Vancouver Saved by Hippies in 1967

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 Mon­tréal. 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.

12 Replies to “Vancouver Saved by Hippies in 1967”

  1. that is a great arti­cle, david; what a won­der­ful piece of his­to­ry!

    i’ve seen ves­tiges of it, too. in the com­mune on 2nd and maple which exists to this day, and in the russ­ian hall, the loca­tion for “just dance”, which in itself feels like an old hip­pie event.

    signed,
    your hip­pie friend,
    isabel­la

  2. Thanks, Isabel­la. I wish I had been around here at the time. In fact, I often wish that I had grown up in Van­cou­ver, as it seems a par­tic­u­lar­ly good place to stretch one’s wings as a young adult (now and per­haps in the recent past — since 1967, any­way).

    BTW, we missed you at the dry run for the meet­up venue, the Black­wa­ter Café the oth­er day. Look­ing for­ward to see­ing you at the ‘offi­cial’ meet­up some time soon.

  3. EXCELLENT post and video, David!

    A great bit of Van­cou­ver his­to­ry — ‘Ya got­ta love those hip­pies, don’t ‘ya?

    Think I’m going to put the video up on our blog, too. Thanks for the great post .…

  4. Thanks, Bob. I tend to like the places where the hip­pies have had some impact (Cam­bridge, Ver­mont, San Fran­cis­co and Van­cou­ver…)

    I should men­tion that this is in a way, a ‘pre­quel’ post to a good arti­cle in the most recent issue of Granville Mag­a­zine by friend and fel­low blog­ger Jonathan Nar­vey. He notes that Van­cou­ver is in the envi­able posi­tion of hav­ing pushed mass-tran­sit before it was fash­ion­able to do so and is now enjoy­ing increas­ing use of the Sky­train and oth­er tran­sit lines due to the ris­ing cost of gaso­line.

    Despite an enor­mous toll tak­en on busi­ness­es along Cam­bie (and I’ve heard some folks say this is because of the way the Canada­Line project was run, rather than if it was built or not), in the end, Van­cou­ver will even­tu­al­ly have one of the bet­ter mass-tran­sit sys­tems in North Amer­i­ca. I note this in stark con­trast to the mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar débâ­cle I lived through in Boston of ‘The Big Dig’, a mis­guid­ed and imme­di­ate­ly out­dat­ed idea of build­ing an enor­mous free­way under the city, with no improve­ments to the mass tran­sit sys­tem (save a small fleet of bus­es called ‘The Sil­ver Line’, which are more of a joke than a tran­sit line.) In the end, I like to think that it may just be the tri­umph of far-sight­ed city man­age­ment ver­sus short-sight­ed ‘pork’.

  5. In the ear­ly 1970s there was a local car­toon­ist who used to pub­lish a com­ic strip in the Geor­gia Straight called Harold the Head. It was absolute­ly hilar­i­ous because it cap­tured the clash between Tom Camp­bell and the hip­pies so per­fect­ly. I believe the cartoonist’s first name is Randy and I know he pub­lished a large for­mat com­ic book about Harold’s adven­tures. Per­haps spe­cial col­lec­tions at VPL has a copy? If you can find a copy it’s well worth a read. The oth­er car­toon­ist worth look­ing at if you want to get a sense of Van­cou­ver (and West Vancouver’s) his­to­ry is Nor­ris. He pub­lished in the Van­cou­ver Sun dur­ing the 1960s and cap­tured some of the pom­pos­i­ty and stu­pid­i­ty that was all too com­mon at the time, espe­cial­ly in the British Prop­er­ties. If my mem­o­ry is cor­rect, I think he did some car­toons about Tom Ter­rif­ic and the hip­pies, too. Again, his books of car­toons would be avail­able at VPL.

  6. Thanks, Cara — I’ll have a look at that. I note that the cre­ator of those strips was Rand Holmes. He died fair­ly recent­ly, in 2002 after cre­at­ing quite a few strik­ing comics, many that are collector’s items. There’s a nice page with exam­ples of his work: http://lambiek.net/artists/h/holmes_rand.htm

    One of the illus­tra­tions (for MEAN OLD MAN) bears a strik­ing resem­blance to the char­ac­ter that Michael Dou­glas played in ‘Falling Down’, and also with more humor and far less dark, the char­ac­ter ‘Mil­ton’ from the shorts that Mike Judge cre­at­ed for Sat­ur­day Night Live (and lat­er reap­peared in the movie ‘Office Space’). It’s the unbear­ably straight, unbe­liev­ably uptight, wound-tight-as-a-spring white guy in a starched shirt with a pock­et pro­tec­tor. I won­der if you could draw lines from those char­ac­ters to Rand Holmes, ulti­mate­ly to not only Camp­bell, but even to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (“Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through nar­row streets, And watched the smoke that ris­es from the pipes, Of lone­ly men in shirt-sleeves, lean­ing out of windows?”)and ulti­mate­ly to Thoreau’s ‘The mass of men lead lives of qui­et des­per­a­tion’. Echos of that today include those ads with ‘I’m a Mac’ vs. ‘I’m a PC’…

    There’s a sociology/literature paper or two in there, for sure.

  7. There’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do this All Over Again.
    My ‘hood could become anoth­er area of glass tow­ers (with the occa­sion­al retained façade) very, very fast.
    or it could become some­thing that blows the imag­i­na­tion.
    We need the time/space to at least pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ty.
    Any­one can help by in large or small ways insist­ing that a year is pro­vid­ed for imag­i­na­tion and vivid think­ing about the gastown/dtes area before being devel­oped to death.

  8. no Druck­er, the hip­pies ie drugged up morons, got lit­tle right!

    And wtf is this lan­guage you speak:
    hydro­car­bons, econ­den­si­ty, Cli­mate Cri­sis and Peak Oil.…

    clev­er­ly con­trived words will not hide your bs

  9. here­and­now, could you elab­o­rate?

    You sound like you have some axes to grind. As for econ­den­si­ty, thanks for catch­ing the mis­pelling. I’ve cor­rect­ed it.

  10. Jack Nichol­son as Melvin Udall said it best:

    where’d you learn to talk like that, some Pana­ma City sailor wan­na hump hump bar? Well you just take what your sell­ing some where else, cause nobody’s buy­ing here!”

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