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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 

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

Killarney Shopping Centre – The Last Outpost?

7 Aug

Depending on how you view the history of Canada, it was explored and settled or it was conquered and occupied. Either way the pattern of Westward expansion seemed to involve a commercial enterprise, usually the Hudson’s Bay, plonking down an anchor store somewhere. Then a fort was built around it and they started trading. I believe that the shopping centre of the post war expansion was the distant offspring of the old trading outposts. Basically, build a ring of retail around a parking lot and then let the people come.

There are not many of these old style wide open centres left. Oh, you can still find them in places like Campbell River and Quesnel, but for the most part on the Lower Mainland theyʼve been eaten up by the mall. Still there are a few holdouts left and one in particular that comes to mind is the Killarney Shopping Centre.

Located at East 49th and Elliott this commercial outpost is oddly frozen in time. Sure it has a bank and a Starbucks, but in the condo clearcut thatʼs slowly migrating from the West Side to East Van, it really doesnʼt look much different from when it was built in 1962. It is mostly single story and has a gas station. Remember those? They used to have them in downtown Vancouver.

The main draw though, for the Killarney Shopping Centre is the Killarney Market. It is one of those near extinct commercial entities that still exist sporadically in East Van; an independent grocery. The market was originally a Safeway, then an IGA and now it is a 24 year old independent run by two brothers, John and Tito Chiang. Walking the aisles it has that small town old store feel, though it has a diverse stock of ethnic KillarneyMarketBublefoodstuffs you probably wouldnʼt find in Quesnel. Killarney Market also gained some publicity by being in the Michael Buble video for “Havenʼt Met You Yet “ Though mentioning this kind of makes me cringe. When it comes to guys in a suit jacket singing, my taste lies more toward Nick Cave than Mr. Bubbly.

One other curiosity of the Killarney Shopping Centre is its home to Wally’s Burgers. For those unaware of the significance, Wally Burgers was located on Kingsway for 46 years. It was a small greasy burger joint of the 1950ʼs movie variety. It was also a kind of right of passage, a stop over for those traveling West for a night in town. A place to put some padding down before the boozing. It was also a stopover for those traveling East heading home. A place to absorb the boozing or maybe lay down some padding for the impending hangover.

Wally’s closed on Kingsway in 2008 and then in 2010 some enterprising folk rebooted the whole thing and now have three locations. How does it compare? Well, unless youʼre either half-pissed or hungover itʼd be pretty hard to tell. Nostalgia aside, the thing I find most curious about Killarney Shopping Centre is how long can this uniquely dated shopping centre, this aging commercial outpost last? The most recent property assessment was for over 39 million up by 10 million over the previous year. At some point an income trust or dark lord developer is going to decide to cash it in.

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

Photo Credit: Killarney Market & Wally’s Burgers

A Slice Of Life In East Van: Henry’s Shoes

26 Jul


The French Emperor Napolean Bonaparte – he of the short stature and tall hat -supposedly once said an army marches on itʼs stomach. But thinking about it, an army actually marches on quality comfortable shoes. We as upright mammals, crave the kind of shoes that absorb the day to day pounding on our feet traversing East Van. But what happens when your favorite shoes blow a heel? Or the sole comes apart? The stitching frays or the tongue detaches? Do you toss them? No! Theyʼre your favorite shoes! Do you try Gorilla Gluing them? Yes! But when the glue no longer holds do you toss them then? No! Never! Thereʼs got to be a way to fix them. But where? Whoʼll do quality work and not charge you so much you start fantasizing about Boxing Day sales? 

 I found the answer. Sort of.

 A year or so back, I begin to patronize a short commercial strip on the west side of Main at 48th. Itʼs one of those groupings of two storey buildings that canʼt possibly last in the condo clearcut we call home. I love these spots but always wonder, how much longer? This particular spot features two grocers, one of which Persian Foods has an inventory to match itʼs name, and a hair salon and a dentist. But it was only after multiple grocery runs, that a side glance lead me to the other business in this little block.

Henryʼs Shoe and Shoe Repair.

From the outside, I thought this space was an abandoned storefront. With itʼs faded sign and what looked like cramped cluttered shelves, I assumed the space had once had a business but now was sitting idle and empty. Then one day, the door was open, and the sign, which Iʼd never paid attention to, caught my eye. It was two words on the sign that drew me in; Skate Sharpening.

My immediate thought; ʻ Bullshit. Nobodyʼs sharpening skates in there. “

So in I went. It was small tight like it appeared on the outside, and crammed with old school Geppetto-esque machinery. An elderly Asian man worked hunched over one of the machines. I yelled to him, but nothing. Eventually he looked up.

Me; “ You sharpen skates here? “
Him; “ No more. I do hockey pants, hockey gloves, goalie pads. “

He pointed to a rack of things to be picked-up and amongst piles of shoes, was a pristine pair of goalie pads. That was the ice breaker. Turns out I was talking to Henry Ng an 88 year old cobbler who escaped from Maoʼs China in 1949 because in his words; “ Canʼt make money there. “ He went to Hong Kong then came to Vancouver in 1951. He got into shoe repair. Works everyday 11 to 7pm. Takes one holiday a year to go on a boat cruise. ʻTold me heʼd been in that location since the mid 1960ʼs. He even owned the building but wasnʼt interested in cashing in and selling. I was hooked. I gave him my hockey gloves to re-palm. I just one tiny concern. Henryʼs is a cash up front only business. The sole record of our transaction was a tattered stub of paper with a piece of green masking tape on it. He did have a business card with a phone number, but it was so old it didnʼt even have an area code. Plus at his advanced age, you know, Iʼm going to sound insensitive but, you wouldnʼt want to show up one day looking to pick up your stuff, and find the doors locked no Henry. It would be a tragedy, of course. But also it would be a huge hassle. I just want my gloves back I donʼt want to wait for probate.

Fortunately, Henry came through. A pro job on the gloves. Then I mentioned him to a lady friend and she went in with a favorite pair of multiply repaired broken heeled boots. After Henry did a nice job on the boots, she started rummaging through her closet for every favorite shoe sheʼd thought she might want fixed.

But then one day, a week ago, I saw a ragged hand written sign on his door. He was closing July 23rd. What? No! I went inside.

Me: “ What happened? “
Henry: “ I sell the business. “

He emphasized that he hadnʼt sold the building heʼd just sold the business. But nonetheless, after decades of repairing and extending the life of peoples footwear and equipment, slapping them together with what ever parts he could find, Henryʼs own parts were finally wearing out.

Henry; “ Canʼt hear. Feet no good. Back no good. Retire. “Henry'sShoesFront

Henry did say though, it was still going to be a shoe repair shop. Somehow I suspect the clutter will disappear, and a new artisanal blacksmith will operate the premises. But then, is there such a thing as shoe repair gentrification?

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

A Little East Van History – The Lakeview Disaster And The Wild West

12 Jul

LakeviewDisasterVancouverHeritageFoundationWe introduce you to a new contributing writer Al Tee. Al loves a good story and has his eye on East Van’s history.  His East Van roots go back to his grandmother’s childhood home and farm at 41st and Sophia. Today, he’s going to share a little East Van history in the Kensington-Cedar Cottage area.

You live in East Van, youʼre always rushing. In a hurry. Youʼre rushing for the bus, for the Skytrain. Youʼre riding in the bike lane rushing to make the next light. Youʼre rushing trying to avoid traffic from pop-up city road work. All that rushing, and no time to take a side glance at what youʼre rushing past in East Van. Short anomalous streets and tiny micro neighborhoods. All of them bubbling over with anecdotal history. Because if you hadnʼt realized, East Van is where Vancouver started.

So let me do the side glance for you while you rush. As you rush North down Victoria thereʼs a point where you hit a big curve that becomes Commercial Drive. On your right you pass a large patch of green that hides a community garden. Plenty of those in East Van, except this has some history. At the bottom of Lakeviewthe garden is a shed thatʼs been built like a replica of one of the old shelters for the Interurban. The Interurban was the original Skytrain, Vancouverʼs first rapid transit. These shelters offered both protection from the elements and often a ticket agent to sell riders their fare. More importantly the shed has a plaque, placed there to remind passersby of the events of the Lakeview Disaster.

In 1909 at the current location of the community garden, a BC Electric Interurban train collided with a runaway railcar loaded with timber. The collision resulted in 14 people killed and another 9 seriously injured. What happened at Lakeview became the worst transit accident in Vancouver history. While you give that a pause as you rush by, two blocks east is a short strip of Commercial Street that was itself once considered a village. The Commercial Street Cafe located at East 20th and Commercial Street, is particularly significant. While I canʼt vouch for the coffee – Iʼm too anti-social to have coffee anywhere but home – I can vouch that this was the sight of Vancouverʼs first armed robbery. The restored Cafe was once home to the Bank of Hamilton, a forerunner of the CIBC, and on one August Saturday night back in 1912, six armed men entered the bank and robbed it. While this was going on, members of a nearby gospel meeting began singing. At the same time two South Vancouver Police Constables Pcʼs Thomas and Winters happened by. There was a shoot-out. According to PC Winters; “ …men came running out of the bank and opened fire on me. Quite a fusillade was opened on me…I raised my revolver to shoot, but the crowd that had been singing and preaching now began to realize what was on and they scattered. “

Picture the opening scene in Sam Peckinpahʼs The Wild Bunch happening two blocks from the Croatian Cultural Centre. A running gun battle ensued and the robbers, some possibly wounded, escaped into the bush around Trout Lake. Which brings us back to Lakeview. Because these six “ desperate outlaws “ all passed by the sight of the cityʼs worst traffic accident ever. Think of it, a train wreck and an armed robbery with a shootout only a couple of blocks apart. Is this is a side glance of East Van? Or the Wild Wild West?

Contributing Writer: Al Tee

Photo Credit: Vancouver Heritage Foundation (above)
Photo Credit: Commercial Street Below (below)

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