Fourteen pheasant eggs had hatched, Sam Smith, bird and animal keeper in Beacon Hill Park, told the Times in May, with a possible twenty-five more to come. Pheasant varieties in the Park included Golden, Hammer, Amherst and English. Four Elliot pheasant eggs, a fifth pheasant species recently acquired from Calgary, were placed under a bantam hen.
Numbers of peafowl had declined in recent years, but Smith said peahens were laying and there was hope for ten or twelve peachicks. Cranes and crows ate at least eleven peafowl eggs. (Times, May 22, 1940, p. 5)
Though mallards successfully reared young each year in Beacon Hill Park and maintained their numbers, the swan population was in decline. The Times noted, “Year after year when the babies reach two or three months they disappear mysteriously. No proof has been found the baby swans have been stolen by humans. They just disappear.” (Times, June 2, 1940, p. 10) In 1940, only nine adult swans remained in the Park. Josephine, the only female, was sitting on eggs and park staff hoped for a pair of cygnets.
Park Superintendent W. H. Warren asked Park visitors not to feed swans or ducks any salted food. He explained: “Salt can be fatal to the birds and has been determined as the cause of death of several swans in former years.” (Times, June 2, 1940, p. 10)
George, the talking mynah
A talking bird named George Minor, a recent acquisition in the aviary, greeted pedestrians walking over the Stone Bridge with piercing whistles and the words “Hello there.” The Times described him as “Coal black, with a yellow ring around his neck and white tips on his wings.” His neighbours in the aviary, red parrots Bill and Tom, were getting less attention with George around. (Times, May 24, 1940, p. 10)
George made the news twice six years later. In April, 1946, the Times reported: “Habits of the talking Minah [sic] bird at Beacon Hill Park are endangering the peace of mind and embarrassing members of the parks department.” W. H. Warren admitted he did not know how to “censor the bird’s language.“ He added, “Washing its mouth out with soap probably wouldn’t do any good.”
A recent incident with George temporarily got Sam Smith, one of the caretakers, in trouble. George called out to a passing woman, “Where are you going?” The woman thought Mr. Smith had asked the rude question and angrily declared, “None of your business.” George’s wolf whistles get staff in trouble, as well. The paper wrote: “Its somewhat stupid and sleepy expression deceives people who never suspect the bird of emitting the low, wolf-like whistle which startles ladies visiting the park and causes them to give suspicious looks at innocent park gardeners working nearby.” (Times, April 6, 1946, p. 10)
The final article on George appeared in September. Warren reported the famed mynah had died after living almost six years in the Park aviary. (Times, September 14, 1946, p. 11)
1940 Annual Report
Park maintenance had fallen behind because of severe labour shortages during World War II, Warren reported. Relief labourers were no longer available. Warren advocated continuing the apprenticeship program.
“Never has the public made greater use of this park than during the past year,” Warren wrote. He estimated 45,000 people attended ten concerts in the Park during the summer. There was also a program of singing, dancing and other entertainments, attended by many in uniform.
There were two serious grass fires. A new power mower was purchased, especially needed because of the labour shortage. A new dressing room was built to replace one destroyed by fire at the Cricket Pavilion. The path around the bowling green was hard surfaced.
Warren hoped a bylaw prohibiting parking in the Park at night would lessen vandalism, which he called severe. A brood of young swans was lost again, “six being apparently stolen.” Warren said Elk Lake had eight mute swans, 1 black and 1 wild swan.
Because of her infirmities, the Park work horse was “superannuated” and “destroyed.” She was replaced by an unnamed four year old grey mare.
Ornamental flowering cherries were planted along Cook Street adjacent to the park. Flowering crab-apples were planted in the Nursery and on Park Boulevard. A collection of mountain ash was planted in the nursery.
Warren included a plea for more money in the budget and a long list of necessary maintenance and improvements. New benches, seats and fences were needed; many built by relief workers were due for repair. Waterfront paths constructed in 1931 needed maintenance. The old deer pen fence was in decrepit condition and Warren proposed a new deer pen on the north side of Beacon Hill. Hard surfacing was needed for the wet footpaths around Goodacre Lake and in the playground. Internal roads urgently required “proper curbs and gutters,” especially in the centre of the park, to keep cars from damaging lawns. A new entrance to the Park at Douglas and Superior Street was proposed as a “post war relief project.” Warren labeled that section of the park an “eyesore.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent,” 1940)
“Dangerous” tree controversy
Warren presented results of a “dangerous tree" survey to Alderman S. H. Okell, Chairman of the Parks Committee, in three January letters. One hundred and forty-one large oaks in Victoria parks, each from three to six feet in diameter, were checked. Fourteen trees--twelve of them in Beacon Hill Park--were designated “dangerous oaks which should be removed.” Warren reported that “J. Bier, Forest Pathologist, Dominion Department of Agriculture and F. S. McKinnon, Forester” agreed with the survey conclusions.
Warren and the Park Committee were well aware cutting ancient oaks in parks was controversial. They were also beginning another controversial tree-cutting operation on boulevards, a long term plan advocated by Warren to replace large trees on city streets with smaller “more suitable” species. In order to present the City’s rationale for both programs, the Times was invited to photograph two recently cut trees, one in the Park and one on a boulevard. The newspaper wrote:
Criticism has been offered by tree lovers at this destruction but the Parks Committee of the City Council is exhibiting the trunks to prove that they had to be dropped safely in order to prevent mishaps to persons during high winds when the trees might be suddenly snapped off... (Times, February 18, 1941, p. 5)
A photo of the Park oak focused on its hollow centre, a sign of “weakness.” A second photo showed Park workers “bucking up a chestnut cut from the Menzies Street boulevard.” The caption explained:
Removal of that tree was required to protect city curbs, sidewalks and the public who were endangered by uneven paving thrown up and broken by the roots. The underground growth also plugged drains and caused expense to the city. Large trees considered unsuitable for boulevard adornment are being taken out in other sections of the city for similar reasons. (Times, February 18, 1941, p. 5)
In August, Warren reported that $1,000 would be required to “cut off dead limbs, treat damage and use braces on the large oak trees at Beacon Hill Park.” Council agreed to include that amount in the next year’s budget. (Colonist, August 14, 1941, p. 5)
[Controversy over tree cutting continued in 1942 and 1943. Cutting down large trees was an even hotter topic in 1952, 1953 and 1954.]
Beacon Hill Park at sunset
An article by J.K.N. titled “Beacon Hill Park Ranks Among Finest in World,” asserted that Victoria’s Park ranked with San Francisco’s Golden Gate, Seattle’s Volunteer Park, Vancouver’s Stanley Park, New York’s Central Park and Tokyo’s Hibiya Park.
J.K.N. wrote: “Have you ever sat at sunset time, on a bench facing west, looking over the smooth waters of Goodacre Lake, to the fading light?” (Times, April 19, 1941, Mag. p. 6)
[Unfortunately, that idyllic view of the sky disappeared in 1964 when two thirteen-story high-rises called Goodacre Towers were constructed on Douglas Street, next to the Park. They loom high above the Lake and Park trees, blotting out the sky. In 2004, another 16 story high-rise was proposed at that same location.]
Illegal camas picking and bicycle infractions
A Times editorial lamented: “Not only children but adults were reported Sunday picking the blue camassia in Beacon Hill Park.” The writer noted only one sign in the Park informed people it is illegal to pick flowers and that a $50 fine is on the books. The paper called for more signs and enforcement of the law. “Beacon Hill Park is becoming a last refuge for our wild flowers. It is up to the park officials to see that the park is preserved as such a refuge.” (Times, April 21, 1941, p. 4)
In August, City Council asked the Police Chief to take action against bicyclists using footpaths in Beacon Hill Park. Council also agreed “something should be done” to prevent children from bicycling through the wading pools at both Beacon Hill and Central Park and throwing stones into the water. Complaints about dogs going into the water was also discussed. The city medical health officer said no communicable diseases had been traced to the pools. The Colonist wrote: “Mr. Warren reported the water was changed twice weekly and the pools scrubbed and disinfected thoroughly.” (Colonist, August 14, 1941, p. 5)
Screeching Peafowl complaints
Not everyone admired the Park’s exotic birds. A visitor from Portland, Oregon, Rabbi Henry J. Berkowitz, wrote a long letter to the Colonist complaining about the “wild screaming” of Park peafowl every morning. He called the birds “Victoria’s curse.” Berkowitz returned every August for ten years to a favorite flat opposite Beacon Hill Park for a month’s holiday. The peafowl, he wrote, “have a ghastly habit of setting up a mad caterwauling at the crack of dawn.” In addition, “They are horrible looking objects and not edifying to the young...” He claimed neighbors informed him that at least five months of the year “are rendered hideous by the ever-increasing flock of screaming peacocks...grown now to a thundering herd of about forty.” Mr. Berkowitz suggested taking the birds to Trial Island, Hatley Park, or sending them to Berchtesgaden to bother Hitler. He thought one or two birds were enough for the Park. (Colonist, August 3, 1941, p. 4)
The Colonist followed up ten days later with an editorial titled “Screeching Peacocks,” noting the peacock noise problem had reached City Council. Aldermen agreed that peafowl “undoubtedly make a lot of noise,” and “their screeching constitutes a nuisance.” It was suggested the number of birds be reduced to ten or fewer. Though some believed cranes were noisier than peafowl, the editorial stated it was the volume of peacock screeching that “can be to the extent of racking human nerves.” Council referred the complaint to the Park Committee. The editorial asked why the visitor whose “peace of mind” was so disturbed returned “year after year” to the same rental unit “within hearing of the screeching instead of changing to a spot more congenial to his pursuits.” (Colonist, August 13, 1941, p. 4)
“A move to sell most of the peacocks at Beacon Hill Park and dispose of the cranes was made at a meeting of the City Council Parks Committee,” the Colonist reported. Parks Superintendent Warren was given instructions to see if he could find buyers for the peacocks, to ask veterinarians if the birds could be humanely silenced, and to consult with “Cecil French, local authority on bird life, what could be done about the cranes.” (Colonist, August 14, 1941, p. 5)
H. G. Lawson and Mrs. C. M. Forrest added their complaints about peacock noise. They spoke at the City Council meeting on behalf of tenants at 900 Park Boulevard, stating that about forty birds “emit unearthly noises around 3 o’clock every morning.” Mr. Lawson said: “The City has no legal right to maintain a nuisance to property owners.” Mrs. Forrest said she had lost tenants because of the racket from cranes and peacocks. Alderman S. H. Okell said, “We acknowledge there is a nuisance and will endeavor to eliminate it.” Alderman Gadsden said each pair of birds were worth $50-100 and he was against destroying them. Mr. Warren thought the peacocks were worth the noise they created and even if the number were reduced to six, there would be noise. (Colonist, August 14, 1941, p. 5)
The 1941 Annual Report stated: “Peafowl numbers were reduced because of complaints from neighbours northeast of the park.”
1941 Annual Report
Warren reported a warm and early spring and a dry summer resulted in an expensive growing season. [The following months would be even drier. December, 1941 began the driest five month period on record in Victoria. From December through April, 1942 there was only 319.7 mm. precipitation. Normal precipitation is 518 mm. (TimesColonist, May 1, 2004, p. C1)]
Eight dangerous Garry Oaks were removed in 1941. The oldest was 420 years; the largest measured 80 feet tall and was 4 feet in diameter. A limb of a Garry Oak fell near the bandstand two hours before a Sunday concert, scratching a car. The limb was 9 inches in diameter and 40 feet long. Warren wrote this “demonstrated the constant source of danger from Garry Oak trees” and the City had a “moral duty” to address the problem. Staff needed to trim branches throughout the Park. A survey concluded that a total of 4,214 trees needing pruning and attention, which would cost $5,172. Most could be a post-war project, though it was important to start on oaks in the centre of the Park in 1942, at a cost of $1,675.
Prohibition of night parking in Beacon Hill Park did not reduce vandalism in 1941. Cars parking and driving on lawns continued to leave skid marks on the lawns and otherwise damage the grass. “On one occasion 532 cars were counted in the park north of the loop road around the hill, most of them parked on lawns.” Warren advocated curbs and gutters for Park roads, as he had in 1940.
“Grass fires in July caused serious damage to vegetation on the rocks north of Goodacre Lake and on the hill.”
The Park Department gave financial assistance to the bowling club to recondition its greens. 75 concrete seats were installed in the Park and 12 along the waterfront. Part of the Goodacre Lake path was hard surfaced as was apparatus in the playground. Three new swings were constructed and placed on concrete foundations.
Attendance at concerts continued to be high.
Large numbers of wigeons wintered in the park, “destroying lawns in lower areas.” (Later, Warren changed his ideas about wigeons. He welcomed the birds and said they kept the lawns clipped.)
A new deer pen was constructed north of the Hill and a start was made to demolish the old one. The swan population in Goodacre Lake could not be maintained and Warren gradually reduced the number of swans at Elk Lake by moving them to Goodacre Lake. He estimated “losses of ornamental pheasants, peafowl, swans, etc. from dogs, cats and other causes” at $425. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent, 1941)
Cutting trees controversy
F. B. Pemberton wrote an irate letter to the City on January 19, 1942 about “destruction” going on “south of the bandstand and near the duck ponds.” He suspected “the excuse” for cutting large trees in that area would be “some disease,” but the felled trees looked healthy to him and a fungus would be merely “an excuse to get rid of them.” He lamented the oaks already cut in 1941: “Nine oaks were cut down in Beacon Hill Park last year aged anywhere up to 400 and 500 years and a great many more were condemned.” Pemberton thought they were irreplaceable and the wise course would be to “Doctor them and fill up some of their wounds with cement, but do not destroy them.” He zeroed in on Warren:
Someone who is doing this destruction cannot have had any experience in park work as anywhere else these trees would be cherished, not destroyed. Are we going to let this steadily go on till we have none left? ...If [Warren] had had any experience of parks in the Old Country, he would have seen that these beautiful old trees are reverenced and preserved, not destroyed. It is absurd that one man should have the power to destroy what would otherwise be a joy for possibly centuries to come. (Colonist, January 17, 1942, p. 4)
Pemberton predicted, “in a few years time, if the present policy is allowed, most of the oaks would be done away with.” He thought eleven more oaks were due to be cut but that it was “nonsense to make the excuse that they are dangerous to life and limb.” He thought Warren wanted to cut twenty-nine large oaks in the Park, but had been prevented from doing so. He called for Victorians to “wake up” before “our naturally beautiful native trees” would be gone.
Warren, in a letter to Alderman D. D. McTavish, Chairman, Parks Committee on January 22, responded: “In 1932 and 1933, my annual report shows 50 trees were blown down...I have caused to be planted far more trees than those removed...” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
[Forty years later, Warren changed his ideas on “dangerous” oaks. After a trip to England in 1962, Warren said that he had learned a “new appreciation of the old Garry oaks...in Beacon Hill Park” and that he would no longer “write off” an oak beginning to die. Instead, he would cut it back in an attempt to save it. (Colonist, July 13, 1962, p. 13) That was F. B. Pemberton’s position in 1942.]
Pitch and Putt golf business proposed
A proposal to lease part of Beacon Hill Park for five years to build and operate a 18 hole Pitch and Putt commercial golf course was sent to the City by C. N. High on January 9, 1942. Mr. High proposed spending $8,000 on the installation, which would include fences, floodlights, a clubhouse, refreshments and toilets. He planned to charge 25 cents for 18 holes. The Park Committee recommended to City Council that a lease of the grounds be granted to Mr. High for $50 a year. (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
On January 16, 1942, the Native Sons of Canada, Victoria Assembly #1, protested to the Mayor that a Pitch and Putt business “would be a violation of the Trust deed under which Beacon Hill Park was conveyed to the City of Victoria.” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
Elizabeth MacKenzie wrote: “Beacon Hill Park is too small and too restricted an area to suffer any more encroachments.” She pointed to the value and beauty of oaks and camas near Heywood Avenue, the seven acre site that Mr. High wanted to develop into a private golf business. (CRS 106, 12 F 2, January 27, 1942) [Elizabeth MacKenzie, a member of the Local Council of Women and a member of the Society for the Preservation of Native Plants, was an avid protector of native plants and natural areas. A brass plaque located behind the Cameron Bandshell was installed in 1950, in her memory.]
City Council tossed the hot potato back to the Park Committee for more consideration on February 10, 1942.
A Colonist editorial noted some members of Council were sympathetic to the golf proposal, but cautioned:
The precedent that would be created by any such policy is a dangerous one...The original intention respecting this park was that it should be for the benefit of the people as a whole, and to this there should be strict adherence. It should not be commercialized...It is an asset now as it stands and will become a greater one in the years to come...No facilities in it should be allowed to fall into the hands of private individuals for the purpose of money making, whatever may be the attractive arguments advanced of adding to its recreational facilities. The City Council holds it in trust for the people as a whole. (Colonist, February 15, 1942, p. 4)
At the next meeting, City Council voted to refuse the lease application. The Park Committee apologized for their previous recommendation. The Times reported:
Pitch and Putt golf plans for Beacon Hill Park’s Heywood grounds were buried under an avalanche of protests from the Local Council of Women and residents of the district. Mrs. Hugh Mackenzie led the assault against ‘alienation of a part of a public park’ by commercial interests. (Times, February 17, 1942)
[The same battle was fought again when a miniature golf business was proposed in 1946.]
Restrictions on vehicles
Warren recommended to D. D. McTavish, Chairman of the Park Committee, that City By-law No. 2880 be amended to solve several traffic problems. He proposed a weight limit of 4,000 lbs. for vehicles using interior roads in Beacon Hill Park and advocated stopping vehicle traffic over the Stone Bridge by blocking the entrance to Bridge Way at Douglas and Michigan. (CRS 106, 12 F 2, June 24, 1942)
In July, McTavish made those recommendations to Council, explaining the Stone Bridge should be closed to vehicle traffic for the safety of the bridge and pedestrians. City Council directed the City Solicitor to prepare a new by-law including the changes and prohibiting car washing, soliciting and selling in the Park, as well. The anti-soliciting and selling action was prompted by commercial photographers in the Park. (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
Cars driving past on Bridge Way during Band Concerts were noisy and disruptive. The Park Committee agreed to close nearby roads during concerts. (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
In July, the Colonist congratulated City Council on the program of public concerts in Beacon Hill Park. An editorial cited the particular value of these events during wartime. Victoria was full strangers working in “wartime factories” as well as servicemen and their wives. “Open-air concerts, with community singing and varied entertainment, served to fill a gap in such lives.” (Colonist, July 16, 1942, p. 4) In August, the Colonist again praised City organized music events in the Park, which they called “Cheer-Up Concerts.” The editorial’s only complaint was that the “loudspeaker is turned up a little too loud” and the sound spread to “the residential district surrounding.” The newspaper said there was no doubt the concerts were valuable:
There is music, good fellowship, and a meeting of strangers with townsfolk upon cordial terms....It is something of a spectacle to see young people dancing happily around the band stand under the lights at Beacon Hill Park. (Colonist, August 14, 1942, p. 4)
Warren noted in the 1942 Annual Report that concerts were popular and that blocking off roads in the park interior during the events had “improved the acoustics and general tone of the concerts.”
Emily Carr treasure hidden
It is part of Emily Carr folklore that she instructed a friend to bury several boxes of mementos in Beacon Hill Park. The friend is said to have done so in an undisclosed Park location in 1942.
Giant anchor placed in Park
A gigantic anchor was installed in the northwest corner of the Park in April, 1942. The caption under a Colonist photo read: “A newly installed 100 year old anchor [can be seen] at the Superior Street entrance to Beacon Hill Park. The 14-foot-long anchor was put in position this week by park workmen.” (Colonist, April 19, 1942, p. 19) A plaque explaining the history of the anchor was installed thirty-two years later, on December 6, 1974. It states:
“Anchor--Beacon Hill Park. This anchor is a Porter improved type used by four masted sailing ships in the 1880's. The anchor was found in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and donated in 1961 to the City of Victoria by Mr. H. B. Elworthy of Island Tug and Barge.”
The donation date on the plaque--1961--is apparently the result of a misunderstanding. When the plaque was created in 1974, Park officials used the 1962 Annual Report for reference. It stated an old anchor--‘relic of the days of sail’--was placed near the new entrance sign. A minor repositioning of the anchor--installed at that corner twenty years before--was misinterpreted as the installation date. Before the plaque was erected, retired Park Administrator Warren provided this background information to C. J. Bate: “It was snagged by an anchor dropped in the Straits of Juan de Fuca in the vicinity of Port Townsend by one of the Island Tug and Barge’s tugs.” (November 24, 1974 Letter, Park Office) Warren did not provide a date.
Landmark paper by archivist
A ten page report by Willard E. Ireland, Provincial Archivist, titled “Memorandum re: Title to Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, B.C., and dated May 8, 1942, continues to be an important reference whenever controversies arise about commercial or exclusive uses of Beacon Hill Park.
Ireland stated: “Since 1882...difficulties have not arisen over the question of title, but rather, over the fulfillment or non-fulfillment by the City of its obligations as trustee for the general public.” Ireland cited the 1882 Agricultural Association building on park land, declared “a violation of the provisions of the trust” by Chief Justice Sir Matthew B. Begbie on August 30, 1884 and two other controversies: “Later, in 1908, objection was taken to permission to create a Bowling Green in the park... [and] In 1913, to a proposal to allow an organization to produce a series of concerts in the park at which chairs would be rented to the public.” Ireland concluded: “In each case the objection raised was on the grounds that the City lacked the ‘power to appropriate any particular part of the Park premises to the use of any particular person or class of persons to the exclusion of others of the public.'” (Ireland, Memorandum, B. C. Archives G V66 B35 I).
1942 Annual Report
There were eight days of skating on Goodacre Lake ending January 7, 1942.
Warren reported an extreme drought during “the whole growing season,” with only nine inches of rain to the end of October. [December, 1941 through April, 1942 is still the driest five month period on record in Victoria. Normal precipitation is 518 mm. compared to only 319.7 mm. precipitation during that period. (TimesColonist, May 1, 2004, p. C1)]
[Warren often notes the weather in his reports because it is so important in gardening. A drought meant extra hours of watering in the “improved” areas of the Park. Staff manually moved hoses around and positioned each sprinkler, a time consuming process. In 2004, staff still drags heavy hoses around and positions sprinklers manually.]
Staff shortages continued during World War II. (Park files list one staff member after another granted leave to serve in the military. City Council, on October 27, 1942, directed Heads of Departments “not to make applications for deferment or exemption” of staff from the draft.)
Vandalism continued to be a huge problem in the Park in 1942. (This included the “recent shooting of two deer in Beacon Hill Park” described in a January 20, 1942 letter to the Park Committee.)
More Garry oaks were pruned, “Relieving park officials of considerable anxiety.” Many oaks, balsam, alders were “in poor shape” and an aggressive program was needed to remove dead and dying trees, to be replaced with more “satisfactory” types. Warren noted the removal of trees was being done in consultation with “experts.”
There were no female swans left in the Park. Warren claimed 17 ornamental pheasants were eaten by a single raccoon. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent, 1942)
Dangerous trees tour
Warren wrote a “Report on Forest Conditions in Beacon Hill Park” on January 2, 1943, which he presented to the Park Committee. He said, “Dead standing trees detract from the beauty of the Park.” He advocated continuing tree removals and trimming, using the beauty argument to augment his usual warning about dangers. (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
Warren led Park Committee members and a Times reporter on a post-storm tour of downed oak trees and crashed limbs in the Park. Warren showed the group a huge oak with a hollow centre lying on the ground west of Goodacre Lake. He had recommended its removal “two years ago” but City Council had instructed him to prune it instead, which cost $40. Next on the tour was a large fir which had “smashed a section of the bandstand roof.” Another oak Warren was not allowed to cut had dropped a large branch on a walking path. The Times wrote:
Trees saved by City Council resolution against the recommendation of the parks superintendent have been pruned and improved at city expense and have crashed in recent wind storms...Presenting his evidence to justify his case, Mr. Warren today sought wider powers from the city to remove trees when they became dangerous. ‘At present,’ he said, ‘I cannot remove a tree, living or dead, without the consent of the City Council.’ (Times, January 13, 1943, p. 10)
Another tour of the Park took place February 4 to survey trees and “map forestry policy” in Beacon Hill Park. Warren, Parks Committee members D.D. MacTavish, W. H. Davies and B. J. Gadsden and a Times reporter were accompanied by Elizabeth (Mrs. Hugh) MacKenzie, President of the Society for the Preservation of Native Plants and Wild Flowers and F. B. Pemberton. Parks Committee Chairman MacTavish explained “We are looking to needs not just for the immediate future, but for the next 50 or 100 years.” The Times wrote:
Hard pruning of some old oaks was suggested by F. B. Pemberton. Warren indicated some balsams, cottonwoods and small oaks needed to come down. Prior to their removal, Mr. Pemberton will accompany Mr. Warren on a marking trip, to indicate which trees should be taken down. (Times, February 5, 1943, p. 5)
Potatoes grown for sale in Park
“Potatoes grown by the city at Beacon Hill Park and other locations will be sold to citizens as certified seed for use next year, Ald. Duncan D. McTavish, Chairman of the Parks Committee, announced.” (Times, May 21, 1942, p. 16)
Sales from a mobile canteen allowed in Park
In 1943, City Council approved sales from a mobile canteen in Beacon Hill Park. The Red Cross was permitted to sell "soft drinks and light meals to servicemen" on Sundays. This was decided despite the City Solicitor's advice that the canteen could not legally operate in the park because the Trust under which the City received the Park prohibited commercial sales.
Mr. Pease, a member of the “war service committee” pointed out to Council the necessity of the mobile canteen for servicemen. The Times wrote:
Sunday, 150 servicemen were served by the canteen at the edge of the park and half of the men inquired why the canteen could not be operated in the park...The Red Cross alleged Victoria restaurants, especially on Sunday--the only day the canteen will be operated--can not accommodate servicemen. (Times, June 15, 1943, p. 7)
Mayor McGavin stated: “I’m going to go beyond the powers of the city. I take responsibility to put this canteen up in Beacon Hill Park next Sunday.”
The mobile canteen continued to sell items in the Park after the war. B.C. Archives photos captioned “1946" show a “mobile canteen” selling food and drinks. (BCA, I-20633, 1946)
Zoo animals on the menu during wartime
A large hole cut into the deer pen in the Park in November and signs of struggle led City Police and Parks Superintendent Warren to speculate someone tried to catch a deer. The Colonist wrote: “In these days of meat rationing, a tasty menu of roast venison, chicken and pheasant would probably prove appetizing to the most delicate palate.”
The police report indicated the deer was “in a pugnacious mood just now,” and successfully evaded capture. Judging from feathers near the hole in the wire, a chicken was captured. Other feathers were evidence of the successful struggle to escape by a pheasant. Police concluded that “the only dish” stealers would be eating “was roast chicken.” (Colonist, November 13, 1943, p. 5)
Flower pickers fined
At least two Park flower pickers went to court, were fined and had their names published in the newspapers in 1943.
In April, Raymond A. Allen, a soldier from Edmonton, was caught picking five daffodils. His explanation was “I thought I’d send them to my mother...I didn’t know it was wrong. I thought they were just growing there wild. I’ve seen them along the roads and in the fields coming in from Esquimalt. And there were no signs up or anything.”
City policeman Constable A. Bundock witnessed the picking of Park flowers and gave Allen a summons to appear in city police court, where he was fined $2. “The five daffodils, slightly wilted, were returned to him when he paid his fine.” (Times, April 16, 1943, p. 10)
In December, a local woman appeared in court, accused of picking rosebuds in the Park. “Constable Thomas Embleton exhibited five wilted rosebuds in court, and testified he had seen the defendant take them from the rose garden.” The woman explained to him that she thought picking roses was not allowed in summer but that “it was all right in the winter.” The Magistrate fined her $2.50. (Colonist, December 12, 1943, p. 15)
Though the tone of the newspaper stories was light, picking flowers in Beacon Hill Park was recognized as stealing and actively discouraged during the Warren years. In 1945, for example, Warren warned residents not to pick daffodils in Beacon Hill Park, saying: “a strict watch will be kept by parks employees. Persons who steal the city’s flowers may be charged in police court.” (Colonist, March 18, 1945, p. 15) Fines continued to be handed out and publicized through the 1960's.
[In recent years, flower stealers have swiped large numbers of entire plants. Freshly planted annuals are pulled from the ground, sometimes in large numbers, presumably to be sold. Park staff must plan for this by growing replacement plants. Plant stealers are rarely, if ever, caught and fined, because no city police or hired security officers patrol the park.]
1943 Annual Report
Lack of manpower continued during World War II. Warren noted: “Gardening apprentices have left, one by one, to the Forces, with no chance of their replacement.” No new work was undertaken and maintenance was carried out by reduced staff. The policy of “systematically pruning” all large trees was continued with good results. Attention was focussed on the big oaks.
Warren reported a cold January and a cold, wet March. There was considerable frost damage, late growth and a cool dry growing season. “One of the finest seasons within memory for the growth of sweet peas and cool-loving plants.”
Warren looked ahead to post-war development plans. He anticipated increased use of playing fields after the war and repairs were needed. New equipment was needed for smaller children. Wooden benches had deteriorated and seating was short. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent, 1943)
Beacon Hill Park animals and birds were a major news focus in 1944 as the Park Committee, City Council, community groups and members of the public discussed zoo conditions and debated the advisability of expanding and upgrading the zoo.
Pheasants and escaping swans
In May, Park Superintendent Warren assured the public that ornamental pheasants roaming the Park had not escaped but were part of a plan to naturalize the birds. He said the greatest difficulty had been with the Golden pheasants because “They have no brains. They don’t take to the wing when they are startled and occasionally run into the path of oncoming cars.” The Amherst and Reeves pheasants have adapted better. (Times, May 19, 1944, p. 15)
The Goodacre Lake swans produced a rapidly growing cygnet named Cynthia. In August, the Times said she “should be out of danger from rats or other animal marauders which could have threatened her when a baby. Rat trouble is receiving particular attention and the number of rodents is being reduced.” (Times, August 16, 1944, p. 11) In December, Cynthia was still at Goodacre Lake with her parents, the only swans left in the Park. A fourth swan had flown off December 12 and was seen later in Esquimalt Harbour. (Times, December 14, 1944, p. 13) Warren pinioned swans through 1961, but somehow this swan escaped that procedure.
Another swan escapee made news four years later. In March, 1948, the Colonist published a photo of Jill, a Beacon Hill Park swan being captured in the Inner Harbour by reporter Trev Collins. Collins earned a $20 reward for “the long-sought Jill” but would have to deduct watch repairs and dry-cleaning after his salt-water plunge. A second photo is captioned: “After a two-week French leave, Jill had her right wing clipped by Caretaker George Redknapp to prevent further escapes.” Redknapp is shown doing this job pipe in mouth. (CRS 108 12 F 5, file 6, clipping file)
[Clipping wing feathers is a less drastic procedure than pinioning. Clipping prevents the bird flying for one season, until new feathers grow in. Pinioning is a permanent mutilation. It involves cutting a portion of the wing so the bird can never fly. Warren wrote in 1970 that when parks employees stopped pinioning young swans reared in the Park, all migrated to other areas. Descendants of those swans can be seen in the Victoria region today. Recent Christmas bird count records list from nine to eleven Mute swans at Esquimalt Lagoon and a lesser number at Albert’s Head Lagoon. No Swans are seen in fresh water lakes.]
No seal for the Park
Herb Warren told the Times in August, 1944, that he could not accept the donation of a “baby hair seal” named Susie because of the difficulties involved in providing suitable accommodation and a proper fish diet. “We haven’t the facilities for seals and the upkeep in fresh fish would be too high,” Mr. Warren said. He mentioned previous offers of seals had been declined by the Parks Committee. (Times, August 16, 1944, p. 11)
Ursus catches chickens
In the same news article, Warren described a new activity of the Kermodei bear: catching chickens. When bantams were released to run near her pen, a wire netting had been placed around the bottom of the bear cage. According to the Times, “Ursus lifted a corner of the wire and then feigned sleep when the first unwary bird came in. It was a one-way trip for the bantam, feathers and all.” It was assumed she had “developed a chicken dinner appetite.” A pair of ducks swimming around Ursus’ pond were not eaten. Whenever the bear moved toward them, “the drake ruffled his feathers and hissed,” and she withdrew. (Times, August 16, 1944, p. 11)
Zoo development in question
A front page Times story in August, 1944, focused on whether the zoo should be expanded and upgraded. Warren said he would make no recommendations to the Park Committee about animals but would ask for a statement of policy on zoo development at the next Committee meeting:
The matter is one of policy. There is a section of the public which would favor extension of the animal section of the Park. Others place emphasis on the horticultural end. A zoo could be created at some expense and would entail considerable financing for the upkeep. (Times, August 18, 1944, p. 1)
Animal numbers had declined in recent years because of lack of facilities. A hair seal donation was recently refused, as were bears and raccoons. “It’s a pretty expensive business to maintain a zoo and it would appear impractical during wartime when food difficulties are greater,” Warren said. He did hope the aviary would be extended and more birds acquired after the war.
The Colonist, covering the same story, wrote that Alderman D.D. McTavish, Chairman of the Parks Board, was “interested in a zoo proposal, but felt that an aquarium would prove a much greater attraction...” He envisioned an aquarium exhibiting fish species readily available in the ocean near Victoria. (Colonist, August 19, 1944, p. 11)
Responding to the newspaper stories about a possible zoo expansion, resident Dora Kitto wrote the Colonist reminding readers of “the sorry exhibition of animals” formerly in the Park:
There were bears in a pit. Two large wolves paced wretchedly in a space that might have given standing room to some half dozen of their species. An eagle, used to soaring at great heights, had a few feet of overhead space. A lynx was tied by a chain in the open. There were others, equally unhappy.
Kitto noted “great cities” with zoos say they provide education and a more secure life for the animals than in the wild. She dismissed both “advantages.” She stated there can be no educational value unless animals are provided large and natural environments.
It would require much of the acreage of the pretty little park at Beacon Hill--intended for the pleasure and recreation of the public--to provide natural and proper surroundings for the animals. Moreover, the upkeep of such as zoo would be very heavy. (Colonist, August 20, 1944, p. 4)
[Forty-three years previously, another Kitto letter was published in the Colonist after a three-month bear cub was donated to the zoo. In 1901, F. B. Kitto recounted the sad history of two other black bear cubs donated to Beacon Hill Park for display in the zoo: one little bear was killed by staff and another, when placed in a pit with adult bears, “was promptly killed and eaten.” Dora Kitto might have been continuing a family tradition with her letter on the plight of zoo animals.]
A second letter from Nina Heywood stated: “There can be no objection to an aquarium, but let us set our faces against a zoo in Victoria.” Ms. Heywood preferred to walk in the Park “without being harrowed by the melancholy sight of wild animals dragging out a wretched life behind bars...” She found it “incomprehensible that people can get any pleasure from the sight of animals shut up in cages, condemned...to solitary confinement until death brings them relief. We do not even treat our worst criminals so.” (Colonist, August 22, 1944, p. 4)
A third letter from Nona E. Webster, advocated providing “better living quarters” for the animal already in the Park, the Ursus Kermodei. She wrote:
I know people who avoid the park in Victoria because the thought of this bear makes them feel so bad. Is it not time that Victoria remedies this evil on its own doorstep and spends some money, not on acquiring further animals, but on providing properly for the animal for which it is already responsible?
Webster described the “rare white bear” endlessly walking around the small concrete floor of her cage until exhausted. Webster wrote the only thing children learn from this exhibit is “that grownups do not consider it wrong to keep animals in an unnatural and unhappy condition in a small cage.” (Colonist, August 30, 1944, p. 4)
S.P.C.A. criticized zoo conditions
The B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Victoria Branch, wrote a letter to the Mayor on September 29, 1944 about conditions in the Park zoo. The letter pointed out “The conditions under which the bear is living are very poor,” and recommended a wood platform and straw be provided so that the bear could sleep clear of “wet cement.” The letter also suggested “occasional change of diet, including carrots and carrot tops” for the bear. The Society recommended not allowing golden pheasants to roam free because of the dangers. Another criticism was: “The cranes are...living under unnatural conditions...[and] should be provided with a shallow pool.”
The Parks Committee did not respond with thanks and carry out the reasonable suggestions of the S.P.C.A. Instead, the Committee answered: “...matters have been investigated [and we] are satisfied with the care these creatures are receiving.” (CRS 106, 12F2)
Carp from Japanese Tea Gardens placed in Goodacre Lake
“Recent additions in the water at the small Beacon Hill lake have been several big Oriental carp, one of which weighs six pounds,” the Times reported. The article explained five carp were put in the pond, but two had since disappeared. (Times, August 16, 1944, p. 11) It appears these carp were acquired from the Japanese Tea Gardens.
Eight years later, W. H. Warren said a number of carp were purchased from the Japanese Tea Gardens at the Gorge in 1939 and put into Goodacre Lake. That date appears to be incorrect; there was no reference to this acquisition in the 1939 Annual Report or department files. Warren made the statement in 1952 while defending his plan to poison the water of Goodacre Lake to get rid of catfish. Whether carp were still in the lake and should be saved was the question at that time.
It is likely the carp transfer from the Japanese Tea Gardens to Beacon Hill Park took place after April 22, 1942, the date the Takata family was loaded onto a CPR steamship in Victoria. The federal government ordered 273 Victoria residents, including the Takatas, transported to interior internment camps during World War II. The Takatas would not have known in 1939 they would be forced to move from the west coast, losing their home and business. Vandals destroyed the Japanese Tea Gardens soon after their departure in 1942, along with many Takata personal possessions. The B.C. Electric Railway held an auction sale of the few valuables remaining and paid less than $500 to the Takata family. Though Warren stated the Takatas were paid for the fish, this is doubtful. The BCER demolished buildings on the site in 1944. (Dennis Minaker, The Gorge of Summers Gone, 1998, p. 136)
Warren's parks philosophy
W. H. Warren, Parks Superintendent, was the guest speaker at a Rotary Club luncheon at the Empress Hotel on October 5. His speech, titled “Parks,” advocated more park space in Victoria and for Beacon Hill Park improvements. In Beacon Hill, Warren wanted a new band shell, an improved Look-out, tennis courts, games apparatus for children, ornamental lighting and modern comfort stations. Instead of erecting statues in the Park, he suggested a memorial to servicemen in the form of rose gardens. Warren explained any improvement in Beacon Hill was doubly valuable to Victoria as a tourist city; investment in the Park was a sound investment.
Warren advocated an increase in park acreage in the City. “There should be about one acre of park for every 100 population,” he said. City park acreage included Beacon Hill’s “154 acres and scarcely 82 acres in other parks.” (He did not include the large parks outside city limits in this total.) His philosophy was that parks should be within a short distance of homes and should cater to the needs of all, with play-lots for children, games apparatus for the grade school children, games fields for teenagers and similar provisions for adults. (Times, October 6, 1944, p. 14)
The Colonist noted the park formula of one acre of park land for every 100 persons, and Warren's assessment of the situation in Victoria: “Here we have not half that area...We need more and those better located.” Warren said there was a lack of neighborhood parks, especially in James Bay, Burnside, Haultain and Oak Bay. (Colonist, October 6, 1944, p. 8)
A Colonist editorial praised Warren’s talk. The theme, the newspaper wrote, “was that Greater Victoria is growing rapidly and that park facilities must be planned now if in the years to come they are to prove well placed and adequate.” The paper supported Warren’s emphasis on providing recreation areas for children, pointing out that vacant lots were disappearing and park “breathing spaces” would be needed in every district. (Colonist, October 6, 1944, p. 4)
1944 Annual Report
The wartime labour shortage continued. No new work was undertaken and maintenance was reduced to a minimum. The maintenance of buildings and equipment was improved, however, since one man was assigned to that task. Work in the greenhouse and Nursery suffered because of lack of trained help.
Despite a mid-summer drought, 1944 was a good year for growing and a very good year for roses.
A “dangerous oak” in the centre of the Park was removed. It was four feet in diameter and was 390 years old. There was no further pruning but when staff is available, it should be completed. Dead Balsam firs near Douglas Street and dead Alders near Goodacre Lake were removed. Work began removing a large area of overgrown broom on south side of the hill but more labour is needed to complete the job.
Four new swings were installed in the playground. 65 new concrete base seats were assembled. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent, 1944)
Sports facilities or natural beauty?
A Times editorial rapped the Local Council of Women for opposing the expansion of recreational facilities in Beacon Hill Park. The group’s position was that facilities were desirable, but not in that Park. The Council of Women valued an “environment of natural beauty” and feared transforming the Park into a playground. Tennis courts, pitch and putt golf greens, shuffleboard, horse shoe pitches, additional play apparatus and other recreational facilities should be located elsewhere. On the other side, the editorial noted, was “the tourist trade group of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce,” which wanted to develop all those activities. The Park Committee had taken no action, but “will hear both sides.” The editorial thought the Council of Women was “unduly alarmed,” that the developments would require little space and the Park had room both for development and natural beauty. (Times, March 8, 1945, p. 4)
Beacon Hill Park was of prime scenic value to Victoria residents and tourists, Elizabeth (Mrs. Hugh) MacKenzie, member of the Local Council of Women and President of the Society for the Preservation of Native Plants of British Columbia, said in an interview with the Times. She spoke against “cramming” the Park with sporting facilities, which could easily be located elsewhere. The sporting facilities would “prove a lesser attraction than the unspoiled beauties of the glade as they now exist.” A brief stating Local Council of Women positions on developments in the Park was presented to the City Parks Board. (Times, March 10, 1945, p. 7)
Grey squirrels introduced
The introduction of Eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) into Beacon Hill Park in 1945 sparked letters to the Park Committee. Some citizens and an official of the provincial government opposed the introduction of the non-native animal and favoured protecting and promoting native wildlife. W. H. Robertson, Asst. Deputy Minister of B. C., wrote D. D. McTavish, Park Committee Chairman, on December 4, 1945: “You recently imported into the city some grey and other squirrels which are not native to the Province...the grey squirrel...when imported into other provinces [has] been of extreme annoyance.” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
Warren, who promoted the introduction of the squirrels, fielded a supportive letter from Woodland Park in Seattle and from the Superintendent of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, who said grey squirrels introduced into Stanley Park “10-15 years ago” were not a problem. In fact, he said “we are considering planting more nut trees...to encourage the squirrels to spread and multiply...” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
In 2005, grey squirrels are plentiful in Beacon Hill Park. They are not, however, descendants of the squirrels imported by Warren and the Park Committee. They completely disappeared.
Grey squirrels living in the Park and throughout the Victoria region today are most likely descendants of squirrels acquired from Ontario in the fall of 1966 by the Vandermeer Game Farm in Metchosin. These animals “escaped accidentally shortly thereafter,” according to a 1975 article in the Provincial Museum publication Syesis by C. J. Guiguet. In August 1974, several families of grey squirrels in widely separated locations in the Metchosin area were reported and a specimen was donated to the Museum. (Guiguet, C. J., 1975. "An Introduction of the Grey Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis (Gmelin), to Vancouver Island, British Columbia." Syesis 8:399, 1975.
Grey squirrels continue to spread; they are extremely successful generalist foragers and can survive in a variety of habitats.
A 1993 article by Bruce Bennett in the Victoria Naturalist provides more background on the rodents:
The grey squirrel ranges in colour from grey, dark brown or black to red-brown or pure white. The black and grey phases are common in Vancouver’s Stanley Park population. The lack of polymorphic colour variations on southern Vancouver Island may be attributed to the ‘Founder Effect’ that occurs when a population arises out of a small gene pool. (Victoria Naturalist, Vol. 49.5, 1993, p. 7)
Bennett wrote: “A few individuals have been found in Beacon Hill Park over the last two years.” (Bennett, p. 8)
Though not present in Beacon Hill Park, native Vancouver Island squirrels--noisy Red squirrels with distinctive ear tufts--are still seen and heard in many areas of southern Vancouver Island. Little research has focused on whether or not introduced grey squirrels have displaced native squirrels on the Island.
Research on the spread of Eastern grey squirrels and possible effects on native Douglas squirrels in the Greater Vancouver Regional District could be relevant. University of Guelph Masters degree candidate Emily Gonzales reported:
In the five years that I have been studying squirrels, I could not find anything but anecdotal evidence that Eastern grey squirrels are displacing native squirrels in B.C. All three species [Flying, Grey and Douglas squirrels] have coexisted in Stanley Park for over 90 years. Distribution data...shows that native and non-native squirrels coexist in municipalities where native squirrels have their preferred habitat and sufficient resources.
Andrew I. Maher, also of the University of Guelph, concluded: “Douglas squirrel displacement is the result of urbanization, and contrary to popular belief, not related in any way to the invasion of the Eastern grey squirrel.”
Diviner claims there is oil in Beacon Hill Park
Victorian A. J. A. Bell declared there is oil in the Park. He claimed a record of success finding six producing oil and gas wells in Saskatchewan. He said about the Park: “Despite geological advice to the contrary, I know there is oil there.” He described himself as a “diviner,” a term he preferred to “dowser,” explaining: “A diviner is a human radar set.” Every substance in the world gives off a vibration, Bell claims, and some people cultivate the power to receive them. Minerals and perhaps even the body of a person could be located by a good diviner. (Colonist, November 17, 1945, p. 2)
[The City of Victoria hired a diviner in 1967 to find the best location to drill a water well. The diviner identified a site just south of Fountain Lake and the well was drilled. No water...or...oil was found.]
1945 Annual Report
Warren reported a severe mid-summer drought, heavy gales in October and November and a sharp frost in November.
The Park was maintained as well as possible considering the labour shortage was worse than ever.
“A gang of men were employed to remove dead and burnt broom in the North end of the Park and old broom elsewhere in the Park...young oak trees in many parts of the Park have suffered severely from fires. An endeavor is being made to keep young oak groves free from broom to reduce their injury from summer grass fires.”
Pruning of large oak trees continued and young oak groves were thinned. A number of alder, maple, balsam and cottonwood reached maturity and were dying, a blot on an otherwise attractive park. Warren said they were dangerous and should be removed.
“Over 1000 pounds of daffodil bulbs were naturalized in the Park, including some of the better varieties, such as Helios, 2000 of which were planted around trees in Mayor’s Grove.”
$4,000 was spent on new playground equipment, 12 concrete picnic tables, 107 concrete park benches and new park swings. Park benches and swings were painted. Buildings would have been painted (funds were voted for this) but labour wasn’t available. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent, 1945)
Three development proposals for the Park dominated the news in 1946. The private commercial miniature golf course proposal was dropped quickly, but the two City operated facilities proposed--a tropical aviary and a tea-room on the Hill--were not set aside until April 1947.
Miniature golf proposal
The Local Council of Women wrote to the City Solicitor in February concerning a recent application for a miniature golf course concession in Beacon Hill Park. The group recalled the fate of a similar application four years before: “In 1942 there was an application for a lease of seven acres in the park for Pitch and Putt. This was refused owing to public protest on the ground such a concession was unlawful under the terms of the Trust.” (CRS 106, 12 F 3, File 17)
The letter pointed out that all previous attempts to establish commercial enterprises in the Park had been refused for the same reason: “The City lacked the power to appropriate any part of the park premises for the use of any particular persons, or class of persons, to the exclusion of others of the Public.” [He was not credited, but that sentence was a quote from Provincial Archivist Willard E. Ireland’s 1942 “Memorandum,” page 9.]
A letter from the group printed in the Times on February 18 quoted Ireland’s conclusion again and stated:
We feel that it is time that there was a definite ruling on the matter of the Beacon Hill Park Trust. If our own interpretation is correct, commercial interests should seek concessions in other parks or parksites, which have been set aside by the municipality and can be developed according to the needs of special groups. (Times, February 18, 1946, p. 4)
The Park Committee refused the Pitch and Putt application at their meeting February 18, 1946. (CRS 106, 12 F 3, File 17)
[Both letters were signed by Local Council of Women Corresponding secretary Mrs. H. I. (Evelyn) MacKenzie, apparently a different person than Mrs. Hugh (Elizabeth) MacKenzie, often a spokeswoman for the group.]
Tropical Aviary proposed
On September 12, 1946, the Park Committee recommended that “George Redknap, Park employee, replace Sam Smith, Animal Attendant” at $126.50 mo. This was rescinded two weeks later when ornithologist E. H. Lewis was appointed instead. (Redknap continued as a park employee, however, and got the job later.) The appointment of Lewis signaled ambitious plans in the works for an aviary development, backed by Warren and the Park Committee. Warren included “Aviary, first unit $7,000" in his “Park Estimates for 1947.”
“E. H. Lewis, 65, former Superintendent of the Wrigley Bird Park at Catalina Island and the Waikiki Bird Park, Honolulu, [was] appointed as Animal and Bird Attendant,” Park Committee minutes recorded on October 2. The Committee was “particularly fortunate” to get “such an outstanding man to maintain and develop the collection of ornamental birds in Beacon Hill Park.” At the Committee’s next meeting, Mr. Lewis presented ambitious plans for a new “aviary of tropical birds.”(CRS 106, 12 F 3, f.7)
The Times reported: “Appointment of E. H. Lewis as animal and bird attendant at Beacon Hill Park on a temporary basis was approved by...City Council.” (Times, October 16, 1946, p. 22) Ten days later, the Times wrote, “tentative plans for the establishment of a first class aviary...are being drafted by the Parks Committee.” Mr. Lewis was to present a slide show to Council and members of the School Board, and for “larger groups of citizens who might be interested..” Ald. McTavish explained: “We would start our collection [of birds] slowly, building around the few birds we now have.” (Times, October 26, 1946, p. 1)
In November, the Colonist covered E. H. Lewis’ presentation to aldermen and school trustees. Two reels of film on the birds of Waikiki and Catalina were shown. Lewis said tourists would be attracted to Victoria if the city had a similar aviary. D. D. McTavish agreed a tourist attraction was needed in the park.
Mr. Lewis warned that the scheme would not be practical unless the city was prepared to spend enough money “to give them proper quarters because it is not fair to the birds to keep them in captivity unless they are properly looked after.” ...With few exceptions dozens of birds of brilliant plumage could be housed here without specially heated cages, provided pens were built to provide shelter from cold winds and proper care was taken in feeding. (Colonist, November 8, 1946, p. 17)
A long article titled “Dreams of a Bird Park for Victoria” was published by the Times twelve days later. The article stated Lewis came to Victoria after “being stranded by war conditions” in Vancouver for five years. He and his wife would soon move into “the caretakers’ lodge at Beacon Hill Park.” Mr. Lewis told the Times: “I have two dreams to fulfill before I die. To build a bird park on the Canadian west coast, either Vancouver or Victoria...and to build one in Singapore.” While in Vancouver, Lewis drew up plans for “a bird park at Stanley Park” but those plans were “tabled.” Accompanying the article was a photo of “E. H. Lewis, noted ornithologist,” taken in a Waikiki bird park with “a Leadbeater’s cockatoo from Australia on his shoulder and an Ariel toucan from Panama on his arm.” (Times, Nov. 20, 1946, p. 19)
The site for the aviary in Beacon Hill Park chosen by Lewis was “on the broom-covered high land behind the football field near Douglas Street...With that cleared off, we could build 50 to 60 of the most modern type pens for birds and house up to 200 different species.” He estimated the cost at “no more than $25,000, which would include the purchase of the birds.” He anticipated the park would breed replacement birds after the initial purchases. Lewis envisioned “naturalistic surroundings” with “protective shrubbery and flowers.” He thought a special opportunity existed in Victoria to exhibit waterfowl. (Times, November 20, 1946, p. 19)
The article concluded: “Ald. D. D. McTavish, Chairman of the Parks Committee, and W. H. Warren, Parks Superintendent, have been sold on the idea of having an aviary at Beacon Hill and are working with Mr. Lewis in the drawing up of the plans.” (Times, November 20, 1946, p. 19)
Discussion on the proposed Tropical Aviary continued in 1947. The Times reported in January: “Sketch plans for the proposed aviary...have been submitted to the Committee...” (Times, January 10, 1947, p. 9)
In February, the Local Council of Women and the Native Sons of British Columbia, Post No. 1, objected to the “Aviary for Tropical Birds.” The Times reported the Local Council position that labour and building materials should be used for needed veterans housing, not special attractions. The Native Sons protested spending $25,000 or any other sum for the erection of an aviary. (Times, February 15, 1947, p. 15)
Mr. E. H. Lewis officially presented his ambitious plan for a major new Aviary in the Park to the Park Committee on March 7, 1947. It included 50-60 pens housing up to 200 species, including tropical species requiring heated enclosures, for an estimated cost of $25,000. The Aviary was to be located in an imprecise area near Burns Monument, Douglas Road and the Hill. Lewis stated the location should be an open sunny space on “highlands.”
The Tropical Aviary was “deleted from Estimates” by the Park Committee on April 9, 1947. (CRS 106, 12F2)
Warren proposed tea room on Beacon Hill
It was “an outrage” that Beacon Hill Park had no place “a person can get a cup of tea,” Alderman R. A. C. Dewar said in 1946. Mayor George said he wanted refreshments available and that hundreds of visitors complained every year about the lack of food and drink. City Council agreed refreshments in the Park were necessary and asked City Solicitor A. J. Patton “to outline the legal position of the City.” Mr. Patton explained the Trust deed prohibited concessions operated for profit “except by the city and for the benefit of the general public.” Ald. McTavish thought it might be practical for the City to operate a concession. (Colonist, October 29, 1946, p. 3)
The Times reported the same day that Mr. Patton was instructed “to bring in a report on the zoning regulation both for the park area and for the property immediately contiguous to see what the possibilities are of having a tea-room started for the benefit of park visitors.” (Times, October 29, 1946, p. 7)
A Colonist editorial wrote it was “stretching the point to call lack of tea ‘an outrage,’ as Alderman Dewar had, but the absence of “light refreshments” near the Park was a drawback to visitors. The editorial reminded Council, however, that coffee should be “as easily obtainable as a ‘cup of tea.’” The paper cautioned Council to “see that a refreshment stand fits into” the Park’s natural setting and “does not become an eyesore,” and concluded: “A glorified hot-dog booth with ‘juke boxes’ blaring forth their harsh sounds would be completely out of harmony with Beacon Hill Park.” (Colonist, October 30, 1946, p. 4)
Warren visited Vancouver’s Stanley Park to assess commercial activities there which might be appropriate for Beacon Hill Park. On November 1, 1946 Warren told the Park Committee that food and curios concessions would work well in the Park from May through August. He suggested “A first class tea room on the top of Beacon Hill emphasizing the English accent...” Warren advocated “widening the road to the hill top and extending down the South-east face of the hill to Dallas Road, where it has already been roughly graded for this purpose.” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
Warren presented further details of the proposed tearoom pavilion to the Committee on February 6, 1947. Plans included “accommodation for the operator to live on the premises.” Toilet facilities would be needed inside the building as well as facilities accessible from the outside. Building plans should allow for future expansion. (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
Park Committee Chairman D. D. McTavish told the Colonist in December that a tentative plan for a “refreshment building” was submitted by “Robert H. Savery, landscape architect.” McTavish said a similar building in Stanley Park “provided a good source of revenue to the Parks Department in addition to providing a convenience for Park visitors.” He said the Parks Committee would “welcome any suggestions as to the design or location.” (Colonist, December 3, 1946, p. 19)
A “plan of proposed tea rooms in Beacon Hill Park...by Mr. R. H. Savery was received and filed” at the December 5, 1946 Park Committee meeting. Warren included this building in “Park Estimates for 1947.” According to the “plans of Mr. Savery” and including equipment, Warren estimated the cost to be $20,075. (CRS 106, 12 F 3, f.3)
A Local Council of Women meeting on the tea-room issue was described by the Colonist: “Members expressed disapproval of the idea of having a tearoom in Beacon Hill Park, as it is felt that this should be kept to private enterprise outside the boundaries of the Park.” (Colonist, December 10, 1946, p. 19)
The Local Council of Women communicated the results of the meeting to the Parks Committee the next day, stating a tea-room site on top of Beacon Hill was not practical or desirable. They pointed out the proposed building would require more parking space, involve heavy traffic from service trucks and garbage trucks, plus the installation of water, electricity and sewer facilities. They supported the Trust and opposed commercialization:
The Women’s Council regrets the statement of the Parks Committee Chairman that the proposed building would be a good source of revenue to the Parks Department. The Park is held in trust for the use and benefit of the people and the idea of making money out of developments would seem to be at variance with the spirit of the Trust.” (CRS 106, 12 F 2)
City Council directed the Park Committee in December to investigate and present a report on possible tea-room sites. Ald. R. A. C. Dewar continued insisting “it is a crime there in no place near Beacon Hill Park where a person can get a cup of tea or a piece of toast.” He dismissed the opposition of the Local Council of Women to a site opposite the Lookout. Dewar scoffed at their concerns about commercialization, declaring any money made would go back into Park improvements. Ald. D. D. McTavish said “the whole idea was still very much up in the air.” (Times, December 17, 1946, p. 19)
The discussion of the hilltop tearoom continued into 1947. The directors of the Recreation Council of Greater Victoria “voiced a strong protest against the suggestion that a tearoom be placed in the centre of Beacon Hill Park.” The opinion of the group was that “the fringe of the Park would be more suitable for this purpose and would insure against marring the natural beauty of the Park.” (Times, January 22, 1947, p. 2) [In 2004, the Beacon Hill Drive-In, is indeed on “the fringe of the Park.” At Douglas Street and Beacon Street, adjacent to the Park but on private land, the Drive-In is a popular soft ice-cream and coffee spot. Tea and toast are on the menu.]
In March, the largest single expenditure under “new works” in Park estimates was $20,075 for the tea pavilion in Beacon Hill Park.
Site for the pavilion has not yet been definitely chosen, three localities in the Park being under serious consideration, Ald. McTavish said. The sites are on the hill near the Lookout, on the lower side toward the sea, on Douglas at Dallas, on a triangular piece of property, and to the north of the bridge over Goodacre Lake. (Times, March 26, 1947, p.15)
On April 9, 1947, ”New work--tearoom $20,075" was “deleted from Estimates” by the Park Committee, the same meeting in which the “Aviary $7,000” was deleted. (CRS 106, 12F2)
This was not the death of the tearoom in 1947, however. In May, discussions continued about the best site for a “refreshment room.”
Park Superintendent W. H. Warren submitted a report for study by the Town Planning Commission. He recommended three sites, “each catering to a different clientele:” the centre of the park, on Beacon Hill itself, or on the waterfront. The Times reported: “In Mr. Warren’s opinion, the hill top was the ideal site, as it would cater to much the same clientele as the waterfront site, particularly if a road were extended southeast to Dallas Road from the hill top.” The waterfront site would cater to motorists, Warren thought, and those who walked the beaches and cliffs, but that site would not give as good a view. In support of the hill top, Warren said:
There are some who are very much afraid that a building here would spoil the hill top. As a matter of fact, I think it has already been spoiled by the unattractive lines of the present lookout, and I would like to see it done away with and a really attractive building be placed on the south slope of the hill, south of the road loop. (Times, May 3, 1947, p. 7)
Warren advocated a distinct architectural design for the building in keeping with the character of Victoria. He explained:
It should have a dining room and a separate snack bar for the sale of candy, soft drinks, together with the usual space for kitchen, storage and service facilities. The building should also be designed so that it may be enlarged at a later date. (Times, May 3, 1947, p. 7)
[By 1960, Warren no longer supported a tea-room or restaurant in the Park. In his Annual Report that year, he said: “I am strongly of the opinion that the Park should be now kept essentially as it now stands with no additions in the form of swimming pools, restaurant or any other such structure...The open areas which are wild...should be preserved in their present condition.”]
Upbeat Warren interview
A July interview in the Times featured Warren’s upbeat assessment of Beacon Hill Park and his plans for the future. Warren called the Park a “citizens investment...at its height of floral beauty.” The Round Table Rose Garden was a major attraction. Other flowers blooming in the Park were Iceland poppy, geraniums, dahlias, heather, jasmine and giant pansies. Warren credited Tom Astley, recently retired “after thirty-five years service” for “much of the layout of the flower beds.” Warren said Alex Johnston was head gardener and Horace Lindsey was in charge of the Nursery. Warren pointed out the Nursery contained a special “lath house” to prepare the 575 hanging flower baskets that decorated downtown Victoria each year from June to September. (Times, July 10, 1946, p. 10)
Looking to the future, Warren predicted:
We are on the threshold of greater improvements than we have seen in a number of years. First, there was the depression and then the war and it is just now that we are streamlining our activities and bending every effort to improve the park area. We have modern equipment for maintenance and more on order.(Times, July 10, 1946, p. 10)
Future plans included a “perfume garden” for the blind, in which every flower would have “a fragrant odor.” Warren hoped a 20 by 60 foot building would be built for supervised playgrounds and players dressing rooms.
He announced the Victoria Symphony was scheduled for two special Sunday concerts in August in addition to ten weeks of B. C. Electric Railway Company concerts on Wednesday nights.
“Expenditures in 1945 on park maintenance was $18,779.” (Times, July 10, 1946, p. 10)
Ducklings, cygnets and peafowl
In May, the Colonist featured a mallard mother in Beacon Hill Park with a possible all-time record number of 26 ducklings. Previous duckling numbers reported were “broods ranging in size from 1 to 23.” Another unusual report was “one albino and one coal-black duckling” in Fountain Lake. Writer G. E. Mortimore pointed out that ducks would overrun the Park without predators. “Rats, crows, seagulls and disease thin the families down.” He speculated that meat-hungry residents might occasionally “seize a plump mallard” for dinner. “Keepers who get to know some of the ducks individually by their appearance and habits, declare they disappear in dozens.”
Swans and peafowl were not as prolific. There were only two cygnets in the Park. Keepers hoped for two peahen nests in 1946; one was “hatching a nest of eggs and the other is laying.” The Parks Department sold peafowl “since no one else is in the peacock-raising business and no interference with private enterprise is involved.” (Colonist, May 26, 1946, p. 1)
Surplus army huts moved to Beacon Hill Park
The acquisition of surplus army huts for use in Beacon Hill Park was first suggested on October 12, 1945. Committee minutes noted interest in “any buildings at Clover and Holland Points recently vacated by the Army which might be suitable for recreational purposes.” On November 21, after an examination of the buildings, Chairman McTavish listed five he thought the Park could use: “the Store Room #2 on Clover Point and four [buildings] on Holland Point: Sargeant headquarters #2, Barrack Room #3, Bathhouse #5 and Tool shed #11.” McTavish said the City would pay for these buildings and move them. The discussion on purchasing and moving army huts continued through 1946 and into 1947.
A letter dated January 18, 1946 from the Society for the Preservation of Native Plants of B.C. opposed the City’s plan to purchase army huts for use at the football field at Heywood Avenue and other locations. (CRS 106, 12 F 3, f. 7)
The Colonist reported in February: “The City Council was advised by War Assets Corporation that the huts had been declared surplus.” Alderman McTavish, Parks Committee Chairman, recommended “purchase of several army hutments at Holland Point. One hut may be placed between two football fields in Beacon Hill Park, opposite Beacon Hill School.” (Colonist, February 21, 1946, p. 1)
The huts were recorded in Park Committee Minutes as “recently purchased” on May 29, 1946. (CRS 106, 12 F 3, File 7) By September, 1946, two buildings from Holland Point were ready to move into the Park. The Times reported the officers’ quarters was to become a dressing room for the Douglas Street football field and the sergeant’s quarters would be moved to the Nursery. (Times, September 14, 1946, p. 8)
In October, the Park Committee decided “That the building formerly used as officers quarters at Holland Point be moved to Beacon Hill Park to be used as a home for the caretaker of the Animals and Birds, the site to be selected by the Park Committee.” On January 17, 1947, a site was chosen for this building “west of the corner of Park Boulevard and Heywood Ave.” (CRS 106, 12F2) Included in “Park Department Estimates 1948" were these details: “Caretaker’s Home Beacon Hill Park. 1947 spent $2,661.” Estimate 1948 for “stucco/painting, etc. $850.” (Actually spent was $1,158). The building for the Caretaker of Animals and Birds was apparently 24' x 26'. (CRS 106, 12 F 3, f.7) The final location of the Caretakers residence is unclear. Warren wrote in the 1947 Annual Report that it was “moved to a less conspicuous position.”
Warren reported that one surplus army building was moved “into the service yard opposite the bear cage to accommodate park employees.” Another building was placed in the Nursery.
A third army hut was moved into position near the central playground for use by the public. This 20' x 60' structure, called the “Sports Building” or the “Sport Hut,” served for years as a dressing room for winter sports and headquarters for a playground supervisor in summer. The Beacon Hill Park Heritage Landscape Management Plan (2004) recommended the Sport Hut, which is still in the same location, be “protected, interpreted and adapted for more active public use” and suggested using it as “an interim interpretative centre.” (p. 65)
"Sport Hut" - Photo: N. Ringuette, July 4, 2004
Though Warren did not mention ice skating in his 1946 Annual Report, a photo at the B. C. Archives dated 1946 shows many skaters on Goodacre Lake. (BCA, I-10632, 1946)
The Park Committee recommended to City Council an expenditure of $1,500 for Sunday concerts in Beacon Hill Park and $700 for mid-week concerts. (Colonist, February 21, 1946, p. 1)
The Parks Committee decided a special police officer was needed to look after city parks, Ald. D. D. McTavish said. The Committee planned to apply to the police department. (Colonist, March 30, 1946, p. 3)
Four church ministers representing the Ministerial Association, appeared at the Park Committee meeting of May 19, 1946 to protest “the playing of games in City parks on Sundays...” (CRS 106, 12 F 3, File 7)
A petition with 120 signatures was presented to the Parks Committee “asking for the establishment of croquet courts at Beacon Hill. Mr. Warren will investigate this.” (Times, September 14, 1946, p. 8) [There is no record croquet courts were created, though the central area of the Park eventually added shuffleboard courts and horseshoe pitches to the outdoor checkerboard already in place.]
The salaries estimate for 1946 listed Park Superintendent Warren monthly salary as $245, for a yearly total of $2940.00. It was noted that amount was the “same as last year.” (In 1948, Warren’s salary was increased to $340 a month.)
1946 Annual Report
Warren reported 1946 was a year of great activity in the Park, “the greatest intensity of activity in the history of the department.” Warren thanked Council and the Parks Committee for their support and hoped “the City’s beautiful parks will be an every increasing source of pride to citizens and visitors alike.” He noted greater demand from the public for recreational facilities and therefore priorities were playground supervision, maintenance of fields, and purchase of playground equipment.
With more money allotted, machinery was purchased, including “a tractor with grader and soil scoop, a sickle bar for hay mowing and gang mowers for cutting lawns, a power mower, soil shredding machine and a two ton truck.” The machinery was especially needed because of a continuing labour shortage.
“The boundaries of the City were extended to include the waterfront between the shoreline and low water mark to enable the City to exercise full control and supervision of the beaches along the Dallas Road waterfront.”
Work accomplished in 1946 included an extensive clean up of old trees along Cook Street, where many cottonwoods and balsam trees in “dangerous condition” were removed. A start was made on regrading the cricket field. A fence was constructed around the Heywood football field. One third of the Park footpaths were hard surfaced.
Warren included a detailed section on efforts to control Scotch broom, which he said was ongoing and necessary:
We spend a considerable portion of the annual appropriation on the control of broom...if it were not so, the Park would be over-ridden with broom in a few years...[it is] a serious fire hazard. Repeated bush fires in the broom have ruined the oak trees on the northeast slope of the hill.
Staff attempted clearing broom with a bulldozer, but found horse and hand labour worked better. Warren thought young broom plants could be kept under control by mowing them with a tractor in mid-summer. He noted the public was critical of slow progress against broom but that staff expends more effort on it than the public realized.
Warren estimated 40,000 people attended organized events in City parks. Beacon Hill offered Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon band concerts, two symphonic orchestra performances, and dancing on the green.
Warren noted that Mr. Thomas Astley, Park Foreman for 40 years retired in 1946. (In July, the Times quoted Warren saying Astley had worked 35 years in the Park.) S.L. Smith, animal attendant since 1925, also retired.(CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent,” 1946)
Zoo conditions criticized
The S.P.C.A. wrote City Council with five complaints about conditions “under which birds and animals are kept in Beacon Hill Park”:
1. The Aviary is poorly situated, being surrounded by trees which practically exclude all sunlight.
2. The cranes are kept in an enclosure which does not contain a pond, and are living in unnatural conditions.
3. The pigeons are confined in cages which do not permit them to fly.
4. The bear, which has been in captivity for over 20 years, appears to have difficulty in drinking from the water hole in its pen and a drinking dish should be provided for the animal.
5. The peacocks should be kept in an enclosure where they will be protected from the public. (Times, January 21, 1947, p. 1)
Ald. D. D. McTavish responded to the S.P.C.A. complaints, saying that E. H. Lewis, recently appointed caretaker, would be asked for a full report. McTavish said the Park Committee was aware conditions in some of the bird pens “are not ideal,” but the birds are well cared for. He promised they would be better housed when money was voted by the City Council for improvements. (Times, January 22, 1947, p. 13)
The Times reported: “No action will be taken on the S.P.C.A. charges of poor treatment of birds in Beacon Hill Park until after the next City Council meeting, Ald. McTavsh said.” (Times, January 10, 1947, p. 9)
Park Superintendent Warren and E. H. Lewis, “curator at Beacon Hill Park,” submitted a joint report to City Council on the charges made by the S.P.C.A. Both men “admitted...that the aviary is poorly situated...” But Lewis noted birds can go into the interior of the building, “which is electrically lighted and heated.” He said no bird or animal had died during recent bad weather. Lewis suggested heavy fines be levied against any person harming birds.
“Theatre Under the Stars” proposal
An anonymous donor offered to finance an outdoor theatre in Beacon Hill Park. The Colonist reported City Council's hope it could be “similar to the ‘Theatre Under the Stars’ in Vancouver.” In order that admission fees could be charged to concerts and other outdoor entertainments at the proposed theatre, Council decided to seek an amendment to the Trust deed which prohibited concessions in the Park. In November, Council sent a letter to W. T. Straith, M.L.A., asking him to begin the necessary action at the next session of the Provincial Legislature. (Colonist, Nov. 25, 1947, p.1)
Three protests against changing the Trust were received at Council’s December 1 meeting. The Society for the Preservation of Native Plants of British Columbia stated if an outdoor theatre was built, the City must operate it to avoid the “dangerous precedent of breaking the trust.” Ald. McTavish replied the City was merely exploring the possibility of revising the deed. Two individuals protested the park was not large enough for a theatre, that parking space was inadequate, the site was exposed and that it would spoil the park. (Colonist, Dec. 2, 1947, p.21)
On December 30, the Colonist reported “five musical organizations asked the City Council” to approve the outdoor theatre. The Royal Victorians, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, the Victorian Symphony Society, the Little Theatre and Local 247 American Federation of Musicians said the site in the Park facing Heywood Avenue was ideal, the theatre would be a valuable tourist attraction and an outlet for local talent. Ald. Christie pointed out no action could be taken until a ruling was obtained from the Provincial Government. (Colonist, December 30, 1947, p. 21)
See January, 1948 for more on the theatre.
Park roads and cliff paths declared dangerous
“Park Roads Danger to Children” headlined a Times article on May 3 describing Town Planning Commission criticism of “the network of roads through Beacon Hill Park.” M. K. Crockett, Commission secretary, said that speeding motorists endangered children playing in the Park.
“A park is a place where children should be able to run around freely without fear of being hit by a car. Personally, I think there should be only one road around the Park,” Crockett said. (Times, May 3, 1947, p. 7)
Dangerous conditions on Beacon Hill Park cliff paths west of Cook Street were discussed by the Town Planning Commission in June. Forrest L. Shaw, Chairman, said due to erosion of the cliffs, paths were too close to the edge; in some places there was a drop of 50 feet to the beaches below. Mr. Shaw said, “If these conditons are not remedied we may have a disaster on our hands.”
Major Crockett, secretary, agreed paths on the edge of the cliff were an “extreme danger to young people and elderly people.” The Commission suggested to City Council that fences be constructed immediately until relocation of the paths was possible. (Colonist, June 7, 1947, p. 19)
Visitors invited to the Nursery
Visitors were welcome to visit the Nursery and greenhouse in Beacon Hill Park, Chairman of the Parks Committee D. D. McTavish told the Times in July. He said the collection of begonias was at its prime and sweet peas, snapdragons and gladioli were colourful. McTavish said Horace Lindsey, foreman of the Nursery, was available to show visitors around. (Times, July 26, 1947, p. 7) [In 2004, the public is not invited to visit the Nursery.]
Hanging flower baskets
Hanging flower baskets, on display in downtown Victoria from June 6 to September 25 in 1947, were described by Warren as “the best yet.” Warren told the Times that about 25 new types of flowers are given a trial each year in addition to the usual varieties grown. Warren said several coastal U.S. cities tried to duplicate the baskets on their main streets, “But none have approached our standard of perfection.” (Times, April 26, 1948, p. 15)
[After a tour of eastern cities in 1948, Warren said only Allentown, Pennsylvania had a comprehensive flower baskets program like Victoria. He suggested in addition to hanging flower baskets, downtown Victoria could be brightened with flower boxes. “Old and drab buildings can be transformed into attractive structures with the use of flower boxes,” he said, and they also “relieve the monotony” of modern buildings. Victoria could borrow an idea from Montreal, where prizes given for the best flower boxes encouraged businesses to participate. (Times, November 4, 1948, p. 15)]
In 1947, Victoria’s parks cost $200,734 to improve and maintain. Warren reported to City Council that the per capita cost based on a population of 63,100 was $1.85. He said, “This is considerably higher than in any previous year.”
Maintenance costs at Beacon Hill Park were $27,243 plus new work totaled $10,092. Band concerts for 1947 cost $1, 940. Hanging flower baskets cost $3,299. Bowling greens expenditure was $1,856. (Times, April 26, 1948, p. 15)
1947 Annual Report
Beginning in 1947, Warren used the title “Park Administrator” instead of “Park Superintendent.” From 1930-1946, the Annual Report had been titled “Report of the Park (or sometimes Parks) Superintendent.” From 1947-1970, it was “Annual Report of the Park Administrator.”
“Continuing the policy carried on since 1941, the sum of $1,000 was spent on pruning tall trees in the park...This reduces storm damage after each gale.” More daffodils were planted, along with donated bluebells and grape hyacinths. “One serious fire occurred in August which swept half the hill.” The cost of removing burnt broom from that fire was about $700.00.
Vandalism continued to be a major problem in 1947 and a commissionaire was employed to help police the Park.
Two labour apprentices worked in the Park.
The Stone Bridge was closed to vehicles on Sundays and holidays to reduce the hazard to pedestrians. (Warren had long advocated closing the bridge entirely to vehicles.)
“There are approximately 400 benches in Beacon Hill Park.”
The Round Table Club purchased a sundial, which was placed in the Rose Garden.
Machinery purchased included a plow, disk, hay rake, rollers, a trailer for the tractor, more power mowers and a new Fargo Truck with flat-deck body and power winch.
“A 99 year lease of Clover Point was obtained from the Dominion Government as from June 1, 1947.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Annual Report of the Park Administrator,” 1947)
Theatre plan evolves into a new bandshell
Large quantities of ink and newsprint were required to cover the evolution of the open air theatre proposal to a bandshell. The very night when the solution was reached and Council voted to proceed with the chosen building plan, the donor, suddenly and without explanation, withdrew the offer and more negotiations and changes were required.
That result could not be foreseen in early January, when a long list of residents living near the northeast corner of the Park protested placing the theatre near Heywood Avenue. Mr. Baxter thought Beacon Hill Park should not be cluttered with buildings and the Gorge was a more suitable location for a theatre. Ms. Wollison said a theatre would reduce property values and create a traffic problem. (Times, January 6, 1948, p. 11) Mr. Mayhew said the Heywood site was too cold in the evenings and seconded the Gorge as a better sheltered location. (Colonist, January 6, 1948, p. 3) Mr. Nesbitt wrote that parked cars would clutter up streets in the neighborhood and cold sea breezes were a problem in the evenings. Mr. Kent feared the theatre could develop into a commercial business. The Society for the Preservation of Native Plants questioned how much of the Park would be used, asked if admission would be charged and requested that Council proceed cautiously in regards to changing the Trust. (Times, January 12, 1948, p. 15)
The Parks Committee responded with a change in plans. They suggested City Council pursue an offer from the same donor to build an “Open Air Symphony Bowl” instead of a “Theatre Under the Stars.” Architect drawings were prepared to present to Council. The donor’s offer was conditional on a Beacon Hill Park site. (Times, January 9, 1948, p. 15)
The following day, a Times editorial stated:
There are immediate and serious doubts as to the advisability of stipulating that the amphitheatre and stage be located in that section of land that has been set aside in perpetuity for the free use of Victoria citizens--Beacon Hill Park...[It] has long been a picnic place and playground for children. Replacement of a meadow by an enclosure full of benches, which will be used only on certain occasions by a restricted group of people, would come under suspicion of violating the trust in which the land is held for the common good...it will remove from everyday public use a section of ground which has been dedicated to the outdoor enjoyment of the adults and children of this community. The land is there for their use without admission charge or other impediment and it should remain so. (Times, January 10, 1948, p. 4)
Mayor George was concerned about future maintenance costs to the City. Ald. Mulliner said the donor would “help pay for maintenance for five or ten years.” Ald Kent, the new Chairman of the Parks Committee, said a full report and recommendations would be ready by the next Council meeting. Minister of Education W. T. Straith, M.L.A., wrote to Council asking for a meeting to discuss changing the Trust so that admissions could be charged at the theatre. (Times, January 13, 1948, p. 8)
The Local Council of Women wrote Council to say the present bandstand in the Park was adequate for open-air concerts. The Native Sons of B.C. opposed a new theatre and wanted the Trust left unaltered. (Times, January 15, 1948, p. 15)
Victoria resident Mrs. Hutchinson supported the theatre on the grounds that sections of the Park were already leased for bowling greens and a cricket pitch while other sections were used for baseball and soccer, so music lovers should have a section of the Park as well. She made the unusual suggestion that Horseshoe Bay be the theatre site. It was a magnificent natural amphitheatre, she said, and chilly evenings could be overcome by solar heating and fronting the top rows of seats with glass. Mrs. Hutchinson was also a major promoter of tearoom facilities. In fact, she thought tearooms should be available all along the beaches and in the Park at half-mile intervals. (Times, January 15, 1948, p. 15)
After more investigation and discussion, Ald. Kent announced the decision of the Parks Committee on January 17. The Committee advised City Council to accept the offer to build a “symphony bowl” in Beacon Hill Park on a site “south of Burns Memorial and west of the deer pens.” The Committee rejected the much criticized Heywood Avenue site, instead choosing an area on the west side of the Park. Kent was confident “There should be no objection to the site chosen which is not in any proximity to residences, and while slightly more exposed to wind, it has a longer period of summer sunshine than the Heywood Avenue site.” (Times, January 17, 1948, p. 18)
Kent explained the new “symphony bowl” would not be fenced or screened and there would be free access to the public. “The idea of altering the trust deed” could therefore be shelved. Kent emphasized the Committee was “firmly against any commercialization of this project or any other part of the park.” The “symphony bowl” would be paid for by an anonymous donor and the city need only connect water, light, sewer and surface drains. Kent promised a sketch of the proposed symphony bowl would be available soon. (Times, Jan. 17, 1948, p.18)
After much debate, on January 19 the City Council passed the Parks Committee recommendations for a new Symphony Bowl at the western location, only to learn at the end of the meeting that the donor had withdrawn her offer. (Colonist, January 20, 1948, p. 1) A few days later, the donor said she had withdrawn the offer because she became “sick and tired of the way the City Council had dilly-dallied around.” (Colonist, February 3, 1948, p. 1)
The Times editorial commented that though the public might be bewildered by the sudden withdrawal of the offer for an open-air stage, the newspaper applauded the fact that “the fundamental principle of non-commercialization of the park is now confirmed” and free access to the public is assured. The paper wrote, “it is gratifying to know that the park will be preserved in the letter and spirit of the trust..” The writer hoped every commercial activity would continue to be excluded, from peanut and popcorn stands to restaurants. (Times, January 20, 1948, p. 4)
The donor soon agreed to pay for the construction of a new bandstand in Beacon Hill Park. The bandstand offer was speedily accepted by the City Council. The donor had wished a decision immediately and she got it, according to the Colonist, “in jig time.” (Colonist, February 3, 1948, p. 1) The Times said the old building would “be replaced by a larger and more pretentious bandstand.” It was estimated the new structure would cost between $5,000 and $10,000. (Times, February 3, 1948, p. 7) In April, Ald. Kent announced the new bandstand would be located about 100 yards south of the old bandstand. (Colonist, April 16, 1948, p. 1)
The new $11,000 “James O. Cameron Memorial Pavilion” was dedicated July 19, 1948. Mrs. Beatrix Cameron unveiled the memorial plaque in front of hundreds of Victorians. In his address, Ald. Kent said Mrs. Cameron, no longer anonymous, was born in Tennessee and became a Canadian citizen six years before. She had lived in Victoria for 42 years. Mrs. Cameron said she enjoyed Sunday band concerts from her electric wheel chair. The Victoria Parks Board Band played “Vanished Army,” the same piece of music believed to have been played at the opening of the old bandstand more than 20 years before. A medley of Scottish tunes was dedicated to Mrs. Cameron.
The old bandshell, erected in 1926-1927, was demolished in 1948, according to Park Superintendent Warren’s Annual Report. The derelict aviary standing near the Stone Bridge in 2004 is believed by many to be the original 1888 bandstand, but this is extremely unlikely.
In 2004, the structure is known as the Cameron Bandshell. Each year, the City prints a brochure with the schedule of “Outdoor Concerts and Events” held at the “Cameron Bandshell Beacon Hill Park.” Performances run from June through September, rain or shine, and all are free. Photo: N. Ringuette, June 20, 2004.
Ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson visited the Park
Roger Tory Peterson, identified by the Times as an “artist, scientist and author of two widely-used field guides to bird identification,” visited Beacon Hill Park in January while on an “Audubon Screen Tour.” Peterson said the Park “duck ponds” are unique and can only be compared with those found in Oakland, California. He was surprised to see European widgeons, and marveled that other ducks--canvasbacks, American widgeons, greater scaup and mallards--were quite tame. The ornithologist thought the lakes could be improved in several respects:
I recommend you get in touch with what has been done in Oakland. Identification signs could be put up and other facilities arranged. I think you can really make something out of your park. Nature trails and other schemes could be inaugurated. (Times, January 29, 1948, p.23)
[In 2003, mallards and widgeons are plentiful in winter in Beacon Hill Park, but it is very rare to see canvasbacks. Hooded merganzers were residents in Goodacre Lake throughout November and December, 2003, and occasional Cormorant dropped in. Scaup were frequently seen, but in small numbers. Canada Geese stop over at Goodacre Lake for weeks at a time but are not residents.]
Ducklings easy prey
City Council was told that too many ducklings in Beacon Hill Park were being killed by gulls, crows, cats and rats. Ald. Dr. J. D. Hunter suggested strong wire mesh around ponds to protect the ducks. One brood of ten ducklings was reduced to five overnight, he reported. Hunter said he had seen a rat swim underwater in one of the pools and pull a small duck underneath and drown it. “I wish I had had a 22 rifle,” he said. “It’s a shame how baby ducks are destroyed.” [The underwater rat story is not credible.]
Ald. Kent said, “I have seen cats going from the park dragging almost full-grown ducks...when ducks are hatching, those cats would eat a whole brood.” (Colonist, May 11, 1948, p. 1) See 1949 for more proposals to protect ducklings.
Salted peanuts blamed for swan deaths
“People feed the animals anything and then complain that they are not properly cared for,” a disgusted Park Superintendent Warren told the Colonist. Salted peanuts had caused the recent death of several swans, Warren said.
Other animals were being fed inappropriately as well. The Kermodei bear had been given popcorn, chewing gum and garbage; the deer was given soda pop. Mr. Warren blamed adults for this more than children. The snacks were bad for the animals and birds and caused major headaches for Park staff, he said. (Colonist, August 31, 1948, p. 9)
“For the first time in the city’s history, ducks are now being banded [in Beacon Hill Park] and personnel of the Provincial Museum are handling the big job,” the Colonist reported in December. Dr. Clifford Carl, Provincial Museum Director, said the banding will continue through the winter in order to “get as many birds as possible.” He said banding would provide “a great wealth of information,” such as distances traveled by the birds. Of particular interest were the several hundred park mallards and widgeons in the Park, which Carl described as “the most commercial type of water fowl.”
Banding will take place early in the morning when the ducks are feeding and few people are in the Park. Grain will entice the birds into a portable eight foot square chicken-wire enclosure. When a good number are inside, a door will be lowered to trap the birds. Numbered aluminum bands provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be attached to the birds legs. Anyone in North America catching or finding a banded bird is requested to send information to the Washington address on the band. (Colonist, December 11, 1948, p. 23)
New flag standards
City Council pressured Parks Committee Chairman Kent to see that the flag on top of Beacon Hill is “of suitable size, in good condition [and] lowered at sundown and raised at dawn.” Ald. Diggon had high standards; he stipulated the flag should not only fly, but should fly “vigorously.” Ald. Williams added it should be a “good flag” and “flying all the time.” Williams said when he approached Victoria by boat recently, he thought the Beacon Hill flag did not look imposing enough. Ald. Kent explained that the wind whips the flag to shreds in a week and a good flag cost $10.
Mayo Singh, who donated the pole and erected it in 1938, offered to donate $175 to repaint the flagpole and make repairs. (Colonist, June 1, 1948, p. 23)
[In 2004, the flag flies twenty-four hours a day. It is not lowered at sunset and raised at dawn. The wind still whips it to shreds, but it takes much longer than a week.]
Ursus Kermodei dead
The Park’s white Kermodei bear was found dead by Caretaker George Redknap in December. The bear had lived alone for twenty-four years in a Beacon Hill Park cage, from 1924-1948. She was the last bear kept in the Park. (Colonist, December 6, 1948)
A Colonist article the following day described the removal of the carcass. Four men in a truck laid down a canvas, dragged her onto it and pulled it up a plank into the truck. She was taken to a lab “at the Legislative Buildings.” Many Victorians expected the bear to be stuffed and put on display in the Provincial Museum. However, “Dr. Clifford Carl, director of the Provincial Museum, said the skin, skull and a few other accessories would be saved, but that the bear would not be stuffed.” Dr. Carl explained the Museum already had a family of mounted white bears and the white bear was in poor condition. (Colonist, December 7, 1948)
It is still widely believed that the Kermodei bear was mounted, displayed and preserved at the Museum. Newspaper articles perpetuated this story, sometimes in surprising detail. This misinformation was printed in 1974: “For years [Ursus] remained stuffed in our former provincial museum until her fur began to deteriorate in the light. She was then removed to the curatorial tower of our present museum and wrapped in plastic.” (Colonist, The Islander,” June 30, 1974, p. 13)
In answer to a request for information, James A. Cosgrove, Manager, Natural History Section, Royal British Columbia Museum, e-mailed the following definitive statement by the “Mammal Preparator” on December 2, 2003:
The Kermode bear from Beacon Hill Park is in our research collection as a skull and a tanned hide. I looked at the hide carefully and there is no evidence that it had been mounted in the past and then converted to a flat skin. It is in bad shape as mentioned in the inquiry so I suspect that Clifford Carl's explanation is the right one. The other reports may have resulted from confusion with one or more of the Kermode bears from the mounted group. I looked at the Provincial Museum Reports from 1948 and 1949 and there is no mention of the bear in them so I can not add anything further regarding the acquisition and disposition of the specimen.
The bear cage in the Park was demolished almost immediately, as shown in a December Colonist photo. The caption explained: “Air powered drills and hacksaws are bringing to end the familiar concrete and iron-bar cage which was the home of Ursus Kermodei--Victoria’s famous bear--in Beacon Hill Park since 1924. White lady passed away in her sleep last weekend.” (Colonist, December 11, 1948, p. 23)
Widening of roads and lane protested
Chairman of the Parks Committee Ald. Kent heard a series of complaints and suggestions from Major Kirkpatrick Crockett. The Major stated the widening of internal roads in Beacon Hill Park was creating ”speedways.” He also protested against widening the path in the southeast corner of the Park known as Lovers’ Lane and removing trees there.
The Major included an odd solution to the problem of Dallas Road cliff erosion. He thought planting bamboo, which has “matted” roots, would hold the soil. He said bamboo was available in quantity behind the Masonic temple. Another suggestion was to use rock being dredged from the Victoria harbour to stop the erosion. (Colonist, March 21, 1948, p. 11)
1948 Annual Report
The hanging flower baskets were “not quite up to their usual standard” because of cool, cloudy summer weather. Average temperatures in Beacon Hill Park for afternoon events in July and August was 64.5 degrees Fahrenheit and for evening events it averaged 60 degrees. Even during July, evening temperatures ranged down to 53.
The Tourist Trade Development Association made a number of suggestions 14 years ago, Warren wrote, including: a rose garden, a maze like Hampton Court, a Shakespearean Garden, an improved Douglas Street entrance to the Park, improved paths in the north section of the Park and a native rock garden north of Good Acre Lake. Warren pointed out only the Rose Garden had been completed. “I feel that Beacon Hill Park could become as much of a Mecca for tourists as Mr. Butchart’s Gardens if support were secured for its improvement.” Warren was especially interested in an improved Douglas Street entrance and planting more roses. He said the maze was good idea but could be placed elsewhere than in Beacon Hill Park.
“A topographic survey is being prepared by the Engineer’s Department.” Mandarin ducks were introduced again into the park; there was no success with the native Wood Ducks previously introduced. The caretakers residence was completed except for the construction of a garage. Two grades of gardeners were established with qualifying exams. The Commissionaire policing the Park “has worked out very well.” The Sports hut was used by the Playground Supervisor during the summer and by soccer teams the rest of the year.
“Based on a population of 61,400, the gross per capita cost of maintenance and capital expenditure for parks and recreation excluding boulevards during 1948 was $1.91.” Beacon Hill Park maintenance was $34,727.13, out of a total budget of $197,564.07. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Administrator,” 1948)
“Robin Hood” archery contests
A site for archery, a new sport for Beacon Hill Park, was announced by W. H. Warren, Parks Administrator, in March. “A site on the hillside northeast of the flagpole in Beacon Hill Park has been set aside for the ‘Robin Hood’ contests of city archers,” the Colonist wrote. Permission was given in 1948 by the Parks Committee for archers to use the Park in an area to be designated by Mr. Warren. The Y.M.C.A. announced plans to form an archery club and named an instructor. (Colonist, March 11, 1949, p. 27)
Concerns about ducks
The S.P.C.A. alerted the Park Committee to “boys using slingshots and air rifles to injure ducks at Beacon Hill Park.” They recommended signs prohibiting such action be posted. The Committee explained it was Park Department policy “to have as few signs in the park as possible,” but they would ask “park policemen and employees” to “keep a sharp lookout.” (CRS 106, 12 F 3, January 27, 1949)
“The comparative safety of the islands” in Park lakes is denied to nesting ducks, a letter to the Colonist explained and as a result, ducklings face “precarious conditions.” A pair of swans inhabit each island and “viciously attack” ducks “if they seek refuge on the islands,” George Read wrote. Ducks nesting in bushes near the lake were vulnerable to predation.
Since Victorians half-tamed the ducks, encouraging them to remain in the Park, Read believed there was “a moral obligation to...assist them in their effort of self-preservation.” Read suggested a wire enclosure in which ducks and ducklings would be kept until grown. He claimed the B. C. Provincial Game Department endorsed his idea as “tending to the preservation of wild life,” and that the S.P.C.A. also endorsed his plan. (Colonist, May 13, 1949, p. 4)
[In 2004, there are no swans in the Park and mallards are free to nest on islands. Though mallards appear to be maintaining their numbers, anguished outcries continue from the public whenever a duckling is captured by a gull, crow, Coopers hawk or heron. There are also people who firmly believe that park staff net mallards and cart them away in the dead of night to reduce their numbers.]
G. T. Redknap, caretaker of Park animals
One hundred and fifty animals in Beacon Hill Park perk up when G. T. Redknap comes to work at 7:30 a.m. each morning, the Times wrote, describing the animal caretaker’s day on the job. Mr. Redknap, an employee of the Victoria Parks Department for 32 years, took on the job of animal caretaker in 1947. His first job every morning is feeding the animals, which takes two hours.
Deer were fed bran and crushed oats; swans, bantams and cranes got wheat and breeders’ mash; chipmunks and squirrels received sunflower seeds, peanuts, oats and wheat. Though the animals and birds were wary of other humans, they approached Redknap confidently. He kept rabbits and birds when he was growing up in England and the newspaper stated he enjoyed “feeding and caring for a veritable little army of deer, squirrels, chipmunks, parrots, cockatoos, cranes and spunky little bantams.” Previously, Redknap worked on a sheep ranch in Australia and “...spent several years on the city’s pound wagon without once having been bitten by his canine captives.” (Times, August 13, 1949, p. 5) [Redknap was appointed animal and bird caretaker in 1947 but was un-appointed two weeks later when the Park Committee selected ornithologist Lewis along with his grand scheme for a Tropical Aviary. Lewis moved on and Redknap got the job after a delay.]
Warren proposed children’s barnyard
Warren advocated the establishment of a “barnyard” for Children in Beacon Hill Park in October, after returning from a convention in Denver, Colorado. “He visited many parks and zoos in U.S. Cities en route to the conference,” the Times wrote, “gathering information which he is submitting to City Council to keep in mind for some future date.” Warren proposed a miniature barnyard housing farm animals on display for summer months where children could watch a cow being milked, pet sheep and help feed chickens. “He thought a service club might be interested in establishing and maintaining a children’s section at Beacon Hill with the help of the city.” (Times, October 7, 1949, p. 15) [The Garry Oak Farm opened in 1973. It was operated by the City until 1992, when a contract was signed with a private operator. See 1973 and 1992.]
Dramatic rescue of boy from attacking deer
Two passers-by, Bob Chambers and Victor Bochko, heard a young boy screaming “Save me! Please save me!” and scaled the fence of the deer compound to rescue him. The Colonist wrote: “...the deer’s horns were straddling the child’s body. The deer had pushed the screaming child along the ground and against some bushes. The animal was bucking and kicking the child.” The two men grabbed the deer’s horns while the boy climbed back over the fence and ran off screaming. The two men didn’t dare let go, for fear they would be hurt and were stuck holding the fiercely kicking animal. The newspaper described their rescue:
Three more men... climbed into the cage, removed their belts and tied the deer’s horns around a tree, allowing Chambers and Bochko to escape. The belts...only held the deer about two minutes. The snorting animal, frothing at the mouth, broke away from the hold. One belt broke and another still is on the deer’s antlers. All five men who participated in the affair received cuts and bruises... (Colonist, November 13, 1949, p. 1)
A Times report the following day called the deer “a powerful 200 pound buck” and described the six or seven year old unidentified boy “holding onto the horns tightly [which] prevented the buck from throwing him on one or two occasions.” The two men who saved the boy thought they hung on for “about half an hour” while asking people to help them. “One man who had a Luger automatic in his car was persuaded not to use it to kill the animal. The man...made it clear if there was any danger of the men in the ring losing their lives he would shoot the buck.” (Times, November 14, 1949, p. 5)
More entertainment not necessary in the Park
A Times editorial disagreed with Chamber of Commerce proposals for attracting tourists to Victoria. The writer said providing shuffleboard, bowling alleys, outdoor dancing courts and miniature golf courses in Beacon Hill Park would not attract tourists:
Tourists come to Victoria for its scenery, its gardens, its climate and what remains of its English atmosphere. Let us not destroy our admitted assets by building into them cheap amusements more suitable for other sites...We would suggest that the famous rose garden, unspoiled by proximity to such pastimes, is a much greater drawing card... (Times, November 16, 1949, p. 4)
The editorial asked the Chamber of Commerce to consider whether people were more likely to visit Yosemite Falls if there was a shuffleboard court or be more eager to see the Grand Canyon if it had a bowling alley on the rim.
Goodacre Lake flooded City streets
Heavy rains raised the level of Goodacre Lake until it flooded onto Douglas Street near the Avalon Road intersection. City police were considering a roadblock to stop traffic driving through the water when the Times went to press. (Times, December 27, 1949, p. 1)
[In 2004, when heavy rains fill the Lake, the overflow spills into a storm drain at Arbutus Way. It is likely this was in place in 1949 and that police alerted Park staff to unclog the outlet.]
Exotic plant species protested
Responding to citizen Bob Lang’s letter protesting exotic cypress recently planted in the Park, Warren wrote on March 1, 1949: “Monterey Cypress were planted on my instructions at the edge of the woodland on Dallas Road.” Warren claimed to agree “in principle” with Lang that exotic species should not be planted in the Park, but said “in this case...use of exotics...is justified.”
In regards to Lang’s concern about broom seedlings, Warren answered:
We can destroy a good percentage of them by cutting them with a haymower in mid summer in the small stages. Fifteen or so years ago the broom occupied an area about ten times greater in Beacon Hill Park than it does now. The Himalaya Blackberry is our worst exotic at the present time. (CRS 106, 12 F 3)
1949 Annual Report
The winter was cold but snow prevented ice skating. Summer watering was done for an 18 hour period daily to keep the park green. Work began to replace 40 year old water pipes.
There was only one paragraph on Beacon Hill Park in the Annual Report. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Annual Report of the Park Administrator,” 1949)