Lifestyles

YOUR HISTORY: May Day – Old film provides window into PoCo’s past May Days

A May Day parade held in the 1950s in Port Coquitlam.  - Submitted photo
A May Day parade held in the 1950s in Port Coquitlam.
— image credit: Submitted photo

If the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words ” holds true, then surely old film and video from Port Coquitlam’s past would likely fill more than a few volumes of our city’s history books.

The Eastman Kodak Co. introduced 16 mm film in 1923 and, by 1935, the home movie enthusiast was able to record daily life events in brilliant Kodachrome colour. By the time the Super 8 format arrived in the 1960s, cameras were much smaller and more affordable.

We are fortunate that some early home movie film has been preserved and exists today as a window to times past, to the way we were.

The city of Port Coquitlam’s 91st annual May Day Festival begins today (Friday) with the opening ceremonies at the rec complex, where the royal party will be introduced and traditional May pole dancing performed by local schoolchildren. The Rotary May Day Parade, a longstanding community tradition, will take place on Saturday, May 10 in downtown PoCo.

At the City Archives at Leigh Square, we have numerous photos that chronicle the celebration of May Day over the years but I particularly enjoy the old colour film from our collection — it seems to bring those days to life.

Fred McCallum and his family arrived from Tisdale, Sask. after the Second World War and, in 1952, built a Super Valu store on Shaughnessy Street. Early colour film from the McCallums highlights a May Day parade down the centre of town, with the old Trinity United Church on Whyte Avenue seen along the way.

Passing by is a colourful float created from a flatbed truck donated by John Galer’s Port Coquitlam Transfer and decorated by proud members of the local Women’s Institute, carrying the Royal Party to Aggie Park.

Local children with decorated bicycles and wagons mix with marching bands, riders on horseback and the always amusing entry from the volunteer fire department, complete with several clowns.

It is worth noting the houses and trees lining Shaughnessy Street in the early 1950s as this was prior to the Golden Ears Hotel’s construction in 1956.

Through the magic of film, we follow the parade to Aggie Park, where for many years until the mid-’60s, the May pole dancing and children’s games and races were held.

A visitor to present-day Aggie Park can scarcely imagine the grandeur and pageantry that once occurred annually on these same grounds. The old Aggie Hall, which once upon a time stood proudly and watched over those celebrations, is long gone now.

As memories and recollections of May Days past fade with the passing of years as well as PoCo pioneers, we are lucky that we are still able to look back through that window to times past, with the help of old film and video.

• Thank you to the McCallum, MacKenzie and Carlson families for sharing their May Day memories on film.

Your History is a column in which representatives of the Tri-Cities’ heritage groups write about local history. Bryan Ness is with the Port Coquitlam Heritage Society.

 

HISTORY EVENTS NEXT WEEK

• May 5: Rhymes of Times, 10:30–11:30 a.m., Heritage at Leigh Square, 2100–2253 Leigh Sq. (access off McAllister Street), PoCo. Monthly reminiscing session will focus on drive-in movies; you can share memories of nights at the drive-in. Pre-registration is required to ensure small groups: julies@pocoheritage.org or 604-927-8403. Info: www.pocoheritage.org.

• May 6: The Stories Behind the Pictures, 10:30–11:30 a.m., Heritage at Leigh Square, 2100–2253 Leigh Sq. (access off McAllister Street), PoCo. Join Gerry, Morley and Bryan to watch some older videos and slides and share your stories with the “Heritage Detectives.” This is a drop-in program, no advance registration required. Info: www.pocoheritage.org.

• May 6: Historical walk, hosted by PoCo Heritage and Cultural Society and led by heritage guru Bryan Ness for an informative through downtown PoCo (the first heritage walk of the season, which marks the beginning of May Day festival); meet at 6 p.m. at Heritage at Leigh Square, 2100-2253 Leigh Sq. (access off McAllister Street). Info: www.pocoheritage.org.

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