There are seasons, like the last lap of a tide, that leave a high watermark on our lives. Such was “The Summer of Love,” the moment in 1967 when flower was in power. The epicenter, as of previous earth shifts, was the San Francisco Bay area.
Associate Editor Roger Wolmuth, who wrote this week’s cover story on the 20th anniversary of that distant season (p. 92), was 20 in 1967 and working a few miles down the coast in prosperous Burlingame. “I was painting houses,” he recalls, “trying to earn next year’s tuition at Williams College.” On weekends he sometimes drove up to the holy crossing of Haight and Ashbury Streets, where he was struck by the gentle sentiments—and stirring sounds—he heard. “I welcomed the message of peace and love,” he says. “And the music of those times still seems as vital as anything that’s come along since.”
Maddy Miller, picture editor for the story, dropped out of Queens College that year and was working as a picture researcher at Look magazine. On weekends she became a soldier in the counterculture. If there was a demonstration or march anywhere, she hopped the bus. Usually the gatherings were in Washington, D.C., but she once went as far as Berkeley, where she sat in the People’s Park and communed with her camera. Alas, it was only to be a two-week vacation, and soon she was back at work.
Senior Editor Cutler Durkee, who was in charge of the cover story, was only 14 when flower children bloomed along the Haight. He attended Roosevelt Junior High, just 10 blocks away. After school, in beret and granny glasses, he would traverse the hill with his friends to study hipness. He had been there at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park, when Harvard guru Timothy Leary told everyone to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
Durkee won’t say which of these instructions he heeded, but not long ago he got a call from a boyhood friend. Terry Conley was living in Italy under his new Hare Krishna name, Trai Das. Cutler went to visit him, and as they spent a day driving from Rome to Pompeii, a funny thing happened: Durkee forgot that his friend was wearing an apricot dhoti and was shaved bald except for a topknot. They joked as they had when they were 10. “I think something happened because of the ’60’s,” says Durkee. “We have taken a small shift in our consciousness of the environment, of the ecology, of our health.”
Leaving a subtle line on our shore.