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The Hippies Redux


The Hippies Redux

By Erin Sheffield

The Hippies are invading Sonoma County again!  With the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury  in San Francisco coming up, the West County Museum in Sebastopol is mounting an exhibit “The Hippies” that will open October 30th.  The curators, Erin Sheffield and Sue Gary are collecting memaorabilia from the Hippie elders in our midst to recreate the environment that these rebels against consumerism and conformity built in the forests of Graton and Occidental 1966-1973.

Lou GottliebMorning Star Ranch in Graton was owned by Lou Gottlieb, the bassist of The Limeliters a hit folk group of the 60’s.  He opened his property to all, and refugees from the Haight quickly settled in. They built their own shacks, lived without electricity and often clothes, exchanged the work ethic for the ethics of living in nature in a state of “voluntary primitivism.”  Sex and drugs, particularly pot and LSD, but guitars rather than rock ‘n roll ,were freely enjoyed by the denizens, but not by all their neighbors.  The County Sheriff and Health Department became involved after vociferous complaints, and after many fines and much legal maneuvering by Gottlieb trying to keep his commune open, the County bulldozers destroyed the huts, and the now homeless hippies were forced to relocate.

Some moved to Morning Star East in New Mexico, but others to a few miles away in Occidental, where Bill Wheeler felt that he had enough land to share, and the hippies moved in. The land was free to all, but the living was too free for a neighbor who felt that the lifestyle was a threat to his children. Again, after legal action, the bulldozers moved in, and the hippie commune era in Sonoma County came to an end.

On Sunday, October 30, the quarterly meeting potluck luncheon of the Western Sonoma County Historical Society will be held at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts/Veterans Building on High Street at 12:30 PM.  After a short business meeting, Society members and the general public will be treated to “A Hippie Happening” to celebrate the kick-off of the opening of “The Hippies” at the Museum.  The first resident of Morningstar will be joined by others who will trade memories and anecdotes about their experiences prompted by photos of the time.  The author and producer of Morning Star, a musical play, Nick Alva, will entertain with with some numbers from the show.  The Curator of History of the Sonoma County Museum Eric Stanley, and Professor Greg Castillo from U.C. Berkeley will offer remarks on the cultural and historical aftereffects of the hippie movement nationwide.  Please being a dish to share and your own table service and beverage.

For more information, call 707- 829-6711