DeLuxe Utopian Vision: Q & A with Davy Joel Rippner

Ian Ridgeway - DeLuxe Chief Carpenter


John Goodman / North Shore News July 19, 2014 

Davy Joel Rippner, now based on South Pender Island (leathersmithe.com), has been creating handmade leather goods since 1957 and during the early ’70s operated his own shop, The Good Earth, at Third Street and Lonsdale Avenue.  He talked to the North Shore News about life and times back in the day.

North Shore News: Your first leather shop was part of the Psychedelic Shop on Fourth with Doug Hawthorne?

Davy Joel Rippner: Yes, that was the first one. Doug Hawthorne was a guy who originally had a sandal shop on Fourth Avenue and that was the Blind Owl which closed down when we opened the Psychedelic Shop.


North Shore News: And he was involved with the Trips Festivals?

Davy: He brought the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead.


North Shore News: You opened your second shop near Lions Gate Bridge.  Why did you move to the North Shore?

fisheyeshoppe

Davy: I wanted my own shop. I’d gone into a casual partnership with Doug and another guy to open the Psychedelic Shop and I had a little tiny workshop inside of it made up of doors that I had put together to enclose an area in the store, which was posters and incense and that kind of thing.  And a comic book stand — San Francisco comics, underground comics. After the first summer I had made enough money to travel so I closed that Leathersmithe workshop down.  I was away for almost a year, went around the world, and when I came back I was looking around for a new place that wouldn’t be in competition with Gastown which was just starting to emerge.  I don’t remember what was going on on Fourth Avenue - I think I just wanted to strike out on my own.  I opened a shop right next to the bridge where there were two or three other craft shops.  I had that place for only a year and wanted something bigger so I moved on to the foot of Lonsdale.


North Shore News: When you were near Lions Gate Bridge you were right on Marine Drive? You were on the north side?

Davy: That’s right.  Right next to the bridge.  You could step out of the front door and look up at the bridge to the right.

North Shore News: Pierre Coupey mentions your name in an interview he did for a special issue on Moodyville put together by the Capilano Review and Presentation House Gallery in 2009.  He said, “The North Shore became important to me well before I came to Cap because my friend David Rippner, one of those hippie refugees from the States at the time of the Vietnam War, who brought the California ’60s energy and excitement with him.  Davy was famous on the 4th Avenue Kitisilano scene, and later on Lower Lonsdale as The Leathersmithe — he made sandals, belts, vests, and artsy leather stuff, a guy with humour and the best American openness — cheerful, positive and razor smart. So when Davy and his girlfriend moved shop to Lower Lonsdale from 4th Avenue, my family and friends finally had a reason, for the first time, to cross the bridge.  And going into North Van seemed like going into the wild, a trek to some mysterious, far place, like Nepal or Tibet.” How did you meet Pierre?


Davy: When I first came to Canada I was escaping the draft - I did not want to go to Vietnam.  I made a trial trip to Canada — it’s kind of a long story — but it was following a woman who my closest friend had been abandoned by.   She left us in the middle of the night in a donut shop in the Haight Ashbury that stayed open all night making donuts.  I think it was like two or three in the morning and she got angry at us and stormed off and hitchhiked, six or seven months pregnant with a big German Shepherd, to Canada.  She was a Canadian.  We followed her and she ended up at Pierre’s house.  Pierre was an instructor at UBC at that time and they were old friends.  Pierre and I became close friends and when I eventually moved up almost a year later December of 1966 he made arrangements for me to pull my Volkswagen van into the snowy backyard.  My girlfriend and I and Cheshire the cat lived with Pierre and his family until we found a place to rent.

North Shore News: The Trips festival must have been shortly after that.

Davy: The one I recollect, which was a three-day one, when the Airplane came, was while I was still on Fourth Avenue.  Doug brought bands all the time into the Psychedelic Shop.  He brought the Grateful Dead through one afternoon.  Pigpen wanted to buy the hat that I was wearing that I had made and I said I would make him one.


North Shore News: When you say you were in Haight Ashbury did you see them down there as well?

Davy: I did, my girlfriend and I got a ride with them back to where we were living in Mill Valley after a great impromptu free open air concert on the back of a flatbed truck on the panhandle of Golden Gate Park which meets with a grassy area that goes through the beginning and middle of the Haight Ashbury.  There was a grassy area between both sides of the street big enough to pull a flatbed on and the Dead was playing there.  There may have been 50 people in the audience, just dancing in the sun.  Then Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company performed on this little stage.  And they were just local bands.  I got a ride with them back over to Sausalito.  We talked and my girlfriend said, “Hey you guys in a band?”  It was a Big Willys car that had bench seats along both sides so eight people could sit across from each other.  We rode back and just talked about the concert and then she said “Are you guys in a band?” because they looked familiar and Micky Hart the drummer said “Yeah, we’re the Grateful Dead.”  But they were not well known at all; they were just starting out.


North Shore News: Did you spend a lot of time in Haight Ashbury?

Davy: Not as much as I wanted to but I was there the year before and I had a girlfriend who lived there. On the way up to Canada we stopped and spent a couple of weeks there hanging out on the street.  It was a hard to identify phenomenon with a very diverse population, different colours, different styles and it was a standout location but it certainly wasn’t on the map yet.


North Shore News: What was Lower Lonsdale like at the time?

Davy: Dead.  Very dead.  I guess you would call it a marine community at the very foot. We were on Third and Lonsdale.  There wasn’t much going on.  We were across from the Salvation Army.  There was a famous old bookstore that was our next door neighbour that people still talk about.  There was a Chinese restaurant.  There just wasn’t very much else.  Through those years I always found the kind of places that were always on the edge, certainly pre-gentrification and cheap rent.


North Shore News: What was your shop like at the time?

Davy: It was one of these paired buildings — two shops and a little alcove between.  There was a big picture window out onto the street and an angled entrance and a little wall between the two shops. The two angled entrances formed a portico that you walk into and maybe a four-foot wide area where posters were hung and the two doors leading into Harry’s used book store and The Good Earth.  Because I was friendly with people from the mudflats and my partners lived there — that would be Dan and Wendy Clemens — we were taken into that little subculture of DeLuxe Carpenters.  After a couple of years there with the store I worked with DeLuxe doing renovations and then we put on Pleasure Faires later on but at that time DeLuxe showed up at the store with Wendy and Dan and they had truckloads literally of ticky tacky from the taking apart of Seventh Avenue which was a sloping hill then covered with ramshackle buildings and lots of Victorian stuff.  One of the guys at the mudflats, Willie (Wilson), was a collector and he had amassed three warehouses full of ticky tacky Victorian teardowns. That was how DeLuxe got its start.  They would go and tear down these places and take away whatever they wanted and so inside this long but little shop was one whole wall that looked like a little Victorian town.  It had what looked like house fronts covered with Victorian materials mostly from the Seventh Avenue area.  Are you familiar with that slope that goes down to the water beyond the Granville Street Bridge?  That’s where all the Victorian stuff came from.  They tore it down and brought it over and put lots of it along a wall and the facing wall was covered with bags, belts and I guess we made some clothes there and then I had an area that was samples of shoes and sandals. Because I was involved with Dan and Wendy I was down in the mudflats often too because  that was thebeginning of that little subculture.  Paul Spong would visit us at the store and at the mudflats because there were always social gatherings at the mudflats.

 

North Shore News: How did you meet Wendy and Dan?

Davy: I can’t remember how precisely but when I opened up the little shop next to the bridge they came for the grand opening which wasn’t very grand because it was a small place and there weren’t that many people who would come over from the other side.  It was a big trip over from Fourth Avenue, going all the way to the North Shore.  They came over for the grand opening and gave me a shop-warming gift of a potted pot plant.  We had met each other, they knew I was in the leather business and they were in the leather business too.  Dan and Wendy were making bags at that time.  That’s how our relationship started up and we'd see each other now and then at public get-togethers.  When the time came and I located this other shop they were keen to go into a partnership - because they lived so close by on the mudflats.

North Shore News: They were leathersmiths as well.  I didn’t realize that; I thought they were more into carpentry.

Davy: No, carpentry was a way to fill the time between leather seasons which was warmer weather when people are out spending money, and to get us over the hump periodically we were able to do renovations and teardown jobs.

 

North Shore News: Where did you do most of the renovations? All over the city?

Davy: Mostly Vancouver and a lot of it came from Willie’s finds in those three big warehouses.

 

North Shore News: Willie and the Clemens lived on the mudflats.

Davy: Yes, and I would say another eight to 10 people.

 

North Shore News: And Tom Burrows lived there.

Davy: Tom built a nice house there.  I used to go visit him.

 

North Shore News: Were some of the houses built by DeLuxe?

Davy: DeLuxe was a loose group.  Members of DeLuxe lived there.  Except for me.  My lifestyle was not as rustic as theirs and I did want electricity and I wanted to be able to get away from the scene in the evening and recharge my own internal batteries.  I had a girlfriend, my parents came to visit, my brother was living there, somebody was living in a treehouse outback - so we had our own little scene in a house on upper Lonsdale at the turnoff to the Capilano bridge.

 

North Shore News: And you were from California, right?

Davy: I’m originally from Ohio but I was in Sausalito when I got my final draft notice.  For five years I had been hounded by the government and I kept out of the draft by staying in school.  I was a graduate student in an art program and they finally said, “We don’t care what you’re doing; we need fresh meat.”  That’s when I left and that was in ’66.

 

North Shore News: How long were you involved with DeLuxe?

Davy: That started in the spring of ’68 and I left in ’75.  After that I moved to Victoria and started a sandal business ("1010 Cook Street”) there.

 

North Shore News: Were you involved in building any of the houses at the mudflats or were they already there?

Davy: No, I may have helped out but I was very busy with The Good Earth.  That was a full-time thing.

 

North Shore News: One of the houses looked like it had a crow’s next from a pirate ship.

Davy: There was a lot of that kind of thing.  Somewhere between ships or people’s ideas of what ships may have looked like once.  But they had to be substantial; that’s a rainy area and so they had to weather the rough winters.  That’s right across the inlet from the refinery.

DeLuxers Al Clapp, Ross Garrick and Dan Clemens on the Habitat Forum site, 1976

 

North Shore News: Did you know Al Clapp at all?

Davy: Sure.  Al Clapp was active in most everything that we did.

 

North Shore News: Was he part of the organization?

Davy: You should probably call it a disorganization.  He was a frontman.  He helped us with connections.  We didn’t have much to offer.  Everything that we did people took us on faith because we were very loosely-knit, we were anti-establishment, clearly so, but we had some good mouths.  Dan Clemens could talk anybody into anything.  He was a very convincing guy and so he got on very well with Al who had those characteristics too.  Plus Al had a lot of connections.

 

North Shore News: Your website is really extensive.  It has quite a lot of historical information and photographs.

Davy: Yeah, and I’m just getting started.  I’m in the process of building a tutorial so I can pass along my particular skill and design of the Lord and the Lady of the Rings which is the sandal design I’ve been making since 1970 — since The Good Earth.

 

For more see accompanying story: http://www.nsnews.com/entertainment/dossier/squatters-recycled-utopian-dreams-on-the-maplewood-mudflats-1.1213052

- See more at: http://www.nsnews.com/entertainment/dossier/deluxe-utopian-vision-q-a-with-davy-joel-rippner-1.1213118#sthash.r6uhy5bZ.dpuf


 Knee Deep in the Mudflats:
Q & A with photographer Bruce Stewart

John Goodman / North Shore News  July 19, 2014
Photographer Bruce Stewart talked to the North Shore News about his Dollarton Pleasure Faire exhibit.


North Shore News: How did you become involved with the Dollarton Pleasure Faire?

Bruce Stewart: One of the reasons I was attracted to photographing the Faire was because I’d photographed the Renaissance Faires in Los Angeles on the old Paramount Ranch, just north of Malibu and I had quite a collection of photos.  I thought this should be interesting moving back to Vancouver in 1970 to followup on these local faires just to see how different or similar they were to the other Renaissance faires in southern California.  I found them to be much more interesting because they relied heavily on recycled material and old boat fragments that had washed up on the foreshore in Dollarton.The old houses were well-tended by the carpenters who lived in them and it became a very pleasant and idyllic place to live.

 

North Shore News: Where did you go to school in Los Angeles?

Bruce Stewart: The Art Center College of Design.  It’s a school in Pasadena now but when I was there it was just moving to Pasadena, it was right in the middle of Los Angeles.

 

North Shore News: Have your photographs from L.A. been shown anywhere?

Bruce Stewart: A few of them were shown in a show I had at Errol Bakol’s Gallery on Lonsdale in ’73.  I had about a dozen samples from the L.A. Pleasure Faire including some anonymous women who were doing belly dancing and later on I discovered that one of the women was very famous she turned out to be Diane Weber who was Peter Gowland’s favourite model and Peter was there shooting as well, very interesting times.  But most of the pictures were from Mission of which I shot more than the Dollarton series.  I have about 50 pictures in the gallery for this show and we culled them from around 135 Class A prints and narrowed them down to 50.  I shot a total of over 700 pictures during the course of the faire at Dollarton.

 

North Shore News: The Faire was in ’72 — it seems like it was late not only for the Mudflats but for the scene itself.

Bruce Stewart: We came to the end of that summer and the so-called super mayor Tom Campbell was still in power.  He was well-known as a hippie-hating mayor and incited all kinds of angst and precipitated the Gastown riot I believe.  Two weeks after the Faire closed W.A.C. Bennett was voted out of office.  It was kind of a reaction to the times at the end of times.  The whole hippie scene had peaked ’68, ’69, ’70 and there were still a few hangers on but I think the people that were there were more serious about gearing themselves to a lifestyle that could be sustained.  Some of them drifted back to the cities I’m sure and some of them lived in communal houses in Kitsilano in fact I used to live in Kits myself.  I used to run into a lot of the people that I saw at the Flats who lived together in these very low-rent houses on West 6th and West 7th just off Vine.

 

North Shore News: Are the people we see in the photographs people who lived on the Mudflats or people who went there for the Faire?

Bruce Stewart: There was a mixture.  Most of them did come, for instance, there was a group from Malcolm Island, Sointula, with a teepee, I know they were down for the Faire.  I know a number of other people were from the suburbs and they hung out.  Another group had a bus and they travelled everywhere in this little bus. 

 

North Shore News: In one of the photos there is a woman who is looking across the inlet to the Shell Oil Refinery.  It almost looks posed but I imagine it wasn’t.

Bruce Stewart: No, it wasn’t.  In fact she was part of a group of three people and she appears in another picture just next to that with a spear fisherman and another fellow looking on and she’s walking around with the spear guy.  They, I think, were a couple and I had just seen this from a distance and I ran like crazy to get the picture because I knew what I wanted.  I saw the refinery as almost totem poles and she looking over at what I thought was the abandoned site at Haida Gwaii the Ninstints totem site.  It really occurred to me the irony of the picture: you’re looking on paradise here but it’s really not it’s a mechanized industrial brutalist society and they turn out not to be totem poles at all.

 

North Shore News: Do you know where they were from?

Bruce Stewart: No, I saw them around town.  You usually saw them at Be-ins or around Fourth Avenue.  I can’t be certain whether they were from the Fourth Avenue area or from up island or from the Kootenays. I think most of the people were from the Lower Mainland.

 

North Shore News: Another shot has people in sleeping bags in front of a house which looks like it has a pirate ship’s crow’s nest built over the roof.

Bruce Stewart: It was interesting going in early in the morning looking at the fog coming up over Burrard Inlet and the kids were all sort of nestled in their sleeping bags.  The pirate ship in the back was a construct from an old abandoned hulk of a boat that was kind of slung over a log, the thing had just kind of settled over a log many, many years ago and the fellas just decided to construct a full pirate ship over it by putting a canvas and erecting a mast.  All of this was recycled material largely taken I think from homes in the West End that were being demolished.  Posts, old fireplace enclosures and whatnot were being recycled and rejigged into staircases and god knows what else.  I think a lot of this came from the whole business of recycling from old houses and incorporating them into newer places.

 

North Shore News: Would this have been from Clemens’ business —they did renovations so they would have taken materials from other sites to this site?

Bruce Stewart: That’s correct.  The old pickup truck style.  I have some photographs that are not in the show showing them picking the bones of an old boat and getting useable curved planks which they could then use to build infrastructures with a little canteen kiosk and whatnot.

 

North Shore News: A third photograph has a woman and kids walking along the wooden plank sidewalks. It gives you the sense of the water surrounding them.

Bruce Stewart: It was indeed and the tide would come in and the whole area would be flooded.  I have photos that are not in this show of me walking knee deep in the mud photographing the tide as it was overwhelming me and all the shacks that were scattered along the foreshore in the distance with the sun going down.  It’s a real pretty shot. And then there were days when the tide was low and all the tall grasses were in evidence.  You could walk out to the dock that was used by L&K Lumber Company which was just on the foreshore and they used it as a booming ground.  I have a picture of one of the ladies hanging up her wash along that dock.

 

North Shore News: You mentioned there was quite a bit of nudity — did anybody care?

Bruce Stewart: It didn’t seem to be a problem. I wasn’t hassled by anybody.  They evolved into it — they weren’t doing it to make a statement, they were doing it because it was hot, because they could do it and it was such a natural setting and very conducive to cooling off that way.  There didn’t appear to be any overt sexuality displayed during the daytime.  Now of course at night everybody got into their teepees and that was perhaps a different story.  There was no problem for me nobody said, 'Why are you taking these pictures?’  That is something they asked time and again over the next forty years. Often times Fred (Herzog) and I have been out photographing together and people have asked us, 'A) Are you working for the real estate company? or B) Are you the police?  Why are you taking the pictures that you’re taking?' 'Well, there interesting pictures, it’s an interesting place you have.  'Well, come to the front of the house we’ve got flowers out there. It’s much more beautiful.’  But we were in the backyard really tearing up the place enjoying the detritus of how people really live without the sham.

 

North Shore News: Was there a police presence there at all?

Bruce Stewart: Yes, there was.  Only on one occasion did I see police there and they came from the boats. They came up to what looked like a round.  It could have been a cement bollard.  It would have been about 12 feet in diameter and a fella had put a teepee up there and that’s one of the images in the show. They instructed him to get out of there because he was on federal property.  That’s the last thing they wanted, you know, somebody breaking the law.  I had gone home late that evening after shooting all day and I came back the following morning I believe it was when I got the pictures of the kids in the sleeping bags. One fella came up to me and said, ‘You should have been here last night.  At midnight they blew up the bollard and they ordered the guy off and he took his teepee away and they drilled holes and dynamited the thing.'  Those are the only sour words I heard during the event.  No fights, no drunkenness, people were just very mellowed out.

 

North Shore News: And every photo looks sunny.

It was. Great days. It was a very hot summer and one of those magical times I thought was going to go on forever. It was such a great way to live but of course things change.

 

North Shore News: Did the Mudflats seem very isolated from civilization with the the highway and the suburbs close by?

Bruce Stewart: No, I think the only isolation was in the summer with the very dense bush between the Dollarton Highway and the crab shack across the way was kind of a mitigating influence between suburbia and the squatters.  I haven’t been over there for a long, long time, in fact, I probably haven’t been over there for 40 years.  The very last picture I shot was the panorama about two years after the Faire.  It was done in the winter and by that time all of the shacks had been raised. All but one on the west side which was the original shack of the so-called mayor of the Mudflats, Mike Bozzer, and that was the last one to go as far as I know.  I’ve got photographs not in this show of the skids where the houses were built and all charred to ruins and little bits and pieces of household effects that were part of the houses: an overturned washtub, a refrigerator door, and a couple of Newell posts. That was all that was left — everything was just kind of consumed.



Squatters recycled utopian dreams
on the Maplewood Mudflats

Celebrating end of days at the Dollarton Pleasure Faire in the summer of ’72
John Goodman / north shore news July 19, 2014


  • Bruce Stewart: Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972. Photography exhibit at Presentation House Gallery until Aug. 3. Curated by Bill Jeffries.
  • Maplewood Mudflats Tour: Sunday, July 27, 11 a.m. with Bill Jeffries and Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia founder Patricia Banning-Lover, Corrigan Nature House, Maplewood Conservation Area, Dollarton Highway, North Vancouver. 

 

Here there is no winter. The sky is always blue at the Dollarton Pleasure Faire. 

Or at least the weather was good during the two weeks the counter-culture festival took place in late August, early September of 1972.  This was Vancouver, however, and all hell could break loose from the rainforest skies at any moment.  The refinery across the water was also a daily reminder to the people of the inlet that hell was close by — especially back in the day when the luminescent Shell sign lost its “S,” giving writer Malcolm Lowry symbolic confirmation of something he already knew about living as a squatter on the edge of this world — Time was ticking.

Lowry called his Dollarton paradise Eridanus, after the river in Greek mythology situated on the far west of their world, where Heracles asked the river nymphs of Eridanus to help him locate the Garden of the Hesperides. Dadaist/jazz musician/shaman/bricoleur Al Neil, who also lived as a squatter in the area with his partner Carole Itter for more than 30 years starting in the mid-’60s, drew on Vedic literature when he referred to the area in his West Coast Lokas.  It was a special, spiritual place open to all but best kept secret.

By the time of the Dollarton Pleasure Faire there were no more secrets to keep and the event, captured for posterity by photographer Bruce Stewart, was a celebration by the squatter community of the end of their days in their temporary paradise on the mudflats.  Eviction notices could no longer be ignored as houses were burned to the ground by civic authorities bent on clearing the way for a shopping mall that was never built.

The squatters were part of a long tradition of ramshackle settlements that have popped up along the Burrard Inlet, the Fraser Delta and other local bodies of water since at least the mid-19th century when Portuguese and Scottish sailors jumped ship and set up house near Brockton Point in what is now Stanley Park.  Of course, First Nations land occupation goes back thousands of years with the Tsleil-Waututh (People of the Inlet) annually making the rounds establishing their winter and summer camps close to water sources.

The Dollarton squatter community was initially started in the 1930s by fishermen and employees of the Dollar Mill and McKenzie Derrick shipyard, says Sheryl Salloum in her essay “Without Deed or Permit: Squatters in the Lower Mainland” published in Raincoast Chronicles 19.  Lowry and his wife rented a cabin near Roche Point in 1940 and liked the lifestyle so much they stayed for 14 years, eventually settling into a shack on the beach near the present-day tennis courts in Cates Park.  At one point there were as many as 90 shacks lined along the waterfront but they were all gone by 1960 to make way for the planned development of the park. 

Squatters were living in the intertidal zone of the Maplewood Mudflats on and off in the early part of the 20th century but they were forced out in 1961 when L&K Lumber purchased the property, according to Salloum. 

By the end of the decade some individuals had moved back into the area and when artist Tom Burrows returned to Vancouver after studying in Europe he chose to live there himself in May 1969. He moved into a partially built, abandoned structure and began adding to it over time. 

In West of Eden, a collection of essays Presentation House Gallery has published in conjunction with the Stewart exhibit, Burrows and his former wife Ida Carnevali were interviewed about their “Life on the Mudflats” by their son Elisha Burrows who spent his first years there.  “With no power I had to build the house with handsaws,” says Burrows.  “We had candles and gas lamps that were kind of scary.  But I was employed at UBC, and would spend time there doing my work and reading.  I couldn’t deal with the lack of light.  The person who really knows the experience of the mudflats is Ida, dealing with diapers with no hot water.  She bore the brunt of living on the Flats.”

There were actually two fairs held at the mudflats during the hippie era. Carnevali arrived from Europe, wearing an Yves St. Laurent suit and carrying a baby in her arms, just in time to experience the first one. She wasn’t impressed and neither was her husband.  “My pleasure in the fair was to witness an overheated debate on who got the lucrative corn on the cob concession,” Burrows says.  “The 1972 fair I could avoid and did.” 

Even though Burrows wasn’t too happy about having the Dollarton Pleasure Faire in his backyard he had little say in the matter as it was put together by some of his neighbours on the mudflats.  The gathering was actually small potatoes compared to some of the other events Dan and Wendy Clemens’ DeLuxe Renovators and Events had hosted in the Lower Mainland.

The Dewdney Trunk Road Pleasure Faire in 1971 is still remembered by some as one of the main events of the hippie era.  “That was a big success,” remembers Davy Joel Rippner, one of Clemens’ partners at the time.   “Joni Mitchell was our star.  She came before the fair opened and stayed the whole time.” Deluxe also hosted a Pleasure Faire in Mission and an eight-day Christmas extravaganza at the PNE, featuring bands and craft booths.

Rippner, now based on South Pender Island (leathersmithe.com), has been creating handmade leather goods since 1957 and during the early ’70s operated his own shop, The Good Earth, at Third Street and Lonsdale Avenue. 

“Dan and Wendy Clemens were making bags at that time,” says Rippner. “That’s how our relationship started up — we would see each other now and then at public get-togethers.  And when the time came and I located this other shop (on Lower Lonsdale) they were keen to go into a partnership.  And they lived close by on the mudflats.”

Rippner didn’t live on the mudflats himself, preferring some of the comforts of civilization such as running water and heat in a place near Capilano Suspension Bridge.  “My lifestyle was not as rustic as theirs,” he says. “I did want electricity and I wanted to be able to get away from the scene in the evening and charge my batteries.  I had a girlfriend and my parents came to visit and my brother was living there and somebody was living in a treehouse outback so we had our own little scene there.”

DeLuxe Renovators was formed as a fallback business says Rippner.  “Carpentry was a way to fill the time between leather season, which was warmer weather when people are out spending money.  To get us over the hump periodically we were able to do renovations and teardown jobs.”

Rippner, in his mid-20s at the time, was part of the DeLuxe “disorganization” (as he calls it) from 1968 until 1975 when he left Vancouver.  “Because I was involved with Dan and Wendy I was down in the mudflats too and that was the beginning of that little subculture.”

One day some of the DeLuxe crew showed up at Rippner’s Lonsdale store with truckloads of ticky tacky taken from Victorian homes in the Fairview Slopes area near Granville Island and they used it to decorate his shop.  “One of the guys at the mudflats, Willie (Wilson), was a collector and he had amassed three warehouses full of ticky tacky Victorian teardowns.  That was how DeLuxe got its start.  They would go and tear down these places and take away whatever they wanted. That’s where all the Victorian stuff came from.” 

The structures DeLuxe built for themselves on the mudflats had some distinguishing features.  “They were post and beam,” says Rippner.  “Big husky things and all found material.  I don’t think anybody ever bought a sheet of plywood or anything like that.  Most of us didn’t have that much experience as carpenters so they were rough and impractical, big and open.  I don’t think anybody thought of it as anything more than a temporary stop on the way to the rest of their lives.”

As well as outfitting the Maplewood Mudflats with truckloads of recycled Victoriana the DeLuxe Renovators influenced other aspects of popular culture in the early ’70s through Al Clapp’s Habitat Forum in 1976 and Robert Altman’s 1971 western McCabe & Mrs. Miller. 

“Al Clapp was active in everything that we did,” says Rippner.  “He was a frontman.  We didn’t have much to offer.  Everything that we did, people took us on faith, because we were very loosely knit.  We were anti-establishment, clearly so, but we had some good mouths.  Dan Clemens could talk anybody into anything.  He was a very convincing guy and so he got on very well with Al Clapp who had those characteristics too.  Plus Al had a lot of connections.”

The DeLuxe crew played a big part in creating Robert Altman’s fictional town of Presbyterian Church in McCabe and Mrs. Miller.  The film was shot in West Vancouver and Squamish mostly in sequential order with carpenters constructing the town set in front of Altman’s cameras as the story unfolds.  The whole thing smacks of a Maplewood Mudflats ethos right down to the wood planks the actors walk over to get from one building to the next. 

“A gang of DeLuxers worked on it,” says Rippner.  “The film was employment for a year or some very long time, particularly for Ian Ridgway.  Ian is still alive, he’s living on the Sunshine Coast.  He was a few years senior to us and had been a shipwright and learned his trade in Great Britain.  He was the primary guy that did all the — I don’t want to say organization, I don’t want to say design because people all played a role — but we learned our carpentry from Ian.”

The concept of Pleasure Faires sprang up in post-Second World War America as summertime celebrations of medieval and Renaissance cultures.  Rippner actually worked as a student volunteer on the first Renaissance Pleasure Faire put on by radio station KPFK in Los Angeles in 1963.  The event celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with annual attendance now averaging 250,000.

Photographer Bruce Stewart attended medieval fairs and hippie “be-ins” in California in the late ’60s while he was studying at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. 

“We shot mostly street gatherings and protest marches,” says Stewart.  “The Fifth Estate Coffee House, the Sunset Strip riots, that kind of stuff — also the first Easter Be-in in Legion Park.  That would be in ’67 during the so-called Summer of Love.  I was fortunate I was down there and really took in a lot of stuff that was happening.”

Stewart felt out of place when he first returned to Vancouver in 1971 to work at UBC.  He became friends with photographer Fred Herzog and the two of them often worked together documenting the Vancouver street scene.

“When I heard about the Faire I went over to the Flats not knowing who I’d meet,” remembers Stewart.  “I parked my car, went into the woods and met this band of people who were having a coffee break.  They  had their recycled timbers and hammers and nails and whatnot and I went up to Danny and Ian Ridgway, who I knew very briefly from another occasion, and I said, ‘I’m Bruce Stewart and I’m very interested in documenting what you’re doing for myself.’  We shook hands on the deal.  They said, ‘Fine you’re not selling the pictures, you’re not working for a newspaper, you’re not an undercover cop.’  These were all questions I used to get legitimately I suppose because of the nature of the pictures I used to take. Fred used to get a lot of questioning like that as well.” 

Stewart shot for a couple of days before the Faire started and continued on through the event . “Nobody ever paid any attention to me,” he says.  “Nobody posed for me, which was really quite remarkable. I danced into the scene and danced out again.  People got to know who I was, I think, without really knowing my name.” 

He kept shooting sometimes late into the night using very fast film with a Nikon FTN.  Through UBC he had access to a darkroom at Vancouver General Hospital and he would develop the film there at the end of each day’s shooting.

“I used a variety of lenses, mostly wide angle,” he says.  “I like to get close to people because the pictures have a sense of being there.  Either they didn’t notice me or I was invisible but there wasn’t a big deal made about me being there.  And that goes for the nudity as well, which was very pervasive.  It was a very hot summer — it was a beautiful place to lie around in the grass.”

McCartney Creek was dammed up to create a swimming hole where people could cool off during the Faire.  There were also other accoutrements of such events such as a bandstand, concession stands and a screen printer who made and sold “Maplewood Mudflats” T-shirts on site.

The photographer shot more than 700 images at the Faire with 50 of those chosen for the current exhibit at Presentation House Gallery.  During the festival Terry Lyster also followed Stewart around with a Super-8 camera and some of that footage is also screening continuously as part of the show.  Some of the images feature Al Clapp with an Arriflex camera shooting his own footage but the material he shot has not been found. 

Stewart returned to the mudflats after most of the remaining shacks were destroyed in 1973 and took further photographs.  A panoramic sweep of the area made at that time greets visitors as they enter the gallery to view his exhibit.

A distinctive sense of melancholy permeates the photographs says the gallery in its introduction and that sentiment could apply to the entire era, says Rippner. 

“When you were a hippie (it hadn’t yet acquired its capital “H”) or a square, or a peacenik or a hawk, poverty was the standard for many young iconoclasts.  Visiting and especially living on the mudflats meant embracing and accepting the limited economic future and wide disparity between the wealthy and those who wanted no part of corporate life, Madison Avenue, the support of the American war effort, rightist politics, established religion, and so many oppressive and selectively-enforced laws.

“We had good relations with the local First Nations people and I think the place gave many visitors a chance to see how a life with few rules could play out in rewarding ways.  It was an experiment, like Edge City, that was refreshing in those restrained and conservative times.  Vancouver had the reputation even then of being a city of adventure and risk; the mudflats epitomized that freedom and hope of an alienated subculture.”

For transcripts of interviews with Bruce Stewart and Davy Joel Rippner see below or visit nsnews.com/entertainment/dossier.

Note: The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is hosting the third annual Salish Sea Summer Gathering in Cates Park/Whey-ah-Wichen on Sunday, Aug. 10.

 

Sources:

 

Personal interviews:

— Bruce Stewart, photographer: Dollarton Pleasure Faire 1972.

http://www.nsnews.com/entertainment/dossier/knee-deep-in-the-mudflats-q-a-with-photographer-bruce-stewart-1.1213274

 

— Davy Joel Rippner, leathersmith, DeLuxe crew member:

http://www.nsnews.com/entertainment/dossier/deluxe-utopian-vision-q-a-with-davy-joel-rippner-1.1213118

 

— Sheryl Salloum, historian, author of Malcolm Lowry: Vancouver Days. Interview with Salloum to be published in August.

 

Internet:

— Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties/Tom Burrows House (vancouverartinthesixties.com/archive/362)

— vancouverartinthesixties.com/essays/urban-renewal (Scott Watson: Urban Renewal: Ghost Traps, Collage, Condos and Squats) 

— alneil.vancouverartinthesixties.com/

— leathersmithe.com (Davy Joel Rippner's website)

 

Books/Articles:

—  West of Eden, Presentation House Gallery, Editor: Lance Blomgren, 2014

— Moodyville, Capilano Review and Presentation House Gallery, Editors Jenny Penberthy and Helga Pakasaar, 2009

— "Without Deed or Permit: Squatters in the Lower Mainland" in Raincoast Chronicles 19 by Sheryl Salloum, Harbour Publishing, 2003

— "The By-Gone Days of Dollarton" in Raincoast Chronicles 15 by Sheryl Salloum, Harbour Publishing, 1993

— Malcolm Lowry: Vancouver Days by Sheryl Salloum, Harbour Publishing, 1987

— Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place by Malcolm Lowry, J. Cape, 1961

 

Film:

— Al Neil/A Portrait (1979). Directed by David Rimmer  (vancouverartinthesixties.com/archive/763).

— Terry Lyster unreleased Super-8 footage shot at the Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972.

— McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

 

Recordings:

— Al Neil — Boot and Fog (Music Gallery Editions 1980).

© North Shore News

- See more at: http://www.nsnews.com/entertainment/dossier/squatters-recycled-utopian-dreams-on-the-maplewood-mudflats-1.1213052#sthash.RxARHA8q.kVvIiN9J.dpuf



MAPLEWOOD MUDFLATS TOUR

dollarton-pleasure-fire

Sunday, July 27, 11AMCorrigan Nature House2645 Dollarton Highway, North Vancouver (2 km East of Second Narrows Bridge)
Presented in partnership with the Wild Bird Trust’s Return of the Osprey Festival

Presentation House Gallery is pleased to offer a tour of the Maplewood Conservation Area—the storied site of our current exhibition, Bruce Stewart: Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972. Join curator and former Presentation House Gallery Director Bill Jeffries and Patricia Banning-Lover, President of the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia, for an historic introduction to the area and a guided walk along the shoreline.  The presenters will discuss the Maplewood squatter community, the Dollarton Pleasure Faire, the evolution of this protected wetland, and introduce Ken Lum’s installation from shangri-la to shangri-la, a monument to Dollarton’s experiments in alternative living now situated in the Maplewood Conservation Area.

Bruce Stewart: Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972 is presented in conjunction with Liz Magor: A Thousand Quarrels and Soviet HippiesThe Psychedelic Underground of 1970s Estonia, through August 3, 2014.

Image: Bruce Stewart, 1973, 1973