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Monday, December 19, 2011


Inside the Jesse Love farmhouse at the Burnaby Heritage Village, the scene is set for a merry Christmas celebration.  Decorations are aglow, a tall fir tree stands in the living room decorated with handmade ornaments, and a tableau of carollers dressed in original clothing gather around the piano ready to sing in a carolling diorama.

All around the village, there is a Christmas spirit.  Inside the Seaforth School, the children have decorated the room in traditional '20's style and a docent in period costume lectures a group of visiting  children on etiquette and school-room manners. ( A young boy sat down on a bench and was scolded because "you don't sit down when the girls or women are standing!" )

The Burnaby Village Museum gives visitors a chance to experience things the way they were back in the 1920's.  The ten acre heritage village is decorated in the 1920s stile, shop windows are full of seasonal goodies and costumed townsfolk welcome visitors into their homes and shops.

At the blacksmiths shop,  the smithy is busy working while a group of school kids watch.  And in the print store, a woman gives a demonstration of how the old printing presses worked.

The Blacksmith Shop

The construction of the heritage village began back in 1971.  The Century Park Museum Association was formed to govern the Heritage Village.  The museum opened in November 1971with a blacksmith shop, buggy and bicycle shop, general store, land office, school house, manor house, ice cream parlour, apothecary shop, barber shop, dentist shop, Chinese general imports shop, print shop and a tram. It first opened for visitors in July 1972, described as a depiction of the 1890- 1920 era of the lower mainland. It was known as the Heritage Village until 1984 when it became the Burnaby Village Museum.  It has expanded to 9 acres allowing the construction of an administration building to house collections and staff offices.

The annual Heritage Christmas event is a great opportunity to experience Christmas traditions as they were in the old days as well as learning their origins.  There are activities for children and families and lots to see and do.  I love browsing the shops, especially the general store, where there are items on display that I remember from my childhood on the Prairies (the galvanized tubs like the one my mom melted snow in on the old stove for our Saturday baths, the old telephone that you operated with a crank!)

In the window of the Bakery you'll see cookie tins with the faces of old British Kings.  And the Way Sang Yuen Wat Kee herb shop displays cases of weird dried herbs and bones and an assortment of strange herbal remedies. 

Inside the old Church, there's a touch of Latin America, with a duo playing "Feliz Navidad".  I visit the old interurban tram next, remembering how I used to ride the tram from school.  It operated from 1912 until the late '50's.  The car has been restored with elegant brass hardware and cherry and oak wood interior.

Probably one of the most fun places at the Village is the old carousel.  This 1912 carousel is fully restored. It used to operate in the PNE grounds years ago. I loved riding it.  Now I can ride it at the Village (and it goes fast too!) accompanied by the music of a restored 1925 Wurlitzer Military band.

You can read more about Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum on Travel Thru History,

Santa Claus visits the Village daily from 1.20 - 4.30 and 5.30 to 7.30 to December 23 . 
For general opening hours:

Thursday, December 01, 2011



A German magazine  is on trial in Athens because they published an image of the goddess Athena making a rude gesture.  The charges is 'defamation'.  The publisher of Focus, a weekly magazine, and twelve of its journalists had been accused of insulting a national symbol. The cover of the magazine's February 2010 issue depicted Athena, draped in a Greek flag, raising her middle finger in a rude gesture with the caption " Cheats in the European family."  This offended the Greeks and a group of Greek lawyers launched a law suit.

The Greeks are very defensive of their ancient symbols and treat them reverently.  In museums you are not allowed to pose beside statues as this is considered irreverent.  In archaeological sites like Delphi, considered to be the centre of the earth, there are strict regulations as to behavior, loud music, etc within the sacred areas.  So, just as the Muslims took offence when a Danish cartoonist poked fun at Mohammad,  the Greeks are not amused by this 'defamation' of their chief goddess, and patron 'saint' of their city Athens.

Who was Athena?  She as the daughter of Zeus and was born full-grown and in full armor, springing from his head. (With no help from a mother). When Homer wrote about her in The Iliad, he portrayed her as a fierce and ruthless battle-goddess, but elsewhere is is only warlike when she is defending the State and the home from enemies.  Athena was pre-eminently the Goddess of the City, the protector of civilized life, of handicrafts and agriculture; the inventor of the bridle, who first tamed horses for men to use.  She was Zeus's favorite child. He trusted her to carry the aegis, his buckler and his devastating weapon, the thunderbolt.  She is often described as "grey-eyed" or "flashing-eyed".  Of the three virgin goddesses she was the chief.  They called her the Maiden, Parthenos, and her temple was known as the Parthenon. 
She is extolled by poets as the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity.  Athens was her special city.  She created the olive and the olive tree is her symbol, the owl her bird.

On the Acropolis, between the Parthenon and the Erechtheion are ruins dating back to pre-Persian invasion time, which are believed to be the original Temple of Athena (possibly from about 529 BC)  In ancient times there was a large statue of Athena on this site made of chryselephantine and gold that could be seen from a distance. 

Athena dominated the city then, and she is still very much the favored goddess of the city.  So when the prosecution and defence lawyers of the German magazine appealed to have the charges of defamation dropped, the Greek judges rejected them. The charges carry a maximum two-year prison sentence.

Friday, November 11, 2011


At least once a year our writer's group spends a weekend on beautiful Mayne Island, one of the Gulf Islands in Georgia Straight between the mainland and Vancouver Island. We've been going there now for nearly 20 years, almost every year. This past weekend was a special time for us as we gathered to honour the memory of one of our dear friends who passed away this summer. We wanted to do all the things she enjoyed and one of them was walking in the woods and along the shores of the island.

There are a many places to visit on Mayne Island.  One of them is Campbell Point.  The morning was overcast and the sea looked gray and stormy but soon the sun came out .... and stayed...for the rest of the weekend.

A favorite excursion is to the Japanese Gardens  It was built in memory of the Japanese farmers who used to live and work on the island until they were interned at the outbreak of WWII.  The garden features ponds, bridges, a waterfall, torii gates and an authentic recreation of a Japanese charcoal kiln.
We love to go to the Garden to browse and write haiku.  It's a place to meditate and enjoy nature.  The gardens are maintained by volunteers and there's a little box where you can leave donations for the upkeep of the gardens.

One of the pretty fountains

Cross the bridge to the little islet surrounded by the pond.  There were still some flowers blooming and even bees buzzing around them.

Farther around on the path beside the pond a lone heron stands guard. (This is just a stone heron but it looks so real!)

And there were bright red crab apples growing in the trees.  (a bit to sour to eat!)

This was a lovely time to visit the island with all the brilliant autumn colours.

On another day we drove to the Georgina Point Lighthouse at Oyster Bay.
This is a historic lighthouse built in 1885, overlooking the Strait of Georgia.
It's always fun to explore around this area.  You can watch the ferries sail by on their way from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay.

There are many other places of interest on Mayne Island with hiking trails to Mt. Parke or along the many scenic beaches.  If you want to kayak or canoe there are rentals available, as well as bikes for cyclists.  If it's shopping and art that interests you, there are crafts shops and boutiques as well as artist studios.  Check out the Mayne Island visitor's website to find out more about the island including the many island accommodations and activities.
We always stay at the Blue Vista Resort
And be sure to check out the Springwater Lodge for great meals.  Sit on the deck in nice weather and enjoy the scenery of Miner's Bay.  This is the oldest lodge on the coast, built to accommodate men on their way to seek their fortunes in the mines at the turn of the century.

Evening over the Straits

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Mountain View Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Vancouver, in operation since 1887.  It covers 106 acres, home to 92,000 graves and 145,000 interred remains.  The cemetery is located in what was once farmland, in the area of Fraser Street between 31st and 43rd Ave.  Buried beneath the ground here are everyone from war heroes to sea disaster and slide victims and victims of the worst transit accident in BC when a transit streetcar crashed in 1909 killing 15 people.  There are wealthy people interred here as well as those who met their ends through violent or tragic means.

The wealthy include Henry O. Bell-Irving, a cannery owner and Yip Sang, a Chinese businessman.  But there are also grave of well known athletes:  Joe Fortes, a popular African/Canadian lifeguard and Harry Jerome, an Olympic runner.  The mother of poet Robert W. Service, Sarah Emily Service, is buried here along with murder victim Janet Smith, age 22, aka "The Scottish Nightingale". Her murder in 1924 was known as "The notorious Janet Smith Case" 

Burials are often grouped together according to religion or nationality or organization affiliations.  Other groups are paupers, and war vets including Canadian military graves.

On Saturday, Oct 29,  "All Souls Day",  the cemetery was open for visitors during the night.  Candles lit up the pathways and shrines were set up with candles and incense to honor the dead.  There was choir music,  the Carnival band, and music by a Asian musicians playing instruments made of bamboo.

It wasn't at all spooky wandering the candle-lit pathways.  Occasionally there was a pyre burning in a cauldron or a piece of timber.  There were adults and children, many of them visiting specific grave sites.  My friends and I wandered the labyrinth of tombstones and pathways, stopping now and then to light candles and read the inscriptions left on the shrines. 

It was a tasteful and nostalgic way of celebrating the Hallowe'en weekend.  Inside the cemetery office building tables were set up where you could make your own votive candles with materials supplied including flowers. 

I thought of my many friends and family members who have passed, several of them just this year.  It was a good way to remember and honor their memory.  I've been on the Ghost Tours of Vancouver bus trips which also stop at this cemetery and focus on the more sinister side of the graveyard sharing gruesome tales of old murders and accidents.  But wandering the tombstones by candlelight, listening to music, lighting votive offerings, seemed a much more meaningful way to celebrate the Hallowe'en weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Recently Vancouver's Chinatown was officially named a national historic site. The area covers Pender Street from Gore Avenue to Taylor Street and includes 24 heritage buildings that showcase the distinct architectural style with their recessed balconies and iron framework.  The site includes buildings such as the three-storey Chinese Freemason's Building, built in 1901 and Shanghai Alley where Chinatown originated.  Many of the original residential buildings and stores in the area were demolished by fire but there are many still standing. 

I decided to make a trip to Chinatown specifically to photograph some of the old buildings.  I go to Chinatown frequently but don't always take time to appreciate these historic buildings that were part of the beginnings of my city.

The Jack Chow Building (known historically as the Sam Kee Building) was listed in Ripley's Believe It or Not as the 'narrowest building in the world" (it's only 6 ft wide).  Back in the 50's when my ex husband was doing a lot of painting in Chinatown, he worked in this building and we were invited to spend Chinese New Years there with the then owners.  That was an experience I've never forgotten -- not only sitting in the salon that was so narrow it had only room for a couch, or taking part in the mah jong and card games in the underground room that goes right under Pender Street!


The Wing Sang Building at 51-67 E. Pender is the oldest building in Chinatown dating to the late 1800's. It was owned by a Chinese merchant, Yip Sang, who established the Wing Sang Company which sold tickets for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line and operated two salt herring plants on Vancouver Island.

You can take a guided walking tour of Chinatown, but I chose to go on my own as I often do, mainly to photograph some of these unique old buildings.  The history of this area goes back to the days of the Gold Rush of 1858 which brought the first Chinese to Canada.  Many of them arrived not only to pan for gold along the Fraser River, but to work as labourers for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).  As the city of Vancouver was built, Chinatown also grew and became the heart of the Chinese settlement in Canada.

Shanghai Alley started in the late 1880's on the shores of False Creek at Pender and Carrall Streets.  The population then consisted mainly of male labourers who worked as mill workers, loggers, farmers, peddlers, grocers, laundrymen and restaurant workers.  It was a male bachelor society who lived in crowded and densely populated Chinatown that gradually expanded eastward along Pender Street.
Along Shanghai Alley are plaques and posters explaining the history of the area.  The Han Bell at the end of the alley was a gift to the citizens of Vancouver from the sister city of Guangalon China. It is a replica of one unearthed in 1983 in that city.  The original bell dates back to two millenia and is the symbol of the history of both cities.

Chinatown was first declared a historical site in 1971 and the first restorations were carried out but recently it has been named a National Historic Site proclaimed by the Federal Government.  Although these days the major Chinese population lives in suburban Richmond, Chinatown is still an important part of our city's history and a day's stroll around the interesting shops and narrow alleys proves to be a worthwhile adventure.

The Millennium Gate and marks the entrance to this historic area. It was donated by the People's Republic of China after Expo '86. It's Chinatown's landmark, an elaborate 4-columned gate with hand painted traditional colours and tiles. At 50 East Pender is the Chinese Cultural Centre a two-storied building with exhibition rooms and an auditorium where events are held aimed to preserve and cultivate Chinese heritage.  The China Gate entrance to the Cultural Centre,  was originally the entrance to the China pavilion at Expo '86 in Vancouver, was presented to Vancouver Chinatown, As you enter the China Gate at the entrance of the Cultural Centre, you will see the bust of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in front of the gateway that takes you into the serene atmosphere of the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden which is modeled after the private gardens of Ming Dynasty Suzhou China.  The garden is free, but don't miss the interesting tour into the adjoining scholar's house for a small admission.

Don't miss a stroll up the streets to browse in the many shops including all the tea and herb shops where medicinal plants are sold. There are a variety of grocery stores which sell unusual dried produce including salted fish and strange roots. And stop for a meal at one of the many restaurants.  I particularly like the Hon's Won Ton House on Keefer Street.  For Dim Sum, try the Floata Seafood Restaurant on Keefer Street.  And the Keefer Bakery on Georgia Street specializes in ethnic Chinese cake and baked goods.