WISDOM Wednesday: The Hippie Elite©

A story by Malati Marlene Shinazy


I am among a select group of people who happened to graduate high school in and around San Francisco — and then attend one of theUniversity of California campuses in the northern part of the state — during a pivotal point in early Baby Boomer history. Those of us who attended UC Berkeley, UC Davis or UC Santa Cruz, had little idea we were at the epicenter of a time, space and energy vortex for an entire sub-generation. Unknowingly, we were theHippie Elite.

The oldest of boomers already graduated with their Bachelor-of-Something degrees and were deep into social/political movements or getting jobs or going to grad school.  Many of them were either fighting in the Vietnam War or fighting against the Vietnam War.

We were naïve but not neophytes to the massive social changes going on.  We made our statements from the position of uncomplicated and relatively protected lives. Half of our women friends burned their bras.  The other half didn’t wear them.  And, we all registered to vote, the moment we turned 18.

The City became an integral part of our higher education.  We’d hang out in The Haight just to have fun.  We were the ones who followed the first two Timothy Leary tenets, eschewing the third. We didn’t Drop Out.

Back at school, we attended lectures outside, stretched out on blankets, wrote research papers and made it to the Dean’s List.  We also celebrated the conception of Earth Day, became vegetarians and started recycling in earnest.  We chatted with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the founder of Transcendental Mediation), Hare Krishna devotees and members of the Black Panthers – all were on campus often.

We hitchhiked to Altamont, the West Coast version of Woodstock, and back to school again.  Many of us drove from campus to San Francisco on weekends to attend concerts at The Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland, or Avalon Ballroom.  We saw every band Bill Graham booked including:

  • The Grateful Dead
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Santana
  • Janis Joplin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • The Doors

During school breaks, some of us hitchhiked alone throughout Mexico and Central America without incident.  We felt safe; hitchhiking was just another accepted mode of transport.  Plus, we met other solo travelers, mostly Europeans, and learned first-hand about the cultures of the countries we visited. Riding hot, crowed busses with people and chickens for hours on end was just part of the journey.

Upon writing this story, I realize that being a member of the Hippie Elite is not about “our glory days.”  Living at that particular intersection of time and space was rich and full. It contributed to our adult worldviews and launched us into lives of continual discovery, expansion and personal responsibility. It contributed to the quality of how we express ourselves now as business people, doctors, attorneys, and parents. By a whim of birth date and location, we, the Hippie Elite were fortunate.

photo by teamstickergiant

11 Responses to WISDOM Wednesday: The Hippie Elite©

  1. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    We all enjoy hearing the stories triggered by the stories read.

    Leave a Comment sharing what you were doing during this snapshot in time.

    — mms

  2. Richeyrich Strassel

    When Wm Kuntsler and Jerry Rubin spoke at UCSB in 1969 on a cold overcast day the people who attended left the stadium resolute to take action against the Corporate/Military Complex and live by the Black Panther axiom: “Words are beautiful but actions are supreme”. We regrouped at Perfect Park in IslanVista , previously known as a beachside party town gerrymandered out of the Santa Barbara area , lest 10,000 voting students elect one of their own.
    Local students spoke and further revved up the energy of people to action. As a Sheriff’s cruiser slowly wrapped Del Norte Drive someone yelled out “off the pig ” and the crowd charged the sheriffs. The crowd surrounded the car yelling and and pounding the hood, the triune and the windows. The two officers inside we’re able to open the doors and fled on foot. The crowd cheered and jeered and then proceeded to flip the car and torch it. No fire engine came and Isla Vista was declared under Marshall Law. The melted glass and mettle lay testament on the main thorough fare of I.V. For all to see.
    Later that night the Bank of America was burned to the ground by street people who had been living on the side of it in a vacant lot. The peace movement had taken a new direction.

  3. In retrospect, it is amazing to think about how small that window in time was. I remember hearing about all those things, mostly from my older sister who was at UC Berkeley, By the time I graduated from high school, it was the early 70’s. Nixon was running for his second term, Vietnam was winding down, and disco was the new sound. Now, it kind of seems like we are all the same age, but it sure didn’t feel that way then.

    • Malati Marlene Shinazy

      Roberto- I’ve noticed the age differential shrinking too 🙂 – mms

  4. Bill Plummer

    I was at the opposite pole of this mental journey, graduating from high school in 1966 in a small town with very conservative and very Southern views. I only read about the events and times that Ms. Shinazy lived and hummed the words to “If you’re going…”. My sister opposed the war and I was in the Army. Would not change my upbringing but am now contented to live in California.

    • Malati Marlene Shinazy

      Bill – Both you and your sister, although in the South, reflected what was going on in many locations. — ms

  5. From Ben L., 5-17-12
    “Deeply enjoyed the memory of those early impressionalble days living in the Bay area and from 67 to 70. All of the good times at Filmore, Winterland etc. Filmore was almost an every night ritual. And of course the TM that came a little later. But found out I could not do both at the same time. All are great memories, but we must move on.”

  6. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    Hi Ben- Yes, I think we have moved on – mms

  7. Hi Malati. As a friend, colleague and contemporary, I’m going to risk being a little critical of this story. It’s poignant and gentle but I wanted more from it. What were your lessons learned? How, specifically, did Elite Hippiedom change the course of your life? Beyond some mutual reminiscing, how would you like me to be changed by the experience of reading the story?

    My own experience at the time was much more wrenching than yours seems to have been. I’m 1945 vintage, born and raised in Boston and was a college drop-out when I arrived in Berkeley in 1967. Although I was politically radical, I was deeply shocked by the culture of open sexuality, escape from everyday consciousness and what seemed to me to be uncritical opposition to authority of any kind. Within a year I had fled the drugs in my student house, helicopters flying overhead and the tear gas in the park for bucolic Sonoma County. There I found my own brand of Peace and Freedom. I raised my own food and my two sons, founded a bookstore, a Montessori school and a non-profit organization focused on helping people stay ahead of the growing influence of computers in business, education and communications.

    I came to California with the idea of studying intentional communities and found a plethora of examples up and down the West Coast. 45 years later I’m still finding little knots of people devoted to making deep changes for the better in the way we organize our societies. You are one of those people. I’d like to hear more about how and why you hope the world will be better because you were here.

  8. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    Liza – Thanks for the thoughtful comments & questions… Let’s discuss how we could create a forum for deeper discussions when we next meet. Hugs! –mms