Come to the Summer of Love! We have “a nightmare of frustration, anger, disillusionment, despair, racial conflict, and disease swirling about Haight Street, turning it into a tension-filled area simmering with hostility. Fights, holdups, muggings, and rapes are common. Youngsters stand in doorways and whisper their offers of sale to passers-by. The home of the flower children and refuge of youth has become a magnet for hate.” (Daniels 63). I’m sorry, were you looking for unity and community? Peace and love? Good LSD? Welcoming citizens? Free life and love? Well, sorry but you are a little bit too late. You should have visited the Haight before the Summer of Love.
The Haight Ashbury is no longer a utopia. It has become a place full of hate, hopelessness, despair, and the muse for many Hippies’ nightmares. There was no longer peace, love, free life, or community like when it started. The lives in the Haight began to be characterized by greed, ignorance, drug abuse, violence, and closed-mindedness… Scott McKenzie gave the country a heads up to wear flowers in their hair when they came to San Francisco, for the Summer of Love. But, instead of telling the newcomers what they should have brought, it would have been more effective to tell them what they should not have brought. With the Summer of Love came: a plethora of homeless youth, heroin and other bad drugs, consumerism, murder, and other criminal acts. All of these murky factors caused by the Summer of Love led to the demise of the Haight Ashbury’s vision of a utopian society and ultimately the Hippie disbandment.
For decades, the Summer of Love has been falsely depicted. There was no love, or anything lovely about that summer. Bodroghkozy, the author of Groove Tube discusses how she was fascinated by the Hippies she saw on television when she was a child. She always dressed up as a Hippie for Halloween with flowers in her hair, bellbottoms, weird boots, and other stereotypical hippie characteristics. She wanted to be a Hippie, dress like them, and live like them. But, during the Summer of Love, in a hippie city in Canada, when she got to see her heroes in person, she was distraught and she changed her mind about it being her future. The Hippies she had been seeing on television were not Hippies. She says: “What image of Hippies was I trying to emulate? I recognize the only Hippies I encountered on a regular basis came from our family’s unreliable Magnavox color television set. My Hippies were TV Hippies” (2).
What the author is saying is incredibly prominent because it shows how the media has warped our beliefs of reality. They gave us a false representation of the true Hippie and the true Summer of Love. The Summer of Love, during it and now decades after it, was falsely portrayed. It was not a happy time. It was a scary time to be in the Haight Ashbury. People who did not experience the Summer of Love have been falsely educated by television. People see the Summer of Love as this peaceful, uniting time for the Hippie community. Some people even believe it was a concert like Woodstock. Like journalist Selvin said, “The mythology of that summer in 1967 has never disappeared. The San Francisco hippie, dancing in Golden Gate Park with long hair flowing, has become as much of an enduring American archetype as the gunfighters and cowboys who roamed the Wild West.” (1). The Summer of Love was not harmonic or a concert, it was a horrid disaster. The truth about this disaster deserves to be reported, that is why it is important for participants of that summer and researchers to document the true accounts of the Summer of Love.
One killer of the community was hard drugs. A popular drug during the Summer of Love was heroin. After marijuana became scarce, the people began to turn to heroin. People were dying from it and for it. People were overdosing. People were dying from the symptoms and consequences of the drugs. Heroin and meth created drug abuse. After the police began to criminalize marijuana use, the community began using heroin and crystal meth. These are both two highly addictive drugs. The drugs created problems for citizens. The drugs “ravaged the district causing sickness, appetite suppression, and malnutrition.” (Montanarelli 257).
The impacts these drugs had on a person’s health were deadly. People were sick, starving, lost, and addicted. The drug abuse even led to Hepatitis C in the community because people were sharing needles. The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic tended to the many sick and addicted drug users. They aided those who contracted Hepatitis C and also those who were suffering from the terrifying side effects of heroin and meth. There were “five times more drug abuse cases at the hospital” (Bodroghkozy 255). The Free Clinic was very busy during the Summer of Love because of the drugs. People were taken care of, but the unlucky died from the drugs whether it was from overdose or from the terrifying side effects. The San Francisco General Hospital even tended to some of the heroin and meth abusers from the Haight. Their “drug abuse cases increased from 150 to 750” during the Summer of Love (Bodroghkozy 256). Many of the Haight residents were suffering from drug problems and filling up the hospital and the free clinic. It extended from simply drug abuse to destroying their immune systems, their brains, their lives, and their community.
The drugs even led to murder. The heroin did not just create drug abuse amongst the users, it created drug wars between the sellers. There were several murders of drug dealers. Included in the murders were the murders of two prominent drug dealers during the Summer of Love. Drug dealer Superspade was murdered. Drug dealer John Kent “Shob” Carter was brutally murdered. The killer “cut Carter’s hand off his corpse, because he had handcuffed his money briefcase to it” (Montanarelli 210). How did such a peaceful community possess the hands to commit such heinous acts? The non-violent society even began carrying guns because it was so dangerous once everyone was on hard drugs. It is completely absurd for a peace-filled city to have murder occur. It is even more absurd that people began to carry guns because the streets and their peers were no longer safe. People were afraid to stay in the city. It was no longer the same city it was before the Summer of Love. The streets of Haight were tense and aggressive. It became dangerous and filled with murder.
Murder was not the only crime occurring. Rape was another prevalent crime in the neighborhood. There were many occurrences where girls were raped. Many of the rape victims were underage girls who left home and came to the Haight. There was lots of sexual violence among the visitors. People were even selling their girlfriend’s bodies to horny men for drugs or money. One of the reported cases of rape was the raping of a young girl on the streets. The girl was only sixteen and she was drugged and gang-raped by a vicious group of men. The girl was one of the newcomers to the Haight. About the rape, the neighborhood said: “rape is as common as bullshit on Haight Street” (Bodroghkozy 256). Rape occurred so much it was not even taken seriously in the neighborhood. People were immune to it. They went on about their day. They possessed no shock to the leaflet with the rape news that was passed around Haight Ashbury.
Overcrowding was another issue existing in the Haight. “The integrity of the Haight was becoming threatened by the hordes of transient young people drawn by the media hype about the Haight and the Summer of Love… To live in the Haight was to meet masses of people all the time, endless masses” (Morgan 183). There were over 100,000 youth who went to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood for the Summer of Love. There were even tour buses bringing people to the neighborhood for the Summer of Love. Media was advertising the neighborhood and causing many youth to run to the Haight community. A lot of physical space was being occupied in one neighborhood. It was not in the whole city, it was all smashed into one neighborhood. Because there were so many people and the city was hounding them for having this event, there was no way to provide housing for all of the youth who came to the neighborhood. Many people were living on the streets. There was a lot of homeless youth during the time. The overcrowding had a strong impact on the neighborhood. It was too much to handle. There was not enough space. There was not enough housing. There was not enough resources. The large population destroyed the neighborhood.
And, along with the overcrowding issue was the type of people who came to the Haight for the Summer of Love. The Hippies were unsatisfied with the people who came for the Summer of Love. Author Baers says: “They had bad teeth and acne scars and it was easy to see why they hadn’t been voted homecoming king or queen back in Oshkosh or Biloxi or wherever they’d come from. They were rejects; they’d come here because they were losers, and while that had a certain Christian appropriateness, it was not what the Council for the Summer of Love had expected” (289). It extends beyond looks why the Hippies were dissatisfied with their visitors. What their distaste sparks from is their desire for visitors who share their vision of this utopian society. What they got was a bunch of youth who just wanted to run away from home and be free of structure. A lot of them were kids who had run away from home. They had no true political or social agenda. They just wanted to get high and party. They wanted people to come to the Summer of Love and thrive towards change and establishing this utopia with the rest of the Haight community. But, all that happened was that they got a bunch of visitors who came to their city and overcrowded it and added to the number of barriers they had to try to work around to make their social and political dreams come alive.
With a lot of new people in the neighborhood, consumerism also began to dictate the town. The tourists, or visitors, began to be targets of stores. Like today’s San Francisco, shops realized they could make a profit off of visitors who came to Haight Ashbury during the Summer of Love. Author Morgan compares the tourists and businesses to “thousands of white plump rabbits surrounded by wounded coyotes” (185). These visitors were children, and they were innocent. But, they were violated with drugs, hungry businesses, and warped Hippie Philosophy. With the herds of youth in the neighborhood, people began to develop an appetite for money. “Entrepreneurs fed on the naiveté and the money of the middle class young, while corporate money moved into the rock scene, promoting the big star system” (Morgan 184). Stores began to make a profit off of the tourists, turning the neighborhood into a money-dictated community. Stores no longer were free, as they were when the hippie community first occupied Haight, or had the interest of the customers in mind, they just wanted the middle-class’ money. The hippies built this “free small town” but nothing was free anymore. There were no more free concerts. The neighborhood no longer practiced a free lifestyle. People were selling drugs, stealing, selling their girlfriends, and getting a quick buck however they could. This was not the Diggers’ philosophy. This was a different philosophy, a different Haight. It replaced the ideal Haight that was supposed to be comprised of freedom, love, peace, community, and the idea of free.
With all of these problems slithering around the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, the Hippies began to lose hope. Some even left the city and went to communes. They were encouraged to leave the Haight by leaders of the neighborhood. The Diggers even began to lose hope. The Diggers were a necessary group in the Haight. They were a group that did many positive things for the neighborhood like feeding the community, putting on events, and more, and they did them anonymously. They tried to turn the Haight into a free city. They “saw Haight Ashbury as potentially a money-free, non-capitalist society that is revolutionary” (Sinclair 208-209). They had free housing, free banks, free stores, free clinic, free food, free clothing, free church, free entertainment and music, free family events. They created a society where people could live properly for free, and, it was working just fine. They were able to travel, eat, have shelter, go to the doctor, go to church, have fun, get clothes, shop, and live without any money. But, their vision was burned down with the Summer of Love.
Author Hulktrans says: “The Diggers had had enough of the mass influx of willing sacrificial victims and their subsequent exploitation by the predators of the district” (90). Although the Diggers were a strong group who had been battling against the city and the police throughout their whole service, they were weak against the threatening problems that began to swim around the Haight. They were also outnumbered. They did remarkable things for the community, but there was only so long before they would have to leave it. When there’s only a small group of people fighting for something against an incredibly large group, it is impossible to win. When one is competing against the government, the police officers, drugs, lazy wannabe hippies, and elite San Francisco citizens they know they will lose. They did impactful, free, things while they were up and running, but they had to drop out of the war. There was no way for them to win. So, like many of the other Hippies, they eventually decided to move on from the Haight.
From the outside, Hippies are perceived as a dirty, lazy, high, rebellious, flower-wearing species. However, the Hippies were intelligent and so close to changing San Francisco, possibly even spreading to other cities, forever. If the Summer of Love did not occur the way it did, it would have been the iceberg that broke apart and reconstructed the city into the Hippie utopia. But, not just a hippie utopia, but a city for everyone that would run effectively and united and peacefully. Unfortunately, because of the occurrences in the Summer of Love, the hippies waved their white flag and surrendered from the war against the rest of the United States.
But, although the hippies may have surrendered they did not lose the war. All they simply did was surrender their name. Hippie lifestyle, fashion, beliefs, and practices exist all over the world. Journalist Selvin agrees with me. He says: “The rise of ’60s counterculture has had a significant impact on our culture today. The Summer of Love resonates in strip mall yoga classes, pop music, visual art, fashion, attitudes toward drugs, the personal computer revolution, and the current mad dash toward the greening of America. Some of the counterculture’s dreams came true” (1). The Hippies left the Haight and abandoned their name, but their practices and lives still exist in society. The Hippies won. They created a change in society. The change could have been even more dramatic if they did not have to abandon their community after the Summer of Love. But, even with the small amount of years they had, they have had a great impact on the world.
The Summer of Love was a nasty time for Hippies. It failed the neighborhood. People were murdered, people were addicted to high-risk drugs like heroin, people had to carry guns because the streets were no longer safe and welcoming, and the neighborhood was incredibly overflowed with Hippies and wannabes. If the Hippies never had the Summer of Love, they would probably still be in the Haight. There would probably be other communities like Haight. All of San Francisco would probably even be like Haight Ashbury, and probably all of New York. The Hippies were so close to overturning conformed and clean-cut society. But, there are only so many threats you can battle against before you have to turn away. All of those threats-outsiders, drugs, media, and violence-killed the Hippies’ vision. Like The Haight Ashbury is no longer a utopia, it is no longer the Hippies’ home, and it is no longer united and free… It was slowly slaughtered that Summer of 1967.