That 70s House: Finding Vancouver's new attitude in the past

In East Van, dolphin shorts are back in.

Cheap Trick on the June 14, 1979 cover of 'Rolling Stone'
Cheap Trick on the June 14, 1979 cover of 'Rolling Stone'. The past is the present at Our Generation.

Our Generation: Where the '70s survived

"Pick an album, any one you like," says David Beattie with a sweep of his arm. One LP among the stacks catches my eye, a rather dapper raccoon gracing its cover. Lucky for us all, this is JJ Cale's "Naturally."

JJ Cale: Natural
After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out.

I'm in the living room of a house-turned-museum called "Our Generation: Open House & Living Shrine to the '70s", so please join me: press Play to bring in the soundtrack for the rest of this article. Yeah. Step back in time to when Kodachrome was king and dolphin shorts were worn unironically.

Unstuck in time

The '70s House blends into its Joyce-Collingwood surroundings with ease: parts of Vancouver seem stuck in the 1970s already, and it's hard to tell then from now... maybe because some things never change.

When asked if the Internet was the primary vector in spreading the word for this little social experiment, '70s House (and Just Say Hello) coordinator  Beattie replied, "Oh, God, yes. The iron's so thick you could spread it on sandwiches."

There are no modern electronics allowed in the 70s House, and everyone –– including the four occupants –– must leave in order to use mobile phones. Yeah, I took a few pictures anyway.

5123 Aberdeen Street itself is a house stuck in time: a Vancouver Special. The 70s House takes up the top floor. Back in the day, my camera would not have existed; indeed, neither would the VO.

"People make a sort pilgrimage" to Vancouver, says Beattie, yet they have trouble connecting with one another in a meaningful way. South African architect Lance Berlowitz described Vancouver as a "centrifugal city", with no central gathering places:

When I arrived here from London I thought ‘Where is Trafalgar Square?’ Where is the public space that is unprogrammed -- where citizens might celebrate, might protest, might demonstrate, who knows, might fornicate?!

The record player is vintage, but several other appliances in the flat are more modern, including a massive flat-screen television that spends most of its time beneath a pattered throw. It's a visitor from the future, like the Great Gazoo.

The original plan, explains Beattie, was far more ambitious: a full-on immersive environment, with a '70s television playing '70s programming; housemates and volunteers using '70s slang when in the presence of guests. So, for now, baby steps.

Vintage record player
This thing is legit, though

Out of the 20 or so visitors to The '70s House so far, one couple has arrived in period costume. Beattie reckons, "We might make that a special event."

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