Post War #Vancouver. #graphicnovel @Kickstarter


He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.

– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953

The case itself centres around two unknown children, two young brothers who deserve to be identified.


I fall in love with Vancouver more and more everyday.  That’s why I love this story and that’s why I want to share it.  Here is a glorious film from the 1940’s showing Vancouver Parks:

But post war Vancouver was not all idyllic.

W.H. Mulligan- Chief Constable, in his annual report of the Police Department, City of Vancouver, BC, for the year ending December 31, 1947, submitted to the Chairman and members of the Board of Police Commissioners, Vancouver BC, discussed the influx of people into Post World War II Vancouver.[1]

An increase of nearly 15,000 in the population of the city during the year, and considerably greater seasonal unemployment…  [In 1947, there was a] considerable influx of men, mostly young men, into the city from Eastern Canada and the Prairies apparently in search of employment.

World War II had changed Vancouver and certainly the lives of women.

One million women worked outside the home during the war.  When the war ended, war industries shut down, and 750,000 demobilized servicemen went looking for jobs.[2]

Many women who had joined the work force during WWII returned to the home to raise a family. Postwar Europe, devastated from the war, continued to suffer poverty, starvation, and political unrest but North America experienced an economic boom.  In 1947, the baby boom generation began[3].

The 1947 Vancouver City statistical summary indicated the population of the city-proper was 350,642 in a 44 square mile area.   The number of telephones in service was listed as 110,025.  There were 122 hotels of all classes, 1498 apartment houses, 2635 rooming houses, 15 hospitals, and 5 systems of railroads with 3 terminals. Light, power and gas was supplied by the British Columbia C Electric railway Company, serving a territory of 1500 square miles. The Park Board tended 101 parks (2500 acres) and Stanley Park (1000 acres) was listed as world famous.  There were three English daily newspapers- two evening and one morning paper.

The Vancouver newspapers of 1946 and 1947 are full of lists of arriving war brides. War brides and their children arrived in Halifax from overseas, having been granted free passage by the Canadian Government.  The immigration of more than 47,000 war brides along with nearly 22,000 children created an unusual social problem. Some war brides found that their husbands had returned home to Canadian wives and families.  The scenario of a destitute mother and her dependent children, vulnerable to poverty and mental strain, is not hard to imagine.  Commonly, war and home children and war brides began their route in Great Britain.

Article Brides and Kiddies - Canada Bound, February 5, 1946 (Source: Sgt. K.M. Hermiston, CWAC Film and Photo Unit). Retrieved September 2, 2011 from

They frequently traveled by Canadian Pacific Steamship to Pier 21 in Halifax.  Some orphans were transferred to Children’s Aid Society in Toronto and these children were adopted or fostered out.  Those persons traveling via rail (CPR, or CNR) could end up on the opposite Canadian coast of Vancouver and here, many resided in Old Hotel Vancouver– a place for squatters, war vets and families.

War vets were often homeless and this included their families.  Vancouver has a long history of homeless issues and squatters. British Columbia is sometimes labeled a squatters province, in that European settlers occupy the territories of sovereign indigenous people without their consent.[4]

600 homeless and unemployed World War Two veterans occupied the old Hotel Vancouver in January of 1946.[5]  After about two weeks the building was converted into a hostel that provided housing for between 1000-1200 veterans up until 1948.

Retrieved September 2, 2011 from "Photo taken 10 July 1947 by The Movie Flash, 417 West Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C....The Hotel Georgia at 801 W. Georgia, Vancouver, opened 7 May 1927. The Devonshire just seen in the background was built in 1924 and destroyed in 1981."

The newspapers of the time were also filled with domestic violence accounts, stranger on stranger homicide, squatter revolt, labor unrest, child molestations and child homicides.  Prostitution, addiction and poverty were issues for women in Vancouver of the 1940’s.  In fact, the Downtown Eastside of the city the centre for these issues, just as it is today.

Canada’s poorest postal code didn’t get that way by accident.  Its troubles are largely the result of policies that warehouse the city’s most disadvantaged.  Whether because of outright graft or for the convenience of residents from tonier districts who use illicit services here, this part of the city has always had different standards of policing, right back to the 20th century when Dupont (now Pender) Street was open home to houses of prostitution, and cops on the beat chose not to notice the opium dens and gambling parlours of Chinatown.[6]

News headlines paint the scene of the plights of war brides, war vets, war children and squatters:

Houses wanted for overseas brides- homeless vets camp on courthouse lawn The Vancouver Sun, January 1946

Mrs. Mary Hutchinson, 1250 East Eighth, and her seven children left their home this morning in Vancouver’s first eviction of 1947. The Province February 18, 1946

Vets living in ‘shameful conditions’ The Vancouver Sun February 22, 1946

39 war brides, 26 children BC bound The Vancouver Sun February 23, 1946

Vets new ‘goo’ knocks rats dead The Vancouver Sun February 25, 1946

Vet’s plight hints 40,000 homes needed The Vancouver Sun March 7, 1946

British boys here on way to Fairbridge School at Duncan The Vancouver Sun November 29, 1946

Vets living in Old Hotel safe till ’48 The Province December 3, 1946

Sick family living in discarded army hut face dreary prospect as Christmas nears The Province December 18, 1946

Veterans’ kiddies breathlessly await Santa’s arrival at Old Hotel Vancouver The Province December 24, 1946

Square mile of vice alleged in Vancouver- breeds crime, say social workers The Vancouver Sun July 2, 1947

Evicted mother, 4 children housed in hotel by sheriff The Vancouver Sun October 25, 1947

‘Army’ aids 2700 unwed mothers The Vancouver Sun November 3, 1947

Sea-bornes Shantytown- Vancouver would dearly love to cut the hawser on its 1800 tax-free houseboat colonists- but where else could they live?  Maclean’s Magazine November 15, 1947

35 women displaced persons arrive in city The Vancouver Sun December 9, 1948

Abandoned by their parents, these two little Vancouver sisters, aged 5 and 6, can’t understand why ‘Mummy’ and daddy’ don’t come for them. The Vancouver Sun October 31, 1949

After World War II, with war brides, war vets, unemployed, home children (children sent to work in Canada), squatters and the like finding themselves in the city, many persons were unaccounted for.  Many were homeless.  Children in these situations could certainly have slipped through the cracks and been forgotten by the community at large.

From the evidence examined in this cold case, it was apparent that the victims were not well off.  Their clothes may have been re-sewn from larger sizes.  One child was found with underwear size large held together with a safety pin.

The re-sewing of clothes for children was an activity done by philanthropist societies at the time.[7]  The make do and mend campaign continued post war.  Clothing rationing was introduced in June 1941 and continued until March 1949.  During the Second World War clothing and fabric was rationed. Women became expert at mending, altering garments and making their own clothes. “Make do and Mend” became the byword of the day. Pillowcases were made into baby clothes, father’s old trousers might become a skirt for his daughter, and old parachute silk was much prized as material to make blouses and nightdresses.  To save material, men’s’ jackets had fake pockets and trousers had turn-ups. “ [8]

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[1] Retrieved on August 27, 2003, from City Archives, Vancouver, BC, Canada

[2] Neering, R. (2005) The Canadian Housewife- an affectionate history, North Vancouver BC, Canada: Whitecap Books

[3] The official years of the “baby boom generation” are generally considered to be 1946-1964. In Canada, the baby boom is usually defined as the generation born from 1947 to 1966—Canadian soldiers were repatriated later than American servicemen, and Canada’s birthrate did not start to rise until 1947, and most Canadiandemographers prefer to use the later date of 1966 as the boom’s end in that country.  Retrieved November 6, 1006 from

[4] Salloum, S. (2003) Without Deed or Permit: Squatters in the Lower Mainland.  Raincoast Chronicles- stories and history of the British Columbia Coast.  Volume 19.  Madeira Park, BC, Canada: Harbour Publishing

[5] Wade, J. (1986) “A Palace for the Public: Housing reform and the 1946 Occupation of the Old Hotel Vancouver, BC Studies, nos. 69-70, Spring Summer 1986

[6] From The Vancouver Sun October 15, 2002: Downtown Eastside an artificial slum.

[7] In October 2003, the author and Sgt. Honeybourn read through minutes from meetings of the C.O.M.E.T. (Count On Me Every Time) Society in Mission BC in the late 1940’s.  The minutes listed sewing activities as well as milk deliveries, eyeglass fittings, shoe donations and the like.  The recipients of these services were impoverished children and families.

[8] Make Do and Mend retrieved September 20, 2006 from

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