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Hippie Flashback

In 1969 I was wearing a black floppy hat while riding the subway from Boston when a little boy pointed at me and asked his mother, “Is that a hippie?”

By the time “the 60’s” hit Boston it was 1969. flophat70.jpg The term “hippie” was already un-hip by east coast counter-culture standards, and too many in the mainstream “establishment” were adding the word “dirty” in front of it. Hippies were from California. In Boston, we called ourselves “Heads” or “Freaks.” I also recognized the term “flower child” as a way to describe myself.

At the age of nineteen I was still living at home and was coming from the boutique on Tremont Street where I worked when the boy pointed me out. The boutique, named The Riverboat, was where I first heard Leonard Cohen sing the song that made me want to be a poet. Suzanne; it was playing on the underground radio station, WBCN.

The song was also my introduction to what has become a lifelong addiction: thrift shopping. It was likely this stanza that did it: Suzanne takes your hand … And she leads you to the river … She is wearing rags and feathers … From Salvation Army counters … And the sun pours down like honey … On our lady of the harbour … And she shows you where to look … Among the garbage and the flowers. 1972.jpg

For my parent’s generation, wearing a fur coat was a status symbol. For us, in 1969, it was counter culture sheik, but only if it wasn’t new. It had to be ragged with wear and tear to be really cool.

I came home from work one winter day wearing a fur coat that I had just purchased from a used clothing store. My parents wondered how I could have afforded it on a clerk’s salary. They thought I was caught up in something illegal and confronted me about it. I tried to explain, but it must have been as hard to understand as it was for me when, many years later, my son came home from school and told me that wearing your pants pulled down with your underwear showing was a new style.

I still had the fur coat in 1978 and was wearing it during the blizzard of 1978. The blizzard was so bad that Governor Dukakis pronounced the entire Boston area a “disaster,” which meant, for one thing, that no cars were allowed on the roads. My sister Sherry, her baby Andrew, and I were living in East Weymouth and had to jump out of a bedroom window to get out of the house because the snow had completely covered our front door. The coat kept me warm during the days that followed, when we had to walk anywhere we wanted to go. The neighbors gave us milk for the baby. We bought groceries in town and hauled them home on a sled.

I left the Boston area the following spring because my first husband had work in Texas. Just outside of Houston, in a little town called Tomball, both my sons were born. At the end of our seven years in Texas, as we prepared to move to Virginia, I had a big yard sale and sold, among other stuff, all my old hippie clothes. There was a gypsy shawl, and Indian print wrap-around skirt, a beaded tunic, and colorful flowing scarves. I might have sold my tambourine, my favorite pink suede bell bottom pants, and the blue wool pea-coat with an American flag sewn on the back.

In Virginia, I thought I would need hardy homesteading clothes, jeans and boots and flannel shirts. Imagine my surprise when we arrived in Floyd and found communities full of people who were proud to call them “hippies.” I called them “my lost tribe.” Then I hit the local thrift shops and shopped until my wardrobe was colorful once again.

Photos: I don’t have many good photos to represent this post. We didn’t take many photos back. The few I could find to scan are from 1971 when I got my first cheap camera. In the first photo I am wearing “the” hat, # 2 is me in my pea coat taking my little sister Trish (right) and niece Chrissie bowling. The flag on the back of the peacoat and my story about Woodstock is HERE.

Comments

Because of my genes, I usually just wear black. I sweat all the time, cold weather, hot weather, moving around, sitting still. Doesn't matter. I always envy everyone else who can wear colorful clothes without getting huge, visible pit stains!!

Lucky you! Loved this story, especially about the fur coat.

don't you hate that you got rid of all your original stuff? sometimes i could just kick myself when i think, oh man... i wish i still had that coat or that skirt.

michele sent me over.

I wanted to go to Woodstock too but, I was only 15 and afraid to hitch that far. (I lived in Georgia at the time)

Would have loved seeing MY American Idol Melanie. I was a "flower child" too.

Nice read.
Thank you,
Jim
My personal website to promote Melanies' induction into the Rock and roll hall of fame: http://LeHerIn.org

I guess it would help to spell my link correct. LOL http://LetHerIn.org

I remember Melanie well, especially her skating key song. I had an album by her but never saw her in concert. I saw many other musicians back then ... Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Rod Stewart, Led Zepplin to name a few. I'll be over soon to check out your sites.

I remember that song and hat well..sk

Ah yes, Suzanne. It was one of the songs I learned to play on my guitar. What a time that was!

I have always loved thrift shops, too. One of my favorites was one called the PTA Thrift Shop in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, NC, where I went when my children were small. My daughter Ariel couldn't say thrift, so she called it the "thrill" shop. And it was.

Yup. Had the 25 year old fur coat - calf length and ready for patching by the time I 'borrowed it' from mom's plastic clothes bag in the attic.
Wore the beads. Wore the waist length hair which I tied tightly into tiny braids only to let loose the next morning - winding up sporting a Janis Joplin coif. Loved the whole bit. Missed out on going to Woodstock by just a couple car seats.

I know a woman who was actually born AT Woodstock, during CSNY. Gotta love that!

i love both pics of you, especially the first! in the 2nd you are not much taller than the kids! :)

well, i was at the 1970 atlanta pop music festival in byron, ga. where 500,000 other hippies flowed in, many riding on the outside of other's cars. i recall some climbing aboard the mustang we were in and wondering how many it could hold without damage. signs were held by long haired, love-beaded folks directing music lovers initially to free drugs, but the scene eventually became a young entrepreneur's dream. i saw acid for sale for a nickel a cube and joints the size of cigars. my eyes were out on stems most of the time! i was tame by comparison. groups of naked people roamed around, some jumping into a nearby stream to cool off, others waiting their turn and being directed when to jump so there would be no collision with those in the water. fire hoses were brought in to mediate the 100+ degree georgia temps beating upon the hot georgia clay. the festival went on for 3 days. hendrix was the star attraction among all the headliners; 10 weeks later jimi hendrix would be dead. what a time in my life, what memories to recall.

there was an entire community of alternative living going on along peachtree street in midtown. it was such an amazing time in history. it was remarkable to witness such masses who cared passionately about the politics of this country, who cared about those who never returned from viet-nam.

where are the youth today - why are they not demonstrating and marching against the war in iraq? there are so many injustices they could pick and choose with this administration! at least they have come out for "change" - perhaps that is the voice they are using, but their silence is deafening.

thanks for reminding me of "suzanne!" i began to sing with the typed words! :)

Great post. I always thought I would have been a good flower child but I was a youth of the 1970s - and not really a part of that "ME" generation. Just born too late, I guess.
P.S. I love the hat.

Yup....and I think you bought me those shoes for my birthday!! I was upset that there were no good kid shoes and you and Sherry took me into Boston (Jordan Marsh I think?) and got me those. Now Matt has a shoe fettish too and that style you talk about w/ the underwear showing is still popular because he does it too!!!! xoxo

Sky, I got a shiver reading your description of the Atlanta Pop festival, especially the part about Jimmy Hendrix. I was tame by comparison too and made up for not going to Woodstock, after all, with all the Grateful Dead Shows I later went to, in which the parking lot scene was so unlike what you described.

Dew, I think there are flower children of every generation, it's just that the baby boomers hit critical mass, I think.

Trish, what about those orange pants on you? I didn't even notice the shoes and can't exactly remember taking you to Jordon Marsh but I know I loved taking you places. I feel like kissing you in that photo.

I'm a hippie
You're a hippie
She's a hippie
He's a hippie
Wouldn't ya like to be a hippie too...

Colleen...are you sure you weren't riding a BUS in Boston? :)

Tremont St., WBCN (Charles Laquidara & the Cosmic Muffin), the blizzahd...good times! My best friend in high school (1972) wore a tattered fur coat, too.

Coll, Well I feel like kissing you now! Ya the pants are pretty wild. The shoes look very high quality and snazzy don't they? We tried on many pair before we found the right ones! xoxo

When Floyd comes to mind so do Hippies. It has its own style and way of life unique to any other part of Virginia I've ever been. I like the term Earthy. Martin's friends mocked me as being a faux hippy at Floydfest...I know I love the clothes. I love the music. I love the vibe. I missed the Hippy era but I do consider myself a naturalist and simplistic as far as decorating, my gardens, my lifestyle...I like the look...I like the inner qualities...but I do wear makeup, pay shitloads for my hair every 6 weeks and drive a Mercedes....oh and the high heel collection. To each his own right? Is glamourous hippy an oxymoron Colleen?

PS- I knew you would be extremely beautiful. You are now...very beautiful so I always knew you'd have to have been model material when you were younger. I loved those shots~

Join the club,Deana; you're a flower child at heart! I'm not an orthodox hippie myself.

The best part about the floppy hat was the band of beads that went around it.

Oh, Colleen! There are so many things I have to address about this post. First off, although I was pretty young (born in '61) during the Hippie era,I was influenced by it. I had smock tops and wore bell-bottoms and was exposed to the music, but I didn't really experience it.
Your mention of the song, "Suzanne" gave me chills. You see, my husband and I just went to see Leonard Cohen for the most amazing performance on June 4th and we were blessed when he performed that song. It is truly one of our favourites. He was so humble and gracious: we were mesmerized the entire time.
I too, am a lifelong enthusiast of thrift-stores. In fact, hardly a week goes by that I don't haunt at least one. Most of my wardrobe is plucked from the silver rods of the Sally Ann, Goodwill and the St. Vincent de Paul. I can afford to buy new, but the thrill of discovery is lacking when the cookie-cutter outfits line the shelves and hang off the racks.
Lastly, I'm ashamed to admit that for years I thought Woodstock had taken place at the small rural town of the same name outside London, Ontario. I was astounded when I learned it was in New York in the USA.

That's enough from me.

Kat

Wow! I had never seen this one... and I'm in it! Love it! Speaking of outfits, check out mine.

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