From the Archives: Summer of Love

Country Joe and the Fish was formed in Berkeley in 1965. The psychedelic folk rock band debuted its first album on May 11, 1967. Its anti-war lyrics and free love rhythm made the record  soundtrack for what would later be named the Summer of Love. In a three-part series published in May 1967, The Daily Californian interviewed the band members and other members of the Berkeley community and discussed Berkeley’s hippie movement and its effects on the past, present and future social structure of society.

“There definitely is a new social movement — based on humanism,” said Country Joe and the Fish drummer Gary Hirsh in a 1967 interview with the Daily Cal. “The ideas, though have been around for a long time.” 

Barry “The Fish” Melton added, “Cal’s had hippies for years. They just weren’t called that.” Melton now plays in a band called The Irish Newsboys, which is made up primarily of journalists, including Daily Cal alum Steve Rubenstein.

“There definitely is a new social movement — based on humanism” – Gary Hirsh

While the summer of ’67 is usually remembered as all-loving and peaceful, the Daily Cal archives revealed a different perspective. The three-part Berkeley hippie movement series, written by staff writer Carol Matzkin, discussed the world hippies had created for themselves and what different members of the UC Berkeley community felt about it.

1967, The Daily Californian

“I don’t see that the hippies add anything to the campus community,” said special assistant to the dean of students and campus policeman James Sicheneder. Matzkin reported that Sicheneder was frequently called upon to ask hippies to leave the campus. Behind the world of “love and flowers” for the hippies stood acid and pot. Arrests for marijuana in Berkeley increased by 104 percent for adults between 1960 and 1966. In 1966, 474 people were reported to be arrested on narcotics charges. Berkeley police and campus representatives didn’t see the Summer of Love as the feel-good time it’s described to be.

A Bank of America branch manager and a menswear shop owner also were not feeling the love. The branch manager commented, “Although the hippies haven’t hurt us personally, the publicity of the hippy movement has had a little bit of an adverse effect on the area of the city as a whole.” The shop owner added, “(The hippies) harm the Avenue more than anything. We used to be jammed, but people from the area would rather not come.”

Matzkin noted, however, that while some shops were unhappy that hippies were scaring away prospective customers from outside the community, others were unhappy with the tourists that converged on Telegraph Avenue each weekend.

Although each business embraced the movement differently, they all agreed that television had been a major cause of the movement. The article explains that the movement had taken beatnik dissatisfaction and made it into a movement. “When you see a film of Vietnam, it is real — it affects you directly,” a Telegraph Avenue sandal maker said. “A newspaper just could never get anyone emotionally involved the way television can.” Matzkin noted that mass media brought to youth an increased awareness of world problems such as the constant threat of atomic war.

“The hippies have found a chance to study their lives, past and present, from a vantage point it would be hard to get any place else,” an article in a 1967 Alumni Association magazine said. “They are really lonely people. People think it’s a wild, libertine existence. But what the public sees is really the pleasures of the poor — drinking, sex and folk songs.”

Matzkin said “straight society” was not pleased with the hippie image. The Daily Cal’s three-part series revealed that citizens in 1967 disapproved of the events around them that are celebrated today, and that the movement had two sides — dismissed by some as hedonism, a cesspool of acid and pot and proponent of crime.

One of UC Berkeley’s own students, Owsley Stanley, however, was among the first to mass-produce more than a million doses of LSD after poring over journals and chemistry books over three weeks in Doe Library. He made LSD for stars of the San Francisco music scene, such as the Grateful Dead — and while the Summer of Love was much more than the euphoric powers of LSD, it definitely contributed to changing people’s sensibilities and planting ideas of larger themes such as peace, feminism and environmental movements.

Matzkin interviewed assistant professor of sociology Benjamin Zablocki, who spoke in support of the hippie movement and predicted, “In five years it will be the dominant teen-age sub culture.” He talked about the power of drugs and how “the myth of LSD, more than the drug itself has injected a factor of hope into the movement.” This reflected the optimism and sentiment that anything was possible, which drove thousands of people to converge at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco to drop out of mainstream lifestyle and embrace the counterculture that was taking over while the rest of the country watched it unfold.

Zablocki also predicted that the use of drugs could result in the hippie movement moving in one of two ways: to either youth fascism or a new type of society. He gave the movement five years to show the direction that it would be going.

The professor described Telegraph Avenue as a street of drifters where students mingle with university drop-outs and teenage girls who wanted to be hippies.

A sandal shop owner noted, “People feel the unique world they’ve created on Telegraph Avenue will not be left behind as hippies grow older.” Even today, Telegraph Avenue retains a glimmer of its previous vibe. Music stores with their discount CDs and records, tattoo and piercing parlors and smoke shops shadow the few chain stores closer to campus as 50 years later, Berkeley remembers the Summer of Love.

Dr. Carol Orsborn is now editor-in-chief of Fierce with Age, the Digest of Boomer Wisdom, Inspiration & Spirituality. She is a veteran journalist and author having begun her career as a columnist writing about the Boomer generation for the Chicago Daily News and San Francisco Chronicle. She now blogs regularly for Huffington Post, NPR’s Next Avenue and others.

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