A Vancouver, British Columbia, Neighbourhood Word
The Kitsilano area of Vancouver starts roughly near Kits Beach and runs along the south shore of English Bay out towards the campus of the University of British Columbia on Point Grey. Kits extends up to 16th Avenue.
For one happy year, I lived on Creelman Avenue in Vancouver. At the end of Creelman, two blocks from my rented house, was Kitsilano Beach. That was 33 years ago in 1976. I had left a job in Toronto as executive producer of a CBC TV noontime talk and music fest, The Bob McLean Show. The owners of a newcomer among Vancouver TV stations, CKVU-TV, hired me to superintend a low-budget, but feisty current affairs program called “The Vancouver Show.” Among the CKVU-TV owners were film and TV director Daryl Duke and writer Norman Klenman. It was a wild and woolly frolic attempting to put on a two-hour local public affairs show on a budget of $ 1.98 per show. But we brave youngsters, most of us (but not me) new to TV, tried it, put the result on air, stoutly maintained our innocence and went completely insane. But life at Kits Beach was a gas!
Check out Daryl Duke's filmography here. But his films and TV credits include The Thorn Birds, Tai Pan, Ghost Story, early Canadian movies like Silent Partner, and dozens of Canadian and American TV dramas including episodes of Columbo, Banacek, and The Bold Ones.
Kitsilano was home during the early 1970s to a rainbow of countercultural activities along 4 th Avenue: a Greenpeace office, the Divine Light Mission, the Soft Rock Café, and happy hippies, students, and young British Columbians just starting in the work force. John Gray’s Kitsilano novel, Dazzled, records the flower-power giddiness of those days: 4th Avenue incense shops, love beads, psychedelic posters, a Doors LP wailing like a stoned banshee from every back porch. Between 1971 and 1976 more than fifteen hundred condominium apartments were built in Kitsilano, many of them handsome, low-rise buildings in natural B.C. wood.
Stanley Park seen from Kits Beach
During the eighties and nineties, yuppies brought their Porsches, designer jeans, designer water (Perrier), and designer lives to Kitsilano to dwell in the most expensive small bungalows known to Canadian real estate. But, to counterbalance the yuppy snobbism, head shops, health food stores, used bookstores, and trinket emporia remained to peddle kitschy ephemera. This may be the origin of a snobbish and punning nickname for the Kitsilano area: Kitschilano. Vancouver’s somewhat gentrified Ambleside Park, at the north side of the Lions’ Gate Bridge, was similarly often called Amblesnide. And newspaper cartoonist Len Norris dubbed a pseudo-British part of West Vancouver as Tiddlycove.
Origin of Name
The name Kitsilano belonged first to a Squamish chief Khahtsahlanogh who settled in Stanley Park, east of Prospect Point, around 1860. In the Coast Salish of his Squamish band, his name means ‘spirit man,’ although other experts claim it is ‘chief man of our band.’ When, around 1913, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to make a new housing subdivision of some land nearby, the chief’s name was Englished to Kitsilano, so it would rhyme with Capilano across the inlet. In 1913 the government of British Columbia bought 80 acres near the mouth of False Creek that had become known as the Kitsilano Indian Reserve. They intended to make a great new harbour at False Creek.
What of the cheap pun Kitschilano? I do not think it is in any way a valid comment on what was then a wonderfully diverse Vancouver neighbourhood.
But the quite unrelated art term “kitsch” is worth further comment.
Cuddled in mountains, Vancouver glows, as seen from Kits Beach
© 2012 William Gordon Casselman
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