Mike's Great Grandfather

"Jake" Izen Retires After Unique Career

42 Years of Hard Work Brings Independence

The Vancouver Sun.
April 1932.
By Myrtle Patterson

"Make a dollar - spend fifty cents. Make $10.00 - spend $5.00. Pay your bills - get them discounted by prompt payment - and save something for a rainy day" .

That, in short, is the business creed which has enabled Jacob Izen, well-known figure in Vancouver for 40 years, to retire from active work this week with a comfortable fortune. He is off shortly for California to visit his wife and two daughters in Hollywood, California, but after that will return to Vancouver.

Having leased the National Theatre, 58 East Hastings St. West, which property he has owned and from time to time, operated since 1906, "Jake" Izen is free after 46 year's effort to spend the remainder of his life as his tastes dictate. He is 67 years old. He makes his home in Vancouver with his daughter, Mrs. M. Koenigsburg,1728 Comox Street.

Arrived in 1882.

Coming to America in 1882 as a Rumanian immigrant, with only $1.00 in his pocket, Mr. Izen's success is an example of what determination to succeed, hard work and honesty will accomplish for the newcomer in Canada.

He landed at Castle Garden( now Ellis Island), New York, in 1882 and after a fruitless search for work he came with other young fellows to Lagan, on the Canadian Pacific Railway, near the Rockies. They made the long trip through Buffalo, Toronto, Duluth and Port Arthur, where they took the train for the West.

Jake found work with pick and shovel at $2.00 a day but after 21 days received only $17.00. He returned to Winnipeg to work on the Selkirk section at a small sum per week. He wanted to fight in the Louis Riel rebellion and had sworn allegiance to Queen Victoria.

In the spring, he again came west and worked with pick and shovel at $1.50 a day. His marriage to Miss Massie Katz took place in Winnipeg that fall.

Mr. and Mrs. Izen - his Romanian name was Izenhandler, but he had shortened it to Izen, lived in the Manitoba capital for four years. The young husband did everything for an honest living - delivered meat, peddled vegetables, dug ditches and bucked wood. Finally, in the spring of 1888 he came to Vancouver.

On his first day in Vancouver, he cleared land on Nelson Street, between Howe add Hornby Streets for $1.75 for a ten hour day. He did this for two weeks. Then he became a member of the waterworks gang at $2.00 a day, laying a main on old Westminster Avenue, now Main Street. Work on Carrall Street at $1.75 a day followed. But one morning it rained. He couldn't afford to miss a day's work not with Mrs. Izen and their baby arriving that day from Winnipeg, and the only way he got it is typical of the ingenuity and determination which has made "Jake" Izen a success.

The steamer, "Batavia" was in from China. "Jake" went down to the waterfront. Without consulting anyone he went to work. Half way through the day the foreman approached him. Who put him to work he wanted to know. No one. Why was he there? He had to have work.

"You're all right. Keep on." Said the foreman. It was the elder Mr. Charleson well-known on the waterfront of early Vancouver.

"Jake" kept on all that week, 15 hours a day, working at night Friday and Saturday until 6 PM. He slept straight through until Monday morning and found a job handling bricks at Smythe and Granville Streets at 30 cents an hour big pay in those days.

"Jake" says he owes much of his present success to his wife's ambition for him. She insisted that he should give up working by the day, and that he should go into business for himself. So in the spring of 1889, he opened a little fruit store at Carrall and Cordova Streets, on the spot where the Royal Bank now stands. Store rent, fruit, tobacco and cigars - he got them all on credit.

Saved first $1000.00

Five years were spent in the fruit business, and in that time "Jake" had saved $1000.00. He bought a shack in the 1000-block of Seymour Street. He had difficulty in collecting the rent, the Chinese laundry which occupied it for a time alone being prompt! It was the first of his real estate deals.

In 1904 he bought 26 feet from the Canadian Pacific Railway, the spot now occupied by the Vancouver Club. The price was $1,500 . He got it for $1,250 by paying cash. Six months later he sold it to Mayor Douglas for $3,000. In 1905 he bought the place now occupied by Cuthbertson's for $16,500 - and six months later sold it for $25,000. A year from the time he bought the Europe hotel corner at $5,500. He sold it for $9,500.

He bought 320 acres on Grouse Mountain and has since sold it a profit. In 1906 he bought the National Theatre for $40,000 and it has been on the market for $75,000. Now it has been leased for a period, and "Jake" will no longer be a familiar figure in the box office of his "tee-ater"- he will be off seeing the world.

Reference to the Batavia found in The Daily News Advertiser, March 12, 1889 "Arrival of the Batavia - The China ship Batavia, Captain Hugh W. Auld, arrived from the Orient on Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock - She left Hong Kong on the 9th of February - She had four Europeans, 8 Japanese and 3 Chinese passengers. -She was heavily laden, the cargo being 2000 tons. - The Batavia has not much tea aboard, this not being the season. She has a large quantity of rice. Her cargo is being rapidly discharged."

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