Paul Kantner, rhythm guitarist of Jefferson Airplane, once said, "If you can remember anything about the 60s, you weren't really there." Luckily, posters like this gem still exist as reminders of that craaazy time. The title of the poster is "Groovy Happening Sunday Afternoon", and it depicts the Summer of Love, the giant messy months-long music fest/love-in that took place in San Francisco in the summer of 1967.
Floating amidst a sky of psychedelic pink word art is a hot air balloon driven by Snoopy and trailing a banner that says "San Francisco or Bust". Below the balloon, you will recognize many faces frolicking at the junction of Haight-Ashbury: members of Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Paul Revere and the Raiders, James Brown with jiving legs, Sonny & Cher, and The Supremes, among others.
You'll also spot Muhammad Ali in irons, arrested in 1965 for evading the Vietnam draft. Next to him waving an American flag is, I think, Ralph Nader, who by then had published the ultimate gadfly book, Unsafe at Any Speed. And in an unusual turnaround, running away from bikini-clad babes is Sean Connery as James Bond, fresh off the set of You Only Live Twice.
Let's not forget sitting cross-legged under the Haight-Ashbury street sign is Bob Dylan, simultaneously strumming his guitar and playing his harp. He'd already recorded Blonde on Blonde, the double-album that perhaps contained the lyrical germination that sprouted and spread these past fifty years, growing into an oeuvre meriting the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The poster was designed by Jim Michaelson, an artist out of San Jose State who won a design contest held by the owner of Sparta Graphics, David Schiller. The twosome went on to collaborate for many years, and their posters are highly collectible. This one is part of the collection at Oakland Museum of California. It has also been included in the Great 60s Poster Calendar, produced a few years back.
Do you think Jim Michaelson could have imagined what would someday become of his subjects? That they would die of overdose, maybe. But assassination? Or how about the honors? The various Halls of Fame, the knighting by the Queen of England, the lighting of the Olympic torch, the Congressional Medals of Honor and the Nobel Prize, for goodness sake. One of them (Diana Ross) would also perform at the Nobel ceremony. It's heady to consider so much life and art in one little poster!
I bought it at the estate sale of a deceased hippie who lived in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, a bastion of Republican values with a population that's 95.4% white. How do I know he was a hippie? I don't. But the things he left behind told me he was once a flower child. His midcentury-modern ranch house was chock full of macrame planters, chunky asymmetrical pottery, crystals, books on meditation and eastern philosophy, a vinyl collection that would make you weep, and enough packets of rolling papers to insulate a dining room.
He might also have been a hoarder. The enormity of his possessions frightened away many shoppers. But not me. I have learned that hoarders are actually modern-day archivists except they lack the credentials and the proper facilities.
I like to imagine that he participated in the Summer of Love. That on a muggy summer afternoon in 1967, he left Milwaukee on a Greyhound bus headed to California, and didn't think he'd ever come back.
Click here for shopping information. Photos by Renn Kuhnen.
November 2017 update: Astute reader Barb June pointed out that the gentleman I identified as Ralph Nader is, in fact, Everett Dirksen. Here is what Barb June wrote:
I beg to differ that the figure next to Muhammad Ali is Ralph Nader. It is almost assuredly Everett Dirksen. While Dirksen actively championed the Civil Rights Act, he was also an ardent supporter of the War in Vietnam, hence his proximity to the shackled Ali (Clay at that time). I remember seeing Dirksen on the evening news, his glasses perched down on his nose. When I Google pictures of him now, though, I can't find any with his glasses down, but I'm sure it's him in the poster.