Billy and Me- Vancouver's West End in the 1940's
Kids on the street
In the 1940's We played on the street in the West End
Between my birth and age 4, I grew up in Vancouver’s West End. In the mid 1940’s Vancouver’s West End was a great place for kids.
Now in the 21st century it is a downtown urban Gay Mecca full of coffee shops, art stores and fancy restaurants between the beaches and the high-rises. But then it was a family neighborhood with lots of children playing on the street,. Amid the low-rise apartments and houses were lots with trees.
We could play in the mud puddles in the back lanes. Lost Lagoon, English Bay and Stanley park were easy walks away. The only thing I really didn't like was my mom insisting I not jump on the floor , the jumping noise bothered the people downstairs. And I was lonely for other kids.
My First Memories
A first memory I have is of being pushed in the baby buggy, looking at the clouds and sky, and hearing sounds of bigger kids trying to climb into the buggy, and round faces looking into the buggy. Ting was the tall lady who took us kids walking.
Ting said:“No you can’t get into the buggy, its for the baby.”
I felt so special. “I am the baby. I get to ride in the buggy. Those big kids have to walk.”
On sunny days mommy put my playpen outside on Haro street, in front of our apartment. Mommy trusted that no one would steal me. For fun I threw my toys out onto the sidewalk and waited for the next pedestrian to walk by.
“Oh poor baby, you cant reach your toys”
Then when they had replaced all my toys and walked away down the street, I threw all the toys out again.
My First Pets
When I could toddle I hid in the bushes at the side of the apartment stairs, and searched inside the red and orange snap dragons. My first pets were the fuzzy yellow and black bumblebees. I loved to stroke the furry backs of the bees as they crept deep into the flowers. Mother always said “no don’t do that, they will sting you.” I didn't know what sting was, so carefully stroked the bees when no one was looking.
Billy My First Friend
When I was free of the playpen, there were more exciting things to do. I went with mom and Blind Billy and Billy’s mom to the Denman street coffee shop for pop. We all liked to play the records on the music machine with the red and blue and yellow lights. I liked to play house and cowboys with Billy.
One day I was playing house with Billy in my room. My little dwarf grandmother Elizabeth ,who was not much bigger than me,was supposed to be babysitting. But she fell asleep and was snoring on the living room couch. My blind friend Billy and I were getting bored.
“What happens if we throw Teddy out the window?”
Teddy just flew through the air and landed on the grass staring up at us. Grandma didn’t wake up.
“Lets try the pillows.”
“Lets try the blankets.”
“Lets try the dresses.”
We were excited and sweating as we emptied my whole bedroom-toys, furniture, books, pictures from the walls, and then we reached out the bedroom window and emptied the drawers. Then we dropped the drawers. They made a nice cracking sound.
Mom returned home from shopping. She told my daddy:
“I saw your mother running around the side of the house with the dish drying rack. When she came back it was filled with bedroom stuff.”
Little Grandma had hope to get the bedroom back to normal before my mom returned.
We go looking for Monkeys
I felt very sorry for Billy the day he told me he had never seen the monkeys at Stanley park.
“ I will take you.”
“But what if I can’t walk that far?”
“I will push you on your trike.”
It was a long push down to the park, under the Georgia Street overpass, up to the monkey house. But then even when I lifted him up really close to the monkeys he kept saying:
“I can’t see them”
“Look Billy. Look at the monkeys.”
“I can’t see them.”
On the long way home I was sweating and gasping. It was hard to push him up the steep hill above busy Georgia street. My hands slipped. I lost my grip on the trike. It started to roll down hill.
"Jump, off Billy." I cried.
"I can't." He yelled.
I ran after the trike. Billy clung to the trike and it sped faster and faster down the hill towards the rushing traffic. Just before Billy rolled onto the busy street he turned the steering wheel and the trike smashed into a parked car. He fell off and hit his head. Suddenly my dad was there hugging me and Billy. Billy was bleeding from his head and knee, but he couldn’t see the red blood, and kept saying to my dad:
"I'm O.K. I'm not hurt."
"Will we get in trouble daddy?"
"I'm just glad I found you before you got run over." He said.
Billy’s mom didn’t let me play with Billy after that. He couldn’t come with me to the park. He never came with me to Gordon House preschool. And when all the kids ran down to Denman street to practice our reading on the Chiropractor store sign, he couldn’t do that either. And he never saw the beautiful red and purple and gold sunset at English Bay.
Books on Vancouver
Vancouver's West End Now
Now Vancouver's West End is a most desirable place to live. It is a mixture of the old three story walk up apartments, high-rise apartments, and some very deluxe high-rises where apartments cost millions of dollars. The views from many of these apartments are magnificent with the ever changing ocean, mountains and lively waterfront. The street life is lively as a festival on sunny days and even in Vancouver's drizzly days you can see people in the sheltered outdoor cafes. Stanley Park no longer has a monkey house, however it does have a world class aquarium. The Lively Gay Pride March and festival goes through the West End which is a GLBT Mecca. English Bay has swimmers and boaters as in the old days. And as the sun sets at English bay in the summer there are musicians, clowns and fire jugglers. And the famous Vancouver Fireworks Festival packs the beach each summer.