Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Con Jones Park and Vancouver's Soccer Past...

Soccer has a remarkable past in BC, one that's been traced as far back as 1862 when the British Engineers known as the Sappers played the townsfolk of New Westminster during a festival. Since that time, the game has had many homes in Vancouver such as Recreation Park, The Cambie Grounds, Athletic Park and Empire Stadium.

But from 1921 to 1971, the spiritual home of soccer in Vancouver was Con Jones Park, later known as Callister Park. Located on Renfrew, it stood just across the street from where the Pacific Coliseum is today. There's a park there now, with trees, a playground, and it's surrounded by homes. But for 50 years, it played host to the best soccer in the country, and also saw action from some of the giants of the world's game.

Local Teams St.Andrews and Sapperton exit the Tunnel at Con Jones Park
City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 99-990

The story of Con Jones Park is integral to the story of soccer in our city. But, while researching images for  The Village of Vancouver, I hit a roadblock along the way. While there were dozens of archival photographs available from many sources of the sport being played at Con Jones Park, there was absolutely no film footage to be found from the thousands of games played there. I found that hard to believe, as Con Jones Park had hosted the Dominion Championships numerous times, as well as high profile clubs such as Newcastle, Aberdeen, Charlton Athletic, Third Lanark, Scotland & England F.A. All-Stars.

Luckily, E-Bay came to my rescue!

I managed to find a home movie collector in the Southeastern U.S. who had purchased a lot of old home movies from an estate sale. One of the films had documented a trip that the previous owner had taken to Vancouver by train at some point between 1936 and 1939. I was only interested in it originally for the scenic footage of Vancouver from that era. But one of the frames he showed me really caught my was a soccer game being played at Con Jones Park...and it was a big one at that!

I made the arrangements for the film and waited. A week later, I discovered that the film had been shipped to the wrong address. I literally felt a pit land in my stomach. Quickly, I got in touch with the person living at the address the film was sent to, explaining what had happened and what was in the parcel. They said they'd keep an eye out for it and mail it to me if it arrived. I didn't hold out much hope for it.

Two months later, it was in my mailbox. Many thanks to the person who saved it.

The film was in good shape, but needed some restoration. John Romein at Techno Monkey Media did a fantastic job on the digital restoration and High-Definition transfer.

The entire film I received was only about 1 minute 30 seconds long, but it contains 19 glorious seconds of soccer being played at Con Jones. We don't know who the teams are, and the uniforms don't match those worn by Charlton Athletic or Scotland All-Stars during their tours of the era. But the stands are full...6000 strong at least.

I've slowed the 19 seconds down to stretch to 1 minute. I've also cropped and edited the footage. I hope you enjoy this rare piece of Vancouver Soccer History.

Much of this footage will be used in the film, The Village of Vancouver. Afterwards, I plan to donate the original film reel to B.C. Sports Hall of Fame for permanent preservation. If you're interested in learning more about Con Jones / Callister Park, there's a great article by legendary soccer writer Jeff Cross from 1961 on the Pacific Coast Soccer League site. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Some have asked about the rollercoaster in the background. It is not the wooden rollercoaster that stands at the PNE today. The current rollercoaster was constructed in 1958, and still ranks as one of the top 10 rollercoasters in North America.