Medicine Man Charlie’s Wooden Nickel

Token Talk with Duff Malkin
Medicine Man Charlie’s Wooden Nickel

What can give me a good buzz is the discovery of something I did not know about and which is somewhat unusual and I did not expect to see. This following wooden nickel is one such item. It is quite thick for a wooden nickel (7mm or about ¼ of an inch, which may have been more relevant in Canada’s pre-metric days).

Ranier Provisions is in Gastown at 2 West Cordova. It is a licensed restaurant. I am not sure whether it is the “Rainier of Gastown” referred to on the token, but it might be and it might be where the issuing “Ranier” is. It may also refer to the Ranier Hotel at 309 Carrall Street. The former may be part of the latter for the streets do meet in Gastown.

In 1973 the Evening Independent newspaper (May 15th), of St. Petersburg, Florida, had an article about Gastown which stated “Then there’s Casanova, an Italian restaurant, the Barkerville Inn specializing in Old World Chinese cuisine, le coq au vin, la crepe bretonne or la creperie for food in the French flavor, or Medicine Man Charlie’s where you can try braised short ribs or beef on noodles while reliving the wild and woolly frontier days of old Vancouver.”

The Ubyssey of October 27th, 1972 also has a side reference to the place stating that “Block-long line-ups in front of places like the Body Shop, Medicine Man Charlie’s, Sneaky Pete’s, and the Town Pump are becoming common occurrences Friday and Saturday nights.” This operation was also on Carroll Street. It was noted as a place where local bands played or were in attendance, like The Collectors, who later became Chilliwack.

“I first heard Al play at Medicine Man Charlie’s on Carroll St in the mid ‘70’s with Al Wold. The drumming was ferocious and sensitive at the same time. From my seat I could not see the drummer’s face because of the vertical ride symbol (the edge pointing to the ceiling). When he stood up I saw he had no hair! My first audio and visual impression of Al Wiertz… I enjoyed and learned from his playing over the years especially seeing him with Bob Murphy, Dale Jacobs and Joni Taylor in the Carmen Cadillac when Miles Davis ‘opened’ for them at the QE”

A photo of the band playing apparently there can be found at

cannot remember the place and I have no idea if there was such as a cigar store Indian related to it. Gastown, as a name for the downtown region, may have been used for decades but it was only in the very late 1960’s and 1970’s when it came to be what it is. Whether either institution had a cigar store Indian in front of it, I know not, but it might have been supposed to relate to BC’s western history or it may be that the Indian, as in the case of many wooden nickels, was a rather stock character.

About Julian Ticehurst

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