The Hackings’ South Vancouver Childhood

Jack, Doris and Katie Hacking in South Vancouver about 1914. Credit: Ruth Crookall

When she was one year old, Katie Hacking (my grandmother) moved to South Vancouver. Katie and her brother Jack and sisters Doris and Cassie spent the 1910s and the 1920s attending South Vancouver schools and participating in the South Vancouver community. Doris Hacking’s daughter has shared her mum’s memories and family photos — neat little snapshots taken with a Brownie camera at the house on West 21st Avenue. Piecing together memories, photos, directories, maps and other contemporary materials, I set out to explore the Hacking kids’ early years and school days in South Vancouver.

John and Tillie Hacking met in Winnipeg and married in Vancouver in summer 1907. They first lived in the “East End” of Vancouver (Strathcona), where Jack was born in May 1908 and Katie was born in August 1909. John Hacking was a motorman for the B.C. Electric Railway Company [“B.C. Electric”]. Here’s John (at right) on the Stanley Park car.

Katie’s Dad John Hacking (right) was a B.C. Electric Railway Company motorman in Vancouver. He’s holding the motor gear shaft to turn the car’s direction. Credit: Ruth Crookall

In summer 1910, the Hackings moved to a newly built house on West 21st Avenue between Ontario and Quebec Street in South Vancouver (then a separate municipality from the City of Vancouver). Here’s detail from the 1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map. The red dot shows the Hacking house.

Detail from the 1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map. John Hacking’s house marked in red. Credit: City of Vancouver Legacy VanMap

The 1911 Canada Census and the 1918 Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory show that, like John Hacking, many of the residents on this block of 21st Avenue worked for B.C. Electric: motormen Alex Macauley, Fred McColm and Richard Widdows and conductors Joseph Follis and Gordon Milne. These guys probably all lived in the neighbourhood because the tram car sheds were just down the street at Main Street and 13th Avenue (the site of modern day Save-on-Foods). This Detail from the 1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map shows the B.C. Electric car barns at Thirteenth Avenue East. Note the tram car lines running along Main Street and up around Sixteenth Avenue. Also note that Sixteenth Avenue forms the boundary between the City of Vancouver and the Municipality of South Vancouver.

Credit: City of Vancouver LegacyVanMap

The Hackings lived close to the Hillcrest business area on Main Street. This detail from the 1911 Henderson’s City of Vancouver Directory shows the range of businesses and private residences on Main Street, starting with the B.C. Electric car barns up to the corner of Main and 25th Avenue (now King Edward), which was (and still is) the main shopping area.

Henderson’s 1911 City of Vancouver Directory shows the development along Main Street as the Hackings would have experienced it when they moved to the neighbourhood. Credit: BC City Directories, Vancouver Public Library

Main Street has retained its “mixed use” of different types of businesses and small apartments above the stores. The Walden Building (called Weldon Block in the 1911 directory) is still standing at Main and King Edward.

The Walden Building of 1910 still standing on Main Street in December 2020

The Hacking’s house was a small cottage that grew in size. In June 1914, John Hacking applied for a building permit to add rooms of $150 value and in September 1914, applied for another building permit to add a room of $60 value. (Source: Heritage Vancouver Building Permits Database) Doris Hacking recalled that the bathroom was outside on the back porch. The family had their weekly baths on Saturday evening in a large kettle brought into the kitchen.

Katie, Jack and Doris Hacking circa summer 1912. Credit: Ruth Crookall

Doris Hacking was born at the new house in December 1910. Doris was a very sickly baby. She had pneumonia three times in her first year — and weighed less at ten months than she did at birth. She credited Horlick’s Malted Milk for her survival.

Contemporary advertisement for Horlick’s Malted Milk

“It was a happy childhood in a noisy and rambunctious household. The three were close in age so had a lot of fun together,” says Doris’ daughter, Ruth. “They tossed dishes back and forth while drying them, played crack the whip in the basement and had lots of practical jokes, especially by Jack. They generally made their own fun.”

The area west of Ontario Street was undeveloped (see the 1912 fire insurance map above) and the kids played in a nearby lot dubbed “Africa”! The name was probably inspired by stories their Dad told them about fighting in the Boer War (Lance Corporal John Hacking of the Coldstream Guards was wounded at Magersfontein South Africa on December 11 1899).

Jack, Katie and Doris Hacking circa 1915. Credit: Ruth Crookall

Doris shared two accounts of an operation and a motor car. In one account, Doris had her tonsils removed on the dining room table and got a ride around the block in the doctor’s car. In the second account, she had an exciting ride in neighbour Mrs. Widdows’ Model-T as a treat after having her front teeth pulled out on the front lawn! Whatever the exact details, the important point was — it was the first time she’d ever been in a motor car!

In summers, the Hackings took the streetcars down to English Bay, where they learned to swim. Ruth Crookall writes: “Were good friends with the Owens. Mum, Katie, Jack, Adelaide, Doris Owen all learned to swim at English Bay by sitting on Grandpa’s and Mr. Owen’s backs as they swam from First Beach to Kitsilano! (no life jackets in those days).”

In May 1916, Clarice Myrtle Hacking arrived — dubbed “The Baby”. Once “Cassie” grew up, she would be equally active and fun-loving as her brother and sisters.

The Hackings at 21st Ave W. South Vancouver, summer 1917. John, Doris, Katie, Cassie, Tillie and John. Credit: family collection

Page 2 – School Days