In 1968, I proudly considered myself a member of the hippie tribe. I wore my hair long, I draped a peace symbol around my neck, I flashed the peace sign; I listened to “heavy” music. And regarding patchouli oil, well, it was love at first whiff! (My mom could not stand the smell!)
I wasn’t one of those “dirty hippies”. I bathed every day, because I liked staying clean, and I wanted to appear attractive to all those cute hippie girls. Plus I was and remain, a “water baby”. Any chance I could, I would find a body of water and jump in, even if it was just the bathtub. (My favorite scene from the Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night” movie shows John Lennon playing with his toy boats in the tub.) To this day, I love to splash around in any size body of water.
Also, I didn’t get super-involved in drugs. I thought it might be nice to be able to enjoy my brain in my senior years (and it is!). Even as a hippie boy, I tried to do things in moderation. Although I’ll have to admit: the above photo, where I am experimenting with a color wheel and magnifying glass, does show one fairly stoned young man.
I liked to have good clean fun in the outdoors. I enjoyed getting together with friends, cutting-up, or just lounging in the sunshine, simply enjoying each other’s company. –- Playing my hand-painted guitar….
On one hot July day, my very good friends, Karl Baker and Curtis “Skeet” Stoddard (the infamous Mr. Stoddard later became president of the local branch of an outlaw motorcycle club), and I hopped into Karl’s fire-engine-red VW bus, which Karl and I had recently, lovingly restored; and we motored to a little lake outside of town, Freeway Lake, to enjoy some hang-out time, to drink a little wine, and to smoke a little weed.
Now, I’ll admit: Karl and I were slightly under 21, which was the drinking age in our state. But, our purpose wasn’t to get all drunk and rowdy. We shared one or two bottles of Kosher loganberry, which was very popular with the hippie set. Its sweet, fruity taste was so refreshing. And in that 90-degree heat, you needed something to cool off with. — Something that paired well with a few tokes of Panama Red!
Well, upon arrival, we disembarked from The Bus (that is to say we floated out) and claimed a nice, shady spot near the water. Once we had “shaken hands with Mr. Panama Red”, employing Skeet’s homemade pipe, which he ingeniously fashioned from plumbing supplies, we did what we always did at Freeway Lake: we grabbed onto the big rope which was hanging from a huge, ancient willow, rode it out over the lake, and then let go, falling into the cool, invigorating water. That was our kind of fun.
Apparently our shenanigans were noticed, because, suddenly, everyone’s favorite local TV legend, Robert “Bob Ivers” Prestlien, approached our little hippie trio. He sidled up to us and asked, in a friendly manner, “And what are you wonderful young people doing on this fine day?” Skeet took the bull by the horns and answered for the three of us, replying with a sly grin on his face, “Well, we’re drinkin’ wine, gettin’ stoned, and havin’ fun, just like we ought to!” Mr. Ivers laughed, and didn’t bat an eye. We thought he was pretty cool, for an older, straight guy. — We would have known just how cool he was, had we remembered that Mr. Ivers was famous for playing a switchblade-brandishing thug in the Jerry Lewis movie, The Delicate Delinquent. He said, “I need a volunteer. I’d like one of you cool cats to grab the rope and jump off into the water. I’ll film it and put you on the news tonight!”
Well, I’ve always loved to show off, so I immediately volunteered. It wouldn’t be the first time I took a flying leap into the water to get myself photographed! The following photo was published almost exactly 10 years earlier, in a special Yakima YMCA Grand Opening section of the Herald-Republic newspaper, when I was nine years old.
So I climbed the tree, grabbed the thick rope, swung off, rode the rope over the water; and with a big whoop, I let go, splashing into the lake. I made sure to stay under water for a long time, to add to the drama. When I finally came up, I whipped my long, hippie hair around to shake off the water, and swam into shore wearing a huge smile, feeling very proud of myself. Bob Ivers had managed to catch my entire act with his TV camera — I was gonna be locally famous! I gave Bob a big, self-satisfied grin, looking at him as if to say, “Well, what did you think of that?”
He smiled kindly at me, and addressed me just like he was talking to a nine year old kid, praising me in his nicest voice, “That was very good, Randy! Now — go do your thing!”
(That evening, we gathered around the TV in the Bowles’ household, to watch me make my appearance on the evening news. And there I was, presented by Bob Ivers, acting the complete fool. Mom and Dad were so embarrassed.)
— While at the lake, we boys strolled around, saying “Hi” to our hippie friends with whom we shared the beautiful, peaceful surroundings. We were fairly few in number; but we were a tight-knit, friendly bunch. I remember seeing two of my friends who had gotten married about a year earlier. They’d brought their little baby boy to the gathering by the lake. I thought, “Wow, my tribe is having babies now”. – That little baby would be 47 or 48, today! Well, I hope he is doin’ his thing! Like he ought to.
Robert “Bob Ivers” Prestlien played cool characters in films in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In addition to his role in The Delicate Delinquent, he also had a role in Elvis Presley’s G.I. Blues. He was a generation removed from us hippie boys, but he reached across the generations to treat us with kindness. He passed away in Yakima in 2003.
Here is the perfect song to listen to along with this story!