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Friday Slide Show: The Haight Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

27 October 2017

For us, this 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco is bittersweet. We were in high school then, just a few blocks from the Haight, which was a respectable neighborhood just a few blocks from Golden Gate Park.

We were occupied then with the track team, the only athletic organization at the school that would have us. That's because we lived outside the city limits and the other schools in town, restricted to enrolling students from their own neighborhoods, convinced the league that using students from outside the city was unfair to them.

But the track team let us run as an independent so, bittersweet as it was, there we were. Or nearly so.

Our track equipment was pretty rickety. And we ran the hurdles. The high hurdles, in fact. Which were made of 2x4 boards painted white. We still have a chip from one of them in our right knee, shrapnel of a kind.

For a treat, we would go down the hill to Kezar Stadium (where the San Francisco 49ers used to play when we were a kid) and work out on modern, lightweight hurdles with the team at Poly used. Polytechnic High School. Long gone.

They were black. We were not black. We got along great. They'd show us some exercises to loosen up, a few tricks (like knocking a dime off the top of the hurdle) and helped us improve our form dramatically. High hurdles then was a sort of brotherhood. You had to be crazy.

This was about the time of the Newark race riots. An ugly moment in American history. But on the cinders at Kezar, there was nothing ugly, even as the halls of Poly were the scene of fights and stabbings.


Meanwhile the Haight was getting its makeover as Haight-Ashbury. And for a few months it was glorious.

Then, like all glorious things, the predators moved in. Just like what has happend to the Internet.

Today the Haight is just as expensive as anywhere else in San Francisco. And the street has become something like Fisherman's Wharf. Once removed from itself. Oh, there are still crab boats at Fishermann's Wharf. And there's still peace and love on Haight St.

But there are also boutiques and restaurants and bars and more boutiques. You go for the shopping now not the music.


We recently went through our 50-year-old portfolio of drawings (we cartooned our way through high school) and were charmed to see again how influenced we were by the lava lamp typography of the era.

A Movie Poster. For Low Budget Films. The title spells out 'LAUGH' if you squint a bit. Shot with an iPhone in Lightroom for iOS and exported from Lightroom CC.

We were also reminded how hard it was to get a date when you went to an all-boys high school. The only time you met a girl your age was on the bus. The St. Rose girls were already on it. The Star of the Sea girls were getting on after you and by the time you got to Stonestown, you might see a Mercy girl or two.

We solved that problem by living next door to three girls our age. Who had lots of girlfriends.

Cleo was the one in the same grade as us. Our bedroom window was directly across from her kitchen window and she would do the dishes every night. So we'd chat. She was a dear friend, explaining to me how things worked.

She took her life a few years ago, we learned through the grapevine. We hadn't seen each other since those days of peace and love.

The grass and the acid altered perception but the music is the anthem still played today.


The grass and the acid altered perception but the music is the anthem still played today. Janis and Jimi. The Jefferson Airplane. Buffalo Springfield. Just to start a few memories stirring.

It was a time when the rules had to be broken. It was necessary to see things differently. To resist a senseless war, to combat bigotry, to respect each other.

And it never died out. You see it in every movement for human rights. But you see it in the quiet lives of those who passed through that time, too.

Just one example. One of our classmates and track teammate, Doug Lalanne, worked for years at the S.F. Haight Ashbury Clinic. He was brilliant but he devoted his short life (he's gone too) to helping those who couldn't help themselves.


A few weeks ago we had some visitors who wanted to spend an afternoon in the Haight. We took the bus down as the Navy was doing aerial stunts above us for Fleet Week.

We brought a camera only because we had visitors. We're loathe to shoot in the Haight for some reason.

We always start our tours at the Sockshop sock store because it's great fun. And we pop into the Booksmith bookstore because it's a haven for lovers of thoughtful literature. They found a few other shops that interested them, but we insisted they visit the John Fleuvog shoe store before we waited a long time for the bus home at a little cafe.

They had a great time visiting the Haight and we did too. We could still hear the music of the Summer of Love in the humor of the sock shop, the intelligence of the bookstore and the whimsy of the shoe store.

So we won't end on a bittersweet note.

Time waits for no one. But that music still lingers in the air, cutting ordinary time into a different measure.


Hi, Mike, sorry this is a little behind but I kept looking at the sign (slide one) and wondering why.

Then it occurred to me that my wife had a picture of me on her desk, taken kitty-corner to that sign over 20 years ago. (An anniversary trip.)

It's from the mid-nineties and it is technically terrible.

Taken with a "focus-free" throwaway camera, it is just about acceptable to view if you close one eye, dim the lights and stand on one leg.

I guess I should find the neg and scan it for her but I don't think it would be any better. Amazing how our favorite photos are often not the best.

As usual for a photog, I am not in many pics myself.

Here is an iPhone pic of the print....

Also, I have been meaning to let you know that I think Photo Corners is just great.

You have introduced me to books and gadgets that I didn't even know I needed (through the links of course). No huge purchases yet, but many small ones.

There are only two sites I visit every day -- yours and Mike Johnston's.

I love the Friday Slide Show and also the fact that you publish the treatment you give to your shots and scans. I also use older cameras, a D200 and D300.

I am often surprised at how sharp your shots are when using a kit zoom.

-- James Thomas Kelley

That shot really captures the place. We took it into Photoshop CC to run it through the Camera Raw filter and, while some technical aspects of the image improved, we didn't like it as much as the original. No wonder there are people paying good money on filters like Film Stocks 3.0 and Exposure X3 to get film effects just like that.

And thanks, James, for the kinds words, too. It's one thing to get a compliment and it's a whole other thing to be appreciated for what you're actually trying to do. (BTW, we visit Johnston's site every day too -- even when he takes a day off, just in case he didn't!)

-- Mike

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