I was too young to remember it, but in the fall of 1967, the character of my adopted home underwent a significant change. At the time, I was actually visiting Canada for the first time with my parents, attending Expo ’67 in Montreal. Meanwhile, back here in Vancouver, a large population of hippies (or at least, that’s what they were called back then) descended on the town, much to the dismay of the mayor, Thomas J. Campbell. An ‘Evening Magazine’ clip has recently surfaced on YouTube, and I’ve included it below.
The best part of it for me is Campbell’s fear and hysteria regarding the hippies. Campbell hates them passionately, almost like a character in National Lampoon’s Animal House: “If these young people get their way, they will destroy Canada. From what I hear across the world, they will destroy the world!”
Campbell was a big proponent of tearing down older buildings to make room for redevelopment (he’s shown posing gleefully atop a wrecking ball) and spearheaded the move to bring an expressway into the city. He had those hippies he hated so much arrested for loitering.
Fortunately for us (or unfortunately, if you like freeways), the hippies, by allying themselves with the more straight-laced people who wanted to preserve their neighborhoods won in the end. No superhighway was built through Vancouver. One historian in the piece says that this was the time when Vancouver ‘found its voice’, and hence owes a lot to the spirit of that era. Like Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, I see echoes of that era in Kitsilano, which was apparently Hippie Central in ’67. Both the Haight and Kits are now largely yuppified, but still retain some of that charm. We certainly saw some of it in the farmer’s market we went to a couple of weeks ago. I even got some granola from the Granola King.
Now, with freeways all over North America clogged with commuters fleeing cities at 5PM and heading for suburbs, burning $4 a gallon gas and burning hydrocarbons (while Vancouver contemplates further ecodensity as a way of dealing with the Climate Crisis and Peak Oil), Campbell’s vision seems all the more wrong-headed. Maybe (perhaps through dumb luck) the hippies had it right all along. On the other hand, they were right about Vietnam, too…and Iraq. OK, maybe it wasn’t dumb luck.