photos: Matt Cassan. Photo by Jackie Wong.

Hitchhiking across Canada

Megaphone vendor Matt Cassan reminisces about seeing the world with his thumbs up

Get on your megaphone

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“I grew up in B.C. I was born in Ontario. My parents moved to Williams Lake for jobs in the forest industry. I was a carpenter’s helper. It was alright work. Then they got me doing some risky things, so I decided not to do that.

“I got manic depression so I have a hard time. It’s like that movie, As Good as it Gets. I don’t have the gift of the gab either, but I travelled across Canada. I used to travel from Ontario to B.C. all the time. My mom’s family and some of my dad’s family live out there. I gave that up because it’s too frustrating to keep leaving everything behind and then coming back to it later on, in your daily life.

“I know Canada pretty good. It was kind of fun. It was the fun years of my life. I like to travel. I hitchhiked to get around.

“One time, there was this drunk truck driver that lost his whole load on the side of the highway right after we got out of his vehicle, and he tried to blame it on us for stealing a bottle or something like that. But he got caught because it was his mistake.

“I would go to truck stops. Trucks are the best for hitchhiking for a long distance because they’re going to places, like different cities, all around the province. That’s what I did, anyway. It was cold sometimes, too. I wasn’t really always dressed for the weather.

“I got to see more of the country that way. There was a lot of prairie land that I liked. I liked all the grazing cattle and stuff like that. Sometimes, there was corn on the cob and big picket fences that you couldn’t see over. They were 6’ tall, and there was corn on the cob coming out of these places that had these fences. Then there are all these different areas with big milk carton houses, and stuff like that.

“I think about my hitchhiking days. It’s pretty rough, but I used to hitchhike all the way to Pemberton to see my folks and do my laundry every Saturday. I hitchhiked in the ’80s and ’90s.

“Sometimes [the drivers] would give me a tip to go and buy some food, things like that. Those were the good days. I was only about 17, 18. I hitchhiked everywhere. The farthest was Montreal. I was gonna go out to Nova Scotia and get some work fishing and see what I could see. I got a great aunt out there, but I didn’t know her or anything like that. I was just going on my own excursion, just to see the world.

“I got trapped in Montreal. They didn’t like hitchhiking on the viaducts. I couldn’t hitchhike out of Montreal.

“I’ve also hitchhiked to California. They’re crazier down there. I seen one guy, he was operating his car with a screwdriver in the ignition of his station wagon. I was kind of thinking, ‘I’m in trouble.’ I was about 20 then. I was going to go to Florida if I didn’t stay in California, but I thought, 'Naw, it might be a little bit more dangerous.' There’s a lot more crazy people in the United States, I realized. It was cool though. I liked Seattle. I went tothe San Francisco area. I helped a guy push  his car up the street. He gave me $100.

“You get so used to hitchhiking. It’s a long night. You want a warm place to stay. In the night, you don’t want to be out there all night and all day.

“You just want to get there and be happy.”

Matt Cassan sells Megaphone at Seymour and Hastings in downtown Vancouver.

Get on your megaphone

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312 Main St
Vancouver, BC
V6A 2T2