“My Memories of Red House and Its Surrounding Community”

by on July 10, 2015 · 5 comments

in American Empire, Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Peace Movement, Politics, San Diego, War and Peace, World News


OB Rag photo of police officer in the side yard of the Cape May Barracks, during police raid on apartment of radicals, Spring 1973. (Note police officer has longish hair and a mask on under his gas mask in order to protect his identity as an undercover cop. Photo by Kenny Eason.

Editor: As we approach the Centennial of the Red House, we asked friends who were in OB during the heady days of the Seventies for their memories. Our good friend, Bob, responded with the following:

By Bob

In the early Seventies I lived across the street at 5132 Cape May in the four-plex known as “The Barracks”. Our two bedroom apartment rented for $160 a month. My share was forty bucks to live a half block from the beach!

In those days, Red House, The Barracks, Little Red House (right on the beach at the end of the block) and several other apartments on the block housed probably 50 hardcore activists, progressive hippies, Lefty musicians, and fellow travelers, all dewy-eyed and hopeful at the possibility of changing America from the white bread blandness of the Fifties and early Sixties.

We had visions of shocking changes to the System. We advocated and agitated for things that were unheard of, like equal rights for people of color, women and gay people, legalization of cannabis, preserving our community from rampant development, and ending the Viet Nam War.

Along with other individuals and collectives in OB and around San Diego, we created co-ops that gave access to organic food, a free school that provided an alternative to an unresponsive educational system that seemed hell-bent on cranking out little robots, committees organizing against harassment of women and rape and supporting children’s rights, etc.

For me it was a golden time. I was in my late teens when I moved on the block and soon after a wave of activists, some locals and others from exotic Boston had moved in to Red House to help organize demonstrations against the pending 1972 Republican Convention.

Most of these folks seemed like elder citizens to me, mature old timers in their late twenties and maybe even a few ancient 30 year olds. Some had participated in the Civil Rights movement and Freedom Rides of the Sixties, others in the founding of SDS and other early Movement organizations.

Here are some of my memories of Red House:

Lots of meetings planning The Revolution were held in what was, to us, the huge living room, one of the larger spaces in any of the houses/apartments we poor students and wage slaves could afford.

In the side yard there were parties with live music to raise funds for demonstrator’s’ bail and legal expenses or to pay for the cost of printing leaflets for the next protest.

A shed in the back yard was one of the venues where we type set and pasted up the layout sheets for the OB Peoples Rag’s next edition. I remember sleepless nights, working from midnight, when I got off work from the Abbott St Market, until ten in the morning when we had to drive the raw copy for the next issue up to the printer (if we could find one willing to print such inflammatory rhetoric and calls for change), listening to progressive FM radio playing Dylan, the Dead, jazz, Ravi Shankar, and other trippy late night hypnotic sounds.

One of the residents at Red House, a great guy from Boston, brought a vinyl LP soundtrack from a movie that was a hit back there, “The Harder They Come”. I first listened to it on a cheap record player at Red House. It was the introduction of reggae music to San Diego, right there at Red House, and when the film finally played in San Diego, first at the La Paloma in Encinitas and later at the Strand, we filled the place with ganja smoke and dancing.

Things weren’t perfect back then. Some of the kids probably got in over their heads with alcohol and other drugs. Sexual experimentation seemed enlightening and fun at the time and was a wonderful eye opening experience for most of us, but for some it might have been a bit too much and some people definitely got hurt.

For most of us, though, it was a revelation to realize we could question authority, risk our futures promoting change, and have a hell of a good time doing it.

Out of Red House and the surrounding community we ended up with a few burn outs and people who’ve carried their problems on in to old age or death, but also a majority who went on to creating happy families, grandkids, and careers as trades people, lawyers, professors, doctors, nurses, school teachers, and therapists.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

mjt July 11, 2015 at 8:59 am

Is a backlash to the 60’s still going on? Will the backlash towards choice, and gay marriage, keep us divided for the next one hundred years.

I loved the sixties, and am saddened at the disinformation concerning that era.
Many see the times as lawless and uncontrolled. And by today’s standards I guess they were.

They were the days one could exist without being under the looking glass of Government and law enforcement. Of course even back then the government had their apparatus
Before the police state, and drones.
Before camera’s on every corner, before cell phones and computers, and being online, before facebook.

Seeds of freedom were sowed back then, and were plowed under, but they will sprout again.


patty jones July 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I just read an article published in 1982 that said the FBI file on the Red House is almost 900 pages long. So much for existing without being under the looking glass. Sorry I don’t have a link, the article is on paper.


mjt July 13, 2015 at 9:45 am

Of course the government was intrusive in the 60’s and what about in the 50’s during the Mccarthy era, but that ain’t nothing compared to today.


Dickie July 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm

When I lived at Red House and I filed an Freedom of Info request to the Fbi, CIA, USPS[!!] (I guess it was called the post office back then) . . . got lots of stuff including the information that the OB p.o. was copying the outside of all envelopes addressed to 5113 Cape May . . . I got the papers to prove it.
The FBI visited the 5100 block of Cape May quite a bit. . . .they would show up[ at the door wanting to “ask a few questions,” they wqould trash dive in the alley behind the Barracks and one time, during the Wounded Knee occupation on the Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota they came around looking for someone they thought had gone there and threatened to arrest anyone who didn’t have their draft card . . . this was in 1973 . . . no more draft!

Strange times in OB. Thinking about all these files the govt. sent me back then it is a reminder that they did this stuff even before computers and mobile phones . . .


Pat July 11, 2015 at 10:13 am

Cool story,thanks for your memories.


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