THE SUMMER OF LOVE
“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” These opening lines to Scott MacKenzies famous anthem ushered in what was known as “The Summer of Love”. Birthed in California in 1967 it took on epidemic proportions as it spread eastward. My girlfriends and I were smitten with the message of love and freedom; everyone was.
His voice was clear and sweet and perfectly underscored the lyrics. Give a listen:
I remember a trip to California with my parents and grandmother in August 1967, the Summer of Love. After visiting my dad’s cousins in Encinitas, we travelled northward to the LA area for a few days. Then onward we went up the magnificient Pacific Coast Highway. Hugging the Santa Lucia mountains our ’63 Buick slowly snaked its way up the coast. The chasm-like drops off the southbound lane made me grateful we were heading north. Views from the highway of Carmel, Big Sur and Monterey were totally breathtaking. With no advance reservations in Santa Cruz we were turned away from every motel as the sports fishermen and other weekenders took up all the rooms. Finally we got the last room in San Jose and fell into our beds exhausted from the day’s unending drive.
We finally arrived in San Francisco and were ripe to take in its sights and sounds. Sausalito in Marin County was a revelation….so beautiful and enchanting with its shops, restaurants and galleries. I swore someday I would come back to live there. We savored a delicious lunch on a floating restaurant. Later in their gift shop I bought a lovely abalone bracelet. We strolled about a bit more then headed back to the city. It was a beautiful day. As we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, Scott McKenzie’s song played on the radio and I sang along. I was exhilarated by its lyrics as I took in the sun, cornflower blue sky, and billowy clouds. As the golden red towers of the bridge created a strobe effect on the sunlight beaming down, cool breezes floated through the car’s open windows and kissed my face. The song’s message of love, peace and happiness lifted my soul and I felt intoxicated. As he sang the words: “All across the nation such a strange vibration… People in motion….. There’s a whole generation with a new explanation…People in motion, people in motion”, I looked out at the views and it all fit so perfectly; boats cruising the bay, people driving cars, people cycling and walking across the bridge. It was as liberating and unfettered as the bra-less hippie chicks dancing and prancing about in Golden Gate Park on a Sunday afternoon.
As we wandered the city together, strange, long-haired young men approached me just to say “Hi, I love you”. Dad felt like he was dropped onto another planet and decided to observe and record more of these strange people as we made a pilgrimage to Golden Gate Park. Like a heartbeat, the steadily beating drums drew us deeper into the park’s core. There we beheld a writhing mass of young men and women dancing wildly, arms flailing, heads banging, smoking doobies etc. Dad turned back towards us with an ironic smile and pointed back to this unfathomable sight as if to say “Can you believe this?” Mom and Grandma Pellegrina stood on the fringes looking bewildered, shaking their heads.
Then the unthinkable happened; out popped the super 8 movie camera and dad began recording this love-in like he was Margaret Mead documenting all she saw and heard in Papua, New Guinea. Dressed in Bermuda shorts, Italian sandals, summer shirt with a fedora on his head, the hippies looked at him as if to say “Oh….here’s another tourist weirded out by us” then continued their partying. Of course I took a few steps back so would not be guilty by association, though I looked as different from them as dad did with my pixie haircut and “straight-looking” jeans and top. I couldn’t wait to get back to New York City to show off my new badge of coolness because “I was there when it all happened”. My bff’s Elaine and Katy picked my brains endlessly as I told and retold my experiences.