That time Vancouver's hippies took over Stanley Park 50 years ago

Carol Reid was 23 years old when she donned a garland of iris flowers and walked out the door of her Fourth Avenue home to join hundreds of hippies making their way to Stanley Park.

First Vancouver Be In attracted hundreds of young hippies dancing to Country Joe and the Fish

A young woman stands among the crowd at the 1967 Vancouver 'Be In' that was modelled after a similar event two months prior in San Francisco. (CBC)

Carol Reid was 23 years old when she donned a garland of iris flowers and walked out the door of her Fourth Avenue home to join hundreds of hippies making their way to Stanley Park. 

It was March 26, 1967 and they were headed to Vancouver's first annual Be In, modelled after a similar event that had taken place in San Francisco just two months prior. 

"This was simple attempt for people to get together in friendship and just to dance and sing," Reid said of the event. 

The Summer of Love was looming on the West Coast, and Reid was in the thick of it. 

She's the first person to appear in this shortened version of a documentary of the Be In (you can watch the longer version on the CBC Archives page).

Hippies gather in Stanley Park for the city's first 'Be-In' on March 26, 1967. It was modelled after a similar event in San Francisco. 3:27

Her late husband, Jamie Reid, was one of the organizers of the Be In. They were both UBC students at the time. She, a painter. He, a poet. 

Jamie's role had been to secure a permit from the park board. 

"He went there on behalf of the community," she said.

"And [the park board] said no, so he came back and told the community no, and everyone said, 'Oh well, let's do it anyway.'"

The community Reid is referring to was Canada's epicentre of the hippie movement: Kitsilano. 

The same neighbourhood where Lululemon and upscale baby supply stores now reign supreme was once an affordable, working-class area overtaken by artists and activists. 

"There were a lot of drugs, and there was a lot of Bob Dylan, and there was a lot of protest," Reid said of the hippy community in Kits. 

"There was a strong spirit of friendship in it, and then all the other things that go with what hippies wanted to do, like dress the way they do and dress differently."

Here's a brief video from the time. It doesn't have any sound, but offers a quick snapshot of the neighbourhood. 

A snapshot of Vancouver's Kitsilano in 1967 0:32

Reid says the hippie movement came in response to tumultuous events like the Vietnam War, race riots in the U.S. and the Cold War.

But the hippies weren't welcomed with open arms by all in the city. 

As Lawrence Aronsen wrote in his book, City of Love and Revolution: Vancouver in the Sixties, "Vancouver's 'straight' citizens viewed the emerging hippie culture with a mix of curiosity and mild apprehension."

At the forefront of the charge against the hippies was then-mayor Tom Campbell, a former real estate developer who Aronsen says quickly became concerned about the hippies when they moved into the west side, where many had voted for him. 

In this video, Campbell describes the hippies as "nothing but first-class troublemakers."

Then-mayor Tom Campbell defends the arrest of hippies for loitering in March 1968 2:25

But as the 1970s approached, the hippie movement morphed with the changing times. 

"Clearly the situation became quite different by 1969," Reid said. "The shine kind of wore off."

World events continued to take their toll on the hippies, Reid said, and more earnest political action began to take shape. 

"As the 1970s dawned, Vancouver was developing its own, more locally based identity," wrote Aronsen.

"Unique, but shaped by the tumultuous events and society-changing experiments of the 1960s."