Persistent Gaps in the Narrative
Markers of Resistance, an initiative of the Carnegie Community Action Project and the Vancouver & District Labour Council, comprises 12 historical plaques across the Downtown Eastside noting significant, and generally neglected, episodes of resistance by Vancouver’s working poor and marginalized.
Amongst other events, the markers recall the 1901 Fisherman’s Strike and the killing of labour leader Frank Rogers, the Battle of Ballantyne Pier, the organization of Japanese and Aboriginal labour, the “Soapbox Victory for Free Speech”, the Post Office occupation of 1938, the creation of Crab Park, the Missing Women’s Memorial March, WoodSquat, and the redress of the Head Tax.
The plaques were installed on light posts in the Summer of 2013.
The Patricia Hotel marks its centenary this year. Its own history highlights its establishment in the city’s heart -not two blocks from city hall’s Marlet building incarnation- a basement boxing ring, the Patricia Pool Room jazz club, and its “most famous” resident, Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton.
There are some significant omissions, such as the hotel’s long history as a SRO and to loggers, fisherman and other resource industry workers, of the emotionally fractured, of those with drug and alcohol dependencies.
“The current owner took over in 1984, closing it shortly after for extensive renovations that eliminated the male and female communal shower rooms on each floor and fitted each room with a private washroom.” More omissions.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in late October, the Heart of the City Festival’s Moments of Community & Labour History walking tour pauses near the corner of Hastings & Dunlevy -right in front of the Patricia.
Olaf Solheim came to Vancouver from Norway in the 1920s and worked as a logger until his retirement. For 60 years –off and on- he lived at the Patricia. Like hundreds of others, Solheim was evicted to free-up accommodation for visitors to Expo 86 –Vancouver’s coming-out party for international capital.
Solheim –at 84- moved into another building in the neighbourhood, but was despondent, refused to eat and died on April 21, 1986, two weeks before the opening of the Fair.
The Marker of Resistance noting this sad history was placed outside the Patricia in the Summer of 2013. It quickly vanished. On this day a poster version is affixed to the same site.
It doesn’t last long, either.