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THIS DAY IN VANCOUVER: February 27th

February 27, 2012 | by  |  This Day In Vancouver

1976:

A Vancouver Sun editorial bemoans the plight of Vancouver’s male population, as the city decides to “crack down” on massage parlours.

This “undoubtedly comes as bad news to all those timid men who have finallly worked up enough courage to at least contemplate their first visit to one of the notorious squeeze-and-pound emporiums,” reports the Sun’s Christopher Dafoe, in an editorial on the subject. “Some of us will now never know what it feels like to be tied into a granny knot by a bored beauty dressed in nothing more concealing than a glazed smile.”

The bylaw, approved February 24th, and due to take effect in several weeks, places local massage parlours and nude modeling studios under tough new regulations, including a $3,000 annual license fee (well above average), officially enforced sizes for doors, rooms, and amount of lighting, and the requirement that all masseuses wear nontransparent garments covering the body from the neck to the knees. Sleeves must also reach the elbow, and hours are sharply regulated.

“He simply can’t stand seeing us have a good time,” local Jock McSporran complains of Alderman Harry Rankin (who spearheaded the initiative). “Businessmen, tired or otherwise, make him see red, and when he thinks of us enjoying ourselves in pleasant surroundings he reaches for his revolver. The class war has moved to a new front.”

McSporran also tosses out other allegations, among them the idea that council’s concern over nude photography businesses and body-painting is “simply another example of council’s notorious hatred of culture and the arts.”

Rankin, however, is vehement in his support of new regulations, claiming that massage parlours exploit women “in the most obnoxious way.”

“These are run by people who exploit other people for monetary gain, and no other purpose,” Rankin tells council.

Opinion is sharply divided in council, with aldermen supporting banning massage parlours altogether, while others support simple regulation, for fear of driving the business underground. The sole dissenter on council is Alderman Fritz Bowers, who claims that “the city should not be in the business of regulating morals.”

“Inflation finished off late Roman civilization,” Dafoe continues, “just as it is finishing off ours, and Romans who were taking a beating at the bank enjoyed a quick visit to the masseuse to help them forget their money worries.”

“Are we to be denied similar consolation?” McSporran asks. “Let’s let [council] stick to street repairs and early closing bylaws.”

Every one of council’s regulations will remain on the books into the 21st century, with license fees for “body-rub parlours” continuing to be among the five highest in the city.

 

IMAGE: Interior view of massage tables at Pacific Athletic Club, circa 1936. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.

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