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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 1:26 pm
  

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The Dead, The Merry Pranksters, Kesey and Other Less Famous Hippies, a Miwok Indian chief, Sir Francis Drake All Slept Here...

http://www.sacbee.com/history/story/215 ... ss=History

The on-line article linked above includes a video.

By Susan Ferriss
sferriss@sacbee.com

NOVATO – The '60s aren't dead. They're in an archaeological site north of San Francisco.

An old commune where the Grateful Dead and other bands used to romp is being excavated and items catalogued by state park archaeologists at Olompali State Historic Park.

Among the artifacts: the classic hippie beads, a marijuana "roach clip," fragments of tie-dyed clothes, and a reel-to-reel tape a Marin County studio technician has promised to try to restore.

They are the stuff of memories for Noelle Olompali-Barton, who was 16 when she and her showbiz mom plunged into California's new counterculture, retreating to this once-private ranch north of San Francisco to establish one of the first hippie communes.

The teenager baked bread to give away in Golden Gate Park. She sat with the Grateful Dead under an oak tree for a famous 1969 album photo.

For two intense, often drug-laced years, the commune nourished utopian dreams – and some bad trips, too, she said.

But never in her wildest hallucinations did the teen imagine that more than 40 years later, she would assist an archaeologist in identifying macrame headbands, old records and other commune artifacts retrieved from the abandoned ruins of her former home.

"You know you're old when you're pictured in Archaeology magazine," chuckled Olompali-Barton, now 58, who was profiled in that journal in July along with California state parks archaeologist E. Breck Parkman.

Sitting under oaks outside the park's visitor center, Parkman laughed along with Olompali-Barton, who has been using the ranch's name as her own since she lived here.

The state of California bought Olompali in 1977, and opened a park on its 700 acres of oak-studded rolling hills.

Parkman knows some might scoff at his project to catalog and display the artifacts of an era many alive remember well – or not so well if they were especially indulgent.

But the commune, he said, is as much a part of Olompali as the rest of its history, stretching back thousands of years.

"I see the commune as part of the Cold War," he said. "If we hadn't had the Cold War, we wouldn't have had Vietnam, and if we hadn't had Vietnam, we wouldn't have had the commune. It was one of the reactions to the war."

The years the commune existed, late 1967 to 1969, were some of the most tumultuous and divisive in modern American history, Parkman said.

Prominent figures of the '60s visited the site – the Grateful Dead rented the ranch the year before the commune moved in – and hippie culture went on to have an indelible impact, for better or worse, on global culture, he said.

The commune members lived, Parkman also noted, in a historic 1911 stucco mansion that was built on and attached to an 1828 adobe of a Miwok Indian chief.

The adobe, now fully visible, is the oldest standing structure in the state north of San Francisco and a national registered historical site.

Olompali is also historically rich, Parkman said, because native Miwok Indians developed major settlements here. The park's name is Miwok, and it means "southern village" or "southern people."

After the commune members were gone, Parkman said, the land was controlled by a Jesuit order. Archaeologists excavating here in 1976 unearthed a startling find at a Miwok site: an Elizabethan silver sixpence minted in England in 1567 that could have arrived by way of Sir Francis Drake.

The commune members were generally aware of some of the ranch's heritage, including the Miwok, Olompali-Barton said. Their ethos was "get back to the land," and live simply with nature.

But acid rock was their soundtrack. And in 1969, while many in the commune were working at a rock concert light show in San Francisco, an electrical fire broke out at the mansion and gutted it.

The fire was part of a downward spiral Olompali-Barton blames on a decision to open the commune up to more than a closely knit circle of families.

"There were the freeloaders who came," she said, "who sat in the living room playing music and not helping at all."

Police raided the commune twice and busted members for drugs. And after the fire, two toddlers drowned in the ranch's pool when a woman who was supposed to be watching them failed in her responsibility, Olompali-Barton said.

The tragedy led to the commune's final collapse.

"I think there were some dark moments at Olompali," Parkman said. But some of the commune's counterculture ideals, he said, such as organic food and environmentalism, have become mainstream.

Over the years, state park workers have gradually sorted through the burned mansion, where 19th century artifacts have also been retrieved.

Asbestos proved to be a concern, and hazardous-waste crews had to be called in for some of the painstaking work.

This year, Parkman, Olompali-Barton and other volunteers sorted through drums of debris collected years ago and stored at the park.

Some pieces are already on display at the park visitor center, and others will be included next year in a Marin History Museum exhibit called "Marin Rocks."

The burned mansion also yielded a trove of scorched Coors beers cans and steak bones, which suggested to Parkman that commune carnivores may have won out over vegetarians.

Old jazz records dating from the 1940s and '50s belonged to the older commune members rather than the Woodstock generation, he also said. That find underscored that many who wanted to drop out and join the counterculture were not youths.

Olompali-Barton's mother, Sandra, was in her late 40s when she founded the commune, along with other older people with kids and several Vietnam War combat veterans in their 20s.

Don McCoy, then 37, a local businessman with three children, bankrolled the experiment with a fortune he inherited and earned developing the Sausalito houseboat marina.

Sandra Barton kept a foot in the "straight" world, performing as a singer at San Francisco hotels and clubs.

And one of the commune women, Olompali-Barton recalled, married an Air Force man and used to shop at the commissary of a Marin County base, hauling along a gaggle of home-schooled kids in hippie garb.

Parkman said some commune kids grew up to be angry at their parents, especially those who gave the kids drugs or felt unprotected with strangers wandering nude.

But others cherish memories of freedom and fun, and believe they witnessed history.

"Anything groovy that's created can exist, and then can dissolve," Olompali-Barton said.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:39 pm
  

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Truly amazing......you just can't make this stuff up...... :shock: :D......I bet the favorite overused joke amongst the araeologists when they uncover something cool is "Can you dig it?" :roll:


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 8:32 pm
  

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Joined: Jul 13, 2009
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Now this is the coolest thing I've heard in a while! History in the (re)making. The final comments about the home-schooled hippie kids and how they felt about their parents made me think of the movie 'Flashback' (Dennis Hopper and Keifer Sutherland), a most excellent watch if you've never seen it. My copy is the main reason I kept my VCR lol. Thanks for finding/sharing this. Peace, Love and All Things Groovy M.M.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:53 am
  

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Wow, interesting story. The other day I came across an old Maltese Cross necklace I had gotten in 1966 & kept all those yrs. Now things like that are antiques. Who knew?


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:42 am
  

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Now I know we are getting old..... :shock:


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:29 pm
  

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Yeah Larry........archaeologists digging us up before we're even gone yet! Don't they have any more mummies or old shipwrecks or lost cities of gold they could be digging? Wasn't there a group back in Haight-Ashbury called the Diggers? I wonder if they're digging up the Diggers...... :?


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:19 pm
  

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A friend of mine (David Loughery) from college (Ball State University) wrote the screenplay for "Flashback". He also did the screenplay for the 2nd Star Trek movie.


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