FORBIDDEN VANCOUVER WALKING TOURS

Storyteller, actor and history buff Will Woods launches Forbidden Vancouver. Hit the streets with Will and Forbidden Vancouver’s team of crack storytellers to expose Vancouver’s dirty history.

GASTOWN GRASS RIOT

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Image courtesy of: Vancouver Public Library

TOP COP ON THE TAKE

Image courtesy of: Vancouver Public Library

D-Mulligan Affair_Mystery girl friend of Police Chief Walter Mulligan at court during 1955 police probeBy the 50′s police corruption was out of control. Cops on the take turned a blind eye to bootlegging, gambling and vice. When the scandal broke, turns out even the chief of police Walter Mulligan had his hands dirty. Mob boss Joe Celona, the ‘mayor of East Hastings’, took the stand and testified against Mulligan – turns out Celona had been feeding Mulligan bribes for years. But who was the mysterious woman in the veil?

COPS SEIZE LIQUOR

SIT DOWN AND DRINK YOUR BEER

D-Beer Parlour_Kinsmen Carnival [beer parlour] - June 30  1944

Image courtesy of: Vancouver Archives

By 1925, the government had totally lost control of public drinking, which was supposedly illegal – speakeasies and blind-pigs existed all over the city, bribing city officials and cops to stay open. So the politicians came up with the beer parlour as the solution. Beer parlours served one drink only – beer. What did people do in beer parlours? They drank. The beer parlour would stick around in Vancouver until 1971.

PROHIBITION ARRIVES

RCMP rum seizure dec 6 1932 CVA 99-4273

THE WILD WEST

Image courtesy of: Vancouver Public Library

Back in the 1890`s Vancouver was a tough town. Men came through on their way to logging camps, gold mines, or cargo ships. They gambled hard, drank hard, and lived hard. Saloons were open 24 hours a day and had everything men needed for a thoroughly enjoyable stay – card games, whiskey, and women. Provided of course you didn`t mind the odd gun fight or knife wound if things turned ugly.

GASSY JACK ARRIVES

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Sailor, gold miner, ferry captain, barman and rogue “Gassy” Jack Deighton sets up his saloon in what is now Gastown. Saloon? It was a shack with a plank of wood and two barrels for a bar. The nicest thing ever said about Gassy Jack? “He has not the least atom of hero about him”

THE PENTHOUSE RAIDED

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Photo courtesy Brian Kent, Vancouver Sun archives.

The Filippone family has run the Penthouse nightclub since the ’40s. Favourite haunt of Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Rat Pack. It was the most celebrated cabaret outside of Vegas. But times change. By the ‘70s it was notorious for something different… prostitution. A police raid shut it down in ’75 and put the Filippones on the stand. But they won, and the Penthouse is still throwing parties to this day.

BURLESQUE BOOMS

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BC's greatest rum-running vessel - the Malahat. Courtesy City of Vancouver Archives.

Image courtesy of: Vancouver Public Library

A FLOATING LIQUOR WAREHOUSE

In the US prohibition is in. Enterprising Canadian sailors with a thirst for danger made their fortunes rum-running. Bootleggers would collect their shipment of contraband Canadian liquor from The Malahat and smuggle it into California, evading the FBI and US Coastguards. Some rum runners got a bullet in the head for their trouble.

SPEAKEASIES ‘N’
BLIND PIGS

D-Rainier_Hotel Rainier 1920

Image courtesy of: Vancouver Archives

Vancouver’s version of the infamous speakeasy – the private members club. In the 20′s, folks skirted round prohibition laws by supposedly drinking their own liquor in these clubs – away from the prying eyes of the police or government agents. The clubs usually existed in hotels like this one – the Rainier Hotel on Carrall Street. The taxi rank outside provided a neat getaway for hotel occupants should a police raid happen. What happened to the Rainier? It’s still operating as a hotel today.

THE DARKEST DAY

D-Race Riot 2_1907 Riot image

Image courtesy of: Vancouver Public Library

On September 7, 1907 the Asiatic Exclusion League led a protest against the Asian communities of Chinatown and Japantown that ended up a full-blown riot. Asian people were attacked and businesses destroyed. By a strange quirk of fate, this riot ultimately led to Canada’s first anti-drugs law – the Opium Act of 1908.

BURN DOWN THIS TOWN

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Photo courtesy Past Tense Vancouver

Greedy railway merchants clear forest like a plague of locusts as Vancouver is named the terminus of the brand-spanking new Pacific railway line. The resulting bush fires get out of hand and an inferno erupts, destroying Vancouver in minutes. Flames race through Gastown faster than a sprinting man. It was said that day “be quick…or be dead.”

SMALLPOX: THE UNKNOWN TERROR

Squamish smallpox

Smallpox attacks the First Nations communities of the Pacific coast. No one knows exactly how smallpox travelled from Europe to the Pacific coast, but its effects were ruthless. Entire villages wiped out from Mexico to Alaska. As one chief said: “So great was the mortality in this epidemic that it was impossible for the survivors to bury the dead. They simply pulled the houses down over the bodies and left them.” The Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations of Burrard Inlet were decimated. But they would survive and become strong again.