Mar 10, 2017

October 6, 1966: The Panhandle, San Francisco


The visitor from Omaha craned his neck and tried to observe precisely what was occurring in the Panhandle section of Golden Gate Park.
Yesterday's "Love Pageant Rally" held in that area of San Francisco was truly one of the year's prime tourist attractions - even if it was a nearly spontaneous outburst initiated by members of the Haight-Ashbury community for purposes of "celebrating" the first anniversary of making LSD illegal and of giving San Francisco Mayor John Shelley a chance to "turn on."
The group sent a delegation to City Hall to give the mayor a token of affection, but he was at his home.
About 500 of the wildly clad advocates of love, freedom, trust and other assorted causes gathered in the sun-speckled glades of the park to hear the throbbing rock sounds of such groups as "The Grateful Dead," "Big Brother and the Holding Company," and others, and also to let loose their spontaneous feelings of joy and love for everything and everybody.
Under the magnificent trees of the park near the corner of Masonic and Fell streets, the ever-changing group participated in a massive attempt to "communicate," as one disheveled youth put it.
Even the Ken Kesey bus was there. Kesey, the one-time author and resident of La Honda who is being sought by San Mateo County authorities for jumping bail on a narcotics charge, could not be found, but word at the "Happening" was that he was indeed there and "incognito." The Omaha visitor, camera in hand, took a picture of Kesey's multi-colored bus and hurried into the crowd.
A mammoth traffic jam developed along Masonic as the curious flocked to the wooded area to see and hear what was occurring. The police, both curious and a bit annoyed by the sudden end of tranquility in the region, watched the goings-on with a jaundiced eye.
Businessmen, nurses, students, tourists, and the elderly strolled through the park and gawked at the fantastic scene. One nurse, hearing the pulsating sounds of the music, was unable to control herself and threw off her crepe-soled shoes and danced away on the lawn and was engulfed by the weaving, chanting crowd of demonstrators.
The Kesey bus, one of the focal points of the affair, was filled with long-haired children, animals of a variety of sizes, shapes and forms, glassy-eyed adults, and a bundle of equipment and supplies calculated for living in when duty called.
A rumor that Kesey spoke to a creative writing class at Stanford University has been confirmed by university authorities. According to an official at the school, Kesey spoke on Wednesday to the class for about 45 minutes. The visit was unannounced.
The order of the day was boots, beards, bards, and beads. Even the animals of the group were arrayed in psychedelic gear. One monstrous but amiable dog (of undetermined origin and pedigree) was outfitted in a beautiful set of beads and participated fully in the day's events over the course of the afternoon.
As the day wore on, a small Negro boy dribbled a basketball towards a lone basket located about 100 yards from the main entertainment area. He paused, took one last look at the scene to his rear, and fired a jump shot. The visitor from Omaha smiled and snapped his picture.
He was back to reality.

(by John Horgan, from the San Mateo Times, 7 October 1966)

Thanks to Dave Davis.



The passing of LSD as a legal drug was "mourned" in the Panhandle yesterday by the psychedelic set. 
Last Thursday the state law banning the use and sale of the mind-manifesting drug went into effect, and mourners gathered from the nearby Haight-Ashbury district to mark the occasion with what hippies might consider sobriety. 
Big Brother and the Holding Company played a rock-dirge, as couples funereally frugged, or wake-fully gobbled sandwiches and swilled beer. 
A march on City Hall was scheduled for after the rally, but failure to secure a permit prevented the LSD-for-Lunch bunch from raising its voice outside the park. 
Nine delegates, however, tripped down to see Mayor Shelley, Police Chief Thomas Cahill, and Attorney General Cecil Poole. 
Since the rally was billed as "Love and LSD," no speakers filled the air with ranting over the loss of the mind-expanding chemical to hippy travelers. 
In fact, nobody seemed particularly concerned about procuring LSD in the future. 
Holding Company musician Bob Collins [sic] predicted the law would cause police as much trouble as Prohibition did. 
"People will start making their own LSD at home," Collins said. "It might not be as good as the old stuff, but still..." 
He also predicted home made LSD, not being pure, might be hazardous to the users' health. 
An SF State student said that instead of prohibiting LSD, the government should control its use.

(from the Daily Gater, SF State College, October 7, 1966)

I refer you to "Happy Half Acid Happening" in Friday's paper. A clever combination of snide misinformation, bad journalism, and space filling. [. . . ] 
You start off this article by setting forth an obvious and definite bias against the event. I'm neither for it nor against it. I think in the interest of good journalism you haven't the right to be either. 
There is a definite error in reporting. There is no member of Big Brother and the Holding Company named Bobby Collins. (I refer you to the I.D. Band Book.) 
Also the reporting was incomplete. No mention that either the Grateful Dead or members of the Electric Symphony played. One got the impression that the reporter went for 10 minutes and then split. . . .  
If you are going to expand the scope of a school newspaper then do it right. No one expects that a school newspaper would necessarily report off-campus events that are of interest to the student community at large. But then that is why so many school newspapers are simply school newspapers. So how 'bout it? In a town where the Crumicle is King (and other related tabloids) let us keep a small banner of hope raised. . . .  
Rod Brooks

(Letter to the Editor, Daily Gater, October 18, 1966)


  1. Another article setting the context for a Dead performance in the park, this one also doesn't say anything about the Dead.
    It's a very distant perspective - "the visitor from Omaha," as it were, the middle-American representative looking with condescension on these unreal wildly-clad weirdos, these "tourist attractions." This reporter sees the scene from the outside - traffic jam, bemused cops, passersby, demonstrators - but doesn't have any interest in why this "happening" is going on.
    He gathers that LSD had been illegal for a year, but his reporting skills failed him - it was made illegal that day, and this event was something of a protest/celebration announced by the Oracle. It seems only hundreds of people came, rather than the thousands of later legend, but enough to make an impression. This reporter sees them rather sarcastically, struck by the "glassy-eyed adults" and dogs in "psychedelic gear," and he seems amused by the "advocates of love, freedom, and trust" who "let loose their spontaneous feelings of joy and love for everything and everybody" and send a "token of affection" to the mayor. (He doesn't openly say that this is a pro-LSD crowd, but makes it obvious.)

    The only thing said about the "throbbing rock" music is that it drives a young nurse wild.
    At this point Kesey and his bus were much more well-known than the bands. Kesey was then on the run from the law, but popping up here and there to tease the authorities and to announce his "acid graduation ceremony" at the end of the month.

    The Oracle had printed "A Prophecy of a Declaration of Independence," stating that people must "cease to recognize the obsolete social patterns which have isolated man from his consciousness and to create with the youthful energies of the world revolutionary communities of harmonious relations," and that everyone had the right to "the freedom of body, the pursuit of joy, and the expansion of consciousness," and that "we the citizens of the earth declare our love and compassion for all conflicting hate-carrying men and women of the world."
    Their announcement:
    "The first translation of this prophecy into political action will take place October 6, 1966. (666... The mark of the ascension of the beast.) The date that the California law prohibiting the possession of L.S.D. comes into effect, the day of the fear-produced legislation against the expansion of consciousness.
    At 2:00 in the Panhandle at Masonic and Oak, we will gather in a love-pageant affirm our identity, community, and innocence from influence of the fear addiction of the general public as symbolized in this law.
    Copies of the prophecy of our Declaration of independence, living morning glory plants and mushrooms will be presented at 2:00 P.M. to San Francisco Mayor Shelley at City Hall [and an attorney general and police captain]...
    Bring the color gold...bring photos of personal saints and gurus and heroes of the underground...bring flags incense chimes gongs cymbals symbols costumes...bring joy."

  2. I added another article on the Love Pageant Rally, this one from the SF State College paper the Daily Gater. It drips with contempt for the whole scene, and fails to mention the Dead. (The Gater could be rather hostile toward hippies & new rock bands, sounding more like a mainstream paper - one student editor's only comment on the "Greatful Dead's" appearance at the college the previous week was that their musical career depended on "their flowing locks.")

    A letter to the editor rightfully complained about the piece, and pointed out that the Dead and "members of the Electric Symphony" also played at the rally (this was the original name of the Orkustra, aka the Electronic Chamber Orchestra). Other bands also appeared - in the film clip you can see a brief glimpse of a black jazz band (maybe the Joe Henderson Quartet?).