Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Looking for The Summer of Love in San Francisco, Cal.

A circular fountain outside the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Expo Park near Figueroa & Exposition Boulevard is very much enjoyed by the local pigeons.  At the base is an easy-to-miss marker that points in the direction of San Francisco:

The Summer of Love,  50 Years Later

The country can now reflect back 50 years to the "Summer of Love" (SOL) the counter culture movement's climactic year of 1967 - a convergence to San Francisco of tens of thousands of disenchanted, rebellious, or adventure-seeking youth.  L.A. Times writer Patt Morrison interviewed William Schnabel's time there. 

Countless events  to commemorate the 50th anniversary emanate heavily out of San Francisco, and other cities are also doing their part.

At City Hall, the SF Arts Commission exhibited Jim Marshall photographs of the SOL.  This project was implemented early - on view beginning January 26th and already ended on June 23rd when other city events were barely getting started. 

The California Historical Society, headquartered in San Francisco is holding a photograph exhibition, too:

The city's Museum of African Diaspora offers a deeper examination of the Jimi Hendrix persona and the impact of Black artists.

The most ambitious exhibition to SOL is at the de Young Museum at Golden Gate Park.  More on the exhibition later in this post.

Nearby Marin County and the Bay area cities of Lafayette and Vallejo organized concerts and fairs. 

The big feature was the Monterey International Pop Festival held the exact three days as was in 1967.  A previous post touched on the hippie era of the mid-1960s, a time when this historic music festival transformed unknowns into household names:  Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and others.  The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opened "Monterey International Pop Festival:  Music, Love & Flowers, 1967" continuing through October, 2017.

Stanford University's music library offered an exhibit of seminal album covers.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, paid tribute with an exhibition focused on photography and graphic design of the era.

In London, the Royal Albert Hall organized an ambitious nod to the music legacy of SOL:


Historian Anthony Ashbolt wrote about SOL in a journal article "Go Ask Alice" (Australasian Journal of American Studies, December 2007).  The abstract offers a clear explanation of the expression "Summer of Love":

"In 1960s historiography today, the expression 'Summer of Love' is used in three senses. It refers generally to the explosion of psychedelic sounds, images and lifestyles in that decade. It is also code for the overall phenomenon of Haight-Ashbury between 1965 and 1968. Specifically, more accurately, it applies to the summer of 1967 in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. While the multiple meanings all carry weight, too often that first general sense of the Summer of Love shields a dialectic hope and despair behind a banner of optimism and dreams. To put it more bluntly, the hippie experiments of the 1960s were full of Utopian promise, while the Summer of Love actually spelled the end of that particular vision in Haight-Ashbury. This is a paradox rarely explored."

A corner at Haight & Ashbury, taken July 5, 2017

More Visuals In & Around the City, Summer, 2017

San Francisco bus shelters along Market Street displayed a series of contemporary art posters featuring personalities from SOL.  This blogger was only able to capture two of them.  It seems befitting that the gritty Market Street behold the posters, for all that the SOL offered, there was the bad - drug overdoses, sexually transmitted diseases, and physical assaults.

The BART advertised the following:

City boosters also offered three additional poster styles:

Japanese retailer Uniqlo celebrates a rainbow experience at their Powell Street store:

Rainbow-color lit stair steps in the interior store.  Photo courtesy of S. Uyeda

Tour companies, restaurants, and retailers around Fisherman's Wharf made a concerted promotional effort:

Note the peace symbol sourdough bread from Boudin's

Souvenirs for the 50th anniversary were few and not easy to find, - a couple of items were selling at stores between Ghirardelli's, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Boudin Bakery:

Tin of San Francisco Chocolate Factory chocolate drops and a relatively expensive commemorative shot glass
Venerable Buena Vista Restaurant offered this postcard and the button below

Further down the street, Madame Tussauds San Francisco displayed a quintessential psychedelic bus:

A mural inside a Mod Pizza establishment in suburban Daly City pay homage to the Seattle musician whose path to icon was ignited in the Bay area:

At the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

Among the plethora of offerings by San Francisco institutions, a major exhibition is ongoing at the de Young.  KQED Arts published a thoughtful critique of the show when it opened in April:

Their leaflet
Mock street signs of the famous intersection are displayed outside of the museum.
Photo courtesy of J. Loverme

Photo courtesy of J. Loverme

Many of the documents and artifacts in the exhibition are from de Young collections - the museum was already acquiring "Summer of Love" materials as early as 1972, if not earlier

Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick with Janis Joplin
The two musicians were first locally known in the Bay Area before their fame broadened

The Doors, an L.A. band, played the Bay Area

Singer Joan Baez and her sisters pictured in an anti-war and anti-draft commentary

Poster for concert fundraiser following the assassination of Reverend King, Jr.

The de Young Museum exhibited photographs in December, 1968 that explored the
African American community in San Francisco as well as Oakland's Black Panther Party

Jerry Garcia and members of the Grateful Dead in their neighborhood
Current Events

A couple of recent events resonate, against and for, respectively, the social activism underlying the Summer of Love from 50 years earlier:

James McCloughan was an Army Medic during the Vietnam War.  He was finally awarded a Medal of Honor at the end of July.  Long overdue, the honor bestowed recognition to his extreme bravery in saving injured soldiers while under active artillery attack in May of 1969.

A new feature film, Detroit, draws renewed attention to the rioting in that city that began July 23, 1967 and lasted until July 28th.  The unrest stemmed from the police arrest of African Americans who were celebrating the return from Vietnam of two friends.  Police brutality and the usual racial tensions escalated into one of the worst race riots in U.S. history.


The San Francisco Chronicle issued this commemorative soft-cover publication filled with Jim Marshall photographs.  This blogger's copy arrived in the mail recently.

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