Vancouver, post 2

The research so far in Vancouver has uncovered slim pickings for BC. It makes sense- BC developed later, much later, than the rest of the West Coast. The population is still only about 4 million- meaning there are more residents in greater Seattle than in the entire province of British Columbia. Excepting the (smaller) Gold Rush up here, there was just a lot less immigration. And in some ways, the population has been more homogenous. I don’t believe at all that there weren’t immigrant groups in need of community services, benevolent associations, and socio-cultural adjustment. But the scale of these communities was much smaller and in the city directories, I can’t find much sign of it. Even going by Church listings (which I have excluded up to now because I’m interested in the growth of secular cultural organizations) hardly illuminates the immigration to Vancouver. Now, there Are consul listings for Ecuador, Chile, Japan, China, Belgium, France, Germany (Imperial), Sweden, Norway, Spain… I had no idea there were so many consulates in Vancouver! In the classified ads, there are listings for Spanish, Chinese and Japanese interpreters dating back to 1900.

I can’t find an “ethnic halls” to visit which are comparable with what I’ve found so far in California. Primarily, this frustration stems from the fact that I’m looking into these very small communities in 1900. There just wasn’t much there, and not much reason to record- say, a Finnish hall- if one even served the tiny population of Vancouver. In fact even in the introductions,  the editors for these historic directories say how difficult collecting the information was. Between 1900 and 1940 the cities in BC were just so small and the populations were growing and moving around very quickly. But I despair of finding any Halls from so long ago. Or maybe I’m just at a turning point. An important part of my project is traveling, pushing myself to understand what I call my “home” a little better.

VPL has made digitized editions of many BC directories from 1860-1915 available online. Which is brilliant. But the main directory, Henderson’s, does not seem to have collected the information on social groups that I need. What clubs he does list- in Vancouver 1900 for example, BC Forest and Stream, BC Sugar Refinery, Seaman’s Institute, Terminal City, The Vancouver, The Owl, St. George’s- sound akin to the exclusivity of a Men’s Club. Only ‘St. George’s’ has any sort of mythical/ethnic connection, but as it’s English in origin the roots are more likely to be colonial. I am getting the sense that these directories are defining a Club here according to very different criteria. Perhaps this definition of club, which overlaps with mine, makes sense in the context of BC. The settlement of BC largely consisted of a westward movement and there is a very strong influence from Britain and the Scots-Irish. The capitol in Victoria was famously a mainstay of the British Empire. In that context, the Gentleman’s club and the Sporting Club, certainly would make more sense that some sort of populist community center.

But how have I been defining “club” in my research so far? I’ve been using these directories merely to find Halls. I have been very loose in my club/association/society requirements so that I can mine these historic yellow pages for any sort of clue about the social organizations which once existed. One of the few restrictions I do have is to avoid organizations that have society names which include words like “labor”, “union”, “commercial”, as well as ruling out any halls which were obviously associated with a church. However in some cases, particularly with the observant Italian and Jewish communities, I thought it important to at least take note of Parish Halls and Jewish Community Centers despite having a religious affiliation. Occasionally there were also listings for a “union” which seemed more like an umbrella organization than a labor union, particularly among Japanese and Chinese Communities. This process requires analyzing society names for any symbolic connection to a particular ethnic group. Maybe it is because I have taken such a loose approach to Ethnic Hall clues that I am so disturbed by their absence in the Vancouver and Victoria records so far. Sure, there are one or two hints, but there are just so few addresses that I have been able to track down. There are so few ethnic halls to visit that it feels like a dead zone in comparison to California. Perhaps I should compare the population sizes in the period, and that might make me feel better.

I’m taking today to sort through notes and update journal entries. I also need to call family and plan the next phase of my trip- Victoria, Seattle, Portland and greater Eureka remain. In addition, there are hall visits remaining in SF and Oakland but I can save those for later. I kind of am sick of cities. I just don’t want to go back to hanging out on street corners and avoiding the eyes of homeless or the commentary by street people. I’m sick of walking around taking photos, I should have planned this so I could talk with people more.  And at least in this regard, once I get back to the actually hall hunting I think Vancouver will be surprisingly similar to downtown Sacramento or Los Angeles.

The sun feels the same up and down the coast. I know that now. The differences are slight. Stunning coastlines and street car lines.Small wooden homes from the 20’s. The differences are subtler than the similarities. The drinking water, certainly. There is a noticeable Hispanic influence which increases as you head south. But lawns grow the same weeds from here to LA. It probably does take less work to have a green lawn here but everyone seems to want to have those same problems. Sometimes the air feels different. Vancouver grey is very different from Los Angeles and San Diego ocean fog. And Berkeley fog. The mountains change very gradually, I noticed that a lot on the drive up. How the valleys began to narrow, the mountains to widen and the peaks to climb on the drive through Oregon. And by the Puget Sound, the openness seems to come back, but in an expanse of water rather than fields. And I really do feel at home here in Vancouver, as at home as anywhere else on my trip. I think Los Angeles felt most different to me, but because of it’s sheer scale rather than any cultural differences. I’ve never lived in a metropolis, but it’s a part of California and this western feeling is there.

Made dinner and cherry pie.

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