Hitting the Low Point

Posted by Daniel on May 15, 2009

Chuck Davis writes:

On July 15 this year it will be fifty years since Queen Elizabeth presided over the official opening of the George Massey Tunnel! Hard to believe that for half a century we’ve been speeding—or sometimes crawling—through that tunnel linking Richmond and Delta. (A tad more than half a century, actually, because the tunnel opened to traffic in April of 1958.)

It was called the Deas Island Tunnel back then. When you drive through it, you’re driving through the lowest point on a public road in Canada. The roadbed is 20 metres below sea level.

The Queen was joined in the opening ceremony by Premier W.A.C. Bennett . . . and thereby hangs a curious tale. It involves an ancient, curious ceremony: the Premier handed the Queen a costly pair of silver scissors and she gave him a dime for them. It seems the coin-for-scissors exchange is an old British custom, which holds that if the giver of a cutting implement does not receive a coin in return the friendship between giver and receiver will be cut.

The Queen also “graciously assented” to having Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre named for her while she was here.

Lest we forget, Deas Island (the tunnel goes through it) was named for John Sullivan Deas, an African-American born in South Carolina. He built a cannery on the island in 1873 and thrived.