Irene Fitzgerald (b. 1927 and married to Jack) remembers her youth as a time of hard work and frugality.
I was born in the West End at the Bute Street Hospital; I graduated from Britannia in 1945. I was involved in sports and I was also on the annual staff committee. I even got a sports medal in 1944 for overall athletic performance. During the War, I was an Air Force cadet, due to the fact that I excelled in sports at school.
After graduation, I went to the Duffus School of Business studying secretarial and bookkeeping—but I made a very poor secretary, because I hated shorthand.
Money was very different. In 1952, I was working in a real estate office making $23 a week, considering I worked a half-day on Saturdays too. My dad worked for Vancouver Motors as a mechanic; when he finished working on a car, he had to wait on the bench and wouldn’t get paid until another car came in for fixing. He and a friend started a union at Vancouver Motors so they could get paid by the hour, but then the company got rid of them. When the war came a long, he ended up working at the Burrard shipyards in North Van.
When I got married, we spent very little on our wedding. My mom gave me a choice: we could have a wedding, or we could have a fridge. We picked the fridge. Our house down payment was maybe $500 between the two of us.
After work, I would meet my husband at the Woodward’s grocery department, and we grocery shopped together. The food floor at Woodward’s was the place to go in those days; I still recall their peanut butter machine.
I remember we used to walk down on Victoria Drive from Charles Street to the waterfront to let the dogs swim in the inlet. Oh, and I remember that, as children, we used to play in the ditches there; there was this game where we dug a hollow with two sticks and you had to use one stick to make the other jump.
The Bute Street Hospital was made famous by the fact that Pauline Johnson died (of cancer) there in 1913. The hospital was torn down in 1980 after a fire.