Dean Kahn

Bellingham left out of top 10 ‘hippie hideouts’

Protests about the Vietnam War and other issues were a big part of the hippie era in Bellingham during the 1960s and ’70s. The Occupy Wall Street movement re-energized the local scene in October 2011, when hundreds of protesters marched from Western Washington University to Maritime Heritage Park to support Occupy Bellingham.
Protests about the Vietnam War and other issues were a big part of the hippie era in Bellingham during the 1960s and ’70s. The Occupy Wall Street movement re-energized the local scene in October 2011, when hundreds of protesters marched from Western Washington University to Maritime Heritage Park to support Occupy Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald

Travel.alot — one of those websites jam-packed with lists — recently named “10 of America’s Hippie Hideouts,” and let me tell you, there was a big surprise in the list.

Bellingham isn’t on it.

Bellingham even didn’t make the site’s seemingly redundant list of 20 “American Cities Stuck in the 1960s.”

At first, I was miffed.

Is Bellingham losing its cutting-edge cachet? Has Bellingham sold out?

Then I calmed down.

While Bellingham has many of the features found in the 10 “hippie hideouts” —- farmers’ markets, a lively arts and crafts scene, microbreweries, support for farm-to-table local food — I remembered that you don’t need to wear tie-dye to make a positive difference.

In Bellingham, many of the goals that motivated people during the hippie era have taken firm root in the decades following.

Bellingham was a jewel in the West Coast hippie bracelet — along with San Francisco; Eugene, Ore.; and Seattle

Worried about gas guzzlers? Bellingham has a top-notch bus system and is one of the top-rated bicycle cities in the state.

Worried about Mother Earth? From its ban on plastic carryout grocery bags, to kayaktivists, Greenways, and robust environmental groups, this college town on the Salish Sea is green in more ways than one.

Worried about bland food shipped from distant farms? Bellingham Farmers Market is a vibrant concern, and “buy local” and “eat local” groups are working hard to develop a strong “farm local” economy.

A small, bulk-food buying operation in hippie-era Fairhaven sprouted into the Community Food Co-op, with two stores. Irony of ironies, the co-op’s recent expansion of its downtown store, including a larger parking lot and the removal of several trees, created a touch of environmental angst for some members of the community.

The Northwest Passage, a local publication that started in 1969, became a bulwark of the alternative newspaper movement before it faded away 17 years later.

I was a college student in Bellingham in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when hippies were in full flourish, especially in Fairhaven. Back then, the West Coast hippie railroad — a real one in the sense of draft-eligible people moving north to Canada to avoid the war in Vietnam — stretched from San Francisco to Eugene, Ore.; then to Seattle and on to Bellingham.

An important fixture those years was the Northwest Passage, a local publication that started in 1969 and became a bulwark of the alternative newspaper movement before it faded away 17 years later. In some ways, the evolution of the Passage mirrored the evolution of progressives in Bellingham.

At first, the Passage stressed Vietnam and back-to-the-earth living. Then, in the early ’70s, the paper featured extensive coverage of local and regional politics, with groundbreaking coverage of environmental issues. Many contributors from those times, such as Mary Kay Becker, Joel Connelly and Roxanne Park, went on to flourish in the worlds of law, government and journalism.

The Passage later moved to Seattle and published more stories about women’s issues, gay rights, black nationalism and foreign affairs.

Back in Bellingham, those quality-of-life topics for Passage articles — healthy food, parks and trails, environmental protection, and others — became fodder for local laws, festivals and ballot measures.

In other words, the stuff of life. When you have that, you don’t need labels and lists.

Dean Kahn: 360-715-2291

10 of America’s Hippie Hideouts

1) Asheville, N.C.

2) Eugene, Ore.

3) Boulder, Colo.

4) Berea, Ky.

5) Burlington, Vt.

6) Ithaca, N.Y.

7) Bisbee, Ariz.

8) Missoula, Mont.

9) Eureka Springs, Ark.

10) Arcata, Calif.

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