Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Relief Stiffs and Straw-Pushes

May 10, 2018

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While preparing to set sail (see below) I've been reading a fascinating account of daily life in the Depression-era government work camps established by the Department of Defence to get single, jobless men off the streets. The book, edited by Peter Neary, collects the correspondence of Alan Collier, a Toronto-born artist who travelled west in search of work in 1934 and ended up in one of the camps. Most of the letters are written to his girlfriend, Ruth Brown, back in Ontario. Collier was middle-class and well educated so his take on the camps is not typical, which is partly what gives the collection its interest.

You can read my response to the book at The Ormsby Review.

May 4, 2018

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This space has been quiet of late while I packed up the house I lived in with my family for thirty years and moved to a new base of operations. Buying, selling, moving: stressful times. But they are behind us now.

To celebrate, we are going on a cruise. An outfit called Uncruise Adventures has invited me to be on-board...

March 11, 2018

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Nice to see the City of Vancouver honouring the memory of Helena Gutteridge last week to mark International Women's Day. Gutteridge was an early labour activist and suffragist who in 1937 became the first woman elected to city council.

Equally...

March 8, 2018

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The death of Roger Bannister last week got me thinking about Bill Parnell (that's him in the above photo).

Bannister, of course, was the legendary runner who broke the 4-minute mile barrier in 1954, then won the famous “Miracle Mile” at the Empire/Commonwealth Games in Vancouver when he and John Landy both finished the race is less than four minutes.

It is an...

March 7, 2018

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This is a scale model of a squatter's shack made by the artist Ken Lum as part of his installation "From shangri-la to shangri-la". It is located by the water at the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area in North Vancouver and evokes the squatting lifestyle that once flourished around the edges of Burrard Inlet.

In Vancouver, the squatter's cabin should be as iconic a...

February 26, 2018

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No one would ever claim that Vancouver is the birthplace of jazz. New Orleans usually gets that honour. But it is worth pointing out that Vancouverites were exposed remarkably early to that most American of musical forms.

Pictured above is the Patricia Hotel on East Hastings near Main (Courtesy City of Vancouver Archives AM1535-: CVA 99-187). Built just...

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