Strathcona School class portrait

Strathcona School class portrait

Watching them all go to school in the morning, I wanted to be taught my lessons by a real teacher like Miss MacKinney….I liked the way that she broke into a smile and her blue eyes lit with laughter when she discovered I could read English words (though I could not pronounce the words exactly right). To her I wasn't any different from the Japanese, Ukrainian, Russian, Jewish and Italian boys and girls in her class.

“Nivver mind, Sek-Lung,” Miss MacKinney said. “Ah've an accent as weel.”

from The Jade Peony, p. 176, by Wayson Choy

 

One of the oldest residential neighbourhoods in Vancouver, Stratchona is often regarded as a centrepiece of the Chinese in Vancouver , for much of its Chinese had lived in the neighbourhood.

Strathcona has been working class district since its inception in the late nineteenth century. With the completion of the CPR in Vancouver , the wealthy elite (mostly English, Scottish, and Irish) moved to new developments of the West End and Shaughnessy. While the East Vancouver comprised mainly newer immigrants, the major cultural groups at Strathcona were the Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and Jewish.

Because of the diverse ethnic composition of its student populace, Strathcona Elementary had at one time had the nickname "The League of Nations.” Not surprisingly, throughout the years, as teachers faced the exceptional challenges of teaching the non-English speaking children and youth, the school provided unifying space for students, while at the same time erupting in racial and ethnic tensions. As the city became much more racially and ethnically segregated during the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act while the wealthier Anglo population moved away from the East End.

In the 1950s, City planners planned to redevelop Strathcona. Not only would the project feature block upon block of identical apartments buildings and townhouses, an inner city freeway was also planned to span across Strathcona and into Chinatown, which would effectively have demolished the historical neighbourhood and relocate its citizens to the suburbs. A grassroots community organization called Strathcona Property Owner and Tenants Association (SPOTA), however, came to the rescue and fought City Hall.
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