On the fence

When these tumultuous times feel like more than we can endure, folks with a long memory remind us there have been other bad times. Often they mention the turmoil of 1968: the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the subsequent riots, Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact invasion, and the Vietnam War entering its bloodiest chapter.

But not everything was gloom in 1968. Our sound track included Music from Big Pink, Bookends and the so called White Album. And in Halifax, a couple of colourful young artists persuaded the City Council to let them sell their wares from the Public Gardens’ fence.

Now, fifty years later, the artists, Judy Matthews and Roger Hupman, have returned to the fence on their Farewell Tour. (CBC story here.)

Back in the day, Roger and Judy produced enchanting drawings and paintings of historic buildings in Halifax. They also had a wealth of creative capital to spend; I particularly remember window displays at Maritime Frame-It, down Spring Garden Road, and Roger in a clown costume at the opening of the Unicorn on Argyle Street.

We have a couple of small pieces of their work from that time. My fondness for cast iron objects made Judy’s print of the gates to the Gardens an obvious choice.

And Roger had drawn our house on Inglis Street before we owned it. Someone gave us a copy of his hand-coloured print.


This weekend (July 20-22) feels like a perfect time to see Judy and Roger, because you can combine it with a visit to Craft Nova Scotia’s annual summer market, just across the street in Victoria Park,


While Roger and Judy got the city’s okay to sell their art on the fence, authorities were not so approving of what was happening on a wall nearby. The Lord Nelson Hotel had a tiny patch of lawn bordered by a low stone wall, at the corner of Spring Garden and South Park Streets. “The Wall” became a gathering place for counter culture youth, who could spend many hours sitting here doing not very much. Various attempts were made to discourage the long-haired hippies, which made the wall even more attractive and notorious. Eventually the wall disappeared when the hotel expanded and built over the tiny green space.

My out-of-focus photo from the early 1970s shows people sitting on the wall, probably waiting for the bus.

Coincidentally, the city has just added some new bus stop seating down the street. Sometimes it takes a while.

About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.