Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Hail the Biographers

March 11, 2018


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 nice to have recognized the work of historian Irene Howard in bringing the story of Gutteridge back to life in her 1992 biography, The Struggle for Social Justice in BC: Helena Gutteridge, the Unknown Reformer. Irene, now 95 years old, is one of the Vancouver historical community's treasures. I spent all of my childhood summers on Bowen Island and a copy of Irene's history of the Island, Bowen Island, 1872-1972, still circulates through our family. Her memoir/family history, Gold Dust on His Shirt, is considered a classic of the genre.

Always good to have the lives of people like Gutteridge, in Vancouver, and Viola Desmond, nationally, celebrated. But let's not forget the work of the historians and biographers without whom these now prominent figures would still languish in obscurity.

March 8, 2018


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


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


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...

February 9, 2018


Looking for a good movie?

If you happen to be in Vancouver on Wednesday, February 21, drop down to the Vancity Theatre and join me for a presentation of My Dinner With Andre. The 1981 classic is showing as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival's...

February 7, 2018

My friend Eve Lazarus notes the 50th anniversary of the opening of the main terminal at Vancouver's International Airport, which reminds me of a story about former mayor L.D. Taylor. (Admittedly, it doesn't take much to remind me of stories about L.D.)

Before the airport itself (as opposed to the terminal building) opened on Sea Island in July 1931 there was a makeshift airfield in Richmond....