All text, photography and artwork is COPYRIGHT by GARY SIM unless noted otherwise.
APRIL 7 2021: OLD PHOTOGRAPHS FROM SOMBRIO BEACH
A quiet day on Sombrio River, a huge old cable-strapped log on the right driven ashore in a winter storm
Looking south from Sombrio Point across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Peninsula, waves nipping at our feet
Lingering spray from an eruption of the Sombrio Point blowhole
A closeup side view of the Sombrio Point blowhole erupting (Ilford HP5 high speed film at 1,000/second)
This little wave splashed over 100 feet in the air, Sombrio Point on the right
Oops! I think I'm standing in the wrong spot. I put my hands up in surrender, but wasn't taken by the wave
Some the massive waves crested over eighty feet, this one's only about fifty. Sombrio Point on the left
JAN. 31 2021: GERALD GIAMPA LEAD TYPE ORNAMENTS & PRINTING
Four examples of Giampa's typecasting work, the large ornament is one inch wide
Another example of Giampa's typecasting skill, this ornament of a type-casting machine is half an inch wide
I acquired a few pieces of lead type some years ago at Salmagundi West, in Gastown.
They had been made by Gerald Giampa, who was born in North Vancouver. From an early age
he was interested in letter-press printing and type design. Cobblestone Press and Northland
Letterpress were two of his printing companies in Vancouver. At one point he moved to
Nova Scotia, then returned to Vancouver, moved to San Francisco, and returned again.
At this point I got to know him personally for a few years. He always stuttered, and
blamed it on a traumatic incident in his childhood.
A sample of work from 1970
He was one of those unique characters who become locally famous. They are superb
at what they do, but not so good with most people. Another such person, legendary
bookseller William Hoffer, referred to Giampa in print as "the
treacherous Giampa" because of some printing/bookselling deal that went sideways, and at one
point Giampa was at war in print with a Director of the Alcuin Society and issued a letterpress
broadside describing the situation from his own perspective.
Both relationships are somewhat unusual in that there is a printed record of the snits.
Giampa's work schedule and production levels were inconsistent, but his design and typography
skills were world-class, and his printed output still stands proudly on its own merits.
1982 multi-colour cover for an exhibition of Giampa's work at Burnaby Art Gallery
I donated a collection of Giampa's letterpress work, such as the above exhibition invitation,
to Simon Fraser University Special Collections. They have a large fond of his work for
public reference. I still have a few bits and pieces. Giampa died in Vancouver in 2009 of
some horrible infection that forced the doctors to put him in complete isolation at the hospital.
Apparently you could talk to him on a phone they installed, but I only found out after
it was all over.
1978 Cobblestone Press logo
1978 Cobblestone Press design
JAN. 24 2021: PROSPECT POINT LIGHTHOUSE
The lighthouse in 2020
The current Prospect Point lighthouse is seen here in late 2020. It was built on the
site of an earlier wooden lighthouse, which also had a lifeboat station. The lifeboat station
was built on the shoreline between the two large rock formations on either side of the
stairs leading down to the shore. The lifeboat was moved from the boathouse down to
the water on a pair of steel rails, which are still visible on the shoreline in
this picture, at the low tide line, more than 100 years later. The signal light
on the West Vancouver side of the First Narrows was a manned lighthouse for many
years before the automated signal was installed.
JAN. 22 2021: 1892-93 VICTORIA BUSINESS LEDGER
A page of accounts from 1892
I acquired this 1892-93 business ledger out of curiosity at an estate auction a number
of years ago. I found that there was a lot of information about Victoria from a long
time ago. Although I attempted to identify the ledger's owner, I did not confirm anything.
There are a lot of entries related to smoking, such as purchases of pipes, pipe stems, pipe racks,
tobacco, tobacco cutter, and cigars. Regular business expenses included "advertising
Chinaman" for 50 cents, sending a messenger for 15 cents, and hiring a watchman for 50 cents.
They purchased window signs and "tickets," a printing press for $10.00,
dice and box for 80 cents, and 500 manila envelopes for $1.15. One day they purchased salmon
for $5.30. There are a number of entries for purchases of either "Caton amber" or "amber Caton"
for $1.25, and I went online to try and hunt that down. A company in Catonsville, Maryland manufactured
ginger ale and sold it in an amber coloured bottle, with the name "CATON" embossed on the
A hydro payment from 1893
There were a few entries for "electric light" bill payments. This image shows a payment for
two months, not one. Almost 130 years later my own electric bill is only twice what this one
was, despite the addition of all my modern conveniences: frig, stove, range hood, microwave,
toaster, tv, stereo, computers, printers, scanner, telephone, answering machine, electric
fan, and so on. I have donated this ledger to the City of Victoria Archives for their collection.
JAN. 17 2021: BUTTON BUTTON, WHO'S GOT THE BUTTON?
Jennens & Co. brass button c1832-1860
I found this brass button about 50 years ago. I had gone up to North Bend,
and taken the cable ferry across the Fraser River, intending to look for
soapstone on the banks of the Nahatlatch River. I found some nice pieces
to bring home, and also wandered along the west bank of the Fraser just
south of the confluence of the Nahatlatch. At that location, the river
bank was a black rock bench a little ways above the river, but within
high water mark. The solid rock bench was covered with another layer of
rock, broken up into small rocks but essentially still in place. In
between these rocks was just enough space to put my feet down to the
solid rock so that I could walk safely.
Jennens & Co. brass button c1832-1860
I caught a flash of gold in between the small rocks as I walked, and
picked up this button. It definitely seemed like an unusual find, and
appeared to be in good condition. I took it home, and it sat around in
one drawer or box or another over the years. Every so often I'd look
at it and think about identifying it. Of course there was no Internet
50 years ago!
Anyway, I came across it again recently, and decided to see what I could
find out. I discovered a web site in England that has an extensive list
of button-makers and their back-marks. Since my button has the text
"Jennens & Co. London" on the back, I quickly found it in the list.
Although this button maker began business as Messrs. Jennens & Co.
in 1800, and is still active today as J.R. Gaunt and Son, the text
on my button was only used on buttons made between 1832 and 1860.
The button is solid brass, and weights 7.7 grams. All of the 100 year old
dirt on the button could be removed, it's actually in excellent condition.
So, the button may have been sitting on the bank of the river for 110 years
when I found it, and in any case it is now between 160 and 190 years old!
My original theory was that it is a button from the British Royal Engineers, who
worked to build the Cariboo Road through the Fraser Canyon in the 1850s. Now that
the date of manufacture is confirmed to be contemporary with the Engineers in B.C., it's
just a matter of confirming what uniform this button would have been attached to.
Identification of the crown might narrow down the date range of manufacture.
Perhaps there is an Engineer's journal somewhere that notes "Drat, lost one of my
uniform buttons today alongside the Fraser River, but couldn't find it and had
to keep going."
UPDATE: I got in touch with the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria, and I will be
sending this as a donation to them. It turns out they have a very limited collection of Engineer's
uniforms, in fact the only original one they have is Joseph Pemberton's own uniform.
NOV. 21 2020: B.C. SOCIETY OF ARTS EXHIBITION CATALOGUES
A sample of exhibition catalogue covers 1937-1958
I was recently gifted a number of early art exhibition catalogues, and
these are ones published by the B.C. Society of Fine Arts,
later the B.C. Society of Artists.
JUNE 29 2020: HARDING MEMORIAL, STANLEY PARK
Back of Harding Memorial, Stanley Park
This lion on the back side of the memorial to USA President Harding used to spout
water from its mouth. The memorial was dedicated in 1925 during a state visit from
Harding. This lion, and the sculptures on the front side of the memorial, were all
created by Vancouver sculptor Charles Marega. This is
one of my favorite "hidden" sculptures in Vancouver, up until recently it was almost
entirely covered by overgrown bushes.
JUNE 29 2020: ABANDONED BEAR PITS, STANLEY PARK
Abandoned Bear Pit 1, Stanley Park
Abandoned Bear Pit 2, Stanley Park
The bear pits were apparently constructed around 1961 to house live bears. The last
polar bear died in 1996, after which the bear pits were abandoned. In 2020 they were still
there, looking a little like a post-apocalyptic military installation. These would make
an interesting location to present a play or a musical performance.
JUNE 1 2020: LANDMARK HOTEL ON ROBSON STREET
Landmark Before Demolition 2017
What was originally known as the Sheraton Landmark Hotel was built at 1440
Robson Street in 1972-73 for developer Ben Wosk. The 42-story building was
designed by local architects Lort and Lort, a father and son team of
Ross Lort and William (Billy) Lort. Ross Lort
was an early partner of Samuel Maclure.
The building was designed with a rotating restaurant on the top floor, known
as Cloud 9. Eating there was an interesting experience, I think it took about
an hour to rotate a full circle, and I could watch my neighbourhood far below
spin in and out of sight between dinner and dessert.
Another design feature of the original Robson Street facade was a wall at
the main entry composed of rock samples from around the Province, set like a huge
mosaic. Years later the facade was extensively clad in glazing panels and the rocks
disappeared from sight. Somebody put up handbills asking for information about it,
but in any case once the hotel was demolished it became a somewhat moot point.
The hotel eventually sold to Asian interests, and was renamed the Empire
Landmark. A huge collection of hideous neon lighting was installed on the roof, to the
horror of almost the entire West End. Many complaints were made, it turned out
it was done without a permit, and eventually they were forced to reduce the amount of
new neon lighting. Well, it's all gone now.
For demolition, I was hoping for an implosion, but they decided to chew it down. A
type of mobile hydraulic concrete breaking machine was taken up into the building.
For months that thing vibrated the entire neighbourhood, it was really loud. The
chunks of concrete were dumped down the elevator shafts. Eventually the tower was
chewed down into the ground and out of sight. The underground parkade walls were
left for slope retention as they kept digging for the new footings. They went
down ninety feet at the high end of the block, then it was time start building again.
Empire Landmark seen from Barclay Park on Haro St., Feb. 28 2017
Empire Landmark seen from Nicola St., Feb. 22 2017
Stripping the building prior to crushing
Deconstruction in progress
An interesting view in the fog
Another view in morning fog, Cloud 9 is gone
Detail view, the tower is about half gone
A view of the last piles of rubble being crushed and trucked away
After demolition and excavation 2020
APRIL 12 2020: WHEN COVID CAME TO ROBSON STREET
When the Virus Came to Robson Street
Land of Plenty
After the COVID Riot
APRIL 2: MY PRINTING PRESS FINALLY IDENTIFIED!
One of my earliest news items on this website was the 2004 purchase of a press,
that I wanted to use for making linocut relief prints. The only identifying mark on the
press was a cast diamond shape, with an indistinct logo or letter in the middle, which
could have been a C, D, G, S, or something else entirely like a hexagon. I looked online for a
mark like that, and also for presses, nipping presses, book presses, whatever I
could think of. No luck, so I gave up.
J. Smart Copying Press with "Diamond G" logo
This week, stuck at home self-isolating and trying to to keep myself safe from the virus,
I was washing my old family frying pan, and wondered about the manufacturer. The bottom
had the name SMART embossed on it, and BROCKVILLE ONT as well. In the middle of the
bottom is an embossed circle, with a diamond shape inside that, and an obscure letter
inside that, which I hadn't noticed before. So, I looked up the name online.
Underside of J. Smart Copying Press
It turns out that J. Smart Manufacturing made both my frying pan and my press!
I found an old Smart catalogue online, and in the 1880s they had 5 series of what they called
COPYING PRESSES, with a number of different models in each series. A website about
cast iron in Canada notes that this logo was only used between 1886 and 1912, which
makes the frypan and press each over 100 years old! The letter in the middle is a "G",
which stands for Gill, a previous owner of the company. Made in Canada, and still in
perfect working order. Smart made a lot of different series
of frying pans, but not that many of them seem to have wood handles. The number 9
refers to the diameter of the flat bottom of the frying pan.
Underside of J. Smart #9 frying pan with 12" rule
Detail - underside of J. Smart #9 frying pan with Diamond G logo
It's funny in a way, I've had the frying pan for about 50 years, but it was in
my family long before that. I've cooked many meals with it, including the chili
I whomped up last week. Since I acquired the copying press I have made well over
1,000 impressions with it, it performs perfectly and reliably, just like the
FEB. 28 2019: CLOSURE OF THE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
Farewell to the Chocolate Mousse 2019
APRIL 1 2016: PART OF SHERMAN LIBRARY SURFACES
Although trying not to spend money on books and art I was enticed to
purchase a small collection of old books that came from the Sherman
family library. A "picker" brought them in to Macleod's Books, and the
owner called to offer them to me. The source of the books was apparently
an estate sale somewhere in Vancouver. I went over and bought all but
one of them, an expensive first edition of Kim by Kipling. The
others are all signed or with bookplates from
Maud Sherman and her
father Ruyter Sherman, and include a Canadian
first edition of Puck of Pook's Hill printed in 1906.
All of the book titles are noted in the Diary of Maud Rees Sherman,
where Maud made a list of over 120 books in their family library, and another
long list of her favorite books and stories. A few months after transcribing
the lists from the donated diary, some of the actual books appeared on
JUNE 15 2015: GEORGINA POINT, MAYNE ISLAND
Old Lifeboat, Georgina Point
Lighthouse, Georgina Point
I had a vacation on Mayne Island in 2015, and one day walked to Georgina Point, at
the east entrance to Active Pass. The lighthouse was built in 1885, and was
accompanied by a lifeboat station. See also Mayne Island
for more pictures from this trip.
JUNE 9 2013: JOHN KOERNER CELEBRATION AT BURNABY ART GALLERY
In the Fireside Room, Burnaby Art Gallery
A celebration of the art and life of artist John Koerner
was held at the Burnaby Art Gallery on June 9th, in conjunction with the launch of
a new book and a panel discussion. Afterwards a catered reception was held on the
gallery's large porch.
Continued at JOHN KOERNER CELEBRATION.
DEC. 21 2012: DEVICE TO ROOT OUT EVIL
This sculpture by American artist Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011) was temporarily installed
in Vancouver adjacent to the harbour as part of the 2005 Sculpture Bienniale. It was
originally commissioned for installation at Stanford University. However, protests
from religious folks forced it to leave Stanford, then Vancouver, and then it was
installed in Calgary until 2014. It was finally installed at Palma, Mallorca. I really
admired this work, a simple idea beautifully constructed.
Browsing through some digital photos from 2011, I came across
a few that I'd taken one day at the Art Gallery on Georgia Street,
wandering through the OCCUPY VANCOUVER encampment. The camp was
quite neat and tidy, but my visit was after the first "crackdown" by
city officials to make the campers provide clear access to all tents
"in case of emergency" ...
Signage was much in evidence throughout the encampment. The sign
taped to the handrail was a bit ironic, it admonished people not to
lock their bikes to the handrail, it was for the use of handicap people
only. The sign was taped to the top rail in a way that would actually
impair "graspability" and would have better been attached lower down.
Regardless of that kind of nit-picking, I did have to admire the
spirit and conviction of those who were protesting. The encampment
had the air of a 1960s be-in, with the same common belief
that people joining together to help each other out is a good thing.
I did have to chuckle a bit at one of the demands on a sign being
"access to the Internet is a right" as the Internet is a
relatively new-fangled thing that we didn't have back in the 1960s.
Some strange events have rolled through this part of town in the
past while ... the 2010 Olympics ... the 2011 hockey riot ...
OCCUPY VANCOUVER ... what's next?