In the Fog

Posted by Daniel on Jan 23, 2009 - 4 comments

Weather forecasters predict that the fog that has smothered Vancouver for the past three weeks will end today. In the meantime, it has made me very nostalgic for my childhood when similar "weather events" were more common, only they weren't weather events so much as a permanent state of air pollution.

Back in the immediate post-war period (and before), when False Creek was crowded with sawmills and people heated their homes with sawdust- and coal-burning furnaces, the air was filled with particulate matter around which moisture condensed to create real pea-soupers. According to Bruce Macdonald's Vancouver: An Illustrated History, the city used to get more than 100 days a year with fog. Now that number is down to around ten or fifteen.

I recall my father telling me that it was not uncommon for him to be driving down 4th Avenue or Broadway through fog so thick that the only way he could keep on the straight and narrow was to open the door a crack and follow the streetcar tracks passing beneath the car.

And of course no one who grew up in the city can forget the mournful sound of "Old Wahoo", the foghorn at the Point Atkinson lighthouse, as familiar a part of the city soundscape as the nine o'clock gun or the noon horn atop Canada Place. At least it was until 1996 when it was silenced, prompting someone to say that the Coast Guard had "cut the vocal chords of the city".

Labels: MEMOIR