With the dog days of summer upon us, it’s a perfect moment for a lazy, hazy, crazy memory of my days of Rock past.
I now have been living blissfully on Whidbey Island for six years as what is euphemistically known as a mature adult. But I first set foot on the Rock almost 50 years ago as a callow youth. It was the autumn of 1965; I was in my junior year at the UDub. The times they were a-changin’.
I had entered the university two years before as a fresh-faced kid from Tacoma wearing neatly pressed corduroy slacks and white shirts.
By the end of 1965, it was mostly jeans, T-shirts and army jackets. My short hair had been replaced by somewhat longer hair that had to be trimmed before I dared to go home and visit my parents. (Now, of course, it’s been replaced by no hair. Sigh.) The 1960s were in full, kaleidoscopic blossom. I was not a hippie (too Scandinavian for that) but I certainly admired the freedom they represented.
My UDub dorm-mates Charlie, Pat and I decided to visit Whidbey Island one sunny Saturday morning. We piled into Charlie’s green-and-ivory 1956 Chevy Bel Air, stopped for a quick burger at Dick’s on 45th and headed up the brand-new I-5 freeway to Mukilteo. The Seattle-to-Everett leg of the highway had just been dedicated the prior February, with that year’s “Miss Sno-King” cutting the ribbon.
We had no idea what we’d do on Whidbey. We’d heard that some mellow people hung out there. In the 60s, mellow usually meant glassy-eyed college drop-outs in tie-dyed T-shirts who said “wow” a lot. Imagine, then, our disappointment when we got off the ferry in Clinton to find a lot of old dudes who looked like our dads and spent their weekends on Whidbey fishing and playing cribbage. Bummer.
We did meet one hippie guy selling T-shirts and macramé by the side of the road near Langley. He said there were some mellow folks on the island but they lived in the woods so they could do whatever they wanted. He told us to drive up the island to a little ghost town called Coupeville. It had a lot of cool old buildings, he said.
I don’t have much recollection of our visit to Coupeville that day, except I think we had a good time. This was years before tourist hordes began to descend on the town to enjoy a charming, quaint experience. Front Street was mostly a hang-out for locals. It even had lots of places to park.
In the years since, I have talked with friends and long-timers to refresh my memory of that first visit in 1965. Everybody agrees that old dudes and hippies got along just fine in Coupeville. There was even a head shop in Mariners Court.
Actually, it was an import store called the Asia Moon. But it did sell a few items designed to enhance one’s smoking pleasure – long before those new-fangled cannabis shops that have opened in the past year.
Mariners Court also had a unique shop called Knots and Bolts that sold macramé products of every description. I can just imagine an old fisher-dude telling the hippie at Knots and Bolts that he thought hemp was good for making rope, not plant hangers, roach clips and shoulder bags.
From my vantage point 50 years later, it’s easy to see why Whidbey, and Coupeville in particular, have become such a popular place to retire for those of us who survived the 1960s. Old dudes and hippies still get along just fine. And some people still do pretty much whatever they want in the woods.
It was cool to visit the Rock in 1965 as a callow youth. But it’s way more cool to live here in 2015 as an old dude. Peace, love and arthritic brotherhood, everybody!