Ivy Powell didn’t take kindly to the province expropriating her land for the Port Mann Bridge project.
In 1960, B.C.’s Department of Highways expropriated Ivy and Robert Powell’s scrap metal yard in Coquitlam.
The province wanted the land at 21 Blue Mountain Rd. for a highway to the new Port Mann Bridge, which would open four years later.
But the value of the property was in dispute. The government offered $15,500, and the Powells wanted $32,000, including $4,397 for moving expenses.
The argument was supposed to be decided by arbitration on March 7, 1960. But highway crews were poised to start construction on Feb. 8, so the Powells decided to “repossess” the land before crews started ripping it up.
The Sun sent Ken Oakes out to take a photograph. A master of the setup shot, he got Ivy to pose defiantly on a pile of dirt, a shotgun in her lap, her dog Judy by her side.
It was such a striking photo the Sun put it on the front page for the five-star final edition. And last week I stumbled across it while looking for a photo of Israel Wood Powell, a pioneer politician and land speculator who gave his name to Powell Street.
There weren’t any photos of I.W. Powell, but the Ivy Powell print is awesome.
A staff artist touched it up by adding a bit of grey to her black Lab and some silvery-grey to the gun barrel. The sky has also gone slightly sepia-tone over time, which makes a lovely contrast to the black and white image of Ivy, the shotgun, her dog and the dirt.
The government got an injunction to force Ivy out on Feb. 10, but the dispute wasn’t settled until July 29, when an arbitration board awarded the Powells $18,372.
The other striking photo in the Sun on Feb. 8, 1960 was of 10-year-old Rodney McCann, whose head was completely covered in bandages after his hair was accidentally set on fire. He looks like a real-life mummy.
McCann came across a group of boys who found a 26-ounce bottle of turpentine. They decided to pour a bit of turpentine on the ground and light it, and flames shot up, which ignited fumes at the mouth of the bottle, “turning it into a miniature flame thrower.”
Rodney was in the line of fire and got singed. He was saved from further injury by 14-year-old Charles Kuyper, who smothered the flames by pulling Rodney’s face into his chest. But not before Rodney’s eyes “were so swollen he cannot see, his lips (were) so bloated he cannot eat, (and) his hair (was) scorched to the roots.”
Unfortunately, there is no print of the Ray Allan photo in the Sun files, which can be hit and miss on photos this old.
The main story in the paper that day was about a gang war “over the rich pickings from London’s sex and liquor clubs” in the U.K.
“Handsome Selwyn Cooney, a bullet in his head, staggered from a club in squalid Duval Street to die in the gutter,” said an Associated Press wire story.
“Blue-jowled William Ambrose, alias Billy the Boxer, stumbled over his body, blood welling from a wound in his stomach.
“As a beautiful blonde sobbed over Cooney’s corpse, three scar-faced hoodlums jumped into a waiting automobile and roared off into the night.
“Chicago-style killing had come to London.”
The Sun was owned by the Cromie family at the time and often sent reporters abroad for stories. That week Arnie Myers was in Sweden, writing a series on “the welfare state.”
Myers wrote that the Swedes had the highest living standard in Europe, with no slums and little unemployment. But Myers found that for all of Sweden’s prosperity, there was a lot of soul-searching over “the spiritual emptiness of life in a welfare state.”
“The thing that seems to worry Swedes the most is the fact they have so little to worry about,” he wrote.
Myers was known for his style. At one point an editor sent around a note telling reporters to write shorter opening paragraphs, which are known as ledes.
Myers was sent to cover a murder, and dispatched the shortest lede ever: “Dead.”
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