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Through out history many generations have gone by that have made an impact on more than all of its ancestors. The decade from 1960 to 1970 was definitely one of those eras. The people didn’t follow the teachings of its elders, but rejected them for an alternative culture, which was their very own (Harris 14). People no longer had content to be figures of the generation that pursued them, instead young people longed for change. The changes affected lifestyles, values, laws, education, and entertainment (Bradley 1). The dream of love, peace, happiness, and freedom was what many young Americans longed for (Goldstein back cover). Made up of the younger population of the time this new culture was such a radical society that they were given their own name, which is still used today. They came to be called “Hippies”, “Freaks”, or “Flower Children. These were all names used to describe the young people who rejected old-fashioned American value and lifestyles in regard to drugs, work, sex, money, and material goods (Yablonsky 133). They waged, in effect, a cultural revolution. Social critic Marya Mannes once said “If adults admired their long hair more, the young would probably cut in off themselves,” “The only thing intolerable to them is our approval (Archer 77).” The Hippie movement started in San Francisco, California and spread across the United States, through Canada, and into parts of Europe. But it had its greatest influence in America. During the 1960’s a radical group called the Hippies shocked America with their alternative lifestyle and radical beliefs.
Hippies came from many different places and had many different backgrounds. All Hippies were young, from the ages of 15 to 25. They left their families and did it for many different reasons. Some rejected their parents’ ideas, some just wanted to get away, and others simply were outcasts, who could only fit in with the Hippie population. “Under 25 became a magical age, and young people all over the world were united by this bond”(Harris 15). This bond was of Non-conformity and it was the “Creed of the Young”. Most Hippies came from wealthy middle class families. Some people said that they were spoiled and wasting their lives away. But to Hippies themselves this was a way of life and no one was going to get in the way of their dreams and ambitions (Harris 15).
The way hippies dressed was a distinctive characteristic of how they rejected traditional lifestyles. For the hippie look, young Americans wore patched and torn blue jeans, funky dresses, beaded headbands, fringed jackets, ragged T-shirts, shirts made of scrap material, and mod boots or sandals. Some just went barefoot (Archer 78). Flowers, the hippie symbol for brotherly love, were often worn in the hair, but sometimes they would be painted on the skin or embroidered on clothing. The basis of the hippie wardrobe was faded and dusty bell-bottom jeans (Layman pg.157).
Hippies flocked to a certain area of San Francisco on the corner of HaightStreet and Ashbury Street, where the world got their first view of this unique group. This place came to be known as the Haight Ashbury District. There were tours of the district and it was said that the tour “was the only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United States” (Stern 147). The Hippies were so different that the conservative middle class could not relate to them and saw them as aliens. The Haight Ashbury district lies in the very center of San Francisco. In the years of 1965 and 1966 the Hippies took over the Haight Ashbury district (Cavan 49). There they lived and spread their psychedelic theme through out the whole area. In the Haight Ashbury district there were two parks that all Hippies knew well. The more famous of the two was the Golden Gate Park (Cavan 43). The single most important event that put the Hippies on the map was held at the Golden Gate Park. It was called the Trips Festival. The Trips Festival was a weeklong festival designed to celebrate the LSD experience (Stern 148). Besides this festival dozens of other events took place at Golden Gate Park, some of which were free concerts by The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and Anti-War rallies held by Hippie political leaders. The other park is called the Buena Vista Park and is known for housing hippies at night and for socializing during the day.
As the 1960’s progressed, the youth in America united. By 1967 hippies had become the focus of mass media scrutiny and in some places a tourist attraction (Yablonsky Pg 133). “In 1969 400,000 young people materialized for three dizzying days to listen to rock and blues music, to wear funny clothing or no clothes at all, to talk, sing, dance, clap hands, to drink beer or smoke pot and make love-but mostly to marvel again and again that they were all there together” (This Fabulous Century 64). This festival was held in a small town in up-state New York and came to be called Woodstock, after the town it was held in. Also in Greenwich Village, New York Hippies had a place. On every Sunday The Village was known to have hordes of singers with banjos and drums celebrating their youth together (Stern 103).
One of the basic foundations of the Hippie movement was the flagrant use of illegal drugs. Marijuana, LSD, speed, and other hallucinogenic or mind-altering drugs were used by many young people mainly as a way of escaping from the disillusionment of the times, turning away from Middle America to concentrate on one’s self (Archer 81). Of all the drugs that the Hippies used, none were more used than marijuana. From 1960 to 1970 the number of Americans who had tried marijuana had increased from a few hundred thousand to 8,000,000. The majority of these new users were from 12 years old to college seniors (This Fabulous Century 84). Using drugs quickly became a habit for masses of young people, not just those who were angry and enraged in political activism (Chafe 327). To some Hippies, drugs and music were the most important aspects of their lives. Another drug that was prevalent in the Hippie population was LSD. Some Hippies thought “LSD puts you in touch with your surroundings” (Cavan 114). But that was not what always the case. On occasion a hippie would take bad LSD and would experience a “bad trip” or would “freak out” (Cavan 115). When someone took bad LSD, freak out is exactly what he or she would do and sometimes they never came back. Bad LSD was so common that even at Woodstock people were having bad trips and freaking out. Even with this bad LSD everywhere people still used it, they went as far as to make a religion out of it. A man by the name of Dr. Timothy Leary was a Harvard professor who had ideas about LSD. He said, “LSD is western yoga. The aim of all Eastern religion, like the aim of LSD, is basically to get high; that is to expand your consciousness and find ecstasy and revelation within” (This Fabulous Century 84). Another preacher of the use of LSD was an author by the name of Ken Kesey. He traveled around the United States in a psychedelic bus giving LSD to anyone and everyone who would take it.
Hippies were notorious for there out of the ordinary music. Many Hippies were actually musicians themselves. Hippies used music as a way to get their thoughts and ideas out. One of the most influential musicians of the time was Bob Dylan. The lyrics of the song “Like Rolling Stone” express the thoughts of many Hippies. They say:
How does it feel How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone? (Harris 69)
These lyrics expressed Dylan’s personal thoughts to what was happening to him. He did feel “like a rolling stone” and so did his peers. His simple but meaningful lyrics are what made him so popular and successful. Many Hippies considered Dylan as a spokesman for their beliefs. Two of the most significant singers of the sixties were Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, whom one of the New York Times critics labeled “the king and queen of gloriously self-expressive music (Archer 94)”. Drugs were also themes in many bands songs. The Grateful Dead had “Casey Jones,” with lyrics such as “High on Cocaine” and “You better watch your Speed.” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” is a Beatles song about LSD. Jimmy Hendrix’s also took part in the fad with his song “Purple Haze”, which is about marijuana.
Besides their music and drugs Hippies did some out of the ordinary things that were as shocking as their day-glo clothing. It was common for hippies in the Haight Ashbury District to put a nickel in a parking meter, then set up blankets and lie down in the space for a half hour (Stern 161). This was unusual behavior so it is not strange that the public did not take them seriously. People thought Hippies were the next funniest things to “the Three Stooges”(Stern 161). Television shows like the successful Laugh In made fun of this counter culture. Movies made fun of them as well. One called the Presidents Analyst was extremely successful. The movie was dedicated “to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happenings,” and was based on the Hippies wacky antics. People all over the America were outraged at how strange these people were and at the same time were in tears at how funny they were.
Even though from far away the Hippies were entertaining, in reality they were devastating the American family and were tearing the country in two. While the adults of the time were conservative, hard working, and caring mainly about money, the Hippies didn’t care about any of that. They were party animals. Many didn’t work unless it was completely necessary, they never went to church nor did they care for saving their virginity until after they were married. They were anything but conservative and their families rejected them for it.
Hippies easy going attitudes and fun and games lifestyles were put away when the topic of politics came up. Indubitably the instigator for their existence, politics played a huge role in their lives. Having strongest feelings for the Vietnam War and for the Civil Rights Movement, the Hippies made their beliefs known to the world. They did this in many ways including musical shows, pacifist folk songs, and through peaceful sit-ins (This Fabulous Century 206). But none of their actions were more seen and heard of then their protests and rallies. The Hippies were aware that the war was being lost and that thousands of American soldiers were dying. They took it upon themselves the make their beliefs heard. They put together a protest larger then ever before. Once it was organized not just Hippies came, but students, intellectuals, radicals, and citizens of all classes took part in it (Harris 36). This protest was held in Washington DC in the heart of the United States. 250,000 protesters gathered for one common goal. They wanted their troops to come back home and for United States involvement in the war to be ended. Throughout the years of the Vietnam War hundreds of anti-war rallies were held. By the end of the decade, these protests seemed to have done some good. Sixty five percent of all Americans had similar views as the hippies (This Fabulous Century 206). They wanted their troops back and that’s what they got in the 1969 when the President gave the word to bring them back home.
Hippies had other feelings about racism and persecution. They took part in the civil rights movement, just as they did for the Vietnam troops. When President Kennedy tried to pass his Civil Rights policies and they never went through, the Hippies were more aggravated (Harris 8). Eventually some Hippies tried to make their colonies where there was no racism and persecution. There were Hippie communes all over the United States. Some communes believed that they were “fighting against the white man’s perverted society of pollution, war, and greed (Stern 166). These communes didn’t get very popular and failed after a few years. Hippies still fought for racial equality. Finally when the 1960’s were over new laws were put into action helping racial equality, which would not have happened without the Hippies.
During the 1960’s a radical crowd called the hippies stunned America with their unusual lifestyle and radical beliefs. They were young people who enjoyed life and lived it to its fullest. They used illegal drugs and listened to rock and roll music. With their different beliefs and practices they bewildered America’s traditional middle class. Concerned primarily in protesting the Vietnam War and civil rights they made a huge impact on America and the world. Even today the effects of the Hippie movement are still felt. They made huge advantages and set examples for the youth of today for years to come.
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