1967- Sweet Sixteen, The Summer of Love and Psychedelics
I love the San Francisco Bay Area. I came here for the first time when I was 16. I was living in San Diego at the time with my Mom and my stepfather, George. We were living at 4932 Lantana Drive in a fixer-upper home my Mom and George had bought. My bed was in the basement of the house which had it’s own entry door, which gave me the ability to come and go pretty easily as I pleased. George was building stairs from the basement up into the kitchen upstairs but at that time, you had to go outside to get upstairs.
My best friends at the time were Mary Jo, Leslie, and Marnie. We had become friends after Roger and I and our group, “The Luv Please” had played at a “Battle of The Bands” in San Diego. We went to a club called the Palace and we were experimenting with drugs.
I was in transition between an old girlfriend, Kathy, that was concerned about what L.S.D. would do to my chromosomes and my new girlfriend, Edith, who couldn’t have cared less about my chromosomes.
Much of our lives at that time revolved around music. The “British Invasion” had occurred just three years earlier when the Beatles had done three shows on The Ed Sullivan show. That changed everything pertaining to rock music. In 1967, the Beatles had “Penny Lane,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Hello Goodbye” in the top 100. The Rolling Stones released “Ruby Tuesday” that year. In 1967, the contrived American television group, The Monkees did well with “I’m a Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You,” and “Daydream Believer.” Scott McKenzie had a hit with “San Francisco, Be Sure to Wear a Flower in Your Hair.” Many of us wanted to be in San Francisco with a flower in our hair. The Supremes had a couple of hits that year with “Love is Here and Now Your Gone,” “The Happening,” and “Reflections.”
For me, that year, the release of Jefferson Airplanes,”White Rabbit” with it’s obvious psychedelic drug references was significant.
Probably the most significant music event during the “Summer of Love,” was when a new guy on the music scene, or new to me anyway, Jimi Hendrix, released his debut album, “Are You Experienced” which contained, “Purple Haze.” “White Rabbit” and “Purple Haze” were like commercials for taking L.S.D. We really were going through a cultural revolution.
Kathy Zaddock and I went together for about three years, from the time I was 13 in Escondido and had gotten kicked out of school for having “long hair” (that story can be found here: (http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=16:my-beatle-haircut). I met Kathy roller skating which I did pretty regularly at that time. She and her best friend, Karen Kern, used to come roller skating and I guess they thought I was cute in my Beatle haircut. Kathy was the more attractive in my mind. We went together for three y)ears and we did have some sexual play during that time. I guess you would call what we did, “heavy petting?”
My mother and her husband, George, had left Escondido, though, by the time I was 16 in 1967, The Summer of Love. I had lived in Washington State for a while with my dad. Upon my return to live with my Mom and George, now on Lantana Drive in San Diego, Kathy had started to move on to the man that she would eventually marry and have four children with, and then ultimately divorce some years later. When I first heard of her engagement, I grieved the loss of my first real heterosexual relationship. I was inconsolable for a about a day which seemed like a lot in those teenage days.
Edith would be my second heterosexual relationship. It was very brief- so brief that I don’t even remember Edith’s last name! I think I must have met her at Jerry Herrera’s club, “The Palace,” a club for kids 16 and older.
Jerry Herrera had been booking bands in San Diego since the 1950’s for dances and concerts. In 1965 he had opened San Diego’s first rock and roll club, “The Palace,” across the street from the San Diego Sports Arena. The house band was called “Palace Pages” and they would go on to become “iron Butterfly.”
My brother, Roger, and his band with Allen Green, Roger Flores, Steve Arenz(?), and others, whose names I don’t remember, would play at the Palace. We all went to see them play of course. There was a stage and dance floor. If I remember correctly, there was a balcony area where you could look down at the dance floor. It seemed to get a pretty good crowd. Leslie & Marnie were always there when I was there. Edith and I would dance.
The Palace was where I first remember seeing black light posters for sale. They had a small psychedelic shop that sold the posters and black lights. along with cigarette papers, pipes, roach clips, peace buttons and other hippie paraphernalia.
I don’t remember what time The Palace would close. I can’t remember if they even served alcohol. I’m not sure if it was actually considered a bar. I was only 16 then and certainly couldn’t drink alcohol. Regardless, one night after the Palace, a group of us went to Mission Beach and I’m not sure but that might have been the first night that I dropped acid which was what people called L.S.D. back then which was short for lysergic acid diethylamide.
Timothy Leary and the media had made L.S.D. famous. Dr. Timothy Leary, a professor at Harvard had established the “Psychedelic Research Project” at Harvard in 1960. The Federal Government had classified L.S.D. as an “experimental drug” in 1962. The media talked of L.S.D. on sugar cubes. There were sensational stories of kids taking L.S.D. and thinking they could fly and then jumping out of windows.Leary and Alpert were fired from Harvard in 1963 because of their advocating the use of psychedelics to “expand the mind.” California passed the Grunsky Bill in 1966, making the drug illegal in California.
In 1967, at the first “Human Be-in,” Timothy Leary told the crowd to “tune in, turn on, and drop out,” which the media spread immediately to the rest of the country and young people were listening. When you took L.S.D., it was called at “trip.”
Ken Kesey had been doing the “Acid Tests” for a few years by 1967 with his “Merry Pranksters.” On January 8th, 1966, the “Trips Festival” had taken place at the Fillmore. By the time I had arrived in San Francisco for The Summer of Love, Stanley Owsley had been perfecting his famous L.S.D. and the Fillmore had become a “trips festival” on an ongoing basis. I know I attended at least a couple of Fillmore shows that summer but remember very little about those shows as I was usually tripping.
I know I was on acid the night I went to San Francisco the first time. I was with Edith at the Palace and then we went to a “beach party” at Mission Beach in San Diego. That night, she and her brother were going to “run away” from home and they had talked this guy, E.J., into driving them to San Francisco in his station wagon. Edith wanted me to go too and it sounded like an “adventure” to me. It was 1967 and the Summer of Love and everyone was going to San Francisco. We had recently seen Big Brother and the Holding Company at the San Diego Convention Center and were in the first row and Janis Joplin invited everyone to San Francisco to see what was happening there.
That night, after The Palace and then after the beach party, five of us piled into E.J.’s old station wagon. EJ drove me by my house so I could get my sleeping bag and leave my Mom a note telling her I was going to San Francisco. It didn’t occur to me that she would worry or be upset or anything. I didn’t perceive it at all as running away. I just saw this as an adventure, kind of like a Tom Sawyer sort of thing. I think my Mom kind of admired my independence.
We probably left San Diego about 3am in the morning. There was EJ driving, Edith, her brother, some other person I remember nothing about and myself. Somewhere along the way, we picked up a hitchhiker and he was familiar with San Francisco and he wrote down an address for us to check out. He thought that we could probably “crash” there. I don’t really remember much else about the trip itself. I know the hitchhiker didn’t go all the way with us but have not idea where we let him out. When we arrived in San Francisco, we parked along side, what I would later learn was called “The Panhandle.” This is a finger of Golden Gate Park that extends into the Haight for several blocks bordered by Fell and Oak streets.
At some point, a policeman came and told us that we couldn’t sleep there in the car. We woke up and got out and walked a block over to Page street and found the address that the hitchhiker had given us. It was a beautiful building with bay windows and a turret at 1666 Page Street. I was struck even then with the difference in architecture in San Francisco from anywhere I had ever been previously in my life.
When we first knocked and a hippie girl answered the door and we told her our plight, she seemed irritated that we had awakened her so early in the morning. The “flat” was on the third floor and one of the guys living there came down the stairs to see what was going on. I remember them being a little irritated that somebody had given out their address but eventually they accepted us in. There were already about five people living in the house. Edith and I slept on the floor in our sleeping bags. I stayed there for only a week or two. I think E.J. returned to San Diego. Edith made plans to hitchhike to New York after the first few days and she left and I never saw or heard from her again. I will always wonder if she made it safely. Her brother and I hung out for a bit but he was into speed and always seemed kind of weird to me.
A couple of the people that lived in the flat were black and a few years older than us. They were probably in their twenties or even thirties. One had a bit of asthma or emphysema which was exacerbated by all the pot he smoked and he seemed quite a bit older than us at the time. People came and went through the flat. I met my first “out” black homosexual. He gave me a blow job in the throughway between a couple of buildings. The whole thing didn’t last very long but it was exciting and I still remember that. I think that it must have been my first blow job. I had never had intercourse with a girl at this point. I had masturbated with other boys, but otherwise, I was a virgin.
Although our hosts were generous initially, they did want us to get out on our own. I panhandled during the day. I went to Love’s Burgers and got a plate and plastic fork and then would take it down to the panhandle where the Diggers were feeding people. I stayed at various crash pads. I went to the Straight Theater, (which was originally called “The Haight” theater but in 1967, in disrepair, was called the Straight Theater and was torn down in the 70’s or 80’s). There were no seats in the theater by that time and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin would practice there and you could see them for free or spare change.
One day while walking down Haight street, at about Clayton, I saw Janis Joplin walking a dog, towards me. I thought to myself, “I have got to say something to her… what can I say… fast… the opportunity will soon be gone…” and I blathered “Spare change?” She walked on past and didn’t even give me eye contact but that was okay. I had spoken to Janis Joplin.
I would hang out on “hippie hill” which was about a block into Golden Gate Park. There were usually somewhere around fifty people sitting on the hill. Often there would be a group of multicultural/multiethnic/multiracial drummers making a beat for us to groove to. Usually there would be the smell of marijuana in the air. In the summer of love, there always seemed to be a lot of marijuana around. I didn’t have money to buy it but somebody was always handing me a joint.
The Diggers were a group of activists and actors associated with The San Francisco Mime Troupe. Peter Coyote, an actor, was one of the founding members of The Diggers. When I arrived in San Francisco, they were providing free food in the Panhandle. The food would usually be a soupy stew concoction served out of huge multi-gallon pots. It was well known that you could pick up a paper plate and fork or spoon at Love Burgers at 1568 Haight and then bring those to The Panhandle to eat. The Diggers also opened a free store at 1090 Cole Street.
Speed was becoming popular in the Haight by that time and people were using it at 1666 Page Street too. There were also warnings out on the street that “Speed Kills.” I had never known anyone that injected drugs until then. I’m not sure if that was the same as the methamphetamine of modern times or if it was some earlier variation of that. I remember a women coming to the flat to shoot up, herself. Up until that time, I had not seen anyone use I.V. drugs on Page Street or anywhere for that matter. I watched her carefully cook the white powder in a tablespoon and then use a belt to “tie off” her arm. Then she drew up the drug through a white cotton ball. She shared here “works,” the syringe and needle with one of the housemates. This was long before HIV and Aids.
She was ecstatic and wanted others to share the experience but I was afraid of needles and didn’t really want to do it. She kept encouraging me to try it and insisted it wouldn’t hurt at all. Finally I relented and let her use a belt to “tie me off” and then inject the needle into my vein. I immediately regretted it, as she apparently missed the vein and it WAS quite painful.
For the rest of the night, I was speeding and paced through the Haight until the early morning hours. I remember the air being wet as it sometimes is in San Francisco and the only other people awake are also wired on speed and will babble about nothing for hours if you will listen. I tried not to listen. I didn’t see the girl that shot me up for another week or so when I passed her on the street and she told me that I needed to go to the public health clinic to get tested as she had tested positive for hepatitis. I went to the health clinic and got some gamoglobulin and decided that my one episode of letting someone inject drugs into my veins was way too too dangerous and too much hassle and I didn’t really like being so wired up, awake all night on the streets, gnawing the inside of my cheek. I never had any interest in doing anything like that again.
As the summer progressed, The Haight was starting to deteriorate with the influx of the crowds and amphetamines. After leaving the flat on Page Street, I stayed in some pretty nasty crash pads that I found through the Haight Ashbury Switchboard. I decided I needed to raise some money so I could get a room somewhere. I sold Berkeley Barbs and Oracles. graphic found on internet These were “underground newspapers” that were popular at the time. The Oracles were “psychedelic” and the Berkeley Barb was more political and was famous for it’s sex ads in the back. (At another time I would sell the “Helix” in Seattle, but that’s another time and another story that can be found here: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=23:1968-seattle-with-mary-jo).
Underground newspapers were an easy way for me to make a few dollars. I sold the Berkeley Barb in front of the old Emporium that is no longer there, (replaced by San Francisco’s “City Center” mall). I had a loud voice and I would shout out at the top of my lungs, “Berkeley Barb, get your Berkeley Barb right here!…” I think I must have seen someone selling newspapers like that once in a movie or something. It seemed very romantic at the time.
From selling the newspapers, I made enough money to invest in 12 hits of acid that I planned to sell so that I could get my own room downtown in San Francisco’s “Tenderloin.” In those days, you could get a sleazy room for $2.00 a night or $10.00 a week.
When I was trying to sell the acid on Market Street downtown, Market street looked nothing then like it does now. The street was completely under demolition and reconstruction to accommodate the new subway that was going in which was going to eventually be what we call BART- Bay Area Rapid Transit. In 1967, it was just a lot of holes in the ground and huge beams stacked high intermittently through the street. It made for great cover if you wanted to dodge someone. In San Diego I had been harassed numerous times by the San Diego Police Department for being a “hippie.” I remember a time when I got stopped twice by two different cop cars within a one block distance. In San Francisco, the police never even looked at me. But if they did, it was pretty easy to just disappear among the piles of debris. It was the most incredible feeling of freedom not to be harassed by police. I was 16 and FREE!!
I wasn’t selling my acid very quickly. It was late at night on Market Street and mostly speed freaks and insomniacs and street people were wandering among the piles of BART beams. One of the street people, a man, started talking to me and hanging out on the periphery. I think he wanted to get some acid but didn’t have the money or something. Then I met a women that was trying to sell her body. She told me that if I helped to find her a trick, she would buy some of my acid. I don’t think I had ever met a prostitute before and I had not even had sex with a woman at that time, but here I was, a sixteen year old pimp. At that time, San Francisco was still a navy town and the fleet was in. I was too well mannered to actually be a pimp. I would quietly approach some sailors and politely ask if they were interested in the services of the woman that was nearby. I didn’t use any foul anatomical language and the prostitute quickly lost patience with me and would loudly blurt out “you want to buy some pussy, sailor?” My face probably turned red with both shock but I was fascinated, too.
The prostitute approached three Navy boys and offered her wares in graphic detail. Three sailors decided that they would do business with her. The three of them, the prostitute, the guy that had been hanging around on the periphery and I all walked over to a hotel that the prostitute selected. She took the first sailor into the hotel while the rest of us stood around in the night air talking. The sailors bought some of my acid as well so things were good for me. Time went by and then suddenly, here came the prostitute, looking frantic, and saying to me to follow her as she rushed past the sailors, standing there, waiting for their turn and then bewildered as to what had happened to their friend and one dashed into the hotel to find him. The other sailor followed us for some time as we ran through the streets but he couldn’t catch us and gave up the chase. Finally he gave up on catching us and went back to join his sailor friends. The prostitute bought some acid and I think she actually gave me some extra dollars and may have given some to the other guy that had just been hanging around. She had waited for the first sailor to fall asleep and then she had robbed him rather than have sex with all three. We dispersed and I never saw any of them again. I LOVED SAN FRANCISCO!
Sometime during that same “Summer of Love” I remember being invited by some other young people to a place called Morningstar ranch. I didn’t remember exactly where that was other than north of the Golden Gate Bridge but now, when I Google it, I find that it was in Sebastopol. I knew it was a commune when I visited but did not remember that it was also called “The Digger Farm.”
Apparently, according to what I now know from looking it up on the internet, Lou Gottlieb founded Morningstar. He had been a folk singer with the group, The Lamplighters and then was part of the Diggers group that fed us kids in The Panhandle, and opened the Free Store on Cole Street and I believe that they also ran the Haight Ashbury “switchboard” where you could call to find out about crash pads or health care and other information. I remember that Morningstar Ranch was really my first experience with public nudity. It was a little stressful since I did not feel comfortable taking my own clothes off. Others did walk around naked. I think we stayed there for no more than 24 hours, but it did leave a big impression on me and it wouldn’t be long before I would be more comfortable with my own body and nudity with others, too.
Back in San Francisco, with the money I had made panhandling, pimping and selling acid, I moved to a sleazy $10 a week Tenderloin hotel. Old, weathered black men rolled dice in the doorway and prostitutes, alcoholics and drug addicts lived there. It had an old rickety elevator and the rooms reeked of urine and other bodily fluids. All of this was a pretty exciting for a 16 year old boy!
The Camelot Hotel was what is now called a “Single Room Occupancy” or SRO. There were many of them in San Francisco at one time and still a few are left. I know i stayed in several in those early years. You would get a room with a bed and a dresser and the bathroom was down the hall. You shared a bath or shower with others on your floor. The rooms often wreaked of urine. There would be people yelling and acting crazy all hours of the day and night. Somebody might even come knocking on your door, inebriated, thinking someone else was still living there.