My Short-Lived Time With Being True-Blue Rural Hippies
Between the years of 1967 through 1972, I dreamed a lot. I dreamed about available girls, some divorcee's (not too old), cars and my number one dream: Being a hippy. Not your average, garden salad hippy, but a true blue hippy. Yes, sir, I would have given my brand-new pen and pencil set that one of my stingy relatives had given me for a Christmas present for my number one dream to come true. She had money. And all I got was this pen and pencil set? What an insult for an up and coming young man of the world. True blue hippies do not live with cheap pen and pencil sets.
The "establishment" definition of a hippy is: (someone, me) trying to live in the history of subcultures in the 20th century and History of the United States (1964–1980). My hippy career, so to speak, really began in 1967--junior high. Seventh grade, the time for all young men to open their eyes and find out the secret of life, women, and cars. Not a tough task, naaah. Half a day's work at most. But how I wanted to be a hippy is far more important than me actually living like the hippies (I would watch on CBS Evening News) in Berkeley, San Francisco, and The East Village, New York City--what a time for young folks to tune in and turn off the rigid world and rules that made "the man" vomit when he saw girls with colorful headbands and bell bottoms on their hips while us guys were content to wear shades, try to grow a mustache and wear psychedelic shirts. I felt as if I were off to a great start.
In my small town of Hamilton, Alabama, (see map), it was tougher than I had thought for me to be a hippy. I had my own very conservative parents to deal with along with my conservative teachers at Hamilton High School and what really burned my biscuits was my bus driver, (a) Feelon Terrell who was ultra-conserative and we knew it. But tried to be cool and tuned in to our own vibe while on his bus. Ever so often he would glance upward in his rear view mirror and yell, "you kids with your long hair, you listen to me! Get a job and make something out of yourself." I think some of my friends followed his advice for in a day or so, their hair was all the same length, short as Mr. Terrell's. He sure made an impact on them, I thought to myself. Not me, man. I was too laid back checking our my new life as a hippy. I couldn't afford to have any hassles on my way to live a groovy life.
When you live in Hamilton and you are struggling tooth and nail to be a success, you have to follow the advice of others. No matter if you are wanting to be a successful thief, preacher, or even a carpenter like Jesus. You have to have the proper advice and training. That's all there is to it. No one ever just awoke on one morning, looked into the mirror and said, "Man, I am finished with the man, and following the rules. I am going for it and letting it all hang out," whatever the "it" meant in the last part of that well-known hippy phrase. If "it" was a sexual term, then I was in deep trouble. Hamilton citizens, teachers, and preachers hated the word sexual as much as any race of humanity. It was like one of the plagues that God cast upon Pharaoh. But I was cool. I did not mention sexual things. I just kept wearing my shades, letting my hair inch a bit longer and keeping my eyes half-shut. I saw this "How to Be a Hippy" documentary on PBS one Saturday evening when I didn't have any cash. I forgot what hip word I was supposed to say for money. But I was learning.
As I would get off of my school bus each morning, I would take my time. Successful hippies do not run for anyone or anything. It built stress and stress in the early 1960s was something us rural hippies did not want. I slowly opened my locker now-complete with "Make Love--Not War!" stickers on the inside of the door and a few flower decals to give my locker that hip look. You never know when you have to make the scene. I would stand for a few minutes to look cool as the crowd of students were going to class and upon reaching my first class, I would slump down into my desk and try my best to look stoned which is tough when you are broke and cannot drink or smoke anything that will get you off. And to keep things interesting (and cool) for me, I would lob a few things that I had read from John Lennon or his songwriter friend, Paul McCartney. You would not believe how cool I sounded when I started rolling my tongue around the Beatles' songs and Middle Eastern Meditation tidbits that I had memorized from a LOOK magazine.
"You there! Sit up like a proper student!" "This is Hamilton. Not California." Were only two establishment-generated phrases that a few of our junior high teachers begin to drill into our thinking. I acted cool and aloof. No stiff-necked teacher is going to brainwash me into working like a dog to pay for a 30-year mortgage, die from a cardiac arrest giving my wife, "Judy," my life insurance worth in the area of $50,000.00, depending on what CPA "Judy" was seeing behind my back.
I could not keep focused when I would try and study from History books that were outdated and totally irrelevant. No one could, but per the State of Alabama's Dept. of Education, our books were "up to date" and competitive with any school system in the south. I would be daring and ask which states in the south did this directive name, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia? This only got an angry glance from (a) Mr. Neal Childers, history teacher at Hamilton High School. Childers, for his look and demeanor, was actually cooler than most old timer's who had been tenured years ago and only holding on until their retirement kicked in. Childers would let out a, "you bet, man," and "cool," when he was with me and what few of my hippy friends that I had. He knew right away that somehow our hippy lives would not work. But never shot us down. That was one of his terms.
Real hippies that we would read about in magazines such as: Playboy, Hustler and Cherry Bomb, were not for sale for us hippy minors. But we were really smarter than the big city hippies for when we three or four hippy guys wanted to learn about the life of hippies and photos of a few beautiful, naked girls, these wre the magazines that we loved to steal from their pages to our imaginations. One hippy friend would be look-out for the store employees or manager while the rest of us lusted at the magazines and then another hippy friend would take the look-out's place. It worked. I remember one gorgeous centerfold that I fell in love with in 1970. She did not pose completely nude, but had just enough clothing on that made her big brown eyes and brunette hair cause me to want to run away from Hamilton and seek her for a girlfriend. Even hippy guys in rural Alabama can have great fantasies about females. The centerfold's name was, "Chrissie."
Now with my rural hippy ensemble intact, one thing was missing: Music. Not just any music, but hippy music, Hard Rock, Psychedelic Rock--the type that you have to turn your turntable's volume wide-open and lay next to your huge speakers and "dig" the tunes from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and when the girls would be near, we would throw on a few LPs by The Beatles. We had a perfect gameplan. It worked great for a while. Most of the rural girls who were in our class all loved David Cassidy; Rod Stewart and Bobby Sherman. Why didn't we see that coming? But no worries. We just borrowed a few LPs that an older hippy guy had by these super singers and we would let them play to show the girls that we were "in", and our "acts were together," and were "tight." (Not as in buzzed in whiskey, but close friends.)
With our wardrobe, music, and hippy phrases in our lives, we were really missing out great times in our small hometown and frankly, we couldn't really help it. We were not old enough to drive a car. When you are 15, cool, looking laid back, hair long, and talking cool, a hippy teen (of this time) needed wheels, man. Not be carried to the mall or store by your mom, dad, or worldly uncle who had an eye for waitresses. We got our heads straight and came up with the solution: we would get in good with that same older hippy guy who let us borrow a Cassidy album and just see if he would let us ride with him on a weekend night.
"What, man? Ride with me, man? Uhhh, man, I dunno," the older hippy guy friend replied while looking concerned. He really was conerned. Not stoned. He did weed by himself or so he told us.
"But, man, dig. Oz, my best friend here's got a girl across town, man, and he really needs you to help him get there to groove with her," I said in my best rural hippy negotiation tone of voice. (Begging is more like it.)
"Well . . .okay, man. Friday night, be here at the 66 station, and I'll take Oz to see his old lady," see? We were all now pretty much talking the talk and walking the walk as a rural hippy. (the "66" reference was the Phillips 66 station we used to meet people in our town).
I have to tell you upfront that the entire operation for getting Oz to some girlfriend across town was all a lie. And I mean we took this older hippy guy for a ride with our newly-adapted hippy work. But how it really went was cool. I, along with Oz, and another hippy classmate friend, Allan, piled into this older hippy friend's 1957 Chevy BelAir and on the way to Oz's "girlfriend," (air quotes), upon arriving to her house, we learned that by her lights being off in her house that she was not home. (Not a term to say that the girl was mentally-challenged). We might have been younger rural hippies, but we knew the value of reconnisiance and with the girl not being home, we quickly put on a believable heart-ache act on behalf of our good hippy friend, Oz. Then to make Oz, feel better, our older hippy friend with the 1957 Chevrolet BelAir, let us ride a few times through town with our windows open---long hair in the wind, Hendrix on the eight-track, "Foxy Lady," and for an hour or so, we were real rural hippies.
But as in the classic story/song, "Puff, The Magic Dragon," made famous by famous, successful, non-violent hippies, Peter, Paul, and Mary, our time of rural hippies was growing short. Time and traditions were changing and we young rural hippies were growing more mature little by little. Some weekend nights, I had much rather just talk with a pretty girl, and I was careful to not tell my other rural hippy friends, she was so pretty and so non-hippy that I felt great. I didn't have to use those slang terms: "man," "yeah, man," "far out," and "tight." I got by great just by being myself. Faults, flaws and all. She didn't seem to be bothered by my conversion to real rural life as opposed to trying to be rebellious and fight against the establishment by burning Draft Cards and having protest marches against Vietnam.
What turned the tide for me and my few rural hippy friends was watching the news of those big city hippies in the streets burning Old Glory, our treasured flag. I was really moved inside and that one gesture, (although later the Supreme Court passed a law that flag-burning was legal and just self-expression guaranteed in the Bill of Rights), did it for me. No, we did not all just get out in public and tear-up our modern hippy clothing or stop talking cool.
We sat idly by one afternoon talking about the metamorphosis of us guys living for a month as rural hippies then going back to average, bland students in the 10th grade at Hamilton High School. We just sat and stared. And stared. And while staring, we all were thinking of our junior and senior years and not one of our thoughts consisted of being a Blue Ribbon winning, rebellious big city hippy and stopping the Vietnam War, not working--just "doing our own thing"--letting the chips fall where they may.
But in one of those lazy afternoons after school, one of us spoke up, "Uhhh, you guys remember a few weeks ago when we gave up being hippies?" One of the guys asked. Might have been Gary, who did at one time speak of "shucking it all" and leaving for Portland where life was beginning to get sane and the music was easy to understand.
"Yeah, we remember. What about it?" Oz asked.
"Well, one thing we didn't try during our time of being hippies and that was doing LSD and a few bags of weed," the guy explained.
At almost the same time we all shook our heads and said in harmony, "man, that stuff is not for us."
And there it was. One of those major life decisions that you make when you are really young and really not knowing how (this) decision will turn out when you grow into an adult, but so grateful for "that" one blurring speed of a life-changing decision that kept us from being real, true blue hippies strung out and hooked on whatever poison of choice was available.
P.S. Gary never went to Portland. He made a quiet name for himself by falling in crazy love with Oz's baby sister which proved to the rest of us that Gary did have a good head on her shoulder.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery