Sunday, July 4, 2010

MEMORIES OF THE 60's

image from broadwayworld.com
and to think we thought their hair was LONG back then!!

In the 60's, I was living in then-small-town-Kelowna, full of orchards and small town people, sleepy streets fragrant with blooms, on the night air the sound of the lapping of lake ripples. I attended a Catholic high school run by militant nuns, who convinced us we could go to hell for the contents of our thoughts. Those nuns didnt know it, but they were the greatest producer of wide-open-thinkers, alternative lifestyle folk and rebels anyone could possibly have devised! We emerged from school straight into the counterculture, if we were lucky!

Meanwhile we went to Mass every Sunday, dressed in crinolines, frilly cotton dresses, wide-brimmed sailor hats and prim little wrist-length white gloves, which were immaculate, even if our souls were not. Nightly we slept on wire-and-bristle-toothed rollers designed by a sadist, so we could comb out pouffy curls in the morning.

"You've got to suffer to be beautiful," my mother often told me. Apparently. Ever since I stopped suffering, the reflection in the mirror has been rather frightening. I try not to look too close!

Our passage through adolescence was closely scrutinized by a gaggle of elderly lady friends of my grandma's, who lurked behind their parlour curtains and reported by phone if we were seen laughing too loud on the street (a transgression of which I was too often guilty), or, worse, Riding With Some Boy In a Car.

We had such things as Reputations to uphold. We were made to kneel down on the classroom floor to ensure that our skirts were modestly below the knee and not scandalously Above. Once there was an embarrassing announcement over the PA system that Some of the Girls were wearing skirts that were Too Short (I was one of them, it was halfway up my knee. I grew, so sue me!) and this needed to be remedied immediately at risk of suspension.

So I did not know anything about hippies, free love or alternative consciousness in the 60's. Drugs were something that happened far away in the ghettoes of New York. One girl was taken out of public school and sent to our school because, rumour had it, she was "fast", dating too much, possibly even drinking. This was shocking. She looked askance at our monitored existence, as out of place as a matron at a Sweet Sixteen party.

Since I was student body secretary, I was given the job of acclimatizing a boy newly-arrived from L.A. He looked like Fabian - exactly - and the entire female student body swooned as one at his appearance. Since everyone else wanted him, I did not, and handed him off within three minutes to the male vice-president of the student body. Always a rebel in reverse. Sigh. Likewise, when everyone else loved Elvis, and the Beatles, I refused to fall in line - until I left school and discovered the Beatles were fan-freaking-tastic. I STILL love the Beatles, especially John Lennon. I still cry when I listen to "Imagine".

Friday and Saturday nights it was exactly like Graffiti in Kelowna. Those of us out on dates in the cars of the day spent the evening driving up one side of the main drag, circling through the park, and trolling down the other side, Seeing and Being Seen. At the A&W, girls on roller skates served us at our windows. The cars, had we hung onto them, would have supported us in our old age. What does it mean when the cars we once went out on dates in are now antiques and one is still looking for Mr Right? Sheer blind optimism or a total failure to Accept One's Reality? Hee hee.

In those days, the boys' hair was all slicked back into ducktails with pompadours on top, redolent of some greasy hair oil. The cars always smelled of talcum powder and after shave.

Music was Bobby Curtola, Connie Francis, Johnny Mathis, Brenda Lee. One felt HOPE then, the possibility of romance in a future too glorious for words, once this tedious high school existence was over.

We were babies.

Romantic and simple songs of love and longing.....Blue Velvet, The Twelfth of Never, Misty, I'm Sorry.........we had a call-in radio program after school for requests, which we would make via a hand-written note put in the box for such purpose down at the station. (We WALKED there, and to school. What a concept! Being driven anywhere by adults was beyond our experience, it didnt happen.) The local tv channel, limited in scope, hosted a Saturday afternoon dance party at which some of us more show-offy dancers would sometimes earn a moment of glory when all the other dancers would fall back and form a circle around us, watching as we swing-danced for a few heady bars. Glorious. I loved to dance.

It was an innocent time, bright with the shiny dreams of a future we longed to inhabit. We were surrounded by strict standards, by small-town mores, by conventions and expectations there was no question we were expected to meet. No possibility of defiance, of not complying. I was unhappy, but I got through it and was likely better able to function in the real world later, for the discipline and the utter lack of coddling.

I never actually got to be a hippy. Soon after high school I was married and, in the early 70's, was living in Vancouver on 3rd avenue with a husband and three small children, watching with longing and admiration the gloriously free and unencumbered hippy population, resplendent beings with long hair, beards and flowing clothing, and Identities (I sadly lacked one then), smilingly perambulating the length of Fourth Avenue. One block and an entire universe away from my fettered and restrictive life.

I have always been drawn to, admired and watched alternative lifestyle folk. In my soul, I am right there with them. But with three, and then four, children to feed and clothe, by then as a single mother, I had to observe such conventions as gainful employment and responsibility for their burgeoning lives.

But my heart was always with the free people, it reached to the wider world, it soared above limitation and the run-of-the-mill on the wings of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, who first encouraged me to fly. In the 80's, back in Kelowna to raise my children, I found a coffeehouse full of gentle folk, and there my heart began to flower, after incarceration in a long Siberian winter.

I continued to grow until I made the leap to Tofino, in 1989, where I found the counter-culture still alive and well, some of the luckier refugees from the 60's having lived there blissfully all this time. Finally, I was at home among my people.

My whole life I have wanted to be a hippy, without having the full card-carrying freedom to actually be one. My mind is wide enough, but life circumstances have always forced me to shoulder the load and be somewhat more circumspect, straddling two worlds, of necessity putting my responsibilities before my heart's desire. Plus I have never done a single drug in my life; that aspect of hippydom has never appealed to me.

The 60's evoke for me a dreaming innocent time when I yearned for love, longed for the life that would be mine. I didnt get the life I dreamed of, but the one I got moulded me, tempered me, battered me, and forged me, child of the 60's, ever a blue sky dreamer, held fast to the earth with human hands.


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