One of the things that can give us a better sense of our roots – and the context of our lives – is to know the history of our surroundings.
In North America, we are often ignorant of how our community was founded and developed over time.
- Why are the streets laid out the way they are?
- Where did the street names come from?
- Which is the oldest part of town?
- Who built that great old house on the corner?
In Vancouver a friend of mine, James Johnstone, bought an old home and researched its history – then other homes on the block, then more and more, and eventually became Vancouver’s “House Historian.”
He provides History Walks through Vancouver neighbourhoods that can prove fascinating even for long-time residents. I’ve been. In addition to the questions above, he answered questions about Vancouver that no one would think to ask. Like:
- Where is the Jimi Hendrix shrine?
- Why are many homes in Strathcona accessed by little bridges?
- How were the streets in Chinatown originally paved? (A: With wooden upended cobbles, still visible when potholes form in the pavement.)
Recently a film maker, Janelle Huopalainen, in the 24 Hour Film Competition featured James and his work. Here is the result:
Time Traveler from Janelle Huopalainen on Vimeo.
And here’s James’ website for the history walks:
Wherever you live, you might consider adding some knowledge about your community as one of your resolutions for 2014. And if you're coming to Vancouver in 2014 (for example, to the annual meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association June 4-7), include a little history in your visit. (We only have a little - the whole place burned down in 1886 - so it's easy to get a fair chunk of the story.)
Happy New Year, everyone.