Free Spirits, Changing Times
Gabriola Hippies in the 1970s
Telling the story of Gabriola includes capturing accounts of the Coast Salish people, European explorers, and post-contact pioneers – as well as recent inhabitants.
The Museum display tells their story. This page hopefully gives you some of the flavour of this exhibit, but to appreciate it fully, we encourage you to pay a visit in person. One visitor who lived through the era on Gabriola, Shila Zylbbergold, recounts how being present at the Museums exhibit’s opening brought back a flood of memories. You can read his account HERE.
If you browse through to the bottom of this page, you will be able to view the 12 minute video that captures many of the photos used in the exhibit.
Why the Hippies Came to Gabriola
The 1970s were a time of change and upheaval around the world. Children of the post-war era were challenging the rigid lifestyles and norms of their parents. Gabriola Island became a haven for many young people seeking freedom, an alternative lifestyle, and a safe place to experiment with new mind-altering drugs. Islanders and newcomers adapted to the many changes resulting from the arrival of the hippies.
In the early 1970s, about the time hippies arrived, there were eight new subdivisions. Gabriola was ripe for buying.
Locals React to Gabriola Hippies
“All of a sudden we had really odd people come; their garb was just unreal. Every one of them played a guitar, they’d have one strung around their neck and they’d come on the ferry there with beards and their long hair and funny hats and their clothes and you’d think, Oh Lord, what’s happening to our island?” Vera Waymen.
Gabriola Hippies’ Lifestyles
“We didn’t follow regular patterns of growing and living. We had different ideas about war, greed, and more spiritually – more real life and not caught up with the money. We were more unstructured – we grew our own structure.” –Sylvia Van Straten –
Gabriola Hippie Music
Taylor Bay Lodge (now the Haven). “The owner of the Taylor Bay Lodge (now the Haven), Eileen Watson, would cook up all you could eat lasagne and salad bar buffet on Saturday nights and all different ages and types could socialize together. People brought instruments and Kevin Dent played the piano. On more than one occasion, when Eileen got fed up with people, she would turn the breaker off so it was pitch black. Then everyone had the option of either going home or moving down to the beach.” – Darlene Mace
Supplementing the Hippie Barter Economy
“ A group of friends realized there were good jobs available planting trees in logged areas. It was good money, and good for the environment. In 1973 a caravan of trucks, vans and cars took off from Gabriola with planters, cooks, food for weeks, and tents to sleep in.” Anna Leather
In addition to the posters and interview excerpts above, this 12 minute video captures images of the Gabriola