VANCOUVER

HOW THE TOWN'S FIGHTING THE DREAD HIPPIE MENACE

JACK BATTEN August 1 1967
VANCOUVER

HOW THE TOWN'S FIGHTING THE DREAD HIPPIE MENACE

JACK BATTEN August 1 1967

HOW THE TOWN'S FIGHTING THE DREAD HIPPIE MENACE

VANCOUVER

JACK BATTEN

DOUG HAWTHORNE, the wispy young man in the photograph directly above, has all the right looks for somebody who's constantly on the outs with the Vancouver police. He's easy to spot. He's a regular mark, in fact, with his long Prince Valiant hair style, his ribbon-thin body and the golden fuzz on his chin and upper lip. He wears shades most of the time, a leather windbreaker and black boots with raised heels. Sometimes he even sports a string of beads around his neck. If you're a Vancouver cop. you're not about to let a weirdo like that get by without at least a quick frisk.

Lately the cops haven't been letting Doug step out his front door before they roust him. Three of them, including two Mounties. arrived at his house one morning last February. Before Doug or his wife Jean (who was concentrating on their baby daughter at the time), could cry civil liberties, they whipped through a messy search of the closets and drawers, the toilet tank and all the other secret corners that occurred to them. They were looking for grass—marijuana—but there wasn't a shred in sight.

About the same time, plainclothesmen developed the unnerving habit of thumbing keenly through the books, records and wall posters in the store Doug co-owns, the Psychedelic Shop at 2057 West 4th Avenue. On February II. they sniffed out something juicy, a stock of six-year-old Kama Sutra calendars Doug had imported from San Francisco. They laid a charge against him of selling obscene literature. which, if it sticks when it eventually comes before a judge, will cost Doug his store license.

The pressure kept up through the spring. Mounties took pictures from a room across the street of people entering the shop. Police glinted steely looks at every longhair in the area and suggested to the shop's only clerk that she'd he a clever girl to quit. They invoked a couple of fire regulations, which turned out not to have been violated after all. in a vain attempt to close down a rock dance Doug promoted.

And then one morning in May, Doug summoned two policemen to the Psychedelic Shop himself. The night before somebody had fired a bullet through the precise geographical centre of the store's plate-glass window. The police studied the hole, jotted a line or two in black notebooks, shrugged shoulders at each other and handed dowm the official verdict.

"Okay then, sir." one of them said to Doug. "You got a bullet hole or a pellet hole there all right. But now what didya have in mind we re going to do about that?”

THE TROUBLE with Doug Hawthorne is that he's a hippie in a city of hard-core squares. Hippie is as complex a term to pin down as beatnik was in the days before Jack Kerouac grew fat and rich, but Vancouver knows exactly how to define a hippie. He's somebody whose hair blocks his neck from view, who is a dope fiend and lives somewhere in the neighborhood of West 4th Avenue.

The mere sight of such a demon is driving respectable Vancouver citizens to distraction these days. By the most scientific estimate— Doug Hawthorne's — there are probably not more than 1.200 hippies in the city, and this figure includes love hippies who adopt a philosophical approach, radiating primarily out of the original hippie community of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, that rejects conventional work-oriented society and concentrates on loving thy neighbor. who usually turns out to be the hippie next door: poets who embrace hippie values: teenyboppers who flee to 4th Avenue in revolt against their parents: painters who happen to live in the area: and young men who scurry up from California to dodge the call to arms in Vietnam. But these 1,200 are throwing the rest of Vancouver into an anxious and puzzled fit. In a city that records more suicides, more heroin addicts and more Grey Cup riots than any in Canada, the hippies are emerging as the prime civic menace.

The zens' reactions range from a laboriously hand-printed note Scotch-taped to the door of the Arbutus Café at West 4th and Arbutus — “No hippies allowed" — to the recent proposal of Alderman Halford Wilson that the entire hippie population be relocated, ghetto-style, in a crummy but easily policeable district in downtown Vancouver. “These kind of people can congregate there," the alderman points out, “and display their art . . . or whatever it is they do."

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Where hippies go, the police go too, outnumbering them

"I think hippies are Communists,” Harold Kidd says. He’s the president of the Kitsilano Ratepayers' Association, which takes in 4th Avenue. "At least they talk like Communists. I am sure some of them never take their clothes off when they go to bed. They're driving business down by 50 percent in Kitsilano."

In January 1967 the Vancouver Sun assigned a reporter. Arnold Myers, to dig out the real facts about Vancouver's hippie-LSDmarijuana scene. Myers put together an authoritative 10-part study and handed it in. The Sun's publisher. Stuart Keate, handed it back w ith orders to rewrite because of sympathetic references to hippies and acidheads. Myers resigned instead and eventually sold his series to Arts/Canada. Other Sun writers, acting on Keate’s instructions, have carried on a dogged little anti-hippie crusade, “PSYCHEDELIC

SLUM FEARED.” “LICE ON LONG-HAIRED HIPPIES?

MAN, THAT'S .JUST LOUSY"

— the worst horrors of Vancouver's respectable citizens are confirmed every time they glance at a Sun headline.

The police meanwhile have kept the heat on 4th Avenue. Patrol cars crawl over the area as if it were a recently demilitarized combat zone. “Some nights down on 4th, weekend nights,” says Jamie Reid, a respected young Vancouver poet who has one foot in the hippie community,

“there are actually more cops in sight than hippies.”

The police vigilance has been rewarded with a scattering of LSD and marijuana arrests, but their principal weapon, apart from finger-wagging lectures to teenyboppers. is a vagrancy charge. The most spectacular bust of the spring campaign occurred on April 24 when one R. W. Dowding summoned police to his vacant lot at the corner of 4th and Arbutus where 30 hippies were reported “milling around." Up sped the paddy wagon, the officers hit the street and in no time at all. they had four hippies under

arrest, including an 18-year-old girl fresh in from Calgary and an 18-yearold unemployed highrigger who was decked out in an outfit a mercenary might proudly have worn in Genghis Khan’s horde. The girl and one boy were convicted, without counsel, of vagrancy, and in a burst of old-west justice, the presiding magistrate orderer the boy out of town by midnight.

The Genghis Khan mercenary and his other buddy asked for a remand and. when their case came up. they were acquitted. They'd taken the precaution of hiring a lawyer.

WEST 4TH AVENUE is six lanes wide, and in the fouror five-block stretch where the hippies hang out, it is lined with aging, brown, one-story shops and vacant lots, which would be weed strewn if the hippies hadn't worn them all down. The area's one concession to 20th-century urban architecture is

Plimley’s, a car dealership that sprawls over one whole block with its shiny chromium goods. Across from Plimley’s, there's a Salvation Army thrift shop and farther along, among other establishments, the BBB furniture store, specialist in third-hand; a snooker parlor: the Vienna Café, hidden behind windows cloudy with dirt; and a tailor shop that, to judge from

its advertising, guarantees to style you just the way Humphrey Bogart looked in The Petrified Forest.

In these surroundings, the handful of shops dedicated to hippie products stand out as the class of the neighborhood. The Psychedelic Shop’s quarters are as dank as any on the street, but its interior fairly glows with paper sunflowers, huge ecclesiasticlooking candles, art nouveau ads for such rock groups as The Grateful Dead, wall posters (W. C. Fields to James Coburn) and a giant yellow-

paper banana. The same applies to Positively Love Street (records), Horizon (books) and Rags And Riches (army tunics, beads, sandals, any item of miscellany not available in the Sally Ann store a couple of doors down). Rags And Riches maintains all-hours kitchenette facilities for hippies who feel the need of a tea or coffee lift, and it also displays a sign you can't miss: “Shoplifters are a

The stores, along with a faintly sinister coffeeshop called Phase 4, constitute a community centre for the hippies who live in the dilapidated low-rent houses radiating in a threeor four-block circle north and south of 4th. But the shopkeepers aren't altogether typical of Vancouver's hippie life, to put it mildly. They're the upper crust, the ones who’vc arrived at an agreeable style of living without compromising the accepted hippie values. And, especially in the case of Doug Hawthorne, their position represents something of a victory over the Vancouver citizens who so actively dislike them.

Before Doug Hawthorne became a hippie, he w'as a thief and a punk in Hdmonton, his home town. He also put in fitful spells as a carnival roustabout and a merchant marine. By the spring of 1964, when he was 17. he was floating around Granville Street in Vancouver and hardly shaped up as one of the Chamber of Commerce’s 10 most promising young men. He hitchhiked out of the city after a couple of months of cadging dimes and for no reason he remembers, found himself in Big Sur, California's original beat country.

His four months there transformed him. He turned into the soft-voiced, cool, in-charge fellow he appears today. He took on the slightly secret, halfhidden air. a sweet gentleness, that identifies the most attractive of the young people all the world now knows for better or worse as hippies.

“I got turned on down there for the first time," he explains. “I met a very beautiful guy and he took me to live with him and his wife and kid in his panel truck. He taught me how to make sandals and we worked at that and we took drugs — grass and mescaline. I felt free for the first time in my life. It was just a simple loving thing. You didn't hassle anybody and nobody hassled you. Then the police deported me for working without a permit."

Back in Vancouver, he discovered a growing colony of young people who shared his ideas about handling life by turning on and loving. He

moved in with one of them. Jean, whom he later married, and went into the sandal-making business. The hippie community was beginning to settle around 4th Avenue and Doug opened the first hippie shop on the street. He gave up sandals, even though they were a hot-selling item, when “it became a mechanical thing to do. not a craft thing.” He ran a dance hall for a while and in January 1967 opened the Psychedelic Shop, which, it not flourishing, does a modestly consistent business.

The great attractiveness in Doug Hawthorne's biography is that he's found his own groove and seems secure in it. It may be incidental that his groove lies close to the centre ot the hippie life. On the other hand, he might be a thief in an Edmonton jail without the hippie life.

“All that people around 4th want is to have a lot of warm loving going on," is what he says. “The community is made up of several, you know, tribes of four or five or 12 people who live in their own place and do their own thing. But we're all more or less friends. We're pretty tight. Everybody is just trying to work out an okay life."

The okay life, on close inspection, isn't all of a quality. In some hippie houses it assumes an amiable tediousness. A dozen people flake out in one room for long days and nights that run endlessly together, smoking grass, listening to records, recalling one of last week's acid trips. It isn't a boring way to pass time, they say. because, like, man, what else is there to do?

The activist hippies are different. They shuffle around on a constant run of projects. They're tuned in to the Haight-Ashbury scene and they ransack it for all the now-familiar hippie rituals — love-ins. the Diggers movement. the rock, movie and light shows that are known as trips festivals. But the activists aren't always successful in importing them into the hostile Vancouver environment.

The Diggers arc a good-hearted communal group who specialize in rounding up. on the cheap, food, sleeping space and a loving atmosphere for themselves and other impoverished hippies, but in Vancouver they've suffered every variety of humiliation. A tribe of 60 hippies, gathered together by a couple of Digger leaders, spent most of the spring wandering the city, like a band of desert Bedouins, looking for a spot to take root. No landlord would rent to them, even though they maintained strict house rules: no drugs, no runaways, no balling chicks under 18. The severest blow came when a kindly old lady who permitted the Diggers to light in her empty downtown house asked them to leave, not out of "meanness." she said, but because her insurance agent said he'd cancel her liability policy.

But the Easter Sunday love-in in Stanley Park was an activist success and it went a long way to firming up the hippies’ sense of community. The love-in w'as organized, loosely, by Jamie Reid and his wife Carol and some of their friends, including I.loyd Hamman who is now training with the Company of Young Canadians.

“It was raining on Easter morning.” Lloyd Harriman recalls. “But

suddenly about I I o'clock it stopped and the sun shone. People came pouring out of their houses all over Kitsi 1 a n o. They had flowers and balloons and bananas and beads and they formed a long line down Cornwall Street and over the Burrard Bridge, all the way to Stanley Park. It took about 45 minutes to walk the whole route and then when you got there you walked around some more, just talking to people and giving them things. A fellow read some poetry.

and Country Joe And The Fish and The Painted Ship played for a while. 1 hen we cleaned the place up and went home, and when you looked back at the park all you could see was this faint little cloud of incense hovering over the ground. It was a beautiful loving thing to happen."

The activists aren't the most visible hippies. That distinction is reserved for the plastic hippies, a term that takes in runaways, sensation-seekers and teenyboppers. and they're as

scorned by other hippies as they are by straight Vancouverites. Diane LeeNova. a serene 20-year-old blonde who is married to a painter. Gary Lee-Nova, and who has observed teenyboppers in action from her clerk's stool in the Psychedelic Shop, nearly loses her constant cool over the subject.

“They're really violent, those little kids." she says. "They hassle the cops deliberately. They haven't learned that it's the cops' job to hassle you.

Behind the city’s anti-hippie stance: fear and conservatism

that's their scene and you just relax about it. No, they antagonize the police deliberately. And they’re so stupid. They sell pot right out on the street like it was Philip Morris. I wish their parents would keep them home. They're giving 4th a bad name.”

Jusr WHY VANCOUVER should feel as

threatened as it does by some runaway teenagers and a few relatively balanced souls like Doug Hawthorne is a question that probably goes deep into the city’s psyche.

“Vancouver is like a small town and small towns arc traditionally clenched against the rest of the world,” says Warren Tallman, an American

who has taught English at the University of British Columbia for 10 years and has maintained a watching brief over 4th Avenue's recent history. “The hippies are, of course, from outside as a movement. In many cases, they're from outside as individuals, too. By resisting the hippies. the Vancouver people are simply

acting to protect their home town.”

Vancouver tightens up in other ways related to the hippie phenomenon. It's uneasy about the ferment among young Vancouver artists, such as Iain Baxter, Tom Burrows and Gary Lee-Nova, who are producing wildly bizarre new sculpture forms. “It is not all right,” the Sun editorialized last winter after a visiting Toronto critic awarded a prize in a Vancouver Art Gallery show to an inflated vinyl form put together by Iain Baxter, “that $500 of the public’s money has been spent to reward such frivolity.”

And Vancouver is nervously conservative, too, in its attitude toward teenagers. It provides few facilities for them to relax in out of old-folks’ supervision and. by civic bylaw, it forbids anyone under 18 to put a foot inside public dances such as the rock affairs Doug Hawthorne staged at the Afterthought, a club on 4th Avenue.

But Vancouver is also a city that has a profound dread of drugs. There are 1,800 heroin addicts, more than half the number in Canada, crawling around the city’s ugly downtown skid-row district, and their evil presence conditions the city's thoughts about the menace of dope fiends. Many social Vancouver people were shocked when a young UBC student, the son of a well-connected family, fell apart from the effects of a bad LSD trip and committed suicide. And many other Vancouver people, including a few hippies, are still upset about the suicide of Sam Perry, a gifted young film maker, a respected member of the 4th Avenue set and a dedicated acidhcad.

With that kind of background it's easier to understand the puzzled looks Vancouver gives to hippies who look with super casual ness at grass and acid as natural parts of a new way of life. The citizens are baffled. Their legislature passes a law making it a crime for hippies not to inform on friends using LSD and marijuana. They dispatch their police to hunt the hippies down. They draw back from the hippies in horror. And the hippies, the honest ones, answer back with the most baffling word of all: Love, man, just a lot of love. ★