Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Summer of Love

In January of 1967, a "Be-In" took place in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. A counterculture of long-haired rebellious youth, called hippies, was emerging in the Haight-Ashbury district and the news media loved it.

During spring break, college students began pouring into the San Francisco Bay Area. Soon, an estimated 100,000 young people from around the world had flocked to the scene to frolic in a spontaneous free-for-all.

"If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair."
"If you're going to San Francisco, summertime will be a love-in there."
Song lyrics by The Mamas and The Papas in May of 1967.

On June 1, 1967, four lads from Liverpool, England, who called themselves The Beatles, released their latest album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." It became a certified Gold album on the first day of its release.

It was also the unofficial start of what was about to become the Summer of Love.

On June 16, a three-day International Pop Music Festival opened in Monterey, south of San Francisco. It was the world's first major rock festival. Over 200,000 people attended the event.

Some of the 32 performers groups included Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Mamas and the Papas, Canned Heat, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Lou Rawls, Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Rivers, Buffalo Springfield, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Country Joe and the Fish, Moby Grape, Booker T and the MGs, The Byrds, The Who, The Association, Eric Burton and the Animals, etc.

And if you don't know who most of those folks are, I pity you. There's some great music in this crowd.

Elsewhere in the world, it was anything but a summer of love 40 years ago.

During the summer of 1967, the Vietnam Conflict was going strong. I was in a U.S. Army uniform in Atlanta at the time, doing my best to maintain my sanity as a draftee until I could become a civilian once again.

On June 5, The Six-Day War erupted. Israel, fearing an imminent attack, struck Egyptian military targets. Jordan, Syria and Iraq entered the conflict. Israel annexed Arab East Jerusalem, captured the Golan Heights (from Syria), the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (from Jordan) and the Sinai (from Egypt). It ended in six days.

In the middle of the Six Day War, Israel attacked the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy ship stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 34 and wounding 171 crewmen. Apparently, Israel mistook it for an Egyptian vessel. Commander William L. McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor for remaining on the bridge and keeping the ship afloat for 17 hours despite multiple wounds. Israel apologized and paid $12 million in compensation.

On July 6, the Biafran War erupted in eastern Nigeria in Africa. It stemmed from rebellion against ethnic cleansing by government forces and would last more than two years, claiming some 600,000 lives.

Race riots were a popular sport that summer. They occurred on June 2 in Boston, Mass., June 11 in Tampa, Fla., June 27 in Buffalo, NY (14 shot, 200 arrested), July 12 in Newark, NJ (27 killed, 1,500 injured, over 1,000 arrested), July 17 in Cairo, Ill., July 19 in Durham, NC, July 20 in Memphis, Tenn., July 23-30 in Detroit, Mich (40 dead, 2,000 injured, 5,000 homeless), July 24 in Cambridge, Md., and July 30 in Milwaukee, Wis. (4 killed).

On July 29, 134 servicemen were killed on the USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam.

On July 30, Gen. William Westmoreland declared we were winning in Vietnam but needed more troops.

On August 3, President Lyndon Johnson authorized 45,000 more troops to be sent to Vietnam.

The hippies in San Francisco weren't too concerned with problems elsewhere. It was their summer of love.

But the fun soon ended. Overcrowding, crime, homelessness and drug problems overwhelmed the quickly deteriorating Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Most of the students returned home to resume college studies.

On October 7, those remaining held a mock "Death to the Hippie" funeral. The Summer of Love was over.

For me, the Summer of Love was in 1968. I became a civilian again and kissed the ground when I got home.

Several years later, I spent 3 weeks roaming around San Francisco. I even caught Janis Joblin playing a gig in a church basement during some sort of fund raising event. She sent enough electricity through the place to light the Fisherman's Warf and the Golden Gate Bridge. Fabulous city. But my inclination for a reclusive lifestyle sent me back on the road.

Love is the only sane answer to human existence -- it's not so much gazing into each other's eyes, but looking together in the same direction. It's the art of persistence and endless forgiveness. To find someone who will love you for no reason is the ultimate bliss. It's when the happiness of another becomes essential to your own happiness.

I have plenty of love these days -- I have a dog.

Quote for the Day -- "All you need is love." John Lennon (killed by assassin)

Quote for the Day -- "A coward is incapable of exhibiting love -- it is the prerogative of the brave." Mohandas Gandhi (killed by assassin)

Quote for the Day -- "Things do not happen -- things are made to happen." John F. Kennedy (killed by assassin)

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where things do not happen. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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