Vancouver Was Awesome: Bob Bouchette and the Birds’ Paradise, 1934


A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.

Bob Bouchette was the Vancouver Sun’s most popular journalist in the 1930s. His colleague at the paper, Pierre Berton, described Bouchette as an iconoclast for things like interviewing the loser of a boxing match while other reporters scrambled to get a sound bite from the winner. A bartender at Bouchette’s watering hole, now called Funky Winkerbean’s, remembers being told not to wake Bouchette if he saw him snoozing at the bar because “he was writing a column.” The bartender remembers one story of Bouchette swimming across Burrard Inlet to his West Van home with a bottle of rum tied around his neck.

In 1934 Bouchette went undercover in the relief camps for the unemployed. The result was a six-part series of articles that gave his readers a glimpse into the abysmal conditions in the camps and thus helped raise public sympathy for the plight of the unemployed.

The Birds’ Paradise was an aviary at the home of Charles E Jones at 5207 Hoy Street. Thousands of birds from 35 wild and domestic species lived in the sanctuary and gladly posed with visitors, children, dogs, and even politicians. Jones became Vancouver’s mayor after Gerry McGeer passed away in 1947 midway through his term in office. Jones won the mayoral election in 1948, but died himself later that year.

Source: City of Vancouver Archives #371-1268