Hippies on Haight Street
In 1967, Tidings Managing Editor wrote a series of articles following a visit to San Francisco. The Tidings reprints these now for their historical interest and a visit to the past. Look for other occasional archival pieces in the Tidings in the future.
(Ed. Note: The Hippie has become one of the most talked about and written about members of our society. To take a closer look at the Hippie and his habitat, Tidings Managing Editor went to San Francisco's Haight Street where he lived "on the street" for two days and two nights. The following is one of a series on his observations.)
I stepped onto Haight Street shortly after midnight one night and was immediately struck by a mixture of filth and fantasy.
Wildly costumed Hippies strolled the street, slouched in doorways and sat leaning against storefronts all along the street.
Automobiles carrying gawking tourists were lined up bumper-to-bumper in the street and more tourists rubbernecked their way down the sidewalks.
Broken bottles, scraps of paper, spilled beer and wine, rags and an assortment of other junk was strewn along the sidewalk, in the street, and piled up in doorways.
This was Haight Street at first glance.
It looked like Mardi Gras on Skid Row.
I had come here expecting to find a different world. It was a different world.
The setting, however, was not one where a world of this kind would be expected to develop.
Haight Street, from Masonic to Schraeder, is the heart and soul of the Hippie district.
While the Hippie can be found anywhere within a 40-block area surrounding the street, his life centers on the six-block strip of Haight.
If all the baubles of the Hippie life were taken away from the Street and it suddenly reverted back to what it was, it would be merely a dull little fringe area of a large Negro ghetto.
Five or six unimportant bars can be found on the street, the most colorful of which is a topless Negro joint advertised in Blue over white neon as "Relax-x-x With Evonn."
Three liquor stores are located on the street. The stores dispense alcohol to its Negro clientele (Hippies drink very little) and candy, cigarettes, and other odds and ends to its Hippie customers.
Two small grocery stores are on the street, along with a fish 'n' chips joint, a pair of dirty cafes, several decorative coffee houses, a bank, barber shops (usually empty), a number of curio shops featuring Hippie art, a closed theater, and a fascinating little store called "The Psychedelic Shop," commonly referred to as the "Psyche Shop."
The cramped little place has a small amount of art, beads, buttons, and other Hippie souvenirs.
It also features "service" to the Hippie on such matters as jobs, food, lodgings, and where to go if he gets off on a "bad trip" from LSD.
Tacked to the wall in the shop is a conglomeration of messages and advertisements.
Many of the "messages" are from anxious parents looking for strayed sons or daughters.
"Mary. We all love you. Please come home. Mother." a typical message read.
Or, "Going to Mexico City, July 1. Need two swinging chicks with love, love, love on their minds." another read.
Some of the more sophisticated ads proclaimed upcoming love-ins, eat-ins, rock-ins, and other events of interest to the Hippie.
And the public agencies used the wall to promote every thing from Planned Parenthood to birth control measures.
The "Psyche Shop" is the busiest place on the street. Hippies and tourists stand shoulder-to-shoulder reading the ads.
Along the rest of the street, the crowds bunch up around the art shops and around doorways where several Hippies might be playing music or reciting poetry.
Traffic on the street is slowed to a snail's pace because of heavy foot traffic across the street and the scores of Hippies wading through the traffic selling Hippie newspapers to tourists in the cars.
This was Haight Street as I saw it in the early morning hours.
The crowds did not start to dwindle until about — a.m.
Sitting in a car on Haight, I watched as the street finally subsided to a few lonely youngsters who had not yet found a place to sleep for the night.
When daylight broke on Haight and the ever-present chilling fog began rolling down the street in front of a cold wind, we saw another side of the street's personality.
It looked like a disaster area. Garbage was piled ankle deep everywhere and the smell was almost a physical force.
Here and there in doorways, some pitiful teenager playing the game of Hippie could be seen huddled shivering in the cold.
Others, already tired of their sleeping places, shuffled down the street searching the gutters for something of value.
As the day turned a little brighter, others began converging on the street, either taking their places sitting on the sidewalk, or, if they had any money, going into the cafes to get something to eat. Feeling that I now knew a little about the Hippie's habitat, I stepped out of the car and set about finding out about the Hippie himself.
Next: Who are the Hippies?