Friday, June 21, 2013

Recollection: Being in San Francisco in the 1960s - part 2

In late September 1961 I left my things with my roommate in the apartment at 1415 Larkin Street in the Nob Hill section of San Francisco and a few days later I boarded a Greyhound bus for Great Falls, Montana, to visit my boy-friend Patrick and his family.  We had met in France in late 1960, had seen each other on week-ends and taken a small trip to Brittany to the Mont St. Michel.  In the US, Patrick owned a 1939 Chevy Coupe and took me sightseeing around Great Falls.  I could appreciate why Montana is nicknamed the "Big Sky Country" as the sky there looked enormous.  I came back to San Francisco after a month but went there again for Christmas.  In both fall and winter the landscape was superb.  The top left picture was taken on our trip to Brittany, France, the rest are in Montana.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge, but keep in mind that these slides date back to 1961...)

As I mentioned in part 1 of this post, I found a job at the beginning of 1962.  In the spring of 1962 my roommate decided to leave the apartment and move in with her Japanese boyfriend.  I had met Patrick's sister in Great Falls and she decided to come to San Francisco and stay with me for a while and work.  We got along well and I was pleased for the company (she is in the collage below) and to share the $90 monthly rent.  Then in June of that year Patrick decided to finish his studies in San Francisco for his college degree and come and join me in July.  We choose to get married so we could live together - this was the 60s after all and our families would not have approved cohabitation.  We were married on 14 July 1962 at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.  Patrick's parents were Catholic and wished for us to have a religious wedding and my sponsors were hoping that an Armenian Orthodox priest would also be there - both a Catholic and Armenian priests were there that day.  I don't have a picture of the cathedral but just a vintage postcard, shown below.  We then rented a small apartment at 4170 17th Street in the Castro area of San Francisco.  I commuted to work on the K street car.

In the summer of 1963 we went back to Great Falls for vacation.  This time Patrick had gotten a large Cadillac from a friend - it was quite comfortable.  Patrick's parents also owned a small cabin in the mountains and from there we went to visit Glacier National Park.  Coming from Paris and having been to the seaside and other cities mostly, I was enthralled by the beauty of the mountains and the majesty of the landscape.  This was nature on an epic scale.

Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States.  It sits in the Rocky Mountain Range on the Continental Divide and borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.  All around us were alpine lakes, soaring peaks, wildlife, wildflowers and more.  We drove to Waterton as well.  On the way back we stopped in a "ghost town" - which was like walking back in time to the real west, indeed.

For the 14 of July 1964 an Eiffel Tower was erected in Union Square in San Francisco.  It was fun seeing it there, together with a French cafe and even an accordionist.

But Patrick and I were not getting along too well.  We had gone to a wedding and taken a nice portrait but then I went back to France to think.  My father who had been very upset about my leaving Paris was pleased to have me back and asked me to fly to Cairo, Egypt, to visit his sister, my aunt, all expenses paid.  I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks and had a great time in Heliopolis.  My cousins spoke Armenian, Arabic, French, English and German and could read the heliographic alphabet.  They took me to places where tourists did not go and read the writing for me on the ancient tombs.  Below is the portrait and pictures from Cairo.

I seriously thought about staying in Paris for good but Patrick and I had corresponded by mail while I was in France (there was no Skype, email or cell phones then) and we decided to try to patch things up.  I went back to San Francisco.  Patrick obtained his degree and went to the University of California in Berkeley to study for his Master's Degree - he moved into a single apartment near the university.  My best friend Virginia was also studying in Berkeley at the time, so I moved in with her, near Durant Avenue and attended the university part-time at night (I was still working.)  But, maybe because of the stress, I started to get sick.  I moved back to San Francisco and rented a studio on Hermann Street, near the U. S. Mint, to be closer to work, avoid the tiring commute and also be near my doctor.  I had to stay in bed for two weeks.  Luckily a friend from the office lived close by and brought me some food in the evenings.  By my husband and I filed for divorce (Patrick is below with a moustache now.)

I guess we both were to blame - we were very young, away from families, and with different temperaments and culture - misunderstandings were unavoidable.  Parting was not easy.  But it helped to live in beautiful San Francisco.  Below is an old slide from that time period (and it shows...)

Count your garden by the flowers
Never by the leaves that fall
Count your days by golden hours
Don't remember clouds at all.  (Anonymous

Fortunately I had made some good friends at work, like my best friend Vince Middione, who also lived close to my studio with his partner Garth, and was a divine cook.  Another friend from the SF Art Institute, George Smith (whose address I unfortunately lost) was cheerful and would go and drink coffee with me in the old Italian coffee houses on North Beach.  Another friend, Roland, was an artist and we enjoyed discussing art.  Mary Spears was quite funny and would crack me up constantly.  Friends helped me feel happy again.  From top going clockwise:  Roland, George and me, Mary Spears and Vince.

My studio was on 77 Hermann Street (building shown below) and was on the same hill as the U. S. Mint.  I had painted the kitchen blue.  I also had a pet bird, a parakeet, that I named Dimitrios (after the mystery "A Coffin for Dimitrios" by Eric Ambler.)  I had taught Dimi to speak, he would say "Hello! How are you?" and "Bon Appetit."

 Another friend from work, Jim, would also go on outings with George and me.  Once we went on a hike in Emigrant Basin.  We went by the Gianelli trailhead in the wilderness area.  The Emigrant Wilderness is part of Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada and offers outstanding scenery.  In 1852 it was used as a wagon route.  It borders Yosemite National Park.  It consists of granitic ridges, sparsely vegetated with small lakes and meadows.  It is about 140 miles (230 km) from San Francisco.  Below are George and Jim on the left and my slides from the Emigrant Basin.

Jim had an MG TF 1500 sport car and we would go to rock concerts in the Bay Area.  His friend, Marvin, was a close friend to several members of the group "Big Brother and the Holding Company" whose singer, Janis Joplin (1943-1970,) became a part in 1966.  Jim would go and visit Marvin where he would meet these musicians and also Janis.  I did not meet her but saw the group in several concerts.  I had many of the psychedelic posters advertizing these concerts (am not sure where they are now.)  Below are some of the posters, Jim and Leslie on the left, Janis Joplin and members of the band, Janis on the right and Jim's MG.

Jim had bought two 1930's leather pilot headgears to wear in his MG when he lowered the windshield, as you can see above.  When I wore the headgear I also placed a long white silk scarf around my neck that would float in the wind.  It was a lot of fun and people would smile at us on the road.  I still enjoyed listening to jazz and went to the San Francisco Opera but I bought many 33 LP albums of the rock groups from that era.  I gathered some below (some are collector items now.)

By then it was 1966 and the "Flower Children" were in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco.  I was not a "hippie" but I did believe in many of what they embraced: peace, love and freedom and be friends with everyone regardless of color, sex, faith, lifestyle and country of origin.  Both Jim and Leslie attended San Francisco State College where Steven Gaskin taught.  Actually, later on in 1970, Gaskin and his wife Ina May Gaskin would lead a caravan of 60 buses, trucks and van across country to speak and would end up buying land in Summertown, Tennessee and create a commune.  Leslie went with them and we visited him at The Farm several times in the last couple of years when we drove to Tennessee.  The Farm now is still going strong, but no longer as a commune but as a cooperative "intentional community."  I wrote a couple of posts on it, click on "Visiting our Friends from the 60s at The Farm."  Back in the days I would wear flowers in my hair sometimes, but they did not stay put too well.  Because of the wind I wore small scarf-type hats that I had sewn as you can see below where I am sitting near a little neighbor.  

So my friend Leslie became a full hippie, but not what people believe "hippies" were - untidy, dirty, unkempt and druggies.  He believed in the philosophy.  The youth then had more of a utopian view of society than they do now - the youth now are much more materialistic.  Society may look down on the hippie movement, but they have benefited from it.  You could not protest in public then without being arrested as Mario Savio was in Berkeley in 1964 - there was little public freedom of speech.  The hippies stressed recycling and they were considered freaks - humane treatment for animal? that was considered weird then by the general public - whole grains, organic (biologique in French) and natural food?  that was considered outlandish then but a healthy diet now.

How about clean water?  that was considered eccentric since people thought that there always would be clean water in the US, no need to talk about the environment, and if you did, you were an extremist.  It would have been better if society had listened more carefully to the hippies then to look at the problems we face now, but the hippie movement was also disorganized.  Other protests were against the Vietnam War.  Robert McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense at the time, confessed in his book of memoir "Retrospect" that the war had been futile and wrong, terribly wrong.  On April 15, 1967, a march called "Spring Mobilization to End the War" (MOBE) was held in San Francisco.  More than 100,000 people marched from Market Street to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park - people from all walks of life and families too.  There were performers at the stadium in the afternoon including Big Brother and the Holding Company,  Quicksilver Messenger Service, and an appearance from Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.  My friends and I marched.  I took many slides - below are some of them.

I am convinced that if we succumb to the temptation to use violence in our struggle for freedom, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to them will be a never-ending reign of chaos." - Martin L. King, Jr. 1957 (1929-1968.)

More to come in part 3.


betsy said...

A great read. Like a time capsule- I went to the Mobe in Washington, and was almost tossed out of nursing school for doing it!

Geo. said...

Oh my. I was there in 1967. You bring back memories. Tears too. I have tried to live my life by principles I embraced back then --a time internalized. My compliments to you, and my admiration!

Sally Wessely said...

You are a true child of the sixties. I loved this. You proved your resilience and adaptability in the time after your divorce. Vagabonde, keep the posts coming.

Rosaria Williams said...

What a beauty you were! You lived in the middle of the Free Speech Movement and the Hippie Movement. This post is rich with personal details that make history come alive.

GaynorB said...

WOW! I'm loving your journey so much. I can hardly wait for more.

Elephant's Child said...

Another WONDERFUL post - and I love and embrace wholeheartedly the quote you finish with. Such a wise man.
Thank you.

Ginnie said...

It's unbelievable, Vagabonde, that you have such a good memory and record of what all happened in your day "way back then." Fabulous.

Marja said...

Oh what an exciting view in another period of time and what an wonderful insight in a part of your life. I loved the hippy movement. I was born in the aftermath of it, but was quite intrigued. I loved Lennon and have many quotes of him.
I am also in awe by the beautiful places you went too. You must write a book!!

DJan said...

I have been enjoying Mad Men on TV because it brings the sixties to life again, just as you have here. What fabulous pictures and to know what your life was like back then is so wonderful, VB. Thank you so much for sharing it, and for the many pictures. :-)

Down by the sea said...

I loved reading this post. The mountain ranges look amazing and so do you. Look forward to the next installment!
Sarah x

Frances said...

Well dear Vagabonde, I have finally found the time to read this post and the one just before it, and loved every word and every picture.

For folks who did not live as young adults through those years, you've given a wonderful introduction to the fresh air and ideas, and challenges of those times.

How beautiful you are in those photos, and how beautiful you are now. How lucky I am to have have the joy of meeting you and Jim. Truly, I am so grateful that blogging did allow us to originally connect.

Nowadays, as in days and years of yore, there is much in the world that is sad, threatening, and even evil. Friendship is such a powerful force ...let's celebrate it.

I do look forward to your next post! xo

molly said...

The word "hippie" has fallen on hard times. Now, in California, "hippie" is a dirty word, because those who call themselves hippies are dirty and messy and have no regard for the sensibilities of others, whereas in the sixties and seventies, as you point out, they were the pioneers of the environmental movement, and popularized the notion of eating and growing organic foods; they were also the ones demonstrating for peace and against war. "Flowers in your hair" and all that goes with it is not such a bad way to live! Really enjoyed reading of all your adventures....

claude said...

Coucou !
Je passe vite pour te remercier de ton passage sur mon blog.
Je pars ce matin voir ma Maman dans sa belle Maison de Retraite, nous avons plus d'1 heure et demi de route.
Je repasserai donc plus tards lire ton post.
Oui c'est bien moi sur les 3 photos.
J'ai répondu sur mon blog.

Al said...

That's quite the story and treasure trove of old photos. I love those old albums, I have almost all of them on CD now (and on my music server in many cases). I'm looking forward to reading more!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

A Fascinating Chronicle of times gone by--And, the wonderful philosophy of that period...And that you took so many pictures of it all---AMAZING and truly wonderful! You were right there---on the cutting edge, as they say......I look forward to more, my dear....! This Was Just GREAT!

Vicki Lane said...

What a wonderful post! Chock full of the iconic moments of n era -- and so much more. You are surely the most well-traveled person I've ever known.

dritanje said...

More fascinating memories. It was such an important time, 60s and 70s and we knew the importance of what we were doing and how, or at least I did and my friends did. We knew the Vietnam war was wrong, and that it was right to care about others, and that material-only values were worthless. We knew that love, travel, music and the spirit within were what counted. And we still do. Thank you Vagabonde, et merci pour tous que tu as ecrit et j'espere de lire plus de tes souvenirs!

Magic Love Crow said...

A fantastic read and great pictures!!!

Arti said...

In the 60's I was in grade school in Hong Kong. But I knew about all the popular culture, the hippies, and all that through pop music... esp. the hit song "San Francisco". These posts are truly amazing, I mean, with your own personal photos and archives. I totally agree with you... youth during the 60's were ideological, now young people are materialistic. You have a fascinating personal history, thanks for sharing!

✿France✿ said...

Je passe te dire bonjour et j'espère que tu vas bien
je t'embrasse

Anonymous said...

My family and I did go to Glacier National Park. Our son, then before he was a teenager, showed us a handful of marvelous marbles. When I suggested they were droppings from elk, he dropped them in disgust. That had to be in the 1970s sometime but we were there before the road to the sky was open. And Montana does have a sky unlike any I have seen anywhere else in the world.

janinsanfran said...

This post is marvelous -- and I can just imagine the work it took to put the story together.

I was in that 1967 peace march to Kezar while still in college at Berkeley -- and I had those albums.

But what really moved me were your pictures from the mountains and parks. I am still (at 65) trying to get as high as I can; wandered into that bit of the Emigrant Wilderness one snowy spring day not 3 years ago, by myself. I'm still trying to get to Glacier ... still snowed in too much of the year. :-)

It's a delight to see your pictures -- I eschewed photography for many years and have hardly any from much of a complicated, widely diverse life.

David said...

Vagabonde, Yet another chapter in a very interesting life! I remember those big old cadillacs. One of my buddies had one but he always made me drive so he and his girlfriend(s) could have the backseat! I wish I had those Janis Joplin posters...very valuable now. I also have a bunch of 33 LP's tucked away...including Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five'. Speaking of communes...I have a cousin who has lived in and helped manage a commune in northern British Columbia for many, many years. Raised a big family too! Ah...the Vietnam War era. I had a temporary job with UC Berkeley back in 1968...That was a wild place. While I didn't favor the war, it was shameful about the way that our soldiers were treated upon their return. Most of them had been drafted and served because they had to...sad indeed. I know two vets who still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, I knew one who was killed by agent orange and I had another friend who eventually killed himself... Bad times indeed! I'm enjoying your story and am looking forward to your next chapter. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

BJM said...

Fascinating! I recognize some of the cars, places and recall the events of that time. B.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I loved reading part II. Goodness to have lived during this time. I wish time travel were possible. You should write a memoir :)

Jim said...

I loved this! A walk down memory lane for me. I too was protesting and marching but on the 'other' coast and in a different country....Canada!
It may have been disorganized but that counter-culture' set the perimeters for a lot of good change on social policy and not to forget....stopped that terrible war in Vietnam! And who can forget the passion of Janis.
Thanks for this.

claude said...

Ben dis moi, quelle vie !
Nous avons vu un bout du Montana en revenant du Wyoming avant de redescendre par l' Idaho. Nous avons vu de très beaux paysages.
J'ai traversé la période Hippie en tant qu'observatrice et ai été pour les manifs contre la guerre du Vietnam. J'en ai déjà parlé avec mon ami Larry. Il a fait 6 mois de préparation à la guerre, s'est battu 6 mois et a été hospitalisé 6 mois.
Intéressante ta vie, Vagabonde.
PS : je n'ai pas pu avoir la traduction aujourd'hui, beaucoup de mal à tout lire en anglais, mais j'ai compris quand même les grandes lignes. C'est un bon exercice pour moi.
Re bises.

Ruth said...

I am just stunned at the history you have participated in, and the breadth of your travels and experience. It's a privilege to witness through your vintage photos. All of them are wonderful, and the portraits are gorgeous.

Friko said...

Both parts are fascinating. How brave you were. So was I, actually.

And the hair styles, I looked very similar then. Fashions, hair styles, behaviour, jazz, everything you write about reminds me of myself at that time.

Except that you still have the photos and I don’t. I never took pictures. And, of course, you were in the US and I was in the UK.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, reading your posts about your earlier life is so satisfying. I found myself sighing at the end of this one as well as Part I when I read it last week. One of your readers commented that you need to write a book about all this. I agree. Peace.

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh, what wonderful glimpses of a life that seems quite idyllic at times, although of course there were bad times really. But it somehow makes me feel that in a way the sun was always shining.

Perpetua said...

Another truly fascinating post, Vagabonde. I love the mixture of personal and social history here and the way you have illustrated it so memorably from your own snapshots. You couldn't have chosen a more enthralling time to live in San Francisco. I can't wait for the next episode.

Unknown said...

"Recollections of a Vagabonde" has been included in the A Sunday Drive for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point even more new visitors in your direction.

Kay said...

What an incredible life you've led! I really admire your resilience and courage throughout your trials. You are so beautiful!

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