Vancouver History: Ivan Ackery

Monday, October 29th, 2012 — 10:07am PST
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Vancouver’s known for its H-shaped telephone pole alleyways which have been featured in film and television series for decades. Some have names given to them by historians or businesses but others, like Ackery Alley between Granville and Seymour, were named in tribute.

1929 – VPL Accession Number: 11035. Photographer: Leonard Frank.

Ivan Ackery was the Orpheum Theatre’s manager between 1935 and 1969, and Chuck Davis writes that it’s fair to say that Ackery was the single most important person in the Orpheum’s history.

From the very beginning Ackery was totally committed to whatever he was doing. In 1927, the year the Orpheum opened, 28-year-old Ivan happened to be manager at a rival theatre, the Victoria on Victoria Drive near East 43rd. “And I remember going down Granville Street that year, and I thumbed my nose at the Orpheum. Oh, I was so jealous.”

He actually did that. He actually put his right thumb up against his nose and wiggled his fingers at this upstart picture palace. He had no idea that about eight years later they’d put him in charge of running the place, the biggest theatre in Canada, and he would do such a great job that he would stay there for the next 35. [VancouverHistory]

Chuck Davis wrote a 4-part article on his Vancouver History website and there are about 11 index references to Ackery in Chuck Davis’ History of Metropolitan Vancouver. Ackery was that important to Vancouver’s entertainment scene for three straight decades, while his legacy lives on.

1953 – Ivan Ackery and Marilyn Monroe. VPL Number: 59307.

Ackery came to Canada in 1914 and served for the Canadian Army in WWI. His first theatre job in Vancouver was as an usher at the Capitol on Granville in 1923. He was then promoted to manager of the Victoria Theatre in South Vancouver in 1927 and then to manager of the Dominion Theatre in downtown Vancouver in 1930. A big part of a theatre manager’s role in those days was promoting the films and live shows that were coming through and being sure to fill seats. Ackery became known for his promotional abilities and stunts. He also managed the Capitol Theatre in Victoria in 1932 but returned to Vancouver in 1934 to manage the Strand Theatre, a big promotion from his company Famous Players. Just a year later he moved onto the Orpheum where he would stay until 1969.

All of the legendary tales you hear about the Orpheum – from the Canadian premiere of Gone with the Wind to live shows featuring Ella Fitzgerald, George Burns, Jack Benny, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong were all during Ackery’s time.

In his many trips to New York and Hollywood to pick up awards for his promotional efforts Ivan rubbed elbows with a lot of well-known movie personalities: Gene Tierney, Michael Caine, Victor Jory, Alan Ladd, Elizabeth Taylor, Ethel Merman, Bob Hope, George Sanders, Jack Benny . . . but, as mentioned, he never lost the awe he felt when in the presence of major stars. [VancouverHistory]

After retirement, Ackery was still involved in the local community and in the 1970’s he spearheaded the campaign to save the Orpheum. He was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and you can find his plaque on Granville Street’s Star Walk.

On October 30, 1985 one of the proudest days in Ivan’s life occurred. The event (at the Orpheum, of course!) was Ivan’s 86th birthday celebration. The show was emceed by Red Robinson, and Mayor Mike Harcourt was there to declare October 30, 1985 Ivan Ackery Day. At the end of the ceremony, Ivan was brought to tears by a standing ovation from the audience. “I want to thank most of all the public. The public of Vancouver has been so great to me. [VancouverHistory]

Ivan Ackery passed away in 1989, just shy of his 90th birthday. If you want to read about Vaudeville in Vancouver, our entertainment district’s history, and the Orpheum’s legacy, read up on Ivan Ackery. Check out his autobiography and take a minute to pause at Ackery’s Alley the next time you’re walking up Smithe, between Seymour and Granville.

Support Balding for Dollars with Hype Hair Studio & Disney on Ice

Monday, October 29th, 2012 — 9:09am PST
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Disney on Ice presents Dare to Dream is coming to the Pacific Coliseum November 21-25, 2012. In honor of this show, Disney on Ice is partnering with Hype Hair Studio in Vancouver to support a very worthy local cause, Balding for Dollars.

Disney On Ice is inviting the community to cut and donate their hair at Hype Hair Studio from November 5th to November 9th in order to benefit underserved children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

In appreciation of their kind-hearted gesture, each person donating their hair to charity will receive a free family pack of four tickets valued at $96 (available for the first 50 donations) to a Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream show featuring the debut of Rapunzel and other classic Disney princesses Tiana and Cinderella.

It is estimated that children make up 80% of the donors for Balding for Dollars allowing children to help other children. Balding for Dollars is just one of the campaigns at the BC Children’s Hospital that aims to raise funds and support for the Oncology, Hematology, and BMT (Bone Marrow Transplant) programs.

If you would like to donate at Hype Hair Studio, here are the guidelines:

  • Hair must be clean and dry prior to cutting.
  • The minimum length for hair donations is 8 inches.
  • Curly hair may be pulled straight to measure the minimum 8 inches.
  • Hair that has been chemically processed cannot be accepted.
  • Grey hair is acceptable.
  • Donations must be tightly bound in a ponytail or secured with rubber bands one at each end of the ponytail and in the middle; and placed in a sealed plastic bag.

Hype Hair Studio is located at 2695 West 4th Ave. Call (604) 732-4973 or book online to make your appointment. Donations can be made between Monday, November 5, 2012 and Friday, November 9, 2012 throughout the day. See Hype Hair Studio’s website for exact times.

Tickets for Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream are now on sale and can be purchased separately.

72-Hour Emergency Preparedness Kit

Sunday, October 28th, 2012 — 1:09am PST
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Last night a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck Haida Gwaii and led to tsunami warnings up and down the coast. Rolling aftershocks hit while everyone was looking for information about our coastal communities. Fortunately our warnings in our area were downgraded to ‘advisories’ however places like Hawaii were still on guard hours later in anticipation of a tsunami-like event, of whatever size.

It’s times like these that make us think about preparedness. If you grew up in the Lower Mainland like me you’ve probably participated in drills for the last few decade but during my recent trip to the Canadian Red Cross’ Emergency Response Unit (“ERU”) practice facility, the idea of being prepared for a disaster scenario really hit home. In an emergency situation you want to be sure to have enough supplies for you and your family for 72 hours, packed away in an easy-to-carry container like a suitcase with wheels or a backpack.


Here is a list of recommended emergency kit items from the Canadian Red Cross:

  • Water: During an emergency, tap water can become polluted or supply may be cut off. Store two litres of drinking water and two litres of water for washing per person, per day, keeping a 72 hour supply on hand for your family and any pets. Listen to public announcements about treating the water in your area after a disaster. Once per year, make use of your water supply and add fresh water to your kit.
  • Food: Store at least a 72 hour supply of non-perishable food for each person. Select foods that are compact and lightweight, non-perishable and require no refrigeration, cooking, preparation or added water. Once per year, check the expiration dates of your food items. Ensure that there is enough for each member of your family.
  • Manual can opener
  • Crank or battery-operated flashlight, with extra batteries
  • Crank or battery-operated radio, with extra batteries
  • Extra keys, for house and car
  • First aid kit
  • Cash in small bills
  • Special needs items – medications, baby formula and diapers, and equipment for people with disabilities. Learn more about plans for people with disabilities.
  • Copy of your emergency plan

There is much more information available on the Red Cross’ website and during an event like this in the future, you can follow @EmergencyInfoBC on Twitter, the Government of BC on Facebook, and Emergency Info BC online. The City of Vancouver has specific information here.

Circle Craft Christmas Market 2012

Friday, October 26th, 2012 — 3:09pm PST
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The popular Circle Craft Christmas Market returns November 7th to 11th this year, showcasing local artisans, crafters, designers, and DIY ideas for the holiday season.

Circle Craft Christmas Market 2012

Products on display at the exhibitor booths include children’s clothing, candles and soaps, clay, dolls and toys, fibre, fashion jewelry, home decor, leather, metal, wood, visual arts and much more. The main stage will host fashion shows with pieces from over 50 designers and the glass stage will feature demos each day while the DIY workshops and artist demonstrations entertain and educate.

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Photos by Tim Matheson. Courtesy of Circle Craft Christmas Market 2011 on Flickr

Circle Craft Christmas Market wil be open daily from 10:00am at the Vancouver Convention Centre West and tickets are currently on sale for $12 ($10 in advance online). Seniors and students are $10 and children 12 and under are free. Get 2-for-1 admission after 5:00pm on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I have a pair of tickets up for grabs, here’s how you can enter to win:

  • Leave a comment naming your favourite craft or handmade item (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
RT to enter to win tickets to @CircleCraft Christmas Market Nov 7-11 from @Miss604

I will draw one winner at random from all entries next Thursday, November 1, 2012. Follow Circle Craft on Facebook and Twitter for market information, entertainment and exhibitors updates.

Update The winner is Caitlin!

Vancouver Fashion: Designer Malene Grotrian

Friday, October 26th, 2012 — 1:29pm PST
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Malene GrotrianSome of us eventually come to a point in our careers when we ask ourselves what’s next? Where will we go from here and what is it we want from our professional lives? Local fashion designer Malene Grotrian did just that a few years ago when she decided to venture out and start her own company.

Originally from Denmark, Malene’s designs have been described as versatile, timeless, and elegant. Since 2008 she’s operated a boutique studio out of Gastown’s iconic Dominion Building doing custom designs, client consultations, and creating her collections. The year following her launch she was invited to New York Fashion Week and since then she’s produced an annual large-scale fashion event for her fall/winter collections here in Vancouver such as this month’s New Heights fashion show on Granville Island. With this season’s collection she also revealed a new website and launched her custom Made to Measure brand.

Malene dressed me for the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas and I figured that with all this momentum it was time to pay her another visit to catch up on her designs and learn more about her philosophy.

Pieces from Malene Grotrian’s Fall/Winter 2012 Collection. Photographer: devinfoto photography.

“I think overall there is a community in Vancouver that cares about buying local,” said Malene as we sat by the window in her studio, looking out on sunshine-soaked Gastown on a crisp fall day. “We’re used to it as a trend with food whereas with clothes it’s more of a consumer mentality. There is a shift toward buying local [clothing] happening now, it’s just been a bit slower to catch-on.” Being from Europe, Malene said it was a value that she was brought up with. “You save up for that piece, you take care of it, and it’s a part of you. It’s not just having five of that design in blue or red, then next season it’s out. It’s much more of a consciousness about what you buy and it’s definitely more quality over quantity.”

Malene’s passion is creating those quality pieces for women in Vancouver. “I think anyone that pretty much hates shopping is a great client for me because they can come in, I take an assessment, and there’s pretty much nothing I don’t have here.” Her ready-to-wear collection covers sizes 2 to 14 and she also has pieces in sizes 16 to 18. Anything else, she will create and offer something custom. She helps clients save time by determining what styles look good on them and being a one-stop-shop for finding the perfect pieces.

Women are really powerful when we feel great about who we are and what we do. We’re so nurturing so I feel like what I can do is set the frame around that.”

Those who love to get their retail therapy by going from shop to shop are more than welcome as well, and Malene said she is happy to be a part of that journey. “But I really feel that I can help those women that actually hate to shop. They can come up here, go into the change-room and say ‘give me something’.” Looking back, I believe that’s pretty much what I did when I first met Malene as well – I’m clueless when it comes to fashion and I love putting my trust (and style) in the hands of professionals.

By asking questions about what the clients do, what they have happening in their lives, if they travel, are going to an event, etc. Malene can offer suggestions and see what works for them. She has returning customers as well who have built up key pieces from previous collections and she can help create what she calls a capsule wardrobe using those pieces as building blocks.

Her clients are typically in their mid 30’s and up. “I love women in their 50’s and 60’s because a lot of women in that age have bodies that start to change and they are not necessarily happy with those changes. But, I feel there’s so much to celebrate and there’s such a profound confidence that they can have.” Malene said that it’s all about understanding that you can look and feel really great about yourself — and key pieces of clothing can make all the difference. “I love going through that process with them, it’s really empowering.”

Malene Grotrian

From producing her own shows to partnering with local non-profits and organizations for events, Malene values connecting with the community through her fashion. “I love the collaborations, the people, the committees, and just the energy that comes from working with charities,” she said as I looked through the columns of non-profit partners she’s worked with that have been listed in her new magazine. “Every organization is different and you always learn something new — you walk away with knowledge each time.”

Coming up next month, Malene will be taking part in events with Vancouver CREW, the Vancouver Yacht Club supporting the Disabled Sailing Association, and her own studio event.

Follow Malene on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about her events, collections, and services. You can also book a shopping appointment or a Style Soiree for a private shopping experience for you and a handful of your closest friends.

Archives Photos of the Day: Attractions

Friday, October 26th, 2012 — 9:39am PST
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In honor of the new Vancouver Inspiration Pass offered by the Vancouver Public Library, I decided that this week’s collection of photos from the archives should have a tourism and attractions theme:

1904 – Hollow Tree in Stanley Park. VPL Number: 5.

1900s – View from Grouse Mountain. VPL Number 8128. Photographer: Philip Timms.

1905 – Vancouver Tourist Association. VPL Number: 5204.

1913 – Orpheum Theatre billboard. VPL Number: 7580. Photographer: Philip Timms.

1890s – Entrance to Stanley Park. VPL Number: 19796.

1922 – Exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium. VPL Number: 21349.

1930 – Capilano Canyon suspension bridge. VPL Number: 71351.

1931 – Vancouver Art Gallery. VPL Number: 10926. Photographer: Leonard Frank.

1960 – Parade in Chinatown. VPL Number: 79795B. Photographer: Don LeBlanc.

1965 & 1966 – Maritime Museum under construction. VPL Number: 40464A & 40459

1966 – Porpoise pool under construction at the aquarium. VPL Number: 42892.

View more photo collections from the Vancouver Archives and the Vancouver Public Library Archives online.