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Learning About and Dealing With the '68 Hippy Clan and the "Squares"

Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.

Ozark Music Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, 1974.

Ozark Music Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, 1974.

In recent weeks I have been busy publishing segments, tidbits of my life in Hamilton, Ala., in 1968 when I first experienced, baptized rather, by the very few hippy influences who existed around me. Not that I was a prude. I knew about sex. I knew about illegal drugs and the dangers they posed. I lived in a bubble of fear--for my parents, my very conventional parents, God bless their hearts, loved me although I didn't hear 'I love you,' with a deep frequency. Some things I learned many years from then, need not be spoken.

Now I had absolutely no REAL friends who I could testify on a witness stand were REAL friends, but all the same, I admired them at a distance. These acquaintances I'll call them, paved the way, (pardon my Anti-Hippy term: work) for us in Small Town, Alabama, to have full 15-year-old lives, expand our minds (via education or hard drugs), but mostly, I just sat still in my wooden, imitation wood desk and said inwardly, man, how I wish that I could be like them. I was very serious. I had never belonged to (a) group anywhere I had been and I saw this, the '68 Hippies, as my door opening to an expanded life of social contacts, good friends, and great Rock Music.

The group (noun) "them" in the above statement were: my good friend, Vicky Mason and her bestie, Janet Armstrong, both wild when they reached junior high. The adjective, "wild," just meant that the two drank, danced, and enjoyed Rock Music of The Early 60s. Oh, I can share that Mason loved a good joint or two that later on, her boyfriend, the now-late, Al Wynn, a transfer student from Georgia, and one heck of a guitarist--introduced Mason to weed along with her older brother, Boody, and younger brother, Brooks. Let me give you the ending of "this" segment. Wynn, high as gasoline in 2016, one weekend was skiing and drown as Vicky and friends watched in slow dismay. Vicky straightened out (as old folks then said) and went to work with her future husband, a guy named Harry, and she, the last I heard, was an excellent bridge builder for the State of Alabama Dept. of Highway Construction.

I cannot continue unless there is a chance, although very slim, maybe Vicky is reading this narrative--the First piece that she has read and Vicky, just want you to know that I still love you although our pathways went a little piece from each other.

I remember sitting in one of my Study Periods and listening to the '68 Hippies: Hardwick Gregg, Birmingham, Ala., (he loved The Band); Bobby Johnson, whereabouts unknown, and me--the outsider who was yearning to be one of our early Hippy Movement. I could tell by their talk by the way they used the phrases: man, I dig it, far out and not my bag. But the one phrase my early Hippies used was, "Peace, man," and when one of these people would say this, they would shake their hair which was now long, and continue to walk that slow, Hippy Walk down the hallway to their next class. I have to be honest. Without me and other "squares," (watching me), I tried to mimmik them and nothing happened. I had felt that if I wanted to be "in" and well thought of, all that I had to do was match their talk and walk, and maybe wear a U.S. Army khaki shirt and I would have it made.

No. It was a long road to Hippydom for me. Turns out, a Mr. Charles Young, a retired Army vet, opened a U.S. Army Surplus Store in our hometown, Hamilton, and I was ready to shop. Or was it, I was ready to "make that scene?" Regardless of what I called the store, my mom who loved bargains, went with me to find out about some Army blankets that she bought. I slept underneath one for years. It was quite comfortable. I even bought that Army khaki shirt, but not to keep warm, but to wear to school--that way, Vicky, Al, and the rest would look in amazement and say in their cool, Hippy way: "Yeah, man! We dig that anti-Establishment shirt," but dreams are like water balloons. They get bursted. And the day that I wore my Army shirt it was just a ho-hum day for these '68 Hippies and the squares like m

In a few weeks, my association with our small group of hippies had broadened their horizons by bringing Hippy-related things from home to share with me and other Potential Hippies. I mean, the shingle was out: "Hippies Sign-up Here!" But I was the only student who was interested in changing from a strict, religious rural home to a care-free, stress-free student of Understanding and Peace. The one item that someone brought to school was The Great Speckled Bird a counter culture underground newspaper in Atlanta, GA. and published from 1968 until 1976. It was founded by New Left activists from Emory University and members of the Southern Student Organizing Committee an offshoot from (SDS) Students for a Democratic Society. The first issue appeared March 8, 1968, and within 6 months it was publishing weekly. By 1970 it was the third largest weekly newspaper in Georgia with a paid circulation of 22,000 copies.

I knew from watching TV and The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, that the SDS was bad news. (notice my slang that I never outgrew?) and from the reports that I had watched, it was best in my view to stay clear of this group--which were more than your average crop of Hippies who Love everyone and wear flower necklaces, but hard-lined subversives. They meant harm to the Government, the Army and everyone who even winked at supporting the troops in Vietnam. A handful of these protesters were even arrested in Chicago when the '68 Democratic National Convention was held there--and the Chicago Police Commissioner had been gunned down while supporting his fellow officers who were under fire. That was the turning point for me.

From then on, I endured my attempts to get deeper involved with the '68 Hippies, but they closed ranks and began to smoke weed and use other things that (I was told) could send me to prison or kill me or both. If that were possible. I just knew that my time in my high school was limited--only four years to go, 48 long, hot stressful months and then . . .Freedom! (a salutatory nod to Jimi Hendrix and Dr. Martin Luther King).

Before our senior year, the '68 Hippy Clan, as it was dubbed, grew little. But their influences were evident even long after graduation in 1972. Prior to our Class Night, the school and it's limited wisdom, allowed the talents of Al Wynn, guitar and Johnny Tyra, a fantastic drummer, and other "square" talents to perform one Thursday night and Wynn, I have to come clean, did a great cover of "As The Sun Still Burns Away," by the late, Alvin Lee and Ten Years After. I almost caved as I listened to this song. By "caved" I meant trying one more time, giving the '68 Hippy Clan one more time to be included in their lives. Time was speeding away. (No pun about their use of speed, I was told. And it being a dangerous drug) and I needed an answer yes or no.

After graduation, they disappeared. I mean from Hamilton, my life and eyes. Gone! This was not a sad thing for me. I felt that maybe Vicky and Al who were romantically-involved and the other Hippy Clan members had planned to leave town and head to a more-tolerant town and build a survival farm or something of that nature. And by the noun, "farm," I do not mean corn, cotton, beans and alfalfa. Weed. And not the weed known for being Round-Up's sworn enemy.

I sometimes, at my age now, 63, wonder if it had been worth my trying to fit into their Hippy Clan? I have never come to grips with a non-answer. And I never took the time to do as more-wiser people (than me) would do and "shut that door" to this part of my life.

I would. Except I lost it and now I cannot locate it to save my life. Far out, man.

Great Speckled Bird 1969. This was just one of the many underground newspapers published all across the nation.

Great Speckled Bird 1969. This was just one of the many underground newspapers published all across the nation.

© 2017 Kenneth Avery

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