Burnaby Village Museum


The first full week of my daughter’s summer vacation has ended and it was a busy one.  I took care of her and one of her friends during the week, and we trekked to various activities around the city.

The day we chose to go to the Burnaby Village Museum was the only rainy day all week.  The rain didn’t bother us, as most of the exhibits were indoors.  The museum is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, so gate admission is free.

The Burnaby Village Museum is meant to give visitors an idea of what life was like in the 1920s in Burnaby, which was one of the tram stops along the BC Electric Railway.  The staff and volunteers are all in period costume and give demonstrations and information in the different homes and businesses.  This made the experience really come to life.

We started with a look at an actual tram car in the tram station. One of the most interesting features was seeing how the seat backs can all be adjusted to the opposite side when the tram comes to the end of the line and then has to reverse direction.

We briefly looked into the small church and learned that it can be booked for weddings year-round.  Then it was on to Seaforth School.  The teacher, Miss Harris greeted us at the door and explained that the year was 1925.  She told the girls about school life in the 1920s and let them try out a nib pen and inkwell, which was the only method of writing used at the time.  As we were leaving the school, the teacher told us to make sure and see the show at Brookfield Hall which was being performed every hour, starting at noon.

Brookfield Hall was our next stop.  The performance was entitled “Solara and the Temple of Zoom”.  It was a vaudeville-type play and the actors were young college-aged students.  An announcer came out regularly to tell us what was happening and an accordion player was playing off to the side.  The performance was wonderful, complete with over-the-top acting and very frequent character and costume changes behind the scenes. It was one of the highlights of the day.

After the play ended we headed for the Bandstand Gazebo at the end of the main street to sit and eat the picnic lunch we had brought with us.  There are picnic tables around the site but it was raining and everything outdoors was wet.  For those that don’t bring food, there is an ice-cream parlour serving light meals and snacks.

Walking up Hill Street we toured through the post office, the Chinese Herbal Medicine Shop, and The Home Bakery. A large, decorated layer cake in the window had a price of 35 cents. We crossed the street and checked out Wagner’s Blacksmith Shop, Royal Oak Garage, and the Optometrist.  The Central Park Theatre was playing Charlie Chaplin movies, so we stopped in to watch The Tramp for a little while.

Burnaby Lake General Store was another highlight of the tour.  The employees were very engaging, giving us information about what the store sold, how local villagers would come in to place their grocery order, and details like how the scale had a mirror so patrons could make sure the shopkeeper wasn’t cheating them and adding weight.

The Log Cabin was a fascinating look at how a peasant family of three lived.  It was very small and the woman inside explained how food was prepared, and weekly chores like laundry and ironing. The bedroom was a sleeping loft above the main kitchen/living area.

The main residence of the village is Elworth.  The Elworth house was built on the actual site on which it now stands in 1922.  The family was wealthy and had a kitchen, dining room, sitting room, and parlour on the main floor.  There were five bedrooms upstairs, but that floor was not open to the public.  Inside, the statues of the Elworth family were posed having a family wedding.  The girls got to try on veils and top hats on the front porch.

The Elworth Garage, behind the Elworth residence, is a good stop for families, especially young children.  It’s set up as a big toy room with toys from the 1920s. They welcome children and encourage them to play with the toys.  Parents can sit and have a break while they watch their kids.

Our last stop of the day was the Carousel, which was built in 1912.  We passed it on the way in, as we walked though the entrance building, beside the gift shop, but decided to leave it until the end.  Rides are $2.25 each and lasted quite long.  The music was provided by an original Wurlitzer Band organ capable of duplicating the sound of a large military band.  The girls picked their horses and climbed on. We were given a tip earlier, during our tour of the village, to remember the brass number on the floor, beneath the horse.  After the ride, we got an information sheet about the Carousel and found out that the names of the horses they had ridden were Vivian and Belle.

The museum is open from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and they only thing we paid for was the Carousel.  Families can easily spend a day here and it’s interesting for all ages.


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