How did hippies come to exist?

Here is a brief history and timeline of how and why the “counterculture” and hippies came to be.

1900 – Rapid industrialization of America started to create a vast middle and upper class – citizens with, for the first time in history, leisure time to pursue various forms of happiness.

1920’sthe Roaring 20’s, where much of modern culture was formed. From Jazz to Women’s suffrage, the era was one of changing lifestyles and the spreading idea that life was to be enjoyed (earlier cultures and history were not this way for the masses).

1938 and 1943Albert Hoffman, a Swiss Chemist, creates LSD in 1938, however does not injest it until 1943. He (and many hippies) later called it “medicine for the soul”.

1939-1945  – The world at war. Great relief was felt when the western powers (USA) prevailed, and millions of returning service members helped create the Great Baby Boom.

1946-1964Official Baby Boom – a quick rise in the birth rate and the population of the USA. Most of these new citizens were uniquely American – as opposed to previous generations largely made up of immigrants.

1946 – The Cold War as well as the Nuclear and other arms race is underway. To those who just went through the hell of WWII, this was a shock…to still have to concern themselves with not only war, but the possible total destruction of mankind in a nuclear holocaust.

1950’s and early 1960’sThe Beats foretold of the hippie generation. Writers and Poets typified by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity.

1960’s – All of the above events come together with many ingredients added to the mix:

Music – the Beatles and other rock/folk – some songs with messages.
Civil Rights – riots and clear examples of how backwards America was in human rights.
JFK – His and other assassinations showed many that there was little hope of change through the standard channels of politics.
Vast Middle Class – More and more families lived comfortably, allowing their offspring to devote more time to pursuing arts and possible alternatives to the straight and narrow.
Consumerism – seemed to trap many people in a quest for more and more “things”, often leaving them feeling empty in a spiritual or community sense.

Many books have been written on all of the subjects above – and the interested reader can research any or all in more detail.

In summary, the 1960’s were a unique point in time – and especially in the history of the USA – where a number of factors came together to create the movement known as the counterculture (hippies).

The Wrecking Crew

The link below will download the PDF story of The Farm Wrecking Crew. A short part of the introduction is copied below that link.

Note – in terms of the timeline of Farm history, most of this story ties in with or follows Cliff Figalo’s blog entries below:

Photos in here are taken by various Farm photogs and non-photogs including D. Frohman, D. Stevenson and other – used with permission when possible.

Link to PDF of The Wrecking Crew: wreckingcrew

Martha and I started out as members of the West Virginia Farm, a small satellite operation with approx. 40 brave souls hacking basic survival out of the hollows of the Mountain State. A good friend from Philadelphia, Andrew Stein, had also come out to WV and joined with our efforts.

In early 1972, it was decided that the main Farm (TN. Farm) would purchase an additional 750 acres next to the existing 1,000 and that the WV Farm residents would move south in an attempt to consolidate a larger workforce and better connected community. In April of 1972, we packed up a few buses, cars, pickups and a U-Haul and headed down to the Motherland.

Upon settling in, various job offerings were made available via a bulletin board. I chose to start working at the Soy Dairy, which fit well with my introverted character, as our crew consisted of only 3 full time milkmen. This turned out to be an enjoyable gig and, of course, I was able to stay well nourished on soy milk and eventually other products which we created such as soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy shakes and soysage (upset stomachs aside!). The job had other benefits such as being able to listen to the Farm Band practices, which took place in a tent adjacent to the Soy Dairy.

After a few months at the Dairy, Andrew approached me and asked if I wanted to join a new crew he had just become the “crew chief” of. Although there had formerly been a Salvage Crew, Andrew had the energy to take the effort to a much higher level, so I was excited to become a part of the newly christened Wrecking Crew. The idea was simple – we needed vast amounts of materials for tent floors, community buildings and houses and the best way for us to get them was by recycling old houses, barn and commercial buildings. We did this by taking them apart from the top down – piece by piece.

The Farm – perhaps the most vibrant commune of the “counterculture” era

Note – as is mentioned in some other posts here, my wife and I lived on a commune called The Farm for a few years in the mid-1970’s. I will write up some of my own stories and outlooks on the experience, but for those who want to know what we were about, the following story by a fellow “farmie” should answer….

The Farm: A Case Study in Creating a New Consciousness and Culture
by Milt Wallace

In the dance between developing individual consciousness and a newly evolving culture, small groups that are in some way isolated from the larger culture can play an important role in creating, incubating and beginning to stabilize the new ideas and values. As the Post Modern paradigm emerged in the 70’s and 80’s, The Farm, a hippy spiritual community was one such group. Because of its size, outreach, and spiritual depth, The Farm’s impact was significant.

Post Modern Culture had its beginnings more than a century ago, but the turbulent years which included the Cold War, the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, the Kent State killings, and much more ignited a cultural revolution that led many baby boomers to question the status quo, and to search for some new meaning to life. Travel any highway and you would find young people and some not so young along the road, leaving their middle class homes or aborting their college educations and looking for something new. Modern Consciousness and Culture had a long run with its roots in the 16th century, but as we passed the middle of the 20th century, many came to feel that things weren’t working so well any more.
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