The Summer of Love officially took place 50 years ago in San Francisco in 1967. 100,000, mostly young people opposed to the Vietnam War and wanting to make social and environmental change, converged in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, wearing ‘flowers in their hair.’ For the most part, the ‘hippies’ were anti-consumerists and seeded new trends in art, fashion, poetry and music. There was a dramatic shift in traditional values and sex, drugs and rock and roll became the mantra during the Summer of Love and the hippy scene that unfolded. In many parts of the country, the birth control pill had been recently legalized giving women more sexual freedom. A drug counterculture emerged and hallucinogenic drugs, although illegal were available to those who sought them out. Timothy Leary, a Harvard psychologist encouraged students to “turn on, tune in and drop out.”
In 1967, I was just 16 and living in Santa Barbara, California. Although I wasn’t part of the Summer of Love scene in San Francisco, I was deeply influenced by the new trends in music, art and fashion. The first rock concert I attended was in 1967; a Jefferson Airplane ‘pillow concert’ at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. My parents deemed me too young to go on my own and although I was somewhat embarrassed, my patient father took me and we sat and on pillows on the floor. My father put several pillows over his head and ears, while I sat swaying to the swirling lights and pulsing music. I can still feel the vibrations of Grace Slick singing the White Rabbit.
A couple of weeks ago, Art and I sojourned to San Francisco to see the De Young Museum’s, Summer of Love Show, a celebration and retrospect of the fifty year anniversary since the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Although there were the expected exhibits of psychedelic poster art and mannequins wearing authentic 60’s garb, the exhibit felt superficial. The ‘establishment,’ the De Young Museum was putting on a counterculture exhibit in a predictable established manner. Why were we served 60’s elevator music instead of being engulfed in sound? Why was the ’light show room’ a washed out experience accented with a half dozen modern bean bag chairs rather than an intense time travel light show transporting visitors back 50 years?
Although Art and I felt the exhibit was bland, I am glad we went to see it. No drugs are needed to appreciate the mind blowing poster art from that era. It was fun to see the authentic hippy fashions on the many models and after an archival dig in my closet, I found my tattered embroidered jeans and a purple crochet poncho that I imagine the De Young would have been happy to have on display. Surprisingly, the 50 year span between then and now feels just like a blip in time. Since the official start of my jewelry business in 1978, I have created many Peace Themed Jewelry designs; undoubtely influenced by the art, fashion and music of the 60’s.