Above: the superb book design on Davis’ often-reprinted books from the 1970s.
Chuck Davis died early this morning at age 75. Chuck was arguably Vancouver’s most well-known historian; certainly he was its best-loved historian for anyone who grew up in Vancouver in the 70s or 80s. When I was growing up here, you could barely find a house that didn’t have his Vancouver Book in it, if not several of the 15 books he wrote about this city. It’s too bad that Chuck will miss all of the historical activity planned for Vancouver’s 125th birthday in 2011, but he took part in the city’s 100th birthday, and luckily he was honoured with a city award this past September. I contacted Chuck recently about a book I’m writing (on the UN Habitat conference held in Vancouver in 1976). He was helpful and generous. I only found out later that he was already very sick by that time, which only makes his help more touching. By all accounts Chuck remained deeply interested in Vancouver, and non-territorial about the writing of its history, until the end.
Vancouver is so young, so careless about its history and so apt to willy-nilly reinvent and rebuilt itself every five years that without people like Chuck Davis, we would know far too little about where we’ve come from and why. Read the Vancouver Sun obituary, and see Chuck’s own website for a sense of his still unfinished book, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver. Chuck was seeking someone to complete the book for him; apparently he found that person though it’s not clear yet who it is. Below, a photograph I stole from the Vancouver Sun (uncredited)—great photo. I hope they don’t ask me to remove it because it’s the one that best captures him.
PS. I’d be curious to know who the historians of other comparable cities are.