Daily Life In The Haight/ Summer Of Love/Part 3

I have devoted my last 2 blogs to the subject of nostalgia, defined by my Google sources as: “A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” I have found out by delving deep into my memory banks that I am particularly attracted to remembrances of the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967, the dawning of the “Age of Aquarius,” the newly discovered center of the baby boomer hippie world, the new found freedoms and responsibilities of being 21 years old and at the peak of my young life…. I was newly ascended into legal adulthood status, yet still child like and naive, visionary and reactionary at the same time…
I have touched upon the incredible music scene and the political atmosphere of the times in my last 2 blogs, so today i was musing about day to day life in San Francisco in that long ago now famous chilly, foggy summer of love….The Haight Ashbury district and particularly Haight street itself was the epicenter of the youth movement, it was where everybody went to see and be seen, and the crowds lined the sidewalk from the storefronts to the curb every day….
In a stretch of less than a mile, from the Drogstore Cafe on Masonic and Haight up the several blocks to Stanyan on Haight street, the border to Golden Gate park and “hippie hill” was where nearly the entire hippie movement converged every single day….Even if you didn’t actually live in the Haight Ashbury, you could still walk there from anywhere in town, or for the price of a 15 cent bus ride you could show up in style… That was the whole point of the Haight Ashbury, it was the hottest, hippest place to be, to meet and mingle, to buy and sell recreational drugs, to renew old acquaintances and meet new friends….
There were lots of stores catering to the young crowds, both on Haight street and nearby, all within walking distance…Nobody hip drove a car, or even a bike, no skateboards, no roller skates down Haight street, it was just too congested, and besides, most of the crowd wore sandals or went barefoot….
But if you walked down Haight street you would run into stores like the Psychedelic Shop, one of the first “head shops” where people having a bad acid (LSD) trip originally could sit and rest and gather themselves, there was the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic where you could get free medical treatment…. This free clinic was endorsed by the aptly named San Francisco Director of Public Health, Dr. Ellis D. Socks, and ably staffed by Dr. Hippocrates, who wrote a daily column, and his associates.
There was a store on nearby Waller street where The Diggers, a murky semi political/altruistic group gave away free clothing, shoes, coats etc just for the asking….The Diggers also gave away free food daily in the Panhandle and at Washington Square in North Beach, the original home of the Beatniks, their one free meal a day was all some of us ever got to eat every day….
The Diggers did a very great service for the otherwise helpless, very unhip and definitely NOT street smart young people who poured into the Haight that summer, an estimated 100,000 youngsters, but the Diggers true motives were always shrouded in secrecy, they were basically historical anarchists….
There was the I/Thou coffee shop, there was the Straight Theater, an old movie house that was converted into a multi media venue that produced plays and art, there was the Print Mint, a psychedelic poster shop…. Left over from the original working class neighborhood and trying to capitalize on the sudden new influx of young people were Tracy’s Donuts and the Pall Mall Bar and Love Burgers, and a little ways off, one of my personal favorite hangouts, the Blue Unicorn coffee shop, a left over from the Beatnik days where you could nurse an espresso and meet and chat with friends all day long…
You could read or sell “The Oracle” which was practically a hippie bible in the summer of 1967, it was the first psychedelic newspaper, and it helped to be stoned to read the psychedelic print motifs espousing the various causes of peace, love, and brotherhood that the paper espoused…The same psychedelic printing was endemic on all the handbills distributed at all the concerts, where they were routinely handed out free after every show to advertise the next week’s show, all these hard to read unless you were stoned….These handbills are all collector’s items today….
There was also many free, impromptu musical concerts, sometimes on a daily basis, it was like one big party all summer long…The Grateful Dead routinely performed on a flat bed truck in the Panhandle, and Jimi Hendrix appeared at least once at a free concert in Golden Gate Park…. I know because I was there, and again, we took it all for granted, we thought it would never end….
Again, to sum up from Google sources: “This unprecedented gathering of young people is often considered to have been a social experiment, because of all the alternative lifestyles which became more common and accepted such as gender equality, communal living, and free love. Many of these types of social changes reverberated on into the early 1970’s, and effects echo throughout modern society.
The hippies, sometimes called flower children, were an eclectic group. Many were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values, and generally opposed the Vietnam War. A few were interested in politics; others focused on art (music, painting, poetry in particular) or religious and meditative movements. All were eager to integrate new ideas and insights into daily life, both public and private.” And so we did, paving the way for the modern world we live in today….
Personally, I never lived in a formal commune, or engaged in “free love” but had many friends that did…. Many people just routinely “crashed” (passed out) at friend’s houses on a strictly informal day to day basis…In addition, my wife and me always had a seemingly endless, constant stream of old college friends making the pilgrimage to the Haight Ashbury that summer, and we always gladly put them up, and they were grateful for a place to crash…
 
They slept on couches, they slept on the floor, they slept in the hallways and kitchen, but we never turned their requests for shelter down….These were glorious days, full of youthful hope, optimism and a dream of a new and peaceful world order…We were young and buoyant and full of hope of making the world a better place to live in….And in a lot of ways, we achieved that dream….

Nothing in our world today has been untouched, nothing in today’s world has not influenced by what we did in those heady days of dreams and freedom, when all the world seemed ours for the taking…It was not as easy as we baby boomers had originally thought, but the seeds of the future were firmly planted in the fallow fields of the Summer of Love, 1967, in San Francisco…
It was a worldwide revolution in thought patterns, culture, morals and the realization that we are all just caretakers of this planet we call earth…It is still up to all of us to fulfill this promise….

Just leave it like it is right now

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