Photo by Chung Chow
The only signs of the Grauers in Richmond are the names on a school and a street, but once Sea Island bustled with the name of Grauer. A large farm, a butcher shop, and a two-storey building housed the general store, post office and apartments.
The delivery trucks for Rudy Grauer’s Eburne store traveled the region delivering the groceries ordered by phone. Grauer’s employed three people just to take the phone and radio orders, according to Bill McNulty’s book “Richmond, British Columbia: An Illustrated History 1849-2015.” McNulty describes how boats would radio in their orders then tie up just outside the store, near where the harbour authority office is today, under what is now the Arthur Laing Bridge. In fact, it was the building of the Arthur Laing Bridge to the airport that spelled the death knell of the Grauers on Sea Island.
The farm land was sacrificed to build the airport while the bridge diverted traffic over the store and the later addition of an extra freeway ramp meant the last of the buildings and a tree planted by Rudy’s father had to go. After a long legal battle to save the family buildings, the government bulldozed the remaining structures and the Grauer tree in 1980.
Rudy Grauer also lives on because Richmond lives on. According to city counselor and local historian, Bill McNulty, Reeve (Mayor) Rudy Grauer helped save Richmond during the Dirty Thirties when few could pay their taxes or water debts.
“At first,” says McNulty, “working for the city building roads or cleaning ditches could pay off tax arrears,” but, according to McNulty, this left the municipality in a bind with low tax revenue. “So,” says McNulty, “in 1935 Reeve Grauer proposed a novel plan; sell your land back to the city for tax arrears but you can still live in it and (Grauer said) we will not resell (your property) land to someone else if you pay a little towards your back taxes every year.
This kept Richmond afloat financially during the depths of the depression while not a single homeowner lost their home to back taxes.”
McNulty praises Grauer for his innovative solution to a difficult situation that benefited all. “Every farmer was eventually able to pay what they owed and regain title to their land.” According to McNulty, Grauer not only saved our city, he saved the family farms on Lulu Island.
That’s why today, we have Grauer Road and Grauer school as a continuing legacy of the hard work, innovation and vision of Richmond’s longest serving mayor, Rudy Grauer.