60s Story

By Judy Hill


Spring, 1966—Self-catapulted from Berkeley in the midst of
political activism after four years at a nearby art college. At first I
was heavily involved in all the unrest, loving it in fact, then I got
tired of the conflict, police everywhere, the increasing split
between students and cops, bars over the windows of stores along
Telegraph. A lot was changing, fast…our local beer hub, the
Rathskellar, had been a lodestar for the Cal community, but the
mood had shifted there and elsewhere, as the ballads of the
Kingston Trio gave way first to Dylan and Baez, then to Hendrix,
Morrison, Joplin, and others. Across the Bay, the Fillmore and Avalon
Ballrooms were ramping up with what would turn out to be some of
the greatest music of the 60s. While in school I had sat in the quad
when Bob Dylan held forth; likewise, Joan Baez, Neal Cassady and
others. None of them were luminaries yet…Dylan sat with a pouty
face talking to a friend of mine. Cassady was speeding on some drug
or another, motor-mouthing a mile a minute. I had grown up in this
area, but everything about its current chaos unnerved me. I longed
to get away from the noise, and planned to relocate to Santa Cruz
as soon as school was out. My friends warned me that Santa Cruz
was the “drug capitol of the world.” Who were they kidding? Drugs
were everywhere, especially in Berkeley. I had been going down to
Santa Cruz since I was a kid; the only thing I wanted was to live by
the beach. And I wanted quiet.
Driving down 17 through the mountains was, at least at that time, a
delight…very little traffic, the giant redwoods separating urbanity
from vacation-time. I found my house by the beach; actually I
found several. It’s hard to believe now, but rentals were available
everywhere. Neither UCSC nor San Jose (not yet named “Silicon
Valley”) were large enough to have any noticeable impact on
housing or much of anything else. I ended up renting a cute, semidilapidated,
beach cottage three houses up from Seabright (then
known as Castle) Beach. My rent was $55.00 a month, including
utilities. When I left, my landlords offered to sell me the property
along with its adjacent huge lot, for $17,000. I demurred, proud
that I was an unencumbered free spirit who could fit all her
belongings into a backpack—-one of those decisions-you’ll-regretfor-the-rest-of-your-life.


I assumed I’d be getting a waitress job somewhere; it was easy to
live here—many of my friends worked at restaurants in some
capacity, taking advantage of the rise in business during the summer
months, then collecting unemployment during the winter. Also
taking advantage of the free meal that generally came with the job;
a real perk since a high wage was $2.50—which gives a different
slant on my rent. My best friend worked at Manny’s in Aptos, and
that’s where I wanted to be. My boyfriend was into the flamenco
scene there and Manny would often join us at our table after-hours
for spontaneous “juergas.” Manny’s, the Sticky Wicket, and the
Purple Cow were some of the very few cool places to hang outside
the immediate Santa Cruz area. Instead, I got offered a job at the
Shadowbrook which, although beautiful then and now, catered to
the very prevalent conservative element; something I couldn’t
hack. Then a friend told me about a new coffee house that was
opening downtown—the Catalyst. Downtown was dead back then;
lots of long-gone businesses with boarded up storefronts. Just about
the only thing alive was the Bookshop, Bubble Bakery,
Tampico….and Ford’s department store. The whole area gave off an
“Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” vibe. Still stuck in the 50s, the Del
Mar and Rio were the only theaters in town, and they showed the
same movie day in and day out through the entire summer.

Walking into the Catalyst the first time was like meeting long-lost
friends: Al and Patti DiLudovico had lived on a houseboat in
Sausalito but had relocated to Santa Cruz to begin a new chapter in
their lives. Al was a huge huggy bear, with a great, wicked sense of
humor; his wife Patti was the soft counterpart to Al’s edge. Lots of
people were put off by Al—his blunt, epithet-laden humor, his size,
his face mostly hidden behind a full beard, his unforgiving attitude
about bullshit of any kind, especially the version run by the
freeloaders who started hanging out at the Catalyst as soon as it
opened its doors. What they didn’t know was the other side: the
man who was a Quaker minister, who got up at 6am every morning
to read his bible, or his commitment to helping the downtrodden. I
loved both Al & Patti instantly. Another thing often forgotten at that
time was that the Catalyst was a co-op, run by a group of investors
looking for return on their investment. Al and Patti took a lot of shit
for how they ran it, but most of the decisions were out of their
hands. After working there for a while I got to know all the
investors; some were involved because they thought the Catalyst
had the potential to be a very cool place; others just wanted a
return on the buck. Although Al and Patti were the face of the
place, they were constantly getting pushed from behind.

When I first began working there, about a month after it opened,
there was word that Mario Savio, on the lam from Berkeley police,
was camping out in the basement. This was feasible: there was a
huge network of caverns beneath these old buildings. But I thought:
Please god, don’t let madness come down here. And it didn’t, not
until years later, and at that time it was known as UCSC.

The Catalyst was tiny when it opened—counter-service only with
just a few tables up front. The deli was located in the small room
facing Front Street—the Redwood Room, so named because of the
split redwood bark panels on the walls. This stuff was immediately
removed, probably because it caused welts on the skin of anyone
who inadvertently brushed up against it. Later, the Fountain Room
opened, and later still, the old ballroom. This was in the old St.
George hotel, which still had residents—ancient residents, who
would wander in for a cup of coffee, look around, and feel more
lost than before. The place was falling apart, but it was startling
beautiful even so. The Fountain Room had Saltillo tile floors,
mirrored walls, and an enormous fountain in the middle of the room
with a large glass skylight several stories overhead…a skylight that
funneled soft, muted light into this room in the center of a hotel;
muted, because it had probably never been cleaned since the day it
was installed. The Fountain Room was connected by a small
walkway to the early Bookshop Santa Cruz, owned by Ron Lau, and
next door, Aries Arts. These spaces were the former Hip Pocket
Bookstore, and they were dark. Smoking weed was not loose the
way it is now; in fact, it was severely punished at that time, so it
wasn’t really a surprise to stumble across someone lurking in that
indoor alleyway, taking a furtive toke. Tucked off another side of
the Fountain Room was the bar—a small, intimate cave with dark
walnut interior and an amber glass ceiling. Because there was no
money, of necessity Patti was the first bartender; later it was
manned by Stan Fullerton, another huggy bear, this time a gruff
one, who was an artist. Everyone in Santa Cruz thought of
themselves as artists, but he actually was—a big, quiet guy, who
never talked about himself and whose work I wanted badly to buy if
only I could make enough money. He made Al seem almost
diminutive. Stan was the ear for all the breakups, drug busts, and
other problems of the day. He was silent for the most part, but
served as a bouncer should the occasion arise; all it took was his
presence and one look, and issues seemed to straighten themselves

Eventually, the Catalyst expanded into the Colonial Room. This
spectacular space had once been the St. George’s ballroom, but for
many decades had been humiliated into serving as storage for
County Bank records. The good news was that due to lack of use the
hardwood floors were pretty much intact, as were the walls, which
were decorated with wood nymphs dancing among flowers and
greenery. The deli was moved from the small front room and took
up a full wall in the Colonial Room. I worked split shifts—at the deli
during morning and lunch service; then at night when the mood
shifted to table service. I loved this time at the old Catalyst. Every
morning Al would open the enormous wall of windowed doors that
swung open to Front Street. Patti would put on mellow music—the
Art of the Psaltery, John Fahey, sometimes Vivaldi. Although acidrock
was everywhere, the Catalyst at that time was distinctly
bohemian. A stage was set up for poetry, book readings, chamber
music and acoustic guitar concerts. Patti had been a traveling
ballad singer/guitarist before meeting Al, and occasionally she sat
in with performers.

The Catalyst was the hub for downtown Santa Cruz, with a huge mix
of people—the generation ahead of me, this included Al & Patti and
people in their age group—the Beats. People my age or
thereabouts, the so-called hippies. The “suits” —lawyers and admin
from the county building across the river; gaggles of kids from
various communes. Everyone converged at the Catalyst. I think it’s
safe to say that everyone who lived here during that time, and
many of those who traveled through, stopped by for a cup of 25-
cent, free-refills coffee, the great food, or just to check out the
scene. The place lost money, particularly after Al tried to open a
satellite version of it, “The Kite,” on the UC campus. The investors
got angry and accusatory; chaotic and hilarious things happened in
the day to day operation of the place; personal dramas played out.
But all in all, for the very brief time the Catalyst was in operation,
the mood was vital, mellow and open. People who didn’t know the
original Catalyst think that the place Russell Kane bought is the
same thing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Kane
wanted a club, a hot music scene, and that’s what he put in place.
The ambiance was nearly the opposite of Al and Patti’s Catalyst.
Many people felt that the name itself should have dissolved with
the place.

In any case, to this day I think it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever
had. I worked with great people, all of them. I only mention first
names here because who knows…. for various reasons some people
have chosen to put the 60s way behind them. Brock and Roger were
the only two people who were on board at the Catalyst before I got
there; we were all hired just as it opened. Later, when table service
was added, Scott, Georgia, Cathy, Marilyn, and Karen became part
of the crew. Sue, and later her husband, Dave, took back-up shifts
at the counter once the business really began to roll. Diane, who
had been at Manny’s and the Sticky Wicket, and later opened
Zachary’s, made the chocolate crazy cakes in her home that we
sold; Carli made the cheesecakes; this of course could never happen
now, with food items and just about everything else so heavily
regulated. All other food was purchased in the City, with Roger,
stoned and naturally spacey anyway, trekking up there every few
days in Al’s funky truck that was prone to breaking down on the side
of the road. There are so many stories with each of these
characters, fun, funny, poignant, occasionally tragic. Many of the
players are now gone, so this serves as a fond salute to them all.


While I was working at the Catalyst during lunch hours, Ralph
Abraham came in. I had heard a little about him; the town was
small and he was a relatively new guy, notorious for wearing a shirt
made from an American flag, and as a result facing off with the
uptight dean at UC. Never a fan of “the establishment” I felt an
affinity with his viewpoint before I even met him. Apparently Ralph
and his family were into macrobiotics, and he tried to convince me
to get Al and Patti to agree to include brown rice as part of the deli
offerings. This struck me as hilarious; the Catalyst food was
basically NY Jewish delicatessen fare. I don’t remember how that
request turned out, but I was intrigued by Ralph. The head honcho
at UC had labeled his household “musical beds,” along with a few
other pejoratives, yet when he came in with his wife and kids, he
seemed reasonable enough. I had already spent some time in a
couple of whacked-out communal-living situations, and his scene
looked fairly grounded by comparison. We had some sparky
flirtations over the counter, but it was all pretty innocent. That New
Year’s Eve my current boyfriend and I slathered our bodies with
neon paint and danced onstage under black lights to a great
amplified band. This was not new for me; while living in the Bay
Area I had often danced onstage in various forms of dress, undress,
or paint at the Avalon and Fillmore. The most important part of the
60s, to me, was—and still is—the music; I lived for it. This night
was no exception: the band was fantastic, as was the whole
evening. The place was packed with the big windowed doors flung
open, letting reefer smoke waft in from curbside. Somehow that
scene was a tipping point for Ralph and shortly after we ratcheted
our flirtation up a notch. He would come to visit me at my beach
house or we’d hang out in the beautiful secluded field, the vortex,
at the University. I rarely went over to his house on California St.
The big, rambling place was awesome; it reminded me of Jefferson
Airplane’s old Victorian in San Francisco. I couldn’t get a handle on
who was living there, other than the core group of Ralph, his wife
Caroline, their two boys, and their beautiful golden retriever,
Chester. People seemed to be constantly coming and going, mainly
students I guessed. It was clear the place had taken a hit before he
bought it, but little by little Ralph was attempting to make it
habitable with repairs and fresh paint. Kids from the high school
next door still congregated on the wrap-around front porch, but no
one tried to break in and trash it as they had in the years when it
sat empty. The kitchen was big and open, shaded by a huge walnut
tree, and the kids rode their bikes right through whatever was going
on there. The dining room was compact, with a formal feeling due
to the built-ins that were always part of a place like that. A stereo
system was placed against one wall, and next to it was Ralph’s baby
crib, filled with albums. There was always music playing, whether
there was anyone in the room, or even in the house. Most of the
bedrooms were on the second floor, and were reached from the
wide embellished wood staircase at the front of the house. Unlike
downstairs, these rooms were filled with light from ornately
trimmed floor-to-ceiling windows. It was hard to tell whose
bedroom was whose, other than the kids, and maybe that’s part of
what had caused the dean at UC to have such a burr up his butt. Up
a steep, narrow staircase off the second floor was one of the crown
jewels of the house—a cupola that looked out across the entire
town. Many a soft morning was spent on the built-in bench seats up
there at the top of the world, welcoming the rising sun after an
mda- or acid-induced hallucinogenic night.

Not long ago, Ralph and I had the opportunity to go back into the
house when it was put on the market for sale by the current owner.
As generally seems to be the case, I remembered most of the
downstairs rooms as larger than they are in reality. The walnut tree
was gone, the cupola still unfinished. Our old room was fresh and
clean; I had forgotten that it, like most of the upstairs rooms, also
had an incredible view of the city. The kitchen was sleek and
modern and basically unrecognizable. The house had been restored,
and beautifully so, but the memories live on.

In early spring, Ralph flew to England for a stint as a visiting
professor at the University of Warwick. I flew over a month later,
bringing his 6-year-old son with me. A couple of months later,
Caroline followed, with their youngest son, and two of her friends.
Our time in the UK deserves a book of its own; one someone else
will need to write.

On our return, I moved into the Victorian with Ralph, since I had
sublet my beach cottage to a friend for an indefinite amount of
time. We came back to a house filled with students, overrun with
fleas, and general chaos. Ralph and I took over a large corner
bedroom on the second floor. I painted it pale yellow and put out
the usual signs of the time: bed on the floor, madras bedspread and
curtains, incense and candles, yarn gods’ eyes, beaded necklaces on
hooks on the wall. This was when things really ramped up at 724.

The usual amount of people who came and went increased. Kesey
would drop by with his whole group; they always conveniently
showed up at dinner time. Joe Lysowski and his wife Wendy were
living in an RV in the driveway; unlike Kesey, they left a light
footprint. DW, a brilliant, unbalanced former math colleague of
Ralph, would appear, disappear, then reappear. Ram Dass came and
stayed in our yellow room upstairs; that was the only time people
walked around in a somewhat hushed manner. Caroline went down
to Esalen and brought back new people. And always, friends from
before our trip to England came to visit, to eat, to take a pill. On
our return, Ralph had put white carpet in the living room, declared
it a no-shoes space, and closed the door to the busyness of family
activity. It was the de-facto sanctuary for group drugs, and many
such sessions, mainly mda, took place on that soft carpet. This was
not a free-for-all drug haven…at least during the time I was there,
Ralph was predominantly a spiritual seeker. We somehow got a
private audience with Chogyam Trumpa in Berkeley; sat front row at
Krishnamurti’s talk in Santa Cruz. Ram Dass didn’t stay with us for
the “wow” factor, but for the spiritual interest. And Ralph had
sponsored his veena teacher from London, Shiv Batish and family, to
come to America; while they looked for their own place to live,
they stayed with us, and their presence had an immediate calming
effect on 724. This was all a good counterpart to Kesey and some
others who would blow through the house with a lot of noise.

As for me, I had no interest in being part of the entourage of the
family. I had met Ralph, joined him in England, and would have
been perfectly happy if no one else had shown up. Particularly
infuriating for me was the prevailing patriarchal attitude at the
time, with Kesey’s group, and Kesey himself, being a good example,
although they certainly weren’t the only ones. They would come to
the house, hang out and proceed to pontificate for hours. Women,
myself included, were expected to feed them, humor them, and
sleep with them. I couldn’t believe how full of themselves they
were—-this was not necessarily intentional; they had never had
cause to question their sense of entitlement. Now, so many years
later, it’s unlikely women would be content to stay barefoot and
pregnant; keeping the hearth fire burning; baking the bread. Why
didn’t the women speak up? Some did, but the women’s’ movement
was nascent at that time. Certainly all my female friends had
opinions about this, and so did I. I also didn’t have much desire to
jump in and participate in the philosophical ramblings they took so
seriously. I found their sense of self-involvement disgusting, and I
began to fade from the scene.


We were back from England, the Catalyst had been sold and was
unrecognizable, Pacific Avenue had changed to Pacific Garden Mall,
and I was hired as the manager for Odyssey Records. In some ways
this was another dream job: music all the time, a free album with
every paycheck, a great group of people to work with—Denis,
Steve, Rick, Katie, Suzanne, Jimmy and especially Terry, my
counterpart at the Monterey store. The owner of the store was into
some shady stuff; we all heard rumors, none of us knew exactly
what was true; none of us really wanted to know. Drugs were taking
a hard turn; Jimmy OD’d on coke; a friend got part of her hand
blown off when she was shot at trying to cross the border with pot.

The mood on the street was very different from even a year before,
nowhere near as light. While we were in England and trees were
being planted up and down Pacific Garden Mall, Odyssey had moved
from a tiny, dark space at the top of Pacific to a larger, brighter one
next to the opposite side of the St. George from where the Catalyst
had been. I’d ride my bike to work—the one Joe Lysowski had
painted pink for me and covered with stickers. Someone stole that
bike from in front of the store, but returned it the next day.

Everyone was on the lookout for it, and only an imbecile would ride
around on something that obvious. People tried to steal records, but
given the size of an album it wasn’t that easy to stuff a few in a
sweatshirt. Steve or Denis would chase the culprit down the street;
it was rare that anyone ever got away. Technically, as manager, it
was my job to chase down a thief, but I made it clear I would never
do that. So I got the worse end of the deal—I had to decide
whether to call the cops or not. Lew Fein, best astrologer/best
friend, had been in the previous small Odyssey, and he too moved to
the new place. Every afternoon I made brown rice and veggies for
the whole crew on a hot plate in a storage area in the back of the
store. I had been into food in England and at 724, and continued it
here. We were serious about macrobiotics, or so we thought. But
macrobiotics is a balancing act, and there was no way that
buckwheat could balance mda, so eventually that fell by the
wayside. To this day I have low tolerance for rice and veggies.
I had moved out of 724 and was staying with Al and Patti until my
own house was vacated by the person I had rented it to. Over at
California St. someone, Caroline I think, got interested in a yoga
school down south. I went once with the whole family, and then by
myself. I decided to move down there; later Ralph’s family moved
down as well, but it was the beginning of the end for them. Not
long after, the family unraveled, resulting in an ugly divorce. Too
many boyfriends, too many girlfriends, too many drugs, too many
options. Jealousy, power plays, drama—probably the same as every
other epoch on this planet. The 60s were over. It seemed like they
had lasted a lifetime, but it had only been a few short years.

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