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Flower Child


Flower Child

An Interview with ruie Mullins - Hippie life is still going strong but it seems that their cause is absolutely different from the 1960's when hippies through their appearance, hippies their willingness to question authority and live as free as they could.In June 1967, the song "San Francisco" written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie was initially designed to promote the Monterey Pop Festival: "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair... If you're going to San Francisco, You're gonna meet some gentle people there."

Annick: ruie would you consider yourself as one of these flower children?(image from the Internet)(image from the Internet)

ruie Mullins: A Flower Child?  Oh yes, definitely.  It was the time of “flower power.”

Annick: You lived in Los Angeles, California during your hippie days?  Is that where this movement started?

ruie Mullins: Actually, I lived in Huntington Beach, California  - It is part of Orange County in Southern California and is extremely conservative in its politics.   I was also a jazz/blues vocalist during this period of my life and our home was toilet-papered many times because I had black musicians come by for rehearsals and also we were great friends with an inter-racial couple down the block, so my children were not welcome in some of the homes.   But they didn’t care, they thought it was cool that we were different.

Annick: Hippie days started in California and they marched against wars. Do you know if this took place all over the world at the same time or was it strictly an American movement?

-All You Need is Love--All You Need is Love-ruie Mullins: There were demonstrations all over the world against the Vietnam War. And especially in London; where hippies and flower children were living.  The hippie/flower Children phenomena began, I believe in Haight Ashbury, a suburb of San Francisco.  I think sometime in 1967 it became the center of the San Francisco Renaissance and that brought about the rise of a drug culture and rock-and-roll lifestyle of the mid 60’s.  Lots of famous psychedelic rock performers like the Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin came to play there and of course the media played it up and it was in the press almost daily as a sub-culture.

Annick: Can you describe the outfit of a typical hippie of the 60's? 

"A female demonstrator offers a flower to military police on guard at the Pentagon during an anti-Vietnam demonstration. Arlington, Virginia, USA" - 21 October 1967 ( National Archives)"A female demonstrator offers a flower to military police on guard at the Pentagon during an anti-Vietnam demonstration. Arlington, Virginia, USA" - 21 October 1967 ( National Archives)ruie Mullins: Probably something like I wore.  Jeans, a tie-dye shirt with a peace sign or a yellow sunflower; Indian moccasins, straight hair with a band around my forehead and no makeup.  I had this darling green Mercedes and I would fly my blue peace flag on the antennae and McCarthy for President sticker on my rear window as I drove around town.

Annick: You just said that you had a ‘Mercedes’. Isn’t it against the hippie life style meaning more for rich people? We always see ‘hippies’ with a VW bus covered with graffiti.

ruie Mullins: Yes, you are right.  But at the time I needed a car to take the kids back and forth to school and a doctor friend had this green Mercedes that had been in an auto accident and he was going to sell it for practically nothing, so I bought it.  It wasn’t very reliable and I probably would have been better off in a VW Van but it did get some positive attention – mainly that it was not just hippies who believed that war was wrong and there was a better way. 

Haight-Ashbury is a district of San Francisco, California, USA, named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets.Haight-Ashbury is a district of San Francisco, California, USA, named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets.Annick:  We talk about the revolution of the 1960's when young adults embraced sexual freedom and many were living in a commune, and wild music like rock, no? What are your thoughts on this?

ruie Mullins: Yes, I think sexual freedom was the most obvious of the times; but there was something a great deal more important happening.  The music was a means of dealing with the emotional impact and a way of telling their story.  They had found that the so-called establishment was not telling the truth; I mean we have found since that time that we were involved in something that began as a police action that had a far reaching impact of global proportions; they just wanted to live their lives in peace, get an education, and so they rebelled.  The students were trying to tell the older generation that war, this war in particular, was wrong and there had to be another way.  That the older generation was more about greed and status and having things and that was not what was important; that living a good life, with love in your heart and love for your fellow man was what was important.  That everyone should have an equal share; that people should not be starving; children should be safe.  It was also a time of spiritual searching.  Something to this day that is still going on.  People are still trying to find a purpose---a meaning for life. The recent economic struggle has everyone thinking more about what is important.  Perhaps we need a new generation of Flower Children to get us all back on the right path. 

ruie Mullins at the age of 21, Californiaruie Mullins at the age of 21, CaliforniaAnnick: Yes, we definitely need a new generation of Flower Children. That would be fun!

ruie Mullins: Yes it certainly would.  And I think I would gladly give it my support.

Annick: Were all young people, hippies or just a certain type of people would be attracted to this life style and principles?  How old were they? 

ruie Mullins: Students in their early 20’s mostly. Because I was involved in music and was also losing trust in the powers that be and could identify with this generation I found I was more comfortable with the so-called flower children.  I began my involvement when I was about 23 or 24. 

Annick:  Marijuana and LSD, were a way of life. I’m not looking for any confession but were drugs part of the life of every young person in those days?

Be Your Own Goddess art bus (1967 VW Kombi)Be Your Own Goddess art bus (1967 VW Kombi)ruie Mullins: There were hippies who did drugs of course, there are people in all walks of life who use drugs.  That was not the purpose behind the revolt of the hippie generation.  At the time, Dr. Timothy Leary was a great advocate of LSD and he had lots of students at Berkley who followed him.  They thought that LSD would expand their minds and make them somehow smarter or more spiritual.  Instead, many became addicts and it ruined their lives.  I can’t say I embraced the hippie life-style, I have never used drugs of any kind.  It is rare for me to even take an aspirin. I didn’t live in a commune and I was raising a family by that time.  What I did embrace and believed in was that there was a whole culture that did not believe in war and were doing something about it.  They weren’t just sitting at home watching television.  They were also involved in the political structure and trying to change it.

Shirtless male drummer & dress-wearing female flutist jamming during Woodstock music festival. Photo: Bill Epridge - LIFEShirtless male drummer & dress-wearing female flutist jamming during Woodstock music festival. Photo: Bill Epridge - LIFEAnnick: In the 1950s and 1960s LSD was used in psychiatry to enhance psychotherapy.

ruie Mullins: Yes. LSD was also used as a treatment for cluster headaches, (migraines) an uncommon but extremely painful disorder. It was also used to find spirituality when users claimed to experience lucid sensations where they have "out of body" experiences.

Annick:  So, Hippies were groups of people promoting peace, love, justice and equality protesting the Vietnam war. I’m sure there was more to this, no?

Taken in Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs, California, 1969Taken in Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs, California, 1969ruie Mullins: I must admit that some of the “hippies” were just in it for the drugs and the excitement of it all.  But then there were the others –These were the flower children and the group I identified with. We were involved in Fair Housing; discrimination against single parents; discrimination of any kind; civil rights.   I joined an organization called “Another Mother For Peace” *and our purpose was to try end the war through peaceful means.  I spent a good deal of my days writing protest letters and having people in my home to discuss  what we could do as peaceful and law abiding individuals to encourage our government to stop the war.  ALL WARS.  There was a bumper sticker at the time that said “What if they gave a war and nobody came”  I mounted it on my car together with another favorite of mine “good neighbors come in all colors” and would park my car at the front of my house (we lived in a cul de sac) so that my neighbors would see these bumper stickers every day as they drove by and hopefully it would give them something positive to think about. 

A "hippie" appearing person at the Rainbow Gathering in Russia - Nezhitino, August 2005A "hippie" appearing person at the Rainbow Gathering in Russia - Nezhitino, August 2005*Another Mother for Peace was founded in 1967 “to educate women to take an active role in eliminating war as a means of solving disputes between nations, people and ideologies.” AMP is a non-profit, non-partisan association.  Source: the internet

I was also deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement that came along about the same time -the Watts riots and the marches in the south (An area of Los Angeles known as Watts). Stokely Carmichael was a speaker at the University of Irvine, and I took my family to hear him so they could decide for themselves. 

There was a wonderful 1949 musical “South Pacific” that became a successful film in 1958 where this beautiful island woman sings a song for the children about how “You Have to Be Carefully Taught”… (the song is preceded by a lyric saying racism is "not born in you! It happens after you’re born.” Source the internet.) It is about how children are innocent and are not born with prejudices and hatred about the color of another’s skin…they are carefully taught….

Eventually, the California National Guard was called to active duty to assist in controlling the rioting. Sergeant Ben Dunn said "The streets of Watts resembled an all-out war zone in some far-off foreign country, it bore no resemblance to the United States of America". Eventually, the California National Guard was called to active duty to assist in controlling the rioting. Sergeant Ben Dunn said "The streets of Watts resembled an all-out war zone in some far-off foreign country, it bore no resemblance to the United States of America".The Watts riots were viewed by some as a reaction to the record of police brutality by the LAPD and other racial injustices allegedly suffered by black Americans in Los Angeles.

My grandmother had just come to California for a visit when she found herself in the middle of the riots.  My uncle lived in Watts; he had been injured in WWII and could not work a regular job, so he was forced to live on a very small military pension, he could only afford to live in the Watts community.  There was a great deal of anger and poverty there, but he would not take charity so he sold papers at a stand he owned on one of the corners near his apartment.  He was living right in the middle of the area when the riots began and we had to find a way to get her out of there.  So, my mother who was fearless and I, got in the car and drove to Watts and were stopped by the police who said it would be extremely dangerous for us to enter the area; but my mother told them her mother was in there and she was going to find her and get her out. 

Jefferson AirplaneJefferson AirplaneWell, we crossed the police line and drove to the corner of the street where my uncle lived and were again stopped by some men from the community; they escorted us to my uncle’s house and got my grandmother out to the car, and we then we drove home.  I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life.  Yet, I knew that we were safe and the men who escorted us to my uncle’s place were very respectful.  They said they admired him and were happy to be of service.

I wanted my children to be good, kind and understanding.  To love everyone regardless of who they were; and I am happy that they have grown to be such wonderful and responsible parents. These were principals that my grandmother taught me and I hope I have made her proud.

Time Life/Sony BMGTime Life/Sony BMGAnnick: Many thoughts were quite negative in such groups but what do you recall that made it a terrific experience and quite a unique generation of people. How special were the hippies to you?

ruie Mullins: I am not sure what you mean by negative…

Annick: Well, I would think due to the drugs that they were passing around...  I would think they weren’t very constructive people. How can one be when they are smoking and drinking?

ruie Mullins: Well, it is true that drugs were prevalent in many of the hippie communes; but I can’t say that anyone I knew was involved.  But, if you are asking did people feel negative about the hippie generation and/or the flower children…then yes. People are usually negative about what they do not understand.  When you know why another person does this or that, it is much easier to understand them.  I have always been a liberal thinker. As I mentioned before, I was taught as a child by my grandmother that discrimination and prejudice was wrong.  

Dr. Martin Luther King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963.Dr. Martin Luther King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963.As a child I had, first hand, knowledge of discrimination as my parents were in show business and toured the country in clubs and theaters and left me with my grandparents in the mid-west – I was not allowed in many of my playmate’s homes because I was told I was “white trash”. I remember how hateful that was and how it hurt.

Annick: So, what made them special? 

ruie Mullins: The so-called Hippie or Flower Children generation were bright, giving and beautiful young people with ideals that would give you hope for a better world.  We would sing, pray, eat together, write poems and stories and we felt safer among ourselves than we did with the rest of society.  It was just a beautiful time in my life, we were still innocent.

ruie with Janet Harris and Red Grammer at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Arizona on January 20, 2006ruie with Janet Harris and Red Grammer at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Arizona on January 20, 2006By the time of the Watts Riots, I realized that politics was no longer the answer for me and I decided to find a spiritual path that would work for me.  For a long time I was agnostic I just did not feel comfortable with any organized religion but then I began to read Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher who opposed the Vietnam war, and became involved in the Unitarian Church which is very liberal in its views and takes up all questions of Human Rights.  We had a lot of the flower children at the church I attended.  Then I discovered Buddha and then Mohammad and read the Koran.  At one point I studied to become a Jew. It was because of my involvement with these movements that I eventually found the Baha’i Faith. 

Annick: It sounds like you embraced all religions and all cultures. Were Hippies religious people?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington D.C. - Van Gilmer said, “When I discovered the Baha'i Faith, I said, ‘here’s a group that’s doing exactly what Dr. King talks about: people of all colors coming together as equals." (Source: www.bahai.us/i-have-a-dream)Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington D.C. - Van Gilmer said, “When I discovered the Baha'i Faith, I said, ‘here’s a group that’s doing exactly what Dr. King talks about: people of all colors coming together as equals." (Source: www.bahai.us/i-have-a-dream)ruie Mullins: I don’t think they were necessarily religious people, but I do think they had a spiritual sense that there was something greater than themselves.

Annick: I also heard people saying that the hippies were very lazy, naive and irresponsible.  Would you agree, looking back?

ruie Mullins: Well, I can only speak for myself and my friends.  I was already a young married woman with a large family and my friends were much the same.  Some were still students and were involved in marches against the Vietnam War, as was I.  We definitely were responsible individuals but the hippies that people remember are the ones that made the news and got into trouble. You can’t judge the many who wanted to do good works, by the few who just wanted to trip out.  We were arrested for marching but I would not call us irresponsible.  We were trying hard with everything we could to convince people to think for themselves and do what was right.

Van Gilmer vividly remembers participating in the March on Washington (for Jobs and Freedom) on Aug. 28, 1963, while a student at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. (Source: www.bahai.us/i-have-a-dream)Van Gilmer vividly remembers participating in the March on Washington (for Jobs and Freedom) on Aug. 28, 1963, while a student at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. (Source: www.bahai.us/i-have-a-dream)Annick: I hear you but today, many people are blaming the ‘old hippies’, the ones we call ‘baby boomers’ responsible for the trouble that we are all facing due to materialism and lack of spirituality. And, that money is all they care about. Are most people working in Wall Street, old hippies?  I’m not pointing fingers just repeating comments that I have heard. Is that a realistic assessment?

ruie Mullins: The only thing that runs Wall Street today and every day is GREED.  You can’t blame the past generation of hippies for that.

Annick: Yes, greed but it seems to me that some of the hippies left the movement when they saw that there was no future in it.

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Portal at night - Photo by Joergen Geerds Photography, Astoria, NY.New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Portal at night - Photo by Joergen Geerds Photography, Astoria, NY.ruie Mullins: Again, I can’t speak for the entire hippie generation.  Many “baby boomers” went on to corporate jobs and joined the status quo.  I don’t think that greed was the motivation; they just probably saw that it’s really hard to “fight city hall” and if you can’t beat them join them.  And like all of us, they wanted to have what everyone wants, a home, a family, children, a life.   As one friend of mine told me when I was commiserating that my neighbors shunned me; if you want to reach people with your ideas, you might try dressing down and talk to them on their level maybe then they will be more inclined to listen to you.  I followed his advice and I am happy to say my neighbors and I found a middle ground and became friends.  The same thing happened to the hippies and the flower children; I am sure they found that it worked for them too.  If you offend people by the way you look, it makes it a lot harder to get them to listen. 

The Beatles: Rock BandThe Beatles: Rock BandFortunately, many listened and the Vietnam War ended.  But I am sorry to say that we as a people are allowing similar government strategies happen all over again.  It takes involvement but with today’s economy and so many people out of work and losing their homes, that is not so easy to do.

Annick: "Love is all you need" by the Beatles. "Made up my mind to make a new start. Going to California with an aching in my heart.  Someone told me there's a girl out there. With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair" by Led Zeppelin. And, a quote that was very famous during the 60's "Make Love, Not War". "Go with the flow!", the well known hippy saying, what memories do these bring back to you?

ruie Mullins: I love all these lyrics.  They tell a story of a time when we were more innocent.  With the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I believe, we as a people lost our innocence.  We have become more cynical and to trust is a hard thing to do. 

Annick: How involved were you with music in those days?

ruie with her two sons, Michael and Tim on Michael's 50th birthday on January 21 2008, Californiaruie with her two sons, Michael and Tim on Michael's 50th birthday on January 21 2008, Californiaruie Mullins: I have been involved in some form of music all my life.  I started out at the age of 3 on my father’s radio program in Kansas City.  I sang to a live radio audience “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and got a stranding ovation.  I will never forget how that felt.  It was the most glorious moment.  And later in my teens I was on many of the televised variety shows and then into my 30’s  and 40’s I sang in local clubs throughout Southern California.  I had been offered a recording contract but it caused some friction in my marriage and my family has always come first so I declined.  I kept on singing but less and less professionally.  As it were, I divorced my husband about 10 years later and made an effort to renew my musical past, but unfortunately I began to lose my hearing  so I am not able to enjoy music in my life these days, but I have some very wonderful and incredible memories to give me solace. 

Annick: Everything is for a reason so hippies became part of the history of mankind. Today, many young people regret not having been a part of it. Each generation is different and brings bad and good with it but this generation is remembered for its music, love, peace, etc. In other words, many of us think that you were lucky to have been able to experience it.

ruie and her children and grand-children in California, 2009ruie and her children and grand-children in California, 2009ruie Mullins: It was a very important time in my life and in the lives of many others.  And yes, it was for a reason and I still live for the day when “war is obsolete” and we can live in a time when “good neighbors come in all colors”   I am still involved in the Peace movements around the world, on the internet:  Peace X Peace and Another Mother for Peace.  My goal today is not only to experience the end of  wars but to enlighten and encourage young women about their value and to be proud of themselves and to put an end to sex trafficking and bondage of women in third world countries.  There is so much yet to do!

Annick: Thanks ruie for taking the time to answer my questions. Sounds like you are still a flower child at heart.

ruie Mullins: My pleasure.  Thank you for listening and yes I am still a flower child at heart.  

Visit ruie’s blog and learn more about her life and her artistic pursuits.

 

 

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