Hippie History By An Old Hippie
Written by Darrell Griffin.
I graduated from Franklin High School, Stockton, CA, in 1970. I had to do some good old-fashioned research for this article. There is an old saying that if you “If you can remember a lot of details about the 60’s then you were not there. Most of us hippies smoke a lot of cannabis doing the 60’s, so our memories may be a little foggy about the details of the Hippie movement. At any rate this is how I “remember” the start of the Hippie movement. I just turned 70, and I am still a Hippie.
The movement originated on university campuses in the U.S., though has spread to other countries, including Canada and Britain. The name comes from hip, a term applied to Beats from the 1950s, such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, generally considered to be precursors to the hippies. Although the movement emerged partly in opposition to the United States participation in the Vietnam War (1955-75), hippies were generally not actively involved in politics, in contrast with their activist counterparts known as the "Yippies" (Youth International Party). Hippies were primarily a middle-class, white, teenage to twenty-something group that was part of the so-called Baby Boomer generation by demographers.
We, at young Americans felt alienated by middle-class society, which we saw as dominated by materialism and suppression. As Hippies we developed their own distinct lifestyles, in which we constructed our own sense of marginality. We experimented with communal or co-operative living arrangements, often adopted vegetarian diets made from unprocessed foods, and practiced holistic medicine.
Hippies were also known for our distinctive styles, favoring long hair and informal, often nontraditional clothing, sometimes with "psychedelic" colors. Many men grew beards, while men and women alike wore sandals and beads. Long flowing dresses called grannies were popular among women, as were unrimmed grannies glasses among men and women.
For many, The Whole Earth Catalog, first published in 1968, became the go-to source on the necessities of life. It was vital to ex-urban residents practicing semi-subsistence agriculture in rural areas (in what came to be known as the Back-to-the-Land Movement). Hippies were generally socially outcasts, abandoning normal jobs and careers, though some developed small businesses to serve fellow hippies. Many critics noted the luxury that hippies had to be able to "check out" of society, and commented on the discrepancy between the involvement of hippies and the Civil Rights Movement, where black Americans were fighting for the right to fully participate in society. Hippies promoted nonviolence and love, with the popular phrase, "Make love, not war", being referred to as the "flower children" at times.
Hippies promoted openness and tolerance as an alternative to the restrictions and regimentation we saw in middle-class society. Hippies generally practiced open sexual relationships and lived in a variety of types of domestic groups. They generally sought spiritual guidance from sources outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition, especially Buddhism, Hinduism, and other Eastern religions, sometimes in different combinations. Astrology was also popular, with this period commonly called the Age of Aquarius.
Hippies promoted recreational use of hallucinogenic drugs, especially marijuana and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), on what were called "head trips", justifying the practice as a means to expanding consciousness. In fact, drugs were among the reasons given for traveling on a "hippie trail". Between 1957 and 1978, an estimated 100,000 youths from the U.S. and Western Europe traveled by land, crossing through Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, or Greece, and traveling onwards to Turkey, India, Morocco, Iran, Afghanistan, or Nepal. In addition to drugs, we sought enlightenment, adventure, or something "exotic".
Both folk music and rock and roll were an essential part of hippie culture. Singers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and bands like The Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and The Rolling Stones were some of the people who were most strongly identified with the movement. The musical Hair, which glorified a hippy lifestyle, opened on Broadway in 1968, while the movie Easy Rider, reflecting hippy values and aesthetics, appeared in 1969. The novelist Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest) was one of the movements most prominent literary spokesmen, but he became just as well known for a bus tour that he took on with a band called The Merry Pranksters.
Public gatherings--part music festivals, part protests, and often just an excuse to celebrate life--were an important part of the hippie movement. The first "be-in," called a "Tribes Gathering," was held in San Francisco in 1967. It kicked off the Summer of Love, when as many as 100,000 members of the counterculture traveled around the U.S. and congregated in that cities Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Many came for the Monterey International Pop Festival, but others were attracted by the utopian promises of peace and love.
The situation, though, ultimately deteriorated into mayhem. The neighborhood gave way to overcrowding, crime ("free love" was frequently used to condone rape), and unsanitary conditions. In October 1967, a mock burial, called the Death of a Hippie Ceremony, was held by some of the remaining residents in San Francisco. Despite this symbolic ending, the counterculture movement continued.
Outdoor music festivals were another public form of gathering for the hippies, with approximately 300 taking place across the U.S. from 1967 to 1971. The most famous festivals were held in 1969: Woodstock, a three-day event in rural New York State, and a free concert at the Altamont Raceway near Livermore, California. The first attracted some 400,000-500,000 people, and became practically synonymous with the movement. The latter, however, was rushed into planning and quickly became ungovernable.
The Hells Angels biker gang, hired for security, pounded on the audience and musicians. One club member, Alan Passaro, fatally stabbed black teen Meredith Hunter during the Rolling Stones set.
Public hippie rallies did not always end in disaster. In fact, many hippies participated in numerous teach-ins at colleges and universities explaining opposition to the Vietnam War, and participated in protests and marches against it. They joined with other demonstrators in a "moratorium"--a national demonstration--against the war in 1969.
Hippies were also involved in developing the environmental movement. The first Earth Day was held in 1970, with many taking part in teach-ins which enlightened the public on the importance of protecting the environment. By the mid-1970s, the movement had faded, and by the 1980s, the hippies had given way to a new generation of young adults intent on making careers in business, and they came to be known as the yuppies (young urban professionals). Despite this, hippies continued to exert an influence over broader culture, seen, for instance, in the more relaxed attitudes towards sexuality, a renewed concern with the environment, and the general reduction in formality. Their dress and certain of their practices entered into mainstream culture, and the term hippie became a looser term for someone who, superficially, shared some of the same interests of hippie culture, such as eating vegetarian diets or having interest in Eastern cultures. I am 70 years young, a Bible believing, cannabis smoking, tree hugging Hippie.