We’ve seen the Burrard Building that’s on this corner in an earlier post, both as it is today, and how it was first clad. Here’s what was on the site before the Burrard Building was erected in the late 1950s; a single storey retail building with fins that match those on the passing car. It was 1955 when Walter E. Frost took the picture, not long before the building was replaced, and that’s Oscar’s steakhouse, with an ‘Oscar’ hanging off the corner. Owner Oscar Blanck had died the previous year in a plane crash, but the business, and his name had lived on, although soon after this the restaurant was located across the street at 1023 Burrard, run by his widow. Oscar’s name was sometimes listed at Blank, and at others (more accurately) as Blanck. His death was noted in an Arizona newspaper: “Oscar Blanck, who came here from Winnipeg and built a hamburger stand into one of Vancouver’s largest restaurants , was aboard the ill-fated Trans-Canada Air Lines flight 9, which crashed today over Moose Jaw, Sask. Blanck was proprietor of “Oscar’s,” a gathering place for show people in the heart of the entertainment district“.
Ronald Stewart recalled eating at Oscar’s: “In those days, they didn’t serve thick steaks. They were usually about a half to three quarters of an inch thick but the King-size was a porterhouse that filled a dinner plate.” The restaurant bought prize-winning cattle from agricultural fairs each year, and the menu said: “All beef served at Oscar’s is specially grain-fed and hung for 30 days ensuring the very best in quality meats for our guests the year ’round.” Oscar’s nephew was ophthalmologist Herb Fitterman who, in 1968, performed what is believed to have been the first lens implant operation in Canada.
Oscar’s was in front of the Palomar nightclub, whose entrance was along the street on the left of the picture. The club had a rich entertainment history; Chuck Davis wrote: “Dal Richards joined the Sandy De Santis house orchestra at the Palomar in the fall of 1937, and was there in the fall of 1938 when it changed from a ballroom to a night club. A Vancouver girl named Peggy Middleton joined the chorus line, and Dal remembers that she pestered him and the club’s owner, Hymie Singer, to do a solo number. “It was Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” Dal said, “And she’d gone out and bought the stuff she needed for the number.” They okayed the solo, and maybe that’s what persuaded 15-year-old Peggy Middleton that showbiz was for her. She changed her name to Yvonne De Carlo and went on to become a movie and TV star.”
The Palomar Supper Club was initially run by Hymie Singer, and later (when Singer joined the war in 1940) Sandy DeSantis, who also led the club’s orchestra. It couldn’t legally sell alcohol, but as one of the classier ‘West End’ clubs it avoided police raids, and there were always ways around inconvenient regulations. In 1949 Billie Holliday performed at the club; in 1951 and 1952 Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. The 1937 building, built by Singer where L B Wing’s produce market had been, had a high vaulted ceiling so acrobats and dancers could perform without fear of the low ceilings that were found in some venues. In 1938 the CBC broadcast a half hour swing session from the club every week, putting it on the national map. The Palomar was bankrupt in 1951, but reappeared for a few more years as the New Palomar, still run by Sandy DeSantis.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-330