Fifty Years Or So Ago…

Oct 15, 2021 | 2 comments

California Gothic Mother and Son, c. 1970   Photo by Bill La Rue

I think of this photo as “California Gothic Mother & Son, circa 1970s.”  I hadn’t seen it (or thought about it) in years but, cleaning out the back forty reveals more treasures than can be imagined.  I loved this photo then and I love it now.  I wonder why it’s been tucked away for so long.

Now, a half century later, I don’t remember the context or the reason for this particular image.  My then husband, Bill LaRue, was a photographer after all, and he was likely to “capture us” at odd times for reasons known only to himself.  We actually have few photographs from that time period.  When you are married to a photographer, snapshots of the usual “important events” aren’t often a consideration.

I can’t quite remember what was happening in the Bay Area or in our lives in 1970.  We were busy.  I remember that Charlie’s hair was long for a number of years — as was the style among teens where we lived in Castro Valley.  Out in the burbs.  The dress I am wearing I remember well.  It was a “school dress” — I wore it, probably once a week or so to my teaching job in the Hayward Unified School District.   My wardrobe, then as now, wasn’t extensive, and  I remember being pretty sick of “the blue dress” by the time I was able to replace it.

I Googled “Bay Area 1970” to see if anything triggered a memory and found this:  San Francisco in the 1970s was a global hub of culture. It was known worldwide for hippies and radicals. The city was heavily affected by drugs, prostitution and crime. Outcasts and the socially marginalized were attracted by a greater tolerance and acceptance of diverse cultures in the city.  

Photographer Bill LaRue c. 1965

Really?   I don’t remember “the city” that way at all.  We had friends living in The Haight and in North Beach, in the Castro and out in the Avenues. We crossed the bay frequently — to attend art exhibits or the theater, to go out to dinner, to shop, to visit.  I clearly remember “The Summer of Love” in 1967 and felt comfortable with the way we had all morphed into the rallies and peace marches of the early seventies.  However, the Berkeley student “protests” — not so much.

In the late seventies, long after Charlie had cut his hair, and after he had graduated from Cal Arts in Valencia and had moved to L.A., I came  north to Oysterville.  It was a bit of a shock to hear what people thought of “California Girls” — of what they thought my lifestyle had been like.  It was a lot like what I read this morning on Wikipedia…  Go figure.


  1. Jane E Smith

    I lived in SF from 1969-1972. My then-husband was in medical school at UCSF and I was a grad student at UC Berkeley. We lived right in the hub of the city. It was glorious. Coming from conservative southern CA, I did not find it a city of radicals and drugs. My memories are of getting into ACT performances at student rush rates, lollygagging in GG Park, having enough cash on hand to spend 5 weeks in Europe….while we were still students. Biking in wine country, student rates at museums…..and lots of Chinese food which seemed cheaper than eating at home! I left SF in 73 for more graduate school at UW, but my brother set up home there in Noe Valley in 1975, so SF has always been our home-away. However, this year he decided to make his permanent residence in Honolulu, where he has long had a condo. I will miss my second home, though I have a son in Berkeley.

  2. Nanci main

    What a fabulous photo!
    I still am fascinated that I grew up in Castro Valley in the full tilt hippie era and probably crossed paths with you.
    Life can be so fascinating as we discover our webs of connection!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *