I was having a conversation with a bright young woman in her 20s, when she asked me what the ’60s were like. This is one of the reasons I wrote my memoir, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes. I wanted people to be able to taste the freedom we hippies experienced during that amazing period.
A lot about that era has appeared in print and media, but most of it deals with the unrest: the political climate, the Vietnam War, civil rights, and feminism. There’s also a profusion of material that reflects on the music scene. Even though those elements influenced our lives, there’s more to the ‘60s than the revolutionary components.
Those of us early to the hippie scene experienced a wonderful love-based brotherhood. If you were a traveler and needed food or shelter, you were welcomed by like-minded youth as a matter of course. As a group of free-thinking, deep-feeling individuals exploring a unique new paradigm, an effortless bond existed.
Unfortunately, the purity of our scene was short-lived. Media coverage attracted a less conscious element, lusting after drugs and free-love—spoiling the integrity of the movement.
Many other elements of the ’60s are rarely mentioned.
It was a whole lot easier to survive back then. Of course, wages were lower, but if you were content with a simple life, you could work for a week or two and live for months without breaking a sweat. In 1969, I bought a ’55 Chevy pickup truck for $150 and my carpenter buddies built a primo camper on it—just for the heck of it. And with gas averaging 29¢ a gallon, I could roam the country in my house on wheels for a very small sum.
It’s hard to imagine today, but our national parks and forests were free to the public. With much less traffic on the roads, you could pull into a campground, find an empty spot, and camp as long as you wanted—and it didn’t cost a cent!
A quick stroll around any campground put you in touch with others of your kind. It was common for wandering long-hairs to congregate at supper time, sharing whatever they had to offer. If you didn’t have food to put on the table, you contributed a good tale, a tune, an intoxicant, or simply some quality company.
We were family and we took care of one another.
In the ’60s, wildlife, birds, and insects were plentiful and our waterways and oceans were more pristine. I had a personal kinship with monarch butterflies and used to see them everywhere. Now it's rare to spot one in most parts of our country.
I remember the excitement of the first Earth Day. It signified a new awareness aimed at protecting our environment. Now, nearly 50 years later, it's sad to see how little we’ve done to preserve our planet’s precious gifts.
I was lucky to have grown up when I did and fortunate to have participated in a remarkable counterculture. Though it’s not impossible today, it was far easier to thrive as a free spirit back when I was a youth. Despite the challenges, I’m glad to report that there are plenty of hippie-minded souls out there (both young and old) still kicking up their heels.
And I’m grateful that most still sing the same song—one of inclusion, love, peace, and harmony.
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