“I grew up in this town and am old enough to remember when False Creek still had pulp mills surrounding it… Vancouver just gets uglier and more soul-less with every passing year”

interested at VREAA 30 Dec 2010 4:49pm“I grew up in this town and am old enough to remember when False Creek still had pulp mills surrounding it and working class people raised 4 kids in their East Side AND West Side bungalows. I’ve always hated the hubris of “the best place on earth” and see it as yet another bid to bragging rights for ex-pat Ontarians and Albertans. I’ve also lived in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Montreal, Toronto, London England and Glasgow and can decidedly attest that Vancouver is not the best place on earth. It may not even be the Best Place in Canada. In fact, Vancouver just gets uglier and more soul-less with every passing year, given the relentless tear-down culture here.”

11 responses to ““I grew up in this town and am old enough to remember when False Creek still had pulp mills surrounding it… Vancouver just gets uglier and more soul-less with every passing year”

  1. I agree. Soulless and ugly.

  2. Pulp mills surrounding False Creek doesn’t sound particularly appealing. I have lived in pulp mill towns and they are ugly and stinky. Once cities pass a certain size they all become ‘soul-less’ that is the downside. the upside is better restaurants, culture, and less nosy judgemental neighbours.

    Just trying to be balanced here. Being a bear doesn’t (always) mean being twisted and bitter.

    • True, but the culture part has not happened in Vancouver. Mainly because people here really have been indoctrinated to believe that this IS the best place on earth.

      By all accounts False Creek was a pretty dirty and horrible place before it was gentrified beginning in the 80s but honestly I still think I would have liked Vancouver better back in the 60s and 70s. Not because it would have been better, but because it would have been more honest about itself.

      Does anybody here really think that someone even in the mid 80s would have considered Vancouver the “Best place on earth”, or BC for that matter?

      • Authenticity is a great amenity. And very hard to get back once it is gone. My US city (Portland, Oregon) has squeezed out industry, low-cost housing, any old retailers or bars that don’t offer kitch value. And now we wonder why no one in the lower social strata, or even the twenty-somethings that keep moving here, can find decent-paying jobs.

        Mills are a good sign. They are a sign that something real is being produced. Banking, real estate, law, retail, consulting. These can be fine industries with well-paying jobs, but they are the froth on top of the productive economy. Without blue-collar production jobs, you end up with a starkly two-tier city. Those in these well-paying froth industries, and those making tips and minimum wage to serve them.

  3. Village Whisperer

    The old, rickty Cambie Bridge… and the pulp mills. Transit busses used to have to travel on the outside lanes across that bridge and you just stared straight down.

    Downtown is certainly more visually appeasing now than it was back then. But I know what the poster means… you could also get around without being trapped in traffic everywhere.

    And the fog in Fall. People used to burn their leaves and we used to get the thickest fog in Autumn.

  4. well, instead if building modern buildings, just keep all the pulp mills and the old memories then!

  5. Yeah, when out-of-towners talk about how beautiful Vancouver is, they are obviously talking about the surroundings. The domestic architecture (which is what 90% of what any city consists of) is a disgrace.

    • It’s pretty amazing the uniformity of the condo towers being built. The same whitish color with blue/green windows. It was really striking the last time I drove in from the south after not being there a couple of years. Surprised the city doesn’t have more design review during the approval process, or if they do that they don’t try to encourage/require some more variety in the skyline.

  6. I spent my teen years in Victoria during the 1970s, but the family would come over to Vancouver from time to time, and I still have a mental image of looking out the car window from the Granville Bridge, and being fascinated and compelled by the grimy industry of False Creek. I don’t know if a beehive burner was still there, but in my mind it is.

    I don’t think many of us would want a return to the spewing smoke and ash associated with sawmilling in the center of the city. However, industry gives a texture and an atmosphere to a place — both literal and figurative. There’s often a specificity and localness associated with industry that forms part of the identity of the inhabitants. The pea soup fogs that older Vancouverites remember had a particular quality because they were a mix of wood smoke and fog. They gave a mysterious, haunted quality to the old city, captured in some of Fred Herzog’s photographs from the 1950s and 60s. Strip away the industry and you strip away part of who people are.

    Herzog laments the passing of the old Vancouver, and the rise of the generic streetscape that could as easily be Singapore or Toronto or LA. He’s also said something interesting about this unfortunate notion of Vancouver being ‘world class’. He felt that when he first arrived in Vancouver in the early 1950s (from post-war Germany, via Toronto) Vancouver was in fact world class. Because in his view, the inhabitants were completely unselfconscious, and had an absolute sense of who they were as people, without any reference to outside cultural authority. (Essentially Michael’s point above, about a place being honest with itself.) For Herzog, the emblem of this unselfconsciousness was Vancouver’s exuberant neon signs. Thankfully, he photographed many of them before they were lost, after Vancouver city council passed its sign bylaw in 1974 — ironically, destroying a huge collection of urban neon signage that was legitimately world class.

    Herzog’s message, exemplified by the way he’s lived his own life and pursued his photographic practice, is that you become world class by being most yourself, not by imitating others, or seeking their praise.

    A selection of Herzog’s photographs: equinoxgallery dot com
    Some vintage Vancouver neon: vancouverneon dot com

  7. I grew up in Kitsilano and remember being a traffic patroller when I attended General Gordon Elementary – we had to use bells instead of stop signs on many mornings because the smog was so dense. It wasn’t only the pulp mills and industry that caused it – most people in the neighbourhood used coal furnaces to heat their houses. (This was the 50s into the 60s) . False Creek used to be the “secret” place Kitsies would go to drink and cause trouble in because it was not patrolled by the city police, only the (now non-existent) harbour patrol – ah, good times!

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