1922 - 1939
The history of Vancouver College began in 1906, when the rector of Holy Rosary Cathedral, Fr. Welch, applied to the Congregation of Christian Brothers, then known as the Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Ireland (FSCH: Fratres Scholarum Christianarum de Hibernia), to establish a school for boys in Vancouver. The application was turned down at this time and further application in 1912 was also turned down. The reasons were not given, but applications of this sort are usually turned down due to lack of availability of Brothers at that particular time.
Further applications were made by Archbishop Casey, then Archbishop of Vancouver, to the Superior General of the Brothers, Br. Hennessey, and this request received a positive response. Four Brothers, Lannon, Reid, Murtagh, and Keane, were missioned to Vancouver and began what was to be Vancouver College at the downtown site on Richard's St. known as Rosary Hall. The first classes numbered 91 boys, and classes began in the fall of 1922. The first principal was Br. Jerome Lannon.
Both the demands of increasing the enrollment and of finding a better location for developing a school brought about a building campaign among the Catholic population of Vancouver, and in 1925, sufficient funds were available to purchase land on the then-remote part of Vancouver called Shaughnessy Heights and to build a school which was named Vancouver College. This initial building presently forms the part VC which we call Lannon Hall.
The administration of Vancouver College was the responsibility of Br. Lannon over the years from 1922 to 1928.
The new Catholic High School served the Catholic population of Vancouver and cut across the general Catholic population. Continued demand for more space to accommodate increasing student population resulted in further seeking of funds.
Thanks to the generosity of J. D. McCormack and his family, a substantial donation was given to the College for purposes of erecting a new wing which would house classrooms and provide space for boarding students, since many communities in British Columbia did not have Catholic schools at that time. This wing was constructed and opened in 1927 and presently is named McCormack Hall.
With the two building wings in operation, the school population climbed to 300 students.
A strong educational program was in evidence from the beginning. The first graduating class, class of 1927 - 1928, experienced a 75% passing rate, which, under the British Examination system, was quite high.
As with pretty well all Brothers' schools, the whole person was focused on. Numerous activities, centering on the arts, athletics, and human interest, were developed.
The first school orchestra, under the direction of a Professor Talbot, was formed and performed as early as 1924. In the area of drama, Shakespearian plays were the order of the day. These were performed at the Orpheum Theater. In 1924, Macbeth was performed and in 1927, Julius Caesar was staged. Activities such as Irish dancing, choral work, gymnastic displays, debating and public speaking, and the list goes on, were part of the extracurricular fabric of Vancouver College. As was traditional in Brothers' schools, regular school liturgies, including First-Friday devotions, school confessions, and a yearly retreat program saw to the spiritual needs of the students. Religious education was an important element of the curriculum and the tradition of "Friday talks" by the religion teacher was upheld.
The large number of vocations, particularly to the priesthood, from the ranks of VC's graduates was indicative of the quality of religious education at the school.
Competitive sports were entered into almost immediately. The major sports at the beginning of VC's history were soccer and rugby. Basketball was a fledgling sport in the 20's, and was not considered in the same vein that it is today. VC won its first Championship in 1924, winning the Vancouver School Soccer Championship, and, four years later, VC won the Greater Vancouver Rugby Championship. Football, Canadian style, was introduced in 1929, and, over the next ten years, the school became a power in the Vancouver Area.
The first basketball team appeared in 1928, coached by Br. Breen, whom many of the present staff knew. Br. Breen's association with Vancouver College continued over his life and he spent many years teaching at College, and, after retiring from teaching, was groundskeeper at the school.
As the school moved into the thirties, history would not smile as bountifully on Vancouver College as it did in the first years of its existence. The Great Depression took its toll on the enrollment, so that, at the height of the depression, the enrollment was under 200 students. Finances became a huge burden, and, during the thirties, the focus was more on surviving this part of history than on expansion. The school, however, survived the Depression. One has to give great credit and respectful admiration to the administrators of the time, Br. Lannon and Br. Cel Stirling, who withstood the rigors of the era.
It is interesting to note that, in the late thirties, football at VC went south of the border, as, for one reason or another, the schools and teams around the Lower Mainland would not schedule Vancouver College. Thus, football at VC became American football as opposed to Canadian football.
World War II saw an upsurge in the fortunes of Vancouver College. Br. E. B. Walsh assumed the responsibility of Principal in 1939. Brother Walsh was a man of many talents and was very astute as to sensing the tenor of the times. He established a strong Cadet Corp in the school, and VC became well known for its patriotic contribution to the war effort. Registration climbed back to respectable levels, and, by the end of the war, the school was back on track.