2020 is a landmark year – a year met with resilience. Naturally, upon reading that statement, the pandemic restrictions come to mind. Yet, there is another kind of resilience that can be found in a century-old structure, a place that is now home to the Archives of North Vancouver.
Originally constructed in 1920 as the fourth Lynn Valley Elementary School building, the brick and cement structure has seen thousands of children pass through its halls. Over the decades, these hallways echoed the students’ laughter, crying, whispers and songs until the building was closed in 2004.
For the last 15 years, the Archives of North Vancouver has occupied the heritage building. In that time, the archives staff have developed an oral history program that is comprised of over 100 audio recordings of North Vancouver’s communities. Topics found in the oral history collection include growing up and working on the north shore, transportation, development, immigration, residential school, cabin culture and much much more.
Full interview transcripts are accessible to the public through the Archives of North Vancouver online database. Try searching the database using project names such as: ‘Diversifying Histories’ and ‘Voices and Views’ or more generally ‘oral histories’.
This year, to honour the heritage building’s 100th anniversary, the archives team reached out to the community to share personal memories of attending the fourth Lynn Valley School between 1920 and 2004. The response to our call was enthusiastic. The challenge was how to do the oral history interviews while following COVID-19 safety protocols.
Capturing Voices And Stories
This year like many services, the archives pivoted to online activities which included meeting participants on Zoom; only a few interviews were recorded at the archives in a large space. Often working from home, dedicated volunteers Eric Jamieson and Patricia Wejr interviewed ten former students, a secretary, a former District mayor and a municipal planner.
The oldest participant, Pat Fockler (age 96) still remembers taking the streetcar in 1929. Wejr summarizes Pat’s experience:
“As the majority of children who attended Lynn Valley Elementary School were within walking distance of the school, it was a rare occurrence that a child came daily by streetcar. Yet, that is what Pat Fockler did in 1929 at the age of five, on her own. “I wasn’t worried about the streetcar ride,” Pat said. As most of the passengers travelled south from Lynn Valley to work, it was only Pat and the driver on the streetcar travelling north… Pat was very smart in sciences and loved numbers. But what stuck in her mind all these years later was that she didn’t know her colours well when she first attended. “I coloured something the wrong colour. It was an apple or something and I coloured it orange.”
Memories are permeable and change over time, but oral histories are not so much about accurately pinpointing dates and names. Rather, they capture the voices behind the stories and connect people to each other and to the past. These recollections confirm what was once shared, substantiate real experiences and most importantly, shape North Vancouver’s collective memory.
So, the Archives invites visitors to hear more recollections of the Lynn Valley School. Memories range from classroom activities to lunch time games, botched field trips to playing hooky, and favourite teachers to lifelong mentors.
- Check out the virtual exhibit: A Landmark Transformed: 100 Years Serving the Community.
- Visit the mapping project on Historypin: Recollections of Lynn Valley School.
A warm and heartfelt thank you to the participants who kindly shared their time and personal stories of joy and resilience at the old Lynn Valley Elementary School. Their voices are now a part of the Archives of North Vancouver.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.