Editors Note: This week for TBT I pulled up rather humorous reflection about the beginnings of our favorite Canadian outdoor gear cooperative, MEC. Founded by dirtbag VOCers back in 1971, mainly to save money and buy cheap gear without having to smuggle it across the border from REI, MEC has become ubiquitous with the outdoors in Canada.
Walking through MEC today, you can still get an impression of its humble beginnings. Between the yoga mats and ice cream making soccer ball, you can find a reasonably priced clearance section, which often hides the best deals for outdoor clothing (as long as you’re alright with colors which are out of vogue).
The Co-op and the Alpine Fastbuck
R. Burton. VOC Journal Volume XIV. 1971
You may have noticed that mid-summer 1971, a group of V.O.C.ers got together and formed a co-operative to sell mountaineering equipment. Mountain Equipment Cooperative, as it came to be called, was created during hours of tedious and sometimes acrimonious discussion presided over by Jim Byers, and attended (most of the time) by such famous people as Sara Oliver, Sara Golling, Sheila MacLean, Bob Brusse, Charlie Brown, Dave Wingate. By the time you read this, our Co-op will have sold several dozen sleeping bags and an assortment of other outdoor gear, at competitive prices. Membership, costing five dollars, is open to anybody. It will be a while before we are bigger than R.E.I. in Seattle, but this is a good start.
The real start of the Co-op was not in the spring of ’71, however, but happened on an attempt on Mt. Baker, spring ’70. As usual, it started raining about midnight and by 3:00 am we were awakened by a huge herd of Mazamas stumbling past our tents, on their way from the Lulshan Cabin, presumably trying to climb Baker. With our minds numbed by sleep, we got up and started off, but rather quickly noticed that it was wetter outside than in our tents, so by 7:00 am we were back in bed, telling Tom Swifties and Newfie Magic Shows. After a while we decided to make a catalogue of all the useless outdoors equipment we could think of, to be sold by a new store called Alpine Fastbuck. We received many interesting and useless items, and eventually formed a small catalogue. Probably this was in the back of our minds, when, a year later, the real Co-op was formed.
ALPINE FASTBUCK SPRING CATALOGUE
- Expedition outfitting: Alpine Pencil, only 1″ long, very light weight, $1.59
- Alpine Toilet Roll, very light weight, contains almost no paper, $1.89
- 2-cup cup and attached spoon, $1.50; with gold-plated spoon $26.50 (state mouth size when ordering).
- Edible Boot Laces, just add water and these become soft and tender. Perfect for emergencies, $1.00 each.
- Does your tent leak? Have it fiberglassed by our team of experts. Besides [water-proofing], this unique treatment absolutely stops the tent from flapping in the wind, and poles can be thrown away. Perfect for fixed camps.
- Have your old ski boots bronzed. (hang them from your rear-view mirror) Not only are these fine souvenirs, but this treatment provides the added stiffness which is so important to the serious downhill skier.
- Fashion: Mt. Seymour Ski Jackets — while they last, made of lustrous green polyethylene, with holes for arms and head. You’d never know that they’re hand-crafted from plastic garbage bags, $1.00. (State head size when ordering, so we know how big to cut the hole.) Also available with wolverine ruff.
- Dial-a-slab rock boots: By adjusting the lever beside the hinged toe, you can set these boots for any angle of slab climb, as soon as you break all your toes to allow the hinge to work.
- We have a really complete line of hat decorations, alpine crests, etc., and for an exhorbitant fee we can provide signed statements proving you have climbed anything, complete with faked summit photos.
- Impress your friends: Buy our nicely broken-in climbing clothes. Knickers with holes in them in obvious places. Iron-on rope burns for parkas and anoraks. Boots with no toes or with soles falling off.
Remember, our equipment is the best, so if you were planning to shop around, forget it.