A few weeks ago I was digging through the City of Vancouver’s virtual archives when I happened upon this interesting shot… It is a photo taken on July 1, 1925, of the The Vancouver Saxophone Band. You can see them riding on a float for the Dominion Day Parade.
Photograph attributed to William Ward
(Here is a link to the full-size version of the photo.)
According to the City of Vancouver:
Photograph was taken from the apartment of Mrs. Wilson on the north side of the 100 Block of East Hastings Street and shows part of the White Lunch, Baxter and Sons Furniture, the entrance to the Howard Hotel, The Modern Company and other businesses on the south side
Because I love old urban photographs—and like to compare them to what places look like now—I did some digging, and thanks to Google Maps was able to make out one of the buildings. It turns out that this photo is actually looking towards the intersection of Hastings & Columbia.
Now, if you’re familiar with Vancouver at all, you likely have realized that this area is now called the Downtown Eastside (DTES). It is now the worst part of town, and you will not find a parade of any sort winding through its streets.
The DTES is home to North America’s first supervised safe injection site: Insite (which also happens to be in 100 block of East Hastings, and literally right next door to where this photo was taken in 1925). But I digress…
This is what this street looks like now from roughly the same spot. The apartment building that Mrs. Wilson lived in appears to have been torn down however, and now there is just a hole in the ground.
Source: Google Maps
Enough of the DTES, what about Vancouver Saxophone Band?
Sadly, the Vancouver Saxophone Band was harder to find information about, than this city’s constantly changing urban landscape. All the Googling I did turned up nothing about this band. I have no information about them at all. When did they form? How long did they exist for? How many members did they have? What kind of events did they participate in?
(Here is the link to the full-size version of the photo again.)
If I had to guess, I would say that the Vancouver Saxophone Band was a product of the sax-happy 20s, and sprang out of the public’s love of the instrument that so many others hated.
Other than the one curved soprano that’s clearly visible, I would hazard a guess that a number of the saxes we see are C melodies. Do you see any baris? How about a straight soprano? A bass? Of course we can’t see the horns on the other side of the float, so we’ll likely never know what types of saxes those players were playing.
That said, check out the clown hats, and check out the clowns walking in front of the float. Do they look familiar to you? It seems they took a page from Canada’s own Brown Brothers, who were at the height of their popularity during this point in time…
It’s a shame that I didn’t stumble across this photo a couple of years ago, I would have contacted Dal Richards and asked him. I suspect he would have known something about them. Hell, he might have even played with them.