The Importance of Being Earnest, a UBC Theatre playbill by Ernest Le Messurier, cartoonist and commercial artist, from the Ernest Le Messurier Comic Collection in the Vancouver Archives, 76-32 #121. Ernest was a graduate of the first class to officially bear the name UBC, and this poster was created for the 1919 production of the Oscar Wilde classic. The theatre program can be seen on this page. It was not without controversy, however, as an editorial that ran in the January 9, 1919 Ubyssey lambasted the theatre for its selection:
We note with more disgust than surprise that the Players’ Club has chosen for the spring play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” by Oscar Wilde. It does seem extraordinary that from the vast army of playwrights, ancient and modern, Oscar Wilde should be the one favored by the executive of this club; but it is the play itself more than its writer that meets with our disapproval. It would seem fitting indeed that an organization of University students, enjoying the broadening process of “higher education,” should endeavor to stand for the moral as well as the merely intellectual qualities in the plays with which the University name must be associated by the general public….
But was the editorial intentionally written to garner a response? A week later, a rebuttal appeared in the form of a letter to the editors:
Dear Sir: I read with amazement, mitigated by compassion, your amazing attack on the masterpiece chosen by the Players’ Club for their spring production, it seems scarcely credible that anyone who has carefully read this play could make such absurd comments.
Your criticisms seem to be levelled against the character of the author and the moral attitude of the play. The first point I shall pass over as unworthy of discussion. If standard works are to be judged by the morality of their authors, then our literature would be sadly depleted.
As for the second charge, I am entirely in agreement with you that the play was written primarily to amuse. If we went to acquire only “higher education” through the stage, we do not attend Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas nor any other exhilarating and piffling productions which for years have been drawing immense audiences from all ranks of life in London and New York. We even exclude the great Shakespearian comedies for fear they upset the gravity of our thoughts. I venture to say ninety per cent, of our great plays aim not at “higher education,” but at wholesome amusement, which in itself is highly beneficial. I am even inclined to think it would do you good, Mr. Editor, to relax your ponderous solemnity with an occasional laugh…
On March 13, it was reported that the “WILDE COMEDY PLAYED TO FULL HOUSE—ACTORS WELL APPLAUDED”
"The University Players, who on Saturday brought to a close their excellent ‘performance of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ did more than give the Vancouver public some delightful hpurs of amusement. They have assisted to put Oscar Wilde ‘where he belongs’— back amongst he most brilliant writers of the Victorian era."
Such is the tribute paid to the Players’ Club by one of the editors of “The World.”
"The Importance of Being Earnest" is not an easy play for amateurs to act; and the very creditable performances given by our students at the Avenue last week, before large audiences, shows both an aptitude for acting and a capacity for hard work on the part of the performers.
The staging of the play was excellent, and no words can adequately describe the charm of the setting in the second act. The costumes were appropriate, the dresses of the ladies being both fashionable and, on the whole, well suited to their roles as English society ladies…
To put things in perspective, UBC was in its 4th year when this play was produced, and Ernest was 25 years old when he produced this poster. I think the poster clearly demonstrates that Ernest was an artistic tour de force and an early achiever! His assortment of drawings in the Vancouver Archives is one of my favourite collections in the entire Vancouver Archives! Vive Le Messurier!
The New Vancouver, Sunday 12 March 1922
This is a plan for a new civic centre and city hall in the area around what would become Victory Square, and proof that politicians and civic boosters love convention centres. Vancouver’s city hall at the time was the market building on Main at Pender that had become too small for the business of the city. The front page of the same paper has an article about merchants protesting plans to erect a cenotaph in the middle of Georgia and Granville Streets. In the end, the cenotaph ended up at this site and the City rented the Holden Building on Hastings east of Carrall for a temporary City Hall, where it would remain until the current one was built in 1936.
There have been countless plans and proposals like this in Vancouver’s history that never ended up seeing the light of day. For more of them, check out Jason Vanderhill’s Vancouver Imagined: The Way We Weren’t exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver.
Source: Vancouver Sun
Vancouver Confidential, the book cover, painted by artist Tom Carter. I predict this forthcoming book edited by John Belshaw will be one of the most anticipated titles of the year in Vancouver! Full disclosure, I also happen to be contributing a chapter to this book, along with a long list of exceptional local writers and historians.
Tonight at the VPL there is a special event with three of the contributors to the book. See the Facebook event for more details.
Willie Shoemaker at Exhibition Park, Vancouver, an autographed print drawn by J. Neilly dated May 13, 1985 via ebay. This was Willie’s second visit to Exhibition Park, as described in this 2003 tribute written by the Province writer Tommy Wolski:
During his riding career, Shoe visited Exhibition Park twice. In 1977, the chance to see this living legend lured 11,537 fans to the track. Not only did his fans see him ride, they bet $1,018,306. It was the first million-dollar weeknight in the track’s history.
Shoe did not let his admirers down — he won two of four races.
His final visit to Vancouver came May 13, 1985. He arrived at Exhibition Park on a rainy night, believing it was only to promote his book, Shoemaker: America’s Greatest Jockey.
After visiting the jockey’s room, he learned he was expected to ride in four races. In typical Shoemaker style, he didn’t complain. Instead, Shoe asked if he could borrow some riding gear to fulfill an agreement he had not even made.
He borrowed a pair of boots from jockey Mark Walker, riding pants from Dave Mylrea and a saddle from Pat Burton. To while away the time until his first ride, he asked several valets and jockeys if they were interested in playing some cards.
While playing, Shoemaker received a phone call from management, requesting him to join them for a small party. He graciously turned them down and continued playing cards until it was time for him to ride.
When the night was over, Shoe thanked everyone in the jockey’s room for making him feel at home and said goodbye.
Oh, he also autographed Burton’s saddle…
Hotel Vancouver, n.d.
Source: Based on a photo by JA Brock, Library and Archives Canada #3022724
The Hollywood Theatre by Sketchalina, via her blog, where she writes:
I did this cut if the Hollywood Theatre on Broadway just after my show in September. It’s such a classic part if Vancouver’s past, and hopefully its future as well. There’s a ‘Save The Hollywood' coalition that's working hard to keep it alive, unlike the Ridge Theatre in my 'Midnight Showing' print, which is already gonzo. So sad. I'm glad there are people out there who care about these things and work hard to preserve the cultural fabric of our city. Rock on you protectors of our past! Hey, if you're one of those people and you're reading this, contact me. I'd be happy to offer up a print from this run if you're doing any fundraising auctions or anything like that. Go heroes!