Cambie Grounds poem

Proclamation by Meredith Quartermain

Clean-cut concrete corners of skyward stairs, to stepped megalith of City Hall – tiny bronze Captain Vancouver stands in front of it – wig, top-coat, breeches and bird-splatters – scroll-chart in one hand, the other raised shoulder-height and pointing for days, years, maybe centuries spell-bound north by northeast to his imaginary passage. His right index finger pointing out to the east block for city officers and parking garage (just racks for two dozen bicycles in 1900). Pointing out to the avenues and condo towers, the false creeks and bluey dioramas of coastal mountains. A scene of primitive disorder said King’s Counsel recalling 1887 when three hundred and fifty signatures prayed to City fathers for a playground. Men rowed out to Brockton Point with Surveyor Hamilton. Then back to black stumps and crumpled branches at Bute (King George’s favorite prime minister) Street, clambering over sticks, boulders and felled trunks to the line on the map called Granville.

There’s a block you can have – Hamilton waved at a profusion of humps and hollows – in the distance stood a few wooden houses, Westminster Avenue and beyond that the mudflats. Workmen did the rough clearing, then cricketers went over it with picks and shovels and rakes. They made pitches of cocoanut matting. They played football and baseball. Balls stuck where they landed in the soggy ground – caught up like the men in games – their magic swings and shouts, their enchanted revolutions in knotted tapestry – possessed by stakes in forgotten history.

The ground was caught too – the Cambie Grounds (chief of the trains from Yellowhead Pass to Burrard Inlet). Grounds for Al Larwill’s cabin beside the cricket pitch, devoting his life to boys’ soccer, lacrosse and baseball, and the games of clean living and telling the truth. Forgotten Larwill Park paved over and leased by the City to the bus depot, then to movie-maker rigs, the red/ white/ blue post-office trucks, the razor wire and armoured transport of Lord Connaught’s Regimental Drill Hall imagined vectors for citizenship.

Golden Handcuffs Review #7 (Summer, Fall 2006)


Cambie Grounds

The park was once referred to as the “Cambie Street Grounds”, a park and parade ground where soldiers from the adjacent Beatty Street Drill Hall paraded on the grounds on Dominion Day. It pre-dated the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and it was an important spot between Gastown and Granville.

In 1942, as the park was once again being used as an assembly area for the military, Vancouver Sun reporter Larry Wood walked two blocks up  from the Sun Tower (once the tallest building in the Dominion) to describe the “Commons of the Pioneers” this way:

“A plain, oblong of flat, grey earth, utilitarian but unpicturesque, unadorned by monument, unrelieved by verdure, never named, never ceremoniously opened; yet it has cost the city less and served it better than any of the other 98 parks Vancouver now possesses.” [Lee, Jeff. “How Vancouver’s historic Larwill Park became a victim of abuse,” Vancouver Sun, July 30, 2010]