Local Blogger Ariane Kitspace pointed out today that there is a local production that follows the Hippie history of Kits playing at Performance Works on Granville Island until March 11th. Hippies and Bolsheviks take place in 1970’s Vancouver – a hotbed of hippie idealism. Touchstone Theatre is kind enough to get ticket buyers up to speed with a brief history of Kitsilano’s role in the movement.
No one seems to know exactly when the Hippie movement started in Kitsilano, but it appears to have blossomed in the winter of 1966/67 with the opening of the first Hippie stores on the 2000 and 2300 blocks on West Fourth Avenue. The movement led to a number of noisy, traumatic years in which a generation revolted by war and repression transformed Kits into Canada’s capital of Hippie subculture.
Prior to the 1950’s, Kits was a medium-income residential community but when it was rezoned in the 50s and apartment buildings sprung up, other changes began to follow. Many of the large heritage houses were converted into apartments and those that weren’t were ideal for communal living. University students and Hippies loved the cheap rents and character of the old homes. West Fourth quickly became Canada’s “coolest” street, our answer to Haight-Ashbury.
By the spring of 1967, the new subculture was evident on Fourth Avenue. At least half a dozen Hippie-oriented businesses were open: Phase Four Coffee house at 2064; Psychedelic Shop at 2037; and Horizon Bookstore a few blocks up the street. These stores sold psychedelic posters, incense, meditation candles, sandals, belts, beads, books on avant-garde poetry, underground newspapers. In 1968 a Kitsilano landmark was opened which still exists today: the Naam vegetarian restaurant at 4th and MacDonald.
The customers of these stores and cafes, with their long hair, beards, flowing robes, tattered jeans and sandals, baffled and sometimes enraged the older generation of businessmen, politicians and “straight” residents of the area. In the next few years, the Hippie movement saw an era of be-ins, peace-ins, feed-ins, love-ins, runaway teens, drug busts, and Cool Aid, a community centre for homeless. Their influence still remains in some of the community values in Vancouver and in the form of influential organisations such as Greenpeace and media such as the Georgia Straight.
No wonder we don’t want billboards in our hood.
Last modified: December 9, 2008