Haight Ashbury

The Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco was the LSD phenomenon’s epicenter with such “accoutrements of the acid flash as tie-dyed clothes, strobe lights and psychedelic posters.” (Farber, p. 36.) LSD philosophers concluded that adults’ perception of their environment was so shuttered, rigid, and one-dimensional that their response to stimuli always followed the same dismal pattern, producing war, injustice, poverty, racism and sexual repression. (Braunstein, p. 253.)

Governmental authorities became concerned with the LSD culture. In 1966, Congress held hearings, partially due to reports of LSD-induced psychiatric breakdowns. The Congressional committees heard a lot of testimony regarding the dangers of the drug. As a result, LSD was made illegal and possession and distribution was criminalized. Nevertheless, or because of this, the use of LSD by members of the counterculture increased even more. (Farber, pp. 31-36)

Hippies were described in the July 1967 Time Magazine cover article as “…a wholly new subculture, a bizarre permutation of the middle class ethos.” (Anderson, p. 170.) Hippies made their appearance in Haight-Ashbury in 1965. They “dressed in anything unusual”; they wore beads and bells; they attended “happenings”; they listened to “head” music; and, they used LSD and marijuana. (Anderson, Id.) Throughout 1966, more and more young people moved to “the Haight” to partake in the “scene.”

One of the initial manifestations of the hippie culture, “The First Human Be-In”, took place on January 14, 1967 in San Francisco. It was promoted as a whole new way of life: “The spiritual revolution will be manifest and proven. In unity, we will shower the country with waves of ecstasy and purification. Fear will be washed away; ignorance will be exposed to sunlight; profits and empire will lie dying on deserted beaches.” (Braunstein and Doyle, Peter Braunstein, Forever Young, p. 250; Anderson, pp. 172-173.) Twenty thousand people dressed in buckskin, fringe, saris, priest’s cloaks, togas, ancestral velvets, Arabian desert robes and other strange attire. They showed up to “drop acid” and listen to bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. (Id.) The media had a field day with this event, and the sensationalizing of the experience helped draw even more young people from around the country to San Francisco and other “hippie” areas such as the East Village in New York. (Braunstein, p. 261.)

The hordes of young people that came to Haight-Ashbury (and the resultant tourism boom by people who wanted to watch) led to the 1967 “Summer of Love.” The Summer of Love “featured scores of young would-be hippies, many of them confused runaways, victimized by unscrupulous drug dealers, crammed in overpopulated hippie communes, harassed by police and municipal authorities and objectified by commercialization and tourism meant to capitalize on the hippie phenomenon.” (Id.)