I’m not too sure when it happened in Madison Park, maybe in the early ‘60s: Concern or curiosity was beginning to bud about the hippy lifestyle. Bell-bottom pants, vests, beads, long hair, beards and hemp appeared on the scene. Those who tended to fit that profile were from all walks of life, and eventually the hippy look became the style nationwide.

A few social gatherings in Madison Park and other neighborhoods resulted in being invited to a room, a porch or a basement where a select group smoked hemp and others just passed it on, saying, “No, thank you.”

A friend and I were in such a gathering, and she muttered to me, as the elixir was passed, “This is all so new to me. Never have I been in a fine restaurant, ordered a martini, sipped it, then passed it to the table next to me and said, ‘Try this: This is some good s—!’”

 

It was all the rage…

Going to concerts was a big part of the hippy movement. A group of us saw Iron Butterfly, and the audience simply sat on the floor. The lights dimmed, the music began, and soon, thin, hand-rolled joints were passed around. If you missed this occurrence, you were probably at an Osmond concert. 

Unlike drinking booze — where, on occasion, one might participate in an exchange of fists — hemp smokers seldom turned to violence, even in the face of being accused of bogarting.

A group of us left a pub in the Park to see a movie having to do with the herb. We stood in a long line in freezing temperatures to see a midnight showing of “Reefer Madness.” Though it was made in 1936, it was making a comeback to deter young folks’ shenanigans. 

A scene in the movie was of a character taking two drags and was insane in 12 seconds. A guy in the audience yelled, “Where can I get some of that?” With all the laughter and those cigarettes being passed around, it was difficult to form a viable opinion.

Other movies like “Easy Rider,” “Harold and Maude,” Cheech & Chong and “2001” depicted the era. Publications like the Helix, Rolling Stone and High Times were widely read. 

A friend once said, while consuming a mixing-bowl-sized, hot-fudge sundae, “I don’t know what the hell the big deal is about this stuff. I don’t feel anything!” 

While in Haight-Ashbury for a gathering in the early ‘60s, I had to ask, “What’s that smell?” My friend said it was frankincense and hemp — otherwise known as pot or cannabis. Frankincense was burned probably to hide the smell of the pot, but it was also known for its healing properties.

At another gathering, we were all sitting on the floor when a thin, young lady with long, blond hair and flowers on her head stood and softly recited the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi, aboutjust being and caring for each other. 

Then, in the middle of a lengthy sentence and many adjectives, she paused. She smiled and then said, “What was I saying?” Laughter filled the air — must’ve been the frankincense!

The great find

Thinking this scenario would never fly in Madison Park, we began to notice the many head shops opening around Seattle. These stores catered to the new demographic and sold rolling papers and pipes of many kinds. 

At a tavern in the North End where the hippy types frequented, a group of friends once talked about a lake in Eastern Washington where they discovered an island: It turned out to be a most desirable spot to grow weed. In the following weeks, they’d take turns driving over, rowing in to water the plants. 

Months after I heard they were planning a dinner for friends that included the yield of the land, I ran into a few of them, and they were not happy. They explained that when the lake lowered in the spring, the deer wandered over and proceeded to feast on the vibrant, green leaves. This group had not planned on sharing the feast with furry mammalian.

It was said that marijuana would lead to other drugs. That must be true: In our late teens, we drank 3.2-percent beer, and 55 years later, it’s the appalling gin tonic.

RICHARD CARL LEHMAN is a longtime Madison Park resident. To comment on this story, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.