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Why Vancouver? Why You?

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Growing old with Vancouver

By Tony Kirby

People’s attitudes to large cities are ambiguous and often based on very trivial reasons. For example, you hated Paris because the natives were rude to you (quite possible). You loved Paris because you were immediately charmed by its beauty and culture (more usual).

When I first came to Vancouver as a young man in the mid-1950s I made full use of the city’s great outdoor opportunities, including taking advantage of the mild climate by golfing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon of the same day.

But I found working here a different story. The pace was slow, the attitudes provincial, and the questions at job interviews were mind boggling to this 22-year-old.

“Are you an alcoholic?” “Are you divorced?”

My interviewer at the publishing house explained: “Five of the seven editors here are recovering alcoholics. Most are divorced. You have to realize that B.C. is the end of the line, there’s nowhere else to go.”

This wasn’t encouraging but I took the job anyway and for about two years thoroughly enjoyed the experience .

Press receptions in those days were usually liquid affairs and many editors, wary of temptation, would hand their invitations over to me. After a while, worried about drinking too much on the job, I consulted one of the editors for advice.

He asked me: “Do you drink a mickey (a 13-ouncer) before breakfast every morning?”

“Good god, no,” I replied.

“Well, I did for years, “ he said.

This revelation didn’t cure me of drinking but it sure taught me to pace myself in the future.

While I made some good friends during those early years I found Vancouver people to be less friendly than those in the two cities where I had previously lived (London, England and Toronto), and when I returned to Toronto in the late 50s my friends there would ask me: “What’s Vancouver like?”

My facetious reply back then was: “Vancouver is like a weak drink – too much water and not enough spirit.”

Although I visited Vancouver on numerous occasions over the intervening years I didn’t return to live in the city until the early 80s, my mid-life period, when a friend asked me if would I come out and help him with a new publishing venture.

Again, I left Vancouver some two years later but now it was evident that the city was growing up — the downtown area no longer resembled a huge parking lot and people didn’t rant so much about the evils of Toronto.

Later, the success of Expo in 1987, coupled with a wonderful summer that year, helped put the city on the international map. Vancouver was growing up.

Cut to the late 90s, my old age, and I returned to Vancouver for another publishing venture (same friend) but this time I stayed on for good.

Why the change in my love-hate relationship with the city?

Age changed both my interests and my attitudes.
For example, the rain doesn’t bother me any more, the various levels of government are kind to seniors, it’s quiet (at least in my neighborhood ), the city has excellent libraries, there are three theatre venues with great sound systems, and – certainly not the least – it’s a great city for walking.

I guess I finally came to the same conclusion as many thousands of others – Vancouver is a great place for retirees.

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