One of the things I am wont to do in times of insomnia is surf Youtube on the old I-Pad. I run across the most amazing things. Last night it was a stroll down memory lane. Here’s what I ran across:
This film was produced in 1970 and it is Ms. Rita Abrams’ Strawberry Point (Mill Valley) fourth grade. The Mill Valley song went as viral as you could go back then: a spot on the national news and then radio airtime, which is all I remember. I loved the song back then, but this YouTube presentation is the first I recall of seeing the film.
Of course, there was one other way of going viral back then: the commercialization of the hippie movement’s lofty ideals of peace-love-harmony. Remember this one from 1971:
1970 was the year I married, following my freshman year in college. I was smack in the middle of the whole peace-love-hippie movement with straight, long hair down to my waist, parted in the middle—just like you saw on about 90% of the girls in those two films. I wore bell-bottom pants and halter tops, tire-tread sandals, bright colors announcing my free-spiritedness. Arkansas did not have the full-blown hippie movement that California did (bit too many rednecks, I guess), we certainly felt a part of it.
My husband and I drove a green VW beetle with a peace symbol/American Flag(?) decal exactly like this one in the center of the back window, advertising to the world that the occupants of this car were fully onboard with the times. Hanging from the mirror of that bug was a long strand of love beads.
We all decried our inability to make the great cultural pilgrimage to Woodstock in August of 1969 (I was only 17—my Mama would never have allowed it).
But, Woodstock long gone, there was still a beacon of illumination to instruct us in our hippiedom. This was, of course, California. And the ultimate goal of all hippies was San Francisco. We knew this because Scott McKenzie had told us this in 1967, which Wikipedia calls “the summer of love”:
I know people here in Arkansas who made the trek (at age 18) to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, without knowing a person out there and solely to join this peaceful movement. After all, Arkansas never had any “love-ins,” We did not even know how…must get to San Francisco to be shown by the “gentle people” who filled the streets of San Francisco and where there was held a perpetual “love-in.”
I remember our hubris, our railing against the “establishment” who had, in our eyes, so screwed up the world with a war in Asia and the materialism of post-WWII America. We had it figured out. We were, as McKenzie said, “a new generation with a new explanation.”
I look back at the Mill Valley video, and I still love it. I love the simplicity of all these songs, the beautiful picture of carefree living in peace, harmony and joy. And then the reality of my six decades of life intrudes, and I notice things.
Mill Valley is located 14 miles north of San Francisco, via the Golden Gate Bridge. Pretty pricey real estate, even back then. These kids were not the usual—Francis Ford Coppola produced the film, for crying out loud, and there is maybe one African-American face in the crowd, although the Coke folks were more careful to tend to some multi-race balance.
The images of a society where your grade-school teacher is also carefree and gentle, wears her long hair in dog-ears with giant bows, and plays the guitar amongst a market-atmosphere (who needs money?) and with freedom to allow a gorgeous bare-chested flute player—well, these images are very attractive. Yes, I love these images still.
But we still have war. We still have materialism (whatever that is, really). All our arrogance and assuredness that we had “new explanations” seems to have faded after all the fun.
And, in another post, I might just might tell you about my authentic hippie friends who went to Haight-Ashbury and what kind of gentleness they found there (not).
I don’t mean to sound cynical, because all these thoughts of love, peace and harmony really do make me feel good even as I am writing this. I’d like to be able to buy the world a Coke and live in perfect harmony. What a nice dream.
Sometimes it is the thought that counts.
Yes, it’s the thought that counts. And everyone needs a
“summer of love.”