The first time I ever attended Hats Off Day, I felt like I had stepped back into my childhood.
I grew up in North Burnaby, but after college I moved to Maple Ridge to work at a newspaper. I figured I’d stay two years and then work my way back into my hometown community. But I met my now-ex-wife, had a child, became editor, and spent more than 20 years there.
During that time, I didn’t spend many days in Burnaby, other than to visit my mom. But one year, she told me it was time that I took part in Hats Off Day.
So I slathered on the sunscreen, found some parking and took my daughter to what I thought was probably a few hundred people checking out the Heights shops.
Boy was I ever wrong.
With all the streets blocked off, thousands roamed up and down Hastings – and I was transformed to that child that spent so many hours in this neighbourhood.
Growing up in the ‘70s, the Heights neighbourhood was everything. My parents hung out at Royal Canadian Legion branch 148. I got my haircut at Mike’s barbershop. I got my tonsils checked at ol’ Doc Appleby’s office. I visited my grandpa who worked at the liquor store at Hastings and Willingdon.
Oh, and what I really lived for was going with my mom to the Valley Bakery. There, the women who worked behind the counter would always tell me I was the most adorable child (true!) and give me a sugar cookie as I drooled over the incredible cakes behind the glass.
The Heights offered everything.
Now, here I was with my own daughter, Emily, wandering up and down the neighbourhood, listening to music and munching on good food.
It really hadn’t changed much as far as the charm factor, and yet it was still different in many ways.
The bowling alley had burned down and the old Dairy Queen – which was just a counter window you ordered from – was gone, but I had noticed that there have been a lot of really cool businesses that have been added over the years. New Italian delis. Glenburn dessert shop. Lots of sushi places (this is, of course, still Metro Vancouver).
But it was more than that. Most of the buildings had freshly painted murals that brought the street to life. And the old Helen’s neon sign had been repurposed to say, “Heights”.
So if you haven’t been to the Heights lately, mark Saturday, June 2, down on your calendar and come out to enjoy everything this neighbourhood has to offer. Oh, and look for me in the parade.