Sudden Death in 1947

Newspapers have obviously changed in the last 63 years. The print and paper quality, size, typeface and layouts are quite different in The Vancouver Sun but the most glaring difference is the reporting style. The photo above was published Tuesday, September 2, 1947 in the Sun’s second section, top and centre of the page. It shows onlookers at a motor vehicle accident on King George Highway, with the victim’s bleeding and battered bodies still in the car. The driver is obviously dead, blood draining from his nose.

The caption below the photo reads:

SUDDEN DEATH ON THE HIGHWAY is vividly portrayed in this on-the-spot Sun photo, showing seven victims in one smashed auto following a collision on King George Highway early Sunday. At the wheel of the auto, foreground, is Stephan P. Angrimson, 22, of 2720 East Thirty-eighth, dead. Six other passengers tossed about in the car lie crumpled and seriously injured.

The second photo below shows witnesses, one idiot with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, removing the bodies from the vehicle with not one cop or ambulance attendant in sight. The passengers didn’t enjoy the benefit of seat belts or airbags and were attended to by a group of morons. They didn’t have a chance.

The caption below the photo reads:

STARTLED WITNESSES remove the dead and injured from one of two cars involved in the early Sunday morning crash in Surrey. In the foreground lies Stephan P. Arngrimson, who was pronounced dead on arrival at Royal Columbian Hospital. Beside him lies another victim, seriously injured. Police engaged in the Surrey manhunt assisted an ambulance shuttle service in speeding the victims to hospital.

A few things stuck me when I saw these photos in an original copy of The Vancouver Sun given to me by my neighbour. Firstly, the fact that the newspaper photographer managed to take pictures of the accident before anyone had offered assistance to the victims. He/She took the time to find the right angle for best effect, shoot a few pictures and then continue to photograph the carnage. The onlookers are casually milling about in the background with hands in pockets, smoking cigarettes with injured and dead victims in the car and gasoline leaking from the vehicle.

Were people really void of compassion or so unwilling to help back in 1947? Can you imagine the scene now, 10 people with WCB first aid certification helping the injured, nobody smoking a cigarette and the sea of emergency workers on the scene with state-of-the-art medical equipment and techniques to save the lives of the victims.

Times have changed and you frequently hear old farts referring to the good old days. Yeah life was simpler years ago but, according to these pictures, life wasn’t really that good if you were in a traffic accident in 1947.

Please excuse the quality of the image scans but newspaper is notoriously difficult to scan, especially newspapers that are almost 63 years old.


  1. JV   •  

    Could also perhaps be that this was right after WW II. The carnage people were subjected to daily back then would make this look like nothing. Thus maybe the “Oh Well” attitude.

    Everyone smoked back then and you didn’t stand a chance in those cars.

    No crumple zones, no seat belts and steel dashboards with pointed rocket shaped radio knobs just to make sure you were toast!!

    Our family had a couple of 56 Buick Specials. When we’d go on holidays the kids would take turns sleeping on the rear window back shelf while my Dad proudly told us he’d just hit 90 MPH.

    Yee Haa!! The good old days!!

  2. Bartholemew Bump   •  

    A few years ago, at about 10 pm on Christmas day, my wife and I were returning to PoMo from Surrey by way of the Pattullo bridge. It was raining. They had and maybe still have a procedure to reduce head on crashes by closing the inside lane at night. The traffic control crew ( a husband and wife team) were parked on the shoulder. Just as we approached, the driver of the traffic control truck pulled out directly in front of us attempting to cross from the shoulder to the inside lane. I slammed on the brakes and turned the wheel all the way to the left putting the car into a slide. We collided with the truck side to side. There was a metal bar protruding from the truck that cut the passenger door of our car open like a can opener. Fortunately, it was not long enough to cut completely through the door.
    When I got out of the car the driver of the truck got out and without checking to see if anyone was hurt proceded to accuse me of speeding. Traffic was held up as our vehicles were blocking the roadway. No one got out to see if we needed help but instead shouted at us to “get the fuck out of the way”.
    The guy who caused the accident did not have his drivers licence with him, never apologized, never checked to see if he had killed or injured my wife and tried to deny responsibility. Neither this so called professional traffic control person nor anyone else called an ambulance or police.
    The passenger door of our car would not stay closed so my wife drove while I held the door shut. We drove home like that. The next day I looked at the car and could see that it was clearly a right off. We should probably not have driven it but everyone was so hostile we just needed to get out of there.
    From our experience, I would say that not much has changed in Surrey since 1947.

  3. Bartholemew Bump   •  

    I agree with JV on the possible effect of WW2 experiences on the first on the scene folks in 1947. Those guys quite likely were veterans. First aid was not what it is today and people were much more accustomed to death in general.

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