I can remember skipping school at 16, hopping the train to NYC with my friend, our “beatnik” clothes in a shopping bag. We were going to the Village, Greenwich Village, where the original pre-hippie “beatniks” hung out. Peace symbols, sandals and “Nirvana Now” buttons everywhere, head shops abounding, and mischief in the air. What a great time to be alive! Joan Baez singing “We Shall Overcome” and Bob Dylan singing “The Times They Are A’ Changin.” Woodstock, anti-war demonstrations, and the great Smoke-ins in D.C. That was nuts. A huge presence of Military Cops around the Washington Monument, and thousands of us smoking pot in rebellion…I remember getting tear-gassed a number of times and running for shelter in someone’s house I never met before. No one was a stranger back in the day. We definitely didn’t walk around afraid back then. Maybe that’s what I miss so much.
Clothing was a big part of the hippie movement. Bell bottomed jeans, patches in colors and prints, up and down your legs, covering the holes that are so popular today. If you had a suede jacket with fringes, or an army jacket, you were hip. Anything military, like pea-coats and other army surplus items were hip. Hitching rides was hip. Sit-ins and demonstrations were hip. Drinking Boones Farm Apple Wine, Blue Nun Leibfraumilch, and Mateus was hip. And melting wax from candles all over the bottles was very hip.
Not everything was a bowl of cherries, though. The Viet Nam War was responsible for over 58,000 deaths and 153,000 wounded soldiers, some of them family, cousins, friends and they were needless casualties. Others came back from Nam addicted to heroin, or with serious emotional problems, like depression. Night terrors, Agent Orange Leukemia and other ailments were significant problems for Vets. Richard Nixon was another reason to demonstrate. His crooked politics gave us such historic embarrassments as Watergate, and our military presence being in Viet Nam much longer than necessary. It was the first Presidential impeachment in my lifetime.
As young people we felt a need to join in and be a united front wherever we could have peaceful anti-war sit-ins and marches. You got up with a purpose every morning, and you met people who were influential in the Peace movement, and the Civil Rights Movement, and you heard many exciting stories about the West Coast Civil Rights Movement with the Black Panthers and Angela Davis making headlines across the nation. Patty Hearst was kidnapped…she was the daughter of the wealthiest newspaper magnate in our country, Randall Hearst, and she was held prisoner by the Black Simbionese Liberation Army. One of the most famous photos of that era was of Patty Hearst and her Simbionese Army cohorts robbing a bank, looking pretty scary, armed with rifles.
Music and poetry and the emergence of the arts in general, can be traced by listening to Peter Paul and Mary, the great folk singers of our day. They sang of better days ahead and helped us hang on in the dark times. Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Woodie Guthrie, and Bob Dylan…the list is endless, and the political theme wove itself through their lyrics and music and you had to have the latest albums from these artists to keep up with the changing times and the drama that was totally the hippie movement.
Timothy Leary and LSD made a big ruckus in college administration at MIT and Harvard University in the 60’s. The saying “tune in, turn on, drop out” was the official credo of the acid generation. Pot was $20 an ounce, and the idea back then was to have the best time you possibly could, to find your groove and slip on in. Some of us graduated from college and left that all behind, but I had some trouble in that area. Led Zeppelin was the hottest band around and the Beatles were tripping to Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. These guys must have had acid in their breakfast bowls because music took off in a whole new direction. Heightened senses and surreal lyrics gave birth to a score of new bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, The Who, Rush and Deep Purple.
I really miss those days. They were kinder, sweeter days in a time when things were just simpler. I have so many memories of those times and people who shaped the way I saw things. This is a much different world today. Stop living in the past, some people say, but I feel safer there.
note: Laurie Mirkin, an old hippie, is a frequent writer/contributor to the Sarasota Post. She also does content writing for companies and individuals throught the country.