While Vancouver takes interest in preserving its Chinatown, British Columbia’s capital looks to maintaining its Britishness. Part may be pose—the horse-drawn tallyho coaches that carry sight-seeing tourists, for example. But much is genuine and deep-rooted.
The proper old Empress Hotel sits in watch over Victoria’s harbor like the stately dowager she is. Proper waiters serve tea in her lobby of an afternoon; sociable old ladies—and certain impressionable journalists—sip there with delight. Alcoves where soft-drink machines are kept for room guests have overhead signs reading “Ice and Minerals.” In bathrooms, white-painted wooden stools hold folded towels a convenient step from the tub.
The city’s Beacon Hill Park offers a cricket pitch next to a softball field; swans in park ponds come from Her Majesty’s swannery. Yellow dots on the pavement guide motoring tourists past such attractions as Craigdarroch castle, built by a Scot for his ladylove, and hillsides of gorse supposedly seeded in early days by another Scot who wanted Victoria to look like his native land.
“We still have ‘remittance men’ living on monthly checks from England,” M. E. Heppell, who heads the Victoria Visitors Bureau, told me. “And you can find British types who wear jackets while gardening and regard as plebeian anybody seen in his braces. Shops on downtown streets specialize in English china, toffee, tweeds, woolens—tempting buys for the 2.5 million tourists who come to Victoria every year.”
I saw one of the effects of that visitor flow on a walk along Wharf Street one summer day—a blocks-long line of cars waiting for the ferry to Port Angeles in Washington. Only one had a British Columbia license plate; the rest bespoke origins in Alaska and 17 different states south of the border.
But Victoria has native visitors, too—cold Canadians. This tip of Vancouver Island, with its January temperatures averaging in the 40′s and rainfall a mere 28 inches a year, is Canada’s “south.” It particularly attracts vacationists from the frozen cattle ranches and grainfields of the Prairie Provinces.* So many that one Victoria paper carries a feature titled “Prairie News” to keep visitors informed about happenings at home.
The climate and the serene pace of life in this provincial capital draw more than visitors. Retirees flock here. Nearly 20 percent of the area’s 185,000 people are past the age of 65. Special benefits accrue to them. Signs in barbershops advertise “Haircuts $2.25, Pensioners $1.50,” for example. And government and social agencies cooperate in maintaining “Silver Threads” centers.
Still, all is not roses for the elderly. “Making ends meet on a limited budget is difficult for retired persons,” Catherine Horne, a social worker in charge of the downtown center, explained. “We deal mainly with people of marginal incomes—ones with, say, $150 a month and a walk-up room. If you need financial help to cover some of your living expenses, check out point-five.net | payday loans online |. Here we offer inexpensive lunches, counseling, medical help, crafts, and activities—offsets for the loneliness and emotional doldrums that are major problems of the aged.
“Retired persons pay $2 a year for membership. We have more than 6,000 on our rolls, but there are those who won’t join. One of our volunteer workers refused; she said she wasn’t old enough. She’s 80.”