What I thought I’d do here today, was gather together a bunch of the odds and ends that I’ve accumulated over the 34 days since I started this Blog, and compile them into one post, so that they wouldn’t just get themselves lost for want of enough substance to make up a posting of their own. The things I’m referring to are singular plaques of interest, or pieces of art that I’ve come across in my daily travels. Sometimes they’re just views that I really want to share with you all, or maybe things that have caused interesting thoughts to occur to me that I really don’t want to have just fade away, never to be thought of again. At other times, it may be a piece of Vancouver’s history that I found a marker to, and I’ll add a little explanation of just what it is you are looking at. Hopefully, I can keep you interested in what’s going on, and maybe even entertain you for a little while. I guess we’ll never know until we get started, so,.. “Shall we be off?”
The first thing I wanted to show you is also kind of an explanation. It explains why so many Vancouverites appear to be looking down so often as you see them strolling along the city streets. The reason is really quite simple. Just as the Vancouver skyline can keep a person fascinated for long periods of time depending on just where one is walking at any given time, in certain parts of the city, much of what you might find to grab your attention cannot be found by looking up, but rather, it is discovered by looking down. Now, I’ve lived in a fair number of cities in my 57 years, both here in Canada, and also south of my favorite border, in the good old U.S. of A., and I can’t think of even one of those cities that had as much artwork drawn on, or built into, their sidewalks as Vancouver has. I’m sure there are many cities that have a great deal of this kind of art, but it does seem to me that Vancouver has more than its fair share. I could easily have done multiple Blog postings on this type of sight in this town, and I still may, but for now, here are just a few samples of what I’m talking about (this posting is about the odds and ends after all). By the way, you shouldn’t bother looking for captions with these individual pictures, because with the exception of one or two special cases (I really don’t know yet), there simply won’t be any. With time, I may add them in the future, but for now you can pretty much read what I have to say about this batch of pictures in the paragraph(s) before each set is displayed. The reason for skipping the captions is because of the number of pictures total that will be shown in this post. It’s well over a hundred, and if I were to individually caption each shot, I would never get the post published. So here we go with a sampling of the kind of art you can find as you walk the streets of Vancouver.
These first 5 pictures are of a series (and there seem to be literally dozens of them, if not more) of small inserts set into the corners of the cement sidewalk blocks in the downtown area. They appear to be mainly quotes by famous people, and some of them I have to admit, are over my head. I would like to show you all of them, but like I said, there’s a bunch. You may have to click on a couple of them to see the picture correctly, but they usually look better full-size anyway.
Next, we have 10 of 31 Mosaics that are scattered around Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, part of a couple of projects known as “The Footprints Community Arts Project” and “The Old Vancouver Town-site Walking Tour“. The programs were initiated by “The Carnegie Community Association” through the auspices of their “Carnegie Street Program“. The Artistic Director of the project was Marina Szijarto. The artists who took part in the projects were, Pat Beaton, Taki Bluesinger, Joe Bolten, Jane Cameron, Jacquie Dionne, France Guerin, Dan Hill, Katie Johnson, Des Media, Anthony Sobala, Candace Wagman, Bruce Walther, Gweny Wong, and Debra Yelva. The artists were hired to direct the conceptual development and production of mosaic and banner markers and a guide book that together capture historic events, natural history and cultural stories from the rich history of the Downtown Eastside, which I am proud to say is my neighborhood, and which I am equally sad to say is in extreme danger of being forever lost as it falls victim to the relentless march of gentrification. The artists worked with participants from the Carnegie Street Program in a storefront studio, over a six-week period, to research, design and produce 31 mosaic markers and 100 banners to mark The Old Vancouver Town-site.
Background information on these projects was gleaned from:
So that’s pretty much it for the sidewalk art, per se, and from here I thought we could move into some plaques, that if a person wasn’t watching carefully enough, they just might walk right by without even seeing. A lot of them might not even be art in the strictest sense, but what they do have to offer is a glimpse at a bit of Vancouver history, or a look at the compassion and love within the hearts of one or another of our fellow men or women. I don’t know about you, but in this crazy day and age where everyone seems to be wanting to hurt or kill everyone else for every little reason that they can come up with, it does my heart good to know that there are still people out there who really care for one another, and aren’t afraid to let the world know it. People who are willing to go to a certain amount of trouble, and not a little expense, to let the world know that hey, I used to know this person, and they made my life a little better just by being there, just by existing. And if that person doesn’t exist any longer on this mortal plane, then I am more than willing to put out a little effort of my own, and some of my gold, to make sure that that wonderful person is always remembered, by someone, even if it’s only for a single moment at a time. But let’s start with a few people who are being remembered because they have something in common with me, and very possibly with you. These people, well they loved to write.
Starting back in 1995, Terrasen Gas (renamed in 2011 to FortisBC Energy Inc.), BC Bookworld, and the Vancouver Public Library, joined together, and began handing out a yearly award to a notable, long-term British Columbian writer. The prize was originally known as the “BC Gas Lifetime Achievement Award”, and the name remained the same until 2003, when the name of the award changed to the “Terasen Lifetime Achievement Award”, although the three contributors remained the same. Then in 2007 the name of the award changed once again, this time to the “George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award”, and Terasen was dropped from the list of contributors, leaving only BC Bookworld, and The Vancouver Public Library. The various plaques are set into the plaza outside the Georgia Street entrance of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, one row in a semi-circle close to Georgia Street, and the row that is currently being worked on, set in much closer to the Library entrance. Shown below are a small sample of the actual plaques, but first, a complete list of the winners from 1995-2014:
- Eric Nichol
- Jane Rule
- Barry Broadfoot
- Christie Harris
- Phyllis Web
- Paul St. Pierre
- Robert Harlow
- Peter Trower
- Audrey Thomas
- P.K. Page
- Alice Munro
- Jack Hodgins
- bill bissett
- Joy Kogawa
- W.P. Kinsella
- Anne Cameron
- Chuck Davis
- David Suzuki
- Daphne Marlatt
- William New
- Jean Barman
These next plaques I want to show you, well, they may be small, and they’re not very flashy, but I like them as much, or even more than a lot of the other stuff I’ve shown you in the past. Why? Because they make me feel good in that special way that only happens when you find yourself in the presence of true love. And you don’t even have to be the one who’s doing the loving. You just have to get near it, and it works its way right down into your soul, and just makes itself right at home. So what are these plaques I’m talking about. They’re little memorial plaques that you can pay to have placed on the back part of a bench in one of the city parks, or around the sea-wall, or wherever a person might stop and take a little rest. And while they’re resting, they can be reading the wonderful little words of remembrance that you have left for that someone special who has now stepped out of your life, or at least this corporeal portion of it. I see these little plaques all the time, and they always lift my spirits, and I wonder if anyone will bother to leave a little message for, or about, me when I’m gone.
Right about here, I want to show you an item that will give you a little bit more about Vancouver’s history. Apparently, things were so bad during the depression that at the overpass which you have to cross as you enter Crab park (and which I’ve featured in an earlier blog that you can see here), a bunch of young men boarded some freight trains, planning to ride them to Ottawa, where they were going to stage a peaceful protest in regards to the lack of real work they were faced with here in BC, as well as the conditions in the Work Camps that had been set up by the Bennett government for single males who were on relief (during the Great Depression, 1 in 9 citizens was in that situation). This grew into what was known as the On To Ottawa Trek. Before turning their sights on Ottawa, however, the men from the camps (which were in remote areas) first marched on Vancouver.
When the movement began, the approximately 1600 workers walked out (on strike) of the work camps, where they were used to construct roads, and build other public works, to protest the working conditions wherein they labored for 20 cents a day. “Their other demands focused on better first aid equipment, the extension of the Workmen’s Compensation Act to include camp workers, the repeal of Section 98 of the Criminal Code of Canada, and the demand that workers in camps be granted the right to vote in federal elections.”¹ By the time they reached Vancouver they had plenty of public support, and on June 3, 1935, they boarded boxcars, and headed out for Ottawa.
When the Trekkers reached Regina they met with two cabinet ministers who convinced them to leave the main body of protesters in Regina, where they stayed at the Regina Stadium Grounds, while 8 of their leaders went on to Ottawa to meet with Bennett. That meeting, unfortunately, turned into a fiasco, with Bennett accusing one of the Trek leaders of being an extortionist, while that leader then accused Bennett of being a liar, after-which the trekkers were escorted from the meeting-hall.
The delegates arrived back in Regina on June 26th only to find that all attempts by the Trekkers to leave Regina by any means were being thwarted by the RCMP. When a public meeting was called to address the matter, 1500 to 2000 people showed up, but only approximately 300 of those were actual protesters, with the rest choosing to remain at the Stadium Grounds. “Three large ice cream trucks were parked on the sides of the square concealing RCMP riot squads. Regina police were standing by in a nearby garage. At 8:17 p.m. a whistle was blown and the police charged the crowd, setting off hours of hand-to-hand fighting and knife fights throughout the city’s centre.” ¹ In the end 120 Trekkers and residents were arrested, one Trekker, and one plainclothes police officer died, and hundreds more local residents and Trekkers were taken to local hospitals and residences. These injured were also later arrested. “The police claimed 39 injuries in addition to the dead police officer, but denied that any protesters had been killed in the melee; the hospital records were subsequently altered to conceal the actual cause of death.”²
The police surrounded the Stadium grounds armed with rifles and machine-guns, and the next day, they erected a barbed-wire enclosure around the entire area. This action was only overcome by direct intercession of the Prime Minister at the request of Saskatchewan Premier Gardiner. In the trials that followed Bennett claimed the “rioters” had fired the first shots, and the police only responded in kind, but despite the lengthy, and in-depth proceedings, no evidence was ever produced to support his outrageous claim.
So I was just looking at how much I have left here, and there is just no way I’m going to get everything in here and keep things at any reasonable length. Thus, my new plan is to call it a night and save the rest of this stuff for a second installment of Odds And Ends. That way, everyone can save their eyesight, and I don’t have to worry that I might not be giving each of these sections the attention they’re due. So I hope you found something of interest tonight, and if you did, then maybe you’ll come back and check out the rest tomorrow or the next day. Until then…