Believe it or not, we’re getting close to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. If you were there, immersed in the magic as I was, you might be saying, “Fifty years? How can that be? What a trip!” It was a time when Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” was blasting from our AM radios, an era when thousands were lured to Haight-Ashbury, marching to the refrain “ turn on, tune in, drop out.”
In 1967 I was 22 and thirsty for adventure. Wanting to spread my wings, I turned my back on the city by the bay and hitched east to the world's fair in Montreal, riding on the breeze of compassionate drivers, supported by an underground community of welcoming long-hairs. The feeling of family fueled a fearless strength that spread far and wide. We were brothers and sisters in love with life and hell-bent on fighting injustice and changing the world.
Along the way, I participated in an Aspen love-in and war protest, plunged naked into a steamy hot springs, ate the absolute best BBQ ribs ever in Kansas City, had a run-in with an ornery carnival boss, and nearly shook apart in a super-rattly semitruck ride.
The pinnacle of the trip was a steamy romance with a lovely maiden who studied in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together we toured the world’s fair, awestruck by the AT&T Picturephone, a futuristic device that would actually allow you to see the person you were talking to. Wow!
That summer was an intoxicating romp, full of freedom, enthusiasm, growth, and optimism, as were the several years that followed. It was an iconic cultural turning point that reshaped American history in profound ways. The sixties were so special to me I wrote a book to give readers a taste of what it was like to be a part of it. Unlike books outlining the history of the sixties, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes offers people the chance to experience what it was like to live during those transformative times. For those who were there, I also hoped to trigger a few treasured memories.
This golden anniversary is not going unnoticed. San Francisco is pulling out all the stops—over 60 different organizations (cultural, civic, arts, music, and social services) are celebrating the Summer of Love. A painted magic bus complete with music and projections is touring Haight-Ashbury, North Beach, Hippie Hill, and other attractions. The famous de Young Museum’s exhibition includes a psychedelic experience, and the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate park turns trippy at night with light projections seen from afar.
San Francisco isn’t the only city jumping on the band wagon. Museums, universities, libraries, county fairs, musical events, and even ballet groups in cities across the nation are themed to this flowered anniversary. There are even Summer of Love celebrations planned in the UK.
Unfortunately, the most authentic event might not take place. Efforts to stage a free Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park, like the one they did back in the day, were turned down twice by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission. Bummer, right? Not so fast. The city of San Francisco just announced they will host a smaller free event, the Surrealistic Solstice, on June 21.
It’s great that this iconic time is being recognized, recaptured, and celebrated, but let’s not forget what it was originally about. The summer of the flower children, along with its wacky happenings, was about promoting peace, embracing individual freedom, fostering harmony, caring for others, protecting the environment, and viewing all flavors of humanity as equals. Those were the elements that made that magical snapshot in history so unique and beautiful!
Were you there during the Summer of Love? I’m collecting stories from that time, and I’d love to hear yours. If you have a memory you’d like to share, please submit it here. Those with the best stories will receive a free copy of my memoir, Groovin'.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, FLOWER CHILDREN!