The Summer of Love

TheSummer of Love

Thesummer of love mostly refers to that particular summer of 1967,whereby approximately more than 10,000 younger individualscongregated on the Haight- Ashbury environs of San Francisco (Cohen30). The result of this gathering was a phenomenon that characterizedboth political and cultural rebellion. Roughly at the same time,hippies as well gathered in major cities all over the united states,for example New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and across majorEuropean cities like London (Cohen 33). San Francisco was the centerstage of this hippie movement, the epitome that characterized themelting pot of music, sex liberty, inventive expression and politics(Grunenberg 56). Thus, the summer of love became a significantdefining moment of the 1960s in American history as the hippiecounterculture revolution imerged into public.

Duringthe late 1950s all the way through to the late 1960s, a number ofsubcultures had started to develop in America particularly inCalifornia (Staller 80). The most renown of these subcultures was theHippie culture that was widespread in San Francisco. Quite a numberof these hippie fanatics happen to live in Haight Ashbury, which atthe time was a residential neighborhood that they could afford(Staller 83).

Themajority of these hippies was comprised of white runaways mostly frommiddle class upbringing from all over the United States (Staller 74).They loved and adored rock type of music and seemed to have had ahigh affinity of been experimental. They experimented with allmanner of drugs such as Marijuana, LSD, peyote and on other harddrugs such heroin and cocaine. These hippies were extremely sociableand being young, they were at the peak of their lives.

Theculmination of this hippie movement came in 1968, which as statedearlier came to be branded as the Summer of Love (Cohen 59). The nowreferred as flower children (or beautiful people) were advocating forthe cessation of all manner of social injustices pertaining to love(Cohen 80). However, this movement faced setbacks when businessindividuals began to settle in the environs. They hiked rent, chargesand eventually the flower children had to leave the vicinity(Grunenberg 136).

Thisextraordinary gathering of vast numbers of young individuals ismostly considered by many social behavior experts to have been like asocial experiment (Staller 157). This is as a result of theunconventional lifestyles that were common and appeared acceptableamong themselves such as communal living, free love and genderequality. A number of these social changes were carried forward oninto to the 1970s era, and the effects can be seen throughout thecurrent society that we now live in (Grunenberg 200). A lot of thesehippies were distrustful of the government, rejected consumeristideals and were against the Vietnam War.

Thecoverage by mainstream media houses of the hippie life captured theattention of the youths throughout the United States. Hunter S.Thompson, a writer for TheNew York Times Magazinedubbed the district as Hashbury(Grunenberg125). All manner of activities that took place in the region werereported and documented on a daily basis. The revolution wasadditionally fed by countercultures own media, especially the SanFrancisco Oracle, whose pass around circulation is projected to havebeen over a half a million as at that year (Cohen 105).

Arecord titled San Francisco became an immediate hit in both theAmerican and British billboards Cohen 150).This swiftly surpassed itsoriginal intention by popularizing an idealized notion of SanFrancisco. When the now newly formed Flower Children returned totheir respective homes, they brought with them new ideologies,morals, mannerism and styles of fashion to major cities all over theUnited States, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, Britain and NewZealand (Cohen 96). Those who remained behind in the Haight put up amock funeral to symbolize the end of the hippie movement and as asignal to mark the end of well orchestrated scene.

Someof the Haight Ashbury rich history is still evident today in the freespirit of the region. There exists a volunteer operated movie theaterknown as The Red Vic that showcases the films by local andindependent producers (Staller 300). Also, there are numerous coffeeshops which are specifically designed to offer locals a place tochill out, discussing among themselves over issues pertaining toliterature and politics. There are also bookstores, thrift shops andother venues whereby individuals can go and purchase relics of theHaight history. These relics can be found in the form of souvenirs,memorabilia and clothing attires.

Additionally,street performers can at times be seen in the vicinity whereby theydisplay the history and art of the neighborhood on the sidewalks. Theyear 2007 was an extremely significant year in the history of thesummer of love as it marked its 40thanniversary (Staller 90). For this reason alone, the yearly HaightAshbury Street Fair saw massive attendance of people from all overAmerica and the rest of the world.

Thehistory of Height Street

HeightStreet is an internationally recognized and legendary location in SanFrancisco in the state of California. The street is approximatelyeighteen blocks in length beginning on the Gough next to MarketStreet ending just at the entrance of the Golden Gate Park on StanyanStreet (Perry 74). The street gives out its name to the wholedistrict which commonly referred to as The Haight or The HaightAshbury. The street was most likely named after Henry Haight, a 19thcentury famous banker who is accredited with founding the ProtestantOrphan Asylum (Perry 100). However, there existed several otherprominent citizens at the time that had the same last surname at thetime. Presently it is quite unclear as to who was the street namedafter.

Afterfinishing of the Haight Street Cable Railroad around sometime in1883, what we now view as the Haight-Ashbury was an assortment of cutof farms and many acres of sand dunes (Richards 245). The cablerailroad upon completion connected the eastern end of the Golden Gatewith the more central Market Street and the entire downtown SanFrancisco. This region became a major entertainment hub destination,particularly during the weekends. This image was later on boosted bythe construction of the California League Baseball Stadium In 1887(Richards 267). Building techniques, the cable railroad and landgrading of the late 19thcentury all through to the early 20thcentury transformed the Haight to a housing upper middle classdistrict. Consequently, it was one of the very few regions that wereout of danger from the infernos that followed the tragic SanFrancisco earthquake in the year 1906 (Richards 171).

TheHaight wasn’t spared by the great depression that hit the Americaneconomy in the 1930s. Inhabitants with a little more finances tospend left the dilapidated and crowded regions for more income withinthe expanding city limits, or smaller suburban areas in the Bay area.During the time of housing scarcity of World War II, large singlefamily Victorian houses were partitioned into apartments to houseemployees (Richards 183). However, others were rehabilitated intoboarding houses for commercial purposes. During the 1950s, the Haightwas a region in decline. Numerous buildings were left unoccupiedafter the war. Also delayed upkeep also took its toll on thebuildings and with the migration of the middle class inhabitants tonew areas many units were available for rent (Richards 190).

Duringthe 1960s due to the affordability and availability of houses in thisneighborhood, the area became a safe haven for the hippie’ movement(Perry 150). The 19thcentury Victorian houses were a massive attraction among thesehippies. The bohemian subculture that afterwards flourished thereestablished roots, and to a much extent, has remained intact topresent day.

Today,walking down Haight Street will certainly induce certain 1960snostalgia. Live guitar music still pipes up from street corners, tieand dye T-shirts are hawked by a number of persons, the odor of potpermanently blows past, and colorful peace placards decorate windowsof businesses like the Red Victorian Bed and Breakfast.

Thedistrict of Haight Ashbury was sought after by hippies to constitutea society based entirely on drugs, music and countercultureideologies (Perry 200). The vicinity offered a concerted meetingspot for hippies to establish a social test that would soon bewidespread throughout the United States (Cohen 60). With the openingof a Psychedelic shop in the area in 1966, it offered hippies a placeto buy marijuana and LSD conveniently. At that time, these two drugswere very fundamental to this hippie life in the Haight.

Asa result, beautiful and amalgamated relationships could beestablished among the hippies due to the influence of drugs and othersubstances. The region’s fame shot to its prime as it became therefuge for numerous top rock bands of the time. The summer of lovefascinated a wide range of individuals of various age groups:teenagers and university students influenced by their friends and thefascination of joining a social utopia middle class travelers andsome military staff from nearby bases (Perry 179).

Onthe other hand, the Haights couldn’t accommodate this massiveinflux of people consequently, the area’s scene rapidlydeteriorated. Problems that began to surface included hunger,homelessness, drug problems, overcrowding and high crime rates (Perry120). Most people basically left in the fall to recommence theirprevious lives.

After1968, the neighborhood again went into a decline as a result of anoverwhelming arrival of hard drugs and massive lack of policepresence (Cohen 77). However the situation was improved andreinvented during the late 1970s.

Presently,the neighborhood still boasts of its bohemian ambiance. It also playshomage to a variety of independent bars and restaurants, bookstores,antique shops, clothing boutiques and record stores such the famousAmoeba music. Many travelers, campers and tourists come to HaightStreet to indulge and explore in the counterculture that hasdeveloped ever since the 1960s. The region is characterized by anumber of restored Victorian houses (Richards 247). TheHaight-Ashbury Street Fair takes place on the 2ndSunday of the month of June each year and attracts thousands ofpeople from all over the country and from other countries as well.


Cohen,Katherine P. SanFrancisco`s Haight Ashbury.Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub, 2008. Print.

Grunenberg,Christoph, and Jonathan P. Harris. Summerof Love: Psychedelic Art, Social Crisis and Counterculture in the1960s.Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007. Print.

Perry,Charles, and Bob Weir. TheHaight Ashbury.New York: Wenner, 2005. Print.

Richards,Rand. HistoricSan Francisco: A Concise History and Guide.San Francisco: Heritage House Publishers, 2007. Print.

Staller,Karen M. Runaways:How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped Today`s Practices and Policies.New York [u.a.: Columbia Univ. Press, 2006. Print.