(My newspaper column from The Beach Reporter 8/17/89.)
It’s only natural. We’ve had our fill of ‘50s nostalgia, and now it’s time to move on to the ‘60s. Those of you who saved your peace-sign necklaces, fringed suede vests, platform shoes, Nehru jackets, tie-dyed granny gowns, and hip-hugging bell bottom jeans are in luck.
Of course the ‘60s and early ‘70s weren’t just about fashion and men having long hair and women not wearing bras. Our outward appearance merely reflected what was happening in the real world. It was a time of great political and social upheaval. In one decade, we had the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Beatles, President Johnson’s Great Society, Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, Woodstock, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Kent State, the Students for a Democratic Society, and the war in Vietnam.
This was a frightening time to be a parent. Either your child was experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, protesting the war in Vietnam, in Vietnam, or all three. It was the time that the terms “generation gap” and “the establishment” came into usage. The youth of America took a serious look at the way things were and came together in a massive upheaval, the likes of which our country had never seen.I didn’t feel like part of the ‘60s until, as a junior in high school, I went with my best friend Jeanette to a Steppenwolf concert. This was in 1969. (Why don’t you come with me, little girl, for a magic carpet ride.) There we were, in our matching Ellen Tracy wool vests and skirts, plaid blouses with Peter Pan collars, and nylons. Hey, we grew up in Golden, Colorado. What else can I say.
Anyway, there we were, two completely clueless young women, whose worst problems were pimples and dateless Saturday nights. And we were surrounded by hippies. I mean, real hippies. Everyone was smoking marijuana, or worse. All the guys had long hair and wore filthy jeans with holes in them. The women were, shall we say, earthy. They definitely weren’t wearing pantyhose.
Now this didn’t change me into a radical overnight. But id did make me more aware. When we left the concert that night, I remember with crystal clarity looking out the window of Jeanette’s Corvair and thinking, “The world is changing and I’m going to be part of it!” Something’s happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear/There’s a man with a gun over there/Tellin’ us we got to beware.
A couple of years later I went to the University of Colorado, which was then tagged “The Berkeley of the West.” With my bell bottom jeans and leather vests in tow, I enrolled in classes like The New Chicano Movement, Politics of Southeast Asia, and History of Feminism. The main thing I got out of these classes was that there were a lot of problems in the world, and that sit-ins and love-ins weren’t going to make them go away.
The ‘60s ended for me on an airplane ride back from Chicago in 1972. I had taken a bus there from Boulder with a huge group of students who were campaigning for George McGovern. We were being sent to Chicago as a last-ditch effort to get voters out in Illinois.
We trod the streets of Chicago, going house to house, and handing out leaflets at train stations. Or we canvassed on telephones in the freezing cold, dingy campaign headquarters that we called home for the week.
I don’t think I have ever been so single-minded, so full of ideals, so sure that the world would see the light, as I was during that week. Exhausted, I flew home on Election Day, and went with my dad to vote. I watched the election returns that night and cried.
Now I see that a new movie is being released: “Rude Awakening.” The blurb reads, Two hippies from the ‘60s have been hiding in the jungle for twenty years. It’s 1989 and they’re back. And they’re in for a rude awakening! How predictable. Naturally all their former SDS friends will have traded their VW vans for BMWs, and their joints for Chardonnay. Instead of living in communes they’re living in condos, and they have mortgage payments, kids, and elevated cholesterol levels.
Talkin’ bout my generation…