Glimpses – World War II West Vancouver
Through the eyes of the papers and the paperboy
In 1942, eleven year old Tom Taylor got his first job, delivering the West Van. News. The weekly newspaper, precursor of the Lions Gate Times and the North Shore News, would inspire his book, Glimpses, subtitled “World War II West Vancouver through the eyes of the papers and the paperboy”.
Tom and Margaret Taylor, life members of West Vancouver Historical Society, have donated their inventory of Glimpses to the Society. WVHS is grateful for this kind gift. Proceeds from sales of this chronicle of West Vancouver during the war years will help support the society’s work in celebrating and preserving the history of our community, as well as an annual scholarship at West Vancouver Secondary school established by the Taylors.
West Vancouver Historical Society appreciates this generous gift from Tom and Margaret Taylor, and their contributions to West Vancouver over the years.
Here is a glimpse of their story.
In 1933, Betty Taylor came home to West Vancouver from San Francisco, a widow with two sons, Tom and his brother Chris. Her parents, Helen Cain Matheson and Magistrate Mackenzie Matheson, had resided in Caulfeild since 1914. The Matheson’s second family home was built in 1940 and is now the rectory of the Church of St. Francis-in-the-Wood.
Betty found work in an office, an apartment in Vancouver and a good friend in Helen Colpitts, who helped care for the boys. Three years later, Betty married “Pep” Pepper, a driver for Pacific Stage Lines and later, a municipal councillor. The family lived first at 1373 24th Street, which is still standing and later at 1479 Ottawa Avenue.
Betty was a founder of the Red Cross Treasure House, which raised funds for the war effort. A veteran of the Great War, Pep shared his interest in both conflicts and in community life with young Tom.
For the boy and his friends, attending school, playing in the West Vancouver Band, and delivering papers, the war was remote.
“We grew up in innocence – too young to fight, as were most of our parents too old – perhaps the luckiest generation ever,” Taylor wrote in the prologue to Glimpses. In truth, World War I still cast its shadow and World War II touched everyone, young and old, in the close-knit community.
The Vancouver papers published the war news. The News covered the consequences of war with notes about military personnel home on leave, civil defense work and reports of casualties interspersed with community activities.
Taylor graduated from West Vancouver High School in 1949 and married Margaret MacLane in 1955 at St. Francis-in-the-Wood. His career in teaching began at Inglewood in 1956, continuing at Sentinel, Hillside and West Vancouver Secondary schools until he retired in 1988.
The retired teacher became a student of local history, beginning his research for Glimpses, which he calls a scrapbook, with ‘scraps’ gleaned from the Vancouver Daily Province and from the West Van. News archives.
“Inserted at intervals in the text are some of the major events of the war,” he writes. “These, like the announcements of casualties, are threaded unbuffered into the peaceful flow of community events of the day.”
Here is one entry, dated August 8,1940:
“Mrs. Finlay, of Garrow Bay, who is 82 years old, has knitted over fifty pairs of socks for the Red Cross, nine pairs for Soldiers’ Comforts, and five pairs for the Canadian Legion, all since last January. Had she not been sick for some time this year, she would have knitted more, but as it is, she has made a wonderful record.” (West Van. News)
The next entry, August 10, 1940, records the beginning of the Battle of Britain.
Glimpses tells the story of West Vancouver during the long years that World War II marched on, far removed from the daily round of school and band practise and paper routes, but never far from the hearts and minds of the people.
Commentary from “the paperboy” aka Tom Taylor broadens the scope of Glimpses to create an enduring portrait of a small community whose war, though far from the field of battle, is no less real. From the perspective of sixty years on, he weaves his own family history and local history into the war updates and community news: the shortages and the sacrifices; the removal of the Japanese from their homes; the young men and women who would never come home.
He writes, “There would be no refuge either in fantasy or place for those who had to face the storm. This account is in large measure a tribute to them.”
An article on Tom Taylor and his journey from paperboy to author of Glimpses appeared in the North Shore News, October 20, 2013, written by Laura Anderson.
Signed copies of Glimpses are available to WVHS members at a preferred price of $20.00. ($30.00 to non-members). For your copy, get in touch with WVHS by phone at 778.279.2235 or Email.