718 - TOM OJO - CANADA 1-403-885-2991
HIGH LEVEL DROP-IN CENTER/
SAFE HOUSE 1969
One of the first Youth Drop-In Centers/Safe House in the Province of Alberta was established in 1969 by
In 1968 he established the first community newspaper, the Northern Echo, north of Peace River/Manning
at High Level, Alberta. It came to develop as an Alternative newspaper and attracted a group of youth
who operated the newspaper as part of a quasi-communal community. It developed somewhat of a reputation
(and once received a letter from Europe addressed only to "The Newspaper, Northern Alberta"), and
attracted counterculture youth from across the west. It was not unusual to find someone dropping in
from distant cities and newspapers (including Vancouver's Georgia Strait) and announcing "I'm here to
work for you."
At the time J. Fromhold was in a local Rock Band, WHITE TRASH (Yo, Lance, Terry, Craig; a name later
'borrowed' by Johnathan Winters), which sponsored weekly dances in and around High Level. Because
the community of High Level had little other outlet for youth activities the Northern Echo became
a gathering place for youth, and soon opened the Inner I as a youth coffee house/drop-in center.
At the time there were numerous youth in the community and region who were effectively homeless,
transient, or in distressed family situations. At the Northern Echo they found a refuge and stable
environment and an opportunity to becomea working part of the community. It became one of Alberta's
first Youth Safe Houses. We never received - or asked for - government money.
In all, some 30 youth passed thorugh our doors in the 2-3 years we were in operation (before I moved
on to attend university). Here are some of them.
The Lizotte boys from Meander River.
Youngest of our refugees was Pearlie, then aged 8,
daughter of a local alcoholic single mother who
worked in the sex trade and lived in an 8' trailer
with her two children.
Pearlie could often be found sitting outside the
local bar at 1 in the morning waiting for her
mother to come out. More disturbingly, when the
drinking and events got rowdy at home, Pearl would
run off into the woods with her little sister -
even when it was 40 below. Attempts by the R.C.M.P.
to bring her home when they found her were nearly disasterous - scarcely had the police cruiser
stopped before Pearlie again dashed off into the woods. Along the line somewhere Pearlie had drifted
into our Safe House - though not without complaints from mother and grandmother. Recognizing a good
thing when they saw it, the R.C.M.P. quickly gave the arrangement their seal of approval; instead of
trying to take Pearlie home, they brought her over to our place.
And not to forget Regina and Hilda from Assumption, our volunteer Cleaning Crew when they were in
Bill & Curtis in front of our unofficial Youth Drop-In
Center/Safe House at High Level (AB) (1969). Bill
homeless & Curtis with drug abuse issues. Became
involved in our newspaper. Bill became a newspaper/
editorial cartoonist. Curtis now owns a service station
and snowmobile dealership and is a Foster Parent.
Virginia, from High Level (AB);
family of 16 living in 2 room
derelict motel unit 1966. Mother
known as the local drunk. Barred
out of school at age 13 and de-
clared incorrigable and unteach-
able. Became involved with our
newspaper production. Took to reading Chaucer's Cantebury Tales in the Old
English version. Took a part-time job (money mostly taken by mother). A year
later received Citizen of the Year award for rescue of children from a burning building. Returned to
school in Edmonton, attended Journalism school. Became a newspaper correspondent. XXX OOO
Nicole, from Fort Vermilion (AB); Born in a tent in the bush; family of 12 living in a 2
room tarpaper shack. Photo taken 1969 at our Drop-In Center/Youth Safe House just
prior to Nicole leaving for a successful modeling Career in Toronto and New York.
Friend of Gordon Lightfoot, Garry Good, Jerry Garcia, Johnathan Winter. Subsequently
returned to Alberta and a successful career in program administration.
Carl (just visible on Nicole's left. Problems with drug use. Became involved in our local newspaper &
became Assistant Manager. Subsequently went on to University and a Nursing career.
Photos from High Level and Northwest Alberta
Collectables from High Level and area
718 - TOM OJO - CANADA 1-403-885-2991