Skip to content

City class and rural virtue: A Restaurant–Farm Partnership

March 27, 2015

In the early 1930s a billboard on the Pacific Highway approach to the New Westminster Bridge advertised the hospitality of Vancouver eateries Trocadero Cafe and National Lunch, owned by restaurateur Gus Stamatis.

Trocadero Cafe -  National Lunch billboard on Pacific Highway near bridge

1932 restaurant and lunch room listings excerpt - Trocadero CafeVancouver’s thriving and diverse restaurant scene is not a recent phenomenon, as evidenced by the restaurant listings in any old directory.  The city, not large at all in 1932, boasted an intriguing variety of dining places.

 

Nor is the concept of sourcing locally grown produce a modern trend.

Down the road together: farm partners Stamatis and Okazaki

Gus Stamatis was the owner of the old Quible homestead, about four miles south of the bridge, on the southeast corner of Bergstrom Road and the Townline. Most of the 150 acre property was still bush, but the Quible’s had cleared and developed a farm of about 30 acres.

In 1935, Stamatis entered into a partnership with  Nobutaro Okazaki, who would maintain and develop the farm and supply the restaurants with fresh fruit and vegetables.

As told by son Robert Okazaki:

 

"Gus and Mary Stamatis were now our new partners, and we quickly became good friends. They didn’t have children so they often came over on weekends in the big, new car to take Mas [a youngster]  for a ride.

(They) never interfered with the farm operation.”

. . .

"Since Mr Stamatis owned three huge restaurants in Vancouver, the National Lunch #1 and #2, and the Trocadero Cafe, selling our produce was no problem at all. He also knew many Greek friends who owned restaurants. . ."

From “Who Was Who – Pioneer Japanese Families in Delta and Surrey” by M Hoshiko.

 

Unwelcome  at the National Lunch

 

National Lunch Coffee Shop 737 West Pender Street - 1931In this picture of the National Lunch coffee shop on Pender Street, below a temptation to a 3-egg omelette for 20 cents,  another notice warns:

"Newsboys Keep Out!"

It would have appeared a strange welcome for Mas, the younger brother who liked to go for rides in the Stamatis’ car.  When old enough, Mas earned extra money in Vancouver, delivering the "Tairiku Nippo" newspaper.

Raising farm produce was in those days a very hard and unprofitable business. Despite a ready market, prices were low, and "no matter how hard we worked, we never seemed to have any extra cash!"

It is not likely Mas was ever discouraged by the  sign in the window, intended, no doubt, merely to dissuade  any and all hawkers.

Unwelcome on the Coast

However, everything changed during the Second World War when Japanese were banished from the Lower Mainland. Property and belongings were confiscated and sold off for next to nothing.

Nobutaro Okazaki, after 43 years in Canada, was forced to leave for a camp in the interior. 

Then  “see the rural virtues leave the land”

 

"To the Japanese in the Fraser Valley districts, each farm represented years of toil. . .
The Japanese farmer had worked willingly and unsparingly, his children helping him during the picking seasons.
No agriculturalist in the length and breadth of the country could fail to view with dismay the change a few short months has wrought in the berry farms of this Valley, since the departure of the Japanese farmers."

Report issued by the British Columbia Security Commission, Austin Taylor, Chairman

 

Surrey Bought the Farm

On May 5, 1947 Surrey Council received a delegation representing the Surrey Memorial Hospital,  advising "that arrangements had been entered into for purchase of the Trocadero Farm property on King George VI Highway, for the sum of $12, 800.00 as the site for the proposed hospital. . ."

That is the current location of the hospital complex, ranging over most of the old section on the southeast corner of what is now King George Blvd and 96 Avenue.

One of the questions discussed by Council was whether to levy a special “Hospital Tax” to help fund the facility.


End Quotes

The name associated with the Trocadero and National Lunch in the city directories is “Thos. Stamatis.”  The National Lunch is not the same as the White Lunch, which some have said was a racist establishment.  If there was discrimination in Vancouver restaurants of this period, the Stamatis family stood apart.  

An account of working at the National Lunch and another perspective on evacuations during World War II, is found at InMemoryOfALovedOne.

My mother, Lilias, began working as a busgirl at the old National Lunch on Pender Street, just around the corner from Granville Street. This was a White Lunch type of place owned by the Greek Stometis brothers. She applied there because at that time she didn’t have a steady job. Her friend, Gladys Whiskin was ‘head’ girl there.

My dad, Max, already worked part-time in the bake shop upstairs and part-time in the kitchen.

A few months later, the government decried that all German and Italian citizens had to be removed from the coast. Mr. Stometis tried to put in a good word for my dad but it didn’t work.

For a historical discussion on race discrimination,  including a reference to the restaurant business in Vancouver, see the recent opinion piece by Rafe Mair.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s