Vancouver has an infectious secret it’s dying to share with the rest of Canada: relax, unwind and enjoy yourself
ITS MESSAGE IS:LIVE!
Vancouver has an infectious secret it’s dying to share with the rest of Canada: relax, unwind and enjoy yourself
VANCOUVER IS SENDING OUT this message and it's a shame nobody's listening. The rest of the country is walking around deaf to the impulses from out west, suffering, knocking out that nine-to-five scene, climbing on the local to Twitch Nerve Acres, getting kicks out of a couple of dirt-grey hamburgers broiled up on the backyard hibachi, climbing into a whole desperate gang of Daiquiris, wheeling 18 inches behind the next guy's bumper 126 miles up Highway Four-Oh-Nightmare to good old oil-slicked Lake Simscug-mus-kwa-ron for a ratty, dank-wood weekend with the kids in the hot-rod outboards and the scenery that Man has rescued from Nature with tarmac, billboards, chicken-fry chalets, gas pumps and genuine Indian-wampum roadside tourist one-price-only no-refund hot-dog stands.
Fun? Well, if you think that’s what the leisure life is all about, Vancouver has the message: Cool it. Vancouver, you see, casual, no-sweat Vancouver, nonchalanting its way through the neurotic 1960s in a pair of Hush Puppies, arrived at its own sweet version of Creative Non-Working long before the rest of us grasped the truth that weekends really aren’t a worry gap between Friday and whatever’s shaking at the office for Monday. Vancouver is Canada's first unwound city, a place tuned in to a new dulcet life style, and it’s dying to communicate its gorgeous secret across Canada.
Its proselytizers, Vancouver natives tempo.rarily strayed from home (they always intend to head back one day), are all around, talking it up. Like Allan King, the currently hot movie producer from Vancouver now working out of London. England. “Vancouver’s sort of a Lotus Land off behind the hills,” he glows. “To me, it’s the only beautiful, relaxed, human part of Canada.” And Vancouver’s newly arrived citizens, ordinary work-a-day Canadians who’ve swept into the city from back east or off the prairies, turn into the most outrageously biased converts to the west-coast style. “What this city is,” says Barbara Steer, born in Alberta, six frantic years in Toronto, seven lovely ones in Vancouver, “is one long great picnic.”
The signs of all this mass relaxation are right there in Vancouver no matter which way you look, sideways, backward, up in the sky, down into the water. Especially the water. Vancouverites skim over, float in and lounge beside their sea waters in numbers unequaled even in California during the 1964 Rudi Gernreich topless phase. Consider the statistics: 86,000
pleasure boats registered on the coast, 56 boat builders in the city, 44 dealers, 10 marinas, eight scuba-diving clubs with 3,000 members. And every year, the city figures, 3.5 million bodies plunk themselves down on the goldie-yellow sand of its shoreline beaches.
And just look at the houses in the tony districts — Shaughnessy Heights, West Van, South West Marine Drive. They're exuberantly designed mini-palaces crawling with all the hedonistic trimmings: solariums, swimming
tanks, patios, sunken gardens, sunken pools, sunken rockeries, whole sunken houses for people who want to get with a trend all the way. Look at Mayor Tom Campbell’s place, just finished in the spring. “I've got this panel built in right beside my bed.” he gloats, “and I can push buttons on it that’ll operate the bedroom drapes, all the lights in the upstairs and the lock on the back door. And you know where my fireplace came from? Out of the old Hotel Vancouver lobby — that's where! There are a lot of wild houses around here, but I've got the wildest.”
And the life-style signs are in the gaudy, stripey banners that decorate downtown light standards (though not with the same bizazz as they displayed in 1958, BC’s centennial year, when the city blew $100,000 — just like that — for some brilliant architect-fashioned creations). And they're in west-end Vancouver's jostle of Miami-pink-and-green apartment skyscrapers, complete with names like Thunderbird and Emerald Terrace.
The signs are there in the night life. “This is an action night-time town,” says Jack Wasserman, a Vancouver Sun columnist whose job is to record that night-time action. “I mean, what other city in this country could find the spenders to support $15,000-a-week club acts? Our big spots pull that off all the time.” The clubs are a sensationally mixed bag of expensive covercharge and starched-tablecloth supper rooms, where you keep thinking that’s Bing Crosby incognito at the next table, and of high oldfashioned frontier stuff, bottle clubs where you carry in a 26er of rye in a discreet brown-paper bag under your arm and pay $1.50 for every split of ginger ale you can handle until 4.30 a.m.
The signs are in the 14 golf courses in Greater Vancouver; in the national tennis team, with five Vancouver members, working out all year at UBC; and in the 2,507 acres of parks, including the queen of all Canadian parks, 999 acres of wilderness and playing grounds in the heart of the city — Stanley Park.
And they’re in the three slick ski grounds a mere 20 minutes out of downtown Vancouver — Seymour Mountain, Hollyburn Ridge, and Grouse Mountain. Grouse is the one with the big tourist ideas, the two 50-passenger gondolas and the dining room that peers Alpine-like down on the roofs of the city, the one that on any fluffy weekend from December to May takes in 2,500 ski nuts a day tra-a-acking down its slopes. / continued overleaf continued / Well, the signs of the new life style are there, all right, and if you're at all interested in getting at the west's message, you ponder them. You mull over a crack thrown out a couple of months ago by Bert Binning, a grand old party who runs UBC's Department of Fine Arts. "Most people in Vancouver are proud of the mountain setting.-’ Binning said. "But scrap the mountains and what have you got left? Winnipeg!” And pretty soon you arrive at a small piece of enlightenment. Vancouver's people aren't that different, you begin to realize, not really. No. it’s all the soft air. the sand, snow', w'ater, rocks, grass and mountain greenery, in their fabulous just-down-the-next-block accessibility, that give Vancouverites the edge. Their secret is a matter of climate and geography, and that's why they're four giant steps up on the other deprived Canadian souls in this business of timing into leisure the true and right way.
Live long enough in Vancouver and you learn, like them, to slope into the feathery Vancouver air and to throw graceful parties under the stars and to charge around the landscape as if it were all your natural-born, unquestionable due. Vancouverites, you see. slightly weather-smug Vancouverites, never allow themselves to wrestle with the elements or to fret about who owns nature, the way less favored Canadians tend to. Nobody in Vancouver. come right down to it. would ever be caught out actually soul-searching about Life.
Live a little longer in Vancouver and you'll learn more. You'll discover there are styles in leisure living that Vancouverites have evolved all by themselves. Out of the weather and the overwhelming scenery, they’ve thrown up some types that are uniquely Vancouver's own. and everyone in the city is making it into one bag or other. For instance: ( 1 ) the Pop Set—always funning but not mobile enough to make Jet Set velocity; (2) the Waldenites — relaxing away from it all. a very long sail or climb or flight away; (3) the New Togetherness — doing it family-wise but enjoying it for a change.
The Pop Set? Well, think Toby Rankin. Toby: 28. bachelor, fashion photographer,
former National Ski Team member, 7-handicap golfer, a volatile fellow whose ideas about sw inging were shaped by the beautiful people of his hometown Montreal — a world and a place he has rapidly put aside in his four years among the less cerebral, more physical culture of Vancouver's Pop Set country.
"1 can't believe how fantastically easy things are out here.” he will tell you. “Listen to this;
I can play 18 holes of golf at McCleery public course in the morning, sail my Sunfish around English Bay at noon, bomb up to Whistler and get in three runs on the hills and still feel like a really rude party at night in the old A-frame.”
Whistler, site of half-a-100 A-frame condominiums and. at 4,280 feet, of the longest vertical drop of any North American mountain serviced by a ski lift, is a 90-minute drive away, up the Pacific coast, and for Pop Set-ers, Whistler offers the glamour hills. Mind, it’s only three seasons old and there are still some wrinkles in the operation. The ladies’ outdoor john. for one flagrant instance, is a singleseater and the line outside it on weekends often outnumbers the crowd around the tow. It also snows a lot at Whistler . . . and snows . . . and snows — 26 feet of it was still lying around on May I this year — and that makes the place a dicey proposition for big-time racing competitions that demand crisp, clear conditions.
But meanwhile all that powder snow means Whistler provides marvelously gentle skiing which may be just as well / continued overleaf continued / when you consider some of the exhausting nocturnal action that rages inside condominium No. 49, better known around the mountain as — wouldn't you guess? — Peyton Place. Toby Rankin hangs out there with a Poppy crew that includes a lot of sweet things named Suzy and Robin and Wcndi and Pcnni Jo. and they're always plotting Pop Set capers like the Great Xanadu Voyage of last spring.
The Xanadu — ah there. Citizen Kane — is a slinky I 10-foot yacht that you can rent out of Coal Harbor in Vancouver, along with a threeman crew, for $275 a day plus four dollars per running hour, and one Friday evening in late May, 60 of Rankin's Set piled on board with their skis, stretch pants, bikinis, their bossa nova tapes and their wineskins of Turner Valley Red. They chugged for three delirious hours along the coastline to Squamish, then a bus hauled them through Garibaldi Provincial Park to Whistler. And for the next 4K hours they indulged in some skiing, some Watusiing, a lot of winetasting and a good many teenage things in dark corners. By the time the Xanadu had returned them all to Coal Harbor, Toby Rankin had barely enough energy to settle back to normal working life in the studio, acting out that swell David Hemmings-Veruschka bit from lilow-Up.
A weekend like that would appall Evan EvansAtkinson who is the definitive Waldcnite if ever one existed. For him, Rankin's Pop Set leisure style is too social. Atkinson is more given, as befits a Waldcnite, to the solitary sporting life, and this summer he and his wife Toni are capping his Thoreau-like vision by quitting their Vancouver jobs, laying on a correspondence-school program for their two kids and chucking things for a twoor three-year cruise through the South Seas on the trimaran they built themselves.
First things first: a trimaran is an electronicage throwback to the old Indonesian double outriggers, perhaps the swiftest things on the seas in pre-steam-engine days. The modern version, introduced to the sailing world in I960 by a California boatman named Arthur Pliver, has three pontoons, one sail, a couple of outboard motors, and a plywood hull, and it shoots across the waves at more than 20 knots with all the flowing grace of a surfboard.
Evan and Toni Atkinson started to build the first Canadian trimaran in their Vancouver backyard in 1964 and finished it, 41 feet long and costing $10,000 with all the trimmings, in July 1966. During the two years of construction, Toni was busy peddling trimaran blueprints to nearly 100 other Vancouver Waldenites who w'ere dazzled by the possibilities of the curious new ship. Vancouver, you sec, is loaded with people scratching around for a let’s-get-awayfrom-it-all-at-any-cost adventure — they simply can't resist the aching / continued on pape 61 appeal of that boundaryless ocean that sits on the city's horizon. And as Atkinson points out, the people who bought Toni's trimaran plans are “sailors second, idealists [read Waldenites] first.”
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The pace is easy, and there’s New Togetherness in the sky
The same sort of free-wheeling spirit, on a more modest level, motivates the New Togetherness families of Vancouver. One group of them banded together a few years ago into an organization called the SeaBee Club. The club's raison d'être, the SeaBee, is a plane like a trimaran is a boat. As a thing of beauty, it's a certain Miss Ugly winner; with its pontoons and its propeller mounted behind the cabin, it looks like Donald Duck wearing a pair of giant P-F Flyers. But. for New Togetherness purposes, its super-simple mechanics and the fact that it sports wheels as well as pontoons make it such a supremely manoeuvrable craft that it can turn the whole of British Columbia. and its waters, into a landing field.
The unreachable — by air
And the Vancouver SeaBee Club has parlayed its 1 1 SeaBees into the most casually glorious weekending way of life on the coast. SeaBee Club families pile into the four-seater planes on any given Saturday morning with their picnic hampers and sporting gear and hop. en fleet, 15 or 20 air miles away to any one of thousands of otherwise unreachable beaches. At Shingle Point on Valdes Island, one of the lovely Gulf Islands in Georgia Strait and a favorite SeaBee dropping point, the pilots and
wives and kids swim. sun. fish, barbecue. gather oysters, relax on the sand, or just amble around taking in such local attractions as the Indian graves, the raspberry bushes drooping with fat red berries and the fig trees. So there are categories and activities and ways of making it leisurewise. But mostly in Vancouver there
is atmosphere, a gentle feeling in the air. part hedonistic, part easy living. Fig trees, powder snow, the stroll down the block to a deep sand beach. Goll on Christmas day, skiing on Dominion Day. Long evenings on the patio that begin before supper and run down when the last stack of Sinatras spins around the record
player. Soft-lined houses that melt into the steep hills of West Van up above the city's skyline. No one in a nervous hurry, no one in the office after four if the bay is calm and the boat's refrigerator is heavy with a little lager. It's a sweet, slow-gaited existence. It's no sweat. It may even constitute. like the man said, a kind of Lotus Land. But whatever Vancouver is. it's echoing with that message for the rest of the harried country: Cool it. ★
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