Pearson’s Changing Neighbourhood

George Pearson Centre opened in 1952, originally built for tuberculosis patients. Now it is home to people with a variety of disabilities. When Pearson was built in the area known as Marpole, the neighbourhood was a close-knit community.

The Old Marpole Bridge
The Old Marpole Bridge

This was before the current Oak Street Bridge was built. During planning, it was called the “New Marpole Bridge”, as it was replacing the “Old Marpole Bridge”, pictured above. In 1957, after the completion of the Oak Street Bridge that linked Marpole with Richmond, the neighbourhood changed rapidly. The now busy Oak Street split Marpole in two, and the previously thriving business districts along Hudson Street and Marine Drive quickly declined.

Pearson is situated on the boundary between Marpole and Oakridge neighbourhoods. In May 2011, the City of Vancouver directed its staff to begin planning for the redevelopment of these areas, including the Cambie Corridor. The plan over the next few decades is to increase density so 15,000 more people will be living along the Cambie corridor.

A recent news article on CBC “House values skyrocket in Vancouver’s Cambie corridor” reports that houses along Cambie have been selling for three times their assessed value — they say 10 homes on Cambie Street near 41st Avenue just sold for $3.4 million each. Pearson is located just a bit further south, between 57th and 59th Avenues.

As part of the Marpole community, the residents at Pearson are wondering what the future will hold for them in this changing neighbourhood — only time will tell.

Learning to drum at age 86

Joyce had never drummed before she came to live at George Pearson Centre. But that didn’t stop her from picking up the drum sticks at music class and learning to drum along to Jingle Bells (piano played by Laura)

Joyce started drumming when she accompanied her friend Olga, who also lived at George Pearson Centre, to music class one day. Olga was taking drumming lessons to try to strengthen her hands. Joyce says, “I gave it a try and I was hooked!” Other than a break during the summer, she plans to continue drumming.

Joyce is 86 years old. She grew up in the Marpole area, the same neighborhood she now lives in. She has seen a lot of changes to the neighbourhood. While she has never played drums before, she did play violin when she attended Magee Secondary School in Kerrisdale. Another McGee alumni who loves music is Dal Richards, Vancouver’s ‘King of Swing’. He graduated about 7 years earlier than Joyce.

In the 1950s both Joyce and her older sister contracted tuberculosis disease. TB is an infectious disease that develops in one out of 10 people who are infected with TB bacteria. TB can be spread through air-borne particles. Due to this, Canada built isolated facilities called Sanatoriums, where patients would have a regimen of rest and good nutrition. This was the best known treatment until a drug cure was found in the late 1950s. Joyce lived in the King Edward Sanatorium, known as Tranquille, (near Kamloops) for 2 years.

King Edward Sanatorium, now called Tranquille

After leaving Tranquille, Joyce worked part time while she regained her strength. Once she was strong enough she started working full time at the Canadian Fishing Company as secretary to the treasurer, and worked there for 18 years.

In addition to residing here now, Joyce has a history with George Pearson Center. When her sister contracted TB, she ended up living at the very same facility where Joyce now lives — George Pearson Centre. Pearson was built in 1952 in order to provide more beds for people with TB. Next year in 2012, Pearson will mark its 60th anniversary.

Stan Stronge Pool

Attached to Pearson is the Stan Stronge Pool. You may ask, who was Stan Stronge? He was a soccer player until he became paraplegic from a car accident at age 30. He turned to wheelchair sports and formed the first wheelchair basketball team. He later coached and managed many athletes with disabilities. In 1980 they named BCs first fully accessible pool after him. The Stan Stronge pool is a warm therapeutic pool with a wheelchair ramp and hoist which allows access to people with almost any physical disability. It is well used by people in the community as well as Pearson residents.

How does your garden grow?

Farmers on 57th Accessible Tabletop Garden Bed
Accessible Tabletop Garden Bed

We are excitedly getting ready for the gardening season here at Pearson: fixing up accessible table top garden boxes, repairing the irrigation systems, and topping up the soil with fresh black compost. At the end of March, folks at Pearson started seeds indoors to be transplanted outside once the weather warms. Baby tomatoes were on almost everyone’s list! For the people who live at George Pearson, gardening was mostly a nostalgic thing of the past…until 2 years ago. An energetic community group proposed Farmers on 57th — a community garden plus a productive farm on Pearson land — and with persistence and support from outside groups, in 2008 obtained approval and got funding in place. Pearson is unique in its vast lawns and natural setting — about 19 acres of the property is landscaped. The building actually takes up a minor section of the land! Some of the trees and bushes here have been thriving since 1952, when Pearson Hospital was originally built to care for the influx of tuberculosis patients following World War II. O, if the plants could speak, the stories they would tell! But maybe they are telling us stories, if we listen closely enough…