Vancouver Centennial Plaque #1 – City Payroll Stolen


173 E Pender St (Pender & Main)


Formerly the rear entrance to the old City Hall building, now a Dollar Tree store





September 28, 1922

On this site, near the side door of the old City Hall, three men, armed and masked, robbed the Paymaster and his assistant of the entire monthly payroll of $75,000.”

Credit: Vancouver Centennial Commission, Historic Plaque Program – list and documentation plaques 1-49 (June 18, 1986). Courtesy of Vancouver Archives


Vancouver Centennial Plaque #1 – City Payroll Stolen

On September 28, 1922, the City Paymasters (Charles A Schooley and his assistant, Robert W Armstrong) picked up the monthly payroll from a downtown bank. While they were counting the money, the City Hall switchboard received a call from someone asking to speak to Mr Schooley. When told that he wasn’t in, the man asked if that day was payday and the ever-helpful Mrs Carstead replied that it was.

The Paymasters were offered a lift back to the office by the City Health Inspector, but they preferred to take a streetcar instead. Around 10.15am, they were walking towards the back door of City Hall when a car sped across Main Street and screeched to a halt beside them. An “unusually heavy-set man wearing heavy horn-rimmed goggles, a black soft hat pulled down and his lower features concealed by a handkerchief” jumped out of the car and brandished a gun. Another man stood back and kept an eye out for interference from the street.

Robert kept hold of the bag of cash, despite the man yelling “Drop that bag, you ------!”, so the thief fired his gun. Two warning shots broke windows in City Hall and one was aimed at the hand holding the bag. Luckily for Robert, the bullet just hit his coat, but he was then punched so hard that he fell unconscious. The two men jumped back into the car and their driver sped off – getting away with $76,304, which is worth around $1,325,367 today.

The Paymasters recovered well from their experience. Robert was mostly annoyed about the move away from cash, as he then had to handwrite about 700 cheques every month. Also, as his coat was taken as evidence, he petitioned the City Council for $25 to buy a new one before the winter. In May 1923, Charles retired and Robert was promoted to City Paymaster.

Although some descriptions of the robbery say that the culprits were never caught, that’s not true. C.C. Thompson and Frank de Paula (both known by many other aliases) were arrested, convicted and served lengthy sentences for this and other robberies. The driver, John Howell, was freed. The City Council paid out $3,000 in reward money to a number of witnesses, US marshals and police officers.

However, the payroll money was never recovered.

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