Where would you be if weren’t for the ‘60s? What if you grew up in the ‘50s and didn’t fit into the rigid world of your parents?
Imagine it. In 1962, you’re 21 years old, and while your friends are planning their weddings, you are confined to a mental hospital. After many shock treatments you are released to your parents custody. Then there are more doctors, more medication.
By the mid ’60s, your body rebels, your mind rebels. You have a son as a single unmarried woman, and you live on Page Street in the heart of Haight-Ashbury. Because it’s the ’60s you can walk down Haight Street spaced out, and the guys just say, “Leave her alone. She’s on her own high.”
It’s the beginning of the hippie era, and the tight conventions of middle class America are being challenged. The ten-block area between Stanyon and Fillmore Streets is filled with people like you, looking for a new order, a new way to function in the world. You belong to a young generation that doesn’t believe in leading boring, predictable lives. You want love to rule the world.
You don’t know it, but these young people—often wearing expensive trench coats with their hands outstretched chanting, “Spare change, got some spare change lady?”—are like you—miserable, lost, and so wanting to find a way in the world. There is an order to this world: who has the dope, who’s going to give it out, who’s making money from it, who’s going to start a hash shop or sell bell-bottoms. There is the order of the Diggers, trying to save poor people by giving out free food. Sometimes, the Diggers steal the food from the supermarkets, but always with the intention of giving it out to the real needy.
The ’60s give you permission to keep your son without the convention of marriage, to let him be raised in a communal household, to defy the ’50s mores like sending your son to school or making him wear shoes. You don’t have to be a conventional family with a mother and father. You didn’t get a diamond ring and you didn’t buy a suburban house, but because it’s the ’60s and the others are inhaling and being cool, you can walk through the world screaming with memories, holding on for dear life, and you are not an outcast.
You can go to welding school and get hired at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in San Francisco and Bellingham Shipyard. You can be a welder even though you are a woman, and you can find a way to heal your insides from the dark basement of your soul. Because of the ’60s, you find a better way, or at least you think it’s better, because there are so many others like you on this path who deeply believe in the values of the ’60s.