Summer of Love
The Summer of Love started with a “be-in” at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, in September 1967.
It was meant to be a gathering of the tribes to enjoy music, free love, dope, food and communal awareness. But organizers were surprised at how many people came who were just like them – young, different, looking for a version of the American Dream unlike what their parents had taught them in the post-World War II prosperity of the 1950s and early 1960s.
Like other seminal moments in history, people remember where they were and what they were doing. Some found themselves in the thick of the alternative lifestyle, protesting the Vietnam War and seeking a more natural way of life.
Others were trying to simply work a job and raise a family, wondering what was going on. Still others, freshly back from an ugly and unpopular war, found themselves despised in the nation they thought they had been defending – or protesting the government that had sent them to Southeast Asia.
Here are some memories from western Nevada County residents who lived through it.
During the summer of love, I was a full-blown hippie woman.
I lived in a tree house with my husband in Albion on the Mendocino Coast. Although landowners of 20 aces, we chose poverty, rejecting the mainstream life. I owned two pairs of shoes (sandals for summer and boots for winter) sewed our clothes on a treadle sewing machine and cooked on a wood-burning stove.
My husband drove a beat-up, flat-bed truck and was building our main house with a chain saw and no building permit. The “simple life” was really not that simple. Cutting firewood and washing clothes by hand kept us busy morning ’till night.
Looking back, I cherish the memory of those days. We had few bills and were healthy from performing physical work and eating home-grown food. Our son had a beautiful environment, free from television and full of the wonders of nature. His books were from the bookmobile; his toys were homemade.
Today, I live a different lifestyle, but many of my values still reflect those developed back then. Every time I switch on a light or turn the knob on my gas stove, I thank God for these modern conveniences. Besides, my eyes are too old, now, to read by kerosene lamp.
During the last week before summer vacation at San Gabriel High School, just a few miles from Watts, a handful of students had a rally.
We stood milling around in front of the school, one of the few times the Chicanos, with their bouffant hairstyles where they stored their razor blades, mixed with the whites. The principal broke up the rally, threatening detention, so most of us hustled back to class. My algebra teacher, whom I actually liked, went into an obnoxious adult tirade: Did I even know what I were doing out there?
I didn’t. But when school let out for the summer. I visited my older, wiser, Christian-Jewish-Quaker older sister who attended the University of California in La Jolla. We baked brownies and went to peace rallies all over San Diego County.
Back home, I was allowed to attend a concert with a fiend, whose older brother drove a smoke-filled car to somewhere in L.A. In a small hideaway venue, we saw Canned Heat and one of Linda Ronstadt’s first performances. After hearing Different Drum, I was never the same.
I moved to San Francisco in 1967, not as a wannabe flower child, but to go to school. It was only later that I discovered Haight-Ashbury and subsequently lived on Stanyan Street, just above the Old Kezar Stadium.
As a child and teenager, we would visit The City and attend some Giants games, which was what I really looked forward to when I arrived. Anyway, I worked in the business world there and was only slightly entertained with the whole “summer of love” thing… just an outsider looking in. I worked for the Ice Follies at Winterland Arena in 1968-69, and there I developed a love for the music of that era… it was great!
For most of the population of the United States, the summer of 1967 would eventually be called the “Summer of Love”. While the so-called Peace Movement was enjoying the benefits of our democracy by protesting the government’s active participation in the Vietnam War, I had an entirely different experience.
I turned 21 that July and spent the year with the U.S. Marine Corps in Quang Tri Province, Republic of South Vietnam, with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division (later nick-named “The Walking Dead” because of our high casualty rate).
We spent the summer chasing the North Vietnamese Army around the foothills just south of the De-militarized Zone. Occasionally, they would stand and fight, and both sides took heavy casualties. I lost several friends that summer and fall, including Capt. Alosisus Ryan, Lt. Ted Christensen, “Doc” Smith and Cpl. Tony Handley (who went to high school with William Jefferson Clinton) and was wounded by NVA artillery.
I was then, and am now, immensely proud of what my little battalion accomplished.
But when I and the other Marines returned home that Christmas, we were at best ignored and at worst ostracized, belittled and spat upon for our service. When a friend of mine returned home via Travis Air Force Base, he was kept on the base till 3 a.m., when “most of the protesters were asleep at the back gate,” sneaked out of the base on a bus with the windows painted black and transported to San Francisco airport in the early morning hours. He was told to change out of his uniform into civilian clothes and not to travel in uniform for “your own safety.”
I had similar experiences in Orange County, southern California. If you wanted a date, you couldn’t tell any of the girls that you had been to Vietnam, or even that you had been in the Marines.
Twenty years later, I was still running into this type of treatment by the Peace Movement. It wasn’t until the troops came home from the Kuwait War in 1991 that the public seemed to appreciate the troops that had served in that war, and finally came to realize that you can’t blame the war on the warrior.
My experience in Vietnam that “summer of love” convinced me that I didn’t ‘t want to go back to pre-med at Berkeley. Instead, I kept a low profile, got married, raised a family and eventually retired from the phone company. My experience has been that the Peace Movement is misnamed and should be called the Peace Pacifists, who apparently don’t seem to feel that any war is worth putting their own lives at risk, even if thousands of our civilians are killed and hundreds of attacks on U.S. personnel around the globe have been carried out by an intractable foe determined to kill Americans.
You can keep your “summer of love” pacifists and the unrealistic mystique that has grown up around them. I have no use for them or their ideals, whatever that might be. My Marine buddies and I are quite content with what we did that summer of 1967.
Dan Baldwin is a formerly lance corporal, 1st Batt., 9th Marines, Vietnam, 1966-1967)
I was a student at San Jose State University taking photography and photojournalism classes between about 1966 and 1969. I have hundreds of negatives from protests, be-ins, love-ins and the like. Most of these were shot just for the fun of it and for practice. Photos from assignments became property of the university so I have nothing, really, that was published back then.
(What notes I had from that time have) long since been lost or deteriorated, and at some events I didn’t bother with all that, I was having too much fun.
Yes, that feeling will never leave. I sometimes forget that feeling before things got sour (Martin Luther King, Booby, Kent State). The summer of ’67 was before that.
The first concert I saw was Its A Beautiful Day… played for about two hours straight. Big Brother and the Holding Company, Buffalo Springfield, Youngbloods. Seems all a guy had to do was stick out his thumb, and he got a ride to anywhere with instant friends. White bird must fly or she will die. Thanks for jogging the brain cells.
I guess I was living on the wrong coast and totally missed the Summer of Love.
Following my freshman year of college, I spent the summer of 1967 teaching swimming at a Girl Scout day camp in Connecticut. In the evenings I rehearsed with a local summer orchestra. Your article in The Union was the first I ever heard of the Summer of Love.
I was a full-time employed, home-owning, tax-paying citizen from Palo Alto during the Summer of Love.
But I had a sister who lived in the Haight-Ashbury, and it was great fun to visit her and wander Haight Street all night. The place was a wonderland full of people wearing exotic outfits, dancing, singing, drumming, stores that were open all night, people wandering around under the influence of this and that. It was a glimpse of a different way of life and lasted only a couple short months before hard drugs ruined it.
Now, I imagine all those hippies have become stockbrokers, but somewhere inside them, that wonderland still lives.
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