Credit to Author: John Mackie| Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2019 23:19:27 +0000
Hardly anybody remembers the old Pacific Press building at 2250 Granville St., a nondescript modern building that was demolished in the late 1990s.
But the statue in front is another matter.
The Family was a giant sculpture of a father, mother and two children by Jack Harman. One of the children is a babe in his mother’s arms, the other a young boy. And he’s naked, which caused quite a stir when it was unveiled in 1966.
“I am very disgusted with the statue which is in front of your Pacific Press Building,” said a letter to the editor of The Vancouver Sun from “Disgusted” on Aug. 17, 1966.
“I don’t know how such a thing could be allowed to exist. What I would like to know is how parents are supposed to explain this to their children.”
Sun reader Maria Ahrend leaped to the statue’s defence.
“To criticize the statue of nude boy is a shortcoming in education — it is a sickening Puritanism,” she wrote in another letter to the editor on Aug. 22, 1966. “Don’t be such a Puritan, Disgusted Person, you won’t last long in the world.”
In Feb., 1969, Lorne Parton of The Province reported somebody took a hacksaw and “attempted an operation” on the naked boy, but was “scared off three-quarters of the way through” and the statue was repaired.
Eventually the controversy died down and The Family became a local landmark. But it disappeared from 6th and Granville when The Vancouver Sun and Province moved downtown in 1997.
The sculpture was moved to the Sun and Province’s printing plant in Surrey, where it stood until the Kennedy Heights operation was closed in 2015.
For several years it’s been in storage in Surrey, along with an old hot-type printing press. But now it needs a new home, and we’re looking for suggestions. (We’ve already sent out feelers to the PNE and the Museum of Vancouver.)
The sculpture is in three pieces: the father, the boy, and the mother and child. Lying in a storage locker, they look like mummies; albeit mummies with big metal pegs sticking out of their feet, where they used to be attached to a marble base.
“The father of the group stands 12 ft 6 inches high and weighs 1,700 pounds,” said a Sun story the day they were unveiled on July 7, 1966.
“The mother, holding a baby, is 11 feet 6 and weighs 1,600 pounds; the teenage son is 9 feet tall and weighs 600 pounds.”
Lying at the back of the storage shed, it’s hard to understand why the naked boy caused such a stir back in the day. In a sense, the controversy embodies the way Vancouver was changing in the mid-’60s from a relatively conservative city to a much more liberal one.
The Sun and Province’s current editor-in-chief Harold Munro has always felt the meaning of the sculpture was how newspapers “held those in power to account, and spoke for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.”
“You’ve got someone who’s unclothed, so they’re vulnerable. And a mother and a child, so a typical family.”
But Harman’s son Stephen said the naked boy was supposed to represent “a new generation stepping forward, shedding the metaphorical clothing and baggage of the past.”
Harman said his father received $5,000 for The Family, which took 17 months to complete. It was commissioned by The Sun’s then-publisher Stu Keate.
“They hadn’t asked him to do anything in particular, so he decided to do this family sculpture, involving, obviously, the nude boy,” said Stephen Harman, who still runs his father’s foundry in Red Deer, Alta.
“Stu Keate came to the house and saw the finished clay. Actually it was sculpted in plaster, which was unusual. He sculpted it in plaster, had bought all the mould-making material, and cast it himself in our foundry in North Van.
“Stu Keate looked at it, and knew it was going to be controversial. And he said ‘Well Jack, I think you know what to do, I’m going to leave it in your competent hands.’
“He was very subtle, he didn’t (come out and) say he wanted the boy clothed. But my dad didn’t get that message and carried on.”
Keate came back a few months later “expecting (the boy) to be clothed, but he was still nude.” The sculpture was put on hold for a few months, but finally Keate gave Harman the go-ahead and it was completed.
Harman would go on to create many of Vancouver’s iconic sculptures, including Roger Bannister passing John Landy in the Miracle Mile, sprinter Harry Jerome in full flight, and the Lady Justice figure in the Vancouver courthouse. He died on Jan. 3, 2001 at age 73.
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