How did we get from Summer of Love to Summer of Bifocals?
Can you believe it? It has been fifty years since the Summer of Love! That time in American history when young people had “long beautiful hair” and wore colorful strings of beads and paisley shirts—and those were the men!
San Francisco, of course, was the epicenter of the hippie peace and love movement. During the summer of 1967, around 100,000 young people walked, hitch-hiked, or floated there seeking tranquility and free medical treatment for any annoying bug they happened to pick up along the way.
Haight-Ashbury, the center of the drug culture, was the place to be. It was an area of the city where all the beautiful people badly in need of a bath could “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”
Man, remember those crazy bell-bottom pants that men and women both wore back then? Well it just so happens that I still have sort of a bell-bottom. Unfortunately, it is now part of my anatomy and closely resembles the Liberty Bell.
A lot of cool music came out of the Summer of Love and its aftermath. You just don’t have bands like The Lemon Pipers, Strawberry Alarm Clock, or The Electric Prunes anymore. And notice the organic, 100 percent all-natural names. Well okay, there was also the band called Vanilla Fudge. But, hey, even a vegan deserves a treat once in a while.
Some folks look back at that period of pot-smokin’, free-lovin’ hippies with disdain. But I’ve got to tell you, all that wild and crazy behavior sounds pretty darn good to me at certain times nowadays, like when I’m sitting in the hospital lobby waiting to get my colonoscopy.
Sure, I sometimes get a little depressed when I recall all the energy and optimism of my youth. But actually I’m feeling pretty good about how today has gone so far—it’s already 9:00 AM and I have not misplaced my car keys even once.
When I was a young man during the Summer of Love, it was not uncommon for me to arrive home after a wild night out on the town just as the sun was rising. Now, during the long summer evenings fifty years later, I find myself heading home from a “night out” about the time the sun is setting.
In the 1960s some hippies dropped out of society to form what they considered utopian communes. There, the young people sat around naked and weaved entire bouquets of flowers into their hair. l can’t imagine doing that now at my age. I have hardly enough hair left to hold one dandelion, and eliminating the naked part is self-explanatory.
A popular catchphrase for my generation back in the ’60s was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” We baby boomers have had to update the saying periodically as time passed. Last I heard, the most recent version of the expression for my age group is “Don’t trust anyone over 115.”
Around the time of the Summer of Love, a lot of young people were totally into the psychedelic drug LSD. Now those same folks are a lot more concerned with their prostate’s PSA.
As a young guy, I had perfect eyesight. Yet, just to be cool I wore specs with rectangular or round lenses like the rock stars. Of course, those lenses were just for looks and were made of regular glass.
For the last ten years I’ve been wearing a pair of nerdy magnifying eyeglasses which I need so I can read the restaurant menu and never accidentally order the fried pickles again.
Worst of all, I recently had to purchase a pair of glasses with bifocals to help straighten out my vision since all the baseball players on TV look like they’re carrying a Siamese twin riding piggyback. And these glasses are definitely not cool—they’re more like the glasses included with a Gramps Halloween Costume.
It just so happens that I also graduated from high school in 1967, at the start of the Summer of Love. It was a time when sex, drugs, and rock and roll were all part of being a high-school senior back then. Not so much as a senior now, though for drugs I do keep some Gas-X handy.
I briefly thought about attending my 50th class reunion. But then I said to myself, “Are you nuts? Hell, half of the guys who go to that probably won’t even survive the trip!” Besides, I needed to stay home and do more exciting stuff like walk the dog and water the lawn.
Yes, I have to admit that l miss some aspects of the Summer of Love. But the times are not completely “a-changin’” as Bob Dylan sang.
Here we are fifty years later: the country is still virtually in a Cold War with Russia; the country is still very much involved in an eternal war in the East; people still experiment with sexuality; civil rights are still an ongoing struggle; and many in my generation are more suspicious of the government than ever.
Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist whose articles are syndicated by Senior Wire. He recently published a book titled “Tortoise Crossing – Expect Long Delays,” which is a collection of 100 of his favorite columns. It is available on Amazon.com.