The former mayor of Vancouver, Tom Campbell called them "scum" and "parasites" but that didn't stop the hippies of Kitsilano from practicing free love.

Back in 1967, Vancouver's counter culture was blossoming on West Fourth Avenue and radio disc jockey "Jolly" John Tanner was a part of what would come to be known as the Summer of Love.

"All these musicians were coming in from out of town and there was the local people," Tanner told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's Our Vancouver.

"It was just a place to gather, you know. It got pretty crazy after a while, in '67 and '68."

'Not allowed to play the far-out stuff'

Tanner spun discs for CKLG and CFUN radio stations when psychedelic music was becoming popular. He remembers that he was restricted in what he could put on air.

DJ "Jolly" John Tanner

DJ "Jolly" John Tanner remembers the Summer of Love, a time before Lululemon outlets and fancy restaurants became the norm along Kitsilano's West Fourth Avenue (CBC)

"We weren't' allowed to play the far-out stuff," he said, especially if the song was about drugs.

Marijuana was illegal but West Fourth Avenue was lined with a number of so-called head shops, stores selling drug paraphernalia.  

"All the hippies that I knew were mostly musicians or people that worked in shops at Fourth Avenue," said Tanner.

The beginnings of the counter culture can be traced to the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco.

The craze spread north of the American border along the West Coast, and Stanley Park hosted the first Human Be-In celebration, a festival that included dance, music, even kite-flying. It was modelled after the 1967 San Francisco gathering of the same name, which attracted 20,000 people. 

The Vancouver event saw hundreds of people take over Stanley Park.

"There was more people watching the hippies … than there were hippies enjoying it," said Tanner.

Watch the 1968 CBC interview of Vancouver Mayor Tom Campbell.