All Roads Lead to Wells

Stories of the Hippie Days

By Susan Safyan

Categories: BC History
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781894759762, May 2012


In the late 1960s and '70s a small group of idealistic young women and men, self-described as "volunteer peasants," moved to the tiny town of Wells in British Columbia's Central Interior. These hippies, with their waist-length hair and handlebar moustaches, long paisley skirts and gumboots, rusted cars and worn sofas, brought with them a Canadian version of the continent-wide back-to-the-land movement, the sexual revolution and the privilege of personal freedom. All Roads Lead to Wells tells the story of these young settlers, their migration, their values, the unexpected friendships forged between the town's old-timers and newcomers and the inevitable clash--occasionally violent--of generations and cultures.

Built during the Depression, Wells nearly became a gold-mining ghost town like nearby Barkerville, but thanks to the influence of the "back-to-the-landers" it has evolved into one of BC's renowned arts-based communities. All Roads Lead to Wells tells their earthy, poignant and revealing stories.


"What stands out most strongly about these stories from the picturesque Interior town is not their specificity, but their universality. [...] It's beautifully produced, with a handsome art-nouveau cover from poster artist Bob Masse, dozens of candid photographs, and fascinating reminiscences about how clashing cultures--longhairs versus rednecks--ultimately produced a kind of low-key paradise."

--Georgia Straight

"[All Roads Lead to Wells] is not a nostalgic document but a bracing, life-affirming one, rich in the specific geography, history, and sociology of the Wells and Barkerville region. Safyan allies her method to that of Barry Broadfoot in Ten Lost Years, letting her informants speak for themselves." --BC Studies

"It will either bring back your hippie days (because you probably can't remember them) or make you wish you had been part of a community like Wells, where, as the author writes, you could feel 'absolutely, completely, unquestionably safe'."


"Like a high school annual for an entire town, it's a fascinating and intimate chronicle of how back-to-landers mixed with rancher-types to make a remarkable community, one that has since evolved into one of the foremost centres for the arts in B.C. [...] All Roads Lead to Wells reflects what was happening in the macrocosm across North America. Most of the experiments at communalism splintered and disappeared, but there has been a residue of idealism that survives."

--BC BookWorld