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Vancouver, New Star Books, c1985. 211pp, paper, ISBN 0-919573-48-7 (cloth) $29.95, 0-919573494 (paper) $15.95. CIP

Reviewed by Gerri Young

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

This work, something like an encyclopedia of the Vancouver working class, from the hiring hall to teachers and nurses, is an intereting centennial project. Focussing on working people and not "buildings and businessmen," Working Lives is a comprehensive report on those who built the city. Workers are seldom written of in any depth in regular texts. Working Lives has contributions from more than fifty writers, participants, and observers, who tell about their social and family life, their customs, and their efforts to improve their lives. There are one hundred photographs, four longer essays, and seventy-five shorter articles.

The development pattern is similar in all the trades, beginning with an early personal pride in the knowledge and accomplishment of a trade well done. Then production increased, as did the hardships suffered by the workers as a result of the dangerous work conditions created by the rush to develop and sell. The introduction of unions was necessary to try to improve the situation. Then came the loss of jobs due to mechanization and automation. Working conditions have improved, but now, there are not enough jobs.

Working Lives states that the determination of Vancouver's working people is not to be underestimated. Their activities and movements can fairly be said to have made Vancouver "a good labour town." However, the principles of organized labour are still being fought for, one hundred years after Vancouver's beginning.

In light of the recent railroad accidents, it was interesting to read the chapter "On the Rails." "In the last four years they've (CN) been running with reduced (train) crews. The hand-held radios were supposed to allow for the reduction of crews, but the radios often don't work well, especially in the wet. . .."

There is one unexplained photograph on page 54 of the "Construction of a flying boat at the Boeing Aircraft Company, 1930's." It is included as part of the chapter about the American Can Company. There is no mention anywhere in the text of the Boeing Aircraft Company. Is or was there one in Vancouver? This slight quibble aside, Working Lives should be in all libraries. It is a good research tool.

Gerri Young, Fort Nelson, B.C.
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