A brief history of hippies
HYANNIS – I was brewing a batch of Low Tide Patchouli, a moving scent with hints of seaweed, malt liquor and unrequited love when I was brought back to reality by the arrival of the following message:
“Were hippies welcome on Cape Cod?” “
First I had to understand what a “hippie” was. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a hippie is “a generally young person who rejects the mores of established society (such as dressing unconventionally or promoting cohabitation) and advocates a non-violent ethic.”
Well, except for the “young” part, that sort of sound is like Wellfleet in the offseason! But other research indicated there was a bumper crop of hippies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so I figured this must be the time to investigate.
I whistled the Curious Prius and we headed for Main Street in Hyannis and the weird and wonderful archives of the Cape Cod Times. Decades of major and minor events lie dormant in little manila envelopes, in the hope that sloppy detectives will give them another chance at the big time. Sure enough, there was an envelope marked “Hippies”, and I dove into the clips.
“Old Cape Cod and Those Hippies” was the headline of a June 22, 1969 article that looked at the coming summer season through the prism of the hippies. “And with SEASON comes the annual influx of hippies, that breed of visitors that few understand and many criticize in general principles, mainly because of their dress,” the story reads.
“This visiting hippie is becoming a problem, usually on the Middle and Lower Cape, mainly in the cities of Hyannis, Orleans and, of course, Provincetown – the modern mecca for hippies in this part of the country next summer.”
The article quotes Chester Landers, then chief of police in Orléans, describing the typical hippie as the one “who arrives on Friday evening with a backpack, dirty feet and ten cents in his pocket … and leaves on Monday of the day. same way, except maybe he has 15. cents because he skinned (begged) someone. He does not sleep in a hotel or a motel, but in the open air.
And while hippies seemed to annoy people in some towns in Cape Town, another story played out in Provincetown.
“Hippies Plant Cape Point Roots” was the headline of a May 14, 1971 article, detailing the efforts of a group of young people to live permanently in Provincetown. In recent years, the “cold winds of autumn … have led to an exodus of young dropouts”, according to the story.
Then something changed.
“Much to the chagrin of the more conservative elements of the community, the ‘hippies’ as the townspeople call them (they call themselves ‘freaks’) have not left,” the article reports. “Indeed, some 700 to 800 of the young people, most in their early twenties, decided last winter to end their wanderings and put down roots here.”
In a matter of months, the hippies registered “some 450 of them as city voters, representing more than 21% of the city’s 2,669 registered voters,” the story reported, and “in coalition with a Liberal Party, the newcomers won one of three seats on the city’s board of directors. “
Other accomplishments include a food cooperative, a walk-in health center, and a free university offering courses in French, Latin, legal rights, and oriental religions. “I find the vast majority of these kids to be decent people,” said James Meads, then Provincial Police Chief.
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And what would Cape Cod be without a story of sea hippies? I dived into “Hairy Hippies Hoist Canvas for Caribbean”, December 6, 1967. It was about “five hippies” leaving Woods Hole aboard a 46 foot Chesapeake Bay skipjack named Gertrude Wands. They “sailed majestically out to sea … Irish pennants and human hair flapping in the breeze.”
Apparently some Cape Town residents were happy to see the hippies leaving the port. Previous Cape Cod Times coverage stated that “out of love for the world or out of sheer psychedelic bliss they like to strum a guitar and cry loudly from the deck of their ship at crazy hours, which has caused a few complaints.”
Love and bliss seem to be very good things and are often rare. So I suggest we take the best of the hippies of yesteryear and celebrate a “Winter of Love” this offseason on Cape Cod, perhaps with reasonable woolen socks. Who is with me?
What do you want to know about Cape Cod? To ask a Curious Cape Cod question, email me at email@example.com. I’ll do my best to figure things out!