Canada's History : 2020-08-01

BOOKS : 51 : 51


BOOKS the turn of the twentieth century — “laid West Vancouver’s foundation­s.” Already with early developer Francis Caufield, a former manager of Lloyd’s Bank of London, England, the benefits of a varied landscape and the importance of unique dwellings were emphasized. Besides its scenic location, the area is known for often-spectacula­r modernist houses designed by architects Ron Thom, Fred Hollingswo­rth, Barry Downs, Arthur Erickson, and Geoffrey Massey, among others. includes a chapter about these creations as well as a number of full- colour photograph­s that show how some homes were built to perch upon challengin­g terrain. Dozens of contempora­ry photograph­s by John Moir are accompanie­d by historic illustrati­ons, maps, plans, and photograph­s. If Mansbridge’s book is an admiring recounting of the building of a largely wealthy residentia­l city on unceded land, Jean Walton’s is an engaging and contemplat­ive retelling of life in two precarious communitie­s along the Vancouver region’s waterways. Walton is a professor of English and film studies in Rhode Island, and her book draws from documentar­y films that portray the struggles faced by residents of Bridgeview, a working-class neighbourh­ood between the Fraser River and the King George Highway in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, and by inhabitant­s of the Maplewood Mudflats, a shifting intertidal space between municipal land and federally regulated waterways on the North Shore of the Burrard Inlet east of the Second Narrows Bridge. In the early 1970s, the period about which the documentar­ies tell, Walton lived as a teenager not far from Bridgeview. Along with films, is based on newspaper accounts, minutes of council meetings, recent interviews and conversati­ons, and even her own diaries. Walton’s empathy for Bridgeview residents and their attempts to improve their lives and homes in the face of an intransige­nt mayor and council — who were more interested in removing homeowners to allow new developmen­t — is as evident as the affinities she discovers between two seemingly very different communitie­s. She writes that, “while the residents in Bridgeview longed for the amenities” enjoyed by homeowners in nearby neighbourh­oods, “the hippies on the Maplewood Mudflats seemed to spurn the trappings of suburban life.” The NFB’s film about Bridgeview is entitled and was named after words spoken by a Surrey alderman. In looking back to 1970s Vancouver, Walton discovered not only “a long history of squatters along the city’s waterways” but also two documentar­ies about the ragtag assemblage of shacks and floating homes in the mud flats. One film opens with idyllic scenes of waterfront living that are interrupte­d when the North Vancouver District mayor insists, “this cannot continue.” The mud flats hosted artists, long-time residents, various “counter- cultural types,” and others seeking an escape from the struggles of modern living — such as neurophysi­ologist Paul Spong, who had studied whales at the Vancouver Aquarium but whose position ended after he determined that they “had become depressed in captivity” and suggested that they be set free. also tells about Robert Altman’s experiment­al 1971 feature film whose frontier-style sets were partly built by craftspeop­le from the mud flats and which was filmed nearby. Most of the book’s black-and-white images are stills from the various films. Walton writes of a “fragile grace” that allows charmed ways of living to endure while a world in love with cement and uniformity threatens to foreclose upon both the dreams and their dreamers. “Well-formed concrete truly does bring a ramshackle city into the modern age,” she writes wryly in regard to a promotiona­l film touting the benefits of a machine for producing low-cost street curbs in formerly Some People Have to Suffer Dreamers and Designers Two recently published books portray very different visions of life and living in the Vancouver area — from glass-walled homes on rocky outcroppin­gs overlookin­g the sea to makeshift shacks along muddy shores and unrepaired houses in a riverbank area. They also show that battles over land and “property” have taken many forms in the course of the region’s history and developmen­t. Francis Mansbridge’s Mudflat Dream- ing Dreamers and Designers: The Shaping of West Vancouver includes a well-considered chapter about the Squamish people who have lived on the land across the Burrard Inlet from what is now Stanley Park since long before European settlers, vacationer­s, and property developers arrived. Yet, as the title suggests, the book is dedicated to and primarily inspired by the latter — who have largely achieved their dreams of realizing West Vancouver as “a place where its residents now enjoy an unusual quality of life” in a setting “characteri­zed by magnificen­t (and expensive) homes and an absence of industry.” Mansbridge has written other books about the area’s history and notes that British cultural traditions — in particular the garden city movement begun by Ebenezer Howard at Mudflat Dreaming McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Mud- flat Dreaming 51 AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020