the Summer of Love


Certain places, for unknowable reasons, become socio-cultural petri dishes, and between 1960 and 1964 the area of Northern California extending from San Francisco to Palo Alto was one of them. San Francisco’s official bohemia was North Beach, where the Beats hung out at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore, and where espresso was sipped, jazz was worshipped, and hipsters did not dance. North Beach was not unique, however; it had strong counterparts, for example, in New York’s Greenwich Village, L.A.’s Venice Beach and Sunset Strip, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. What was unique was happening across town, where a group of young artists, musicians, and San Francisco State College students became besotted with the city’s past. “There was a huge romanticism around the idea of the Barbary Coast, about San Francisco as a lawless, vigilante, late-19th-century town,” says Rock Scully, one of those who rented cheap Victorian houses in a run-down neighborhood called Haight-Ashbury. They dressed, he says, “in old, stiff-collared shirts with pins, and riding coats and long jackets.” “Old-timey” became the shibboleth.

more from Sheila Weller at Vanity Fair here.