Were You a Hippie?

Oct 2013
4,802
Planet Nine, Oregon
#42
I was born in '68 an ended up being a punk / goth thang. But, I grew up with hippies with land and school buses, geodesic domes and and yurts in the forest when I was young. Went regularly to the legendary Oregon Country Fair back in the day. Spending time in cafes smoking and drinking coffee and drawing, hanging out with old hippies. Kesey spoke at my graduation. Some had become street people, a few had blown their minds. My high school was overflowing with drugs.
 
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Jan 2014
2,042
Westmorland
#44
I traveled down to San Francisco by bus from my Alma Mater by greyhound with only my clothing and a large chest of books. I carried them as far as I could, but in San Francisco all directions are uphill. Exhausted, I sat down unable to go another step. Across the street was a "room for rent" sign, and I checked in. The place was inhabited entirely by Buddhist acolytes. Since one of my reasons for taking some time off from college was to find a good Buddhist teacher, that was a great omen. I settled into the routine, and monastic routines are so structured its stultifying. I began going AWOL after the rest had gone to rest.

Just around the corner was a Coffee House where one could drink coffee all night, listen to live Jazz, play Chess and argue over fine points of one topic or another. I became great friends with the Chef/Cook, Albin Tooke. One evening I saw Natalie across the smoky room and commented that someday I'd marry her. Tooke took matters into his own hands and sent Natalie and I to get him an order of Fish & Chips from the "Olde Chelsea" at the end of Cedar Alley. Natalie and I spent the next several nights walking and talking and hoping to find some privacy. I was in a cell and Natalie's Father paid for her studio apartment in a Women Only Resident Hotel. Then Natalie informed me we would be moving into an apartment she had rented in North Beach.

North Beach was still heavily Beatnick, and most of the famous Beats were still heavy on the ground. Our apartment was on the fourth floor in a building that had never been wired for electricity after the big earthquake. We had wonderful blue light from still operable gas fixtures, and could ... by leaning out a small window ... see Alcatraz in the Bay. We ran an extension cord from the building next door up to our apartment, and began "cooking" on the bottom of a ironing iron. Even though we mostly were eating a "tomatoe soup" made from mixing catsup with water and thickened with free saltines, that soon changed when we got a real electric skillet. My Zensei and Temple were across town, so I did less meditation and more hanging out with the Beats. San Francisco wanted to upgrade North Beach, what today would be called "gentrification". The police came down hard on anyone that appeared poor, and Beats "beat feet" to distant parts.

Some, like Kerouac went home to Mommy in New York, others went abroad to Asia, South America, Africa, etc. We just moved across town to a quiet old neighborhood called the Height-Ashbury because we were neither rich nor famous. We couldn't afford on our own to rent an apartment and so we formed one of the first communes in that part of the City. The City was so successful in transforming North Beach, that soon we were joined by other refugees. We were mostly the next generation after those who had endured WWII. In North Beach, there were some really great Jazz Clubs, and we had spent a lot of time "out back" of those Clubs listening to Jazz we couldn't afford. Jazz terminology crept into our language, and "I'm Hip" ... meaning I full understand ... was so frequently said we became "Hippies".

In Height-Ashbury there were a fair number of the old "Beats", like Allen Ginsberg, but most were a bit younger and in awe of the old timers. However, we were different. We generally preferred Rock&Roll to The Bird. Most of us came from Middle-Class backgrounds and wanted to get past the "do nothing" Eisenhower years, to fix society's ills, and to fully realize our individual potential. We tended to be well educated, and addicted to long nights of endless argument over fine points of philosophy and how best to organize society. Our apartment/commune soon had every room occupied and some folks even lived in our closets. We didn't like rules, but we weren't very tolerant of those who didn't agree with our thinking. We were poor, and so we made a virtue of being penniless. We tended to love colorful and quirky, so Height Street also became quaint and quirky ... and famous. Bus loads of tourists came down to gawk and imagine all the sex that must be going on among the Hip. Children as young as pre-teens began showing up after running away from Middle America. With the children came the predators. Marijuana was common in most of the communes of the time. Psychedelics were legal, and popular. In our commune hard drugs like opiates and speed were forbidden, but that turned out to be very hard to maintain. We kicked out a heroin addict, but he only moved as far away as our front steps. Natalie got fed up, and left me.

A few weeks later I joined her in a new apartment promising "no more communes". We were always poor, and dependent on family support after we moved away from the commune. At around that time the Movement was already showing weakness. The general Pacifist philosophy was being tested. Some radicals formed the Weather Underground, and focused on radicalizing Berkeley. Others joined the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, splitting the Civil Rights Movement. Others moved on to more destructive drugs, and mostly died or ended up in jail when long hard sentences were handed out if one were caught with a small "roach" ... the butt of a joint.

Living in San Francisco was getting harder all the time, and so Natalie and I decided we would go down to Mexico. In-expensive costs of living coupled with great, pure light beckoned. We had almost nothing, so we had no luggage flying down to LA where our families lived. My most prized possession was my old Navy "P" Coat, and Natalie managed to lose in on the airplane. That might have been the first jet we flew on.

In LA, our families kept up a constant drum-beat of "when are your officially going to marry". We put up with all that, but then Natalie announced her pregnancy with our oldest son. Its hard to avoid becoming "responsible" when you will soon have to provide for a wee bairn who eventually become a black hole for finances. We were married at the Buddhist Temple on Hewitt St. by the highest ranking Soto Master in the United States. I think it was Natalie's Dad (he didn't like me because I was a Artsy-Fartsy Hippie instead of an Engineer), who paid for our dingy motel room. I needed a job ... quick.

I worked briefly as a laborer in a dry cleaner, where I was the only native English speaker and the temperatures were almost equal to those in the Sonora Desert. I was an apprentice to a tailor who survived Buchanwald, but he was even poorer than Natalie and I were. I saw an add for machinists at an aerospace company and went to apply. They tested me and largely because of my education was offered a job in their laboratory. I rushed back to the motel and spent the time trying to learn the chemistry I had slept through back in college. It was useless, because it was a metallurgical lab and my duties consisted of scooping out the metal and carbine drain filters. The dregs penetrated my skin and soon my arms were metallic grey up to the elbows. I watched how the lab worked, and asked questions. While others went on breaks, I practiced the skills most used in the unit. The Lab Boss who was a MENSA member saw my potential, and managed to get me into a program resulting in my becoming a certified Metallurgist. I became interested in Atomic and sub-atomic structures, and some of the research I conducted was instrumental on the Space Shuttle. Unfortunately, I didn't have a BS, so my career as a Metallurgical Engineer was ... limited

That was probably a pretty typical path for most Hippies. We were idealists, impatient that obvious (to us, at any rate) injustices went unresolved. We hated being coerced by society and the State into seemingly sterile forms. We rejected acquisition of great wealth as a distraction from the pursuit of "higher" values, greater liberty and far less suffering. The battle to mitigate and conquer suffering has remained with me from the time I left my dear old Mater in Oregon. Old and odd Hippies have faded back into their origins, but the ideals are not yet snuffed out. Maturity is a wonderful thing.

Respect due, Asherman!
 
Likes: Isleifson

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,150
Albuquerque, NM
#45
Peter, old friend its so good to see you. How are your studies into the Lords of the Islands going. Your scholarship is an important element in Historum, so I hope you'll be around more often. Perhaps I've just missed you.
 
Jan 2014
2,042
Westmorland
#46
Hi Asherman,

Studies are going well, thank you. I'm actually specialising in early Celtic Northumbria and it's all coming together nicely. If nothing else, the end result will be a marvellous tonic for anyone who has insomnia. It's kept me away from Historum for a bit of late, as I've had deadlines and (I'm pleased to say) conference presentations to prepare.

I hope you are bearing up. Always good to see your thoughtful and incisive posts.
 
Feb 2017
161
Canada
#47
I was born in the eighties, but I'd define the community I ran with in university as made up of hippies. All of the elements were the same, but the period was different.

Eventually I moved on toward realism, while many of those people remain in their dreams of idealism.
 
Oct 2013
4,802
Planet Nine, Oregon
#48
I was born in the eighties, but I'd define the community I ran with in university as made up of hippies. All of the elements were the same, but the period was different.

Eventually I moved on toward realism, while many of those people remain in their dreams of idealism.
Folks who really did "tune in and drop out" have had a harder time, as the world just went on. Being born with all of the technology is something you may have grown up with, but many Gen Xers grew up with the same tech as their parents; I grew up with B&W rabbit-ear TVs, card catalogs, no video games, internet, or social networking.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
2,150
Australia
#49
Yep. research was 'fun' before the internet.

Does anyone remember how groups of friends used to meet up pre mobile phones ?

Somehow we would all congregate at the same time and place .... we must have had a schedule or a routine or something ?

I still refuse to get involved in fecebook, and the like . But becasue of that I have been 'left behind' and become somewhat reclusive . Mhe, probably not missing out on much anyway.
 
Oct 2013
4,802
Planet Nine, Oregon
#50
Yep. research was 'fun' before the internet.

Does anyone remember how groups of friends used to meet up pre mobile phones ?

Somehow we would all congregate at the same time and place .... we must have had a schedule or a routine or something ?

I still refuse to get involved in fecebook, and the like . But becasue of that I have been 'left behind' and become somewhat reclusive . Mhe, probably not missing out on much anyway.
Has changed libraries a lot; I have worked as a librarian during the rise of the Internet; before the Internet we would answer questions by consulting books and calling people back with answers. Now folks want answers instantly.
 

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