Lessons Learned: The Hippie Counterculture

By Dr. Sal Martingano, FICPA

During the boomer teen years a divide appeared in our generation. What’s wrong with a little non-traditional thinking?

Lessons Learned: The Hippie Counterculture

The 1960’s was a turbulent time for boomers. The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King spurred a movement challenging the status quo and initiating the exploration of the liberal movement. Traditional and conservative ideals of our past generation were being tested by an ever increasing trend toward a ‘centralized’ government; the very thing our democratic republic was founded to protect us from.

Talk About Rebellion!

Politics and social ideologies come and go depending on the needs of the population, but by 1964 a major faction of the boomer generation, now of college age, had the freedom to break away from traditional conservative family and social values to explore higher education, travel, and meet other boomers from different parts of the country.

The boomer generation was encouraged to seek a better (higher) education than our parents but little did our parents know that with higher education comes diverse thinking and exposure to historical facts and social ideas that were not taught in traditional grade school.

Funny Thing About Higher Education… It Changes Your Perspective on Life

Fast forward to current times and we find that society is now holding prior accepted historical events to our present day standards. The hippie generation was unique and different from anything the people of the U.S. had ever seen before. The culture of this generation focused their lives around the ideas of peace, love, freedom, and living life to the fullest. The Hippie culture purposefully broke traditions and tried to separate themselves from the turmoil of the 1960’s, choosing instead to live simple, peaceful lives in harmony together when possible.

Although young and full of testosterone, sexual adventures were explored but not exploited. Our crew was more concerned with our physical image and mental capabilities than the influx of drugs (specifically LSD, cocaine, and heroin). Besides being an insane thing to get involved in, drugs were expensive, illegal, and didn’t fit into our lifestyles. Our Bensonhurst crew was aware of the implications of the Hippie movement but simply felt that our system of thinking was working just fine; it was not broken and it did not need to be changed or fixed.

Boomerism #7: “Success isn’t an accident, it takes perseverance, a belief in your gifts and being open to learning

The growing distrust in government activities and corruption of the 1960’s were a far cry from the tranquility of our upbringing during the 1950’s. Hippies strongly opposed violence, in particular the Vietnam War. They believed that the government was the root of many of society’s evils, “The Cuban Missile Crisis”, “The “Bay of Pigs” invasion and Anti-Vietnam Protests led to “Flower Power”. Hippies may have been carefree but they weren’t oblivious to what was happening around them. They became the modern day watchdogs for government activities of questionable origin.

Let There Be Music

The British invasion, on the other hand, was not in the form of armed soldiers fighting for a king but by a group of relatively unknown musicians called The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, and The Rolling Stones. Suddenly, the entire country experienced a cultural shift in music from teenage death songs like “Tell Laura I Love Her” by Richie Valens to the free spirited lyrics of “She Loves You”, first seen in February 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show.

There were two major locations for the Hippies in the United States: San Francisco on the west coast, and Greenwich Village on the east coast (just 11 short miles from the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up).

● Haight-Ashbury: In 1967 with “The Summer of Love” in the
Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, nearly 100,000
people gathered to hear musical groups like The WhoJimi Hendrix,
The Grateful DeadJefferson Airplane and The Animals. Timothy Leary,
started a mantra that persisted throughout the countercultural event:
“Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.”

●Woodstock: Not to be outdone by the west coast, just two years later,
promoters in New York City began to put together a plan for a music
festival in upstate New York. The town of Woodstock was chosen for the
event that would take place on August 15-16, 1969. The event expected
50,000 people, instead over 400,000 showed up to witness the event that
featured over 32 musical groups.

The “Boys of Brooklyn” were so far removed from the Hippie scene that when we heard of the event in California, we wondered what the significance of “Hate Ashberry” was. Our crew was diligently working our way through City College of New York.

It is interesting to note that the accomplishments of the Hippie generation are still with us some 50 years later. The awareness and sense of distrust between the American people and the political leaders of this country today have not changed. Many people from the Hippie era have transformed the American landscape. One such person was Steve Jobs. Steve was a product of the late 1960’s and was quite familiar with the Hippie culture. He was fully versed in books on mysticism, organic farming, Eastern religions, and yes, drugs. Steve got high on LSD quite often and after dropping out, he spent some significant time living in a Hippie commune in Oregon. He also made a trip to India to seek enlightenment. Evidently, it worked!

Come On… Admit it

Even today when most of our Hippie and boomer friends are in their late sixties pushing seventy, with a half dozen grandkids to tell stories to; occasionally I will meet a fellow boomer couple and notice immediately a certain flair, swagger, or choice of words. Usually, this will cause me to ask discreetly, “By the way, in your youth, were you ever part of the counter culture?”. It’s no real surprise that I usually get a partial smirk with a firm, “You know it!”.

Come share more of the experiences and adventures of the “Boys of Brooklyn…A Time When Life Never Sucked”. Available on Amazon here.

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