By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: An enormous amount of the 4,000 published photos Ralph Bower shot over his 41-year career at the Vancouver Sun originated from the PNE grounds.
Think about it: during the 1950s and ensuing three decades, the city’s sports action centered around the Canucks at the Forum and Pacific Coliseum; the BC Lions and Whitecaps at Empire Stadium and thoroughbred racing at Exhibition Park.
“The east end was my second home,” says the award-winning photographer who was born and raised in North Vancouver, “and horse racing has been my number one passion dating back to the 1940s.”
The man affectionately referred to as ‘Railbird’ turns 84 today. He and his high school sweetheart Joan – married 65 years – are guest decorators for this afternoon’s feature, the $50,000 Strawberry Morn.
They will also be side by side throughout Ralph’s current exhibition at North Vancouver City Hall. It’s a collection of 200 of his favourite photos featuring politicians, royalty, heroes, villains, children, animals and sports celebrities including a chosen selection from his racing archives.
A sneak preview earlier this week unveiled shots of Hall of Fame jockeys Johnny Longden and Willie Shoemaker as well as Hollywood stars Mickey Rooney and Tim Conway, all of whom paid regular visits to Exhibition Park. A local touch includes prints of former track owner Jack Diamond, announcer Dan Jukich and legendary retired jockey Chris Loseth nose-to-nose with the great mare Delta Colleen.
Bower has dedicated the exhibition to the late Harry Jerome, his North Vancouver schoolmate who was internationally recognized as “the fastest man in the world” after sprinting 100 yards in 9.2 seconds in 1962. Jerome won gold at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and 1967 Pan American Games, setting seven world records as Canada’s premier track and field athlete. Jerome’s, the popular bar and grill on the lower level at Hastings Racecourse, was named in his honour.
The ‘Ralph Bower in Focus’ exhibit at North Vancouver City Hall is open to the public (no admission) weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. through July 3.