As the 60s progressed, and as the mainstream started to take an interest in the goings on with the Youth of the day, articles began to appear in magazines and newspapers; documentaries started popping up on radio and TV, and suddenly the Youth of America became the Big Question Mark.
1967, famously referred to as The Summer Of Love (which also, ironically marked The Death Of Hippie in San Francisco), it signaled to the rest of the country that the Youth Culture had arrived and things were going to get a little different. Against the heady extolling to “turn on, tune in and drop out”, the Youth of Urban America abandoned the trappings of their comfortable surroundings and proceeded en masse to “get back to the garden” – which meant different things to different people. Communes popped up, love-ins became a weekly event, concerts became experiences bordering on the religious and drugs became the base coat from which all experiences were applied.
A lot of kids ran away from home, in search of this new-promised utopian life. Many more dabbled. Some became politicized. Others became militant – it was an upheaval of sorts – every aspect of life; from personal values to length of hair all came into question. The old rules no longer applied – the new rules were being made up on the spot.
And in the midst of all the utopian promise, there were the dark sides, as there inevitably are with any movement or cultural shift. The kids looking for utopia got used and abused – the haves became the have-nots – the hustlers and con artists plied their trade and the youthful glow of giddy got tarnished as Summer faded into Fall and the bracing winds of reality kicked in.
Some made it out – some rose to the occasion and prevailed, while others became statistics for the mainstream to point and condemn.
In November of 1967, New York Radio station WNEW ran, as part of their weekly Sunday News Closeup series, a program called A Child Again. It was a half hour interview with a teenage runaway named Marcy (her real identity was concealed at the time) and her life on the streets of New York and her interactions with friends and fellow-travelers.
It’s a poignant documentary – Marcy is one of the “lost ones” – addicted to drugs and far from home, she lives with a group of others and talks about her day to day. From the get-go, the intention of the documentary was not to recruit more kids to a hippy lifestyle, but rather dissuade those expressing interest to reconsider their choices, or to simply go back where they came from.
Called A Child Again, it was a successful documentary which was re-played many times and available to schools and civic organizations as a sort of example of a cautionary tale to those leaning in the direction of ditching their present lives in favor of an alternative lifestyle.
Whether it made any converts or persuaded anyone not to “go to San Francisco to wear flowers in their hair”, it’s hard to tell. Some 47 years later, it’s an interesting social comment on life during a specific period of time where everything was coming under scrutiny, and those in charge were losing their control.
And if nothing else – mid-way through the documentary there is an odd sound you may not be familiar with – it’s the sound of an old telephone being dialed, when Marcy is trying to call her mother. Just so you know.