Like most print reporters, I’m a bit of a nerd. What can I say? Names, dates, places; I’ve got a bit of a fetish when it comes to compiling random tidbits of information.
You might think ‘ yeah, whatever, a lot of us have nerdy tendencies.’ Well, did you collect antique and historical reproductions of American playing cards when you were a kid (and still kinda do)? I rest my case there.
So anyways, you can then imagine the excitement I felt when a former college instructor of mine very kindly offered me some old newspapers she’d been looking to get rid of but couldn’t bring herself to chuck out. My excitement gave way to sheer bliss when I opened the cupboard doors in my old learning grounds and discovered “the old newspapers” being offered to me numbered somewhere around 400, seven different bundles packaged carefully and in brown paper.
Well, being too cheap to pay for parking, it was a bit of a strain on the old arms to hike the 50-plus pounds of print the six blocks to my car, but oh was it worth it!
The collection contained an extensive amount of local, national and international dailies ranging from the 1880’s to the 1980’s, a glorious barrage of now defunct publications from a bygone era: The Vancouver Express, The Montreal Star, The Vancouver Daily World, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Headlines galore for an amateur history geek like myself.
So I’ve decided to share some of these cool finds on here and have gone about starting a series on some of the particularly eye catching headlines that jumped out at me during my five hour escapade browsing through the stacks. I’ve started here with Vancouver’s big two, The Province and The Vancouver Sun, two companies that have stood the test of time. Here’s to many more years of keeping those presses rolling!
— Chris Slater
1. THE VANCOUVER DAILY PROVINCE, SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 1939
PADDLE BOARDS TO THE RESCUE declares this front page story which came out a mere couple weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War. This was long before the time of today’s paddle boarders who are just about too cool, hip and different for me to ever want to know. No, back in ’39 these beasts were ‘placed at all city beaches for rescue work’ according to the caption above the photo, which reads in its entirety:
New methods of life-saving have been adopted in Vancouver. Paddle boards similar to the famed surf boards of Honolulu, are being placed at all city beaches for rescue work. Ken Valentine, well-known Vancouver lifeguard is shown in action in this series of Daily Province photographs. At top, he watches for water accidents with his board beside him.
Next, having spotted a lad in difficulty, he paddles out and pulls the swimmer out of the water. Then he brings the rescued boy to safety.
As this paper is from the tense days leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War after Hitler’s invasion of Poland, it’s interesting to note the subheads “German Troops Reported Sent to Slovak-Polish Border” and “POLES WATCHFUL.”
And one thing that’s truly odd, which I’m assuming may of been the norm back in those days . . . a deathless day count. It reads: Today Is Vancouver’s 23rd Deathless Day Co-operate to Make 100 Deathless Days.
Kind of creepily ironic knowing how close the onset of Big Two was, which would soon swallow up well over 40,000 Canadian lives.
2. THE PROVINCE & THE VANCOUVER SUN, FRIDAY, MAY 15, 1970
After strikes began at The Province and Sun in February 1970, staff from both actually joined forces to create The Vancouver Express, which ran for nearly three months before the reporters went back to work. Pretty damn remarkable I’ve got to say. You can read more about that at vancouverhistory.ca.
In the same fashion that holds true today, The Province (which back then was a big old broadsheet) runs the people picture, a smiling kid no doubt elated to be back chucking papers at the crack of dawn again, with a gaudy, albeit eye-catching ‘Good Morning!‘
The Sun on the other hand is more understated, with a simple ‘GLAD TO BE BACK’ in the top left accompanied by a witty editorial cartoon. But already The Sun (apparently they were too cool for the ‘Vancouver’ part in the 60’s, early-70’s and mid-eighties) is already on to bigger better things with a labour strike taking the main headline (which The Province also notes, albeit somewhat understated).
The strike would continue to have consequences for the readers and delivery staff too, as noted in The Sun’s front page editorial, which reads in part:
Our 4,000 carrier boys, especially, may have a little trouble getting their route books up to date but they’ll sort things out pretty quickly.
Our newsprint may be a bit brittle and susceptible to cracks after 90 days on the floor. The presses and conveyors will need a manicure and some baby-oil. Full color comics will not be available for three weeks.
What’s with the American spelling back then?
3. THE VANCOUVER SUN, FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 1974
The undoing of the United State’s 37th president was big news around the world in the summer of 1974 after he, Richard Nixon, was ultimately exposed as a crook (much to to his denial in his infamous, ‘I am not a crook’ speech) following an investigation into the infamous Watergate scandal in 1972. The recently resigned president (the only one to resign in-office in U.S. history) is seen waving to onlookers before heading back to his native California, in this front page photo run by The Vancouver Sun on Aug. 9, 1974.
The clever Shakespearean theme the writer (William Grieder) uses throughout this piece is apparent right from the lead, which reads as follows:
Our king was ruled by troubled sleep undone by the ghosts of his secret self
Going on to read:
. . . His loyal friends, a shrinking circle of the faithful, saw Richard Nixon as a modern-day King Lear who raged magnificently at the storm around him.
But Nixon lacked Lear’s grandeur.
Nixon’s enemies cast him as Richard the Third, the King who was crippled by his male-violence. . . .
4. THE VANCOUVER DAILY PROVINCE, TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 1912
This has got to be one of my favourites of the whole collection, however let me lay it out from the start that this is a reprint by The Province from the mid-1970’s for what appears to be part of a mini historical series of past headlines. Still, I imagine there aren’t too many of these kicking around out there, original or repro’d.
When I was a kid I was obsessed with shipwrecks and front and centre of those was the Titanic, the great iron beauty that went down on her maiden voyage in April 1912. Approximately 1,500 of the 2,200 aboard perished that fateful night, including one Thomas McCaffry, superintendent of the Union Bank in Vancouver at the time according to one of the front page articles.
The article explains that McCaffry, who had been sick and was returning from health resorts in Italy and France, was accompanied by fellow Canadian and friend J. Hugo Ross back to North America. Both perished.
Although this paper came out only one day after the Titanic went down early on the 15th, it’s already apparent from the top story that any hope of finding survivors at that point had already waned away. It reads in part:
All hope that any of the passengers or crew of the Titanic other than those on the Carpathia will be alive was abandoned this afternoon. All the steamers which have been cruising near the disaster have given up and continued their voyages.
The boats were filled with women and children’ but with sufficient members of the crew to guard them. The belief is general here that all who survived the wreck are on the Carpathia.
A list of survivors also appears on this page. Hmm . . . no Rose Dawson . . .
5. THE VANCOUVER SUN, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 1972
When billionaire Howard Hughes rolled into town in March of 1972 it was kind of a big deal. The reclusive Texan entrepreneur, filmmaker and business tycoon had been spending the last few years bouncing around from country to country, having just left from Nicaragua according to the article, where he’d just spent the previous month.
Upon arrival in Vancouver, Hughes checked into the Bayshore Inn downtown. The article explains that Hughes and his party, which included “several personal maids and a food specialist,” reserved the 19th and 20th floors of the hotel, requesting keys in which they could lock off the elevators from reaching those floors.
Staff at the hotel were careful to keep tight-lipped about the whole thing (asides from talking to The Sun that is) according to the article, which reads in part: (Anderson is Warren R. Anderson, general manager of the Bayshore at the time)
“As far as I’m concerned he can stay forever,” said Anderson, who has instructed his staff to respect Hughes’ desire for privacy.
He added that the hotel switchboard has been instructed not to say anything about Hughes’ presence at the hotel.
Anyone who attempts to call the Hughes suite will be wasting his time, said Anderson.
“As far as we are concerned, there is not Howard Hughes actually registered here.”
This page can actually be purchased at The Sun’s online store. Hughes would stay at the Bayshore for six months and was never once spotted despite repeated attempts by the media.
6. THE VANCOUVER SUN, SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 1983
A couple of interesting ones here. First is the oh so politically correct term ‘Gay plague’ used to describe the AIDS virus which was beginning to appear in Vancouver in the early-1980’s.
A doctor, who chose not to be named in this article, confirms that there were seven confirmed cases of AIDS in Vancouver at that time in 1983 and ‘two others suffering from diseases which have not yet been confirmed as AIDS.’
By the 2000’s HIV/AIDS had claimed several tens of thousands of Canadian lives although advances in technology have seen a significant reduction of those dying from the virus in more recent years.
But back in ’83 the prognosis for those infected was grim. The article reports that an association called AIDS Vancouver was formed to help press officials ‘for more medical research on the disease.’ It reads in part:
“How many more have to die before somebody does something about it?” asks Ron Alexander a 40-year-old homosexual who works at a Vancouver gymnasium and who is one of the founding members of AIDS Vancouver.
More than 1,000 people have already died from AIDS around the continent — more than half within the past year.
Another interesting article is the one that takes up two-thirds of the page. It examines a man who lives in squalor in a Downtown Eastside rooming house and then compares a couple (the Rowses) living in luxury nearby in a converted warehouse condo. The tone of the article suggests the possible gentrification of the DTES after the many recent infrastructure upgrades the city saw in the first half of the 1980’s, many in preparation for Expo, then still three years in the future. It reads it part:
The Rowses are the new wave who figure with B.C. Place, Expo, Canada Harbor Place and the major development those projects will attract — the downtown eastside will soon be THE place to live.
Rowses article writer- Gillian Shaw
7. THE PROVINCE, MONDAY, JULY 21, 1969
It was huge international news when American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerged from Apollo 11 and hoped about the lunar surface back in the summer of ’69 (when Bryan Adams was only eight). The Americans had won the space race and the world seemed oh so happy to report on it.
This front page report explains that Armstrong and Aldrin arrived on the moon at 1:18 p.m. Vancouver time on Sunday, July 20. Over six-and-a-half hours later, Neil Armstrong emerged from the craft and took man’s first step on the moon, with Aldrin joining suit a short time later. For the next two hours the men moved across the lunar terrain ‘in bounding, almost floating steps.’
Next it was back to Apollo and time to begin the 384,400 kilometre journey back to earth while the world waited in anxious anticipation for their return.
That one month period in the latter part of the summer of 1969 was an eventful won for U.S. newsrooms, starting with the lunar landing on July 20. Three weeks later the upper crust of Los Angeles lapsed into terror after members of the Manson family savagely claimed seven victims on two consecutive nights, including movie actress Sharon Tate. From August 15-18 Woodstock took place in upstate New York which attracted around 400,000 spectators, making it one of the largest outdoor concerts by attendance in history at that point in time.
An interesting year that end cap to the sixties was.
8. THE PROVINCE, MONDAY, JULY 19, 1971
Almost two years to the day of the moon landing, another major event made headlines: a proposal of ceasefire and reunification of the country of Vietnam by South Vietnam.
The proposal was one of the first milestones that would eventually led to the reunification of Vietnam and end of the conflict against communist (North) and anti-communist (South) forces. A ceasefire was declared in 1973, putting a temporary end to the conflict between North and South while the U.S. withdrew its troops in earnest. A couple of years later, following the North’s capture of Saigon, the nearly 20 year conflict ended officially.
Also this date marked B.C.’s centennial anniversary, for which both The Province and Sun each released collector papers sporting full colour photos on their front pages, a bit of a big deal back in those days I imagine.
9. VANCOUVER DAILY WORLD, SATURDAY, DECEMBER, 22, 1923
A very cool find here: the magazine section of the Vancouver Daily World, a long defunct paper first founded in 1888, just two years after Vancouver became a city.
While it’s not The Sun or The Province, I do think it’s worth a mention in the list as by the early years of the 20th century the World had earned itself a competitive spot on the dailies market. The World was actually the first occupant of Vancouver’s historical Sun Tower (which The Sun used until 1965) but back then it was the World Building.
However financial troubles would see the World, ‘The Newspaper of the Home’ as it branded itself, be bought out by The Vancouver Sun in 1924. As this section is from December 1923, the publication had less than a year to live!
With the date being just days before Christmas, this section is of course rife with holiday-themed features. One of particular interest is the article on the top left of the page which describes how Britain’s King George likes to go shopping for his own gifts come the Christmas season. It reads in part:
King George’s gifts are limited strictly to the immediate royal family and are carefully selected from the stores by the monarch himself. His procedure is much the same as that of most any individual. He goes to the shopping district accompanied by one of his equerries and visits certain stores favored with his custom. Notice of his intended visit is usually telephoned to the establishment beforehand and a varied selection of gifts will be ready on his arrival.
Now that was a man of the people. I wonder what he got Queen E’s mom?
10. THE PROVINCE, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1983
Let’s bring lead back! That seemed to be the sentiment of General Motors in 1983 when they decided to re-introduce two leaded gas-tolerant vehicles into their line up.
The big three North American car companies had for the most part done away with leaded gas vehicles by the mid-1970’s after studies linked lead particles in emissions with a series of health problems, particularly in small children. Catalytic converters were installed in larger cars to cap emissions and labeled “incompatible” with leaded gasoline. However less expensive leaded gas remained available well into the eighties (at least in Canada and the U.S. that is) and many drivers continued to purchase it for their vehicles, with or without catalytic converters.
The article uses statistics from Environment Canada which state that at that time in the early-1980’s, 50 per cent of western Canadian drivers still used leaded gas, with 20 per cent doing so in the east. The article states Canadians spewed out an appalling ‘8,000 tonnes of lead into the air’ in 1982 according to Environment Canada.
Laws just didn’t exist back then in Canada to put any sort of stop to the horrendous pollution caused by the burning of leaded fossil fuels, not to mention most people just didn’t really put all that much thought into the environment, at least that’s what seems apparent in this article, which reads in part: (Due to how bad the following quote sounds, I’ve omitted the name of the GM spokesman)
“You’ve got to be competitive if you’re going to survive,” said GM spokesman —- —-, adding that mounting consumer demand and competition has forced GM to introduce it’s first lead-tolerant cars since 1975.
“It’s strange, but people just don’t seem to care about the environment anymore,” said —-. He said beginning in March, the firm will offer lead-tolerant models on two popular subcompact cars, Acadians and Chevettes, which sell at the rate of about 2,300 a month.
According to the article, Chrysler Canada had already been offering lead tolerant cars for awhile, holding an edge on the market, while Ford was considering following suit.
Today, according to Environment Canada, over 99 per cent of gasoline used in Canada is unleaded.
Lead gas article by- Margaret Munro, Southham News.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back soon as there will be more to come!