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Side Glance With Al Tee – White Pins: What They Mean For Housing In Vancouver

29 May

WhitePinAlTeeThey first appeared on the Westside. Then slowly migrated to EastVan and now they are everywhere. You’ve seen them in your neighborhood and on your street. They are the symbol of everything that is the housing debate. They are, those white surveyor pins. Harbingers of destroy and replace. That old rancher? Coming down. Faded Vancouver Special? Bulldozer bait. Hundred year old Craftsman? Just keeping the lot warm until that 3500 square foot stack of shipping containers-looking box is approved.

It is to the point that the pins go in, the house comes down, and you can’t even remember what was there. Walk through any East Van neighborhood and you can predict which house is next to sprout the white pins. The pins are like an invasive species. Nobody was paying attention, nobody took them seriously, now they can’t be stopped. There’s no natural predator or pesticide and they’re pretty much impervious to social activism. In fact they’ll be around long after all of us because of what they consume and excrete. Money.

This city, as I’ve said before, has always been about money. George Vancouver didn’t drop anchor in Burrard Inlet to further His Majesty’s geographical knowledge. The heroes of Vision ran this city for 10 years and they weren’t financed by citizens riding Mobi bikes to council meeting eithers.

But, there’s an election coming in November, and the people seeking your vote aren’t beholden to money and have a solution for the white pin proliferation. Whether it’s Burnaby MP Kennedy ‘How about I drop in and solve your problems?’ Stewart, hereditary Squamish Nation Chief Ian ‘cash in on all that white guilt’ Campbell, neophyte politician Shauna ‘what happened to being the  frontrunner?’  Sylvester, tech entrepreneur Taleeb ‘lost twice federally’  Noormohamed, or popular favorite Adrianne ‘don’t want to be the tallest weed’ Carr, they have a plan. Maybe.

What is certain, is that no matter who is in power enacting their “plan”, your rent is going to continue to go up. Moving to a larger more affordable space will continue to only be an option if that space is in Harrison Mills. The price of the faded Vancouver Special you pass by every day is not suddenly going to be reasonable, and the white pins will continue to dot the East Van landscape.

However it’s not all gloom and doom especially if you like a little schadenfreude. Watching Hector Bremner cry over the NPA rejecting his mayoralty candidacy has been pretty entertaining.  Bremner is the same guy who won his city council seat because the progressive vote was split into five but still thinks he earned it. The same guy that said after he won his council seat that Vision was done. The same guy who said he’d donate his councilor’s pay to charity. Now he alleges that he’s a victim of racism. Shocking! The poor man. Course if you believe that, I’ve got a Vancouver Special you can have for its original price. Plus it’s on a street free of those white pins.

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

Side Glance With Al Tee – Honest Nat’s Department Store – History On Fraser Street

26 Mar

HonestNat'sDept.StoreSometimes travelling around East Van, it feels like being part of something on National Geographic or History Channel. One of those programs about lost civilizations. Worlds that no longer exist and what fragments remain.

There’s an old radio jingle that’s an example of the lost world of East Van. The ad was for Honest Nat’s Department Store and if you’ve lived here long enough you know what three words follow the store’s name.

But beyond the jingle there’s no history of a department store that once was an anchor on the principal commercial ribbon of East Vancouver. Located at 6394 Fraser, Honest Nat’s was the brainchild of Nathan Lacterman. A prairie orphan who escaped Winnipeg and came West, Lacterman made several unsuccessful stabs at the retail business in Vancouver.  Then a chance visit to Toronto lead him to stumble across the famed discount store Honest Ed’s at Bloor and Bathhurst. Inspired, Honest Nat’s was born.

Honest Nat’s department store would last at 48th and Fraser for 40 plus years. Supporting the community, sponsoring teams, doling out balloons to customer’s kids, Honest Nat Lacterman acted as the unofficial mayor of Fraser Street. Eventually Honest Nat fell ill and his daughter took over. But Fraser Street started to change. A Superstore came in at the bottom of Fraser along Marine Drive. When Nat’s daughter started hearing patrons tell her that they’d looked all over town for an item they couldn’t find, but knew Honest Nat’s would have it, she saw the writing on the wall. Why weren’t they coming straight to Honest Nat’s in the first place?  Honest Nat’s Department Store closed in 1989 and the building was sold. Shortly afterwards, it was destroyed by fire.

All that remains now of Honest Nat’s Department store is this artifact, the jingle.

By Contributing Writer: Al Tee

East Vancouver History Walk With James Johnstone

26 Feb

EastEndWalkingTourJamesJames Johnstone is back with his popular historical walking tours this February and March. On Saturday, March 10th, James will take you on a tour of one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, Strathcona. The tour kicks off at 10:00 a.m. starting from 696 East Hastings at Heatley. This historical walking tour is a culmination of years of researching over 250 homes in the East End. Although you will find architecture is a theme on this tour, James will also focus on social history and how waves of immigrants established themselves in this area before moving on to other parts of the city. The tour will also touch on the impact of portside industries like BC Sugar, the prohibition and the proliferation of bootlegging as well as the City of Vancouver’s attempts to wipe out “urban blight”.   If you can’t make March 10th, he will be doing this tour again on March 24th.  On March 17th, James will host a history walk  of the Working/Wild Side of Vancouver’s East End. Each tour runs for approximately 2 to 2.5 hours and last we heard the cost was $20 for each tour. If you would like more information or to reserve your spot, email James directly at historywalks@gmail.com.

A Side Glance By Al Tee ‘Voting’ Was It Worth The Cost?

23 Oct

VancouverVotesOn Tuesday October 10th while heading to see the new Blade Runner – half hour too long not noir-sh enough but one really good scene – I tried to do my civic duty and vote early at City Hall. But there was a line-up and I was not going to wait. After the movie, I tried again and there was still a line-up. Really? Donʼt by-elections usually have low voter turnout? How could this interference with my plans be happening? Turns out there ended up being only 11% participation by eligible voters.

This leads me to the question of why exactly was this expensive democratic exercise necessary? Okay, I know Councillor Geoff Meggs went off to Victoria to take an easy cash gig. But rather than spend the million plus the City dropped to elect a replacement, why didnʼt they just go down the list? Think about it. Meggs came in 10th in 2014, making him the last one on board council. Why not just give the job to the person who came in next. In 2014, Ian Robertson of the NPA was the 11th. Given that the winner of this election was Hector Bremner of the NPA, would it have made a difference? Tell me there is a difference between Bremner and Robertson? If Robertson werenʼt available, the next four closest were also NPA candidates. So in essence Meggs should have just saved us the money and trouble and picked somebody from the NPA to replace himself. The same goes with the School Board. They were fired, so just rehire them. Their term was only one more year. We are doing all this again in 2018. The money spent on the by-election could have been used for something more purposeful rather than reminding us that nobody gets elected without money. The kind of money that only comes from hitching a ride from a name brand political party. So, sorry Judy Graves and Jean Swanson. The last independent to win a council seat was Carole Taylor 30 years ago, and she was heavily connected and financed. Same thing goes to you Mary Jean Watermelon and thanks for the Robo-call. Are those really effective for getting the votes?

This by-election also has me pondering how come, with all our enlightenment and gender neutral washrooms, we have still yet to elect a transperson? Specifically how come the money parties wonʼt offer a ride to Jamie Lee Hamilton? This gal has been running forever. She deserves to be elected just for her persistence. Sadly this by-election is also a reminder that COPE the once mighty vanguards of Vancouverʼs progressive politics are on the verge of extinction. Twas self-destructive infighting that caused their decline.

But there are some positives in all this. One City, a neophyte progressive party, managed to best the money parties and steal a seat from them. Plus more Green Party seats. Keep the City green. Seriously, can we put something green in the school curriculum?  Because the school annex a block over from my place, those kids need to learn to recycle. They are our future.

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

Photo: City of Vancouver

A Side Glance By Contributing Writer Al Tee – Vancouver Politics Circa 1970s

9 Oct

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince I was a kid I have followed local politics. It started because of my Dadʼs friend Bill Street. Mr. Street wouldʼve been a perfect casting choice for an episode of Mad Men. He was a flashy big-time lawyer, with a big house, and a few secrets on the side. Chief among them a hot car his wife didnʼt know about. It was stashed in a downtown parking lot and possibly a hot girl parked somewhere as well. Mr. Street had also briefly been a Vancouver City councillor.

In the early 1970ʼs Mr. Street was slated to be the NPAʼs candidate for mayor. But then the Vancouver Sun published an article by noted journalist Allan Fotheringham, that accused Mr. Street of being the NPAʼs bagman. Fotheringham alleged that Mr. Street was the developers lawyer at City Hall. The fixer who for a price could get development plans approved. Mr. Street was also alleged to be the guy who come campaign time would give the developers money tree a shake for contributions. Needless to say, Mr. Street was forced to withdraw as the NPAʼs candidate and the party was obliterated in that election by Art Phillips and his Electors Action Movement (TEAM) party. My Dad was furious at the Vancouver Sun and Allan Fotheringham. To this day Iʼm still not sure whether my Dad was outraged because he thought the factual allegations were libelous, or he thought how dare you rat out my friend Bill.

Mr. Streetʼs brief run for mayor has long faded from view, and the only physical evidence remaining is a campaign button I salvaged from amongst my late Grandma Teeʼs curios. But the point of this historical anecdote with an upcoming civic by-election nigh, is that this city has always been a developers town. From the moment George Vancouver dropped anchor in Burrard Inlet to now, someone has always been thinking about subdividing and building. The question is do the council hopefuls think they are going to change that and how would they go about hitting pause on the current situation? I think Iʼll try asking them. Stay tuned.

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

Walk For Reconciliation To Strathcona Park September 24, 2017

20 Sep

WeAreAllOneThe first-ever Reconciliation Expo will be held Sunday, September 24th.  The event begins at 10:00 am with a 2 km walk that starts at 650 Cambie Street and travels to Strathcona Park.  After the walk, there are a host of activities lined up for the day at the Expo that continues till 3:00 pm. The event will include community booths with information about reconciliation, cultural activities as well as presentations by community groups.  Along side the events, there will be an area dedicated to local artisans. This is a great opportunity to experience local Indigenous art and culture.  There will also be an area for children to play educational games and a space for Indigenous craft making. If you get hungry while there, a variety of Vancouver based food-trucks serving ethnically-diverse foods will be on hand.

The day also features musicians, dance groups and a host of activities and exhibits some of which we’ve set out below. To see a full rundown of events, we invite you to visit reconciliationcanada.ca: 

Exhibit: Site Unseen (Gitga’at and West Vancouver Youth – Mural of Merging Voices) 

A unique and innovative project supports links between different groups of coastal youth. To deepen the understanding of their unique cultures and lands, students from the District of West Vancouver and the Gitga’at Nation in Hartley Bay worked together to create a large art installation that explores reconciliation among youth.

Exhibit: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation 

An exhibit from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation that explores working together for a strong future and better understanding of reconciliation.

Exhibit: Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket (Full-Size Replica)

Inspired by a woven blanket, the Witness Blanket is a large-scale art installation, made out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures including Friendship Centres, band offices, treatment centres and universities, from across Canada. The Witness Blanket stands as a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honour the children, and symbolise ongoing reconciliation.

Weavers Corner

Facilitated by the Earthand Gleaners Society and a diverse group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous weavers, this will be a tactile, interactive space to learn more about the craft of weaving from multiple cultural perspectives. The space will be hands-on, inviting participants to engage with plants native to this territory and learn more about the social history of weaving.

Kairos Blanket Exercise

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise is an interactive learning experience that teaches the Indigenous rights history we’re rarely taught. Developed in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which recommended education on Canadian-Indigenous history as one of the key steps to reconciliation, the Blanket Exercise covers over 500 years of history.

On-site Mural Painting

The Vancouver Mural Festival will host an interactive mural site where with spray paint where participants can add their message of hope or reconciliation. There will also be several commissioned artists creating pieces during the Expo that aim to capture the energy and experience of the Walk for Reconciliation.

Commitment Gallery

Using the pre-existing infrastructure of the tennis court in Strathcona Park, Reconciliation Canada will facilitate the creation of a temporary Commitment Gallery. This will serve as an opportunity for participants to make a personal pledge towards reconciliation following their participation in the Walk. Commitment Cards will be exhibited on the fence to visually display and celebrate actions.

A Little East Van History – Motel Row On Kingsway

11 Sep

MotelVacancyTraveling along Kingsway through Collingwood, I noticed some inconspicuous street signs the City installed a few years back. Designed in the style of 1960ʼs era Trans Canada Highway markers, the signs proclaim Indigenous Trail and Wagon Road. This was done as an acknowledgement of Kingsway as a historical route into and out of Vancouver for indigenous and non-indigenous people.

These signs got me thinking about my own use of the route. In particular how I had designated some navigational points along Kingsway which I used to gauge my progress entering or exiting the City. These points are or were motels that stand out against the shifting commercial landscape of Kingsway. I set off to rediscover my motel route.

Heading east the starting point was always the Biltmore at 12th and Kingsway. Once a Howard Johnsonʼs Hotel, and previously various others, it is now social housing. The next point is the Days Inn at Kingsway and Victoria. This place has been there for 70 years and in the early days was considered quite upscale. I know because the hotel is where my mom stayed on her wedding night. Either that or my Dad really was the cheapskate he was suspected of being.

Continuing east to Kingsway and Nanaimo, where there once stood a vast motel with beer parlour and off-sales called the Eldorado. It has since been replaced by several condo towers although the motel name lives on with the small Eldorado liquor store on the corner. I wonder if the owners actually did their research on the name. The beer parlour with off-sales was called Mulhernʼs Pub, named after the family that owned the Eldorado. A curious side note about the pub is that a family member apparently attempted to pull a stick-up of Mulhernʼs, but had a little problem with the stocking over their face and was recognized. Always helps to have a proper disguise when robbing family.

Past the old Eldorado site is the iconic and hard to miss 2400 Motel. This city owned 3 acre enclave of 18 cottages has been a frequent film location for everything from the X-Files to Smallville. The 2400 also briefly hosted Ahmed Ressam the Millennium Bomber, who fortunately didnʼt overcook anything during his stay. After the 2400 Motel is the last point before Boundary the Mr. Sport Hotel at Kingsway and Battison. This placeʼs marquee always seemed to advertise it as the last stop for strippers and off-sales before the wilds of Burnaby. The Mr. Sport eventually became a Ramada and then like the Biltmore was bought by the City and turned into social housing. A painted over Ramada sign and faded “Lobby “awning stand as a reminder of its intimidating previous lives. The Mr. Sport looked then and still looks to me now like a place you went into and instantly got shit kicked.

Aside from these motels, there are two other strange atolls of accommodation along the Kingsway route. One, almost directly across from the old Mr. Sport, is the Deluxe Hotel. I suspect it is as deluxe as that burger you get from the cafe gas station garage in Boston Bar. One the other hand the Deluxe, which has been around since 1958, recently changed hands. It has a nice new sign and may be slowly drifting towards the boutique style. Although youʼll probably never find out as it is probably booked full of would be novelists trying to get that gritty East Van feel.

More suspect is the Cassandra at 3075 Kingsway. While it advertises itself as a “comfortable and connected 3 star”, youʼve got to wonder what it’s doing there. From the outside it definitely has that must be a front for something feel. Certainly if you are in a witness protection program,  or generally have at least one hand gun stuffed into your saggy baggy jeans, you might not feel out of place.

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

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