12 Hitch Hiker
To understand the magnitude of my story, you must know who I am. So, here's a little back story.
I was born in 1954, so my formidable years were spent growing up under the influence of the 60's and early 70's in a very small town in upstate Ohio. When I say small, I mean 1 light at Broadway and Main.
There were about 40 business in the center of town. The drugstore soda shop was right on one of those corners. There was also the hardware store, small grocery store, Ben Franklin's, gas station, barber shop.
We had Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and Catholic churches and most everyone went to one of them weekly. You get the picture, it was Mayberry!
We also had a library, a post office and the jail. The jail was set up so you could easily sneak right past the cop desk 9 times out of 10 to go see if anyone was in jail. If there was, we would run errands for them, go get cigarettes, whatever. We never bothered to ask "What are you in for?" Kids!!
I was a curious, free spirited and completely wild and innocent child.
A little bit later came the assassination of JFK, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam protests and the hippie revolution which I joined in becoming one of the earliest hippies.
So, maybe you can now guess where this story in leading.
Hitch hiking was common place in those years, so I did it a lot. For a little over 3 years I made many trips all over the US and Canada much to the dismay of my mother.
Sometimes, I took friends, sometimes I went alone. Always with no money, no clothes and no worries. So many people tried to warn me of the dangers but being very young and naive, and feeling quite invincible, I ignored all of their well-meaning advice.
This wasn't my first trip, nor was it the last, but it is the most memorable and you'll now understand the gravity of the very close call that it was.
June 1969, I was 14. I was spending the night with my friend, Deena, who lived in a neighboring mirrored town. I talked her into coming with me to San Francisco. She just happened to have a brother living out there that she had not seen in a while, so we headed out across the cow pasture to the highway and stuck out our thumbs. It never took long to get a ride as you can probably imagine.
We received many rides, a band tour bus picked us up on their way to a gig in Chicago but we didn't want to make that big of a detour, so we passed. I can't remember who the band was.
I remember another ride when we got into a convertible Cadillac with 4 black men and went to a party in Black Town, Columbus, Ohio. We were the only white people at this party and let me tell you.....we had a blast.
I never felt unwanted or in danger. In fact, the nice lady that lived in that apartment gave me a shirt which I thought was so kind. Now, as an adult, I realize she was trying to cover me up. God Bless Her.
The next ride was pretty cool until he picked up another hitch hike, a lone guy, who kept nagging him about how much trouble he was going to be in if he got caught taking these two underage girls across state lines. I became very agitated and told him to "Shut Up". We should have gotten out right then and there but we stayed. He wasn't dangerous, just annoying.
Well, the driver stopped for gas in Iowa and Deena and I went into the rest room to freshen up. When we came out, the cops were waiting for us and we ended up in the Iowa City Jail. I'm sure our parents were contacted immediately although I do not recall this.
We were quite the attraction in this little jail. The cops would come up and talk to us and play cards. They would bring us cigarettes, candy and donuts. Another Mayberry!
I don't think we were there for too long before Deena's mom had driven out to pick us up, and after a conversation with her daughter, she decided to drive us the rest of the way to California. That's just over 1,900 miles. Unbelievable!!
I remember singing to the radio all the way to Nevada. I especially remember the Momma's and the Papa's "Are you going to San Francisco".
Later we booked into a hotel in Reno. Borrrring! This is not what I signed up for. I tried to talk Deena into just taking off (I realize now, as an adult, what a terrible selfish act that would have been and how devastating that would have been to her mom. Lucky for everyone, she refused to do that, so, I stayed.
We, we finally ended up in San Francisco, right at Height and Ashbury near Berkley College, where all the hippie action was (with her mom tagging along).
It was all so overwhelming to me. I was pretty cool for our little town, but this stuff as WAAAYYYY out of my league. I did mention how very naive I was, I was not fully aware of things like drug addiction, but I was it first hand at Needle Park. Seeing everyone strung out on drugs scared me to death.
I saw other things too that I cannot mention. Needless to say, I was shocked, I wanted to go home and I have never wanted to go back to California again, and have never been back even to this day.
I don't remember how many weeks I was gone on that particular adventure, but shortly thereafter, I was home watching tv with my mom. It was July and it was all over the news about the Manson Family and the infamous murders. I then realized how close I had come to being picked up by them and possibly becoming one of the Family.
What if I would have taken off on my own looking for adventure and had not stayed with Deena and her mom that night? Hitch hiking alone through the desert, 9 hours away from Spawn Ranch? What if that guy had not turned us into the cops in Iowa and we would have been out there the two of us?
Most assuredly I or both of us would have gotten picked up by one of them. Later I found out that the Family were recruiting people from Haight/Ashbury and also how irked I was because we couldn't lose her mom.
Everyday I'm thankful that I did not get caught up in that. I was sure ripe for the picking, especially if they would have gotten a hold of me before I made it all the way to California.
In all my adventures, I was never beat up, raped or murdered. I really do believe that I was under divine protection.