758 East Georgia Street

This heritage home was built in around 1908, and is seen here in an Archives shot from around 1985. The first resident in 1909 was George Skinner who was Scottish, and listed as a mariner. He had previously built a home nearby on Prior Street in 1902. This house was built by J M Reed, according to the Building Permit and water connection, and we’re guessing that was John Reid, who was a builder of houses over many years from the early 1900s.

George Skinner arrived in Canada in 1892 when he was around 24 years old. His wife Isabella Mcleman was also Scottish, and arrived in the same year when she was 16. They married in 1893. In 1901 they were living on Prior Street, with two children, and George was listed as a fisherman, but the census said he was a canneryman. From around 1901, for a short time, he was manager of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston.

In 1911 he was here with his wife, and now 3 children, listed only by their initials: WG, RI and KB. William had been born in 1894, their daughter (known as Isabella, but we assume she was christened with a name starting with the letter R) in 1897, and a second son in 1903. A third son, Hugh was a late arrival, born around 1918, the final year the family were in this house. In 1919 Arthur Lindquist was here, replaced a year later by J H Yuen, and in the mid 1920s Samuel Plastino, who was a fruiterer, but would soon own the Shaldon Hotel, and later develop a block on East Hastings at Heatley. Sam was born in 1886 and arrived in Vancouver in 1920, selling confectionary. We’re pretty certain he came from Washington, where a Sam Plastino had a short crime spree before ending up in State Penitentiary for several years.

Here, records show Sam had 145 pints of U.B.C. Beer, and 60 of Cascade Beer (both brewed in Washington) confiscated in April 1925 (after BC’s prohibition had ended, but when the Liquor Act controlled who could sell alcohol. Sam had a hotel, but no licence). In September of the same year Sam lost another 35 bottles of beer, and a bottle of Lemon Hart Rum. In 1928 he sued mayor Louis D Taylor for what he considered to be a slanderous statement made by the mayor in a Police Commission meeting relating to the operation of the police. During hearings into police corruption Plastino admitted attempting to bribe ‘the dry squad’, his hotel having been raided 40 times in four years. He successfully appealed one $500 fine. He claimed to have sent whisky to the mayor (along with notorious brothel owner Joe Celona), but the mayor denied ever having received any gifts, or having spent any time with Celona, as Plastino claimed. He made no friends with City Authorities by claiming to have arranged bribes for both the City’s prosecutor and head of the dry squad in other cases.

Assuming it’s the same Sam Plastino (and there seem to be no others) he had a string of convictions in the US in a very few years. He was charged with forcing an underage girl (who was 17) to go with him to a hotel room in 1908. He was accused of threatening her with a revolver, and his bail was raised to $5,000 as a lower earlier bail was thought too low, and he had plans to evade the charges. At the time he was in Spokane, and a fruit dealer. A year earlier he had been jailed for 33 days for immorality for living with a 16-year-old. In 1908 he was arrested for an attack on an imbecile, and in 1911 for assault on a 17 year old, and for illegally selling liquor. He was arrested again for assault of a 16 year old in San Francisco (who claimed he had promised to marry her) and finally that year for violation of the white slave law in Tacoma – the charge that sent him to jail. He may have returned to Italy before coming to Vancouver – a Sam Plastino faced deportation from the US in the 1910s, but we haven’t found the details in that case.

Later in Vancouver, in 1940 he was accused, with John Kogos, of assaulting young girls, although the case seems to have been dropped – but it confirms our theory that he’s the same Sam Plastino from Spokane. He died in Vancouver in December 1963.

By 1930 Antonio Culos had bought the house, the proprietor of the Fior D’Italia Café, and lived here over 20 years. Peter Culos was living here in 1951 when he was on the board of The American Marketing Association. The house was owned by You War Jung in 1955 – three years later Wally Jung got his name in the newspaper because he suffered a bruised head, and visited the ER. This was an era when a lucky junior reporter was assigned to writing down every visitor, and the nature of their injury.

We lose sight of the Skinner family for many years, but in 1927 (when he was living on Kitchener Street), Captain Skinner was said to have sailed the Chris Moller to Belgium, by way of the Panama Canal and Newfoundland. Launched in 1917 in Olympia, Washington, as a lumber schooner, she ended up in China in 1924. Her new owner, Archie McGillis, was a well-known alcohol import and exporter (during US prohibition, naturally). Although rumoured to have carried cocaine, heroine and Chinamen during the 1920s, nothing was directly proven until 1926 when she set off with 17,779 cases of liquor from Vancouver, calling at Victoria for another 3,700 cases before heading to deliver (her papers said) in San Blas Mexico. She was held by customs officers, suspicious of a destination that had no port. The liquor had originated in Great Britain, and sailed right past San Blas en route to the Vancouver warehouse where it was held in bond, avoiding taxes. It was suggested that rather than return to Mexico, it was likely that the cargo would have ended up in San Francisco or Los Angeles. It was seized, (with some loss overboard in the meantime) but the ship was allowed to sail. She was next loaded with lumber in Ladysmith, then sailed, with George Skinner in the crew, to Europe, with the expectation of collecting a cargo of liquor to return. Unable to pay the dock fees in Belgium, the ship was seized, and eventually broken up in Belgium.

In early 1940 the family make a dramatic reappearance. Captain Skinner and his wife were living at Bridgeport, in Richmond, and his son Hugh in Eburne. In December 1939 Captain Skinner was skippering a fishpacker towing a scow off Vancouver Island, the Great Northern V, owned by Francis Millerd Co of Vancouver. It was the crew’s first trip for the owner, and the voyage went wrong when the rudder broke off the unpopulated coast of Vancouver Island. The ship drifted for three days, crashing in a gale onto rocks off Lawn Point. The engineer was drowned, but the skipper and his son made it onto the shore, but both were injured in the process. They struggled for a couple of days, then obeying his father’s entreaties,

Hugh set off to try to get help, leaving his stricken father. It took him four days before he was spotted by Don Lawson, a pilot with Ginger Coote Airways. Hugh Skinner was injured; once rescued by boat two toes had to be amputated on one foot. The Port Alice Provincial Police started a search along the shore whenever the gales and fog allowed a boat to be launched, and over two weeks later they found George Skinner, still propped against an uprooted spruce tree where his son had left him, alive despite having eaten nothing for 22 days. He had been able to drink a little water using a tin that Hugh had salvaged, and had a thin blanket also pulled from the wreck. He was carried to the shore, and recovered in Port Alice Hospital before returning to a huge welcome in Richmond, and a delighted wife who had thought herself a widow for several weeks. Hugh Skinner married in December 1940. George died before Isabella, we think in 1945. She was 83 when she died in January 1963.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-0725


Posted 21 May 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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