For a school tour next week on Port Moody history, I wanted to include a scan of the police ledger.
Taking a lesson from the New York’s Lower Eastside Tenement Museum, which I visited in July this year, I decided to scan a page and put it in a plastic sheet (we can’t afford to laminate too many things). The scan will be something kids can handle, that looks like the real thing. Then I will type up the information so that kids can answer questions about policing of the era.
So I asked the Collections Assistant to unlock the display with the police ledger and search for something without anything too incriminating. Car accidents and errant cattle. That sort of thing.
However, when we started at the beginning of the ledger, in 1913, when the city was incorporated, we found mostly “drunk and disorderly” or “assault”! Now that’s a little too racy for elementary school kids.
But it was an incredible revelation to see what skeletons our city has in its closet. A murder in 1923, vicious dogs that had to be put down, runaway chickens, charges of lunacy, threats of murder and at least two groups of boys running away from their schools. One Port Moody pioneer mentioned in the history books was there too (we won’t name him here), for the ubiquitous “drunk and disorderly.” His punishment was to leave the city and “sober up.”
Another interesting observation is that about half of the people charged with crimes were white and the other half were Chinese, Japanese or Sikh. We can’t say if there were aborigine people among those charged until we do a thorough study.
This is fascinating because history seems to wipe out its non-white players. At the Port Moody Station Museum we have a display about the Chinese and a photograph of mill workers that include Sikh men. But we are still striving to augment this and to include the Japanese presence. In our bible, The Early History of Port Moody, we have post-it notes at all mentions of the Chinese, Japanese, Sikh and black pioneers which we somehow have to translate into meaningful displays.
So to find that half of Port Moody’s early criminals were not white means two things. First, we wondered if more charges were brought against minorities and hence made their way into this police ledger. Second, the appearance of so many non-English names means that there was much more of a “minority” presence in Port Moody than we previously believed.
We’ve been working on some blog posts about the black and the Chinese presence in Port Moody for some time. We’ll have to start digging those up and publish them.
Thank you for reading.
By Oana Capota