1961 - Students from all over the Bay Area join the two day Easter Peace March from Sunnyvale to San Francisco
About one hundred of us started out on April 1, 1961in Sunnyvale, California to walk to Union Square in San Francisco for big peace rally. Many of my friends were on this march, and the spirit was upbeat. It felt good to be on this "hike," getting some exercise in the open air, singing songs and chanting as we walked through middle-class neighborhoods that didn't pay much attention to us.
We spent the night in the San Bruno Recreation Center, eating there are sleeping wherever we could. There was a party atmosphere as some of the bolder young people held an impromptu dance. Smoking was the normal thing in those days, and we lit up and talked, and talked, and talked. I was tasked with taking photogaphs for the People's World, which someone had brought along to sell. I was there with a girlfriend and we thought it was fun, an adventure that took us out of our normal routine of studying for exams. Some members of the local community showed up at the Recreation Center to welcome us.
The next morning we again hit the road in good spirits. We walked through San Francisco, passing a park and passing by San Francisco City Hall. A big cloth banner was broken out, proclaiming "Students Here and Everywhere March for Peace." We saw a number of San Francisco "living treasures" like Sculptor Beniamino Bufano, and Nobel Prize Winning Chemist Linus Pauling local singer and guitar player and singer James Fromer and a guy who looked and dressed like well-known North Beach comedian who made a career out of playing hip "Father Enrico Sarducci."
This peace march and the many peace actions to follow in the early sixties was inspired by the threat of nuclear Armageddon, famously dramatized by the "doomsday clock" of the Bulletin of American Nuclear Scientists. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains. The clock is currently set to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been.
At the time, many of us felt the fear of the nuclear danger in a visceral way. For the young people of the current generation the Cold War is not much more than a footnote to history. But those of us who remember the nuclear drills we experienced in the fifties, crouching under our school desks with our hands over our eyes and the occasional chilling P.A. announcements that "this many not be a drill," know why we marched against the arms race in the early sixties
The anti-nuclear campaigns took place several years before the war in Vietnam erupted into a deadly confrontation between the U.S. Military, supported by the U.S. trained and outfitted South Vietnamese Army and the opposing North Vietnam Army and the South Vietnamese Viet Cong, both supplied by China and the Soviet Union. With the military drafting thousands of young men to fight overseas, fear of the bomb was overshadowed by the fear of sudden death in the jungles of Vietnam.
Walking through residential Sunnvale. No traffic, I guess everyone was at work
Starting our two-day trek in Sunnyvale, home to many defensive industries.
In San Bruno, we stopped at the Community Recreation Center to spend the night and socialize with the locals
Socializing while we smoked. We thought we knew the solution to everything back then, but were clueless about the dangers of smoking. I didn't quit until 1977
Camaraderie at the San Bruno rest stop
People's World writer and future editor, Carl Bloice, my roommate for a while, cutting a rug on the Center's "dance floor."
We slept wherever we could
Catching up on the news in the Communist People's World
Spring had sprung in the City, and its parks blossomed with the Easter message of hope and rebirth
Through the virtual time travel of photography, the view of 1961 from (almost) sixty years later acquires a rosy tint
Do you remember being this young and enthusiastic?
There's that banner again, with the City Hall Rotunda in the background
Jon Fromer, talented musician and programmer of many beloved KQED childrens' programs. He passed away in 2013.
To old to have created this imaginative sign
Doesn't this man look like the North Beach comedian who created the hilarious character "Father Enrico Farducci?" He's cracking up these two young women .
Waiting to enter Union Square
A group of musicians who entertained us in Union Square.
Finally, we arrive in Union Square, thousands of us Easter peace rallies like ours were held in major cities throughout the nation.
Singing, clapping and hoisting signs. Like fifties NY Yankees malapropist Yogi Berra famously said, "It’s like déjà vu all over again"
Another view from Union Square
Beloved humanist sculptor Benny Bufano
Preview of the Haight-Ashbury's "summer of love"
We dragged our kids to demonstrations, made them signs, and hoped they'd learn something about the world they would soon inherit, or at least let them pose for photos.