The Delta Museum and Archive Society is looking for Deltans to share their stories for Canada’s 150th anniversary.
“We wanted something that was grassroot-like,” society president Teresa Cooper said.
“It morphed into, why don’t we collect 150 memories, stories, thoughts from people in the community and share those with the rest of the community through social media.”
The society hopes to release one contributed memory every day until Dec. 31 on social media.
Those memories can be anything from 250 word stories to an old photograph that encapsulates what someone loves about Delta.
This collection of stories is one way the society is working to stay relevant. In July 2016, the society handed over the care of the museum to the Corporation of Delta. The society is now an advisory group for the museum, although it still owns the artifacts in the museum.
“With that change, we kind of stepped back and went, ‘What do we do now?’ What is our role, now that we’re not operating the museum?” Cooper said.
“It’s a conversation piece,” she continued, “but it’s also for us to feel like we are still a highly-functioning society that has a role in Delta.”
Stories can be submitted through the Delta Museum and Archive Society’s social media, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by submitting it to a society representative in person. Story submissions will be accepted on an ongoing basis throughout the year.
Here are a couple of the tales submitted thus far:
The Pansy Mae Cabaret
By Gary Cullen
The prohibition of alcohol in British Columbia began in 1916 and ended in 1921. In the United States, prohibition ran from 1919 to 1933, making bootlegging liquor from Canada into the USA a lucrative, but illegal, business.
Prohibition produced one of Delta’s most colourful characters, Pansy Mae Stuttard. Pansy Mae was an unusually rough and ready woman for her time. She had become Canada’s first female sea captain in the early 1900s, operating ships up and down the coast of B.C. delivering goods to small communities.
In the mid-1920s, Pansy Mae leased a 27-acre plot of land at the south end of English Bluff Road (where Tsawwassen Heights is today) and built a small house there right up against the Point Roberts border. She brought liquor there, which was now legal in Canada, from Vancouver to smuggle into the U.S. As well as passing cases of liquor across the border, she built a cable-and-pulley system to carry cases of booze down to Tsawwassen beach, where U.S.-bound boats waited in the dark of night to take it further down the coast. At this time, south Tsawwassen was nearly completely forested and English Bluff Road was only a dirt track. The location was very isolated and a perfect place to quietly move liquor across the border.
As word spread about her operation, the seasonal fishermen and cannery workers at Point Roberts started to show up at Pansy Mae’s door. She would literally hand the bottles of bootleg liquor out her back door on the Canadian side to her customers on the U.S. side.
Business became so good that by the late 1920s she decided to build what she legally called a “cabaret,” but in reality was a brothel. Or, as she clandestinely advertised at the time, “a place to bring a girl for a drink, and if you don’t have a girl, we’ll supply one.” The new building was built opposite her house, which she had already enlarged to contain a bar. It was well over 100 feet long with a dance hall and 16 small rooms to rent. Her cabaret was shut down several times by the Delta authorities. She’d be hauled off to court where she would pay her fine and then go back to business as usual.
This all ended in 1933 with the end of U.S. prohibition. The cabaret was torn down but Pansy Mae continued to live in her small house at the end of English Bluff Road until about 1950, when the owner of the land wanted to develop it. Pansy Mae’s old house was moved up the road to where Fred Gingell Park is today. She lived there until the mid-1950s, when B.C. Hydro bought the land from her to install the power lines across to Vancouver Island. She died in 1963 in Cloverdale at the age of 87.
Gary Cullen is looking for more information on Pansy Mae Stuttard to complete a more detailed story of her colourful life. If anyone can help, please contact email@example.com
By Baird Blackstone
In 1974-1975 I was editor of the Surrey-Delta Messenger community newspaper. Publisher W. W. (Bill) Hastings assigned to me his 1925 cast iron Underwood office typewriter. I would write many a forgettable editorial on it for the paper my friends at the New Westminster daily The Columbian teasingly referred to as The Mess.
Affable developer Tom Goode was in his first term as Delta mayor, succeeding Dugald Morrison. Lois Jackson was in her first term as alderman (as the job was then called). Ernie Burnett and Doug Massey were part of the crew on Delta council at the time.
Being a mom-and-pop grocery-style paper, The Mess had no delivery staff. Thus each Wednesday I would hand-deliver to our Scott Road, Townline Road and Sunshine Hills convenience store vendors a clutch of the latest gonzo headlines The Mess was known for.
When Bill Hastings finally retired in the mid-80s, I was asked by the chamber of commerce to give his retirement speech. By then I was writing on a Smith-Corona computerized unit, newly-released. Halfway through printing out the speech the printer’s ink ran out. At midnight. Thus I had to transcribe the text from the typewriter’s memory bank. Of course, it was Bill’s 1925 Underwood that I relied on to manually re-type the words as they spooled across the ticker-tape memory screen of the (now otherwise useless) Smith-Corona.
Interestingly, Postmedia had a squib on June 20 on how vintage typewriters are attracting a new generation of collectors. “Fans in Boston kneel in a city square and type stories about their lives…,” they reported. Millennials relishing creativity moments they’ve pounded out on paper, not just zipped out into cyberspace.
A loving documentary about clackers called California Typewriter featuring Tom Hanks and musician John Mayer was set for picture show release this summer.