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Haight-Ashbury: The birth of hip

The Story


Haight-Ashbury, hippiedom's birthplace. Like an estimated 100,000 other young rebels, budding Canadian filmmaker Don Shebib makes a pilgrimage to San Francisco in the summer of 1967. He is there to document the hippie scene -- the hair, the dress, the drugs and the driving forces behind the massive youth revolution. As Peter, a member of the hippie organization known as The Diggers, says on CBC Television, "This ain't Eisenhower's America no more... Minds are up for grabs." The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the escalation of the Vietnam War, race riots and other violent social upheavals cause young people to question the wisdom of the older generation.

They start to distrust the people in charge -- government, parents, teachers and police. They feel suffocated by their middle-class upbringings, their parents' morality, and the roles they're supposed to play in life. They decide that the best form of protest is to drop out of society, to refuse to play the game. "Turn on, tune in and drop out," intones the high priest of LSD, Timothy Leary; Turn on to LSD, tune in to your spirit and drop out of society. Many do, leaving their homes and parents, schools and jobs, and abandoning organized religion and conventional morality for their own values of love, peace and freedom. They congregate in all major cities, but Haight-Ashbury, the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco, is at the heart of it all.

Medium: Television
Program: The Way It Is
Broadcast Date: March 24, 1968
Guest(s): George George, Peter Peter
Host: John Saywell
Duration: 7:02

Did You know?


• In Canada, hippie centres included Yorkville in Toronto, Kitsilano in Vancouver and Sparks Street in Ottawa.

• Filmmaker Don Shebib later made the feature film Goin' Down the Road. A 1984 Toronto Film Festival poll voted it one of the ten best Canadian films ever made.

• The Diggers were a organization of "hippies helping hippies," which provided free food, clothing and shelter.

• Haight-Ashbury was also known as "Hashbury."

• "Hippie" comes from the jazz term "hep-cat" and the even older "hip." There are a few popular theories as to the origin of "hip." It may have come from the military "Hup-two-three-four!" which was used by some jazz musicians to keep the beat, or it may have derived from the West African hipicat — a person who has his "eyes wide open."

• Hippies were known for their long hair, beards, drooping Fu Manchu moustaches, beads, bare feet and jeans.

• Some hippies who came to Haight-Ashbury as early as 1963 or 1964 were not very happy about the Summer of Love. They felt the influx of thousands of "part-time" or "summer" hippies in 1967 made a tourist attraction out of their special community. The new hippies were mostly under the age of 18 — too young, they felt, to understand the society they were rebelling against.

• Between 1964 and 1969, race riots swept across the United States. Thirty-four people were killed in the Watts Riot in Los Angeles, which began on Aug. 11, 1965, and lasted for six days. The 1967 Detroit riot lasted for two days. Forty-three died.

• The first American combat troops arrived in Vietnam in 1965. Antiwar demonstrations were widespread in the United States by November.


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