The Pacific connects us in many ways. For people who sailed across it, it is a voyage to a new land or a return to home. For some it was simply a business trip.
Not many women spent years of their life travelling from port to port. Fewer still documented that with a small Kodak camera.
Iris Parr loved to travel and landed her dream job, with the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company. She became a stewardess and shop attendant on the Empress of Canada. Canada’s largest passenger ships were the Empress class, linking a network of grand hotels and railways with the Atlantic and Pacific worlds.
From British Columbia the Empress ships of Canadian Pacific connected the movement of people and goods between the great Pacific ports of Vancouver, Yokohama, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
It was out on the Pacific that Iris met her husband, Bill Parr, the Chief Steward of the Empress of Canada. After they married she left the oceanic vessels and the Second World War saw the ships converted for wartime use. Bill continued and survived the sinking of the Empress of Canada, joining the renamed Empress of Scotland (formerly the Empress of Japan).
After the war they moved to Montreal where he managed catering for the Canadian Pacific’s North Atlantic fleet. Iris and Bill retired to Victoria. In 1981 Iris donated a small but remarkable collection of CPSS menus and five remarkable photograph albums. In it were her Kodak snapshots and photographs she collected from 1931 to 1941. Throughout this issue are a few scenes captured by Iris Parr of her Pacific life.
One of Iris’ albums and a display about the Empress’ routes is available for viewing in the Royal BC Museum’s third floor maritime gallery.