Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


Strolling the Greenway

January 16, 2019

One of my New Year's resolutions is to walk the length of the Arbutus Greenway, a new bike/walking path created by the City of Vancouver out of the old rail line that formerly ran across the west side from False Creek via Kerrisdale to Marpole (and Richmond beyond). Known as the Sockeye Special, the railway serviced the many fish canneries that once made Steveston the headquarters of the provincial salmon industry.

Until recently the rail line was owned by the CPR, part of the massive land gift it received in 1884 in return for making the new city its Pacific terminus. The railway no longer had any use for the Arbutus corridor but managed to pressure the city into paying $55 million for it a couple of years ago. (Don't get me started.) And the result is the Greenway.

Last weekend we walked the first stretch of the route, starting at the northern end. An easy amble took us as far as 16th Avenue where I snapped the photo of the Ridge sign, all that remains of the old theatre that stood on the site from 1950 to 2013. This part of the walk takes one through what was once a significant industrial area, including McGavin's Bakery at Broadway and Arbutus, and the massive Carling brewery complex just a couple of blocks to the west, now a retirement community. One lovely building I had not noticed before was an old mattress factory, once owned by Jones Tent and Awning, a venerable name in the city. It now seems to be a storage facility.

In other words, much to see for the history buff. The next stage of the walk will take us up into Kerrisdale. Stay tuned.


December 9, 2018

I want to mention three very fine books that I've read recently. Any one of them would make a good addition to your Christmas want list, or an appreciated gift for someone near and dear.

The first is for the marine mammal lovers among you. Orcas, of course, are the poster animal of the BC west coast. Jason Colby, from the University of Victoria, has published an absorbing history of the bad old days when they were hunted down for live capture and shipped off to aquariums and...

December 7, 2018

The always reliable Christopher Moore reports that the Governor General's History Awards will be going ahead in January with Gov. Gen. Julie Payette's involvement. (Here is the link to Chris's post: http://christophermoorehistory.blogspot.com/2018/12/history-of-gg-not-be....)

This is excellent news. I have participated in the awards ceremony twice -- once as a runner-up and once as a...

November 21, 2018

Congratulations to Bill Waiser, this year's winner of the Governor General's History Award for Popular Media, better known as the Pierre Berton Award. Waiser has written many fine books and blogs regularly about the history of Western Canada.

Earlier in the year it was announced that the history awards would not be handed out by the Governor General herself, as has been the case for years. Too bad. The GG is apparently rethinking her priorities.

Nonetheless, the award is a...

October 30, 2018

Congratulations to Darrel McLeod whose memoir, Mamaskatch, has won the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

I cannot help noting that each of the five finalists for this year's award is a memoir. I am not sure what that says about non-fiction writing in the country, if anything. Several years ago I was a member of a jury deciding on Canada Council grants to non-fiction writers and I recall how many of the applicants were writing memoirs. Where were the historians, the...

October 27, 2018

Here in British Columbia we are voting, again, on possibly changing the way we vote. In this context, I keep reading that London, Ontario, was recently the first Canadian municipality to use a ranked ballot system in its civic election.

This is not true. Vancouver introduced such a system, briefly, almost a century ago. And bad news for those on both sides of the current debate who argue that, for better or for worse, a ranked ballot would result in significant change: it didn't...