History of the VSB Workshop, written by Pat Ellis (1978)

THE            WORKSHOP          STORY

The old Workshop – looking into its history – its people – its growing pains – that are what this story is all about.

Many people throughout the years have spent a large part of their lives working in and out of the big, not too handsome, grey building. As you look back over the years, whether you are still here or retired earlier, there are fond nostalgic memories of the people we came into contact with the many working days of our lives. Over the years, many major changes have been made to the Shop and Office areas and right now it seems to be bursting its seams again – especially in the Stores Areas.

I should at this point, go back to the early days of the Workshop and its various stages of growing.

Prior to our present location, the Workshop was at the Dawson #2 or Aberdeen site as it was commonly referred to, and was located on Burrard Street near the Y.M.C.A. It was used for some years by City College and was finally torn down to make way for street diversion needed for traffic flow.

In 1929 the Workshop was moved to its present site at 1549 Clark Drive.

It was constructed of old buildings and used material from the system that were moved in to form a building set up like an “H” pattern, with an open area in the north centre which mainly housed lumber and building materials. Parts of these old buildings are still left buried in the newer construction and can still be seen.

In the early days, Boy Kyle, the Building Superintendent, had an office at the Shop where the marks still show where it was located. Around this time in came Bill Jones as Storekeeper followed by Ernie Williams as Clerk. In those days we had one truck driven by Hughie Montgomery. Today our dispatcher operates up to 22 trucks to service hundreds of tradesmen. Also our trucking system handles school supplies, custodial supplies, special moves and many types of items on a loan basis such as stage equipment, choir risers, tables, chairs, etc.

Many of our staff will remember Walter Kellaway, Jack Imri, Tom Alexander, Frank Platt, and a much younger Art Frewin. These men were all carpenters here in the thirties, forties and later. Then we had the fellows in charge of a particular section, like Fred Cocker in Sheet Metal, Leo Stroyan in Electrical, Alex McFarland in Painting, Jack Manson in Plumbing, and Jack McKinnon Senior as Outside Foreman, to name a few. Some of these chaps are still around today, and as Freddy Prinze says “Looking Good”. Bill Horn will be remembered as the chap that ran the Desk Shop at the Workshop. In the early forties it was moved to the Technical Outbuildings to be called “Slocan Shops”. Al Sobie took over the operation until it moved back to the Workshop. Special mention should be made of carpenter Ray Cheek who has left a fine display of old woodworking tools on show in the Cabinet Shop. One thing most helpful -Ray is noted for his rocking chair which is made with the rungs installed the wrong way for holding an even keel when on the rolling deck of a ship.

A few years prior to the Desk Shop coming back, we had a new maintenance superintendent enter the scene in 1949. He took one look at the Workshop layout and said “This has got to change”. Alterations were made then and also 1953 brought more changes. A full garage went in, a new furniture stores section and office changes.

For many years the School Board had operated a Nursery at the Maple Grove with Joe Eaves acting as Nurseryman. Conditions soon warranted a change so in 1954 it was moved to 44th and Wales Road and called the Workshop addition. Eventually in 1955 Archie McGregor came to be head of this section and things really began to shape up.

A complete stock of grounds lumber and building materials was added and in 1957 Jack Pickerell was moved in to look after control of the stock. A big change came in 1970 when the new Waverley Annex took over the back half which resulted in moving much of our nursery stock of shrubs to the front grassed area.

Small alterations were done through the years until finally in 1964 and 1965 big changes were made. A complete half block of building materials and lumber yard went in – Furniture Stores moved down to the old inside lumber area, more office changes and trades shop areas were renovated and moved to more practical locations.

Over 70 years have gone by since the first Workshop was born and bit

by bit grew into the giant we have today and even now with no major changes since 1965 improvement is needed in certain areas.

Again may I say the big building and its many people will always remain in our memories especially to those of us who have left.



JACK JONES                                                 RETIRED? MAINTENANCE SUPERINTENDENT

       A special thank you for a complete research for much additional information to my original story.


Helpful photographic work from his library. Photos by Marjean (Borjesson)   Gibson from 1954 onward.

HOWARD HINES                                     – HELPFUL INFORMATION

ERNIE WILLIAMS                                    – HELPFUL INFORMATION

JACK McKINNON                                    – HELPFUL INFORMATION

ART FREWIN                                            – HELPFUL INFORMATION



Date: 1952     Pictured: Stu Small, Jack Jones, Tommy Barbour, Harry Johnston, Don Tibbet


Date: 1952     Pictured: Jack Jones, Jack Henderson, Art Jillings, Herb Litnu, Bob Forsyth, George Watt.


Date: 1953


Date: 1953


Date: 1954


Date: 1954


Date: 1963


Date: 1963     Pictured: Hugh Macdonald


Date: 1963       Pictured: Vic Edmonds


Date: 1965     Collection of vintage student desks


Date: 1966     Collection of vintage desks (wooden runners removed)


Date: 19067     (Pictured: Earl Nivard, Bill Griffiths.)    Decorative features for façade of new Vancouver Community College building


Date: 1967     Bill Griffiths and Earl Nivard install decorative features on wall of new Vancouver Community College building.


Date: 1979     Storage room for assorted audio-visual equipment.


Examples of 4 school furniture items manufactured by the VSB Workshops (1950) :