As anyone who lives here knows, Lower Lonsdale and by extension North Vancouver was built around the waterfront shipyards. During World War II the shipyards employed up to 14,000 workers building vessels for the war. Many workers commuted from Vancouver via ferry and the rest of them lived on the North Shore in housing specifically built for the purpose. What was day-to-day life like for these residents of Lower Lonsdale over seventy years ago? Thankfully, a story in the Vancouver Sun dated December 3, 1942 details this very experience.
The article is about a married couple that worked at the shipyards, both as tinsmiths, but unfortunately on opposite shifts. Margaret and Will McIntosh and their 3 ½ year-old son ‘Skippy’ lived at 520 East 5th Street. They paid $20/month rent to the Wartime Housing Ltd. and the house appears to be still standing on the same spot. Will was a tinsmith, Margaret a tinsmith’s helper. “I believe everyone should be doing something to help,” said Margaret. Her day unfolded as illustrated in the article:
“She is up and has breakfast ready at 7:30. That’s the one meal in the day they all have together. After breakfast Will and Skippy go back to bed for a couple of hours’ more sleep. Margaret goes to the yards. Her shift starts at 8:15am, finishes at 4:45pm. “
Will McIntosh and Skippy eventually arise and he tends to some household chores. As a progressive man of the 1940s, Will explained in the article, “I don’t mind it, even washing dishes. The only thing I don’t like doing is ironing shirts”. He prepares his dinner around 3:30pm before leaving for the yards, dropping Skippy at a neighbours’ for an hour.
Meanwhile, after her shift Margaret has filled any shopping needs at a chain store near the shipyards before heading home on the streetcar that ran along 4th Street. Once home, she makes dinner for herself and Skippy then bathes the baby and puts him to bed. As for any leisure time the couple may have, the article explains;
“Margaret has Wednesdays off, Will has Saturdays. The only evening they have together is Saturday. ‘We’ve gone to one dance since the wife started working, but generally we like to spend our Saturday evenings at home’ Will says.”
Such was the life of an average family in Lower Lonsdale over seventy years ago. With the amount of original buildings and the re-birth of the shipyards, I’d like to think that the McIntosh’s would recognize much of Lower Lonsdale, as it was those many years ago.