Kent remembers ’67, the Summer of Love

Jinae West

COURTESY The Chestnut BURR c 1967

Credit: Jason Hall

The Summer of Love captured the quintessential essence of summer. That intangible, untouchable, inexplicable “something” that breezes through every once in a while, spreading like a warm, sticky second skin, until it fades into nothing more than an impending dusk.

That was the Summer of Love in 1967.

In Haight-Ashbury, a district in San Francisco, the movement that drove the Summer of Love flourished amid wispy-haired teenagers and twenty-somethings.

Paul Gallagher, pre-medicine major, wrote an article for the Daily Kent Stater, which ran May 25, 1967, about his six-month experience in Haight-Ashbury. In “‘Love’s Special Home’ – Is This Haight?” he described hippies as wandering souls with admirable but flawed ideals, who were limited, like everyone, by their choices and their failures.

“The myth is that Haight is loveland,” Gallagher wrote. “The proposition is that whereas American society lives for booze and the boob tube, the hippie strives with integrity for true love and to be most fully himself for others.”

“The picture is pretty. The Haight street scene, however, does not much resemble it.”

Back in 1967, neither did Kent. But in a different, less LSD-inducing kind of way. Far from the Ken Keseys in San Francisco and the Andy Warhols in New York, Kent was mildly uneventful.

“Girls in ’67 were still wearing dresses and skirts to class. We didn’t have the jean thing going on yet,” said Carole Barbato, a professor of communication studies at East Liverpool, who was a freshman at the time. “Guys were in button-down collared shirts. Oxford shirts. Not many jeans. They were for folks who weren’t very rich.”

In 1970, Kent was at the forefront of liberal anti-war activism, but just three years earlier, Barbato said the campus was relatively quiet.

“People think of (Kent) as this sleepy town, and in many respects it was, but there was a core of activism at Kent State for many years,” Barbato said. “It can be seen as far back as the civil rights movement, but I don’t remember many huge protests at all (in 1967). I think it was because a lot of folks really wanted to believe Johnson was correct, that this war was important, that it was to stave off communism. So, in ’67 in Kent, there wasn’t a large contingency in the anti-war movement.”

Summer issues of the Daily Kent Stater in 1967 hardly mention the Vietnam War, but that’s not to say the Summer of Love, or at least, its influence, completely passed over Kent.

“You could definitely smell pot in the dorms,” Barbato said.

Contact ALL correspondent Jinae West at [email protected].