On The Shady Side: Vancouver 1886-1914


121 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-920663-04-4





Reviewed by Gene Olson

Gene Olson was Reference Librarian at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton.


The Cataloguing in Publication data for On The Shady Side aptly describes its contents under three subject headings; Vancouver (B.C.) — Biography; Vancouver (B.C.) — History; and Crime and criminals — British Columbia — Vancouver, all followed by the description “anecdotes, facetiae, satire, etc.” Betty Keller’s light-hearted and humorous review of Vancouver’s early social history is manufactured from the court news and municipal government write-ups in the local newspapers from the founding of the city up to the beginning of W.W.I. She groups anecdotes of shady characters into chapters on drinking, whoring, political reform and corruption, police reform and corruption, and gambling. Each chapter reviews the history of the various shady goings-on of institutions of ill-repute (saloons, houses, or entire streets); city hall; gambling dens; jails and courtrooms; and the careers of early Vancouverites — whether they were private entrepreneurs and their patrons, or governmental and judicial office-holders and their supporters.

This is an amusing book to read for its fun-filled style and its appropriate photographs and cartoons. The stylized map at the beginning, however, could have been improved to help pinpoint the locations referred to in the text. The testimonial on the back cover sums up the motivation of the author and the aims of the book “It’s time to open the closets and let out all our ancestors: those devoted gamblers and demoted policemen, legendary rogues and ladies of the evening who are ignored in other histories of the city.”



Keller, Betty, “On The Shady Side: Vancouver 1886-1914,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed October 3, 2023, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34946.