THERE WERE FIFTEEN OF US, OR TWENTY, DEPENDING ON THE DAY. THE RENT WAS CHEAP, THE CEILINGS HIGH, THE KITCHEN TINY, THE FRONT STEPS A GREAT PLACE TO HANG OUT ON SUNNY DAYS. IT WAS A COUPLE OF BLOCKS TO THE STORE, AND IT ALWAYS SEEMED TO TAKE A REAL LONG TIME TO GET THERE AND BACK, WHAT WITH STOPPING TO TALK TO FRIENDS WHO’D DIVERT YOU FROM YOUR MISSION AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO GO HAVE COFFEE, SMOKE A “J”, OR JUST SIT ON THEIR FRONT STEPS FOR AN HOUR OR TWO.
Most of us living there didn’t work at any regular job — we paid our rent with a combination of endeavors. The mainstay was the band around whom we’d gathered as spouses or friends, with each of us contributing what we could as managers, technicians, equipment handlers, or bookkeepers. The household chores fell to the women and they were no small task. Dinner for twenty was a daily occurrence — so was food shopping. Doing laundry was a nightmare monopolizing twenty-two machines and it didn’t take long for the women to restrict the chore to their own “nuclear unit”. It was very rare to find peace and quiet; also elusive was real privacy. For while you could close your bedroom door to be alone, you always had to encounter people on the way to the bathroom, or in the kitchen, or on the steps, or in the hall — it was dense. You couldn’t really keep any secrets. On the other hand, you never had trouble finding a friend to share them with.
During the day one of the bedrooms became the band office, and the carpet became worn with people coming and going. Add the constant traffic to the notoriety the band had already achieved, and it’s easy to see how the house became of particular interest to the authorities.
So it wasn’t surprising that when they came to bust the household for alleged use of pot, they brought the TV news crews with them. The narc in charge wanted to get full coverage on raiding a prominent household, and as it turned out, the entire neighborhood as well. Eleven households were turned in as a result of one very busy informer, and while it was scary going downtown in the police wagon, when we got there we found a hundred and thirty-five of our friends! Many of the charges were dropped, but the presses weren’t stopped waiting to find out. My father read of my arrest while drinking his morning coffee.
Best of all were the glorious free concerts in the Panhandle — a flatbed truck, makeshift electricity, food, wine, friends, sunshine, and some wonderful bands who hadn’t hit the big time yet. At first it seemed amazing that we knew by name so many of the hundreds gathered; but as the months went by, our awareness of a larger community grew until it peaked that fine day in January of 1967, the day of the Tribal Stomp at the Polo Fields to be known as the ‘Human Be-In’.
We heard it through the grapevine, and a half dozen of us started early that morning to walk the couple of miles to the park. As we walked along Lincoln Avenue, we noticed other groups of neighbors walking in the same direction. More joined in off side streets, and by the time we turned north into the park, we were a large, laughing group. A half mile later, we were a horde and as the Be-In took shape through the day, we were awed and thrilled as the Polo Fields filled up with over 20,000 people. It was a day of innocence and hope; and in many ways the last moments of naivete for a neighborhood that had just gone public.
Stories about the Haight-Ashbury sold lots of magazines and newspapers in 1967, the more sensational the better, and many people planned their summer vacations around coming to see for themselves. In the ensuing crush, the neighborhood people quietly retreated to the background, or just moved out. As for the crowds of seekers who had been promised the ‘Summer of Love’, they were a year too late. — Rosie McGee
Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin (bottom of page), managers at this time, were ‘Frontage Road Management’ and later, ‘Shady Management’.
710 Ashbury was a boarding house that Danny managed. Pigpen moved in and the boarders started moving out. Then the rest of us moved in.
The band in the garden of 710
Photos: All – Herb Greene