It was 1978 and us Vernon Senior Secondary School graduates happily painted Suicide Hill with our initials and our names and our “We’re here for a good time, not a long time” motto, compliments of Trooper.
We enjoyed the day immensely, just like the class of the year before that and the year before that, in a tradition that seemed to touch all the bases: we could express ourselves artistically on 30th Avenue for all the world to see, it hopefully kept us from making our mark on the back wall of the Super-Valu (not always, however), and it was fairly harmless as the tribute only lasted as long as the traffic up and down the hillside allowed – a few weeks, a month tops.
Apparently, the practice was stopped after the Class of ‘81 performed the ritual, not sure why… maybe their painting skills were lacking somehow and art critics were offended.
More likely, the fun police got involved and decided it wasn’t proper behaviour or someone might get hurt by inhaling too much paint or something. It’s the same type of people who later managed to get Suicide Hill turned into a one-way street that only went up at a time when going down the two bumps was one of the few cheap thrills in town. If we had visitors from the Coast come to town, going down Suicide where you actually felt like you were getting air time on the second bump was the first place to take them. We may be a small town but we knew how to have fun, for free.
Maybe it was a tad dangerous, thus the name, but common sense ruled the day or you could harm your undercarriage.
This is all context for council’s decision this week to allow the VSS grad class of 2020 to paint the town red, well at least the Suicide Hill part, in deference to a class that isn’t allowed to have formal, or maybe even informal, celebrations due to the pandemic. Well done.
However, we can’t just allow things these days, we have to make it complicated. And silly. And oh, so safe to the point of being ridiculous.
You see they are closing the road that day for safety reasons like before and that makes sense. Dodging drivers while painting might be fun as someone yells “car” but maybe not the wisest move.
However, not only are they not opening the road the next day to begin the gradual but effective road restoration process, they are closing the road for two-and-a-half months.
Why you may ask? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of temporary but fun graffiti?
Well, according to staff, it’s to ensure the safety of motorists who would have to contend with paint creating potentially slippery conditions and “markings would be unfamiliar to drivers.”
OMG. What did they add to paint in the last 40 years to make it slippery? And the only way graffiti would be unsafe is if drivers tried to read it while driving over it. Maybe they could put up a sign that says “Slippery when painted…and please don’t try to read the road while driving.”
Well, I guess we should be grateful the city isn’t making the kids wear helmets during the event.
Councillor Akbal Mund calls the closure “extreme.” Yup, that’s one word for it.
Staff says this will allow the paint to last longer and stay vibrant, which proves they don’t get the concept of temporary graffiti that is so short-lived there’s no temptation to tamper with it. Plus staff says the paint will be removed in September, I assume either by safely pouring gallons of turpentine down the hill or do what the Stones did and “paint it black.”
Maybe council can reconsider the closure and while they’re at it restore Suicide Hill to its former glory and make it two-way again.
Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of the Morning Star.