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Wet night celebrates a dry time

Lorraine Graves   Oct-26-2017

The Steveston Tram is a community restoration project in its own warm, cozy building at Steveston Park. The tram offered light rail transit between Steveston and downtown Vancouver until 1958.

Photo courtesy City of Richmond


Time was, Steveston and the rest of Canada, was dry. Well, dry-ish. Rumours abound about the prominent family or two that made money from Richmond’s loganberry wine during Prohibition.

This November, the City of Richmond offers a bit of adult programming, warm and indoors at the Steveston Tram—a jazz-era evening of beer tasting.

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The city invites you to, “Enjoy a shot of beer with a splash of history at the Steveston Interurban Tram’s Prohibition special event on Friday, November 3. From 6 to 8 p.m., surround yourself with live jazz music while tasting a selection of beers from local brewery, the Britannia Brewing Company.”

When the sale of alcoholic beverages once again became legal in Canada, Prohibition continued in the US, offering a sales opportunity for Canadian border towns like Moose Jaw and Steveston. Smuggling to the US was big business. Some of Canada, and BC’s, prominent families got their financial start selling booze, or “rum running” to the dry US. Canadian Whiskey, or Richmond’s loganberry wine, sold for a premium.

(It’s fun to romanticize the era as happy flappers sneaking a little gin in their beaded purse but but the reality was closer to modern cross-border drug smugglers.)

In fact, the boat currently being restored at Britannia Heritage Shipyard, the Fleetwood, is a rum runner that was once equipped with two massive engines to enable it take a load of hooch to the States while outrunning the US agents looking to seize the goods and arrest the bootleggers onboard.

Taking a walk on the flats below SW Marine Dr., before the houses were built there, one came upon dog-leg creeks, hidden by branches knitted above. These man-made narrow waterways ran to the base of some of the finest mansions. The rum running boats would back in, receive their load, before racing to the States to outrun the “feds.”

Friday, Nov. 3 community members are invited to, “Discover the scandalous stories from BC's prohibition years as told by a storyteller from the Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tour company, before exploring the nearly restored Tram Car 1220. Nibble on light refreshments and socialize with others as you delve into the underbelly of local history rich with rum-runners, bootleggers and gin joints.” See the progress made by volunteers working untold hours on our community’s tram. It’s a beauty and the gloss of the evening will be enhanced by the odd tipple available for this event only.

The City of Richmond says, “This event, a first for the Interurban Tram, is specifically for those 19+ years and transports guests back to a time when prohibition attempted to dry out BC while illegal home breweries managed to keep Steveston – and beyond – wet.”

Tickets are $25.00 for the evening’s activities. To register, call 604-276-4300 or visit www.richmond.ca/register and quote registration #2352342. The deadline to register is Wednesday, November 1. The Steveston Interurban Tram Building is located at 4011 Moncton Street in the heart of Steveston Village.


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