I’ve been reading a lot lately about this weekend being the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. The iconic photo of the young “hippie” couple wrapped in a quilt and standing in a field of mud has been resurrected once again. That same duo has now been dredged up and re-posed for an updated pic, complete with quilt. Except this time they take up a lot more space inside that quilt than they did forty years ago.
It’s really sad when symbols of my generation now look more like spokespeople for One Touch Ultra diabetic testing supplies than ultra-hip folks you’d want to emulate.
I didn’t go to Woodstock. I was 22, married and the mother of a three-year-old, and besides, I was living in California—a long way from upstate New York where the festival was held. But, that did not preclude me from being hip. Nossir. In fact, I was ahead of the curve.
In 1967 a group of six friends, myself included, decided to open an eclectic head shop called “Euphoria” in our little suburban city eight miles southeast of Los Angeles. There were three couples involved, all college friends, with my Starter Husband and I the only married ones. One or two of this merry band had been to San Francisco when the whole hippie thing was just getting off the ground and came back enthused about the wild and weird shops that had sprung up around the Haight-Ashbury district.
Much like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in those old Andy Hardy movies where they say “Hey kids, I know! Why don’t we put on a show?” we all decided that this would be a great thing to do since we, for the most part, were all creative types. We had one actual artist and potter, one person who could sew hippie-type clothing and then the rest of us who had as our contribution a wealth of enthusiasm.
The moniker “head” shop conjures up all sorts of images of drugged out hippies, I’m sure, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth with our little store. It was in a small strip mall and was stocked with posters of the era advertising rock groups and concerts at the Fillmore, political buttons, newspapers like the L.A. Free Press, art and pottery and clothing. We did have one glass case that had the usual head shop paraphernalia like cigarette papers, roach clips, pipes, etc. (This was not something that I indulged in personally since I was a mom and had never even taken up regular cigarettes, much less the funny kind.)
We all took turns manning the store but that is where the seeds were planted for the eventual downfall of our little enterprise. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians, as the old saying goes. Everyone wanted to be in charge of what was bought for the store and there were more than a few arguments about money and who wasn’t holding up their end of the workload. We all were busy with college and life in general and the happy camaraderie that had been present at the inception of our hoped for utopia rapidly evaporated under the strain.
The store lasted about two years, which is probably two years longer than it might have if we all hadn’t wanted so badly for it to work out. By the time Woodstock rolled around, we were pretty much over the allure of the hippie thing and ready to move on. Soon, two of our group would be drafted into the army and off to serve in Vietnam.
Since most of our profit had been plowed back into store inventory, we didn’t have much in the way of cash to divvy up amongst ourselves when we finally decided to pull the plug. Instead, we divided what was left of the posters, buttons, and other merchandise and said our fond good-byes. At least some of us said them fondly. Others were too miffed to do so and the circle of friends was never the same again.
Moral of the story: never go into business with your friends unless you’re prepared to lose them.
It was fun while it lasted and I’m glad we did it. My only regret is that I wish I still had those posters we were given when we split up.
They’re selling for big bucks on eBay.
Peace & Love
(Not me, by the way!)