CULTURE + MEMORY | Chuck Davis, »Captain Vancouver« :: 1935-2010

Photo > Jason Vanderhill

On Saturday, 20 November 2010, Vancouver lost a piece of itself.

The man I like to call “Captain Vancouver” for his relentless pursuit of chronicling the history of the city he loved died in the early morning as the first snowfall of the season hit the city. And now I’m in mourning.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister, once remarked that “Canada has too much geography and too little history.”

Chuck Davis, more than anyone I can think of, was responsible for making sure that the history and culture of Vancouver were kept alive for future generations.

His omnibus work, The Greater Vancouver Book: An Urban Encyclopaedia (winner of the 1998 Vancouver City Book Award), enthralled me when it was published in 1997 and I purchased a couple of copies because having just one copy didn’t seem right, somehow.

I have great respect for this man. When I was preparing a blog post on Lost Lagoon’s Jubilee Fountain, I caught a discrepancy in what his new website stated and information I found elsewhere. I emailed the Captain and asked for clarification. His response was immediate and full of grace.

When I learned that he was dying, I wrote to him to thank him for his impact on my life. I told him that I had purchased two copies of The Greater Vancouver Book: one copy was heavily marked and annotated; the other was fresh as a virgin in its shrink-wrap. He wrote back: “Keep that book in its plastic wrapper! It could be valuable in the future!” Well, to me it’s priceless and will remain enshrouded.

Fortunately for us, Mr. Davis’s work lives on. He was working on his incredible website about Vancouver when he learned he was dying. The website, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, is a living testament to the man, his mission, and passion for the past.

My condolences go to his wife, Edna, and daughter, Stephanie.

R.I.P., Chuck. The gift you gave your adopted city will live on in our collective memory.

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CHARLES HECTOR DAVIS | 17 November 1935 – 20 November 2010


Photo > Harvey Oberfeld

2010.10. 14 > Chuck Davis receives the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson


DAVIS, Charles Hector Chuck

The writer and broadcaster, was born in Winnipeg November 17, 1935. He died November 20, 2010, aged 75. Chuck came to Vancouver with his dad George in 1944, then moved with him again to Toronto in 1948. He left school at age 13 and had a variety of jobs until he joined the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on June 1, 1953.

He was stationed at Currie Barracks in Calgary. From there he was sent in 1955 to West Germany and ended up as an announcer at CAE, the Canadian Army radio station at Werl. Private C. Davis was the first person on the air on the station’s first full day March 22, 1956.

Following his discharge in late 1956 Chuck decided to stay in radio. He worked at several stations in Ontario, then came to BC in 1960 to work at Radio CJVI in Victoria. From there he went to CHEK-TV, also in Victoria, and next to CBC Radio in Vancouver. He was an announcer there, and then in 1963 an announcer-operator for the CBC in Prince Rupert.

While he was in Prince Rupert Chuck sold his first piece of writing (it was to Daryl Duke, then with CBC Toronto.) Then it was back to CBC Vancouver where he met his future wife, Edna, who worked in the newsroom. They married August 30, 1965 in Toronto while he was doing summer relief announcing for the CBC there.

His first newspaper piece (on how to construct crossword puzzles) appeared in The Vancouver Sun in 1966. In January 1969 he started with CHAN-TV (later BCTV, now Global).

Chuck and Edna’s daughter Stephanie was born in Vancouver in 1972.

His first book, a guide to Vancouver, appeared in 1973. His urban almanac, The Vancouver Book, came out in 1976. Chuck devised and hosted a word game show, Look that Up, that was heard on CBC Radio’s national network starting in 1983. He followed that up with Conquest!, a show based on knowledge of other countries. He also devised crossword and other word puzzles, and wrote dozens of limericks, many of which were clean.

Chuck did a daily items column for the Province that eventually changed to a regular weekly column on Vancouver history. That led to more books: Two weeks in Vancouver (with John Ewing); Kids! Kids! Kids! And Vancouver! (with Daniel Wood): Turn on to Canada!; Vancouver: An Illustrated Chronology (with Shirley Mooney); Top Dog! A History of CKNW; The Greater Vancouver Book: An Urban Encyclopaedia; Where Rails Meet Rivers: The Story of Port Coquitlam; Vancouver Then & Now and others.

At the time of his death, Chuck was working on his magnum opus The History of Metropolitan Vancouver. He is survived by Edna, his extraordinary wife of 45 years, who encouraged and supported him for all that time, his daughter, Stephanie, and his sister, Donna Carlbom (Ernie) of Waimanalo, Hawaii.

The family wish to express their thanks to Dr. R. Hepburn and the staff at Surrey Memorial Hospital for their excellent care.

* NOTE: Except for the last sentence, added by his wife Edna, this is the obituary that Chuck wrote as it appeared in the Vancouver Sun


Chuck Davis | The History of Metropolitan Vancouver

Chuck Davis | About Me

Mr. Vancouver | A Blog About Chuck Davis

The Vancouver Sun | Vancouver’s ‘collective memory,’ historian Chuck Davis, dies at age 75

Vancouver Public Library | Chuck Davis Receives 2011 George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael Geller’s Blog | 5 October 2010: It’s Chuck Davis Day!

CTV Video | Dying author finds co-writer to finish final book

The Globe and Mail | ‘Mr. Vancouver’ loved a good fact

re:place | Remembering Chuck Davis

PugetSoundRadio.com | RIP Chuck Davis, Broadcaster/Vancouver Historian


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