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AP WAS THERE: San Francisco's groovy, gritty Summer of Love

Associated Press logo Associated Press 13/06/2017 By HAROLD V. STREETER, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — EDITOR'S NOTE: Fifty years ago, thousands of young Americans descended on San Francisco to join a cultural revolution known as the Summer of Love.

Many came to resist the Vietnam War and 1960s American orthodoxy. Their presence put a spotlight on a counterculture movement that had roots in civil rights demonstrations and the Beat poets of the 1950s.

The summer also marked a turning point in rock-and-roll history, introducing the world to the exciting new psychedelic rock sounds coming from San Francisco's local music scene.

On this anniversary, The Associated Press is making available this story about the early days of the Summer of Love. It was first published June 22, 1967.

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The Flower Children climbed a mountain, swarmed a polo field and crowded a beach to welcome the arrival of their "summer of love."

"A solstice happening," one bearded hippie termed the turnout for the first day of a season which the nonconformist disciples of love predict will bring 100,000 hippies to San Francisco.

In the chilly predawn Wednesday, scores gathered on Twin Peaks — 900-foot mountains in the city's center — where they chanted and meditated until the sun rose.

"It was a sort of Buddhist yogi," explained bearded Bill Thomas, his arm crushing a red-haired girl in film gown against his suede jacket.

Wailing electric guitars and booming drums assaulted the ears of upwards of a thousand at the "happening" at Golden Gate park's polo field.

Tribal groups clustered about small combo bands — the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Mad River, the Phoenix, Big Brother and the Holding Company.

One tribe squatted under fluttering flags with the Star of David and the Cross, keeping time with a table — a bongo-type drum — a tambourine and a portable reed organ.

"This is a Krishna, an Indian ceremony," one explained. "This draws energy by clearing one's state of mind."

Nearby, a youth with hair hanging over his face ardently kissed a blonde.

The gathering ran the gamut of garb — miniskirts, shawls, black leather jackets, even a male wrapped in the royal purple of a Chinese Mandarin coat. Most of the males dangled bead necklaces. And everywhere were the paper flowers.

One squatting couple shielded a flickering candle from the wind with a sack, while they sipped wine from a silver chalice.

Grownups blew bubbles, while their children romped.

At the beach Wednesday night the moonlight ceremony focused on a 63-year-old witch.

"She's freaking out a few people," a hippie told a bystander.

"Freak out?"

"Well," replied the hippie, fumbling for words, "that means blow out a few minds."

That's how summer came to Twin Peaks.

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