Reeling Through the Years

1960s Hippie Counterculture Today

Sammy Lamb
Hippies Today
Hippies Today
CCO Public Domain / Unsplash on Pixabay

We may not look much like we did in the 1960s, but the Hippie Movement never died.

Where Did My Hippie Friends Go?

Did the hippies go away with the counterculture, sinking under the dark years of Nixon?

In 1967, hippies invaded a culture. We weren't invited or asked to stay when we got here.

Were we blown away in a puff of dazzling smoke? Could a movement strong enough to alter the world's gravity vanish into the wilderness like a band of Yetis?

No, not really.

Many 1960s hippies, as Wavy Gravy tells it, adapted in ways that made us harder to find. Some got behind ties, long pants and shoe polish.

Some, like Steve Jobs, revolutionized businesses, popping in and out of persona.

Turning down the volume in public is not the same as being whisked away. Think wildflowers, not bouquets.

The counterculture movement, which built a foundation in which hippies flourished, began crumbling after 1968. Establishment violence sent peaceful protestors running for safety.

By the 70s, with Nixon and the brutal Silent Majority in charge, less visibility felt practical and safe.

Disguises reduced harassment and discrimination. Getting and keeping a job meant cutting your hair and keeping your mouth shut.

The government murders of unarmed civilians at Kent and Jackson State colleges were intimidating as hell. Blending meant a better chance to live a long and high life.

We may not look much like hippies in the 1960s anymore, but the Hippie Movement never died.

Hippie, A Funky, Personal History

In 1969, revolution still in the air, my draft board, knowing they had no chance to get me to Viet Nam, exiled me to Buffalo instead, thinking, I suppose, that the frosty north might inflict some punishment for my peace activism.

But walking around for a summer without shoes, completely reborn in the Hippie Movement, hadn't dulled my fascination with meteorology. Buffalo's fierce and long winters, its dense lake effect snows, were perfect, and the city's cloudless summers were a great cure for any lingering blues.

My first Buffalo snow was a thunder snowstorm, something I'd never seen before. On a lazy Saturday night, it brought my girlfriend and I outside to ramble the streets while the white stuff piled up at around a foot per hour, softening the sounds and edges of the city, making a fantasy land.

When the snow ended and a brisk, cold wind started sweeping in from Canada, we walked home and made snow angels on our front lawn. 

Later, I went out and shoveled our walk and, then, did a couple of neighbors’ for fun. Hippies were communal. We didn't look for rewards from being neighborly.

The Silent Majority, with their addiction to property and material, hated the generous community spirit that marked the hippies in the 1960s. Mellowness and unity were twin poisons for them. They seethed in, well, silence. And voted in a maniac as president.

My girlfriend and I were 100% hippies in the 1960s, especially in that flowering, revolutionary summer of 1968, not yet in anyone's closet, but we were nearing the end of the era when visibility was safe. By the time my required two years in Buffalo were up, I loved this city by the lake enough to stay fifteen more. The dying old political machine that mismanaged the city for decades was choking its vitality and imagination by then, smothering its chances for revival.

All the hippies were gone, both from my new city and the hometown I left behind.

Hippies are still here, though, waiting.

You might occasionally hear us in a muffled way.

The Hippie Movement In Your Closet

After 1970, Everything Changed

On the Zombies' "Time of the Season" album, the final song is "Hung Up On A Dream," a lament about the loss of the hippie movement and the dreams of peace and love it generated. I still get chills listening to it.

Hope rose when, in 1976, I rented a place in Haight Ashbury. The Haight had become embarrassingly touristy and less the home it once was for hippies, but I got to march in the 3rd Annual Haight Ashbury People's Parade. 

We walked along in a group of a few dozen, making silly chants and passing the former homes of our pioneers, The Dead and Janis. There wasn't enough left, and I eventually returned to Buffalo.

In 1983, "The Big Chill, brought back memories as the hippie movement went to the movies, but it did something more significant. 

Looking around the theater, I saw that, for the first time in memory, the place was full of people my age. And they looked a little odd. Hair longer than conventional at the time. Beards. I knew for sure I wasn't the only one keeping my identity quiet, hiding my dropout stuff in the closet.

Well, it's a quarter of a century later, and we're still here. Some, like Richard Brautigan and Phil Ochs, were made crazy by the transition, but they most of us made it through.

Subversion is beautiful!

The hippie movement is still here, and until Jerry Garcia left the planet, we listened to The Dead as they expanded the spirit. We bought up Dylan tickets at baseball parks and coliseums.

We may be quiet, but we're here.

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