By Rick Gladstone
Where I’m Coming From & Getting to Santa Cruz
I was born in San Francisco in 1947. When I was seven my family left the Sunnydale Projects, in
Visitacion Valley, which is on the south end of S.F., near the bay, and (at that time) next to the
city dump. We moved down the coast to an old, dilapidated ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains,
five miles in from Pescadero. That’s where my five sisters (3 foster sisters) and I were raised. I
was seventeen when I graduated from tiny Pescadero High School, in a class of sixteen students;
that’s Pescadero and La Honda kids combined.
My parents decision to make the move was always up for agonizing reappraisal, but I came to
realize that it was influenced by several things: partly by their idealism; my dad, Joe, a merchant
marine who had just quit going to sea – had been in the radical labor movement for a long time,
and likewise my mother, Ann, a union organizer and part-time secretary for the painters union,
and they and their circle of lefties from the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) were always looking
for utopia; also, I was already getting into trouble in the streets, at five and six years old; and,
possibly, the fact that my older sister, Irene, and I (at that time I had one younger sister, Laura)
had contracted hepatitis and I damn near croaked: I was quarantined to our apartment for five
months and missed the whole second grade. Small to begin with, I actually shrunk; by the time
we got to Pescadero I weighed in at just over forty pounds.
My folks planned the move with another family from our circle, which included Joan London
(Jack London’s oldest daughter, a family comrade from the labor movement) and her son Bart
and his wife Helen and their six kids – the idea being an experiment in cooperative living. Joe, a
city boy from Brooklyn, was skeptical, but Ann, as a young girl, had lived with her family on
farms on the east coast and on state farms in the Soviet Union, and she and Bart and others in the
circle lobbied hard. So Joe, miraculously, borrowed fifteen hundred dollars from his father –
whom he hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years – and Joan and Charlie Miller (her second husband)
matched it and we had enough for a down payment on the rundown Stone-Bulstead ranch on
Pescadero Creek Road.
[A coda to my father’s borrowed down payment: One of the characters in the group, Peter
Martin, was a good friend of Joan, Bart and my folks and a professor at S.F. State. He was the
son of Carlo Tresca – the east-coast anarchist/Wobbly publisher of Il Martelo – and Bina Flynn,
and the nephew of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (co-founder of the IWW and the American
Communist Party). Peter started a poetry magazine in San Francisco in ’52 and called it City
Lights (and he also co-founded the namesake bookstore, with Ferlinghetti, et al), but by ’54 he
wanted to move back to New York, so he offered the journal to my dad for fifteen hundred bucks.
Joe had to decide: the city lights or the country roads. I sometimes wonder how our life might
have otherwise turned out, for better or worse.]
The Abbotts moved into the “clubhouse”, a long, box-like redwood structure, with a high ceiling,
huge fireplace, and a closed-in sleeping porch. Bart’s father, Park Abbott (Joan’s first husband),
was a master carpenter and helped us construct a kitchen off one side of the building. We got hot
water hooked up by running the spring water through pipes secured to the back of the fireplace,
which, of course, only worked if the fire was going. If the fire was going too well nothing but
steam came out of the faucets.
There were several other decrepit wooden cabins, either falling down or molding into the earth
under the redwoods, and a long, wooden, barn-like workshop, whose doors were falling off. The
spring-fed water system had to be completely restored. All the fences had to be rebuilt to keep in
the goats. We had two horses, Dick, a two-year old stallion and Dolly, a twelve-year old mare,
who belonged to Joan and Charlie. They would come down on weekends and Joan liked to ride
the gentle, rein-trained, Dolly (as did all us kids). But nobody could ride the wild and crazy Dick
– even Bart kept getting thrown off until he gave up. Our family settled in the lower farmhouse, a
ramshackle, drafty, moldy, 14-room structure – with a colony of bats and a giant hive of bees in
the attic – that we rehabilitated as best we could. It was an inauspicious beginning.
Concurrent with our move to the country, part of the extended family, the Osbornes, moved from
the Candlestick Cove Projects (between Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley) to an old Victorian
in the Haight-Ashbury. The Haight was a great place in the ‘50s, a diverse, sleepy neighborhood
tucked in between Golden Gate Park and Twin Peaks. But a real cultural sea change had started
to build as young artists, students, and blue-collar families, being priced out of North Beach,
We often stayed in the city with our relatives and friends on holidays, usually at the Osborne’s –
when they weren’t coming down to the country. We kids would cruise the Panhandle and Golden
Gate Park on bikes, race down Ashbury from Clayton and up Haight St. to Stanyan. We’d go to
the Haight Theater (later the “Straight” Theater, a name I detested) in the afternoon, or play
basketball at the playground or in the Panhandle until dark. I played little league baseball, with
Steve Osborne, for the neighborhood team at Grattan playground, off Stanyan Street – there
being no such available recreational activity out in the country.
The adults would hang out up on Clayton St., solving the world’s problems. Steve’s mom, Lily
(my Italian mom – my mom was his Jewish mother: they met as socialist youth while in their
teens) had been an organizer in the Canneries in Monterey. She was a fabulous artist and early
innovator of art programs for special-needs kids, and her oldest sister, Mary Fabilli, was a
“minor” Beat poet who had been married to another poet – Bill Everson, whom she introduced to
Catholicism. He decided to convert and become a monk (maybe marriage can do that to you) and
they got an annulment, but I remember Brother Antoninus, in his robe and collar, at dinner on
Sundays. Later, Bill, by then re-secularized, came down to teach at UCSC.
Tonia, Steve’s older sister, took me to my first political action, in 1962, a sit-in on Auto Row on
Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, and also to my first coffeehouse – the Precarious Vision –
which was on Divisadero, I think. Their dad, Selden, one of my father’s closest comrades, was a
long-time peace activist, longshoreman, and decades long political foe of Harry Bridges in the
ILWU (whose hiring hall was used for the first S.F. Acid Test).
The longshoreman and political philosopher Eric Hoffer (author of the True Believer) had
become part of the family and would always be at Sunday dinner on Clayton St. Selden had met
him during a beef with the Communist Party-leaning ILWU union leadership (like most of our
crowd, Selden was a follower of Leon Trotsky and hence in the SWP or one of its splinter
groups, and always at war with the CP – supporters of Stalin – over differing visions of the
worker’s state). Eric became a surrogate grandfather to the Osborne kids and he treated me as a
godson. My mom ended up transcribing a couple of his subsequent books directly from his handwritten
manuscripts. A self-taught (anti-) intellectual and spellbinding raconteur, he would often
come down to the ranch, taking long walks with Steve and me along Pescadero Creek Rd.,
entertaining us with tales of his younger years as a gold-miner and migrant worker.
The grand plan for a communal co-op, a place for all the lefties, as originally conceived, fell
through. The summer camp that was supposed to provide income never got off the ground. In
’56, a few years after Joe had retired from the merchant marines, he was commuting to a job at
the stock yards (slaughterhouse and packing plants) in South San Francisco and Bart was still
working as a longshoreman on the waterfront in San Francisco. By ’57, three years into the
experiment in cooperative living, Joe borrowed some money and bought out Joan and Charlie,
and the Abbotts moved back to Tunnel Road in Berkeley. I recall my father saying that everyone
who encouraged our family to make a move to the country found it less romantic when faced
with the incredible shit load of work required to maintain a place like that. Nevertheless, the
ranch became a gathering spot for many of those who had, up to that point, managed to survive
the Great Depression, the Stalinist purges, the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the
So, because I was raised between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, I got to spend time in both
towns, especially since we’d begun to use Santa Cruz – ten miles closer than S.F. – as our nearest
“go to” spot for supplies and entertainment. I got to see things play out in a kind of “before,
during and after” scenario, in the ‘50s and ‘60s. And, although we lived in the country, my
family remained part of an urban milieu that included unionists, Marxists and anarchists, as well
as bohemians and beats – which were all part of an earlier, pre-hippie counter culture.
There were so many in the cast of characters that visited the ranch, were at gatherings in the city,
or were part of the extended circle that it’s impossible to remember the names, but some I recall
include: Kenneth Rexroth; Al and Lil Willis (Al was the first African-American videocameraman
in public television – at KQED in San Francisco, in the early ‘60s); Norm Jacobson;
Ruth Asawa (the “Fountain Lady”); Martin Matell (who created the public sculpture on
Cathedral Hill in S.F.); Bill and Ada Farrell (they owned the Marxist/labor oriented Farrell’s
Bookstore, on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley); Peter Martin; Slim Slaughter (Huey Newton’s father-
in-law); The “Marxist Cadre” of Norman Minni, Bill Gannon, and Jack Copenhaver; Jack and
Miriam Wasserman; Blackie Jackson (a follower of Wilhelm Reich, who’d actually undergone
Orgone Therapy) and other, assorted members of the Ohler and Schactman factions of the
Socialist Workers Party; Stan (who wrote “Single Jack Solidarity”) and Mary Weir; James
Baldwin; Jimmy Johnson (C. L. R. James); Tillie Olsen; Helen Van deVeer; Bill and Sarah Turgis
(he bounced between socialism and Vedanta and she belonged to a pioneering S.F. Jewish family
that settled on top of Diamond Heights and started a goat farm – hence the neighborhood name,
still on city maps, of “Goat Hill”); the Larners, Frumkins and Furths (who helped finance the
massive Mobilization marches against the Vietnam war) from the L.A. SWP (Dr. Fuzzy Furth coowned
and ran – along with Herb Gold – the biggest barrio clinic in the world, the “First St.
Medical Clinic” in East L.A. She provided medical care for the Brown Berets and Black
Panthers, and took mobile medical facilities to Delano to care for the striking UFW – and took
care of many aging members of the party rank and file and leadership).
Ernestine Hara Kettler, atheist godmother to my sisters and me (both my godparents were
atheists) would often come to stay at the ranch. A Romanian-Jew who immigrated to America
alone, at the age of fourteen, she was a free-love advocate and an anarchist-suffragette. She was
one of the two hundred women arrested on the steps of the White House and jailed in 1917
(which is chronicled in the book “From Parlor to Prison”). She was part of the Provincetown
crowd, and a friend of Eugene O’Neill, Emma Goldman, Max Eastman, Louise Bryant and Jack
Reed; She partied with Henry Miller at his place in Big Sur and married Archer Emerson (a
Wobbly, and president of the Electrical Workers Union, local 310, in Seattle, and a cousin of
Ralph Waldo), her first among four husbands, all Wobblies. Ernestine was a mentor to my mom
in the radical movement of the ‘30s and ‘40s, and taught me about Bakunin, Proust, how to play
“cutthroat” pinochle, and how to properly fit a pillowcase over a pillow.
When my buddies would stop by the ranch and see all the books in our house they knew they
weren’t in Kansas anymore. By the time I came to live in Santa Cruz in late ’65, I had grown up
in virtually two worlds, one as an average country kid, the other in a parallel universe of political and cultural radicals.
Pescadero and La Honda in the late’50s to early ’60s
In addition to chores on our ranch, I began working, like most local boys, on other local farms
and ranches and in the woods around Pescadero, (pop. 350), and La Honda (pop. 500). The legal
work age was twelve but we used fake work permits, and so began our careers at age eleven, and
the farmers looked the other way. Labor was in short supply as the larger economy was buzzing,
rolling out a nation of post-war prosperity. Many people, especially those in La Honda, had
begun commuting to jobs “over the hill”, something modern-day Santa Cruz locals can relate to.
The Bracero Program was in full swing, with Mexican workers getting “green cards” and
immigration authorities routinely making raids on local farms, looking for illegal wetbacks. The
farmers had a phone-tree network and word would get out right away if the federales were in
town. Workers would be hustled into barns and out of sight. We kids worked right along side the
(mostly) guys, in the artichoke, Brussels sprout, horse bean and strawflower fields, through
summers and vacations. As I got older, I bucked hay, built greenhouses, cleared brush, ran a
chainsaw, dropped, limbed and skinned trees, set chokers and ran a bull line, all skills I learned
on the ranch. Many of my buddies did the same.
The local girls, including my sisters (by age twelve, I had three additional foster sisters, all
older), in addition to their chores, worked in the flower-drying sheds or at Duarte’s Restaurant.
They did “piece-work”, becoming skilled at preparing the dried flowers for shipment. We would
deliver flowers to families at their homes, where mothers and daughters worked together to make
extra money. My mom, an extraordinary typist and skilled at shorthand (as well as a talented
classical pianist and artist) worked for many different groups in the region, including the school
districts in Pesky and Half Moon Bay. Ann was very enthusiastic about organic farming, using
Rodale as her guide, and we kept a large vegetable garden. We had many fruit trees – plums and
apples – and raised chickens, rabbits, and for a time, goats. My pals and I hunted for deer and
fished for steelhead and salmon in the winter and spring and trout in the summer.
There was a root cellar in back of the main farmhouse that had been converted into a “wine
cellar” in the ‘30s by a previous owner named Wiedeman. It actually was used to stash Chinese
rice-wine, of which there were still about two hundred bottles left when we moved in. A few of
the labels hadn’t molded off, and we could read the name “Ingapay”, next to the Chinese
characters. It turned out that Wiedeman had been a bootlegger and smuggler, like so many on the
coastside during prohibition. Several bottles were opened over the years but the stuff was potent
and noxious, though that didn’t stop my pals and I from trying it on occasion.
My buddies and I roamed the hills like semi-civilized beasts. Even before acquiring the magic
driver’s license we were out on the county roads in junker trucks and jalopies. Prior to driving
we prowled the trails and fire roads any time of the day or night, often getting home way after
midnight, walking through the forest on Wurr Rd. in the pitch black. We literally couldn’t see our
hand in front of our face. We knew almost every inch of Pescadero Creek, from Jones Gulch to
the river mouth. There wasn’t a sound in the forest that we didn’t recognize. Walking from Loma
Mar to La Honda and back, over Haskins Hill, about sixteen miles, or from the ranch to Pesky
and back (ten miles), often with half a heat-on, was a common pass time. Upon reaching
adolescence and courting girls, this became more frequent.
We often hunted and fished at night, illegal, to be sure, but we lived somewhat off the legal grid.
The last sheriff to live in Pescadero moved away in the early ‘50s and the sheriff from Redwood
City patrolled (drove through) twice a week. We knew exactly when, had it timed nearly to the
minute: usually around 10:15pm on Tuesday and Saturday night. If a car was coming, maybe
once every half hour, we could hear it down the canyon for miles, giving us plenty of time to
decide if we wished to be seen or not.
When you live in a rural situation like that the work never ends. I worked with my dad and
uncles on our place to restore the buildings (redoing the foundations and roofs), and maintain the
roads, fences and water and sewage systems. My friends would come by on a weekend day to
round me up for fishing, etc., and often would help us finish a project so I could take off early. It
was isolated out there, with a nearly non-existent social scene that involved mainly a lot of
drinking, fighting and crazy driving on the back roads or racing down the coast highway at
midnight at 100 mph: by all rights none of us should have survived, and a few didn’t. Virtually
all the guys carried hunting rifles, in the trunk or on a gun rack.
The high school district covered 750 square miles and mustered up ninety kids. Everybody knew
everybody; we had a twelve-party line on our phone for a couple of years. I stuck to my trio of
pals, Johnny Muñoz (who grew up at the Campbell Soup Mushroom Farm by Pigeon Point),
Marceleno Contreras (who lived with his eight siblings in the old White House, before it burned
down, at White House Canyon near Gazos Creek) and Mike Fluharty (who was raised in Loma
Mar, a tiny settlement next to Memorial Park, and whose dad, Oril, was a local legend, a
lumberjack and Protestant preacher in Pescadero). Fortunately, through a twist of fate (and
biology), Johnny and I had good-looking older sisters who were dating the older roughnecks
from Half Moon Bay, so that was one big problem we didn’t have to worry about: duking it out
with the “Coastriders” car club. It was like having dispensation from the Pope.
Starting around age eight, I began to teach myself piano on our old upright by listening to rock
and roll stations from S.F and Oakland (virtually no watchable T.V. reception out there until I
was in my early teens) on a shortwave/am/fm radio my uncle Milton built. My sisters had
acquired a small portable record player from another uncle in L.A., and had a stash of 45s, but
the radio was my lifeline to the world of music. I tuned in stations, late at night, from all over the
west and mid- and south-west. If the atmospheric gods were with me, on cold, clear nights in the
early a.m., I could pick up broadcasts from the USSR, presumably Siberia. Sometimes, if earlier
in the evening and reception permitting, my mom, who could still remember some childhood
Russian, would pick out words amidst the crackle. My dad, uncles and I also used an old paintsplattered
portable to listen to Giants ballgames on weekends while we worked. It made the
drudgery almost bearable.
I learned the trumpet on an old military Cohn, and, after reading “Satchmo” when I was in the
sixth grade, Louis Armstrong became my hero. Meanwhile, there was a small, cinderblock
recreation hall and an old swimming pool in Cuesta (the settlement where a majority of the La
Hondans lived – the rest scattered around on ranches) and, on hot summer nights, thirty or so kids
would gather, some coming down from Half Moon Bay, and we’d crank up a record player. My
sophomore year I borrowed a tenor sax from the high school, and with a couple of buddies
formed a combo and played R&R at the rec. hall and at Aladino’s bar in San Gregorio.
By the early ‘60s, we started to see more and more offbeat characters around, bearded,
longhaired or otherwise, loners living in tents or cabins in the hills. The isolation was attractive.
Change was in the air.
Ken Kesey and his friends – the Pranksters – moved up to La Honda when I was about fifteen.
Things got a lot more interesting. We were all curious, and a few of us started checking out the
parties at Kesey’s before we’d take off for Santa Cruz or Redwood City, looking for kids our
own age. During the next year, still just a punk kid, I remember stopping in at Kesey’s place a
few times with older buddies, sometimes doing a deal or making a score, standing around in the
front yard, soaking up the atmosphere.
My schoolmate Ray’s parents, Mac and Gracie, owned Boots and Saddle Lodge, a restaurant and
bar famed for its summer jazz jams and abalone steak dinners. Mac had been a long-time bass
player in the S.F. Bay Area, before opening up Boots. Dozens of his old band mates would show
up on summer weekends to blow all day and into the evening. Hundreds of people would pour in
from the City and the whole town would be jumping.
Boots was literally two hundred feet from Kesey’s place, on San Gregorio Road. It was the local
bar for the Pranksters. We’d walk around the corner to Ken’s pad, past the “no left turn
unstoned” sign, across the little bridge into the yard to see if a party was planned for the evening.
Furthur, the bus, was parked off to the side. (I think there is a common misconception that Ken
Kesey lived on a “farm”, or “ranch” in La Honda. It was actually a fair-sized country type cabin
that sat tucked under some redwoods at the base of a forested hillside, next to the two-lane
Highway 84, with a large yard/driveway in front).
The parties at Kesey’s were a whole different ballgame, unlike anything anybody had ever seen.
They would often get big and loud, with lots of people, bikers, freaks, wine, beer, weed, acid.
Eventually the parties got too frequent, too big and too loud. Everybody knew it would come to a
head (no pun intended). There would be scores of parked choppers and cars stretched along the
shoulder of HW84 for a quarter of a mile. The parents of my schoolmates were freaked out,
frantically concerned about the virtue of their kids. It was certainly an overreaction, but
predictable. The cops were called multiple times. The sheriff hated having to make the 70-mile
roundtrip over from Redwood City. The Sheriff’s Department and the Highway Patrol started
impounding bikes, hauling people to jail on various charges, etc., enough harassment to
eventually force the Pranksters to move, some of them to Santa Cruz. But not before I took my
first acid trip, with a schoolmate and his sister at their parent’s house, a half-mile down the road.
Another strange connection: In ’63, my dad, Joe was working over in Palo Alto. His boss, Ray
Hennell, was married to Emma, the actual V.A. nurse on whom the character “Big Nurse”
Ratched, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was based. They came to visit us at the ranch a
few times, and my dad told me they were pretty frosted about the portrayal of Emma in the book
and movie, and Ray had confided in him: the hospital was going to sue Kesey for dereliction of
duty because he supposedly hid in the closet during his shift as an orderly, working on his story.
When I read the novel a couple of years later it felt strange to recall her, standing in the
driveway, tight-lipped, in high heels and beehive hairdo, chain-smoking.
Meanwhile, over in Pescadero, in the Butaño (or “Butte-no”, as the locals say) off of Cloverdale
Road, there was a communal nudist colony, founded by Eric Clough, called Eden West. They
were there for several years – I’m not sure how long. I remember a general, uneasy co-existence
with the townsfolk, who were civil to Eric and his group and thought of them as slightly
lascivious at worst, and best left alone; but, judging from the level of gossip around Williamson’s
gas station, where I worked for a while, I figured they were more than a little intrigued.
Eventually, I’m guessing, due to a combination of increasing chilly vibes from some Native Sons
and Daughters, plus the generally cool summer weather in that part of the canyon, the colony
moved to Santa Cruz County in 1963 and settled at 1000 Alba Road, in Ben Lomond.
Sometime before Kesey moved to La Honda, he was working at the V.A. Hospital in Menlo Park
and according to legend, had access to LSD. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but one of the
directors at the V.A. at that time was Gregory Bateson, and he was interested in the use of LSD
for therapeutic purposes, as similar research was being done elsewhere, in Canada and Europe.
So, who knows exactly how that all came down, but there was some kind of a connection.
Gregory and his wife Lois, who were friends of our family, eventually came out to live on the
ranch for a couple years.
During the big flood in the winter of ’55 (the same one that wiped out downtown Santa Cruz and
the old Chinatown – where the Galleria, Garage, CVS and Trader Joe’s are now), our bridge (a
seventy-five foot long, Pratt-style wooden structure) washed out, cutting us off from the county
road, and it took us two years to rebuild it (which we did ourselves). In ’58, our friends, Jay and
Betty Haley and their three young children, rented the clubhouse. Betty, an old political comrade
of my parents, was a world-class musician, a concert violinist and pianist. Jay worked with
Bateson, who recruited him to join the staff at Mental Research Institute in Menlo Park, doing
some kind of cutting-edge work in psychotherapy along with Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir and
others. They were using hypnosis and developing “family therapy” and something called ”results
therapy”, among other things. They started the journal Family Process, which Betty edited in the
clubhouse. Jay went on to become quite well known in the field of psychology and when the
Haleys moved back to Palo Alto to get their kids into better schools, Gregory and Lois moved in.
Greg, formerly married to Margaret Mead, was friendly and right at home in the country, and
though a child of the British upper crust, very informal and down to earth. He would amble down
from the clubhouse to our kitchen on Saturday morning, an unfiltered smoke dangling from his
lips, shirt half-tucked in, shoes untied and fly open. My mom would laugh and tell him to zip up,
pour him a cup of coffee and he would schmooze for a while. I always appreciated it when Greg
came in because Joe would get into a conversation with him on some esoteric subject or other,
and that would delay going out to start work, which meant I had a reprieve. Plus, I was
fascinated by whatever they talked about, including his research with octopi and dolphins.
Bateson seemed to enjoy bantering with my dad, who was a very erudite, working-class
intellectual. Greg drolly remarked “it’s difficult arguing with Marxists and Catholics; they have a
system”. He had a wealth of knowledge about the flora and fauna, and always invited us to look
through his homemade telescope when he set it up on those dark country nights. At his request, I
would look in on Lois, who was recovering from a miscarriage, when I would get home from
school. Gregory introduced my folks to the cybernetician Heinz von Foerster and his wife Mira
when they bought a place on Pescadero Creek Rd. after Heinz retired, and Ann and Joe remained
friends with the von Foersters thereafter, having dinner with them once a month.
A polymath without a PhD, Gregory moved in and out of a succession of fields and disciplines.
He said, “You always have to sing for your supper”. My mom ended up working for him,
preparing transcribed accounts of audiotape therapy sessions. Greg and Lois moved away before
their daughter Nora was born, and later he was hired to teach at UCSC, in the late ‘60s. They
ended up moving in at 1000 Alba Rd., where Eric Clough and the nudist colony had been earlier.
And Ralph Abraham tells me that he moved into that same place when the Batesons moved out in the ‘70s!
Santa Cruz: The Early Years
Living in Pescadero in the late ‘50s, Santa Cruz was the nearest “big city” (pop. 25,000), forty
miles south. We’d go to the boardwalk with visiting relatives and friends, shop for supplies
(anything you couldn’t get at Williamson’s Country Store in Pescadero, Peterson’s General Store
in San Gregorio, or the hardware store on Main St. in Half Moon Bay). Fishing off the wharf
with my uncle Lee on occasional Sundays was a special treat. We went to the movies at the Del
Mar (I remember seeing “Psycho” there in 1960), or the Rio, and I think there was a theatre on
Walnut Street, though it might have been closed by then.
My childhood compadre, John Muñoz, was living in town. His family had moved to Santa Cruz
in ’61. As young teen-agers, in ’61 – ’62, we used to sneak into the Skyview Drive-In in the trunk
of a car or under a blanket on the backseat floor, or we would just hop the fence. Later, when the
city morality squad was giving Boise and Peter Demma such a hard time about the statues, I’d
shake my head, thinking about the Skyview, because we saw movies there that would soon be
considered r- or x-rated: not hardcore sex but soft porn, with lots of nudes. We pubes couldn’t
believe our good fortune, that this was right here in our backyard! We were amazed that the
owners weren’t busted, but we didn’t complain.
Mike F. and I would come to Santa Cruz pretty often to hang out with John, and I remember
going to the Sticky Wicket (after it had moved from Santa Cruz to the edge of Aptos), a pretty
cool coffeehouse. On Saturday night we would cruise up and down Pacific and Beach St. hoping
to meet some girls. We shot pool in the Town Clock Billiards Parlor, located on the first or
second block of Front St. on the north end. It was spacious, with low ceilings and lots of
atmosphere, a shaded lamp over every table, with an entrance off both Front and Pacific. It was
definitely a cool place to hang out and smoke cigarettes, which we could buy at United Cigar,
across the street on Pacific. We’d go bowling at the Surf Bowl, or the Santa Cruz Bowl on
Pacific Avenue. In the ‘70s Randall Kane bought Santa Cruz Bowl, remodeled it, pushed the
lanes together to create a dance floor and opened the “New” Catalyst.
Mike and I played ball for Pescadero High against the Catholic Schools around the Monterey
Bay. We were, by far, the smallest, as well as the only public school in the league. We played
basketball against Holy Cross at the Civic Auditorium and baseball on the big diamond at
Harvey West Park, a real treat for us bumpkins. One night, at a basketball game against Palma of
Salinas, somebody told the Palma cheerleaders that I was an atheist (I wasn’t – I’ve always been
sort of agnostic). After the game they came running over and told me “we’re going to pray for
your soul”. I was flattered, of course, but definitely more interested in the messengers than the
Although very conservative and demographically “older” (third oldest, per capita, in the U.S. in
the 1950s), Santa Cruz always had an active sub-culture and youth culture – surfers for one –and
assorted writers and artists around the county, in the hills and by the beaches, and this is probably
not unusual for beach towns and resort/tourist areas, as creation and recreation share common
ground. Capitola was an artist’s colony. The Greenwood Lodge, in the hills behind Soquel,
owned by the folks of our dear friend, Nan B., was a vacation/summer retreat for families who
were associated with the Communist Party. Don McCaslin, from San Jose, and Santa Cruz High
alum, Corny Bumpus, played music locally in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Heinlein and Hitchcock lived in
With such a spectacular, beautiful, physical setting, accessible to both bay areas, Santa Cruz was
a natural destination and gathering spot. But was it necessarily the kind of place where cultural,
if maybe not political revolution might take root?
After high school I had gone to UC Berkeley to study physics. That was 1964, the year of the
Free Speech Movement. I had a room at a family friend’s place, two miles up Euclid, in
exchange for house and yard work, walking to and from campus every day. Before classes had
even started I volunteered to work a table at Bancroft and Telegraph three days a week for
SNCC, collecting donations and distributing literature. When the student strike started,
unsurprisingly, I supported the cause. After all, the administration wanted to ban all the tables,
representing a spectrum of (mostly radical) political persuasions and issues. But, in fact, the first
table they banned was The Young Republicans. It was a matter of constitutional rights, a basic
freedom of speech issue; so we dug in our heels. Turmoil swept the campus. I tried to attend
classes, or at least get and keep up with my assignments but wouldn’t cross picket lines, many of
which I walked. A couple of my Profs were on strike. It was tricky. I was still seventeen in the
fall and the older students strongly recommended that I avoid getting arrested. If I withdrew from
school, by ’65 I’d be eighteen and exposed to the draft and possibly off to Vietnam. Also, of all
things, I had a side activity, playing centerfield for the frosh baseball team, as a walk-on. I had a
great time arguing politics with my frat-boy teammates, a few of who took me seriously while
others were indifferent, and some I drove to apoplexy. Coach didn’t know what to think. It was
all too distracting, I couldn’t sustain my studies and I dropped out my sophomore year.
I worked for nine months for a paving company and then hooked up with my pal Mike on a crew
that built state parks. We built two parks in the Santa Cruz area, Sunset Beach State Park on San
Andreas Road, and Henry Cowell Park Campground on Graham Hill Road. I decided to stay in
town, maybe go back to school. It was a strategy: get a II-S deferment and keep out of Vietnam. I
had known, via my parents, about Vietnam since Dien Bien Phu in the middle ‘50s, and it made
me sick and furious that my two best friends were getting sucked into the vortex of war in
Southeast Asia. Mike got drafted a year later. John, in the navy reserves, was waiting for his
deployment orders. I got my induction notice, refused to go, and began four years of sparring
with the draft board in San Mateo.
Our crew had one more park to build, down in Big Sur – Julia Pfeifer Burns State Park – and our
work would be finished, as the State had run out of funds for new park construction. While
building JPB and living in Big Sur, my crewmates and I heard about a “live-music concert” up in
Pescadero, at the I.D.E.S. Hall. We were flabbergasted, as nobody ever came to Pescadero, let
alone to the I.D.E.S. Hall, unless it was in May for the Chamarita, the Portuguese Holy Ghost
Festival. Some group was promoting a big bicycle race and they tried to attract more bodies with
a rock concert. So we jammed up to Santa Cruz, stopping to pick up my girlfriend Pat and some
other friends, and on up to Pesky. We walked into the half-empty hall and I asked someone next
to me, “Who are these guys?” “The Warlocks”, he shouted as the longhaired, mustachioed
keyboardist, Pig Pen, banged down on the first chord. They proceeded to rock the joint like it’d
never been rocked before, or since, probably.
I came back up to Santa Cruz from Big Sur and hooked up with John and other old high school
friends who had a communal pad over on Avalon Street, off Emeline. This was in late ’65, early
’66, and so I started living like a Santa Cruz “hippie”. We never called ourselves, or thought of
ourselves as hippies. But we were sort of culturally transmuting into what others started calling
“hippies”. I was pretty skeptical about that kind of labeling.
There were communal pads sprouting up around Santa Cruz. Our place on Avalon St. was a
multi-colored, rambling farmhouse. It had high ceilings, large windows and lots of light. A
lifeguard friend of ours, Bob Beede, who later taught electronic music and recording at Cabrillo,
hooked up a boffo sound system out of parts. We were awash in the great LP’s being produced,
the S.F. Sound, the British Invasion, FM rock coming on line, Masekela, Handy, Lloyd. Music,
as well as any consumables, including food, was always shared. The rent was cheap: for
example, I think we were initially paying about $65/mo. for Avalon House, shared by 6-8 people.
But that changed over the next couple of years as the expanding university put upward pressure
on housing costs.
We had a fluid core of housemates at Avalon St., as did the 7th Ave House, and most of us knew
each other from high school. The 7th Ave. house was a big, old, mid-19th century sea captain’s
estate, where our good friend Ernie Keller – one of Santa Cruz’s Ur-Hipsters- lived, along with
some of his former Santa Cruz High classmates. It had lots of exotic trees planted around the
grounds, of which only the stately cork-oak tree remains, standing gallantly in front of the gas
mart on the corner of 7th and Soquel Ave. Local artist Jimmy Phillips – who created one of the
iconic posters of the ‘60s – “The Next Supper’ – had painted a giant portrait of Bruanstein, the
Zig-Zag man, on the fireplace, and Ernie had hooked up speakers and muted colored lights in all
the rooms, put rugs and pillows on the floors, and there was amazing music always playing – a
great place to trip. Other communal places I remember include Stone Hill, and, a bit later, Camp
Joy up in SLV.
Some real interesting things occurred at Avalon St. Ed Leslie, a local real estate mogul, came by
the house one day in a big, red Cadillac convertible, looking for our housemate Eddie Lawrence,
who did odd-jobs for him. Short-haired, wearing shades and dressed in informal business attire,
Ed stood out like a sore thumb and looked like a narc, but was friendly enough. Eddie had
invited him to come over for dinner. After we ate, he said he wanted to try smoking some grass,
so a joint was rolled; he took a few puffs and settled back to listen to some Beatles on the
turntable. He must have had a good time because he started coming around quite often, his hair
started growing down over his collar, and he traded his leather shoes for sandals, and switched to
groovier threads. Subsequently he began to promote rock concerts and started managing a local
band named Snail, and for the next several years they had a heck of a run.
Howard Dumble used to come by fairly often and have dinner with us. He was one of the earliest
in a line of very talented musicians, DJs and music makers from Bakersfield that migrated to
Santa Cruz in the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Cindy Odum and Michael Tanner. Howard was a fine
guitar player but an even better electronics engineer and his custom amps are legendary in the
halls of Rock ‘n Roll. He’d plug in his latest creation and proceed to tear it up for a couple of
Our pad was a popular spot and we had lots of jams and parties, and we always had food to
share. It was a gathering place for many local friends (the sons and daughters of City Fathers and
Mothers and local Chamber of Commerce types) whose names I’ll withhold as a personal
courtesy, with one exception: our dear friend, Mike Fox, who succumbed to an incurable disease
at the age of twenty-three. His father, who owned Fox Medical Supply on Ocean St., donated
money to the city to create a park, next to the Riverside Bridge, in Mike’s memory, which still
serves the public well to this day.
Here, like everywhere, I suppose, people were in motion, looking for roots, coming and going,
crashing for a while, moving on, jamming up to the Haight or Golden Gate Park to catch the free
concerts, traveling to New Mexico, Northern California, Europe, the far east, Latin America,
wherever. It was a time when some folks were digging in and others were letting go, some taking
off, some landing, some looking for place and some looking for space. A stream of European
hipsters, traveling around, flowed through Avalon House, kids from Spain, France, Denmark,
We were experimenting. Everyone started eating lots of brown rice and cooking in the style of
George Oshawa’s macrobiotic diet, trying to avoid becoming sanpaku. We started our own adhoc
collectivization of the food scene: one of our family, Jean Claude, discovered all the
“bruised” but usable vegetables that were being tossed out at Albertson’s Market (where Trader
Joe’s on Front St. is now (?); and one on the west side, I believe), so we started “dumpster
diving” and bringing home boxes of carrots and celery, onions, beets, etc. and cooking them up
in big pots on our stove. We called it “Albertson’s Stew”, and distributed it around to several
pads – did this a couple of times a week. We learned that Maddox’s Bakery in Soquel tossed their
day-old loaves out before they went to bake, at four in the morning, so we’d swing by after two
a.m. or so, in the back parking lot and would just ask if we could take it, a win-win situation.
They were pleased and we’d drive off with two or three gunnysacks full of wheat, rye,
sourdough loaves, rolls, and breadsticks. As with the stew, we distributed. We identified a couple
of restaurants, like Luther’s on Seabright, who would give us their “remainder” soup if we came
by around midnight. We would end up with two or three gallons worth, and we’d make the
rounds of hip pads.
Later, when our pad scene moved to Blain St., we installed a large vegetable garden and traded
avocados (collected mostly from the giant tree in our backyard) at Pacific Grain and Grocery on
Pacific Avenue for bulk grain, rice and oil; we located owners of vacant lots and got permission
to grow corn. At one time we had three or four lots, at least a quarter-acre or more, in production,
and we routinely culled mussels from beaches north of town.
Another food related note: Right after the landlord booted us out of Avalon House in ’67, Eddie
Lawrence saw a classified ad in the Sentinel about a bakery going out of business in Boulder
Creek. Eddie was compulsive and right away he wanted to go buy the equipment they were
selling for dimes on the dollar. I couldn’t talk him out of it because he “always dreamed of being
a baker”, so, with the understanding that I’d only help move and set up the stuff, we drove our
bus up to Boulder Creek, bought some big mixers, an oven and some smaller baking tools, and
installed it in a little storefront Eddie had located, in the little alley facing the back of what’s now
the Seabright Brewery. We named it the Trinity Bakery and Eddie immediately set to baking
crunchy wheat bread; but, predictably, in six months he grew bored with the project and decided
to sell. Two fellows, Gary and Richard, who were starting an organic bakery named Staff of Life
showed up with cash to buy Eddie out and I was happy that the equipment found a good home.
And a few years after that, Ed Leslie and Eddie teamed up again and opened Recycled Lumber
on 38th Ave.
People and Places
I first met Peter Demma at the Hip Pocket, in, I think, ’65. Peter was hosting a discussion group
one night a week in the back room of the bookstore. I remember that you could get to the back
room without going through the book store by coming in from Front St., through the Carriage
Room of the St. George (before the Old Catalyst was there), down a narrow hallway that later
became part of the bar (not sure about that). I thought it was pretty cool of Pete to offer a
gathering place, and was encouraged by the possibilities of the local “scene”. I got to know Peter
a lot better some years later when we were next-door neighbors in the River Flats, on Campbell
Street. He was a pretty intense guy, funny, with a sharp gleam in his eye, real radical and into
some pretty wild stuff.
For about a year, in 1966, myself, John M., Bob Anderson and a couple of others in our circle
hung out and drank beer at Van’s Village in Capitola, owned by a very hip guy named Sonny. It
had, hands down, the best jazz juke box in the Monterey Bay Area. It was later purchased by
Tom Louagie and rechristened The Local, in a “name that pub” contest.
We went up to Boulder Creek to outdoor jams at Max Hartstein’s, in the summertime, and played
flutes and drums. I went a couple of times but Bob was a regular.
My girlfriend Pat and I started going up to the Barn when word got around that you could party
up there, though we all thought – “seriously, in Scotts Valley?” We went to an open house where
people were invited to help paint the inside of the Barn. I think that was the first time I remember
seeing Leon Tabory and Joe Lysowski. We went to hear music quite often: New Delhi River
Band, Country Joe and others I’m forgetting. I didn’t meet Lysowski until a few months later at
Peter Demma’s house in Santa Cruz – though I might be getting my dates mixed up. I was with
Bob A., who was doing a little business deal with Peter, and Joe was there. Peter was getting
ready to go on a road trip to the Deep South and Joe had painted Peter’s VW Bug all colorful and
psychedelic. I remember Bob, incredulous, asking – “you’re gonna go through the south in that?”
but Peter assured us it was cool and pointed out the “Support Your Local Police” sticker he’d
slapped on the bumper (or back hood). When he got back he told me he never once got stopped.
As for Leon Tabory, I remember meeting him a couple of times, briefly, once at his place (I
think) out in the La Selva Beach area (a vague and possibly false memory).
About that S.V. thing: In ’66 I helped my pal, D.J. Carlisle, with a production of Michael
McClure’s “The Beard”, which he directed. I had met Carlisle, a Watsonville High grad, in the
Cabrillo College Theatre department, a nationally regarded program run by Dolores Abrams,
whose family owned Abrams Department Store on Pacific Avenue. Dolores was Broadway
trained and dedicated, and D.J. was one of her protégés, a talented actor, writer and artist, but for
some reason the venue he lined up for the premier was the community center in Scotts Valley. If
you have never seen “The Beard”, it’s a real powerful comment on American Culture, etc., but
there are only two characters – Billy The Kid and Jean Harlow. There’s a lot of sexual tension
and raw emotion, and they engage in oral sex at the front of the stage. At the dress rehearsal on
Thursday we got booted out of town and ended up at the Unitarian Church on Freedom Blvd.
One day, sometime in ’66, Eddie Lawrence and our friend Cage drove down to Brownsville
Texas and came back with about 5000 peyote buttons. The town practically levitated for the next
few weeks. I took the opportunity to engage in some serious questing and piano playing on the
funky upright in the living room at Avalon, and to take in a Giants night game at Candlestick
Park. I was stupefied by the intense green of the outfield. To this day I swear I saw Willie Mays
flap his arms, swoop into the air and catch a ball in his mouth.
People were starting to home-grow reef so the quality of the available supply improved, if you
could afford it. But, with a big government push to criminalize the good drugs, the bad shit took
over. In the next couple of years, the drug scene changed, not as quickly or dramatically as in the
Haight, which by the fall of ’67 was already ugly and mean. I had moved up to S.F. in late ’67
and it was dangerous to be on Haight Street. The real “Summer of Love” was ’66, not ’67 as the
media would have it. We weren’t immune in Santa Cruz though and it got mean and ugly in it’s
own way right here in River City. People started shooting at hippies up in the San Lorenzo
One night, on my twenty-first birthday, I was living in S.F. and visiting friends in Santa Cruz,
down in the little cottage apartments facing the bay at the end of Seabright Ave. After a swell
evening of food, drink, and smoke, I came out the front door feeling mellow and got into my old
Falcon pick-up, and decided to head down to the Catalyst for a birthday nightcap. As I started the
engine a vehicle behind me turned on its lights. I took off to turn up Seabright and the car rushed
up and cut me off, forcing me to the curb. There were literally six young guys, in tee shirts and
short hair (mine was not short). I stared at them, stunned, as the front passenger window rolled
down, and the nearest dude started screaming at me “you motherfuckin’ hippy, we’re gonna kill
you if you don’t get outta town”, and then they all started yelling at once. They looked like a
pack of mad dogs, snarling and frothing at the mouth. I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating but I
could tell I was starting to hyperventilate. I tried to clear my head and process the events. I kept
my window rolled up but when the guy in the drivers-side back seat opened his door to get out I
gunned my engine, rode up on the curb and slid in front of their car and raced up the street. They
took off in hot pursuit and I hit the light on Murray, making a hard left, continuing towards the
trestle and down past Riverside to Laurel. They stayed right behind me as I accelerated up
Laurel, miraculously hitting green lights, barreled right on to Center, and, still unable to shake
them, sped up towards City Hall, careened around the corner on Locust and screeched to a halt in
front of the City Police Department. My pursuers came up slowly and stopped a short distance
behind, sat there for a moment, then wheeled around me and sped away. There were a couple of
police cars parked in front but no cops in sight. My adrenaline rush slowly started to subside and
I sat there, dazed, trying to reflect on what had just happened, my thoughts in a jumble.
“Right here in Santa Cruz?” I thought. “Are you kidding me?”
Another couple of minutes later I drove over to the Catalyst and parked in the County Bank
parking lot across Front St., got out and walked into the bar just before last call, and feeling only
marginally calmer, ordered my first legal beer.
It all seemed to culminate a couple of years later, at the end of the decade, with the media
triumphantly anointing us as the “Murder Capital of the World”. I was publishing the local
“underground” newspaper at the time, and calls were pouring into the Sentinel from all over,
everyone wanting the grisly, juicy details, and the city editor at the Sentinel was merrily giving
everybody our phone number. His attitude seemed to be, “ask the hippies, it’s their deal”. If
nothing else, it sure as hell was the end of innocence.
A (non) apocryphal tale – something I recall but can’t document (partly because I refuse to
subscribe to the on-line Sentinel in order to gain access to the archives): Through the late ‘50s
and early ‘60s, during spring break, the local beaches and Boardwalk were drawing bigger and
bigger crowds of partying high school and college kids, with lots of alcohol being consumed.
Year by year it got rowdier and rowdier until a riot broke out on the boardwalk beach during
spring break in “66. Law enforcement from all over the area was summoned and something like
450 arrests was made for assault, battery, drunkenness, resisting arrest and general mayhem. The
city council was aghast, consternation all around. What to do? They decided to outlaw alcohol on
the beach, a ban enforced to this day. But I happened to notice an editorial in the Sentinel at the
end of spring break in ‘67, complaining bitterly about “clouds of smoke and the smell of
marijuana wafting above the boardwalk”. Which goes to show you can’t please everybody: the
number of arrests that year?
The Catalyst opened in April of ’66, in the back of the St. George Hotel. It was a originally a coop,
backed by some local professors and liberal professionals: philosophy professor, Sam Bloom;
Norm Lezin (owner of the Tannery); Ann Reed; Stan Stevens (Stan was a founder of the local
chapter of the A.C.L.U., in 1961), and others I can’t remember. And its mission, roughly, was to
be a gathering place, in the spirit of community togetherness, and, perhaps, to forge and foster
lines of communication between the town and the university
Al and Patti Di Ludivico managed the Catalyst in the spirit of its name; a community gathering
place, and it quickly became a de facto public living room and hiring hall for the local hip scene.
My buddy, Lex van Zyl, was the first bouncer, and worked the deli counter. (Technically, the first
bouncer, as Lex reminds me, was our pal Jesse, a sturdy, but sweet tempered black guy from East
St. Louis, who lasted about one day and quit, deciding shoe repair and drinking beer was more
his speed.) From a good cup of coffee for a reasonable price to a decent deli sandwich and a no
“minimum purchase” policy, one could spend the better part of a day hanging out, reading,
shooting the breeze with Bob Hall or his brother Charlie, playing chess, or lining up work, all in
the aged splendor of the old Carriage Room. Most of the construction work and odd jobs that
kept me alive in those years were secured there, and later, in the early ‘70s, I played many gigs at
the Catalyst – perhaps as many as forty – with the band Jango.
The colorful, neo-Byzantine paint job on the brick façade facing Front St., was the creation of
our good friend Steve Desmond, in the late ‘60s. As I recall, he worked for mainly free food and
drink. Acoustic acts performed during the week. I remember wandering in one Wednesday night
and catching a longhaired guy strumming an acoustic guitar and singing real smooth. Between
sets I asked him his name and where he was from. He said “I’m Pat Simmons. I hitchhiked over
from San Jose”. I came back to hear him a couple of more times before he disappeared and
resurfaced playing with the Doobie Brothers.
When Randall Kane bought the place, in the late ‘60s, it definitely changed. It was still mellow
in the daytime but soon became a full-on nightclub in the evening. Randall built a bar, where he
and his cohort could hang out and drink beer. He commissioned the great local portrait artist,
Kitty Wallis, to do a huge oil painting, fit for a boys club, and paid my dear friend Danni Long to
pose for it, nude, on a white bear rug, and he hung it over the bar. The same painting still hangs, I
believe, over the bar in the “new” Catalyst. [Danni’s husband at the time, Richard Long, did
horoscopes and charts and told me mine indicated I would have a tough life. Maybe he was right,
but I guess it depends on what you mean by “tough”.]
Our extended circle had a tradition of going to the Catalyst on Saturday morning for breakfast,
one that started in the old Cat and continued on in the new. Families grew over time as babies
were born and finally, unable to bear the commotion, Randall 86’d the lot of us, thereby
punching our ticket into a pretty cool club.
The “back-bar” in the old Cat was built by a buddy, Stan Fullerton, a part Native-American,
larger-than-life, pipe-puffing, beer chugging, pastrami-chompin’ character. An artist and sculptor,
he told me he had been an orphan and grew up on a reservation in Oregon, and that he had lived
in North Beach in the late ‘50s and knew a lot of the Beats. He built the back-bar for free, with
the understanding from Randall that he could tend bar. I bring this up because, though this
occurred just outside the pre-’68 scope of these recollections, there’s an interesting connection:
Several of my mates and I worked for Stan, in the late ’60s, during the “coast barn-wood” craze,
when the weathered, silver, redwood-siding of deteriorating coastside barns was being bought up
for ridiculous sums of money by interior decorators to satiate a torrid fad. Every lawyer,
mortgage broker, and tax accountant had to have their office paneled with coast barn wood. We
would buy these dilapidated structures – the ones you see when you’re driving up the coast and
say “oh, look at that quaint old barn, ready to fall over” – from local farmers, carefully
disassemble the structures, and haul it away on Stan’s beautifully restored ’36 Diamond T
flatbed. We extended this work to any old buildings being removed or torn down around town
and scratched out an existence in the recycled wood business. So, finally, here’s the connection:
Stan eventually married the slender, intellectual, Professor Gail Jackson Putney, sometime in the
late ‘60s, an unlikely pairing that endured, and, as Gail Fullerton, she became the first female
president of San Jose State University (she recently passed away). Before that she had been
married to a noted sociology professor and environmentalist, Snell Putney. When she divorced
Snell, in the mid-‘60s, he took to living on his boat in the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, and he
parked his restored ‘30s Packard in the harbor parking lot. When Tom Scribner and a few others
and myself started the Redwood Ripsaw in ’67 we took a staff photo, and used Snell’s car for the
Tom Scribner and the Redwood Ripsaw
The earliest photo of me in the family archives – at four months old – shows me lying naked on a
blanket, in the backyard of a little farm house on El Dorado Ave., out in rural Live Oak. There
were still a lot of farms and orchards, etc., out there between sleepy Santa Cruz and sleepier
Capitola, right up into the sixties. The property belonged to an old friend of my parents from the
radical labor movement, Herman Bollman. Recently retired from house painting and union
organizing in San Francisco, he remarried and bought this little farm, and my folks, when they
could persuade someone with a car to make the 160-mile round trip all the way down bumpy,
windy Highway 1, (2-lane all the way) would come to visit Herman. Years later, in ’66, I would
run into Herman (by then in his ‘80s) from time to time in the Old Catalyst, as his wife had
kicked him out and he was living in the St. George Hotel.
Meanwhile, I spent many an afternoon in the early “old” Catalyst, a good deal of it drinking
coffee, kibitzing and hatching revolutionary scenarios with Tom, so these encounters with
Herman would occasionally occur while Tom and I were schmoozing, and would invariably
reinforce my general antipathy towards the endless, Byzantine disputes of leftist sectarianism:
Tom, as most locals know, was an ex-“Wobbly”, and later a member of the CP – the Communist
Party of the U.S.A., founded by supporters of Joe Stalin and the Soviet Union. My family’s
background was with the C.P.’s bitter rival, the S.W.P. – the Socialist Workers Party – who
supported Leon Trotsky and his version of the worker’s state. I never bugged Tom about his C.P.
past and he never hassled me about Trotsky, but whenever Bollman, an old S.W.P./Socialist Party
member, would walk by, Tom, who was usually quite garrulous, would clam up. Herman would
stop at our table, say hello to me and look at Tom: “ Herman”, Tom would grunt and Herman,
stone-faced, would nod and mutter “Tom”, and walk away.
Tom had retired from 50+ years of working in the woods and mills in Louisiana and the
Northwest (and probably Minnesota, where he was born), most recently as a pond monkey in
Humbolt County, and was living in Davenport with his second wife, Mary, in 1964. He
continued to write and self-publish, typing hunt-and-peck – he had only 2 ½ fingers on his left
hand, not uncommon for a woodsman. He started losing digits as a teenager, in sawmills;
consequently, being a self-taught musician, he switched from the fiddle to the saw. He suffered
some other gruesome injuries over the years, the details of which you can find in his collection of
writings, “Lumberjack”, and newspaper, “Lumberjack News”.
His life and political views are pretty well documented so you can look it up if you’re interested,
but a couple of basics: Wherever he had lived and worked he agitated for socialism and industrial
unionism. He joined the IWW in 1914, when he was 16, and hung with them until 1925, when,
as he used to say, “I no longer could find anyone to pay my dues to”. He then joined the fledgling
American Communist Party and remained loyal until he couldn’t stand it anymore and quit the
Party in the mid-fifties, though he continued to write and speak out against the capitalist system.
He loved being a gadfly and had the Maoist People’s Daily, English edition, delivered to his post
office box in Davenport. He giggled and assured me, “that sure got that nosey postmaster’s lips
ta flappin’”. Then he and Mary moved to Santa Cruz in ’65 or early ’66. I met Tom when I first
came to town and we remained close friends for the rest of his life.
In 1967 Tom wanted to crank up the mimeograph one more time and we hatched a plot, over
coffee in the Catalyst, to do a newspaper – more of a political broadside – to rail against the
Vietnam war, and generally raise some hell. As hip as the Catalyst was, Tom would say, “this
place is a hotbed of middle-of-the-road extremism”. Tom called a meeting at his and Mary’s
house on Kaye St. in the Beach Flats, and John Sanchez, John Tuck, Carol Staudacher, Al
Johnson, Dr. Paul Lee and myself (there might have been one or two others) showed up and we
hammered out the basics. Once we got going we decided to use the photo-offset process so it
would look like a real tabloid style newspaper. Of course, that was more costly and our ad base
in those years was pretty slim: Manuel’s, Al Johnson’s Pottery Studio and Ellen’s Custom
Earrings. Tom, John S., John T. and myself did most of the work and writing. Paul Lee also
wrote a couple of pieces. The whole enterprise lasted about eight issues.
The Experience of Politics
I had learned pretty quickly that I always seemed a little too political for my “hippie” mates and
a little to “hip” for the politicos, which suited me perfectly. The availability of pretty good acid,
peyote, mescaline – and a lot of crappy weed – was not lost on me, but I was looking for political
In 1966 I had enrolled at Cabrillo and was an “unaffiliated” member of the SDS Northern
California Regional Steering Committee and wanted to stir up some activity. A year before, in
’64-’65, some local kids, Sandy I. and Doug R., had attempted to start a chapter of SDS but had
dropped out of school. Myself, and a couple of others, including Lex van Zyl, Pat Dooling and
Kevin Callahan began to distribute anti-war, draft resistance and civil rights literature. It was not
easy dealing with the administration. One time we got Manny Chavez, Caesar’s brother, to come
speak on campus about La Huelga and the UFW. When Manny arrived, around five pm, we all
went to the room we’d secured and found we were locked out. We couldn’t get anyone to open it
for us. So we went over to Manuel’s in Seacliff Beach and Manny Santana let us have our
meeting in the restaurant, with free beer and chips, and then he fed Manny C. and a couple of us
student organizers, “on the house”.
On the other hand, I landed a part-time job as administrative assistant to Bill Grant, head of the
English Department at Cabrillo. I continued to agitate on campus, trying to generate some
political dialogue, a real grind at a commuter campus. Bill wasn’t very political but didn’t mind
as long as I got my work done. We had some limited success, promoting debates on the war,
setting up draft counseling, collecting food and clothing for the U.F.W., which Lex van Zyl, John
M. and I took down to Delano. There were some very hip teachers at Cabrillo, including Fred
Levy, Pat Mahoney, Dolores Abrams, Pete Varcados, Peter Fahrquar and others who had just
joined the faculty, like Sandy Lydon and Kirby Wilkens. Before I left, in ’67, I recall Bill
reviewing resumes on some cool folks that he subsequently hired, including T. Mike Walker and
Mort Marcus (though on that point I’m not sure).
[My younger sister, Laura, started at Cabrillo in 1966, and eventually transferred to S.F. State,
where she became heavily involved in the student strike and in new-left politics. Being smarter
then me, as well as a talented organizer, she ended up on the national steering committee of SDS
– though I think my general M.O. was to gravitate away from leadership. I didn’t mind helping
get things started, but I preferred to just work, and let others take the reins].
In the summer and fall of ’66 I worked on Richard Miller’s congressional campaign. Dick was
running for the Democratic nomination against Fred Farr, Sam’s father, and was part of an antiVietnam
war slate that included independently wealthy Phil Drath in Marin County, Ed Keating
of Palo Alto (publisher of Ramparts Magazine) and Robert Scheer (editor of Ramparts) in
Berkeley. Ours was the only campaign without any money, as Dick was a three-days a-week
professor of history at the San Francisco Art Institute, commuting from Pacific Grove and
running a shoestring operation. Politically independent, wild haired and bearded, he was a witty,
fiery orator (“The only –ism I believe in is metabolism”), at times difficult to understand because
he had a split lip, but he always got his point across. Drath had fund-raisers with the likes of Joan
Baez and the Dead, so somebody who knew somebody helped us contact the Jefferson Airplane
and they came down to do a benefit for us at the Civic Auditorium. It was a great, swirling night
of music, that attracted about five hundred folks and we came out ahead after expenses.
Our strategy was to make sure we held a lead in liberal leaning Watsonville, broke even in evenly
divided Monterey, and focus on Republican Santa Cruz, which didn’t yet have the liberal blocvote
of UCSC that later would come to dominate local politics. What few bucks we had went
into canvassing on the north end of Monterey Bay, and it almost worked: we split in Monterey,
won Watsonville by a couple of hundred, but lost Santa Cruz by four hundred. Even so, despite
the odds, Richard ended up garnering the greatest percentage of the democratic vote of all the
anti-war candidates – a hollow if not moral victory.
Through political activity in the Peace and Freedom Party and the California for a New Politics
campaign I met many political activists in town, including: Alice and Manny Santana, John and
Sherry Tuck, Paul Dragavon; Flo and John Sanchez; Burt and Lois Muhly; Dan and Pat Miller;
Carol Staudacher; Bill and Edith Weintraub; Al and Clarice Johnson; Jim and Jeanne Houston;
Sam and Ethel Bloom; Carlie and Stan Stevens; Paul Lee; Tom Scribner; the King sisters; Jim
and Katy Heth; Sandy and Alan Lowe; Lou Harrison, and many others I’m forgetting.
By mid ’67 I was going up to the Bay Area more frequently, to demonstrations and rallies. I took
a carload of friends up to Stop the Draft Week, a massive street action that lasted several days.
Things were starting to escalate. And the establishment was beginning to push back, real hard.
The City on the Hill in the Town
The University was definitely influencing the cultural and political landscape of Santa Cruz, and
would do so to a greater extent over the ensuing decades. World-class scholars and whip-smart
students were flowing into town. Though the campus, cast in Ivory Tower terms, was thought of
as a “City on the Hill”, its influence was spilling over into the community in many ways. For one
thing, it provided employment opportunities and jobs for the local citizens, which, besides the
tourist industry, had been sorely lacking. Campus voters reshaped the community’s political
profile. Tug-of-war battles began to wax and wane between the university and the community
over land use, infrastructure costs, housing pressure, tax base and institutional hegemony.
Many students and faculty brought to the table a sharp critique of the capitalist system and the
war, and the University’s role in supporting imperialism. Pioneering work was ramping up in
many disciplines and barriers were being breached. Political activism was the new normal. Use
of mind expanding, if not altering, substances put UCSC near the top of the class nationally. In
fact, according to my daughter, who attended tiny Hampshire College in Massachusetts (also
started in the mid-sixties, and part of the Amherst five-college consortium), UCSC, to this day, is
the second choice of more students at her school than any other college, precisely because of its
interdisciplinary slant and the availability of good reef. And all this, on balance, contributed to
the general expansion of local “consciousness”. I mean, heck, up there they even study its
I used the campus facilities shamelessly, mainly the east field house for basketball (after the first
year that is; during the year of the trailers, I seem to remember, it was used as a dining hall). I
also frequented McHenry Library four or five times a week, as a sanctuary: a quiet place to read;
access to all the journals; use the listening rooms. I figured, “Why not, I’m a taxpayer”. The
cultural events were a huge addition to the local scene and I attended many lectures, concerts,
dance and art shows over the years. I once sat five feet away from Chet Baker, in a pretty small
room, at, I think, Merrill College, as he jammed with some local cats. Chet kept snapping at one
of the players for missing the “one” every time the head came around.
[There is a kind of interesting story concerning McHenry – not the library but the chancellor.
Selden Osborne, our old comrade, who had retired from the waterfront and would soon be
walking across the United States with a group of peace activists, periodically hitchhiked down to
Santa Cruz (his jalopies were always in various states of disrepair) and I would meet him at the
Catalyst. He had a cousin living here, whom I only slightly knew, but his real motivation was to
go up to the UCSC campus and visit with Dean McHenry, who, as it turned out, had been a
classmate of his at Stanford. Selden had a BA from Stanford in the ‘30s and an MA in political
philosophy from UC Berkeley, but had chosen the life of a blue-collar worker in order to
organize unions and further the revolution. They made an odd duo, Selden and Dean Dean, but
there’s an even stranger twist: They were not only classmates, but also housemates at the
rooming house that Selden’s mom ran, as a single parent, in Palo Alto. And for four years, Selden
and Dean had only two other housemates: Clark Kerr, future president of the UC system and
Frank Murphy, future chancellor of UCLA. So, while Selden spent his life trying to enlighten
and lead the working class, the other three were busy educating the bourgeoisie.]
The Experience of Politics, redux
While at Cabrillo, I tried to coordinate activities with activist students at UCSC, and met some
pretty dedicated politicos. In ’66 I went to a meeting up on the hill with Bobby Seale and David
Hilliard of the Black Panther Party, who had come down from Oakland, at the invitation of some
campus activists (and, probably, Professor Herman Blake), to explain how white student radicals
could and should support the Black Panther Party. Both were well spoken, and Seale, a former
stand-up comic, was real funny and charismatic. A year later, I was living in the City, in a roach
infested apartment near the corner of Fillmore and Oak St. in the lower Haight, going to UC
Berkeley Extension, while waiting to get back into Cal. The Haight Ashbury had descended into
a festering hole of despair, busses of tourists still rolling up and down the blocks between
Masonic and Stanyan, gaping at junkies leaning against doorways instead of hippies, sitting
curbside, waving flowers. Gunshots were heard daily. I stayed away and hustled to and from my
apartment when trying to go to class (at that time the office and classrooms of UCBX were about
eight blocks away, down Oak, near Market St).
I got mugged (at knife point) and burgled in about a month’s time, and decided to high tail it over
to a friends place in the Inner Sunset, by UCSF. I started going out to S.F. State, walking over
Moraga Hill and down 19th Ave. The campus was a cauldron of radical activity. I went to a
meeting at which the Black Student Union and other campus radicals were trying to hammer out
an alliance, and it was looking hopeless. At one point someone proposed a united front. The BSU
students rejected the idea and I stood up and, being impressed by the most recent writings of the
late Malcolm X, suggested we all had to show some solidarity in the face of imperialist
oppression or we were toast. The BSU spokesman looked at me for a long moment and I thought
we were going to start a dialogue.
“Well, that’s just too bad”, he said.
Fast forward six months and I’m in Berkeley, back in school, working two jobs. The anarchist
“affinity group” I was involved with was trying to do the same thing, coordinate white radical
and student activities, in a manner that would support the goals of the Panthers. A member of our
group was working for Charles Garry’s office, developing defense strategies for high profile
Panther cases. The Panthers were literally under siege. Communication between activist groups
went through street-wise back channels. Eldridge Cleaver called up one of our “houses” one
early morning, at four a.m., to demand an immediate meeting. Alan H., a dear friend, who was
part of a no-bullshit New York anarchist collective known as Up Against the Wall Motherfucker
(formerly The Black Mask; Abbie Hoffman called them “a street gang with an analysis”) was
staying with us during a west-coast visit and he answered the phone and told Eldridge to shove it.
Things did not look good for the class struggle.
The problem, as I saw it, was that the stakes were so high nobody could trust anybody. It
reminded me of stories I heard from the old radicals (and had read about) where, by the late ‘40s
and early ‘50s, any given cell meeting or radical gathering was composed of at least thirty
percent FBI or undercover cops. Anyone, even if well known, proposing really radical action had
to be looked upon with suspicion. Strangers would show up out of the blue, talking a good line
and then start suggesting all kinds of wild action. All of a sudden we’d be looking at each other
–“how well do you know this guy/gal?” etc. The vetting process got unmanageable. This was
now a common experience everywhere the “system” was being challenged and confronted
Berkeley was either incubating a “revolutionary situation” or become unglued, depending on
where you were standing. I felt like things were getting out of hand. People were running around
engaging in all sorts of crazy activities. One night, at a huge rally at Bancroft and Telegraph,
after fiery speeches by several local radical celebrities, the last of which, by a well-regarded
young Marxist luminary (he later morphed into a notable financial advisor), really fired up the
crowd, and somebody suggested that the Coca Cola delivery truck, parked right at the corner on
Bancroft, should be overturned and set on fire. Lots of people felt this was a reasonable
suggestion, a demonstration of the people’s displeasure, given Coke’s reputation as a symbol of
imperialism. Soon after the blaze was set, the cops and fire trucks moved in. Rocks were thrown
and tear gas was fired off, blanketing several square blocks with a choking mist. People were
running in all directions, and I decided to vacate the area, convinced not much good was going to
come of this. As I walked down Durant, a handkerchief over my nose, I spotted a familiar
looking couple, holding each other up and leaning against the metal street-sign pole on the corner
of Durant and Dana. It was our old family friends Bill and Ada Farrell (owners of Farrell’s books
– the radical bookstore on Telegraph Ave.) with tears streaming down their cheeks. Bill was
waving a stick with a big red flag flapping back and forth.
“Jesus; Bill, Ada, are you all right?” I inquired.
“Hell yeah!” he yelled. “Whoooeee! What a night…it smells like revolution!”
“Take care”, I waved, and headed home. I realized that those tears were probably tears of joy as
much as gas-induced.
The National Guard occupied the city for two weeks, and curfew was imposed. John M., on
shore leave from the Navy, was visiting me and we almost ended up in the tank when we were
stopped, out after six o’clock, trying to get to a meeting at another pad a few blocks away.
Johnny’s navy status saved our ass, and we decided to keep inside after that. The rest of the year
I tried to focus on the coalition-building angle, but it wasn’t happening. Too many separate
agendas, too much paranoia, state repression, etc. In February of ’69 I decided to head back to
Postscript, 1969: The Free Spaghetti Dinner
For scanned copies of the FSD, see Archive > The Free Spaghetti Dinner.
I came back to town from a year and a half in S.F. and Berkeley. Things were pretty hot in
Berserkland, metaphorically speaking, in the early spring of ’69. Some members of our affinity
group went to chill up at communes in Mendocino. One couple, Steve and Pat, followed me
down here and were hanging out briefly at John M.’s cabin off Branciforte. Another couple, close
friends of mine and part of the UATWMF collective back east, stayed with us a few days and
then jammed up to Black Bear. After a month, Steve, Pat, another buddy, Chuck Garner (a
genuine sage-brush philosopher, born in Muskogee, Oklahoma) and I went looking for a house
and located a vacant Victorian on Blaine Street, right behind where the “new” county jail now
stands. A spacious farm house, it was perfect for a communal set-up, so we went to the County
Building right across Water St., found out the county had taken it over, and we rented it for 150/
mo. – a great deal. Several folks moved in, including some of the old Avalon gang. John M.
moved into one half of an old wooden garage on the edge of the property, and he and Jean
Claude built a dark room in the other half. We de-weeded about forty-by-forty foot patch and
installed a big garden, hooked up with our local pals The Barn Brothers – Don Tabor and Paul
Kohlman – boat builders and cabinet makers who had grown up in Ben Lomond and had one of
the large barns at the Sash Mill as their workshop – and combined both locations into one real
functional, productive “family.”
I was itching to do another paper, in line with the other “Alternative Press” journals that were
cropping up all over the country (from the pioneering days of the Berkeley Barb, The Oracle,
The East Village Other, The White Panther from Detroit, etc. Steve, who was trying to get into
grad school at UCSC, and Pat were game, so we called a meeting at Blaine St., attended by
several housemates (I’m not sure about this list) including: John M., Chuck G., Souxie C., Steve
(Said) and Pat D. and some other interested folks like T. Waldo Buck and Diane G., and others I
unfortunately can’t remember. We cooked up a big pot of spaghetti and that inspired the paper’s
name. We wanted to use the motto, “all the news that’s fit to eat” and print it on rice paper with
vegetable-dye ink, but that proved to be financially unrealistic. Steve and I secured a business
license, we built a layout table in the basement and we were off and running. The first issue came
out in November (I think) of 1969, with a cover-photo montage created by John M. that showed
Supervisor Henry Mello of Watsonville, on the steps of the brand new County Courthouse,
addressing a huge crowd at an anti Vietnam war rally.
The paper had a political/environmental/community slant, with great graphics by T. Waldo and
other talented artists who joined our staff over the next several months. Everyone worked
volunteer and it was a real dedicated crew. We tried selling it for thirteen cents a copy – trying to
stay editorially independent of advertisers, but gave up real quick. Giving it away free and
developing a display-ad base to pay the bills worked out ok as, by then, there was a pretty large
group of hip merchants and craftspeople around, enough to support the basic overhead/costs of
putting out the paper. After a couple of issues we moved to a two-office suite on Pacific Ave., on
the second floor of the wooden building (whose name I’ve forgotten) across from the old County
Courthouse (later to become the Cooperhouse). We were in between the Musicians Union office
and the Monterey Bay Regional office of the San Jose Mercury. We could look out on to Pacific
Avenue and we worked all day and night. Soon, we took on a business manager, Cash Sales, who
hustled display ads for a percentage. His partner, Carole, an RN, joined the staff, and eventually
became one of the first Santa Cruz midwives and founders of the Birth Center.
The FSD ramped up to a thirty-two + page bi-weekly and evolved into a uniquely Santa Cruzy
periodical, and, though it took a little while, we got mostly positive feedback from the
community, from advertisers and at “Underground Press” conferences. I wrote an editorial, in the
form of a poem, for the second issue, attempting to state our “mission”. I worried that it was a bit
over-the-top but Steve, who was still trying to line up his graduate studies (and in contact with
some of his former professors at UCB – Sheldon Wolin, Norm Jacobson and John Schaar (who
would soon be coming to UCSC to teach) ran into Norman O. Brown, who told him he liked the
poem. I felt relieved. Ralph Abraham, whom I knew from rapping over coffee in the Catalyst,
wrote a column. We did some real good stuff, both new-agey and politically radical, but not
everybody was convinced. A certain dour, local bookstore owner assured us we were “juvenile”
and the paper was “fish wrap”.
We emphasized an ecological perspective with an anarchist slant, when most folks were
wondering, “what’s ecology?” We offered community groups two pages of space to create copy
and lay out their ideas and programs – which led to issues with full two-page spreads by: a local
Fullerian collective, on constructing geodesic domes; a spread by Max Hartstein on the 25thCentury
Ensemble; a description of programs at the Community School; a heads-up on P.G.&E.’s
plans for a local nuclear power plant – pretty much what a hipster would expect or want from a
Santa Cruz periodical – sort of the anti-Sentinel. In fact, sometime in the first few months we did
a big smack-down of the Sentinel. Dylanologist Steve Pickering joined the staff and did his
thing. We created and published the program and guide to – and commentary on – the first Earth
Day in Santa Cruz – April, 1970. The paper was available around the Monterey Bay and had a
distribution of over 15,000, and spawned – in the words of our dear friend and staff member,
Mischa Adams – “a whole chain of begats “, which has been chronicled in a retrospective done
by the Metro (before it was swallowed up by the Good Times). After two years I sold the
“business” to our graphics staff: Anders Paul; Kentus Americus (creator of the great ‘60s poster
“The World”); and Bill Buritta, for thirty-two dollars and fifty cents, what the original license
cost me. They changed the name to Sundaz – and I contributed articles for a couple more issues.
I never made a dime but had a helluva good time.
I definitely should also acknowledge the Black Mountain Press, a literary and local community
journal that was part of the scene here in the early to mid-sixties; and also, the Balloon
Newspaper, a cartoon/art format publication that was around from the late 60’s on. Stellar artists
like Futzy Nutzel, Henry Humble and Spinny Walker turned out some great stuff, and we
included their work as an insert in some issues of the FSD.
Rick Alan Gladstone
- In Memoriam
2 months ago
HipSCHP documents the unique cultural phenomenon that took place…
- 3 months ago
- 3 months ago
- 3 months ago
3 years ago
On Thursday, October 6th, Ralph Abraham gave a talk…