Stanyan Street Meets Haight & Ashbury

In 1967, students attended a school rooted in 400 years of Jesuit tradition. Then at lunch and after school they would walk to Golden Gate Park or to Haight Street and find a different world, one that involved protest, drugs and rock and roll.

“I could walk to the park as a senior during lunch and watch hippies dancing around,” said Robert Thomas, who identified with the youth movement both at SI and, later, at UC Santa Cruz where he studied English, attended Grateful Dead concerts and protested the Vietnam War.

Boris Koodrin ’67, a lineman for the football team at SI, noted that much of San Francisco “was a whole different world. We were close to Haight-Ashbury and to Golden Gate Park where it was a clash of worlds, not that there was any antagonism, between students and hippies.”

As a student, Koodrin and many others attended a legendary concert — a fund raiser for SI — at USF’s Memorial Gymnasium on April 7, 1967, that brought Buffalo Springfield and the Jefferson Airplane to SI, with a lightshow by Headlights. “They were up-and-coming artists, not that big yet,” said Koodrin. Still, the two groups drew 4,000 fans to the benefit concert for SI’s building fund. “Several faculty members eyed Haight-Ashbury’s shaggy contingent with glazed optics and twitchy clipper fingers,” wrote Charlie Gavin in the Inside SI concert review.

John Wildermuth ’69, now a political reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, recalls that cross country coach Riley Sutthoff would have his team avoid running near Haight Street. “Everywhere we saw guys selling the Oracle and the Berkeley Barb or guys asking for contributions to build a new temple. We saw the Grateful Dead perform on top of a flatbed truck on Stanyan Street and saw the Diggers perform.”

Students and teachers at SI also saw the ugly side of the movement, especially regarding the drug scene. On a Saturday morning in 1967, one of Bob Drucker’s players, Steve McCarthy, cut his eye. “I took him to Park Emergency. When I walked in, I saw a beautiful 18-year-old girl reciting nursery rhymes; she was so out of it from drugs. I had never seen anyone like this. At 27, I was frightened; this was my neighborhood, but I had no idea what was going on as I was a bit naïve.”

Fr. Bill Muller, SJ, who taught at SI as a scholastic in the late 1960s, saw both sides of the changing times. “I used to go walking from Welch Hall out into the Haight, and it dawned on me one night that I shouldn’t be doing this. The kids changed in just those two years. They developed a social consciousness and an awareness of the world around them. They paid attention to the Vietnam War, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.”

SI did contribute to the music scene of San Francisco in the 1960s with Ron Elliott ’62. Elliott and Sal Spampinato (who later changed his name to Sal Valentino) formed the group the Beau Brummels and had several hit songs, including “Laugh, Laugh” and “Just a Little” in 1965, which Eliott co-wrote with classmate Bob Durand ’62. After the Beau Brummels broke up, Elliott pursued other musical avenues, including country rock, and recorded and released The Candlestick Maker.