Art & Culture
September 14, 2020

Vancouver Heritage Foundation Virtual Lecture~Yucho Chow


Vancouver Heritage Foundation – Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow


VHF’s Evening Lecture series continues this fall in a new virtual format. Join us from the comfort of home to enjoy fascinating pieces of Vancouver’s history from a selection of speakers. If you are unable to attend the scheduled lecture time, you may register ahead of time and a link to access the recording will be sent to you. Please note the link is only active for a specific period of time.

Vancouver’s first and most prolific Chinese photographer, Yucho Chow, operated a commercial studio in the heart of Chinatown from 1907–1949. He chronicled life during a tumultuous and transformative time in Canadian history and captured the faces of early marginalized communities including South Asians, Black Canadians, Indigenous residents, mixed-race families and Eastern European immigrants. For some communities, he was the only photographer willing to take their portraits. Sadly, his negatives – and the individual stories and history they chronicled – were all discarded when his studio closed. Chinatown curator Catherine Clement spent over eight years uncovering Yucho Chow’s photographs – one family at a time, one photo at a time, one story at a time.

In 2019, Catherine mounted the first-ever solo exhibition of Chow’s work. That exhibit created a flood of new submissions which are now in a book. She will share the story of Yucho Chow and show some of these remarkable never-before-seen private photographs and stories of diverse, early communities. She will also explore what these images tell us about Vancouver’s history and the role Chinatown played in the lives of so many groups.

Date:Tuesday, October 27th
Time: 7pm – 8:30pm
Registration charge: $16 / $10 (incl. tax)

Please note: This lecture will be offered online. Information on how to attend will be emailed to registrants.

To register, click here for further information.

Images: YuchoChow

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Let’s begin in Osoyoos, the southern-most town of the Okanagan:

The shot above was taken on August 27, 2020.

Here’s the equivalent from the lookout on Anarchist Mountain in 1977:

Beautiful BC magazine via BC Archives

Compare urban development in the two shots.  Notice how almost nothing has changed except some development on the middle right along the lakefront, a large white complex in the lower centre and what is probably an industrial strip in the upper left.

In a world where values rise when land is flat, easily serviced, near major roads and close to an urban core, how can this be?  Especially in the Okanagan, where the liaison between real-estate interests and local politicians has been, shall we say, often intimate.

The answer is the yellow line in the map below:

Water Science Series, BC Government

The line, almost block by block, is the boundary of the Agricultural Land Reserve, originally established in the early 1970s.  (To considerable opposition by many who owned the land within it.)

In an economy based on tourism and retirement, it’s extraordinary that there is anything green between the white municipal boundary and the yellow ALR.  Today, that economy of wine and fruit and tourism based on the appeal of a natural landscape was made possible by the vision of the NDP government in 1972 to establish the ALR (which paid for it in the loss of 1975) and the reluctance of successive Social Credit and Liberal governments to pay the political price to undo it.  (Not that there haven’t been nibbles of alienation – like golf courses as illustrated in the above report – but there hasn’t been huge bites of removal.)

Osoyoos may be a particularly graphic example of the juxtaposition of urban and agicultural, where vineyards come with a kilometre of the city centre.  But the same is true for much of the Okanagan (and arguably even Vancouver, hello Southlands), with one particularly egregious counter-example.  We’ll get there soon.


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Another archival image found by Dianna Sampson of several people in Stanley Park on January 9, 1944. Each of the women have hats, and the child is bundled in a snowsuit.  It appears that the women with children have trundled their baby carriages in on the hard ground.

This was during war time and before the Battle of Normandy that waged on from June to August of 1944.

In July of this year the St. Roch would leave Vancouver to go through the Northwest Passage in the Arctic returning in October. For the first time this year a day care was set up for the children of soldiers, and the City of Odessa, Russia would become Vancouver’s sister city.

And in September? A new product was introduced in Vancouver, the contact lens.

You can read more about this year in Vancouver here.

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Word Vancouver is back from September 19th to the 27th and this year they have virtual offerings which can be viewed here.

The purpose of the festival is to “foster the joy of the written word and inspire creativity by bringing together readers and writers from all backgrounds in an annual, inclusive and free literary arts festival, connecting local communities and celebrating literary arts through the collective experience.”

There’s one event that will be of particular interest to readers, and that is “Where History is Headed” with four well known Vancouver authors.

“Vancouver has changed and grown so much in the recent years, that today, books published on the history of Vancouver it seems have never been more popular. But so has the spectrum of the histories presented, with a broader look at the people, events, and social histories of different cultures in Vancouver, and even before the city was here.

Crime histories, entertainment and business histories of the city add to the array and mythology of the city and Photography books on Vancouver from Herzog to Girard have come bestsellers: Vancouver history has never been more popular—and with a wide age group of readers.

How did it happen—and more importantly, where is it all headed? Will books remain the most popular medium, or will other formats of media take a greater role? With a panel of Vancouver history authors and writers, and guests, join what will be a engaging and revealing discussion: Where History is Headed.”

Moderator: Aaron Chapman, Vancouver After Dark (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Aaron Chapman is a writer, historian, and musician with a special interest in Vancouver’s entertainment history. He is the author of The Last Gang in Town, the story of Vancouver’s Clark Park Gang; Liquor, Lust, and the Law, the story of Vancouver’s Penthouse Nightclub, now available in a second edition; and Live at the Commodore, a history of the Commodore Ballroom that won the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award (BC Book Prizes) in 2015. In 2020 he was elected as a member of the Royal Historical Society. He lives in Vancouver.


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In the Year of the Pandemic, there would be no vacations abroad – not even to Blaine.  But in May it occurred to me that if Dr. Henry approved, there might be trips within British Columbia.  So long as one kept six feet apart, one could go 600 km east.

So why not return to the summertime places of my youth, a circle tour of vacations past, especially those in the Okanagan that once upon a time seemed so far, far away.  Because in the first decade of my existence, it was.

For those who lived on Vancouver Island in the 1950s, a trip to the Lower Mainland meant an overnight ferry from Victoria to Vancouver Harbour.  And from there, the gravelly Hope-Princeton Highway, opened in 1949, might get you to the Okanagan if your radiator allowed.  A trek further east required a detour into the U.S. to make it across the southern tier of the province.

Then came the era of W.A.C. Bennett and Highways Minister Phil Gaglardi: the founding of BC Ferries (right, MV Tsawwassen as originally built, 1960) and the paving of the province (from ‘Frontier to Freeway’).  Now the family in a proud new Pontiac could get from the capital to the interior in a day, through the fields of the Fraser Valley, up and over the Cascades into the most northern tip of the Soronan – from rain forest to desert – with a tent in the trunk, eventually a trailer in the rear, and two weeks of paid vacation in a fruit-filled Eden.

A boy doesn’t ever forget those steep downhill curves above Kaleden and the first glimpses of the warm waters of Skaha Lake.


Why did our family stop summering in the Okanagan? For the same reason we started: prosperity. The post-war boom that made possible the infrastructure of highways and ferries, and the cars to fill them, and the two weeks of paid vacation, and the motels, campgrounds and attractions up and down the valley – all that was superseded by cheap airlines, higher incomes and the attractions of California, Hawaii and Mexico.

But in the Year of the Pandemic, it was time to return – now with the perspective of a life lived as an urban dweller and a student of cities.  So for the next few weeks in Price Tags, let me take you back there in place and time, to see how it has changed.

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Trust the CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)  Justin McElroy who is about all things municipal to find a way to organize Metro Vancouver’s neighbourhoods and towns into a competition to beat the Covid pandemic blues.

Mr. McElroy is the proud owner of pins from every municipality in British Columbia. Of course some municipalities were too small to have made their own pins. In that case, Mr. McElroy actually commissioned a pin based upon the crest of the  municipality and what the area is known for.

As CBC’s Municipal Affairs Reporter Mr. McElroy has a knack at making things make sense. He took all 192 neighbourhoods across the region, figured out a way for them to be voted upon by electronic ballot, and in a six week long process narrowed it down to one winner~Steveston, within the City of Richmond.

A half a million votes were cast during the competition and Steveston was in the finals against the august and resilient Mount Pleasant in the City of Vancouver.

But Steveston had the Mayor of Richmond advocating for its win, with Richmond Councillor Harold Steves (Steveston was named after his forebears) even posting photos on twitter of his delightful Belted Galloway cattle. (They do look like they have large white belts around them).

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This YouTube Video puts together early filmed footage of cities in the late 1890’s At that time seeing a camera man with the large appendage of a tripod and a movie camera was very novel. You will see the same reaction to the camera from the young children in this film as you would expect from children in this century viewing a new innovative marvel.

It is interesting to see the regional dress of people when travel was not so universally encompassing.  And some of the film is of events, not the main streets~Geneva was actually quite a cosmopolitan place in the 1890’s but the segment  presented is for a large fair where agricultural backgrounds were being applied. And in the segment of Paris you will see the moving sidewalk that was elevated thirty feet above the ground installed for the 1900 World’s Fair. Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger has described the moving sidewalk design and function in detail here.

All the places and the date of original filming are listed below the video.



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With thanks to Bryn for the link, this silver gelatin print from 1895 shows the partially thatched roof of Prospect Point’s summer house in Stanley Park  and a host of early Vancouverites.  Those names include Richard Tossel  who is perched on the roof, Milton Campbell, Walter Gow and Archie McLaren.

Milton Campbell was an architect and designed the Connaught Apartments and the Kwong Yuen Sang Company building on Pender Street. Walter Gow operated a watch repair and jewellery business.

Below is another image from the same year, 1895 of the summer house with the roof now completely thatched. This summer house was built in 1889 and the original lookout called “Observation Point”.

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From photographer Ken Ohrn this wonderful image located at  today’s Stanley Park Prospect Point Ice Cream shop. The shopkeeper handing the  girl her purchase has his head obscured by some form of doll that is hanging from the ceiling. There is a very plain sign in front of him stating “Help Us To Keep Your Park Clean.” There are actually four women and one man at the ice cream window.

So what year is this photo from? There are some hints~there is a British flag instead of a Canadian flag which was adopted in 1965. And the shoes and shorts indicate late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Can the bicycle vintage provide the info?

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Retired City of Vancouver planner Michael Gordon has created the YouTube  documentary video below about the history of Sen̓áḵw  between 1869 – 1966, what was once referred to as the Kitsilano Indian Reserve.  Michael states “It’s my personal reconciliation project throughout the ‘unsettlement’ and expropriation of the reserve in the 19th and 20th centuries.” 

Michael also shares this link of the Vancouver Archives’ written transcript of conversations between early City Archivist Major Matthews and  August Jack Khatsahlano between 1932 and 1954 about early First Nations life in the Vancouver area.



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