Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dirty Freaky Commie Pinko Fag Hippies

There's the soundtrack for this post on the right - Our House by CSN. I googled-mapped the house where I lived in Sarasota, Florida in the late 60s, which was a very special time. The Air Force offered us a free move one-way anywhere in the world after my dad died in 1967, my mother picked Boston (long story). We were there for less than a week when we changed our minds, hailed the moving van en route, and told them to head to Florida instead. Wheee! Close your eyes and stick a pin in the map. This is about the house on Magnolia.

There were many cultural changes happening during that time, and my mother, although still grieving, was feeling emancipated from the Air Force and loving not having a boss anymore. She was around 50 yrs. old. Here she is hamming it up for the camera. Someone spray-painted that ceiling tile green! It could have been me… not sure…

She felt like she could live anywhere and do anything she damned well pleased for once. She had already been playing mother hen for years; she would gather young people around her in droves, many of them cast-offs of their real families and of society in general. Tired, poor, humbled masses yearning to breathe free*… let’s party! Come on over, come on in. Stay all night, stay a little longer. Dance all night, dance a little longer. Kick off your shoes and throw them in the corner, don’t see why you don’t stay a little longer**. She had done it already in Albuquerque and in Greece… now it was the late 60s in Florida. The kids looked a little different, but we did too by then. Here she is sitting in the middle of our typical weekend crowd.

The kids were mostly around my age (15-16) to 19. We mostly didn’t drink (drinking wasn’t considered that cool, except for occasional wine), but drugs were plentiful. Mostly pot, LSD, and a few others. She hated needles and didn’t allow anyone to bring them into the house. Also, no sex allowed. Amazingly, everyone respected the house rules. Everybody was peaceful and got along. Nobody had guns (except my mother had a stupid little .22 handgun). There were no fist-fights, rather there were trippy debates about the meaning of life, the universe and everything... mostly everything. The different social sub-groups partied together with us and didn’t have problems with each other (gay, straight, Pagan, Christian, biker, whatever). Here she is with some folks just sitting around chatting.

We covered our domain with contact paper (the tacky velvet flocked or mosaic for windows) and sometimes I did paintings on walls or ceilings. The rest was decorated with posters, more of my art, or weird finds. Like that orange plate with the devil’s head. She was a Christian but was fascinated and open-minded about anything mystical or spiritual. “You want to have a séance? Let’s do it! You worship Satan? What’s that like? Your house is haunted? Wow. Who's haunting it?” The bookshelves were lined with everything to do with the spiritual: Josephus, Anton LaVey, Aleister Crowley, the Lost Books of the Bible, Edgar Cayce, Egyptian Book of the Dead, even Criswell.

The centerpiece of the room – the record player. It was one of those kind that folded up into a suitcase. That Jefferson Airplane poster would probably be valuable now. Also featured, our beloved Rolling Stones. She always carried a teensy crush on Mick. Mine was for Brian. I was a very bad girl and stacked the records up vertically, many not even in their cardboard sleeves – but what a stack of great records they were! Now all worn out, of course.

Here’s the kitchen. More contact paper!

Me, sitting in front of one of my paneling paintings.

This is our friend, Bubba.

This is Gary, I think he was Bubba’s cousin. He’s wearing a getup that we bought in our favorite theatre costume shop. Gary loved to cause a stir using nudity. He and another friend (a girl) went into the burger place in the wee hours of the morning, both dressed in see-through gauzy robes with nothing underneath. Anything to freak people out and get some laughs!

This is my charcoal drawing of Jim Morrison. Behind it is a chicken I painted on the wall.

We bought this big school bus, even though neither of us drove. We relied on others to drive it for us, which wasn’t that easy! We took out most of the seats, padded and upholstered the walls, carpeted it like a crazy-quilt using free scraps, and made fringe to hang over the windows. I painted some Yellow Submarine art here and there on the inside, and decorated the sign with an Egyptian circle and wings (the name of the bus was “The Flying Void”. Cosmic!).

The freak flag on wheels, with the gang.

Our weirdest friend, Steve, painted this “Jesus and the flying saucers” thing on the back. I hated it.

Here is Steve and another friend, Mary, goofing it up for the camera in the yard.

Steve liked to sit in trees for hours, and sometimes he would be running around in the yard naked, rather embarrassing later on when we were trying to sell the house. We didn’t always know if he was there or not, he just hung around. He enjoyed chanting and making buzzing sounds. Last I heard of him, he had gone to join the Children of God cult. Here I am with another friend, Mike (Steve can be seen behind us in the doorway), and I am wearing Steve’s wonderful jester hat.

My mother always took an “in your face” attitude, especially during this time. She decided to paint the house with horizontal stripes, royal blue with one orange stripe.

We lived in a fairly conservative neighborhood (with a big church across the street!!), and the local lawmen kept a close eye on us. As you can imagine, we were under surveillance, and unsurprisingly one day (it was on Valentine’s Day) there was a bust. Turns out that one of the kids who had spent the night on our couch had told us that he was 18… and he wasn’t… and he was on probation… and his dad was in law enforcement. They charged my mother with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and others were busted there too, but I can’t remember what for. The whole affair dragged on and on for many months, court dates postponed, I’m sure they were hoping for something bigger to happen but my mother was progressively more and more freaked out with paranoia. They really WERE out to get her, so it wasn’t unfounded, but after the bust, the fun was mostly replaced with worry. It was kind of a death of innocence, the party’s over, time to clean up, wake up call. Nobody with any sense wants to be in jail. And of course, after a bust, people tend to hang around less so our inner circle got smaller. After a year of having the white cars parked in front and the black suits with face shields cruising the house on motorscooters (and after the contributing charges petered out) she decided to move us up to Carbondale IL so she could be close to her parents. Another chapter begins there.

So, getting back to where this post started, I googled-mapped the house, and noticed that they provide street views for that area. Here is the house now. It’s GONE. The shopping center that was a couple of blocks away has grown, and our old house is part of the parking lot. If there are any old-timers who still attend that church that was across the street from us, I know they are thanking Jesus that the notorious abomination was torn down. Praise the lawd!

My mother (whose name was Lola) always counseled young people that they were responsible for their actions, and would have to live with the consequences of them, and if they needed help or a place to stay or just wanted to talk, she was there. The door was open. Comments welcome, and I know it will be tempting for a lot of people to be judgmental about this post concerning youth, drugs and parenting. Believe me, there’s absolutely no point in preaching. There’s no situation described here that can be corrected by any amount of that. It is just part of my history.

*Lady Liberty
**Bob Wills

Somewhat related:
My mother and Pop Festivals

Another of Bubba's cousins, Warren, and Led Zeppelin


Ghost Dansing said...

i post this song on blogs i like and bloggers i like sometimes for no other reason...... Graham Parsons was a child of the 60's and from Florida...... a very nice post..... your Mother was really somthin'.....
Grievious Angel

Ellie said...

Oh Blue, what a treasure of memories. I too have my stories of houses I stayed at in 68-69. I think I knew someone rather like you and your mother for a short period of time. They helped me as your mother did those in the photo's.

Stand tall. No regrets.

Ptelea said...

I love this post, Blueberry. It is funny how the photos don't really look that old to me - that time was such a part of my youth as well. I was living in Nashville at this time and it was also very conservative. I remember a mother who let the kids do some wild stuff. I don't think of it so much as "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" but rather giving the kids a place to act out their curiosity in a safer environment than one of total secrecy. It all seems so innocent compared to the alcoholic stupor I see so many kids into these days.

DrDon said...

Well, I've never taken a drug in my life but I have no problem with that part of the story. My problem was with the fashion back then. Geez, what were people thinking? :-)

I was pretty young then so I think I missed alot of it, except for my purple crushed velvet suit. But I was only 5 then so I thought I was stylin'.

Blueberry said...

Thanks for the comments y'all.
Ghost: thanks for the tune, especially one with my gal Emmylou on it
Ellie: no regrets.
pt: I really do think we got a lot of them into a safer environment. We were just sitting around watching TV and listening to records, and there was an adult there... sortof.
DrDon: I'd like to see a 5 year old in a purple crushed velvet suit. hee hee. Little rock star.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

What a great post! I love family histories and yours is pretty colorful. Your mom sounds like what my mom was becoming when she died, an open minded fun loving mother. Great vintage pictures! If you put a set of them on Flickr or Photo Bucket let me know.

DivaJood said...

What a wonderful family history! Your mother is quite colorful. And I love the drawings. Love the photos. But most of all, I am thrilled to know I am not the only person who put up contact paper as wallpaper. And it shrunk.

Th' Rev said...

Fucking hippies...:)I love these pictures!

Utah Savage said...

My mother was another version of your mother. She allowed us to drink and smoke in her house starting when I was thirteen or so. She taught me to smoke when I was five, so letting underaged kids do it, not such a big deal to her. And she was stunning. So the teenage guys loved her, and the girls thought she was so cool. She just embarrassed me. I knew she was cool, but it was my friends she was being cool with. She was the un-mother in every other way. She hated everything about motherhood, I was never allowed to call her mother. She was always Maggy.

We moved a lot when I was six through eleven. I always felt like a stranger.

Blueberry said...

My mother offered booze and tobacco to me at a young age too, but I guess that's where I rebelled. I never drank until I was 19 (and could drink legally in Illinois) and never smoked cigs.

She wanted lots of kids but could only have one, and didn't like the one she got so I think she was filling the void that I couldn't fill. A lot of them called her "mama", and she was like the mother they wished they had. Later when her health was failing, she made it clear that she wished that I had turned out to be someone different.

konagod said...

I LOVE looking at old photos from the 70s. They are such a riot. I have plenty of my own... one of which made an appearance on Black Soap this afternoon. :-)

konagod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
konagod said...

How on earth could there be pot and LSD involved, but NO SEX????

It's a good thing I wasn't there. That's one rule that would have been broken, somehow, some way. :lol:

(I need to learn to check my spelling and grammar before posting, hence the deleted comment prior to this one.)

Mando Mama said...

I know my friend Shannon would want that orange plate with the skull and crossbones, but he'd have to kill me to get it.

This is a rich post. It does kind of remind me of watching my brothers' coming-of-age years. They were your contemporaries. There were always folks around and music and a lot of similar stuff going on although I was really too young at the time to get it. I'm pretty sure it was sexless and drugless, though. I do remember a Jefferson Airplane poster that I found mesmerizing.

Thanks for sharing all the photos. It's an unusual family album. It's a shock to find the house gone, though, I'm sure. Ironically, the last home my sister and I shared with June Anne is also a parking lot.

Blueberry said...

kona: oh, there was no doubt sex... just not allowed in the house! heh heh...

mm: parking lots are the thing of the future, aren't they? There are just never enough of them. :-P

John Good said...

That was an awesome read! =)