Cst. Graham Walker

In 2015, Constable Graham Walker of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police was asked to research the force’s history for their 10-year anniversary. His research led him to the City of Vancouver Archives, BC Hydro Archives, the Vancouver Police Museum and to our very own UBC Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections where he discovered that the history of the Vancouver Transit Police in fact dates back more than 100 years – to 1904. In his digging, Walker uncovered something even more intriguing, the 102-year-old unsolved murder of Charles Painter, a special constable for the BC Electric Railway, in 1915.  We spoke to Constable Walker about his incredible journey into the past and the research that has culminated in a provincial memorial for Charles Painter.

How did you first learn about Charles Painter’s murder?

I was part of the event planning team for Transit Police’s 10-year anniversary in December 2015, and I was curious about our origins previous to the BC Transit Special Constables who were first appointed in 1985. My research began at BC Hydro Library and Archives, then UBC Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections. Before long I had learned of a century-long history of railway constables, night watchmen, and security officers on transit in British Columbia. There was even an armed special constabulary which protected the transit and power systems during World War II. Continuing my research, I visited the Vancouver Police Museum. There, the curator was assisting me in reviewing their archives when she discovered Painter’s murder recorded in the Vancouver Police annual report from 1915.

What made you want to learn more about his death?

This was the first anyone had heard of a line-of-duty death in our organization’s history. I also knew that he was not listed on the provincial memorial for fallen officers. Recognizing him was important to me because I felt a personal connection – he did a similar job to mine and I was even the same age as him when he died. It was an especially tragic death because it was caused by another person, and not an accident. He never had a memorial, and wasn’t recognized – possibly because he had no known family at the time of his death. This was a wrong I knew I could correct by collecting the appropriate evidence for a proposal that he be added to the memorial. 

Tell us a little about Charles Painter, his job and how he died.

Back in 1915, the streetcar system was operated by BC Electric Railway, a company which also operated power plants and sold electricity to cities and residents – that company became BC Hydro in 1962. They employed constables, appointed under the Railway Act, for special projects or events. In S/Cst. Painter’s case, during World War I he was assigned to the tracks along False Creek to guard against wire theft. It was 2 am on March 19th, 1915 when he spotted a man carrying a sack on his back near to the tracks. He called out to him and drew his revolver. In the resulting struggle, the gun went off and the suspect fled west along the tracks with Painter’s gun, handcuffs, and baton. He was taken to Vancouver General Hospital via the Police Ambulance, but succumbed to his injuries two days later.

I focused on three things that were required for him to be honoured by the provincial memorial – that he was duly appointed to office, he was acting in good faith at the time of the incident, and his death was caused by an external influence. I first reached out to Vancouver PD to see if they had files on the investigation, but unfortunately, they didn’t. Local historians tell me that back then, detectives would routinely take files and exhibits home after the case was concluded. The provincial archives did have the coroner’s inquest on file, which was of great help. It included witness testimony from the man who found Painter wandering West 6th Avenue calling for help, and how he got him to the hospital. With the inquest file, the UBC Library Rare Books Special Collections records showing how constables were appointed, and copies of the Railway Act of 1911, I was able to put together a proposal. It included an endorsement from Chief LePard and an explanation of how Metro Vancouver Transit Police is a succeeding agency. It was accepted and his name was added to the memorial.

Senior Library Assistant, Felicie de la Parra and Vivian Yan, Public Service Library Assistant work through the BC Electric fonds with Cst. Walker.

Tell us about the sources that you found most helpful at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections that helped you with your search.

I had to refer to the BC Electric fonds. While Painter’s death was one of the most important things I discovered, much what we know about transit policing in BC resides in the RBSC collection.Early records include letters of appointment for constables, lists of locations where they were deployed, and even reports on their activities. Later files include newspaper clippings of transit related crime including robberies and thefts. The most interesting files are from the years 1904 to 1918 and include the names of many of the people who were early protectors of the streetcar and transit system. My favourite item is one describing how a constable was suspected of taking a drink while on duty while posted to the terminal at 425 Carrall Street in 1909. The railway hired a private detective agency to pose as streetcar employees to monitor his activities. Their observations make for an interesting peek into the goings on at Hastings and Carrall during that time period. The constable was followed into the nearby hotel bars and was fired as a result. 

One of several reports Cst. Graham referred to in his research.

Who did you work with at Rare Books and Special Collections and can you tell us a little about how you worked together?

It was by recommendation from the librarian at BC Hydro that I first reached out to RBSC. Through the UBC website I reached librarian Chelsea Shriver, who invited me to attend in person. I had never conducted archival research, so she had to show me the ropes – and was very helpful. I started by asking for a few boxes listed in the BC Electric collection. The library staff walked me through requesting material, and protocols around reproducing information and how to reference my sources. Even when I had questions about the origins of material or was looking for more, they knew right where to look. I’ve returned several times in the hopes of finding more, and I’m lured there still by the chance there are more amazing stories remaining hidden in those boxes.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in the lower mainland to parents (and grandparents) who worked in the justice system. I was an officer with Correctional Service Canada before joining Transit Police, and I have specialized in public relations/communications in policing. A graduate of Thompson Rivers University, I have always had an interest in local history. This project has really piqued my interest though, as it combines my career with my hobby. It was really a pleasure to learn about things which were long forgotten.

What’s next? Any new developments in the Charles Painter story?

Well, S/Cst. Painter’s murder is still technically unsolved. While there was some evidence which surfaced in Steveston in late 1916, the prime suspect was never brought to trial and I’m still searching for a young soldier’s letter which implicated a man with pro-German sentiments as responsible for the murder. In the meantime, our employees have purchased Painter a gravestone which will be dedicated and consecrated at a ceremony on the 102nd anniversary of his death in March.

Cst. Graham Walker at the Provincial Memorial for fallen officers where Cst. Charles Painter’s name has been added.

A private gravestone dedication for Charles Painter will take place on March 21, 2017.

 

 

If you’re a fan of children’s books, you won’t want to miss From Apple Pies to Astronauts, A Chronology of Alphabet Books with Aphorisms, Amusements, and Anecdotes! at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections. The exhibit offers a selection of English language alphabet books from the late 18th century to the present day. These books illustrate the changes in alphabetic education for young children in England, the United States, and Canada. The exhibition is curated by UBC Master of Library and Information Studies candidates Sarah Bagshaw and Laura Quintana, under the supervision of Professor Kathie Shoemaker.  We chatted with Laura and Sarah about their curation process.

What inspired you to create an exhibit around Alphabet Books? 

Sarah:  The books themselves were the inspiration.  Once Kathie Shoemaker suggested the idea, I got to search for alphabet books in the Rare Books and Special Collection catalogue.  Then I got to go and look at them and was amazed by all the different styles through time, all the differences and similarities to alphabet books now.  In discussing what I was looking at with my husband, he suggested displaying them in chronological order as well as going through the alphabet from A to Z.  This turned out to be an excellent way to showcase the books and the changes in illustration, the way they were written, and their educational purpose over time.

Laura: It was Sarah’s idea, actually. I got into the project in a later stage and helped her with everything I could. I have to say that I found the project really interesting. I did not grow up with Alphabet books and during our research we found out that in countries with languages other than English it is not as common as it is here to use alphabet books as an introduction to literacy.

What intrigues you about children’s books? 

Sarah: Children’s books are amazing.  There are so many wonderful books being published for children today.  Picture books are particularly fascinating as they tell stories with both text and pictures.  The types and styles of illustration we see now in picture books is incredible.  They are a window into the cultural context of the time period they come from as well as an entertainment piece for both adults and children.  Picture books are not easy to create.  They have to tell a story well and the text cannot fall down on the job – it has to work being read out loud.  Current writers could take a page or two from the writers of the past!  The rhyming text in the old alphabet books in the exhibit was a joy to read.

Laura: There is a common misconception that understands children’s literature as a second class kind of literature, as if authors and publishers were lowering their scales to produce books that appeal to children but are not good enough to engage adults. And it often happens that adults who read children’s literature are seen as infantile. Children’s literature has a specific audience, and that audience is the most demanding and honest of all. Authors need to really address a particular need and satisfy very high expectations. Children know what is good and what is not, and they won’t read a book that does not give them what they are asking for. Another important think to highlight is that children are still able to see the marvels of the world. Children’s books authors need to honor the splendour of that point of view and produce books that fully satisfy the children’s need for beauty, and that is not an easy thing to do. Alphabet books address a learning expectation, but they also appeal to children through illustrations, text, reading rhythm and originality. They are a learning tool and also a source for enjoyment. Alphabet books these days can be simply amazing.

How did the two of you come to work on this project?   

Sarah: Kathie Shoemaker approached me last summer while I was taking her Illustrated Materials for Children course about possibly putting together an exhibit of alphabet books in the Rare Books reading room.  This sounded like such a cool idea!  Everyone in the West who speaks English is familiar with alphabet books, we all grew up with them and there are so many different kinds.  To be able to look at old alphabet books as well as find beautifully illustrated new ones was so much fun. 

Laura: Sarah had already created the concept, and her enthusiasm and passion was contagious.

 

How did you select the books displayed in the exhibit? 

Sarah: Once we had the idea for a chronological tour, we selected books that best represented different eras or decades in the development of early childhood learning and alphabet books.  Some of the more recent alphabet books are very well known, but we felt that they should be included as they represented either specific ideas about children and learning, or a change in illustrative style.  Everyone knows Dr. Seuss, so did we need to have him in this exhibit?  Yes!!  He represents a big shift in the thinking about children, learning, and books.  Each book has a reason for being in the cases even if we didn’t create a lengthy item label for it. We were really lucky that Kathie has an extensive library of alphabet books to choose from and I also asked friends and family to search their libraries.

 Laura: We looked for the most appealing materials, and also for the ones that best represented a particular moment in time and in the evolution of Alphabet books.

Do you have a favourite alphabet book? 

Sarah: That’s hard.  There are certain books that have a nostalgia for me, like Cecily Mary Barker’s Flower Fairy Alphabet because I grew up with it, as well as Dr. Seuss.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom  because we read that to our daughter and the rhythm in it is so spot on.  However, now that I have seen all these old alphabet books, I find the Battledoor fascinating for what it is and for showcasing street vendors from the early 19th century.  Wanda Gag’s ABC Bunny is such a good example of picture and text working together to tell a story.  The old alphabet books I got the most excited about are the ones illustrated by Walter Crane, who was part of the Arts and Crafts movement.  He worked with William Morris.  So many interesting things to read about him and his art!

 Laura: I fell in love with several of them, but if I have to choose it would be Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, with all its rhythm and freshness. I also love The Neverending Story since I was young, and until now I have never thought about the fact that it was written as an alphabet book, with chapters that start with a letter of the alphabet, in order. I found that very interesting.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child? 

Sarah: Another hard question!  My family is British and so I grew up with books from England.  I still have the copy my Granny sent me of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree.  I blame this book for my love of fantasy and my fascination with doorways to other places.  I also have a soft spot for Wind in the Willows, original Winnie the Pooh, and A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I pinched the family copy of The Real Mother Goose illustrated by Blanch Fisher Wright to use with our daughter and love looking into the history of weird and obscure nursery rhymes.  Clearly the rhyming and rhythm of text read out loud is important to me!

Laura: My favourite book as a child was Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. I’m still in love with this concept of Peter Pan as a newborn child who can fly, who used to have wings and is able to fly because he does not know that that is impossible. In this book he does not need fairy dust or the help of Tinker Bell to be able to flyI felt so sad when I first read it: to think about a child who flies away from his mother and finds out later, when he wants to come back, that the windows have been barred and that his mother has a new baby that has taken his place. I think that it is a wonderful book with an extraordinary, powerful and heartwarming main character.

From Apple Pies to Astronauts is on display at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections on the first floor of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre from February 27 through April 30, 2017, and can be viewed Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public, and people of all ages are encouraged to attend. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or rare.books@ubc.ca.

The General Treaty of Fish, known in French as Traité général des pesches, was written by Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau and Jean-Louis De La Marre between 1769 and 1782. It focuses largely on the boats, equipment and techniques of fishermen in France during the era, including fine details about various species of fish. The text focuses primarily on the fishing industry in France.

Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau was a well-respected physician, engineer and botanist during France’s Enlightenment era, who was elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1728. He also founded a school for maritime engineers, and is recognized today as one of the forerunners of modern agronomy. The Traité général des pesches is an important historical work which provides unique insight into the practices around fishing in France during the mid-to-late 18th century.

Enjoy these wonderful images, and click here to explore the entire collection!

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Detailed illustrations of line tying

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Illustrations depicting the techniques for netting fish

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Making nets

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Illustration of a Cormorant bird

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Processing fish

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The Shad fish

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Getting fish to market

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The Carp fish

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Large sailing and cargo ships – includes an image of a birch bark canoe

The Fall 2016 issue of Trek looks at the Library's purchase of the Kelmscott Chaucer.
The September 18, 2016 episode features a visit to Rare Books and Special Collections to see the extraordinary Kelmscott Chaucer. Segment runs from 32:42-47:20.

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