A Summer of Love

The 1967 "Be-In" marked the climax of an emerging counterculture.

Allen Ginsberg. Timothy Leary. The Grateful Dead. These men were the links in the daisy chain of 1960s counterculture, the original hippies. Like Marx stewing away in the British Library, they were the vanguard of a movement of radical thought.

Not until later in the decade, however, when Ginsberg, Leary and the Dead gathered for a music festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, did suburban America realize the dimensions of the cultural rebellion.

In January of 1967, thousands of hippies heeded the blow of Beat poet Gary Snyder's conch and packed San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in the Be-In. Thus began the Summer of Love, in which young people from all over the country sought out the streets of San Francisco--the beating heart of the countercultural organism.

This summer was the culmination of years of countercultural experience. Still, the Summer of Love for much of the country--and for many members of the class of 1967--was the first moment of consciousness of the hippie movement.

Many class members say that Harvard was secluded from the radical flavor of the Bay Area. Going West to graduate school or to work, they stumbled on an unexpected whirlwind of cultural change.


"If you were playing in a rock-and-roll band and smoking marijuana and generally having a good time, you qualified," says Steven H. Atkinson '67, referring to the new hippie lifestyle.

To the silent majority that kept its grip on mainstream values, the kids in San Francisco were nihilists and dropouts, refusing to work a day job, pay taxes or serve in the military.

But hippies had developed an alternative set of values.

"In the working-class neighborhoods around Berkeley lived people who were doing everything people in Berkeley wanted to avoid," says Sandra C. Robertson '67, who studied Spanish at the University of California at Berkeley in the late years of the turbulent decade.

"They were working at miserable jobs," Robertson says, "paying taxes, strapped into these 50- week-a-year jobs, unhappy and drinking beer infront of their TV sets."

To the young people in Berkeley, adhering tothese cultural dictates was, if anything,irresponsible. Reared amidst the pain of the civilrights movement and the tragedy of the death ofJohn F. Kennedy '40, they felt the American systemhad failed.

"Don't vote," a bumper sticker of the era read."It only encourages them."

From the perspective of the young, world eventsover the next few years got progressively moreawful.

In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy '48 and MartinLuther King Jr. were assassinated. Troop levels inVietnam continued to rise.

Richard M. Nixon's ascendance to the presidencyseemed to symbolize a dramatic shift to the right.His call for law and order was a thinly veileddeclaration of war on war protesters and youngpeople experimenting with illicit drugs.

In retrospect, some recall the Summer of Loveas the last golden days of a decade of hope. Andin Berkeley, Calif., that hope took full flower.