Susan Safyan, associate editor of Arsenal Pulp Press, was volunteering to edit memoirs for the 25th anniversary of Vancouver Folk Festival in 2003 when she realized she could do the same thing for the community of Wells.
Safyan lived in Wells for five years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s during the hippy hay days in that isolated mining town. She knew there was a gunny sack of hilarious, outrageous, magically compelling and often irreverent stories of those times, and she started collecting them on her regular returns to the community over the next eight years. She compiled them into a book that hit the bookshelves this summer.
At the ArtsWells arts festival this weekend Safyan will launch All Roads Lead to Wells: Stories of the Hippie Days, published by Caitlin Press. The event will be at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 in the Sunset Theatre.
The 1970s was a unique time when a whole generation of young people abandoned the dreams and bastions of their parents and western society, and headed for remote corners of the hinterland like Wells, to recreate their own culture.
“I loved those amazing end-of-the-road stories,” says Safyan, who was working for a plastic letter manufacturer in Los Angeles in 1978 when she met a handsome lumberjack from Wells. Within a year she had gone to visit him, then moved in with him in his rustic cabin.
Besides telling stories of Wells, she says the book is meant to evoke the times of the hippy drop-out generation. On the broader scale she says All Roads Lead to Wells reflects what was happening in the macrocosm across North America.
In her research Safyan collected stories that occurred before she arrived in Wells, when Brian Humber and Dale Ruckle established Filthy Larry’s Leather Shoppe in the late ‘60s. She describes the resistance the newcomers encountered with the old guard who considered them too weird, and how things kind of mellowed out over time as they discovered the things they had in common.
Safyan will be in Williams Lake to sign copies of her book at SaveOn Book Department on Wednesday, Aug. 8 from 1 to 4 p.m.