traffic congestion and parking problems.  From sporting events and May Day celebrations to horse racing fixtures at the two Richmond thoroughbred tracks, travel often meant long line ups and delays.

Line-up for the Ladner ferry on No. 5 Road, 1947. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1997 16 19

Line-up for the Ladner ferry on No. 5 Road, 1947. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1997 16 19

Richmond’s geographic location on islands in the Fraser River has always posed problems for traffic at river crossings.

Whether it be the ferry to Ladner or crossing the old Marpole and Fraser Street Bridges, bumper-to-bumper traffic was a normal component of a commuter’s day.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Sea Island side of the Marpole Bridge, 1955. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1997 42 3 145

Traffic congestion on the Sea Island side of the Marpole Bridge, 1955. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1997 42 3 145

Here’s an account by Grant Thompson of the Sea Island Heritage Society of the problem of crossing the Marpole Bridge at rush hour in the 1950s:

“One of the results of these traffic jams was that both Lancaster Cres. and Catalina Cres. were turned into one-way streets south bound. During rush hour many drivers would race north down either street and then try to cut back onto Miller in the case of Catalina or back onto “Airport Highway” at the north end of Lancaster. Barricades blocked access to Miller Road at Wellington Cres. and at the lane on the east side of Sea Island School. Add to this the traffic from the Airforce Base on Miller Road and the traffic from Cora Brown on Grauer Road turning left onto the Bridge and you had one big mess coming from Sea Island.  Also contributing to this back up was traffic heading to the Lansdowne Race Track which backed up in old Marpole and also the traffic making a left turn cutting across the Air Port Highway to use the Bridgeport bridge and traffic coming from the west from Lulu Island merging onto the Marpole Bridge in front of Grauer’s store. Add to this the opening of the Marpole Bridge for boat traffic which happened often depending on which way the tide in the river was going. It was quite often 8 o’clock in the evening before the traffic eased off. The odd configuration of the street intersection didn’t help matters in Marpole. During these back-ups there were two Vancouver policemen detailed to directing traffic in Marpole. The parking lot at the ANAF club was always full; people would stop and have a few beer and wait out the rush hour. In fact it was much faster to walk the mile from Burkeville, go to the show at the Marpole Theater and catch the bus home after the movie. The Fraser Bridge was not much better as it also backed up for many of the same reasons.”

Construction tie-ups on No. 3 Road, 1985. City of Richmond Archives - Richmond Review Photograph 1988 121 - August 21 1985.

Construction tie-ups on No. 3 Road, 1985. City of Richmond Archives – Richmond Review Photograph 1988 121 – August 21 1985.

Modern transportation and traffic planning and the return of commuter rail to Richmond with the Canada Line have alleviated some of the earlier traffic nightmares.  Traffic congestion and its associated problems, however, still remain a major challenge for Richmond and other municipalities in the Lower Mainland.

 

Early Navigation and the Leading Tree at Garry Point

In the early days of navigation, mariners depended heavily on knowledge of landmarks and geographical features to find their way. This was especially true when entering harbours and river mouths. Early navigational charts showed important physical features that would be visible to mariners, and at the mouth of the Fraser River one of the most important of these was “The Leading Tree”, a large tree at Garry Point which stood out starkly on the otherwise featureless landscape of Lulu Island.

This view of Steveston’s “Cannery Row” shows a rare image of the Leading Tree at Garry Point, on the left, ca. 1890. Photo from City of Richmond Archives digital reference files.

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Article from the New Westminster Daily Columbian, November 21, 1891. (City of Richmond Archives Reference Files.)

The Fraser was first charted in 1859 by Captain G.H. Richards, who also had a series of navigation buoys anchored to mark the river channel.

On his chart the tree was featured as a navigational marker and it subsequently appeared in future Admiralty charts and sailing directions for decades to come.

The tree was called by several names, the Leading Tree, the Lone Tree, the Garry Tree and the Garry Bush and was either a spruce, pine or fir, depending on which record is read. Regardless, it was  a vital guide in making one’s way into the river, even for experienced local mariners.

Improvements in navigating the river continued, with the availability of river pilots and installation of lightships and lighthouses at the Sand Heads, but the tree continued to be a navigation aid until 1891 when newspaper reports in the May 30, 1891 Daily Columbian raised concerns about the tree’s future, saying that “Mr. Turner (George Turner, formerly of the Royal Engineers) had two mattresses sunk at Garry Bush to try and save it from being carried away. Garry Bush, a well known land mark to mariners, is a tall pine tree with some wild crab apple trees growing about, on the lower end of Lulu Island.”

The article states that in the previous three years 400 to 600 feet of shoreline had been washed away and  that the roots of the tree had become undermined. A later article from November 21, 1891, titled “An Ancient Landmark Gone” stated that despite efforts to save the tree, it had been washed away in a gale on the 20th.

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Gambles Observatory at Garry Point in 1909. Built as a tide gauge, a fixed red light was added to it after the tree was washed away. It was visible for six miles. (City of Richmond Archives photo 1978 34 3)

The loss of the tree prompted the authories to install a light at Garry Point, mounted atop Gamble’s Observatory, which had been built as a tide gauge by Provincial Government Public Works Engineer F.C. Gamble, the supervisor of dyking operations in the lower Fraser Valley.

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A walking tour map of Garry Point Park from 1989 shows significant locations around the park, including the location of the “Garry Point Tree”, No. 11, and Gamble’s Observatory, No. 12. (City of Richmond Archives Reference Files)

The construction of the Steveston Jetty in 1911 and a program of dredging have stabilized the shifting main channel and newer lights and navigation markers and buoys make the trip up the river much less risky than in the past, but all these modern aids to navigation have a heritage that stems back to a single large tree that grew at Garry Point.