The first OB Rag, the O.B. People’s Rag, published its very first issue, edition no. 1, in September 1970. Published by a small collection of activists who lived on Etiwanda Street in northeast Ocean Beach — most of them recent local graduates of the University of California and veterans of the campus anti-Vietnam War movement — the OB Rag came to reflect the new counter-culture and militant politics of the era. And over time, it became a media icon for a community asserting itself against the establishment.
OCEAN BEACH — THE HAIGHT-ASHBURY OF SAN DIEGO
Ocean Beach, by the early 1970s, had become the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego, home to many hippies and counter-culture fans, but also to many surfers, college students, bikers, Navy servicemen, as well as middle-aged families and retired people. It was overwhelmingly an Anglo renters’ community, yet it suffered from a disdain held by the power structure and more establishment types.Hundreds if not thousands of young people congregated on OB’s beaches and streets, often shunned by Newport Avenue businesses, while been soaked by landlords asking exorbitant rents for cottages and, at times, nothing more than beach shacks, and suffering from an inordinate amount of police harassment. Very few businesses catered to the young. The Black – a head shop, had opened on Newport, and there was the Inbetween – a drop-in center on Newport – but there were no coffee houses, no organic veggie stores or restaurants, no juice bars, no music or dance clubs, and many of the bars that existed catered to an older crowd. Unlike the current downtown OB scene any evening of the week, there was virtually no night-life on Newport Avenue. It wasn’t easy being a hippie in those early times. (For more, see below.)
The OB People’s Rag, Vol. 1, No. 7
Click on image to see entire issue
When the Rag appeared, it was a time of social and political upheaval nation-wide as well as locally. Thousands of college and university campuses had just been in turmoil that Spring due to President Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam war. African-American communities smoldered following decades of official neglect and police repression. Chicano and Mexican-American neighborhoods were undergoing an awakening and shaking off cultural shackles. On the gender front, militant feminists and middle-class housewives were building a movement that pressed for equality for women at all levels in society. Social unrest was in the air, at least for the young.
[see “The Early Politics”]
The Persecution of the Hippies
It is perhaps difficult to understand what it was like to be a hippie, forty years after their initial appearance on the American cultural and political landscape. The hippies, the peaceful warriors of the counter-culture were seen as a threat to the mainstream culture and its values. The system – the establishment – reacted very negatively when young men and women in massive numbers discovered and asserted themselves in the new hip ways, with dress, hairstyles, and language. A whole array of institutional forces slammed down on the hipsters, from police harassment, to landlord abuse, institutional and bureaucratic blocks, and business prejudice. It was cultural suppression. A cultural war.
This war of the cultures was played out in places like Ocean Beach, where hippies lived. After the 1968 wide-spread flowering of the hip generation, housing inspectors swept through the beach community, citing landlords for poor housing conditions. But the effect was to have condemnation proceedings used to rid OB of its worst slums – knocking out housing that hippies and young people could afford.
(to read more, click HERE)