Photo History · Scanning family photos

One more postcard – Bob Hope’s house then and now

Have you ever said to yourself, I want a house that resembles a volcano? Bob Hope did.

Fast stats:

  • Original owners: Bob and Dolores Hope
  • Architect: John Lautner
  • Architectural vision: a modernist volcano
  • Constructed: 1973-1980 (burned down once during construction)
  • Size: 23,366 square feet
  • Feb, 2013 asking price: USD$50 M
  • Dec, 2014 asking price: USD$25 M
  • Nov, 2016 selling price: USD $13 M

What I love about this card is how the mountains look as though they’ve been trimmed with children’s scissors.

How does it look now?

It’s still an architectural wonder. The red roof has been replaced with a more subdued slate grey so now it’s more space ship than volcano.
Unmodified photo by @BackstageGabe. Avaliable via Creative Commons licence 2.0 at Flickr
Photo History · Scanning family photos

Cheesy 1980s Motel Postcards

I ran across this great cache of motel postcards from the 80s and have to share them with you.

1984 – The Downtown Howard Johnson’s, New Orleans

The perfect place for planning your next witness protection placement, complete with FBI standard-issue raincoat.

Like a cheese grater, featuring 10 floors of hotel above 5 floors of parking.

1984 – Aztec Inn, Tucson, AZ

Comes complete with Ken and Barbie.

1984 – Palm Springs TraveLodge

We put the emphasis on “palm”, not so much on “lodge.”

1984 – Shamrock Motel, Spokane WA

Artist’s rendition. We’ll have the motel built by the time you get here.

Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas

There’s a mirage in the photo. Ha ha.

1985 – Westin La Paloma, Tucson, AZ

Where’s Waldo, Westin-style.

1984 – Ashland Hills Inn, OR

Don’t mind the trees. They got in the way of the shot of the parking lot.

Summit Inn, Washington

Internationally famous ski resort, like Chamonix and Banff.


Canadian Stories · Chinese Culture · Photo History

The history of my grandparents’ house

This is the story of a house in Vancouver. It was my grandparents’ house, but it could be any house you grew up in.

The present

Stepping over the construction tape, I called into the open doorway Hello? Is anybody there? 

A man emerged from the back, covered in a nameless fog of wood chips, drywall plaster, and general grime. Hi, he said. Can I help you? 

This was my grandparents house, I said. I wanted to say hello and convey my appreciation for what you’re doing with it. 

His face brightened. We talked for ages. He asked me to drop by anytime, and bring my family if possible. He and his wife wanted very much to connect with the history of the house. They were artists: he was a metalworker and his wife a sculptor. They’d long searched for a site where they could live and make art. They needed a house in a light industrial area, and they had all but given up.

Then they found the perfect spot. It was going to cost a ton, but they had a vision. They moved the house to the furthest front corner of the lot, then extended it and built a huge deck off the back.

They were planning to drink wine and enjoy the million dollar view of Vancouver at their feet.

I knew that view well. I grew up with it.

The beginning

According to one family story, the house was a wedding gift from my great-grandparents in the 1930s. In a contrary tale, the house was purchased after years of hard labour by my grandparents. However it happened, my grandparents had moved from the rooms above the family store to their own home by the 1940s.
The house and the tall apple tree. 1943.

The neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant was where Chinese families could live, adjacent to Chinatown and the CPR railyards (now False Creek). (For more on where Chinese – and other – families could not live, see my story on the BC Land Titles Act here.)

The house was a small 2 storey on a huge, deep, double-wide lot. Over the years, my grandparents dug and expanded two enormous gardens where they grew spinach, garlic, onions, green onions, radishes, turnips, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, peas, and bok choy. In lean times, those gardens kept the family fed. In better times, nobody went home without a bag of produce.

My mother and her brothers attended the elementary school up the block, and celebrated birthday parties on the front lawn. My grandmother grew flowers along the front walk.

My grandfather left for work promptly each morning at 7:45 a.m. – the family warehouse just a 4 minute drive away.

The middle

My sister and I visited our grandparents often, spending many weekends with them. We tried to climb the apple tree in the front yard, burnt our fingers on the wood-burning gas stove, and skinned our knees skating on ancient steel roller skates in the back alley.

There were a lot of house parties. My uncles at UBC brought their friends home for dinner; there were mah jong parties, birthdays, Christmases, and Chinese New Years.

The young ones played in the living room while the old ones gossiped in Chinese in the kitchen.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The decline

The neighborhood had changed in the intervening years. Vancouver’s city planners, deaf to the protests of the Chinese community, had decided the large lots were too valuable to be residential. The area was rezoned as mixed/light industrial. This meant that as families moved out, selling their homes for the value of bare lots, the houses were demolished. Soon, only two houses remained on our block, sandwiched in-between cement warehouses. The poor, the desperate, and the addicted made their homes in the doorways. My grandparents put extra locks on the front door and a bar across the basement door.

But the view remained. From my second floor window, I could see all of Vancouver.

My grandparents put the house up for sale, but who would want it? It broke my grandmother’s heart to leave her gardens. My grandfather feared the house would be demolished.

The end

When the house finally sold, none of us could bear to visit. We feared it would become another warehouse in the warehouse district, and stayed away.

Until the day E. and I were walking up the street, and saw the construction site. The house frame had been preserved, and although many changes had been made, it was still recognizable as our granparents’ much-loved home.

I stepped over the construction tape.

Copyright 2018. Past Presence. All rights reserved.

I took a bit of liberty with the “present” dateline. The house was reconstructed in the late 80s. I am fascinated by it, and would love a peek inside.

It’s still there, and if you know where it is, you can Google it to see the gorgeous deck.

Maybe the next time I visit Vancouver, I’ll ring the bell on the gate.