All in the Family – written by Marcia Toms

In 1964, Carmelo and Ella Renzullo established Renzullo Food Market on Nanaimo Street, adjacent to Kitchener.  They also set up housekeeping in a home on Nanaimo, directly across from their store. Aptly named “Casa Renzullo,” it is reminiscent of their Italian homeland with fig trees and summer-grown basil gracing the garden. There they raised six children who all attended neighbourhood schools.  And at the store, a neighbourhood institution was born. In the ‘good old days’ it was a place to find food from the ‘old country’ as yet not easily available in Vancouver: grapes for making wine and dried fish for special occasions, real olive oil and pasta that didn’t come in a can.  It was open all hours.

As the clientele grew beyond its Italian roots, the services offered also grew: a space to relax, drink real espresso and its many offshoots, enjoy a panino made from among a vast array of Italian meats, cheeses, olives and onions, and chat with an eclectic mix of people from just about everywhere. Advice, a few shoulders to lean on, life histories, current woes and triumphs, a chance to try out your Italian, and more are shared, chewed over and ingested.  Kids are welcome and soon learn to love hot chocolate: heavy on the whipped cream. As a local filmmaker notes: “I come here because it’s way better than going to a psychologist.”

The shop is a cornucopia of all foods and condiments Italian. Want Romano beans (the best bean in the world, someone once attested) as fresh as picked yesterday, how about some luscious Ricotta cheese that doesn’t come in a plastic tub or truly pure olive oil?  These and more are on offer.

The wooden floorboards and colourful displays of real food create a feeling of comfort and welcome.  Those are qualities increasingly rare in grocery stores and so, Renzullo’s offers both a nod to what is past – because the city used to have many such shops – and a reminder that a family effort to keep old-school traditions alive is thriving and much-loved. Today, Mirella Renzullo and her husband Franco Valenti run the store in concert with employees who come, originally, from Italy (both north and south, if anyone is interested), East Van, Saltspring Island, and Israel.  They, too, are part of an open-ended family that welcomes everyone.


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It was 54 years ago, but seems like yesterday – written by Marcia Toms

On August 22nd, 1964, Empire Stadium succumbed to the first volley of the British Invasion of North America: the Beatles performed at Empire Stadium. It was seven years after the Elvis Edition of Rock ‘n Roll mayhem, and, it seemed, a repeat performance, at least in terms of the irrepressible enthusiasm of fans.

Three months earlier, in June, the ticket booths at the stadium played host to another kind of invasion.  Beatles fans, determined to get good seats, camped out overnight so as to be first comers. I was one of those kids.  I was 14 and shocked that my parents had allowed me, accompanied by three friends, to stay out all night in, as they noted “the middle of nowhere, in a veritable parking lot. “ They were, no doubt, comforted by one of the dads, (not mine, ruefully reminding me that he had had more than his share of ‘camping’ during the war) who agreed to act as our chaperone. He was certainly comforted by the mickey of rum he had chosen as his companion and which he consumed from a safe distance in his car.  It was my first entirely sleepless night (not fun, as I would much later admit) and my first mixed gender wild pillow fight. I survived, bought my ticket  – 5 bucks, with an extra 25 cents tacked on for handling – and went home to wait much too long to see The Beatles.

The Beatles came, they played all of 27 minutes to a 20,000 plus crowd of screeching, unhinged teenagers, and, pulling an Elvis, they left.  They ran off the stage, into waiting vehicles and drove straight to the airport.  Their Vancouver

stay  lasted an afternoon and an evening.  Period.  During the concert, at least I had the presence of mind to check their feet for authenticity.  Yup. They were, each and every one of them, wearing Beatle boots.

That night marked another star was placed in the Hastings – Sunrise heaven.  It is, surely, the very best place to be in the entire town.

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‘The King’ comes to Hastings-Sunrise – written by Marcia Toms

There is a long history of live jazz and blues in Vancouver, where, even before World War One, artists jammed into Chinatown’s commercial district.   They played at small clubs and pubs, including The Patricia which still hosts live music.  When Rock ‘n Roll rolled around, East Van was a first choice for travelling, world famous rockers.  Empire Stadium at Hastings Park expanded an established musical tradition.  The stadium and the Park’s other venues became action central, punching above their weight on the global music scene because, in the 1950s, Vancouver was still a small, sleepy town at the end of the railroad.

On August 31st, 1957, Elvis Presley, The King of Rock ‘n Roll and icon for a wartime born generation of kids, came to town.  He arrived with The Jordanaires , his back-up band, by train from Seattle. It was only the third time he had performed outside of the USA, and it would be his last.  The tickets ran in price from $1:50 – $3:50! Not bad, even for the era.

Empire Stadium was filled – 26,000 strong – with overexcited, screaming ‘teenagers.  By the time the concert began, many had left their seats and occupied the field. And despite pleas from organizers, they refused to leave.  When Elvis walked onto the stage, hundreds of them, en masse, rushed it.  Elvis performed … for a grand total of 22 minutes, ran off stage, throwing his gold jacket to a helper who, acting as a decoy, was chased by  ‘a mob.’   Elvis escaped and was driven back to the Hotel Georgia. He left town the next day.

One of Frog Hollow’s neighbours, Teresa, who was born in Italy but came to live in Hastings Sunrise as a young child, was an early Elvis fan.  Now in her late 70s, she still remembers the night she saw him in her own neighbourhood.  She was able to walk to the concert, join in the screaming and, a little annoyed that he sang and wriggled for such a short time, walk home again.

At the height of the Elvis phenomenon, perplexed adults were often heard remarking: “He’ll never last.” Last he did, and, while he never returned to East Vancouver, he put it on the map of his era’s popular culture.

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Sabatino’s Story written by Marcia Toms

When Sabatino arrived in Vancouver as a very young boy, his family moved to East Van and never left.  The post – World War Two years were times of high immigration, mostly from Europe, and of initial hardship for many new arrivals. Sabatino, an Italian, recalls enduring the usual slurs and a little name calling, and having to change his name to Tony, so that his teachers could manage the pronunciation.  By and large, though, East Van and the three schools he attended were safe and welcoming, homes away from home for other recent immigrants, offering places to learn and to play. Sabatino attended Franklin, Hastings and Templeton.  He fondly remembers The Beavers, the name for all the teams at Hastings, and The Titans at Templeton.  As people in the ‘hood know still: “Once a Titan, Always a Titan.”

While Sabatino attended Templeton, he also had a weekend job at The Track, a work site for many East Van kids.  He walked horses every Saturday and probably neglected his schoolwork.

One Monday morning in PE class his teacher, a Templeton veteran even in the mid 1960s (the school expanded from a junior high to a full high school in 1963), asked  ‘Tony’ what he had done on the weekend.

“I walked horses at the track on Saturday. I think I want to be a jockey!”

The teacher looked straight at his student. “Hmmmmm” he began. “How much do they pay you?”

“50 cents for the day,” replied ‘Tony.’

“Well, now, that’s interesting.  I did that same job in the ‘30s, during the Depression, and they paid me exactly the same wage.”

Sabatino never did become a jockey, skipped his high school graduation parties and went straight to work after that.  He does, however, attend Templeton reunions. “To make up for not going to grad.”  And he still makes his home on Le Roi Street, near Frog Hollow, drinks a good, strong espresso regularly at a favourite meeting place, and happily details the many ways that East Van is “special.”

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Harvest Festival

If you have missed the event I would like to share some happy moments with you.

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Nature Walk Workshop

Come join us on a Nature Walk with Lori Snyder and learn about our local Indeigenous plans right in your neighbourhood! Rain or shine! See flyer below. Contact Eva for more info.


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Memories of the Summer and Food Security Initiatives

  SPARC BC providing us with fresh local farm produce out at Clinton Park!

Getting ready to allocate to many seniors and families.

 See that man in the picture, he is the Farmer!

I cant believe how fresh all the veggies are!

Happy Seniors:)

SPARC BC came to Frog Hollow too.


Great Recipes on how to make the veggie they received.



Serving 50 bags of produce to our seniors!

Thank you SPARC BC!!

We love you!


A kale workshop at Clinton Park with the youth. They were awesome! Really interested in their health and how to make a tasty salad or smoothie with the kale….yes! King Of Vegetables!

Pre-teens Bbq some of their harvest at their outdoor event.



Canning workshop, learning how to preserve rescued veggies!

Busy hands at work

Just so much fun!

Peach Jam and Sauerkraut

A nature walk with Lori Snyder

sSo much to learn about our local plants and their medicinal uses!

  The best time in the summer was our youth!

You helped with so many things…in the park, in the garden, cooking, packing seeds, making smoothies. 

You guys Rock!


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Youth at work preparing Summer Veggie Fun from rescued produce!

 Preparations of rescued produce were made weekly by our volunteer youth, serving families and children at our Frogs in the Park program over the summer.


Their smiles and dedication made such a difference!

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Art in the Park


Our wonderful and creative youth used nature to add to the water color paintings they did with young children at Frogs in the Park.

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Frogs in the Park

We were at Clinton park every Tuesday! 

What do we have here? Check this out, Veggies provided by Spark BC.

Seeds give away, did you know you can plant in august, come down and get your seeds! I have kale, lettuce, carrots and more!

See you next Tuesday!

Tomorrow we will be at Sunrise park.












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