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Another Man, Another Monument – Erwin Swangard Leveraged Community Spirit in the City

August 27, 2016

Swangard photo

Reporter Erwin Swangard was mightily impressed by the leadership of Haddon Bolivar in building Whalley Ball Park. He did not meet Clarice Harkley, who had organized the group of women who outdid the men and were first to succeed in their own park project, but no doubt he would have been doubly inspired. Bolivar, wrote Swangard, was “building his own monument,” and Swangard would follow his example.

A lot has been written of Erwin Swangard. People now know his name from the stadium in Central Park, Burnaby, but in his day he was a local living legend, known to many as “Mr PNE” for his long association with the Pacific National Exhibition.

He was born Erwin Schwangart in Munich,Germany, and was a student in Dresden and Leipzig before coming to Canada in 1929.
Swangard returned to Germany in 1936 as a freelance reporter, covering Hitler’s Berlin Olympics spectacle.

Swnagard eventually became a reporter and editor in Vancouver where he had formidable presence.

“He used to plow through the newsroom like a ship of the line. . . ” wrote columnist and former sports reporter Denny Boyd

When Erwin Swangard died in 1993 his eulogy was read at the Swangard Stadium memorial service by William Vander Zalm, ex-Whalley businessman, ex-Mayor of Surrey and ex-Premier of BC.

But if you want to know how everything is interconnected, from filling sandbags on the Brownsville flats, to serving soup in a relief canteen, from building swings for kids, to dreaming of a ball park for a neigborhood the politicians didn’t give a damn about, to a man “building his own monument,” you need to follow up these last couple of posts with some Jim Taylor.

“Erwin was a force in this town. He made himself one, and the town was mostly better for it.

He had a role in bringing the 1954 British Empire Games to Vancouver, which meant Empire Stadium, which meant the Miracle Mile, the BC Lions and later the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Beatles’ visit and all the other bits of local history that required a major venue.
But it you want to see his real monument, drive out to Central Park and check Swangard Stadium.
Erwin built it. . . . He cajoled and wheedled, and when that didn’t work he was not above using his positon and his newspaper like a club to bring the reluctant into line.”

Taylor reveals that the reporters had a nickname for the stadium:

“Behind his back we called it the Blackjack Bowl because that’s what he used to get it built.”

Jim Taylor in 1964

Jim Taylor

Jim Taylor, just the latest phenom sports guy out of Victoria, came to Vancouver to write for the Vancouver Times in 1964. The Times folded, but Taylor kept writing.

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