Beatrice Dinsmore Remembers Tough Times

Bea Dinsmore (b. 1916), former print shop owner and 48 years a widow, talks about the tough times of the 1940s and her life in Grandview.

Beatrice Dinsmore in 2014, age 98

I was born in Nanaimo in 1916; my mother was born there, and so was her mother before her. However, my father worked in the coal mines, and he wanted out, so when I was 10, my mother, father, brother and I moved to Vancouver. When we moved, we were looking for a place by English Bay, but we couldn’t find anything. A family we knew from the Crowsnest Pass (where my father had also mined) gave us a place to live for a week until we found a room in the West End.


There were big mansions in the West End where the rich lived. But when Kerrisdale and Kitsilano came into view, the rich people left the West End to go there and some enterprising person bought their homes and made them into boarding houses. Every room had a gas plate, and we had to go upstairs to the washroom. Everybody in the house shared everything.


I was 12 years old when we moved to Grandview, and I went to Templeton Junior High for a while.

Templeton Secondary School in 1927
Image credit: M. James Skitt Matthews, public domain

When I was 14, my brother was born, but then we were living at 645 Burrard St, all in one room. That gives you an idea of how tough things were back then. We were all shocked by my brother’s arrival, because my mother thought she was going through the change when Billy was born. Billy died in a car accident at age 32.. My husband and I didn’t have children, so when Billy died, we took his wife and three children under our wing, and they’re our family now. My nephew is my sole heir, and he’s looking after me.


My mom and dad lived at Charles and Commercial for 32 years, at the Dunedin Apartments–1708 Charles St. My dad was living there when he passed away. If you go by the doorway of that building today, you’ll see “Dunedin”.


We were living on the 1100th block of Howe Street when I met my husband. He worked at Hoy’s Dairy down the street, where he made the ice cream. They had a soda fountain and lunch counter, and that’s where I worked making sandwiches. We started going together but, eventually, he decided he wanted to go to another dairy, and I didn’t want to work there if he wasn’t there, so I got a job in a 5-10-15 cent store that was by the Hudson’s Bay and Saba’s ready-to-wear ladies’ store. I think this was while the war was on, because nylons had just been invented and they sold them there.

A reflection of economic tough times: 5-10 and 15 cent store on Main St
Image credit: Stuart Thompson, public domain

I don’t remember what I was paid, but another times when things were tough, I  cleaned houses for 25 cents per hour plus carfare.


After I got married, my husband joined the Masonic Lodge, so that meant I could join the Eastern Star. Then, when he moved up to become a Shriner, I joined the Daughters of the Nile. I have my 50-year pin for both of them. They were my life, especially after my husband passed away: these fraternal organizations kept me going.


I never worked after my husband died. He died in 1966 at Empire Stadium. We were there for a Shriners’ sunrise Easter service, and that’s where he had his third and final heart attack. I think it was April 10 that year, on Easter Sunday. He and I were born in the same year, so he was one month shy of 50.


My husband was born on Napier Street, right across from the park they just remodeled.  I lived at 1422 William Street at one time. Jimmy McLarnin, a very famous boxer lived at Clark Dr. and William St. in a big, green house. They were Catholic people, and there were 11 or 12 kids in the McLarnin family. He ended up marrying a school teacher from that area.


I bowled at the Grandview Bowling Lanes, where I met most of my Grandview friends in later years. I also bowled at the Commodore and the Fraser Bowling Alley. Irene and Jack are a couple who lived in Grandview for a long time. They keep me in touch with everything.


After the last three or four months, I haven’t done any bowling or visiting Grandview since I’ve been too busy selling my house and furniture. I lived there for 65 years. It’s a teardown, but my neighbours got me a picture of it painted and framed so I can see it every day. Oh, I had good neighbours over there! That’s why I stayed there for so long: I’ve always had good neighbours who looked out for me.


My husband was in the dairy business one way or another. When he wanted to get out of the dairy business, we started a print shop at 17th and Cambie, right beside the dairy. After my husband died, the people who bought the shop didn’t give me a down payment. Instead, I asked them to pay me so much a month. That kept me going until I was 65, and I made enough from the print shop to keep paying taxes on my house.


I lived at 19th and Cambie for 65 years until I moved to the Shannon Oaks Retirement Home. After a series of strokes, my mother moved in with me (this was after my husband died), and, when she died, I was really on my own. But I figured I did all the right things.

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