Musings on hair length and the Summer of Love

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      When I started to do the research for my book (see bottom) I discovered these two posters. The Soul Unlimited poster (above) was part of the series of Hydrogen People posters. Me and Frank Lewis (who I have always thought of as a big brother} came up with this series of posters and thought that it would be a good opportunity to develop a new business.

      The concept was to sell band posters. This was a good concept. However, we were just a tad ahead of the times. I was also dealing with my addiction—which I had developed in jail while awaiting trial for a marijuana bust—and was not in a position to share anything with anyone. Julie, my future wife, had been sent to Italy by her family in the hopes it would separate us. (It didn’t work.)

      Nevertheless, this series of posters represents fantastic art by three great local artists who have not been properly recognized: Frank Lewis, Lloyd McKinnon, and King Anderson. Sadly, the first two have passed on. It would take several decades before this kind of poster art finally got recognized.

      The second poster (below) is by Bob Masse. It was first used in January 1967 with local bands United Empire Loyalists and Wintergreen. I attempted to find out who made the changes to this poster (concert date and opening act), to no avail. I also tried to find out who put on that dance—I know I didn’t, because I was in Montreal when the event took place in August of that same year.

      So how does the mention of hair in this story's headline relate to anything? Fifty years ago, I had long hair; I believed it was my statement. Long hair was not an accepted norm then. It was thought of by the establishment as a sign of rebellion, a sure sign of nonconformity. Yet here I am five decades later—starting a new chapter with Julie in our life, having moved back to the Lower Mainland from Vancouver Island—and I decided I wouldn't get a haircut this summer.

      So here I am with long hair again—and now I realize that no one cares.

      As my hair gets longer, I cannot help but remember how hard I fought to grow it the way I wanted. There would be many a fight with my father and other adults who thought it best to tell me I had to get a haircut. But then when I did my jail time for possession of cannabis, one of the first things given me was a mandatory haircut, and my mane was kept short for the next eight months, which was when I was released.

      Fast-forward 12 years. I was starting my new job as, yes, a correctional officer, and the first thing I did was to get a haircut. I would keep it short until this summer. It is strange that something as simple as hair could evoke such emotions.

      My time in Toronto and Montreal for the Summer of Love in 1967 was filled with close calls. I believed the only way to survive was to stay stoned. That need to stay impaired was what should have killed me, yet somehow I managed to survive that road trip back east without an overdose. I feel very blessed to have lived through the Summer of Love. Fifty years ago, I was not exactly feeling the love, but I survived and am doing my best to appreciate all the positives that arose from that famous time.

      I would be remiss here not to mention the recent passing of notorious former local drug cop Abe Snidanko. Since moving back to the Lower Mainland, I had intended to make contact with Abe to let him know that I had forgiven him for both the stress that he had put me under and the loss of my dance hall, a result of my being busted by him. I understand that he was just enforcing the law, but I also believe that he did not realize the extent of the pain he was causing for so many people. More forgiveness for Abe is needed.

      There is a certain irony that Abe would pass in the summer of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, something that he fought so hard to stop. Abe made it clear to me that he thought we were all just a bunch of crazy hippies; a fad that would never last. What I am most proud of, therefore, is our generation's continued striving for human equality, regardless of race or religion.

      Accordingly, it is a sad state of affairs when we have to witness the type of events that happened recently in Charlottesville. I know the movement that started more than 50 years ago has had some setbacks. I and many others of my generation, though, will continue to fight for equality for all and for the proper stewardship of our planet. And in spite of the backward steps we are witnessing on this, the eve of legalization of cannabis, I can now take hemp oil legally to help me cope with my PTSD.

      What a strange world. I think I may as well go and get a haircut.

      Meanwhile, Julie and I just went on our first road trip of the summer, to Grand Forks B.C., where we attended Cannafest for the second year to sell my book, posters, and other merchandise. It was a mellow festival, without incident. The first band up was Trooper—which started as a group called Evergreen, playing at my Kitsilano Afterthought club more than 50 years ago—a great act for an opening night. I believe I paid the band $50 back then, but taking inflation into account, I am certain that Trooper and all the other bands that have survived the test of time are now making much more per gig. 

      Our next festival is Rifflandia, which is located in the heart of Victoria and runs from September 14 to 17. Rifflandia is put on by Atomique Productions' Nick Blasko and Dimitri Demers, who will be celebrating Rifflandia's10th anniversary. (It seems like yesterday when it started.) 

      Concert promoter and entrepreneur Jerry Kruz is the author of The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters and Recollections From the ’60s (Rocky Mountain Books, 2014).