A Walk Down No. 3 Road in 1958

In 1974,  the Assessment Authority Act was passed in the BC Legislature allowing the formation of the BC Assessment Authority, an organization which operates independently from municipal or provincial governments to assess property values for taxation purposes. Before this the Corporation of the Township of Richmond had its own tax assessors who created assessment rolls to establish property values in the Municipality. In 1958, an assessor took his camera out to document the commercial buildings along No. 3 Road, mostly between its intersection with Westminster Highway and with Granville Avenue, and left us with a fascinating time warp back to the late 1950s in a location that has seen some of the greatest change in Richmond, although bits of it still survive. Lets take a stroll along No. 3 Road in 1958.

a 1988 18 7

The intersection of No. 3 Road and Westminster Highway looking north west. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 7.

Starting our walk at the intersection of No. 3 Road and Westminster Highway, we look toward the north west corner and the new, modern supermarket of Canada Safeway and its parking lot. This intersection, one of the busiest in Richmond then and now, was one of the first to have a traffic signal.

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On the north east corner of the intersection was the Lansdowne Service Shell station. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 8.

Across No. 3 Road from Safeway is Lansdowne Service, a Shell gas and service station. If you drive north along No. 3 Road, there were only trees between the station and Lansdowne Park Racetrack.

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Directly across Westminster Highway from Safeway was the Super-Valu Store. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 9.

On the south west corner of the intersection, directly across the street from Safeway is its main competition, Super-Valu. Their signs compete for attention on this corner.

d 1988 18 10

Turning around and looking south up No. 3 Road you can see the Ford dealership of Steveston Motors and the strip of commercial building an bit farther down. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 10.

Standing in front of Super-Valu and looking south along No. 3 Road you can see some of the commercial buildings on the west side of the street. Steveston Motors Ford dealership was just south of the Super-Valu store. Across the opening to their car lot is a strip of storefronts.

e1988 18 11

Looking south along No. 3 Road from the east side of the street. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 11.

If you cross No. 3 Road to the east side and look south you get a good view of Super-Valu, Steveston Motors and the row of commercial buildings. Let’s walk along the sidewalk a bit….

f 1988 18 6

Looking north toward Westminster Highway from the east side of No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 6.

… and look north to see the businesses on the west side of the street, Safeway, Super-Valu and Steveston Motors. Judging by the banners and flags they’re really trying to sell those Edsels.

g 1988 18 35

Looking east along Westminster Highway from No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 35.

If we head back down to the intersection we can look east along Westminster Highway and see a couple of businesses just around the corner, Lulu Billiards and Jerry Pickard Motors Austin Sales and Service.

h 1988 18 34

Lulu Island Motors on the coner of No. 3 Road and Westminster Highway. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 34.

Right on the corner of Westminster Highway and No. 3 Road is Lulu Island Motors, a Standard Oil (Chevron) station where you can get gas, a tune-up and new tires.

i 1988 18 33

Looking farther south the next building houses a number of businesses. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 33.

Next to Lulu Island Motors is a commercial building with a number of businesses. The Richmond Review Newspaper is through the first door at 604 No. 3 Road. Next door is the popular Rooster Cafe. Beside the cafe is the Farmerette Grocery Store and at the end is Marpole Cleaners. Upstairs are some lawyer’s and doctor’s offices and some apartments.

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The neon sign at the Rooster Cafe. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 32.

Looking up, the neon sign at the Rooster Cafe is Richmond’s finest.

k 1988 18 31

The Lulu Theatre. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 31.

Across a driveway, the next building is the Lulu Theatre, showing Hollywood’s latest movies.

l 1988 18 4

Looking north down No. 3 Road toward Westminster Highway. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 4.

Turning around and looking north down the west side of the street you can see the buildings housing The Canadian Bank of Commerce, Kleven’s 5-10-15 Cent Store, Pemberton Jewelers, Lansdowne Hardware (selling Bapco Paints), McCue Drugs, the Island Colour Bar (selling Canada Paints) and Richmond Tailors.

m 1988 18 5

Looking south west toward 621 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 5.

Turning and looking south west, next door to the bank is the Delta Esso Service Station. In the background are the buildings at Cunningham Lumber Co.

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Back on the east side of the street is Lang’s Nurseries. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 30.

Looking back to the east side of the street we find a long-time family owned Richmond business, Lang’s Nurseries. The propery is filled with trees, shrubs, plants, topsoil and anything else one needs for landscaping or gardening.

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Looking north west. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 3.

Back across the street is the Cunningham Lumber Co. (selling Glidden Paint) and the offices of J.M. Wells Construction Ltd.

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Looking north east toward the Bank of Montreal. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 29.

Back on the east side of the street again is the Bank of Montreal at the west end of the Hyland Park Shopping Centre. In the background, a ferris wheel from Royal Canadian Shows is set up in the empty lot between Lang’s Nurseries and Hyland Park.

q 1988 18 28

Looking south along No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 28.

Turning south, we can see the sign for the Hyland Park Shopping Centre with a list of the businesses there. The Shop-Easy Grocery Store and its parking lot are just past the sign. Fastened to the telephone pole is a poster for Royal Canadian Shows at Brighouse  May 22 to 24.

r 1988 18 27

Looking north on No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 27.

After walking along the street, crossing Cook Road and looking back, we can see the Hyland Park and Shop-Easy signs in the distance. Realtors Insurance and Home Builders Lumber (selling Monamel paint) are to the right.

s 1988 18 26

Simpsons-Sears Catalog Store. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 26.

Between Home Builders Lumber and this building is a large, mostly empty lot. This commercial building houses four businesses. Loreta Beauty Salon is in the ground floor left, Simpsons-Sears Catalog Store is on the ground floor right, P.A. Wolanski Accountant is upstairs on the left and the Marpole-Richmond Accordion College is upstairs on the right.

t 1988 18 24

The east side of No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 24.

Next door is the Brighouse Branch of the Royal Bank of Canada and a Masonic Lodge, and next door to that is the Brighouse Bola-Drome bowling alley and cafe. A group of young guys with slicked back DA haircuts loiter outside and the advertising sign requests “Players Please!”

u 1988 18 25

Looking east to the corner of Park Road and No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 25.

Crossing the intersection of Park and No. 3 Roads we come to Richmond Motors, a BA service station. Behind the station on Park Road is the office of  Richmond Cabs (Call CR-8-8444).

v 1988 18 23

Looking east toward 680 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 23.

Next to Richmond Motors the building at 680 No. 3 Road houses two businesses. Brighouse Hardware (selling Martin-Senour Paint) and Gordon’s Rexall Drugs.

w 1988 18 22

Looking east toward 682 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 22.

Beside the drug store, 682 No. 3 Road has four more retail outlets. Starting at the north end is Harris’ Bakery, Scoular’s Shoe Store, the Island Meat Market (Percy and Bob Eeles, proprietors) and Ivan’s Men’s Wear.

x 1988 18 21

Looking east toward 684 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 21.

Four more businesses occupy 684 No. 3 Road. Brighouse Television sells TVs, radios and appliances as well as doing service and TV antenna installations. Next door, Burrows Cleaners provides laundry service, including pick-up and delivery.  Dawn Marie Style Shop offers the latest fashions for ladies and they can go next door to shop for shoes to go with their new dress at Skuse’s Shoes. The small building next door at 686 No. 3 Road (Behind the big Cadillac) is Dr. Booth’s Dentist Office and Dr. Talmey’s and Dr. Varley’s doctor’s office.

y 1988 18 20

Looking east toward 688 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 20.

Just south of the doctor’s offices is a large two-storey commercial building  at the corner of Anderson Road and No. 3 Road. The first space is occupied by Richmond Realty with its clock sign and marquee which asks, “What Recession?”. Next to it is the Sea-View Bakery. Beside the bakery, a door leads to stairs to the second floor where Dr. Kita has his dental office, Dr. Fagen has his medical practice and where chartered accountant Donald Ross, and lawyers A.A. McDonald and F.R. Spry have their offices. At street level, the south corner of the building houses Porter’s Brighouse Pharmacy.

z 1988 18 19

Looking south east toward 690 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 19.

Across Anderson Road is an old wood framed commercial building holding the storefront of  Grayshon & Morgan Electrical Contracting and Plumbing Services. Next door is the Brighouse Beauty Shop, open Friday ’til 9:00 PM.

zz 1988 18 18

Looking east across toward 692 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 18.

Next to the beauty parlour at 692 No. 3 Road is Grassie Jewellers and next to that is a Richmond favorite, the Brighouse Cafe, offering “Good Food” in their Cafe and Dining Room. Next door is Island Glass who deal in “Glass of all kinds, for every purpose”, Lyall Grath, proprietor.

zzz 1988 18 17

Looking east toward 694 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 17.

At 694 No. 3 Road we find Richmond Home Furniture, a large furniture store offering trade-ins and good deals on all kinds of furniture and flooring. Next door is a two in one business, Naimark’s Dry Goods sells “Ladies and Kiddies Wear” and in the same store, Naimark’s Dry Cleaning cleans them.

zzzz 1988 18 16

Looking east toward 696 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 16.

The last building before Granville Avenue is the location of Richmond Hardware and the Brighouse Grocery – Red & White Store. The hardware store sells Bapco Paint, it seems like a lot of  places sell paint on No. 3 Road. The grocery store was a longtime business in Richmond, run by the Meyer Family. Upstairs, two apartments enjoy a balcony overlooking the street. Just across the street from this location is the Richmond Town Hall and just around the corner behind the store is Brighouse Station of the recently closed BC Electric Railway Interurban Tram.

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Looking east toward 700 No. 3 Road. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 15.

We’ll finish our walk down No. 3 Road by looking across Granville Avenue and No. 3 Road at the Parkview Service Garage. Brighouse Park is to the west of it and to the south is mostly houses. No. 3 Road between Westminster Highway and Granville offered most of the services anyone might need during the 1950s all contained within a few blocks. We’re fortunate that an unknown tax assessor decided to document this area and leave us with this detailed example of a point in time of Richmond’s development.

Centres of Government – Richmond’s Town Halls – Part Two

Part Two – The Tudor Manor

In 1918, with the First World War over and Richmond Town Council meeting in Bridgeport School due to the disastrous fire which destroyed the original hall on River Road, more and more pressure was being exerted to have a new Town Hall built in a more convenient, more central site. Council began looking for a new location that would meet the requirements of the growing Municipality.

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The Steveston Police station, jail and fire hall, shown here in 1915, had been built in the late 1890s. Its location and the fact that Steveston was the area with the highest population in Richmond was used as an argument for construction of a new town hall there. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2006 39 64.

Steveston was mentioned most of the time as the best location for the construction of a new Town Hall, as it had the highest residential population, was already the location of the police station and jail and was at the end of the BC Electric Railway Interurban line.

In January 1919, after due consideration and support from the Brighouse and Garden City Ratepayers Association, the decision was made to build the new hall in Brighouse. A deal was struck with Michael Wilkinson Brighouse, Sam Brighouse’s nephew and heir, to exchange the old Municipal Lands at River Road which had originally been purchased from the elder Brighouse, for about four acres of land at the southwest corner of No.3 Road and Granville Avenue next to the Brighouse Racetrack. The location of the new hall would help the area grow into the main commercial centre of Richmond.

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The new Richmond Town Hall, ca. 1920. Behind the hall is the Minoru/Brighouse Racetrack grandstand. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1987 97 1.

The Reeve and Council passed a by-law stating that the cost of the new hall would not exceed $15000, the cost to be covered by a public levy over three years. The new building was designed by Architect W. Jones and was much different in appearance from the simple old hall it replaced, looking much like an English Manor House. Mr. D. Gray was given the contract for the construction with his bid of $10519 and a further amount was awarded to the company of Barr and Anderson for plumbing and heating.

Construction problems arose early during the build, first in the foundations, which were found to have been laid six inches short of the required width, and then in the flooding of the coal furnace, which for some unknown reason was constructed below ground level, not the best building practice in Richmond. The new Town hall officially opened on December 13, 1919 and 300 citizens looked on as Reeve John Tilton called the Council meeting to order. When the meeting was over a celebration was held, the first of many to be held in the building which would serve the community nearly four decades.

Plans of City Hall 2

In 1941 the hall was renovated and a new vault was built. This blueprint shows the second floor with the council chambers, Reeve and Clerk’s offices, public service area, etc. City of Richmond Archives image.

The Police Department moved into the new hall in January 1920. By 1922 a resident janitor had been hired who was tasked with janitorial duties, answered the phone when the Police Chief was out of the building, took care of any prisoners in the jail and otherwise made himself useful around the hall.

Plans of City Hall 2-1

The ground floor of the hall was also renovated in 1941. Shown here are the police offices, jail cells and living quarters for the resident janitor. City of Richmond Archives image.

The hall, like its predecessor, was used as a social gathering place as well as for municipal business. Dances and concerts were held in the council chambers as well as meetings for many organizations. The Great War Veterans Association held meetings there, leading to the erection of the cenotaph in front of the building in 1922. The Agricultural Association leased a portion of the property for the construction of a building and tennis courts and lawn bowling greens were set up on the lawns adjacent to the hall.

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The cenotaph was erected outside the Town Hall in 1922. It still stands outside the present City Hall. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 21 8.

Four large light standards were installed on the grounds around the hall in January 1927. It was reported that when they were illuminated it would cause the lights inside the hall to dim, requiring an upgrade to the wiring in the place.

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During the Second World War the Town Hall provided office space for the War Loan Drive. Shown here are members of the Richmond Volunteer Fire Department/ A.R.P.  during a War Bond Drive.. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 7 1.

During the Second World War an office in the hall was provided to the War Loan Drive. A renovation of the hall took place in 1941 during which a new vault was built and changes to the interior spaces were made. After these renovations the hall remained as it was until 1955 when plans were approved for the construction of a new hall to replace the aging structure. The Municipality had out grown its centre of government and it was time for an upgrade to the post war modern era.

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This 1848 aerial view of the intersection of No.3 Road and Granville Avenue shows the Richmond Town Hall and its surroundings. On the left is Brighouse Park with its field and lacrosse box. The lower right shows the hall, works yard and outbuildings. On the far right is the grandstand and clubhouse at Brighouse Racetrack. The bottom of the photo shows the commercial buildings along No.3 Road. Granville Avenue and the BC Electric Railway tracks run diagonally from bottom to top. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1997 16 1.

Next – The Modern Office Building

 

 

Centres of Government – Richmond’s Town Halls – Part One

Part 1 – The First Town Hall

On November 10, 1879, when Letters Patent were issued to incorporate the Corporation of the Township of Richmond at the request of 25 early settlers, the first order of business was to hold an election and form a council to run the fledgling municipality.  The election was held at the home of Hugh Boyd and Alexander Kilgour and, as required in the Letters Patent, a “Warden” and seven Councillors were elected. Hugh Boyd was the first Warden of Richmond, a title later replaced by Reeve and then Mayor.

Hugh Boyd

Hugh Boyd, the first Warden of the Corporation of the township of Richmond. The first Council meetings were held in the dining room of his house on Sea Island. City of Richmond Archives,  Oil Painting by T. B. Walker, 1911.

Council meetings were held in the dining room of the Boyd house on Sea Island until a better venue could be provided. In October 1880, Council approved the purchase of a five-acre field from Sam Brighouse. The property was located on the Middle Arm of the Fraser River near the present day intersection of River Road and Cambie Road. Land not occupied by the Municipal buildings was to be rented out to a farmer to produce crops. The contract for building the new hall was awarded to James Turnbull who built it for $434. The building was completed on January 4, 1881 and a few weeks later the outhouse and woodshed were also finished.

The first function to take place at the brand new hall was a party to celebrate its completion. Guests were transported from New Westminster to the party on the steamboat Adelaide, there being too few men and even fewer women in Richmond at the time to make a proper observance.

1984 17 77

A group of school children play baseball outside of the first Richmond Town Hall which also served as an early school. In this photo, ca. 1888, are William Garratt, Leo Carscallen, Peter Carscallen, James Sexsmith, Mr. McKinney, Jack Smith, George Sexsmith, William Mellis, Frances Sexsmith, Anna Sexsmith, Pearl Robinson, Kate Smith, Grace Sweet, Mae Vermilyea and Anna Noble. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 17 77.

The purchase of  property in that location was made based on an important fact about Richmond in those days. There was no infrastucture, –  no roads, minimal dyking done by private landowners and few trails. The location of the hall on the Middle Arm made arrival by boat convenient for many. In order to attend council meetings Councillor Walter Lee, who lived on the South Arm, would travel to Steveston by boat and then hike to the hall along the Crabapple Ridge. Travel overland was impossible in many areas due to the bog and gum boots were recommended even in the “dry” spots. Most Councillors carried slippers with them so they would have footwear during council meetings.

The new hall and the property it was built on became a centre of cultural activity for the community. Before long members of the Richmond Agricultural Society built an Agricultural Hall on the Municipal land near the Town Hall and many agricultural fairs were held there, starting in 1894. The Steveston Brass Band held concerts at the Town Hall, fraternal organizations booked the space to hold their meetings and it became a polling station for elections. Church services were held there and in 1881 permission was granted to the North Arm School Board to use the Hall as a school. Fourteen boys and twelve girls attended classes there with Miss Sweet as their teacher.

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Richmond residents enter the gates to attend the agricultural fair, ca. 1910. The board at the gate shows the fees, Admittance – 25 cents, Children – 10 cents, Horse and Buggy (with driver) – 50 cents. Lunch was available on the grounds for 25 cents. On the right in this photo is the Agricultural/Community Hall and on the left is the Richmond Methodist Church, now Minoru Chapel. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 17 78.

In 1891 a new schoolhouse was built by the North Arm School District and the Methodist Church was built nearby, freeing the Town Hall from those duties. In 1905 the hall got its first telephone and in 1911 the heat from the wood stove was supplemented with the addition of an oil stove. By 1912 Council started discussing the need for a new hall in a location more suited to the Municipality, which by now had built many roads and was serviced by the BC Electric Railway’s Interurban Tram.

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Horses and buggies and a crowd of people fill Richmond’s Municipal lands for an agricultural fair, ca. 1907. This image looks toward the present intersection of Cambie Road and River Road and shows the Town Hall (L), Agricultural Hall (M) and Richmond Methodist Church (R). The building in front of the church is the present location of the Richmond Rod and Gun Club. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 9 18.

The need for a new hall became more imperative in January 1913 when two auditors were going over documents in the hall. One of them, Mr. J.H. Lancaster, threw some gasoline into the wood stove thinking it was coal oil. The ensuing explosion caused the Town Hall to go up in flames. Mr. Lancaster was seriously burned and passed away some time later. The other auditor, Mr. J. Glanville  received less serious burns. Quick work by Reverend M. Wright and other bystanders resulted in most of the town’s records being saved.

First Minutes right side colour

The first Council Minutes for the Corporation of Richmond were saved from the disastrous fire that destroyed the Town Hall and appear to be scorched around the edges. City of Richmond Archives photograph.

The loss of Richmond’s Town Hall meant that a new venue needed to be found for council meetings. The Mayor and Council used Bridgeport School as a temporary location until a new hall could be built in a more suitable location. The start of World War One dictated that the school would continue to be Richmond’s centre of government until 1919.

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Bridgeport School hosted Municipal Council meetings after the original Town Hall was burned in 1913. Shown here ca. 1940, the council met there until 1919.

Next – The Move to Brighouse.

Richmond on the Home Front

World War 2 was the greatest armed conflict in history, a truly global war in which Canada played an important part. The entire country was focused on working toward a speedy victory for Canada and her allies through the formation of a strong military force and production and supply of goods and materials in support of the war effort.

Richmond sent many of her young men and women to serve in the military, at home and overseas, many of whom paid the ultimate price for their service. Their sacrifice is remembered every year on Remembrance Day.

On the home front in Richmond, everyday life steered toward supporting the military in its work. Under the National Registration Regulations, enacted in 1940, all persons in Canada, age 16 or over, were required to register with the government, supplying details of their age, family, work history, national and racial origins, etc. This allowed the authorities to direct the service of each person, whether that lay in the military, in war production, or in the maintenance of services allowing life in the nation to continue in a routine manner.

Registration

All persons aged 16 and over were required to register for service during the war. Ad from Marpole-Richmond Review July 31, 1940.

Everyday Life in Wartime

Rationing of materials became commonplace. Items such as gasoline and other fuels, rubber goods, like tires, and metals were either not available or could only be purchased using ration coupons. The same was true for many household items like sugar, meat, coffee, etc. Many guides were published to help people deal with shortages and the reduced quantities of goods that they could get. Programs were put in place and drives were held to collect scrap material like metals, scrap paper, cooking grease and bones, etc., all to go to wartime industry.

How to Solve

Guides to help people deal with rationing were published by many companies and government agencies, such as this one from Canadian General Electric. City of Richmond Archives reference files.

 

Home Canning Ration Guide

And this one from B.C. Tree Fruits Ltd. City of Richmond Archives reference files.

Calls for volunteers for organizations like the Red Cross and the Home Defence Corps were met by local residents who contributed their time away from other jobs to take part. Women and teenagers too young for the military took over many of the jobs which had been vacated by men leaving for military service.

Boeing Beam -oct 13 -1943

Women are trained to assemble aircraft at the Sea Island Boeing Plant in this image from 1943. Boeing Beam  October 13,1943.

Women Safe at Work-1

This booklet produced by Boeing Canada gave new female employees tips on how to be safe in an industrial setting, which until the war was unavailable to them. City of Richmond Archives reference files.

In March 1942, the National Selective Service was enacted “to effect the orderly and efficient employment of the men and women of Canada for the varied purposes of war.” Administered through the Department of Labour, the act allowed the government to dictate which jobs got preference for manning and gave them the power to move people out of low priority jobs and into higher ones.

selective

The National Selective Service Mobilization Regulations gave the Department of Labour sweeping powers over manpower in Canada.

Manning shortages were a continual problem in Richmond during the war, not in small part to the removal and internment of around 2,500 Japanese-Canadians from the area in early 1942.

farmhelp

Regular ads appeared in newspapers looking for labourers for farms and workers in other areas were encouraged to do extra work as farm workers.

The fishing industry imported workers to fill the void and there were regular ads in local papers looking for farm workers during planting and harvest periods.

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Hundreds of fishboats, confiscated from Japanese-Canadians in 1942, sit at Annieville. Property that was confiscated such as boats, houses, businesses, etc., were never returned to their owners after the war. City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #1985 4 1753.

The people of Richmond signed up in droves for the many War Bond drives that were held during the war to help finance Canada’s War effort.

Protecting Richmond

The protection of Richmond’s people and infrastructure from potential attack was a priority during the war. At Steveston an army camp and shore battery was built to guard the mouth of the Fraser River. It was equipped with an 18 pounder artillery piece, later replaced by two 25-pounder guns. Four anti-aircraft batteries were installed to protect the airport, flight training school and aircraft plant – three on Sea Island and one on Lulu Island. Local residents were warned to open all the windows in their houses during target practice, a strategy which did not always prevent cracked windows.

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This anti-aircraft battery and camp was located just north of Granville Ave. near the Interurban Tram Line where it curves onto Railway Ave. City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #2013 49 2.

More than 90 men signed up to enlist in No.125 (Richmond) Company Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, Richmond’s home guard unit. Given military training, these men would have made the first response to any attack on the area.

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Members of No. 125 (Richmond) Company Pacific Coast Militia Rangers pose in September 1945. These men formed Richmond’s home guard unit during the war. City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #1988 17 1a.

Richmond’s Volunteer Firefighters formed Canada’s first Air Raid Precaution unit, building much of their own equipment and putting in countless hours fighting fires and enforcing the Blackout imposed on coastal areas to protect against nighttime attacks.

Marpole-Richmond Review 1944-04-26-4

This ad for the sixth Victory Loan drive from an April 1944 Marpole-Richmond Review featured Richmond’s Volunteer ARP / Firefighters. The Steveston volunteers formed the first ARP unit in Canada, building most of their own equipment, including a fire truck. Marpole-Richmond Review April 26, 1944.

Wartime Industry

The largest employer in Richmond during the War was the Boeing Canada aircraft plant on Sea Island. The plant worked through most of the war building Consolidated PBY-5a amphibian patrol bombers, known as Catalinas in American service and Cansos in Canadian service. Toward the end of the war the plant made parts for the B-29 Superfortress bomber which were shipped south to a plant in Renton, Washington where the planes were completed.

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The hull of a PBY-5a patrol bomber is lifted by a crane in the Boeing Canada aircraft plant on Sea Island. 362 PBYs were built during the war at this plant which employed around 7,000 people at its peak. City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #1985 199 1.

About 7,000 people were employed at the plant during its peak. A shortage of housing for its workers led to the development of Burkeville, named for Boeing Canada president Stanley Burke.

Boeing Beam - Vol. 2 No. 18 Burkeville

The front page of the Boeing Beam newsmagazine featured a story about Burkeville, built to house workers at the aircraft plant. Boeing Beam September 1, 1944.

The peat mining industry had one of the highest priorities for manning during the war.  Sphagnum moss was used as a catalyst for the extraction of magnesium, used in the production of incendiary devices and munitions, and it was shipped to the US in large quantities from Richmond. Several large bog fires during the war interrupted production and resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars worth of peat.

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Stacks of peat blocks dry in a Richmond field in this photo. Peat mining was a very important industry during the war. It was used in the processing of magnesium which was vital for the production of munitions. City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #1978 3 25.

The need for large amounts of food products put Richmond’s fishing and farming industries on full production. Products from our area were shipped out for use by the military as well as to provide much needed supplies for Great Britain and our other allies in war ravaged areas.

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Food production was another industry that was vital to the war effort. “Salmon for Britain” was a slogan used to encourage productivity in local canneries. City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #1985 4 1759.

Smaller industries, such as lumber production, fabrication and machine shops also contributed to the war effort, all under the control of the Department of Munitions and Supply, a civilian organization led by Minister C.D. Howe, who controlled the supply of all goods deemed necessary for the war.

Once the war was won, life gradually returned to normal. Men demobilized from the armed forces returned to the work force, displacing the women who had replaced them. The Boeing Canada aircraft plant ceased operation almost immediately after VJ Day, displacing more workers. Products which were rationed during the war became more readily available. Military groups charged with local defense were disbanded and Richmond’s ARP force returned to being volunteer firemen with no blackout to enforce. It took several more years before some of the Japanese-Canadian families who had been interned began to return.

For some, life would never be the same. Servicemen who were lost during the war left loved ones behind whose lives were changed forever and each year we remember their sacrifice.

Lest We Forget

From Racetrack to Farmer’s Field – Early Aviation on Lulu Island

Richmond has had an association with flight since the first time an airplane took off under its own power in our province. Purpose-built airports did not exist in the early days. Aviators used existing facilities to operate their machines and farm fields, fair grounds and horse racing tracks served the purpose. The latter two were already equipped with grandstands to hold the crowds which gathered, each person paying to witness the fledgling technology of flight and perhaps the spectacle of a crash.

                                    Minoru Park – Brighouse Park Racetrack                                Exhibition Flying and Barnstorming

The place where most of the early milestones of flight in British Columbia took place was Minoru Park Racetrack. Opened in 1909, the mile-long oval occupied the property on which can now be found Richmond City Hall, the south part of Richmond Centre Mall, the Richmond Public Library and Cultural Centre, Richmond Arenas, Richmond Aquatic Centre and the present Minoru Park. On Friday, March 25, 1910, Charles K. Hamilton became the first person to fly an aeroplane in British Columbia when he lifted off in front of 3500 cheering spectators at Minoru Park.

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Charles K. Hamilton made the first airplane flight in British Columbia at Minoru Park Racetrack on March 25, 1910 in this Curtiss biplane. As can be seen in this photo, the aircraft had a hard landing on the infield of the track, bending one of the landing wheels, but was repaired and carried on with its demonstration. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 1978 15 18)

In those dawning days of aviation when the mere sight of a man flying in a machine was thrilling enough to attract thousands of onlookers, Hamilton’s Easter weekend exhibition did not disappoint the crowds. On Friday, after swooping around the grandstand for about ten minutes, the plane swerved suddenly to the centre of the field and landed hard, causing some damage to the undercarriage. Quickly making some repairs, he got the engine started and continued his display.

On Saturday, Hamilton took off again, this time disappearing from view for about twenty minutes, flying to New Westminster where streetcars stopped to let the passengers watch. On his return to Richmond he landed briefly for a refreshment, then took two more flights, one in which he lost a race with a car.

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Hamilton takes to the air in the Curtiss biplane at Minoru Park Racetrack. City of Richmond Archives photograph RCF 116.

On Monday, the exhibition continued, this time featuring a competition with the racehorse Prince Brutus who was given a 3/8 of a mile handicap. The horse took full advantage of its head start, passing the post before the aircraft.

The aircraft that Hamilton flew was historic in its own right. Known as the Rheims Racer, it was built by Glenn H. Curtiss, a central figure in the history of aviation, to compete in the Gordon Bennett Race at Rheims, France on August 29, 1909. The aircraft proved to be superior to the other entrants in the race, a timed closed circuit flight of twenty kilometres, beating his nearest rival, Louis Bleriot, by five seconds to win the Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup and a large cash prize. Curtiss took part in several other meets and races in Europe before shipping the aircraft back to North America where it was leased to Hamilton for use in exhibition flying.

Exhibition flying took place regularly at Minoru Park Racetrack after the flights by Hamilton. In April 1911 a disappointing show was put on by Jack DePries and the Manning Brothers. Widely derided by spectators and the local press, the three day exhibition featured several minor crashes and not much actual flying by the trio, who apparently displayed little skill or experience at operating their aircraft.

In May the same year came test flights at Minoru Park of the Templeton – McMullen biplane, the first aircraft to be designed and built in Vancouver. The aircraft managed several short hops, hampered by an under-powered engine.

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Built in Vancouver by William and Winston Templeton and their cousin William McMullen, the Templeton-McMullen aircraft managed to make a few short hops during trials at Minoru Park Racetrack, but was limited by its under-powered engine. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1985 166 20A.

In April 1912, Billy Stark, BC’s first licensed pilot, flew at Minoru in a Curtiss biplane. During his exhibition program he carried the first aircraft passengers in British Columbia. The first was James T. Hewitt, sports editor of the Daily Province newspaper. Seated on the wing of the aircraft, which was not equipped for passengers, the plane took off from a farmer’s field near the racetrack, long enough to allow the craft to take to the air with the extra load. Hewitt described the experience as “like riding on the cowcatcher of an express locomotive”. Stark’s wife Olive became the first woman to be carried in an airplane in the province the same day.

In August of 1912 aviator and inventor James V. Martin flew his self designed aircraft at Minoru. In July of 1913 a popular aviation show, the Bennett Aviation Company came to Minoru Park. The show featured pilot John Bryant and his wife Alys McKey Bryant who would be the first woman to pilot a plane in British Columbia.

By 1914, aircraft were becoming a more familiar sight in the skies of BC and spectators were less willing to pay to see them. The beginning of World War I in July of that year limited exhibition flying as aviation took on a more serious purpose. The wartime advances in aviation technology and the need to train pilots who would be able to join the Royal Flying Corps led to the formation of flying schools in Canada, the second of which was organized in the summer of 1915 by the newly chartered Aero Club of British Columbia, and began training aviators at Minoru Park. The racetrack soon proved to be too small for flight training purposes and the operation was moved to the Milligan Farm at Terra Nova where a larger field was available. A small hangar building was erected and the flight school operated there until 1916, when it moved to Pitt Meadows.

Horse racing had been discontinued for the duration of the war at Minoru Park but aircraft continued to fly sporadically there. Once the war was over large numbers of modern aircraft and trained airmen came on the scene. The Aerial League of Canada was formed by returned airmen who had developed a love of flying and wanted to promote aviation in Canada. Branches formed around the country, including ones in Vancouver and Victoria. By the summer of 1919 a small hangar had been built and at least five aircraft were based at Minoru Park, mostly war surplus Curtiss JN-4 (Canucks). Commonly known as the Jenny, it was a plane which was the workhorse of the barnstorming era and was used to take the first steps into commercial aviation.

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This aerial view of Minoru Park Racetrack was taken during the Aerial League of Canada’s meet on May 31, 1919. Cars line the track and several planes can be seen on the ground as the BC Electric Railway’s Interurban Tram drops off spectators at the racetrack’s tram stop. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 35.

The league’s promotion of aviation raised flying in the public attention by putting on “barnstorming” demonstrations and accomplishing “firsts”. The first flight across Georgia Strait took place on May 13, 1919 when two members of the League took off from Minoru Park, landed in Victoria, had dinner at the Empress Hotel and then flew home. The Aerial League put on several displays at Minoru in 1919 featuring wing walking, aerial acrobatics and races between planes as well as races between a plane and a race car.

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Races between aircraft and horses or cars were a regular feature of aviation displays at Minoru Park. Here’s an image of driver Harry Hooper in the “Vulcan Kewpie” Stutz, accompanied by silent film star Priscilla Dean. Hooper raced an airplane piloted by Lieut. G.K. Trim at Minoru in an event hosted by the Aerial League of Canada on Dominion Day, 1919. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 17 69

On August 7, 1919 Ernest C. Hoy, lifted off from Minoru Park and flew into history as the first person to fly across the Rockies. The plane was fitted with an extra 12 gallon fuel tank to allow it to stay in the air for at least four hours. As navigational aids, Hoy used a pocket watch and a railway contour map and he carried 45 officially marked letters as well as a bundle of special edition “Vancouver Daily World” newspapers, making this the first Air Mail flight over the Rockies as well. Hoy landed at Vernon, Grand Forks, Cranbrook and Lethbridge where he could eat, fuel up and have his aircraft adjusted by experienced “air machine men” before making his final landing at Bowness Park in Calgary.

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Ernest C. Hoy stands beside his Curtiss “Jenny” at Minoru Park Racetrack before his historic flight across the Rockies to Calgary, August 4, 1919. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 20 3.

Another first for Minoru Park came at 11:25, October 17, 1920, when a DeHavilland DH9A touched down on the field completing the Canadian Air Board – Canadian Air Force Trans-Canada Flight. This undertaking which involved several different aircraft and pilots, started in Halifax and took 247 hours, almost twice as long as taking the train, but still an important milestone in Canadian aviation history.

Lansdowne Field – The Start of Commercial Aviation

Aviation developed rapidly through the 1920s. Sea planes became more common, not requiring large open fields for landings or takeoffs, but the Lower Mainland still had no purpose built airport for land based aircraft. The crunch came in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh refused to land at Vancouver during his North American tour following his trans-Atlantic flight, saying there was no airport worth landing at.

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This 1928 plan shows the BC Electric Railway line and the cross over to the Vancouver airport on Lulu Island. City of Richmond Archives Airport Plan 1928 ser. 25 file 3411-1.

At the same time the Dominion Airways Company was looking for a suitable place for a small airport from which to run their business. They found a field owned by a farmer named Summerfield along the north side of Lansdowne Park Racetrack. The City of Vancouver, who also wanted an airport, became interested in the property and leased it from Mr. Summerfield for use as an airfield in 1928.

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The Vancouver Airport building at Lansdowne Field, ca. 1929. With the buildings and tram wires at the east end of the runway and the poles and wires running down No.3 Road at the west end, pilots needed to take off and land as quickly as possible. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 4 52.

Lansdowne Field became British Columbia’s second licensed airport, opening officially in May 1929. While it was only intended to be a temporary facility until a permanent site could be designed and built on Sea Island, the airport became the hub of aviation in the Lower Mainland during its operation.

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Harry Smithson, Aviator and member of the  Aero Club of BC, stands next to a Dehavilland Moth at the Vancouver Airport near Lansdowne Park. In the background, the Alexandra Station of the BC Electric Railway can be seen, as well as a house which is still standing on the corner of Alexandra and Garden City Roads. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 4 49.

The field was home to several commercial aviation companies and flight schools run by the Aero Club of BC and Sprott Shaw College. In 1930, gliders were also used to teach elementary flight principles and give students practice at flight control. They were launched using an old Maxwell automobile and a four hundred foot towrope which could let them achieve an altitude of about 200 feet before cutting loose and landing at the airport.

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A primary glider is launched at the Vancouver Airport at Lansdowne. The grandstands of Lansdowne Park Racetrack can be seen in the background. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1989 19 8.

The Vancouver Airport on Lulu Island was not the ideal location for a centre of aviation, however it filled the requirements for the time it took to design and build the airport on Sea Island. None of the businesses which operated from Lansdowne Field survived the early years of the depression. Only the Aero Club of BC, subsidized by the government,  managed to make the move to the new facility.

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The Vancouver Airport on Lulu Island as it looked from the air. On the right, Lansdowne Park Racetrack can bee seen. Airport buildings and hangars can be seen at the east end of the runway. The track for the BC Electric Railway Tram and the intersection of Alexandra Road and North Railway Avenue (now Garden City Road) is visible at the top of the image, City of Richmond Archives photograph 1985 166 2.

By 1930 construction was well underway at the new airport on Sea Island and after its opening on July 22, 1931 aviation activity ceased on Lulu Island. Since the 1930s the Vancouver Airport has grown and expanded to the large International facility it is today, owing its existence to those first flimsy craft that struggled into the air across the Middle Arm from where jumbo jets land today.

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An aerial view of the Vancouver Airport on Sea Island during its construction in 1931 shows a small development on a rural landscape. The airport has expanded occupy almost all of the land on the island. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1985 166 15.