Summer of Love: A half century ago, Flower Power came to Colordo Springs Springs

Anti-war demonstrators parade in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, Calif., in April 1967.

As a growing number of Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as social restrictions loosen and hopes for herd immunity grow, summer 2021 is poised to be one for the record books and memory banks.

Summer of Love 2?

Summer to Breathe? Move? Leave?

Where are history’s marketing muses when you need them?

The global and domestic events that helped launch the counterculture movement in the 1960s may be entirely different than those that got us to today, but the feeling that we’ve reached some kind of watershed moment — of shared catharsis and forever-changed perspectives — echoes across the ages.

This time, though, it’s not just for the kids.

“I think if you’re trying to draw a parallel between that summer and this summer, I think it’s very similar in many, many ways, but it’s older people rather than 16- and 18-year-olds,” said Mark Robbins, a Colorado Springs native who was a teen when the West Coast awakening began rippling nationwide more than 50 years ago, via airwaves, fashion and attitudes. “A lot of the people who’ve gotten both shots of the vaccine, they are the people who are somewhere around the age where they might remember the Summer of Love … and they might relate those feelings to what they’re feeling now.”

Older generations, more at risk for serious complications from the virus, were the ones most impacted by the health fears of the pandemic — and, now, by the vaccine and the hope for an impending return to adjusted normalcy it provides.

“The younger generations, the Millennials, the Gen X-ers, we’ve been out there, going out, but staying responsible with social distancing and masking,” said Montana Horsfall, a former bartender with a long history serving drinks in the Springs, including during the pandemic. “The older generations, now that they’re vaccinated, I think they’re still being a little cautious but they’re starting to think about going out. And some of them are starting to go out again, and that is a really huge deal … to get back to that socializing that we all crave, and need.”

While Robbins said he and his wife have always been comfortable homebodies, now that they’ve both had both vaccinations, they’re starting to think about rescheduling delayed social and vacation plans, and cashing in all those airline credits they’ve been sitting on. Some of his friends have already started.

“We have a lot of friends who are more social butterflies than we are, and it’s been really difficult for them this last year,” Robbins said. “A group of them, all guys my age who are friends from grade school, they just left this week on one of those old guy road trip movies-type trips. They all had their shots, and they couldn’t wait to get out. It was like, finally we can break free and go do something we want to do.”

So maybe Summer 2021 isn’t so much Summer of Love 2, he suggested, but “Summer of Regained Freedom”?

We’re starting to cautiously celebrate Human Be-Outs, rather than (an eternal year of) a Human Be-In, that seminal protest gathering in San Francisco in January 1967 that set the stage and primed the pumps for cultural revolution.

Our hair is longer than ever. Not because of rebellion, but still.

Someday, maybe someday soon, we’ll be able to sit beside a stranger, maybe even hug them and put a flower in their freshly trimmed hair, without hesitation.

And, of course, for Summer of Love Redux, or whatever you want to call it, The Beatles have provided the perfect soundtrack.

Beatles megafan Sean Anglum was just 15 in 1967 and growing up in the Springs, but he felt the impact of the Summer of Love, in large part thanks to the late spring release of the group’s eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The album, which featured a psychedelic cover art of the Fab Four looking motley and very unlike their formerly geeky, mop-topped selves, queued a collective sigh of relief from fans, who worried that the band was breaking up. Its tracks, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” triggered a kaleidoscopic musical, and ideological growth spurt unlike any that had come before.

That album and that summer helped make Anglum the music fan, and music maker, he is today.

“That time was really kind of young people challenging the old ways and defying conformity, but that led to that freedom — that feeling of freeness, unshackled, getting your life together — getting your own life, as opposed to the life that was commanded of you, by your parents, or society or whatever or whomever,” said Anglum, who retired from the Pikes Peak Library District several years ago to do just that, devoting more time to playing, and performing, with his band.

The trio had just recorded a new CD and had a schedule of concerts lined up when life “shut down.” March 13, 2020, was their last rehearsal. Now, with vaccine done and possibility of live performances again on the horizon, they’re making plans to get back together this month, to write new songs and play music.

The excitement, about the future and what it could bring, rings familiar, said Anglum.

“In a lot of ways, this spring and summer has that same feeling (that 1967 did) … of joy of freedom, freedom from following the old rules — though there are some rules that I think will now be societal and standard operating procedure, possibly masks in some places for quite a lot time. But it still has that feeling,” said Anglum, who said he has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. “Now it does sort of feel like … release the doves, sound the trumpets.”

Call it, perhaps, the Summer to "Get Back"? (Oh, the symmetry!)

“The Beatles: Get Back” documentary film and companion book about the making of the band’s 1970 album “Let It Be” were originally set for release last summer, but were delayed because of the pandemic. They’re now due in late August.

“The reason (they made that album) was because they wanted to get back to what they were and how they came about, and just that feeling, that freedom of playing old rock and roll songs and that sort of thing,” Anglum said. “It just kind of happened, the timing (of the release), but The Beatles are always at the forefront.”

Summer 2021 will mark a life milestone for Anglum for other reasons as well. He’s getting married in July, after reconnecting with a woman he’d met, and crushed on, more than 40 years ago.

“We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to have the wedding this summer, but then things started looking better,” said Anglum, who recently booked a location for his impending nuptials with fiancé Gail Roberts at the gazebo at Fox Run Regional Park.

It will be a small ceremony, maybe 20 to 30 people, after which guests will relocate to the couple’s home for a reception, in a basement that’s “conducive to being with friends and playing music.”

“For us, it really is going to be a Summer of Love,” Anglum said, “a summer to reconnect, to ‘get back to where you once belonged.’”

Reporter

Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

Load comments