Perhaps what made the summer of 1967 so magical, were all the changes I was going through at the time. For the young, the world was at the very precipice of discovery. At twelve years old, I could begin to imagine myself with the freedom of an adult, driving a car, going camping and fishing whenever I felt like, re-defining rules of dinner and bedtimes, and pretty much living the life of ease and luxury that comes with the freedom of choice. Of course, Summer always provides the fuse for such whimsy, and vividly colored daydreams become pleasingly affordable.
1967 was The Summer of Love, and the great new music coming from the San Francisco scene as well as the rest of the country was truly magnificent and awe-inspring. As a kid approaching my teen years I was barely aware of what was going on during this time, but the music was always there changing my perspective on how the world was changing.
The cars that our parents drove were beginning to be handed down to older siblings, who in turn, fixed them up to suit their own tastes. The beautiful "muscle cars" of the era were stunning revelations of what was to come. It was great fun to see them barreling down the street. Everything was so alive in summer, and the 60's that are so magificently alive in my memories still live with me today.
On hot days we drank pop from an ice cold ten-cents-a-bottle cooler, or our own refrigerator. fanta orange popvintage pop coolerRemember how great those dripping wet ice cold bottles felt when we pulled them straight from the cooler? It seems to me that the most important service service stations provided was to have a pop machine or cooler on hand. The first swig of cola, strawberry, grape, orange, root beer, or whichever was a carbonated blast to the throat, but tasted so delicious. Before the fizz could settle, all I wanted was another.
Outside, beyond the veldt of dry grass and shady trees, the heat was like an oven. Summer was alive and kicking. The stinging scent of fresh greenery, wet lawns, hot asphalt, or the penny candy inside the corner store was always a precious aroma. Most of us guys went shirtless, wearing only cutoffs. I used to wear these rubber thongs that flapped against my feet whenever I walked. They felt good as protection against the scorching asphalt and sidewalks. I remember hosing them down just to cool them off before slipping them on.
I also loved the surfer shirts that became very popular that year; everybody was wearing them, and I had two of them: one with blue strips and one with red stripes. I also remember the Iron Cross medallions that many of us guys wore. We were soaking up the California culture like a sponge! Cars drove by, the sun was out, the skies were blue, and everything was brilliantly animated.
The walks to the corner store were usually fairly long, and seemed farther in high temperatures. It was in the summer of 1967 that I had my first Shasta Tiki Punch. The taste was simply wonderful! You could still get cans that needed to be opened with a can opener, but by this time, pop and beer cans had the pull tabs. Life was just so darned easy then; most of the traffic on the side streets were the ocassional passing cars, and the sounds of summer were usually provided by distant lawnmowers, birds, and, once in a while, a passing plane overhead. Of course, the yelling of other kids playing was a constant, but that wasn't a bad sound at all. So many great memories happened on our neighborhood street and in the entire surrounding area.
The cheapest fun we could have was running through the sprinker, or having water fights. I can recall several types of sprinklers; there were the spinning types, the oscillating, and even strips of flat sprinkler hose. Each did their job well, and we could get decently cooled off. Even the backyard kiddie play pools worked well for a quick dousing off. I remember skimming off handfuls of grass from the surface of the water that gathered from bare feet on the lawn. Pools were always so enticing with their blue plastic color magnified from beneath the shallow water.
Summer evenings were a bit more free by this time. My brother and I were old enough to stay home alone while my parents went out for the evening. My brothers Mike and Aaron, were both in the Navy. My oldest brother Kenny was married, so that just left Pat and I. My dad would always give us five dollars apiece to blow on candy and pop, or whatever. I used to load up at the corner store on "Papa Size" Dad's Root Beer, a box of Cheese Nips, and whatever candy was necessary to get me through the night. The television shows that I liked were a bit limited for Friday and Saturday nights, but I do remember "Gomer Pyle, USMC".
Often, the neighbor kids would come over, and we'd watch marathon reruns of Thriller and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, then the great monster movies that came on later. It's amazing how long we could endure in front of the TV then.
The music of 1967 was very exciting. Sophistication-as well as style-was beginning to dominate the pop music market. However, The Summer of Love came and went without notice on my part; for one thing, I was just too young to take notice of it, and for another thing, all the best music was still on the radio! One of my favorite groups of the era was The Young Rascals and the songs "Groovin'" and "How Can I Be Sure" were solid favorites, and still are! Songs lingered on the radio for a long time then; movies stayed in the theaters for a long time as well. There was a sense of dependability then. The music was upbeat and exciting. The Mamas & The Papas were great, and we heard their music playing from home stereos all over the neighborhood.
Some of my favorite songs then:
- "Hello Goodbye" -The Beatles
- "Light My Fire" -The Doors (I'd never heard anything as fantastic as this song!)
- "How Can I Be Sure" -The Young Rascals
- "Groovin'" -The Young Rascals
- "Little Bit O'Soul" -Music Explosion (I'd learned to play this riff on my brother's guitar.)
- "Kind of a Drag" -The Buckinghams
- "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" -Johnny Rivers (This version haunted me, and I sang it constantly.)
- "Penny Lane" -The Beatles
- "Dedicated to the One I Love" -Mamas & Papas
- "Something Stupid" -Nancy & Frank Sinatra
- "The Batman Theme" -Nelson Riddle Orchestra