Albert Melul: Working with Vancouver's Counter Culture Movement in the 1960s
Date:Tuesday, July 19, 2011
ID:Digital audio recording #: 20.11-13
ID: How long were you are Gordon House, Albert?
AM: I was there about four or five years and then I stayed with the neighbourhood house as a director of another house. Yeah, in 71, 73, I became the director…
AM: Kitsilano House.
ID: And was that an umbrella organization of…
AM: Yeah, Gordon House has four or five neighbourhoods around the city.
ID: Gordon House was one of them, or?
AM: Gordon House was one of them, everybody was in an area, and in every area they had their own peculiarities. Like when I was working at Kitsilano it was also at the time of the hippies. So because I spoke French and many hippies came from Quebec, so the City of Vancouver asked me, no that was during Gordon House years, asked me to go to the YWJ where they created as place for the hippies because they didn’t want them to be all over town. So they had them in a place and there was a couple of social workers and myself who were kind of the supervisors to try to make sure they don’t go into mischief. So every time I went home I had to change all my clothes of the smell of tobacco, drugs, and all that every night it was a difficult thing but, I also learned how to do other things. When I was working with the hippies except explaining to them the idea of Canada values, laws, and things like, because they would come to me saying, “Albert, why does the narcotic policeman run after me? I was just making a living.” To them selling drugs is just making a living, you know they say, “Albert, why don’t you talk to the Narcs? Tell them to leave me alone.” So I had to explain the two worlds. But then long, long ago in the ‘60s there was a bit of a riot in the West End, and of course the city wanted to know why were many hippies and that on the rampage. So I went and interview many of them and I found out that one of the major complaints was that there was not dental health. You know, many of them were in pain and there was no way you know, at that time St. Paul had once a week somebody who would came for emergency, but that’s all. So, I decided to do something about it, I went to Gordon House, my supervisor was a strong lady, you know, no it was another supervisors, if you can do something, so I went to some kind of get together of dentists and I invited myself in the cocktail lounge and that and I convinced few dentists if can give some time to help these people of that. Anyway I found one who was a bit of an idealist who organized with me, but we didn’t have a place. So I used the Gordon House kitchen to have our first, I remember having a flashlight and that and a dentist. Anyway, after a little while the word went around, and I got second hand dentist chair, tools ,and that I had 10 or 12 dentist, and every Wednesday night all the hippies, all the people who could not have a dentist, they would come to Gordon House to have dental care, no questions asked. I have an article about it, you can have see it. But that was one of the things, you know, I always, when I saw a need I said let’s do something about it.