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1915::The Pioneer of the Metropolitan Garage in Victoria, British Columbia

Updated: Apr 22

Joining the short list of Vancouver Island's automobile pioneers.

1917::Rube McMorran and His Hupmobile at His Metropolitan Garage On View Street

"1915::Rube McMorran and His Hupmobile at His Metropolitan Garage On View Street"

Photo Clip: (tbd)

Photographer: Unknown

In 1897, young Reuben McMorran arrived in British Columbia seeking adventure and a better life. He had set out from Ontario and journeyed West on the Canadian Pacific Railway with thousands of people rushing to the Yukon to stake their claim in the Klondike near Dawson City. News of significant strikes in the frozen North had flooded newspaper headlines for months, creating a Gold Rush fever throughout the province. Miners, prospectors, journalists, entrepreneurs, investors and ordinary people without a plan rushed to the coast, hoping to catch a boat north to Alaska, the gateway to the Klondike. The excitement was contagious, and it gave McMorran an idea.

1897::Canadian Pacific's SS Islander

He found work on the Pacific coast steamships overwhelmed with gold rush passengers travelling to and from the northern shores. As a ship's steward, he tended to newly rich miners returning from the Klondike with a pouch full of gold dust in one hand and a half-drunk bottle of champagne in the other. He also tended to the broken miners who had merely escaped the Yukon with their lives. When the golden times began to slow, McMorran married his new young bride and decided to build a life in Victoria on Vancouver Island.

1912::The Metropolitan Motor Company on Granville Street

"1912::The Metropolitan Motor Company on Granville Street"

Clip: Vancouver Daily World (1912)

Vancouver, British Columbia

McMorran opened his garage on View Street in 1915. He had purchased most of his inventory the previous year when the old Metropolitan Garage across the street sold out. The previous owners of his garage were a connected group of well-respected automobile pioneers who had settled in Victoria and Vancouver at the turn of the century. These men had acquired and developed the toughest and fastest motorcars in the industry for their booming West Coast cities and fought to build better roads and highways along the Pacific Coast. McMorran was now one of them. He managed and sponsored a local baseball team that played in Victoria's new Royal Athletic Park, taught his customers how to care for their automobiles, and treated his staff to a barbeque bash in Deep Cove on the Saanich Peninsula every summer. McMorran had become a big name around town.

1918::Thomas Plimley's old Garage at 727 Johnson Street in Victoria, British Columbia

"1918::Thomas Plimley's old Garage at 727 Johnson Street in Victoria, British Columbia"

Photo: City of Victoria Archives (MOO707) Victoria, British Columbia

1919::McMorran Takes Over Plimley's Old Garage in Victoria, British Columbia

On New Year's Day, 1919, McMorran expanded his small business by moving it into the old abandoned Plimley's garage on Johnson Street. Business boomed there until 1927 when he gave it all up to open a real estate brokerage on Robson Street in Vancouver. He called Vancouver home for the remainder of his days.

1901::The Ill-Fated S.S. Islander Sinks to the Ocean Floor

"1901::The Ill-Fated S.S. Islander Sinks to the Ocean Floor"

Clip: The Province (1901)

Vancouver, British Columbia

It wasn't until McMorran's death that people learned the secret that he had kept all to himself. His obituary revealed that during the Klondike Gold Rush, he had been working as a steward on the ill-fated Canadian Pacific S.S. Islander when it sank and rocked the coast with its tragic news. In the early evening of August 14, 1901, the S.S. Islander left Skagway, Alaska, with 185 souls on board for Vancouver. At 2 am, the ship struck an iceberg near Douglas Island and immediately began to take on water. Passengers enjoying cocktails in the ship's saloon ignored the urgent call to lifeboats and continued their conversations. Tragically, just fifteen minutes later, the boat plunged to the ocean floor. Although the passenger list went down with the ship, it was estimated that 42 people lost their lives. McMorran was one of the survivors. The fate of the S.S. Islander remains one of the West Coast's greatest tragedies.

*McMorran's name was listed as McMarrow on the ship's roll call list at Juneau.


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