Tag Archives: Commercial Street

Off The Beaten Track – Casa Verde & Spartacus Books

19 Jul

ACasaVerdeccording to Robert Stone – I recommend the Netflix doc “ Get Me Robert Stone “- the past is prologue. Now if you donʼt subscribe to that theory then you most likely werenʼt inspired by my suggestions to stop in at what was once Commercial Village. But if you do, you may want to check out another curiosity. Right in the middle of Commercial Street, at 3532, is a restaurant. Itʼs called Casa Verde and unless you were looking for it, you wouldnʼt even give it a side glance. With itʼs fading green awning and neutral storefront, the place looks like one of those “ social clubs “Tony Sopranoʼs pals would hang at. But actually itʼs a real restaurant. A Portuguese restaurant thatʼs been run by the same family for twenty years. Iʼm not going to review Casa Verdeʼs fare. Which is a good thing. I may not be the best food critic given that I did not like the much praised and acclaimed Savio Volpe on Kingsway and Fraser. I can tell you that the proprietors of Casa Verde recommend the salted Cod or their weekend chicken barbecue special. But thatʼs not whatʼs interesting. Whatʼs interesting is that behind Casa Verdeʼs almost invisible storefront, thereʼs also a banquet hall that holds up to one hundred. The hall feels like it should be accessible through a bookcase operated secret passage. Itʼs discreet and it might be the perfect venue to roll out your start-up launch, or throw that party when your new single drops.

On the other hand, maybe you donʼt have time for something as frivolous as checking out a restaurant you may never dine in. How could you have time when thereʼs injustice and inequality in the world? After all, you are a social justice warrior. Thatʼs why you live in East Van the birthplace of Vancouverʼs progressive thought. East Van was home to the first Lefties on city council Bruces Yorke and Erickson and the Godfather of Progressive Vancouver Trout Laker Harry Rankin. Itʼs also home to long serving former NDP MP Libby Davies and future long serving NDP MP Jenny Kwan. So itʼs ironic that in your rush to those committee meetings youʼve never stopped, right at where Commercial Street meets Commercial Drive, and checked out Spartacus Books at 3378 Findlay.

Spartacus Books is Vancouverʼs original Lefty book store. Itʼs been around since 1973 and for years was a beacon of socialist thought on the Downtown East Side. But eventually evil forces – think developers not CSIS- conspired to run Spartacus Books out of itʼs long time location and over to this innocuous spot under the Sky Train behind the Croatian Cultural Centre. Banished to this location, Spartacus Books soldiers on encouraging truth justice and the East Van way. Theyʼre friendly folk, mostly volunteers, and they wonʼt try and force feed you Das Kapital or insist you watch a North Korean video. If youʼre trying to establish an ideological position, validate your East Van political street cred, or just worry about the fires of capitalism being highly infectious, Spartacus Books can help.SpartacusBooks

By Contributing Writer: Al Tee

 

 

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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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