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What I did in the '60s and later 

Hippies were the primary social group behind the 1960s cultural revolution in America, which is also called the 1960s youth revolution. But in Continental Europe, it's sometimes associated with the 1970s cultural revolution.

Two different spellings of "hippie" are used on this site i.e. the word "hippie" is also spelled "hippy". The spelling "hippy" is older, and it's rarely used, now. It was used in the 1960s as a noun refering to original hippies or old hippies. The most popular spelling today is "hippie", and it's used both as a verb and a noun in reference to all hippies.

The hippie movement was a peace and love movement at a time when families in the U.S. gathered in their living-rooms to watch cowboy movies on TV. It was a time of the Cold War, a nuclear threat, equal rights movement, sexual revolution, assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and the Vietnam War.

So, why from among 2% of American youth did I become a hippy? In the beginning, I didn't know that I was a hippy until I was called a hippy.

But before I go on... Hope you'll find this form of avant-garde blog style literature and Web art interesting, and that you won't mind the author's lack of formal literary skills. This is a personal website; not a book, in the formal meaning of the world. Hence, the informal and Blog style character.

So, to continue... I don't know why I became a hippy because I never really became one. It was just the way I was that defined me as a hippy. The main reason was probably because I was born in the middle of the 20th Century, at the beginning of the Atomic Age, and I was into Folk music, Jazz music, Blues music and also a Beatles fan. So, it was like the Karma of those times that turned a percentage of young people toward the peace movement, anti-nuke movement and sexual revolution, all of which were at the core of the hippie movement.

The oldest symbol associated with hippies is the peace sign. Even today, the peace sign is widely associated with the peace movement, human rights, and with hippies. It's one of those few signs that has retained its original symbolism. The Peace sign was used for the first time at anti-nuclear demonstrations in England. It was created in 1958 by Gerald Holtom for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in England, and quickly caught on among peace activists and hippies.

Peace sign

Few are aware that only about 2% of American youth participated in the hippie movement and that it wasn't such a mass movement before the Woodstock 1969 festival. I never chose to become a hippy. I was called a hippy by others, and got my hippy name "The Polish Hippy" from a Belgium friend in school. I became most widely recognized as a hippy after I was taken to a nearby barbershop by the school Principle/ Director and given a hair cut. My hippie name stayed with me until the end of the 1960s, and hardly anyone called me by any other name. In 1968, I even managed to write two articles about hippies for the school press.

Since then, other hippies have adopted that name on both continents; especially if they were of Polish ancestry. It's a unique name in that it refers to a specific nationality. The name spread through some 1960s media productions for some time; until that name was later removed in response to protests from the Polish Embassy in Washington, who took it as another insult.

I like to call those early days of hippies "the pure days". I was a Beatles fan, a fan of American folk music, Blues music, Allen Ginsberg, Beat writers and abstract avant-garde art, among other things. I suppose many Beatles fans began like I did, after the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and by following the other British bands that invaded America. The British music played by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, Led Zeppelin and many other bands was largely a transformation of Afro-American music. Those British artists also brought new fashions to America.

The main fashion that distinguished boys, who were Beatles fans was long hair styles and high heel boots, which replaces our traditional Converse sneakers, moccasins and loafers for a while. The artists from Great Britain looked like spoiled boys from good British homes. So in the beginning, it was a bit snobbish to imitate them. The new fashions from London were called Mod Fashions. They were lush, colorful, abstract and stood out in contrast to the toned down and conservative fashions of those days. And it wasn't until the 1960s that the bikini, and so called Swedish movies caught on in America, which became symbols of the sexual revolution.

Mod fashions from London gave rise to a more budget friendly and casual hippie styles called the hippie look. Towards the end of the 1960s, Bell-bottoms were introduced in California by a fashion designer. Today, they are widely associated with hippies and 1970s Disco culture.

So, one thing in Britain led to another in America, and other things were added to that. Thus, a hippy was born. The hippie movement was a pacifist movement at a time when most Americans were brought up on cowboy movies, wore neatly cut short hair, crew-cuts and used lots of brilliantine (Vitalis) to keep their hair in place. Hippies were a small minority in those days. Perhaps the exotic hippie worldviews and Bohemian type lifestyle didn't appeal to most hard working Americans. When I was a kid, I remembered seeing students with longer hair, sandals, guitars and bongos on trips across Europe and America with my family; especially around university campuses. Many of those were early beatniks and hipsters that preceded hippies. Many people identified with ideas spread by anti-Vietnam War and human rights movements. The hippie movement was so strongly connected with those that it ended almost at the same time that the Vietnam War ended; though many hippies continued to remain hippies at heart.

The hippie movement started in America but incorporated many ideas from other places and cultures. Hippies formed an informal political movement, and have been recognized as social reformists that changed the world. Many of those achievements are now taken for granted. As hippie ideas spread around the world, hippies became identified with different things in different parts of the globe. Unfortunatily, not all of those were as positive as those in the USA. European hippies were often involved in different issues then American hippies. For example, they didn't have to deal with the Vietnam War or the draft. They also traveled around the world a lot more, esp. to Asia and the Indian subcontinent, for example.

I was brought up in a cosmopolitan European family. An average American was not so cosmopolitan as we were. My Parents spoke Polish, German, Czech, English, and Latin. That was not too common among most Americans. My Dad was an businessman and a professional artist. Some members of my family were imprisoned in Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. Those and many other things had a great influence on my worldviews. So the life experiences and worldviews I was exposed to were different from those of most Americans. Hence, it was inevitable that I would support the peace movement and become a hippy because it was the only movement that shared ideas that were dear to me.

Beatniks, 1940s hipsters and hippies were urban subcultures that are strongly connected. They also are a continuation of the European libertine culture,
Wandervogles and bohemian scene. Hippies were most often young people from middle or upper class homes. But hippies weren't the only ones that wore long hair in the 1960s. There were other groups that wore long hair. Some of those were for example members of motorcycle clubs, vagabonds and beggars. And those were often mistaken for hippies. There were also earlier subculture groups such as Nature Boys, better known in pre-War Europe as Lebensreform that had an enormous influence on hippies. Furthermore, I was brought up on the spirit of the Lebensreform movement, which had many followers through out Europe and there were also some in America. Hence, probably another reason why I was labeled "a hippy".

Young and old hippies still are involved in issues such as ecology,
Peace, music, art, poetry, Internet technologies, social and political reforms, and many other things. Hippies are important social reformers. Allen Ginsberg and the Beats were also such reformers. Unlike some folks who may call themselves hippies, a true hippy would not own a gun or shoot an animal. Real hippies are Earth loving and peace loving people. Hippies lived the way they did because it was an alternative lifestyle to the mainstream model that was focused mainly on consumption, competition and topping others i.e. "keeping up with the Joneses". Today, many identify hippies with drugs, bubble baths, slacking and going to concerts. Much of that is true. But that's not the way it teally was. Hippies also drank wine and there were even some that didn't take bubble baths, who didn't take drugs and who didn't wear long hair.

From an old photo. 
Chicago 1967
The Blues Brothers 
at Calumet Harbor.
95th Street Bridge 
on Calumet River

I was camera shy in the 1960s. That's probably why I have just a few photos from those days. And none from Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter, Savoy Brown, Jethrol Tull and other concerts at the Fillmore or Grant Park in Chicago. Photos from a Jefferson Airplane concert in Grant Park are further down the page or in the 1960s album. I don't have any from Anti-War marches and demonstrations that were held in Chicago. But who took cameras to those kind of events in those days? So, I feel lucky to have the few I have. Chicagoís Old Town was the Midwest's 1960s hippie Mecca. It wasn't just a neighborhood but a state of mind. The Old Town neighborhood is centered around North and Wells Streets on the Near North Side. It has changed a lot since the sixties. Many may remember it for the Old Town School of Folk Music, Piper's Alley, 1960s folk music clubs such as Like Young, Earl Of Old Town, boutiques such as The Man At Ease, headshops, The Secondhand Rose, bookstores, cafes and the Second City Theatre at 1616 N. Wells that gave us the definitive Saturday Night Live cast, the Blues Brothers and Mike Myers aka. Wayn's World and Austin Powers. I believe Mike Myers well captures the Chicago area Rock spirit of mid 1970-80s in the Wayn's World series, and Mod fashions era in his Austin Powers movie series.
Mike Myers in Wayn's World and Austin Powers series movies 

Old Town was also where an illegal back-house tavern operated on Wells Street through the 1970-80s called The Blues Brothers Bar that was started by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, who became better known from the 1980 Blues Brothers movies.

Old Town was a place where one could come across many artists, writers, beatniks, flower children, folk musicians, hipsters, actors, groovy shops with black lights, dayglow posters, incense, rubber peace stamps, hippie beads, goods from India, water pipes, rolling papers and lots of other hippie paraphernalia.

I remember Old Town best for the parties, Piperís Alley, Folk Music Cafes that I couldn't afford to visit too often at that time, and Lincoln Park where hippies used to gathered on various occasions. There was also a lot going on at the University of Chicago Campus, The Coffeehouse on 54th Street in Hyde Park near the Museum of Science and Industry and also in Grant Park. But that would be another story..

But I grew up on the South East Side of Chicago, in a working class neighborhood, not far from where The Memorial Day massacre of 1937 took place at a steel mill on Burley Avenue. It was an event, in which many demonstrators were brutally beaten and shot dead by the Chicago Police. That was also a keystone event for the labor movement. It inspired any artists such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, who became involved in the labor movement. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Donovan and many others continued that mission through their works. The demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention began in Grant Part. They were also met with brutal Chicago Police force on orders of Mayer Richard J. Daley. That was followed by the trial of the Chicago Seven and gave birth to the Yippie Movement which was initiated by Abbie Hoffman in Chicago. My neighborhood was also the last place Mayer Richard J. Daley payed an official visit to on the day he died.

After the U.S. backed out of the Vietnam War, hippies lost their main cause and went their own separate ways. Some joind various other causes such as ecology, gay rights, civil rights, women's rights etc. Some turned on to the Glam Rock or Glitter Rock scene that was forming in New York, also the underground Disco Music scene of the early 1970s esp. in Chicago. Disco music grew around Motown and Soul music, which were very popular during the hippie era. But its characteristic rhythm and beat came from the classic soul/disco song by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes called "The Love I Lost" and others such as "Love Boat" by Earl Young from Philadelphia in the late 1960s. The disco scene was gay, colorful and psychedelic. Chicago developed its own disco music style that is called House Music, and which spread to discos in Detroit and New York. House Music also influenced European Techno music; especially became popular in Amsterdam and in Berlin.

The early 1970s was a happier time when hippies achieved many of their goals. That's why I believe the 1970s was a time of celebration, dancing and overindulging. Just as the hippies scene approached its end, I got introduced to a different type of music scene by a friend from a younger generation; mainly to David Bowie, Elton John and to Disco music.

The early Disco music scene was interesting because it was colorful, happy, united Afro-Americans, Latinos, gays and others from a diverse cultural backgrounds. In the beginning it was a movement that started in underground clubs and bars often located in or near former hippie centers of Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

One of such early Chicago discos was Dugan's Bistro also called Bistro Chicago at 420 N. Dearborn Street. Other clubs like that opened around what is now known as the Boystown neighborhood. Disco clubs and bars also opened in Chicago's Old Town on Wells Street near Schiller Str. So, one could say that "Sex, drugs and Rock & Roll" of the 1960s was replaced with "Sex, drugs and Disco" in the 1970s.

Click HERE to learn more

The Disco music scene didn't last for long; especially after Hollywood movies popularized it among the mainstream. It literally burned itself out just before the dawn of the 1980s when disco records were burned at the home of the Chicago White Sox baseball team in Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979.

The Disco Demolition Night was organized by a Chicago radio DJ. Though similar events were held elsewhere against Rock & Roll music in the 1950s, and The Beatles' vinyl records in 1960s, none had the impact the Disco Demolition Night had on disco music. And in spite of all those - the free spirit of the 1950s Rock-N-Roll, 1960-70s hippies and peace and liberation movements continued to rock on into the 1980s. The free spirit of the hippies gave rise to Punk music, and Punk music opened the door for Nirvana, who opened the doors for bands like Offspring. That's more or less how things evolved till at least the end of 2000s.

The 1980s was a bleak decade marked by the spread of the HIV virus, economic problems, oil crises, unemployment and other issues. Not until the 1990s did I realize how important the hippie movement was for the formation of modern music, art, lifestyles, worldviews, technologies, ecological awareness and spiritual development. That's also when I became encouraged to create this Web site...

Here is a well written and very informative article from 1967 that was published in The Atlantic, which shows a different side of the Flower Children in San Francisco, and the various social complexities involved.

Many hippies were runaways attracted to the bay area through media publications and music. So, one can't expect anyone who's without an income or a home to dress in clean clothes or Mod fashions from trendy boutiques. There were many efforts made to help hippies with things like free food, clothes, medical care etc. But those were not enough to meet the needs of most hippies because they were not available everywhere.

What I call the "pure hippie years" were just a few years in America before the hippie movement reached its peak in 1969. After that, followed a decline of the pure hippie years as millions wanted to join the new fad. What lasted just a few groovy years had an enormous affect on many decades that followed; if not for centuries. It was a time when the great creative force that lays dormant at the base of everyone's deepest existence was unleashed. A rare time in human history that rarely occurs.

Though it's easier said then done, my advise is, if you have a good thing going then don't over advertise it, don't flaunt it and don't make Hollywood type movies about it; unless if there are some vital issues involved that are crying out for change.

My friends at a Jefferson Airplane Concert in Grant Park, 1969. 
Later next year, some of those friends went to Woodstock in an old Cadillac hertz 
that was shown in the Woodstock 1969 Movie. 

My Cousins had a great basement band in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1965. 
The were the warm up band for The Rolling Stones' Concert in Milwaukee.
They also showed them around town in their red Thunderbird convertable. 

Me and an old hippy friend from Chicago's Old Town and Near North Side, 1974.

Some photos from my 1969 trip 
from Montreal to the Old Continent. 

I took this photo on the Atlantic Ocean in 1970 on my way back to Montreal, Canada

In the summer of 1969, I traveled to Europe by sea and stayed there for about half a year. That experience helped me become more cosmopolitan as it opened my eyes on a totally different type of reality. But I missed a chance to go to the Woodstock Festival with my friends from Chicago that wanted me to go there with them in their used Cadillac Flower Car, which I think I saw in a Woodstock documentary film. So, I missed the 3 days of sliding in the mud and all of those great people and music. Who would have guessed at that time that it would turn out to be such an important and historic event? Even the organizers expected no more then 50,000 people to show up at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969. Surprisingly, 400,000 people showed up, and the Festival turned out to be the most successful one of all time. But if not for the royalties from documentary films that the organizers received, the Festival was a total financial disaster; artists had to be paid in advance and bills had to be paid...

But I spent that historic summer traveling instead. I went to Canada, England, Denmark, Poland, and The Netherlands (Holland). Read about The Netherlands here. That trip was very educational and opened my mind in many ways. It certainly wasn't a pleasure ride because I was running from the draft, was broke most of the time, far away from my family, and home in Chicago. The worst experience I had gone through was in Poland, behind the Iron Curtain where I was kept on the border for hours, had my luggage searched and had many of my personal belongings confiscated by a crooked Customs Officer. That first experience was shocking for me, and made a negative impression of Poland for me, which lasted for many years. After all that, I was made to pay a ridiculous costumes tax on my vinyl records and clothes, which they allowed me to bring into their fricken communist country. All this probably because the officer found a Peace button, a round rubber stamp with a Peace sign, and some Zig-Zag rolling papers in my luggage. Fortunately, the rolling papers, my beads from India, and an original roach clip were not confiscated, and I still have them. I've kept them so long because they remind me of those old hippie days, and of Chicago's Old Town where I bought them in head shops.

It was a year after a wave of 1968 student protests in Japan, Germany, France, America and across the world. It was also a year after the January, and March 1968 student protests in Poland, which I didn't know about, at that time. So, I wasn't aware of what I was getting into. But I didn't find hippies in Poland; though it was one of the countries that Allen Ginsberg used to visit; especially after he was kicked out of Russia because of his gay affair with a young Russian. But many years later, on another visit to that country I met some people in Poland, who knew Allen Ginsberg. I even saw him once sitting in an outside cafe at the Warsaw Old Town square, where I was staying in the 1990s. So, that was really groovy, man.

Life behind the Iron Curtain was like stepping into a time-warp and traveling decades back in time. But in spite of the initial bad experiences, life there wasn't as bad as most people believed. It certainly was very budget friendly and relatively safe. I'd be unable to compare it to any place in the world other then India, if you know what I mean. But this was in the center of Europe, and a great place to kick back, to do Yoga, meditate, taste some vodka and repair the condition, in which my condition was in.

By the time I arrived in Poland, I had developed a serious case of anemia and heart arrhythmia probably due to stress and a bad diet. But that's another story... The good news is that I was as good as new after just a few months.

I was also subjected to a mass of communist propaganda while I was there, which gave me an opportunity to learned a bit about Marxism. I found that it had nothing to do with the Marx Brothers or Marks & Spencer. But best thing was that my modest budget went a long way behind the Iron Curtain, which was very important no matter what ideology one follows.

Thought I adhere to socialism such as they have in Scandinavia, Germany or The Netherlands, I never sympathized with communism because freedom is my religion. But freedom too has its limits. That's why hippies have always been against oppression, dictators, violence, war, aggression, hurting others, dishonesty and things like that. Hope you understand what I mean...

Here's a piece of music I recorded inspired by those times.

A photo of a street in London 1970

As I mentioned earlier, I'm against communism. I've learned enough about Karol Marx to understand that he too would have been against communism that we have seen in the world. There is a world of difference between communism and socialism. Generally speaking, all of modern-day Europe is socialistic, and sooner or later the USA will also be there.

Just like democracy, socialism is not a new system. It's been around in one form or another since ancient times. But Marx was the man, who reinvented socialism for the industrial era, and wrote extensively about it. He was a romantic, who believed that the working class should have social benefits and more time to enjoy music, art and culture. And he certainly lived well enough in England to do all those.

Marx was greatly influenced by Adam Smith, a well known 19-century Scottish Economist. Marx believed in globalization and that socialism was for highly developed, highly industrialized capitalist countries. He did not recommend socialism for developing countries like for example Russia, China, Poland or India. That's probably why it failed so badly behind the Iron Curtain. On the other hand, socialism is now widespread throughout Europe, especially in Germany, The Netherlands (Holland), England, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden etc. What they had behind the Iron Curtain was not socialism but communism. But that would be another long story. So, please don't confuse socialism with communism.

Yes, the 1960s altered the course of our lives forever...

On a tram stop at Al. Jerozolimskie & Nowy Swiat 
in Warsaw, Poland 1969

A residential street in London 1970 

A monument I saw in Rotterdam, 
Netherlands 1970

Copenhagen, Denmark 1970

Faded old photo from Budapest, Hungary

Faded old photo from Budapest, Hungary

One of the other American guys 
I crossed the Atlantic Ocean with

On a ship entering Montreal, 
Canada 1970 

Cover of Newsweek, December 15, 1980

The fall of the Berlin Wall began with 
the Solidarity Movement in Poland. 

Family friend at Pipers Alley in Chicago's Old Town, 1968

The Peace Movement was over by the mid 1970s, underground FM radio stations turned into mainstream commercial stations, head shops closed, and so called hippie neighborhoods turned into popular tourist traps. The War was over. Lennon got married, the Beatles broke up, and the 1960s Peace Movement was over. Many hippies returned home, graduated, got jobs, married, joined political parties, climbed up the social ranks of the decked out world, became successful, joined the Rotary Club, became the establishment and turned into Yuppies (Young Urban Professionals), and as Donovan used to sing "hippies are going to make it rich..." some became billionaires. But not all became rich and successful. Though many of us may not look like hippies any more, many of us remain hippies at heart. So, keep on truckin' hippies... and keep the faith...

So, the lesson here was that everything, no matter how original and seemingly uninfluenced, has its roots somewhere, in other things that often were more rudimentary, and often improvised in the past. In other words, what we call "reality" is an expansion of consciousness over the space of many generations in time. As we've grown more technologically advanced, we've become dependent on technology and grown more ignorant of the many basic things that were obvious to our ancestors.

We don't need stone circles and their magi to tell us what time it is or what season it is, or what tomorrow's weather may be like etc., for example. Everybody these-days is an expert in telling time. We understand many complex things that would amaze the most learned ancients. But on the other hand, we are often ignorant of the many basic things that were obvious to them. That's why so many seek ancient wisdom and have a need to get back "down to earth" for at least a while. And the hippie movement offers such a chance for urban hippies to experience life in closer harmony with nature and the natural rhythm of life.



Family friends at Pipers Alley in Chicago's Old Town 1968 

On the next pages are some photos that were altered for a psychedelic effect. 
On page 4 are a few words about '60s fashions, and a link to my '60s photo album.

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