Two Aging Hippies Live Here

by on December 21, 2009 · 25 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, From the Soul, History, San Diego

Ernie McCray old hippie-smThe other day, as I pondered the words, “Two aging hippies live here,” the greeting on the welcome mat at the front door of my home, I thought about how lucky I am to have had Nancy in my life for so long.

I wondered how we ever got together. I mean Nancy was raised in Pacific Palisades, in L.A., overlooking the mighty Pacific, across a canyon from Grace Kelly, Walter Matthau and Betty Davis, just to name a few.

I grew up on the north side of Tucson, overlooking a not so mighty vacant lot and there were no movie stars anywhere in view and no beautiful green canyons for little kids to frolic in or run through, no deer and the like, just lizards scurrying about under the relentless sun, going: “Whew!”

The grownups in Nancy’s life lived high on the hog with more than one bathroom in their house. The grownups in my life made a meal out of every square inch of the hog and gave thanks to God that we had something to pee in that wasn’t outside of the house.

In 1962 Nancy was President of Young Americans for Freedom, a high school Goldwater Girl. I was two years removed from the University of Arizona where I had hung out with a far out lefty group called Students for Equality. Barry Goldwater was, perhaps, our biggest enemy.

But when I met Nancy in 1973 she had more than shed her YAF mentality and was a full blown hippie, living her life, unapologetically, wearing her heart on her sleeve more than anyone I had ever known or had ever perceived.

I was, at the time, a principal at an inner city school, and she was new to my campus, and I had no idea that I would soon witness teaching on the highest level. Oh, she was so dedicated. Being one who swam a mile in the ocean several times a week, she took her students to the beach and taught them to swim. She loved cooking so she taught the children how to read recipes and prepare meals. She exposed them to Balboa Park and all its wonders. She structured their learning experiences around the arts so they could discover who they were and express themselves artistically and soulfully and entertain notions of bettering their lives. Watching her give of herself like that everyday made her irresistibly attractive to me, in so many ways.

Then, voila, we were in the early stage of a relationship, beginning with weekend tennis dates where I would often find myself lunging at aces she smashed by me. I love athletic women and she was that to the letter, every now and then challenging me to one-on-one games in hoops. Whoo, I was smitten to the bone.

The conversations after our skirmishes drew us close together. We rapped about everything, the horrors of Vietnam, our love for “Hanoi Jane,” Martin and Malcolm and Fannie Mae, Maya Angelou. Gloria Steinem ran through her veins and we’d argue because she didn’t need me “opening any doors” for her. The fire in her eventually stole me away from the life I was living and we set up housekeeping and began a journey of trying to set the world right. We fought against apartheid in South Africa and Ronnie Ray Gun arming the enemies of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and mining their harbors. Marching in anti-war rallies seemed to us a way of life.

In our thirty-four years together we managed to raise twin daughters and a son who possessed ten times more energy than the Eveready Energizer Bunny. Nancy, mom, was the engine that made our family go. She made sandwiches for us just about every school day. She critiqued us on the run with: “You can’t turn that homework in with all those mistakes. Do that over. Ernie, please tell me you aren’t going to bring that up with the superintendent and expect to keep your job.” Who knows how many miles she logged getting our brood to track and soccer and baseball and basketball and band practices, piano lessons and dance rehearsals. I wasn’t a slacker in these endeavors but a school principal can’t always be on hand. She was always there. A “little late” (sometimes a lot late) but there.

Oh, I’m so glad our paths crossed as we old hippies had a great life together and it’s the hippy in me that’s keeping me moving right along in pursuit of our life quests with her memory and spirit tucked away and alive in my heart and soul. That, for me, will never grow old.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ernie McCray December 21, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Wow! Some woman (smile)!


avatar Kim K. December 21, 2009 at 7:13 pm

While working as Nancy’s teaching asst. at Horton, I remember she told me how smitten she was with you. What a beautiful love story and family you created together! Both of you, “hippies” have changed the world for a much better place; for so many! Keep on trucking, as Nancy is right with you urging you on. Merry Christmas to you and the ‘”kids.”


avatar Ernie McCray December 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Hey, Nancy and I did a whole lot of “smitten” back and forth. I still am. Smitten. And a Merry Christmas to you and yours also.


avatar not a redneck in east county December 22, 2009 at 11:36 pm

it’s wonderful getting to know you, and Nancy.
Peace Ernie.


avatar Ernie McCray December 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm

It’s been wonderful introducing Nancy and me. It keeps her in the picture which has become one of my life’s goals.


avatar Shawn Conrad December 23, 2009 at 8:48 am


I am envious of the love you shared with her in your life. While your writing has tones of sadness, I can see the light that Nancy still shines for you. I often wonder if you are smiling or weeping when you write these beautiful stories.


avatar Ernie McCray December 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm

It’s a combination of both at times, sometimes at the same time.


avatar OB Joe December 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm

We’re gonna start a ‘adopt-an-old-hippie program’. Sign up now.


avatar Ernie McCray December 23, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I’m in.


avatar Sunshine December 24, 2009 at 7:28 am

I’m available for adoption….but you must like daisy chains and fringe.


avatar OB Joe December 24, 2009 at 10:54 am

Ring ring! Calling Dan!


avatar Ernie McCray December 24, 2009 at 11:28 am

Well, I knew there was some line to be drawn in my hippiness – daisy chains and fringe (lol) – OMG I can’t friggin’ believe I just wrote “lol” or “friggin'” or “OMG”. But I guess that doesn’t mean I can’t adopt ya.


avatar Sunshine December 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I feel that OB has opened its gracious arms and warmly and wholeheartedly welcomed my son and I into its fold. We feel so at home here…OBlicious!


avatar wendyEllen December 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I remember my first day substitute teaching in the San Diego area and I had to cover a SS class for one period. They were studying the 60s and when the students found out I had been in protest marches in NY they labeled me a “Hippy”….and I thought they were talkin about my hips…no just kidding…I have shared the warrior road with both you and Nancy forging multicultural education through the arts here in San Diego….while I bailed to the Bay Area after 15 years here I never stopped coming back to the spawning grounds for both my children!

Ernie you inspire me to step out of myself and try again…after 14 years divorced I have been petrified of marriage…both you and Nancy are an example I aspire to follow at some point…hell I plan on living another 50 years so I guess I have time…

Keep on writing…this article was both beautiful and touching….not to mention the inspiration part. Kudos to you!


avatar Ernie McCray December 25, 2009 at 11:22 am

And a little kudo for you too, kiddo.


avatar Danny Morales December 26, 2009 at 10:34 am


Daisy chains and fringe aside;



avatar Ernie McCray December 26, 2009 at 11:34 am



avatar The Great Unwashed December 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Ernie, my politics and background are quite different than yours, but that’s irrelevent. I lost my first wife/best friend of 33 years back in December of 2004. Fast Forward to September 2008 when my second wife/best friend and I tied the knot on the cliffs.

Never thought it would happen again, but kept my mind open… Please do well and be happy. Peace!


avatar Ernie McCray December 29, 2009 at 11:04 am

Peace out!


avatar Mary December 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Beautiful. It’s refreshing to hear about real love that works out and lasts.


avatar Ernie McCray December 31, 2009 at 7:42 pm

And it’s beautiful and refreshing to experience real love for so many years.


avatar dan January 2, 2010 at 2:40 am

hey,man. i had a nancy also,for 29yr’s. she has died 10yr’s ago,but you know something real cool? i can still hear her say,(dan stop that,man.) have peace and love.


avatar Ernie McCray January 2, 2010 at 10:25 am

Oh, man, I can still hear my Nan’s voice. I would say to her pretty much everyday, “I love you,” and she would reply, “Me, too, you.” That was always nice to hear. Such beautiful sounds. Delivered in a sweet sincerity, in her style.
Peace and love right back atcha.


avatar Cindy Cox January 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Ernie, Love you man. What a wonderful love story. I was a student of yours at John Muir School in 1974-75. You’re love and inspiration as a leader was incredible! You are an amazing peoson. Thank you for sharing Nancy with the world!
Peace Out!


avatar Ernie McCray January 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Love you more, Cindy. I remember how Nancy came along during our first year at Muir and as exciting and electric as the Muir years were, she made it even more so. School wise, Muir was the greatest experience, bar none, that I ever had as an educator and Nancy was the greatest life experience I ever had period. I can’t help but share her with the world as she was of the world. Take care, amiga.
P.S. The love that you and other students poured out to me was inspiring and incredible! I talk about you guys all the time.


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