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  1. Nacio says:

    Welcome to RagTheater.com. I regard my contribution to this webblog to be primarily the collections of images. It is my hope that comments posted by viewers will become an equally important part. So, especially if you were on the scene, please post your recollections of the times.
    Nacio Jan Brown, October 2011

    New signed copies of the original printing of both the paperbound edition and the limited (300) hand-numbered hardbound edition of “Rag Theater″ are now available through Amazon.com.

  2. BMWDoug says:

    Remember the Telegraph Hilton? The Red Rockets? The Store?
    Bill who ran The Store, and who ran for Sheriff? I had a more or less reserved seat at the Med in the front window for several years. Thanks, Nacio, for putting this up– a lot of memories of a VERY fast-paced time in my history.

  3. Nacio says:

    Of course I remember the Telegraph Hilton. I remember one time walking in an upstairs hall in the dark (a tenant probably needed the hall light bulbs) and stepping on something squishy. Never knew what it was, never wanted to know.

  4. rocknrolesteve says:

    You do not know me but I certainly remember you from my days in Berkeley back in the late 60’s.
    I lived back then at the old Country Joe and the Fish house at Adeline and Ashby. One of my roommates back then and still dear friend is KFran DeFaymoreau. I am also a close friend still to this day of Richard Krech.
    Today, Fran sent me the link to your Rag Theater site. I was amazed to see so many photos of Cindy and Kathy Houldsen as young teenagers. I’ve included just a few in case you need a memory jog. These two sisters (actually fraternal twins) were part of the Red Rockets back then along with Super Joel, Ruth and Vannessa Delacour and others.
    I’m not sure, but it looks like you knew the sisters back then before they moved up north to Southern Humboldt to be with me and my pals around 1973. I had left Berkeley for the Whitethorn area in 1970. I gathered up several Berkeley friends over the next few years and brought them up to live in the wilds of Humboldt. Cindy and Kathy lived up there until the early 80’s where Red haired Kethy had two children named Dallas and Vannessa (named after Delacour). Michael Delacour’s Daughter Jeannie also moved up there. In the early 80’s the twins moved up to Spokane Wa to be with their older sister. Unfortunately Kathy committed suicide in 1990 and Cindy was killed in a motorcycle accident a few month’s later.
    I hate to be bearer of such tragic news (if in fact it is news). But I thought you may be curious as to what became of them because they both appear so often in Rag Theater and you seem to be close to them.
    I (at different times) was extremely close to them as not only myself but my close friends were very tight and could be called boyfriends from time to time. More than that I felt responsible in some crazy “parental” way for them. Well, just thought you would want to know.

    Rock n Roll Steve

  5. rocknrolesteve says:

    Yes I remember all of those characters that thrived on that block in those crazy daze. Bill Miller who ran The Store and ran for Sheriff. Richard Krech and his daughter Rachel. Her mother Martha and the other black haired beauties who sat at those front tables on the Southside of the Med. Joan Miller, Joanie and Nancy Bardake. Wendy Schlessinger in her clear vinyl brassiere. All of the Red Rockets kids like Super Joel, Ruth, Cindy, Kathy and Vannessa. Sam Krishna (Kirschner) and his lady Barabara Delacour. Michael Delacour. Max Scher and his son Sergio. Paul X. Michael Malcolm from Shambala and Terry and Kat McKenna. Dax and Trevor. All of the poets, musucians, artists, writers, publishers, songwriters and general professional topical conversationalists, mime troupers and jugglers. And of course Nacio. I was blessed to be able to live there in those great daze.

  6. Pio says:

    Wow. it’s surreal to see me mom, Pooh, (photo B49 in “faces) with one of my baby brothers on her back, and my other little brother with a cool hat on, and my mom looking so young.

    I see all the faces I remember, Crossmans, Delacores, Barsottis, Super Joel, Gypsy, old Sean, and dozens of other people I spent most of my time with every day on the ave, until I was about 13.

    I think rather than saying it was bad or good, I ‘d say it was just where fate put us at that time, and there will never be another like it.
    Talking with some of my friends now, we all remember what a sexually, and physically predatory place it was, and how much freedom there was to do drugs and have sex or whatever we wanted to. I think our parent’s hearts were in the right place for the most part, and they were trying to escape the gravity of 50’s upbringings, that hurt them badly.
    I miss a lot of my friends, and among the Crossmans and Delacores in particular there was so much tragedy and hurt.

    All in all we survived, and most of us are really conventional now when it comes to how to raise kids or what to expose them to, while retaining some of that era’s freedom and free thinking.
    Thank to everyone who gave this kid http://www.flickr.com/photos/piero510/6308166384/ a quarter to get mashed potatoes at robberies, or bought me a slice of pizza at Pepe’s, or took me to a movie that was way too adult for me at the theater that was above where Fred’s market now stands.

    I love and remember you all both living and dead with a lot of fondness.


  7. Nacio says:

    With his permission I have reproduced below comments my old friend Craig Pyes posted on Facebook:
    While my contemporaries were hobnobbing at Ivy’s, my daily life resembled an exile’s (and still does) in which down time was spent on the 2400 block of Telegraph Ave in Berkeley in and around the Caffe Mediterraneum Cafe. That was the home of coffeehouse intellectuals, soi-dissant revolutionaries, drug addicts, street people, and a polymorphous collection of driftwood called the Red Rockets and its pubescent and pre-pubescent marginalia known as the Mini Mob…It was the birthplace of SunDance Magazine.

  8. jennyh says:

    i remember the Med. Hidden narrow corridors behind the walls where they let us hide during demonstrations (as in: free for all by cops). The Mafia connection that rumor had. My first real espresso.

  9. psm65 says:

    Nacio, It’s great to see this. Thanks. Love the comments and looking forward to seeing who else shows up there. peter

  10. Nacio says:

    The poster in […] 1/55 was written in inks of several colors making it difficult to read in black and white. The text is as follows:

    ATTENTION: rip-offs, three card molie players and SMACK PUSHERS!
    For selling SMACK, for ripping us off for Both
    Material and SPIRITUAL THINGS,

    {If You Chose To Disregard this Notice,
    You May Be ripped off For Your Life!}


    [Signature illegible]

  11. Dove says:

    The images seem like last week … sitting in the Med at the “fish bowl table”, the Rag Theater, Peoples Park. My god you took me back with these photographs. I recognize so many people. I have a few images also and maybe I can upload them to you in the near future.

  12. Nacio says:

    The blog software used doesn’t allow for the uploading of images. It does, however, allow for links in posts.

  13. Uno says:

    My friends and I used to hang out on Telegraph during those years … I see Frank Crossman … the young boy on the left in Faces #20 …

    Someone down there mentioned Barsotti … I remember that name … Mark, I think, was friends with Frank …

    My friends and I were adolescents … 1969 through 1973 … 11 through 14 years … I loved it …

  14. Nacio says:

    Dogs: By my count nearly fifty images of dogs appear on this site, this with only a half-dozen or so leashes in evidence. Dogs were a reliably safe source of affection for the kids on the street.

  15. Uno says:

    They still are … on the street or not. 😉

  16. jimmybudd says:

    Thank you Nacio for posting these photographs. Richard Krech’s daughter, Rachel, made me aware of this new site. I have such mixed feelings about those times. On the one hand I know most, if not all, of these kids were enjoying themselves at the time, but on the other hand it’s devastating how many lived such short or difficult lives. That’s not really a judgement, it’s just the reality.

    As I’m sure most of the survivors of those times do, I still after twenty- three years terribly miss my lovely niece, Kathy Delacour. I’ve never really gotten over how casually lives disappeared during those days.

    I won’t go on, what more is there to say? Best Wishes and Cheers to all the wonderful kids of the 2400 block of Telegraph. Just trying to find their place in the Sun. Jim Delacour

  17. barbara122 says:

    I was in the Med watching my daughter, Shelly and my nieces and nephews, Kathy, Vanessa and David Delacour as closely as I could. Even in the euphoria of that time period I was concerned about the drugs that were being used. Over the years I have come to believe that these experiences were neither positive or negative. I have gained a neutraility, that they were experiences and should not be judged. However, hind sight being 20/20 vision you can always see where you could have made better choices. That is called learning from your experiences. I know many in the photos and many of them have passed from this world and I love them all.

  18. johnlevy says:

    Thanks for the memories, Nacio. I think I had a copy of your book years ago, but no longer, so this weblog offers an unexpected return to those scruffy times. And the pictures will refresh and replace my fast dimming images.

  19. Sylvie Poitevin says:

    A couple of years ago, I came across your book RAG THEATER in an small antique shop in Perth, Ontario Canada. What a delight!! Wonderful images, beautiful people….. Looking forward to discover more of your work…..
    Sylvie 🙂

  20. frant says:

    In the Faces gallery, #4/53 is, I believe, my late brother, Super Joel Tornabene. Can anyone confirm that for me? He was quite active during that time in Berkeley.

  21. Nacio says:

    Dear Frant, It is indeed your brother, Joel, who is portrayed in Faces 4/53. He is also in the upper right corner of The Scene 61/82. In addition, I have a portrait of him sitting in an ornately carved wooden chair on my Facebook Wall. If you look at this last picture and read the comments posted you will see that Joel remains vivid in the memories of those who knew him. Best Regards, Nacio
    P.s. I know I have at least one other good shot of Joel: it shows him sticking a toy rifle into the face of a S.F. cop. I’ll let you know when I have scanned and posted it.

  22. Nacio says:

    To get a feel for Super Joel check out: http://hightimes.com/lounge/pkrassner/6120. There is one error in this piece: it was not Super Joel in the Pentagon demonstration shot putting a flower into the barrel of the soldier’s rifle. It was George Harris, Jr., later known as “Hibiscus,” a founder of the Cockettes. Super Joel was photographed doing the flower-in-the-rifle-barrel thing during Berkeley’s 1969 People’s Park episode. I smile whenever I think of Super Joel, as I’m sure everyone who knew him does.

    • Annierat says:

      wow, I would never have recognized Hibiscus. I lived on Church Street with Beaver, Midnight and Rodney (and Ruby and a few other Angels of Light and Cockettes) JC, Whiskey John, me, Jonathan MF and others from the Free Bakery, in 1971. We used to go to all their shows and go to the Stud afterwards to dance. Tecquila in the black walled bathroom stalls, me. Beaver and Midnight, Hi girls if you see this email me. Love annie MF

  23. joyontheave says:

    Hi Nacio. Thanks for posting these–I think. It’s very weird to see this period of my life displayed like this. I recognize so many faces and places. My best friend and “partner in crime” (we spent many days cutting Berkeley High and panhandling on the Ave for money to buy tickets to concerts in SF) recognized Lenny Pickett in the Scene section, 15 and 16. We were in high school band together, until he shaved his head and got kicked out. He went on to great success in New York.

  24. jimmybudd says:

    Frant, I would like to second Nacio’s comments about your brother, Super Joel. He was an absolute one-of-a-kind person; brilliant, extraordinarily humorous while simultaneously capable of serious observations. He definitely was a person whose life and image is etched into my memory. I also feel your pain and loss with his passing in 1993. Kathy Delacour, my niece, who was also very fond of Joel died in 1988 at the age of 32. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I miss her very much. I believe we would have had a wonderful time growing old as relatives and friends. Cheers and Best Wishes, Jim Delacour

    • frant says:

      Jimmybudd, first I would like to apologize for not responding to your post sooner.
      I agree we most likely missed growing old with some very special people.
      32 is far too young to die, as was 44 for Joel. I often wonder, when events occur, what Joey would have thought about them, or how he would be coping with them.
      It is fabulous to have pictures and be in touch with people who knew them.
      All things wonderful to you, fran tornabene

  25. jimmybudd says:

    Wow, it has been nearly two months since my last post and not one entry after. Nacio, what’s your take on why there is no response to my posts? Is it possible that when I wrote of my remorse for my neice, Kathy Delacour, that this “heart on your sleeve” sadness shut down discussion? I guess the next question is can we really examine the life styles of those times and the consequences without harming the people involved and their families? Sincerely, Jim Delacour

  26. Nacio says:

    Dear jimmybudd,
    I really don’t know why there haven’t been more posts to the Rag Theater site. I certainly hoped for more. When I encounter someone who was on the scene I strongly urge them to contribute (strongly to the point of risking becoming a nag). The only thing I can think of is that people perceive setting their stories down in writing as being a lot of work. And actually, to gather ones thoughts and express them in just the right words is a lot of work.

    You may or may not know that there is another website with a longish thread of posts by people who were on the Ave. I would like to have seen some of these people post here.


    Also, there is a Facebook group, “You know you grew up in Berkeley when…” with lots of members who were on the scene. When they got on to the existence of the site I thought that there would be much discussion forthcoming. This didn’t happen. Maybe these people feel that they have already posted online everything they have to say.

    As for why I haven’t contributed more I can say is that as the site creator I have wanted to be careful not to set a tone with words. I was older than the most of the people I photographed and am not confident that my take would be valid. This is especially true since I was quite surprised at how much a couple of the early posters to the site loved being kids on the Ave. Also, I had an email exchange with someone who was there where I let him see that I thought that, on balance, the scene was deadly for kids. He was amazed at my take, not seeing it that way at all. This, in turn, amazed me. I suspect that, having lived for so many years with the Avenue’s casualties gazing at me from contact sheets, my vision has become skewed—perhaps too dark. I now realize that the issue is more complex and that I had better just shut up and let the posters write the history.

    Your post on Kathy was beautiful and very moving. Barbara’s post was also moving in that you could sense the confusion and sorrow in what she said.

    I am primarily a photographer, not a writer. I spent considerable time in the sequencing of the photographs and I hope my editorial point of view comes across. On the “[…]” group of images, it’s called that because I couldn’t think of the right word to use for the time when the scene so quickly deteriorated: “Decline,” “Downhill,” etc. seemed inadequate. In the end I just let the photographs tell the story.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Hello Nacio,

    Thank you, for your compliments about my and my sister Barbara’s previous posts. For my part, I find my words a bit jumbled and forced. I suspect that this is because of this schism, this tension, that your photos uncover. Your Rag Theater photos expose what was obviously a very vulnerable moment in the sixties generally, but specifically for the Delacour family as a whole.

    I’m no social scientist so my views are just the simple views of an observer and a sometime casual participant on Telegraph Avenue of the late sixties. Your RT photos expose this moment in time when some people, probably millions across the world, were trying to break away from the conventions of the past. It was a moment where curiosity, innocence, youth, silliness, ignorance and fragility (amongst other adjectives) converged to make some of us very vulnerable.

    My guess is that for reasons that are too long to detail the Delacour family of that time was particularly susceptible to the whims of the moment. As the waves of what were largely unknown drugs washed in and out of Berkeley the youth in our family were swept up with the experimentation of the moment. Today, in hindsight, we know what the consequences are and were, but during that sixties moment many of us just did not have the skills to see what was coming.

    Despite all of the above gloom, I have a special fondness for your close-ups of my Delacour family members and their close friends, Martha Kresch, Rachel Kresch and Liane Chu. There are many more close friends included in the photos I’m sure, but time is dulling my powers of recollection. Very Sincerely, Jim Delacour

  28. Pyno Man says:

    I’m so glad you posted all of these.Such an important time of my life.I went to Willard Jr High 67-68. Only 4 blocks from 2400 “The Ave”.
    I started cutting class to hang out there.Discovered underground comix at Shakespear’s and later Comix and Comics.
    Went to the demonstations and riots.
    I ran away from home in 1970 and lived at People’s Park for a couple of weeks.I remember hiding behind cars to keep my father (UC professor) from finding me.Poor Dad!
    The Park and Shop parking lot next to Willard was home to the National Guard for while.I talked some of the young soldiers.They were just happy to not be in Viet Nam.
    And I still recognize that touching shot of “Frankie” stone cold hippie to the bone.

  29. Nacio says:

    No one seemed less likely to survive the toll drugs can take than “Frankie”–but she did survive. I am told that she became a Christian, got married, had kids, and now lives in Marin County. More power to her!

  30. jimmybudd says:

    Wow, Frankie survived! That’s very good news!

  31. helge says:

    I think I recognize about 1/3 of the people here.
    I’ll test my poor memory for names.

    The Scene:
    3/82: Jennifer in the middle, Frank S. to her left
    18/82: 2nd from L side, Mike
    69/82: L side, Brad F. with Browndog
    76/82: R side, Groovy

    1/53: R side, Larry L – Drove a classic Benz sedan.
    4/53: Joel T
    5/53: Groovy
    15/53: L side, Janice, R side Sunday
    17/53: R side, Jack L, Sam in bg.
    22/53: I carried this little girl part the way down the cliff at Devil’s slide, the whole time terrified that I’d slip on the sandy surface. I finally put her down watched as she scampered down to the beach without a scratch.
    Along with me were Joel T, the girl’s mother (I think it was) and that gal who was girlfriend to the owner of the Rag Theatre shop. Possibly others.

    31/53: Right-most, Jennifer
    33/53: Doug C
    43/53: Cindy, Vanessa D., Kathy
    33/53: R. side, Doug C.
    47/53: R side, Kevin B.
    21/53: R side, Frank S.
    53/53: Browndog!

    22/56: R side, Kathy D, of course
    41/56: That’s me, reading or just my usual glum.
    42/56: R to L, Jim L, Kevin B, Frank S.


  32. Nacio says:

    I never got a good shot of Ruth. Don’t know why–it just didn’t happen. (See “A Note on the Selection of the Photographs,” above to the right.) Some months ago I had an email conversation with Doug B. (later “C”). He also wanted to see a shot of Ruth and was annoyed when I told him my shots of her were no good. An unfortunate omission. (And, Ruth, if you see this, I’m sorry!)

  33. Nacio says:

    Two new images added to the website: The Scene 62/82 (Ruth from behind), and Faces 53/54 (a group shot that includes Ruth).

  34. jimmybudd says:

    Hello Nacio, Recently, here in the NorthWest, we lost the girl next door to addiction. I thought I might mention it on the RT blog because I have sometimes made the careless assumption that Berkeley is the exclusive site of such sad, needless endings. Of course, such an assumption is not true nor accurate, but it has been very easy for me to try to focus this horrible problem somewhere else. Berkeley makes a very convenient scapegoat when my small thoughts are seeking refuge. The young neighbor girl, Marah Williams, who was only nineteen-going on thirty-going on twelve, I believe can still be found on facebook. She was quite the girl; so brilliant and vulnerable, so seemingly sure of herself and yet unable to control her inner insecurities and fears. Thanks, for giving my thoughts some of your time. Sincerely, Jim Delacour

  35. Nacio says:

    I am told by someone who was on the scene way back when that, in image 16/82 of “The Scene” group, the guy on the right playing the soprano sax is Lenny Pickett, then a street musician, now and for many years the tenor sax soloist and Music Director of the Saturday Night Live band.

  36. TomToad says:

    I feel so very fortunate to have been on the scene back then. No regrets except for those who have passed. I am looking forward to the September 7th reception and I am passing on the word. Hoping to see some familiar faces there for a blast from the past.

    I am still in touch with a hand full of people from those daze. Last I heard from Frank Schwartzel, is that he was living on a pig farm on the island of Samui in Thailand.

  37. TomToad says:

    Wow! What a wonderful event on 9/7/12 at the School of Journalism. I will be forever grateful to Nacio for archiving the most wonderful part of my life. There were over 100 people there viewing the photos and listening to Nacio’s beautiful, insightful comments,sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic. I am still tingling. Memories came rushing back. OMG Brown Dog!
    The photo of Mark Benevinsti on the wall and this site # 25/54 was one I had not seen or noticed before. Incredible! The thunderous round of applause that erupted when Super Joel’s photo came up brought tears.

    • frant says:

      To TomToad, I’m Super Joel’s sister Fran, and I must say it brings tears to my eyes knowing that so many people remember my brother.
      Thanks for your comment.
      And thanks so much to Nacio for his including Joel in his work.
      take care, fran

  38. Rachel says:

    Very moved by some of the comments here. It’s sad to know so many lived such short lives and very moving to hear how they are still missed.
    I was a student at UC Berkeley from 1970-1972; I remember the Med, Shambala, Moe’s of course, and some of the people (by sight) in Nacio’s photos. The mini-mob: described to me by a friend as “12-year-olds who smoke dope and screw.” Someone mentioned Country Joe’s house, not too far from the site of the photos, which I remember. And the ever-present dogs, running loose and unleashed, as though people needed them to serve as metaphors.
    While a student, I worked part-time on Shattuck Ave, at the Berkeley Health Food Store, at the lunch counter making carrot juice. Shattuck was not quite as lively as Telegraph.
    Thanks, Nacio, for creating this site–intensely rich images, and I am so glad you had a camera with you then and were able to document this extraordinary if brief slice of an era.

  39. romath says:

    To a newcomer the campus area in June 1967, the sidewalks of Telegraph Avenue, and above all, the block between Haste and Dwight, was one of the places that made Berkeley exciting, where the unusual had become usual. That took about three months to wear off. Then it just turned boring, with low lifes, unemployed, people passing through, and kids hanging out, all giving the impression that something big was going on when there really wasn’t. That’s how I feel about this photograph collection as a whole. Beyond perusing the collection to find those faces I recognize from my several years there, I don’t find much that makes me want to pause, either because of the content or photographic quality.

    To me, that’s too bad. How much can one get out of photographing people hanging out on the sidewalk or disappearing into the Med and the bookstores? By limiting yourself, I think you missed a good chunk ot what happened on Telegraph during those years and, truth be told, even on this block. For instance, to pick one kind of activity, on a Friday evening in June 1968 the first Telegraph Avenue street rally/demonstration occurred on the plaza in front of Cody’s, with a flatbed sound truck, speeches, the Berkeley Police marching in from a nearby parking lot in full riot gear, followed by a full-on nighttime street battle, and a number of beatings, tear gas and arrests. In the eleven months following that, there were three more rounds of political/community movements that involved the campus and Telegraph Avenue, leading to repeated street battles with the police, Alameda County sheriffs and the National Guard, and culminating in Peoples Park. Music stores with speakers out in front blaring “Street Fighting Man;” signs in windows by store owners saying they supported the demonstrators; sheriffs shooting at demonstrators, and much much more. Unfortunately for a retrospective of the period, little of that is in here.

  40. Nacio says:

    To Romath,
    I’m sorry you don’t find the value in the project that others do. As to your specific point about my having missed recording a lot of the action that occurred back then I should point out that I began the Rag Theater project in 1969 after the People’s Park episode was over. If you would like to see my People’s Park work and other work relating to the unrest of the times take a look at my (public) Facebook page. In an Album called “Dissent” you will find a rare shot of the helicopter dropping teargas on the campus, a shot of James Rector, mortally wounded by police buckshot, bleeding out on a rooftop, and much else besides–going as far back as the sunrise demonstration at the Oakland Induction Center during Stop the Draft Week in October of 1967.

    • Annierat says:

      I think it is a part of history that has many lessons. Being 62 now in 2013 I was one of the younger ones of the older people, who did the scut work at The Tribe, and who tuned in and turned on but couldn’t really drop out because I never dropped in. After 1972-3 when Nixon was losing his grip and people started going back to the lecture circuit, their “real jobs” all the Peter Coyotes, and other fearless leaders leaving the scene, there we were broke, tired, warrants up the wazoo and we are called things like the movement’s shock troops and fodder by them in their best selling books. But we were the ones who built the restaurants, washed the dishes of the Iranian Marxists at the Cafes, we are the ones who sat the with Vets as they died of liver failure. It was what it was, but it built connections that I see in these pictures. This part of my life haunts me both in good and bad ways up until today. For some UC Berkeley student to trash it all as junk, to me just shows he has no idea how it feels to be like that. also for good or bad. I looked at these pictures and sobbed. I remember every smell I ever smelled sleeping in the triangle , or in front of the Garbage Spot, in every abandoned house, and I appreciate the effort made to show that we were real people, human beings. I have now raised 2 children to adulthood, my husband is a ceramics artist and I am a published writer and poet. We were not trash –not then, not now. I saw Hibiscus when he was sick, in NYC. the toll we carried, that we paid? It was immense.

  41. slynd says:

    WOW! what a time it was. so many of my best and worst memories and life lessons came during that time. Although my time on “the Ave”was shortly after yours I recognize so many faces, but not as many names. The house on Blake st. (what a mess) My life went rapidly downward after that time, but I came out ok. I have managed to raise my children with some of the independent and free thinking that was so prevalent then. I now have a very happy suburban life across the bay. I am planning to see you work soon.

    Thank you for the memories.

  42. radscal says:

    Thanks so much, Nacio for posting these photos and inviting comments. I only brushed up against the scene on Telegraph, but feel compelled to drop a note to the kindred spirits.

    I was a Chicago boy, who went to check out the scene at the “Festival of Life” at Grant Park which led to the televised police riot at the Democratic Convention. I was also a participant/partier at the Miflin Street Co-Op Harvest Festival in Madison Wisconsin that led into yet another police riot that lasted 3 days.

    My first trip to Berkeley, in 1969 found me arriving to check out the scene on “the Ave,” just in time to see the National Guard, various po-leece and helicopters, with the by then familiar stench of tear gas wafting up the street. Sometimes I feel that my youth was a somewhat darker version of “Forrest Gump.”

    I later spent some weeks in a communal house on, I think, Dana or Ellsworth Street which would have put me at the scene of many of your photos at the same time period they were taken.

    From my perspective, there was still an air of innocence and hope, though the rip-off artists and heavy-drug scene (read: heroin) were already tarnishing the gilt.

    Though I spent far more time in the Chicago scene at “Old Town,” the faces, activities and stories could be largely interchanged with Berkeley, so you’ve provided me with a window into my past as well. Thanks, and (as I still sign my letters, including much business correspondence),

    Peace and Love,

  43. azucena says:

    Seeing your work brings back many memories for me. I was friends and went to school ( when we went to school ) with Frank C, David D, Mark B, Joe C, Vanessa D, and of course remember Kathy D and she and Vanessa and David’s parents, and a whole host of others. I was saddened to learn of Kathy’s passing. I send my hearts thoughts to the family… I’ll never forget the Med’s coffee and Italian sodas, People’s Park, an amazing time. It was a turbulent, vibrant experience, at times chaotic, and sad and at others, eye opening and magical , that happened nowhere else in the world. I left Berk in 1975, and don’t know what happened to many of my compadres from this time , so any news of them would be very appreciated. I thank you for posting these images as they are an incredible record of this unique time and place.

  44. floatingclouds says:

    My story…
    Although I purchased a copy of Rag Theater when it first came out; I was not able to look through it for years. I would glance at it, and find it too emotionally painful to go on. I could not look at those faces looking back out it me, those once very familiar faces. They were my friends, and that had been my life. I reacted the same way with Telegraph Ave. Once I got off the street for good, I could not return for more than 20 years. Even when I resided in Berkeley, I avoided Telegraph and the memories that lingered there. There were ghosts everywhere, including my own youthful footprints, that made my heart feel sad.

    It is difficult to articulate the range of powerful emotions that Rag Theater provoked and still provokes in me. Like many others have mentioned on this blog: it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. In some ways, I think, I suffer/ed from survivors guilt and PTSD. I truly came out a survivor in the end, and many others did not. Some of my street kid friends, I ran into many years later, degenerate and crazed in the Tenderloin, their beauty and youth ravaged. And one, who I will call ‘B.’, and who I loved dearly, is now serving life in prison. Yet another young man; oh-so-beautiful, so gentle and hopeful, a talented artist, was committed to Napa State Hospital, drugged on thorazine, and released, still in his teens, in far worse shape than before he was committed by Berkeley authorities, simply because he had been tripping on LSD and acting funny.

    We were a family, we street kids, unaware of how truly vulnerable we were, cocky and thinking we were street smart, forming our own mini-families. B. (now in prison) was the ultimate father figure, and I was the mama because of my great panhandling abilities, boldness, and courage and youthful good looks. Where did my innate courage come from, where did my street skills come from? Surely, I don’t know. I was not raised that way or equipped to make the leap from a working class home in West Virginia, sheltered and naïve, to the rough life of a street urchin during that turbulent era.

    I began my journey by questioning the racism inherent in my community, questioning the war in Viet Nam, questioning the values and ethics of my parents and teachers and community at large; causing me to become disenfranchised, othered and shunned and ultimately disgraced, silenced and punished for my inquisitiveness and emerging self-actualization and formulation of my own ethics.
    One day, I just stepped out the front door of my WVA home and simply vanished, merging into the underground railroad of vagabond youth: searching for ourselves, for acceptance and unconditional love and substitute family and utopian dreams. Thumbing my way all over the US, I eventually landed in Berkeley; during a massive and terrifying anti-war rally and quickly taking up residence at Sproul Plaza student union area, and Telegraph Ave. Pan handling, and crash pads, standing in long lines and eating at the free churches, eventually taking LSD so I could stay awake all night, protecting myself from the predators that only came out at night to prey on the young and unsuspecting. A young girl trying to sleep in a crash pad, always had to preform survival sex. Always. So the answer was to stay awake all night, and sleep in the day on the couches in the student union, until ‘they’ removed the couches (to put an end to this), then sleeping behind bushes, in secret places on campus.

    There was a time that I could name many people in this book. I have since forgotten many of the names, but the faces are etched in my memory and heart forever. Frankie and her dog Jeremy, who we called Marble Cake, was a part of my life. She had an abusive junkie boyfriend and was dazed and terrified and practically mute when I knew her. B. and I would go to La Fiesta restaurant, to eat off the plates left behind by diners and not yet bussed_yes, we ate unfinished food left on plates by paying customers_and would scrape some food off to bring to Frankie, as she would not come in with us. The owners were aware of us and turned a blind eye. The Fish and Chips at night had bagged food waiting, free leftovers from the grills, at 11PM, closing time_ and I would retrieve this food for myself and my little doggie Magpie. Everyone knew Magpie. And after awhile, I learned to be a little more cunning. Having so many street kids, my own little street family dependent on me, was very demanding. I would pan handle, and then walk way down to Adronicos, which was then the Park and Shop, buy a banana, a tangerine and yoghurt, and hide behind the dumpster to eat in peace and privacy, so I wouldn’t have to share everything with others less capable of taking care of themselves. And so I managed to preserve my health as best I could. A boy gave me a harmonica, and Magpie and I would walk to Wholly Foods on Shattuck and Ashby, and I would play the harmonica, badly, with Maggie tied to my ankle, and raise funds to go inside to buy some food for the day. And there was the older Jewish man in the plaid Pendleton jacket. I knew he was Jewish because of the button he wore pinned to his jacket that read: Jewish Power. He would meet up with me and Maggie every day at 5 PM, by the juniper bush in the concrete planter in the front of Sproul Plaza by the student union steps, the bush is still there by the way, but much larger. He would give me 2 dollars and a can of dog food for Maggie and say the same thing every day: “Call Your Mother.” He said. “Call your mother”. And I would walk down to Codys Books where Frankie was waiting with Jeremy and share the dog food with my Maggie and her Jeremy. Sometimes Groovy let me sleep in his place at night. He and his girlfriend had a room in a house with a large iron-stead bed, the mattress had no sheets and was filthy. The room had no light, old rotten food everywhere, and lots of roaches, lots of roaches. But he ran the streets at night and slept in the day, so sometimes my boyfriend and I would crash at Groovy’s at night, in his place.

    For a long time, I went to the Berkeley Free Church, facilitated by Richard York, an Episcopal Priest, for a sandwich and a crash pad for the night. Sadly, almost always, these crash pads turned out to be sexually exploitative set-ups. Not because of Richard York, but because many of the people who signed on to volunteer sleeping space in their homes were not on the up and up apparently. Exhausted, I would fall asleep in the spare room and spare bed offered by a Berkeley or Oakland citizen, only to be jumped upon in the middle of the night, expected to provide sex. The alternative to this, was to leave, to go back out into the cold night_which I often did_leaving a stranger’s house, in the middle of the night, far from campus, having to find my way back to familiar ground, alone, scared, tired and cold_always cold.

    I had a lot of sweet boyfriends who worried about me. Some of them sold their bodies themselves, so they could take better care of me, get me food, soap, shampoo even candy bars by selling their bodies to men who preyed on boys. Some became ‘kept’, and when their ‘keeper’ was gone, I would visit them, in their comfy abodes.

    I hitch hiked everywhere. Everywhere. Sometimes all the way to Big Sur, or over to San Francisco, even to a rock festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan and back again.

    And in the book is also Iggy, my good friend the entire time I was on the street. He eventually grew his gorgeous, shiny dark brown hair way past his waist. He got a real job at Bongo Burger, and last I saw him, he had clean clothes and was moving towards a different life. If Iggy reads this, I hope you are well. I remember you and Ira so well.

    Then B. discovered an empty house near Oregon St. and Telegraph. We went after dark. He wrapped his t-shirt around his hand and punched in a pane of door glass and opened the door. Our family of runaways moved in. We set up housekeeping. We found couches and mattresses put out curbside for refuse pickup, and we carried them down the street to our home after dark. We had no light and showered in freezing cold water. But, we had our own house. One night I was out walking Maggie, and as I approached the house, a young woman, a CAL student approached me. “I know you live there.” She said. “I have been watching all of you and feel terrible about you. The house was busted while you were gone. The cops came and took everyone away. Don’t go back there.” And so my little family had been carted off to juvie and my possessions were gone. Later there was an article about this crash-pad in the Berkeley Gazette, the local Berkeley now defunct newspaper. They had gone through my back pack and printed in the paper a letter I had written to my mom, but never mailed. I have the news article with the letter, I found it on microfiche at Berkeley Public Library. I will scan it some time and share it here.

    I kept my long wavy black hair clean and shiny. There was a shower in the girls rest room near Harmon gym on campus. I washed with dispenser soap and dried off as best I could with rough brown paper towels; all-the-while beautiful, young clean, college girls would be touching-up their mascara and chattering with their friends by the bathroom mirrors and I felt myself receding, disappearing behind a veil, confused by the dominant norm and culture of my own peers and fearing I may never find my way back to mainstream society if I so chose.

    There are so many stories to tell, but I will stop here. What saved my life were 2 young men: one who lived on the Ave for years, a runaway from New Jersey and a young man who dropped out of college to go to California, both who were residing on an infamous back-to-the-land commune in Western Sonoma County. I had seen them many times before. They often gave me food stamps or food or money while I was panhandling. One day, they grabbed me and Magpie: “ You are going to die out here on the street. We can not allow it. You are coming with us. You will be loved and cared for at (the commune).” I did not want to go. It seemed impossible to me that I could survive in a rural and rustic area, without places to panhandle, dumpsters to dive in, free church meals, other street kids. Plus, I loved my street kid family. I cannot ever explain the level of precarious closeness and devotion we had for each other. I loved these kids with all my heart and have never forgotten them. But, off to the commune Maggie and I went, where we indeed were welcomed and loved, and moved on to another faze of our adventure…
    After my long self imposed absence from Telegraph, once my own son (conceived on the commune) was a student at Berkeley High School, for a number of years I did a pilgrimage to the 2400 block of Telegraph. Looking and remembering, and silently praising and mourning the youth that I knew and loved, and my own vulnerable time there. Then proceeding down Telegraph to the old crash pad that had been busted that fateful night, when life veered for so many of my dearly beloveds, but I was somehow saved and protected. How? Why? And every year, I lay a bouquet of daisies on the steps of that house, and a card with a note of remembrance and thanks. A little annual Telegraph ritual: memorializing and celebrating my survival, and mourning the loss of innocence.
    I kept a journal while living on the streets, a little notebook that fit in my pocket. It kept me from feeling so alone and frightened and helped me to clarify my thoughts. I have no idea how, but I managed to save the journal all of these years later. Here is one post dated Dec 3rd, 1970: “…I just don’t want to live on the streets anymore. It was great at first, I thought I was so free. But now I get kind of a hollow sinking feeling when I think of it: the loneliness and emptiness, the cold, the hunger_the constant worry and hassle of finding a place to crash for the night. All I want is a little room, my own quiet, warm, clean little room. Where_to sleep in, think in, cry in, read in_whatever I want ‘in’. And I can help out other people who need a place to stay. This would mean getting a job. I’ve got to somehow get this together.”

    Thank you, Nacio, for sharing our story through these powerful images. I hope that sharing my own words here helps people see that we were very real people, from different walks of life, with different overall outcomes. We had hope and love and tenacity and youth and longing and sorrow too. All we really wanted was to be accepted and loved. My photos do not appear anywhere in these images, but I was there, in the shadows. So Nacio and dear readers: As we kids used to say when we parted ways: “See you on the street.”

  45. Nacio says:

    Thank you, floatingclouds, for your most eloquent and heartfelt post.

  46. Nacio says:

    New signed copies of the original printing of both the paperbound edition and the limited (300) hand-numbered hardbound edition of “Rag Theater – The 2400 Block of Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, 1969-1973” are now available through Amazon.com:

  47. OMG, the memories. I was a few years out of law school then and got to meet and represent some of the most wonderful people I ever knew. Tommy Toad, Super Joel, so many. Thank you Nacio.

  48. Ravenheart says:

    It was such a flash to come upon this site!

    The girl you might have seen back then waltzing down the Ave selling chocolate cookies out of a basket (25 cents a cookie) asked me last night over soup and wine if she appeared in this collection. I said no; in fact the only person I really knew of the lot (or remember knowing) was Hasan-e Golforush / Hasan the Flower Vendor (the Scene 11/82). Nonetheless, I was there practically every day across those years, from the day I met Jesus* coming up the sidewalk to when I managed to get a job at John’s Soup Kitchen, which was my first effort at reconnecting with organized society, and beyond.

    In between, I sometimes filled in for Herman Berlandt selling fake stained-glass hangings in Cody’s Plaza or hung out with other people. Maybe on a really enchanted day I would meet a certain girlfriend of a clerk in Shamb[h]ala Books, as she crossed to the Med and back, and manage a cryptic conversation.

    I stood on the barricades with Pete Camejo! Literally! The barricades had been thrown up out of borrowed construction materials across Telegraph and Dwight during one of those riots.

    I hope you will put up more shots for me to be able to comb through for remembered faces over time.

    It’s great to have a copy of the book after all these years as well.

    *Jesus was an emaciated black man in tattered surplus army clothes. I knew him by the great ornate golden cross of light that floated in space over his head. He clapped his hands on my shoulders and said “I have been trampled by a thousand water buffaloes” and other things that told me he was identified with the spirit of all things.

  49. Igor Alexander says:

    Interesting to see these images after all these years. I went to high school in Orinda, “over the hill” from Berkeley and several parents of my high school friends were faculty members at UC Berkeley. In 1971, I started writing for a little publication, “The Night Times — The Bay Area’s Only Entertainment Newspaper.” Joel Selvin was the founding editor. I remember the Med and Moe’s and the three card monte sharks shaking down the Berkeley students, but I don’t remember seeing many children on the street. What I find missing in your photo series is Julia the Poet, who wore the same black plastic raincoat and yellow plastic cap and sat in front of Moe’s everyday for what seems like several years. You never photographed Julia?

  50. Igor Alexander says:

    Ooh, ooh, I remember working at night in the basement of John’s Soup Kitchen, making up huge cauldrons of soup for the next day. That was fun. A high school friend, Jeffrey Brody, used to hang out on Telegraph Avenue a great deal in 1968 and would often take photos with his father’s Leica rangefinder camera. I wonder what happened to all of those negatives. He became great friends with several of the real street people back then and would have them up to parties in his hilltop Orinda home when his parents were off on vacation in Europe. Also, I was wondering if you knew the identity of the fellow standing in front of the hearse? Is it the poster artist Stanley Mouse?

  51. Hippy-Yuppy-Yokel says:

    I got to Berkeley and The Ave in ’69, just in time to get swept along with all the People’s Park action.

    My cafe of choice was actually kitty-corner to that block… Harcastles, across Dwight and the other side of Telegraph (roughly where the “outdoor” store is now). But I often visited with a certain circle of friends at The Med.

  52. mdelacour says:

    Is its possible that Valentine tells us how the CIA could have been involved in the in our kids deaths. In the 25th issue of Treating yourself there is a review of two books The strength of the wolf and The strength of the pack on page 85.


  53. coyote3558 says:

    I recently found this site and was shocked when I spotted many kids I knew in the photos. I was struck by how young and frail they looked, as that’s not how I remember them. They were faces that I hadn’t seen in over 38 years, but never forgot.
    I was there was there. Lucy Crossman was my best friend 1973, which is how I knew her brother Frank, David D. and Joe C. I basically lived at her house that year, and they were there a lot. That’s where I first smoked pot, took acid and started drinking. I arrived on “the Ave” in 1974 when I was 15 and living in a filthy, broken down crash pad for runaways on Blake St. We called the house “Bleak St.”. I hung out on the Ave regularly from 1974 until 1977 when I fled Berkeley for Oregon. I knew Joel F., Ron, Jerry K. and many others.
    The Ave for us was an adventure. We did what we wanted, when we wanted and as much as we wanted. We lived in the moment. I didn’t know or care that I was living in a slice of cultural history. All I wanted to do then was get high–all the time. We had no structure, no boundaries or limits. At the time, I thought it was magical and that we were all star people, but I also remember being dirty, cold, hungry, spaced out, having frequent bouts of crabs, scabies, bronchitis and gonorrhea, and being subjected to adult predators.
    I was close friends with Lina Wilson, who later changed her name to Luna. I hung out at her parent’s house and in Mendicino with her family. I had no idea what subculture personalities her parents were. We both lived at Blake St. and took enormous amounts of LSD. She was beautiful and ethereal, with a kind of glow around her. When she was killed in 1976, the party was over and my friends and I were decaying off into a downward spiral from all of drugs and alcohol and aimlessness. I went to Oregon in 1977, alcoholic and suicidal. I found out there that the social skills I’d learned on the Ave and from my friends didn’t fly in the “real” world away from Berkeley and got into a lot of trouble and misery. I got sober in AA when I was 21 and started life over, but it was a struggle for many years to acclimate to the “straight” life. I don’t blame “Berzerkely” for all of my later problems. There were reasons why I was running around in the street on drugs back then–I had issues. Eventually, I had to get help for them.
    These haunting images, beautiful and tragic, brought on a flood of memories. I can say that I was happy then, because, in spite of the hard life, I was innocent and idealistic. I felt privileged to live such a free and colorful life. I couldn’t have known how much damage the drugs and alcohol were causing and how little prepared I would be to face the rest of life. I loved my friends in Berkeley. They were my family. We took care of each other as best we could. I was sad when I learned that some of them never made it out. I hope that others were able to move on to fulfilling and happy lives.
    Thank you for making these pictures available to people like me who were there such a long time ago.

  54. jimmybudd says:

    To coyote3558, I really appreciated your poignant comment. Although I was a bit older than you and arrived on the Ave sometime around 1965 I soon found myself experiencing similar realities. I always held back a bit, probably because of an assortment of reasons but primarily because of this innate caution in myself. Too awkward and introverted to really join the various crowds. Nonetheless, I was significantly impacted by my time there. A great deal of excitement, particularly the politics of the time. Coincidentally, in late 1970 I also made the move to Oregon and a few years later to Washington state. It took me a quite a few years to adjust to my new life. In your comment I recognized that you may have gone through a similar transition. For myself, it was a very important part of my maturation process, the reality of having to deal with a wider array of politics, lifestyles, people and personalities. The overwhelming singularity of my experience in Berkeley was so very different than this challenge of dealing with my then new life. Again, thank you for your beautiful post and for the images that it brought up in my fading memories. Cheers, Jim Delacour

  55. renseye says:

    Very good. So many friends as I grew up with the Delecours and Cvars. What a time of paradoxes .

  56. twindave says:

    I was there. My twin brother and I drifted in from A2 Michigan in the summer of 71. And I remember these kids. I never knew any of them individually. We were pretty young ourselves, but a bit older than they were or at least from the age that they appeared to be, about 17; in those days, a five year age difference seemed to be a whole generation. Mind you, some of the crowd that I ran with were as young as fifteen. We had thought that those kids were the hippie offspring of local hippies. To me they all looked alike, and they surely were cute! But we hardly interacted with them at all. The generation thing, you know. And not only that, although we never spoke of it, I suppose we thought we might scare them or their parents if we did. We were scary funky looking.

    We hung out on the other side of the street sort of kitty corner to the Med, on what I am just now learning is – or was – called Cody’s Plaza. A sort of widening of the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Haste and Telegraph. We’d occasionally go into the Med, but for some reason we favored Hardcastle’s, past Dwight Way on the west side of the street. Maybe because it had a wood stove, which surely was a comfort when the raw, rainy winters came.

    We and the people we ran with called ourselves family, too, and in fact there were knots of kinship in the family. Not just my brother and me. There were other siblings and cousins, too. We don’t show up much in these pictures. But if you look at image 25, of the two people sleeping in a doorway, you’ll see an emblem of our family. I think I knew the sleepers, but it is hard to tell. But I surely did know the young woman whose picture appears above the link for The Scene (the left pic in 76). She was a friend, lover, and traveling partner. In fact, she’s wearing my jacket, so I may have been around – although we weren’t always together. We’d travel independently of each other, too. We all would. And maybe that’s why we don’t show in these pics more than we do. We stayed on the move. But we drifted into Berkeley a lot. It was one of our centers. There is another book of Telegraph Avenue photos taken by Richard Misrach, where a lot of us appear, released in 73, but the work was done mostly in 71. He photographed my brother and me outside of Hardcastle’s right across from the triangle, another spot we hung out in. It was on one of those drizzly winter days. But that photo didn’t make it into the book because by the time it came to publish, we had drifted out of town, and he couldn’t find us in time to get permissions.

    These were strange times, hard times, good times. Some of us never made it past them, and we grieve them to this very day. Some died in accidents, some died of overdoses, and not a few were murdered – some even by the police.

    I’ve never forgotten, but these days the memories are flooding back. I think it may be because I’ve reached an age at which one is said to start looking back. Maybe what triggered it was that I returned to California in 2011 and, visiting the U Cal library for research, I walked down Telegraph Ave to make a pilgrimage to that very spot where we took the photo.

    From San Luis Obispo, a jumping off point on the hitch between SF and LA all up the coast, I found young vagrants such as we were. They’re still jumping off at SLO and they’re still hanging out with dogs.

    These are the first of my musings. I’ll post more.

  57. asianhand says:

    Interesting times… was there for some of it, then bailed out of the States to go to India, and basically did not return for 20 yrs. The scene in the States was too polarized, political and crazy for me to hang out anymore and I bailed at age 19, spending 16 of the next 20 years in India and Afghanistan. And taking photos as well!

  58. Ben says:

    Hi Nacio, Good running into you the other morning on Forth St. Thought I might as it seems I do whenever I visit Berkeley from Oregon. I’m glad you created this site where those of us who shared in the adventures of sixties Telegraph Avenue can look back at that period of our lives. I hope more people discover the site and comment. I can barely believe the kid in the pick-up is me but I’m pretty sure you are right.

    Best to you and everyone else who were there trying to find something real and meaningful,


  59. Ben says:

    Hi Nacio, I’m sure you realize how potent an experience your photos are for those of us who found ourselves transformed (and at times transfixed) at that particular here and now. It is by no means easy to open one’s self up to the images. I was 14 in 1964 when I would cut school and read books and drank coffee upstairs at the Med. Always where I could watch from a seat along the railing. It is a little embarrassing to say out loud that I spent the next six years or better as a denizen of the Med. I had been there before with my foster parents a time or two being a child of left wing Berkeley and had some appreciation for what the Cafe Mediterranean nee The piccolo stood for and before that had been a precocious kid hanging at Robbie’s with my guardian Joel a black man who turned me on to the best of sixties Blue Note records and with his wife Penny saved my ass from a probable stay with California Youth Authority, not for any crime but for truancy and incorrigibility. So I could have been one of the kids across the street from the Med had I been born a little later.

    I, of course knew all the Berkeley Delicour family. Jean Delicour was my girlfriend for a some years and Elizabeth Grudel, now Kaufman was my partner for eight years when we lived on Kauai. And I knew the younger ones, Kathy, Vanessa, and David. I also knew hundreds of people in Berkeley. The experience was illuminating in every sense of the word but also dark and sometimes tragic. I’ll admit that the photos brought me too tears for too many of the people I knew and for myself as well. For some it turned into a trial by fire. I heard a man say there should have been a “Didn’t Go to Vietnam memorial”



    Ps: Nice website, well done. I’d like to talk with Jeanie D.

  60. English Tim says:

    I spent my first night in the United States on the Ave, or rather at the Free Clinic around the corner. Sixteen hour flight from London and the girl I’d come to meet stood me up at Oakland airport. I sat up all night in a chair and in the morning had a cup of coffee in the Med, the first of many over the years. That was in January 72.
    I got a cheap flight to Phoenix, met a girl, we hitched up to Humboldt together and hung out through a cold winter. Well, I did. One night on King’s Peak, at Julian’s cabin, we could pick up XPRS from Mexico or somewhere, Wolfman Jack and Art Laboe, and Rock N Roll Steve played along on his guitar, he knew the chords to just about all of them. A couple of times that winter I rode down to Berkeley basically to warm up, sleep on someones floor. I’d go into the Med, check out the bookshops. There were quite a few faces you’d see in both places, Humboldt and Berkeley. Challenging times. There was a lot of kindness about, but some people were still hungry and there was some weird shit creeping around at the edges, as others have mentioned here.
    But I’ll tell you, listening to Wolfman Jack and hearing Steve play, on a pitch dark night, next to the Pacific Ocean, that was a treat. The faces in your photographs take me right back to that time. I am glad to see these people.

  61. gypsytravash says:

    I forget how I found this site, but somehow I stumbled upon it doing one of my endless, time killing, Internet deep-fall browsing – and liked this site a lot. I even clicked on the links to read the reviews and watch the video presentations related to the photography book. I later e-mailed Nacio, and he asked me to write something about my own time on the Avenue.

    I wasn’t there in the early 70’s. I entered the street scene in the early 90’s – twenty years later. Looking at Nacio’s photos from the early 70’s was quite powerful. I noticed that a lot changed, even on the street scene from the 90’s to the early 70’s. A few things remarkably stayed the same. Now, I am positing a comment, twenty years later again in 2015. Life is just too absurd.

    In the mid 90s, I decided to leave New Orleans, the city I was living at
    the time, for the far west and do a little traveling-street vagabonding.
    I was in my mid 20s at the time, and like some travelers, I did have backup money just in case the ‘street life’ got too boring and annoying.

    I hit Berkeley in my travels, Telegraph Ave. to be exact, and I ended up meeting and sleeping rough with the local street vagabonds during that far off period. I only did this for a few days though. I later decided to check out the scene on Haight St. by the park, and then suddenly, by total chance, some days later, ran into an old friend from my kid days – and I just crashed at his space.

    Hanging out on Telegraph Avenue got on my nerves. Unless you are strung out on hard drugs, there is not much to do. You are simply bored out of your mind, or you have to just ‘spange,’ bark lightly, or ask stupidly at people passing for change. Panhandling through ‘flying a sign’ is not fun either.

    My method was barking at people walking down the Avenue, (I mean Telegraph), in order to do bad hair wraps. Yes, my hair wrapping skills sucked, but I would usually at least do one wrap, and then use the money for some fast food crap or for buying some booze.

    I liked seeing the scenes of the weekend market. I was at the end of the market with the other ‘artisans,’ who refused to pay the market fees and I would sell cheaply made necklaces and leather bracelets on a dirty blanket lying on the sidewalk. Skills I had picked up while traveling around central Mexico.

    I met some nice street sellers at the market, and I think all of them, or just most of them, did similar homeless stints on the Avenue. Many lived out of their vans or cars. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I found a cool group of other young, Berkeley street people, also in their twenties and thirties to crash with at night.

    We would all sleep in the alley way, I believe, by a Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. In the morning, the Church would play Classical music tunes, and then this despicable, fat security guard loser would walk by and just scream and threaten us to stop sleeping by the Church.

    We would then all rise up, thrust our sleeping bags into our bags, and then get ready, trudge out, and head to the Avenue to kill time for a whole day. We would all regroup at night and sleep in the same crap area once again, and this nasty security guard would wake us up and threaten us then again. This morning ritual just sucked.

    During the early 90’s, there was this really cool older guy, with a beard, I forget his name, who was a type of unofficial steward of the street people. The group was an interesting mix. There were the beginnings of the oogle- punk scene then. A few were couples, and the piercings were simpler, nose rings, lip rings or eye lid rings, and then, a few crappy tattoos.

    We all carried stuffed, rucksack bags, except for a few unfortunate ones who had their crap stolen. There were also a group of young street guys who had earlier met up at the Rainbow gathering, and they hung out together. Others were rubber tramps that lived full-time in their cars. There were was a nice English woman with thick glasses doing a little street tour of America, and there were some people who were simply weird – too many drugs – or just too much time sleeping rough with no privacy. In the free food giveaways in the morning at the Park, they would babble and scream some stupid crap. After getting yelled at by the church bozo security guard – I was just not in the mood.

    My first day on the street, I found out when and where all of the free food distributions were, mostly at the Park, e.g. Food Not Bombs, Hare Krishnas, Christians, etc., and where the free bathrooms and showers had their locations. When living on the street in the Amerikan Empire, this important information, since peeing in public can get one easily shoved into the prison system. Berkeley was one of the better spots to go to due to easiness of free food and bathroom access. Santa Cruz was also good mainly for its surrounding forest and beach area.

    I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t really talk with and hang with the other street people. During the early 90’s, a lot them were super paranoid – and for good reason. The Drug War-Neo-Con War, (1st Gulf War), was in full swing, and the cops were meaner and there was a lot more narc-spy crap going on. The prison population in the Empire was rising steadily, and after the 80’s AIDS crisis with the corporate media scare tactics of serial killers, stalkers, predators, perverts, etc., a type of weird Neo-Puritanism was in the air. You had to keep you mouth shut about who was dealing, money you had on you, and the drugs you were taking – and no sexual innuendos.

    If I had a little weed on me gifted from some dude, I often kept it mostly for myself. The other street urchins expected you to share, but I hated giving all of my crap away, and then when I wanted to use some – I just had nothing. Some of the street women looked warily at the newer, young men entering the scene. You really didn’t want to chat them up. People were pretty scared in those days.

    This is what surprised me about Nacio’s photos twenty years earlier in the 70’s. The street vibe seemed a lot more chill and laid back. Hippies were real cool hippies then. There was a lot more bare feet, free love, sleeping rough right on the Avenue, or openly living in the Park. The street scene seemed more down for fun and more open with each other for a good time. The differences were quite striking.

    Luckily, Nacio got to photograph the street scene before the Empire struck back hard with its return to endless wars, Police-paramiitary state fascism and increasing the Prison-Industrial Complex to Stalinist levels. For the street types with white skin privilege, in the early 70’s, and in certain tolerant cities, such as Berkeley, they were living quite free.

    Even seeing the cop faces in Nacio’s photos is interesting. The Berkeley cops seemed like the old local cops one sees in older movies. Cops are always and still donut cops, but by the early 90’s, the Berkeley police were wearing their dark blue, pseudo-military uniforms and they seemed like a tight crew – and not too tolerant of the street rats hanging out on the Avenue.

    Like in Nacio’s photos, there was a younger street kid scene. These were the teenagers, they hung out with each other, and they had no contact with us older street people in our 20’s. I heard that they had found some abandoned house in Oakland for about a week, but then had to leave due to police enforcement. The two age divided groups would see each other on the Avenue, but we would rarely speak to each other.

    In the 90’s, there was a big traveler scene of people either coming or going to the Rainbow gatherings, Dead concerts, or just hitting the ‘street punk’ circuit of American large cities, or the main stop offs of NYC-Philly-Baltimore-D.C.-Richmond-Asheville-New Orleans-Austin-Los Angeles-Bay Area-Portland-Seattle. Berkeley usually had a bunch of new street faces coming and going, such as myself. This was a good thing.

    I liked seeing Moe’s Books in the 70’s photos. I do remember browsing in the bookstores on the Avenue. I always liked to read and write, but the street scene was definitely not a bookish environment. Booze and crap drugs yes, reading and journaling – a little bit.

    From Nacio’s 70’s photos, the Avenue also seemed to have less of that gentrification look, more of the open cafe vibe – where people could smoke inside and just hang – and regular places to get a quick bite to eat. In the early 90’s, some of the restaurants and cafes on the Avenue seemed to have that yuppie-hippie organic-expensive vibe. A whole salad cost the same as a hair wrap – 10$.

    In America, the street scene wasn’t for me. I did it again in Europe a few years later, and liked it a lot more. But in the end, I just couldn’t stand the vagabond jingle. I got tired living out of a bag, always having to beg and act cool with other young people, so I could find some temporary housing, meaning a warm bed with a roof, instead of a farmer’s field, or just crashing on park bench, or behind a storefront, on a grassy area. On both continents, I hitched everywhere. I liked talking to people during the rides, although waiting in the sun for a few hours sucked. I never hopped trains since I am not the most coordinated of fellows.

    In Europe, I snuck on trains, but I was not good at that either, and often the conductor would kick us other travelers off the rides. I didn’t mind walking a few kilometers into old medieval walled cities and seeing ancient ruins along the way. My busking got better in those days, and I made more money with my seventeenth-century ‘picaro’ frozen statue act, like one sees on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Finding a good busking spot was not that difficult. One just had to watch out for the traveling Inca bands that took up a whole spot – and for most of the day. At least, Europe had those historical sights and a deep traveler culture.

    Carrying a bag around everywhere was just not that fun anymore. Like everywhere around the world, the street scene has its large share of assholes. The problem with not having a private place is that you have to tolerate their bullshit. It can easily turn violent.

    Ultimately, I got tired of the street vagabond life. I wasn’t getting any younger, and I started to have envious yearnings when staying with friends who had their own private spaces. I liked to cook and I missed having a good kitchen to make cool dishes. Always having to eat the leftover scraps in restaurants, and having to visit the free food spots didn’t cut it anymore. I wanted my own little abode too.

    I finally left that life for English teaching and a shared apartment, out by the periphery, within a large European city.

  62. lerner says:

    I was in Kathy Delacour’s class in 1968-69, 1969-70. I do remember her but I was not really part of the Red Rockets. A lot of us used to cut class and hang out on Telegraph. A group of us Willard kids planted a watermelon patch at People’s Park in those glorious days of April/May 1969. At the end of the day most of us did go home to our parents somewhere in the Berkeley Hills or south Berkeley. Anybody from Willard out there?