Back To The Land Bohemians








backto5My friend, Peter Shapiro, was the founder of the Acid Rock Group ‘The Marbles’ who played at the Longshoreman’s Hall in 1965. A thousand original hippies were there. A Tribute to Dr. Strange. That is Peter on a bridge in Venice California with Keith Purvis, Tim O’Connor and his girlfriend, and myself.

Keith was the lover of Berry Zorthian, the daughter of the artist, Jirayr Zorthian, who was titled ‘The Last Bohemian’. He was influenced by the artist Thomas Hart Benton, whose cousin, Garth Benton, married my late sister, the world-famous artist known as Rosamond. Christine Rosamond Benton lived in the ‘Idles Hands’ commune in San Francisco along with the Zorthian Sisters, and Nancy Hamren, a good friend of the Kesey family. Betty Williams-Zorntian paid the rent. That is Betty playing the guitar to her children. In 1965, when I was eighteen, I dropped acid at Betty’s home in Pasadena, and the Zorthian Ramch.

My grandfather was an author and took part in the ‘Back to the Land’ movement along with his friend, Otto Rayburn. These writers were ‘Regionalists’ as was Thomas Benton.

Above is a photo of me that I sent to my newfound daughter, Heather Hanson. I am offering her and her mother a cabin to live in on the McKenzie. In weeks my minor child disappeared from my life. She had been lured away by my brother, Mark Presco, who took over our sister’s artistic legacy the day after she drowned, because Christine owed him money. Mark told me he had leant Rosamond $3,000 dollars. He was furious when she filed for Bankruptcy. Mark thinks most people are parasites, and no one takes from him. This misogynist and racist destroyed a historic and creative legacy. He tried to destroy me, and wipe out my history. This ugly man had captured beauty. He asked me to include much of his hateful rant in my autobiography. When I refused, he vanquished me from the family. Vicki Presco, and her son, Shamus Dundon, went along with this attempt to own movie rights to one of the most famous women artists in history. Christine was a hippie. Her women were hip Bohemians. After beholding the clothes in the hippie commune in the Vancouver Museum, I found the bedroom for the beauty in Rosamond’s painting ‘Denim and Silk’ seen above.

Berry owned a 1956 Ford Thunderbird that was used in my novel ‘The Gideon Computer’. Above is a photo of Peter Shapiro and Tim O’Connor goofing around in front of my home in Alameda. Both were my roommates in this house, and the Victorian that housed the ‘Loading Zone’ .

Betty was heir to the Williams Soap Company. She was a patron of Bohemians from a fine Connecticut family.

My brother is a millionaire who used his money to lure my daughter into his camp. For a $3,000 dollars loan he took control of a artistic dynasty, and much history he knew nothing about – and in a jealous rage – destroyed it. The Art World never had such villain since Hitler.

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

“I am a white man who has grown weary of the guilt trip laid on us by women and people of color. Indeed, I have grown intolerant. To many my intolerance makes me a bigot, my bigotry a sexist and racist. So be it. I hate no one because of their race or gender. I wish everyone health, wealth and happiness. However, I reject the white man’s burden. It is not our responsibility to provide the world with economic parity to white men. They have the responsibility to make their parts of the world as desirable as we have made ours, and to provide their children with the same quality of life we provide ours. We must take back our culture. The future of the world, our countries and our cultures cannot be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.”

Mark Presco

“When they returned to San Francisco at the end of Summer, 1965, Red Dog participants Luria Castell, Ellen Harman and Alton Kelley created a collective called “The Family Dog.”[7] Modeled on their Red Dog experiences, on October 16, 1965, The Family Dog hosted “A Tribute to Dr. Strange” at Longshoreman’s Hall.[10][11] Attended by approximately 1,000 of the Bay Area’s original “hippies,” this was San Francisco’s first psychedelic rock performance, a costumed dance and light show featuring Jefferson Airplane, The Great Society, and The Marbles. Two other events followed before year’s end, one at California Hall and one at the Matrix.[7]

In 1965 I attended a party at the Zorthian Ranch with my childhood friend, Nancy Hamren (whose grandmother owned the recipe for Nancy’s Yogurt) and Barry and Seyburn Zorthian, the daughter’s of the artist, Jirayr H. Zorthian, who was influenced by Thomas Hart Benton. Thomas is the cousin of the muralist, Garth Benton who married my late sister, the world famous artist, Christine Rosamond Benton. These four women and myself would live in a commune in San Fancisco, our rent paid by Betty Zorthian, the heiress of the William’s Shave fortune. Seyburn is an artist.

Zorthian and I discussed art up in his studio while beautiful young L.A. Godesses soared on the trampoline to ‘Gloria’.

We also partied at Betty’s mansion in Pasadena where she kept horses. We dropped LSD that was legal at the time. I did a psychedelic cowboy shoot-out routine with Toby Zorthian’s gun he had for quick-draw lessons he was taking. I did the slow-mo-draw, where the bullet would come out of the barrel real slow, and do very curious things on the way to a cosmic target where it was swallowed up in a parallel universe. I had folks in stiches in my peace-time play on a deadly weapon turned into an instrument of Cosmic Love!

Nancy dated Stanely Augustus Owlsley, and with Christine, they went on a date with Nick Sands who was also a manufacturer of LSD.

Jirayr Zorthian was the Grand Marshall of the Doo Day Parade that may have inspired the Eugene Celebrations Parade. The New Los Angeles Folk Festival reminds me of the Eugene Folk Festival. Our Mayor should declare Altadena our Sister City and conduct a culture swap. Hip folks could stay in L.A. while those folks stay in Eugene.

In 1966, Keith Pruvis, Barry Zorthian, and myself drove Highway 101, from LA to San Francsico, in a 1956 Ford Thunderbird convertable. We were never so free, so full of fun. We were on top of the world.

Nancy the Prankster suggested I write the history of the Hippies. I began ‘The Gideon Computer’ that is about the Last of the Hippies – in the future – who removes the Guilt-Virus put in the Computer Mundi. Pynchon missed the boat in Gravity’s rainbow, where he FOOLS around with a V2 rocket, the same way the Sinclair clan FOOLS around with the most stupid idea ever born in the brain of man, being, Leonardo Da Vinci went to great lengths to hide a W in the Last Supper that is two Vs entwined, and a upside down M, that stands for Mary Magdalene, two Ms that are four upside down V V V V s – and thus proof Jesus sired a daughter – The Daughter of God! This stupid idea spawned a hudred books and a thousand websites, that slammed – MY counter cutlure on the jagged rocks off the coast of the Island of Orkeny, where nothing has happended – ever! The Sinclair Son of God and his wife – ARE BORING!

The back-to-the-land movement calls for occupants of real property to grow food from the land on a small-scale basis for themselves or for others, and to perhaps live on the land while doing so.

The concept was popularized in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century by activist Bolton Hall, who set up vacant-lot farming in New York City and wrote many books on the subject.[1] The practice, however, was strong in Europe even before that time.[2]

It also referred to distributism, a 1920s and 1930s attempt to find a third way between capitalism and socialism.[3] It was later used to refer to a North American social phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s. This latter back-to-the-land movement was a migration from cities to rural areas that took place in the United States, its greatest vigor being before the mid-1970s.

The American social commentator and poet Gary Snyder has related that there have been back-to-the-land population movements throughout the centuries, and throughout the world, largely due to the occurrence of severe urban problems and people’s felt need to live a better life, often simply to survive.[4]

The historian and philosopher of urbanism Jane Jacobs remarked in interview with Stewart Brand that with the Fall of Rome city dwellers re-inhabited the rural areas of the region.

From another point of departure, Yi-Fu Tuan takes a view that such trends have often been privileged and motivated by sentiment. “Awareness of the past is an important element in the love of place,” he writes, in his 1974 book Topophilia. Tuan writes that an appreciation of nature springs from wealth, privilege, and the antithetical values of cities. He argues that literature about land (and, subsequently, about going back to the land) is largely sentimental; “little,” he writes, “is known about farmer’s [sic] attitudes towards nature…” Tuan finds historical instances of the desire of the civilized to escape civilization in the Hellenistic, Roman, Augustan, and Romantic eras, and, from one of the earliest recorded myths, the Epic of Gilgamesh.

North America[edit]

Regarding North America, many individuals and households have moved from urban or suburban circumstances to rural ones at different times; for instance, the economic theorist and land-based American experimenter Ralph Borsodi (author of Flight from the City) is said to have influenced thousands of urban-living people to try a modern homesteading life during the Great Depression.

There was again a fair degree of interest in moving to rural land after World War II. In 1947, Betty MacDonald published what became a popular book, The Egg and I, telling her story of marrying and then moving to a small farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. This story was the basis of a successful comedy film starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray.

The Canadian writer Farley Mowat says that many returned veterans after World War II sought a meaningful life far from the ignobility of modern warfare, regarding his own experience as typical of the pattern. In Canada, those who sought a life completely outside of the cities, suburbs, and towns frequently moved into semi-wilderness environs.

But what made the later phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s especially significant was that the rural-relocation trend was sizable enough that it was identified in the American demographic statistics.

Roots of this movement can perhaps be traced to some of Bradford Angier’s books, such as At Home in the Woods (1951) and We Like it Wild (1963), or perhaps even more compellingly to the 1954 publication of Helen and Scott Nearing’s book, Living the Good Life. This book chronicles the Nearings’ move to an older house in a rural area of Vermont and their self-sufficient and simple lifestyle. In their initial move, the Nearings were driven by the circumstances of the Great Depression and influenced by earlier writers, particularly Henry David Thoreau. Their book was published six years after A Sand County Almanac, by the ecologist and environmental activist Aldo Leopold, was published, in 1948. Influences aside, the Nearings had planned and worked hard, developing their homestead and life according to a twelve-point plan they had drafted.

The narrative of Phil Cousineau’s documentary film Ecological Design: Inventing the Future asserts that in the decades after World War II, “The world was forced to confront the dark shadow of science and industry… There was a clarion call for a return to a life of human scale.” By the late 1960s, many people had recognized that, living their city or suburban lives, they completely lacked any familiarity with such basics of life as food sources (for instance, what a potato plant looks like, or the act of milking a cow) — and they felt out of touch with nature, in general. While the back-to-the-land movement was not strictly part of the counterculture of the 1960s, the two movements had some overlap in participation.

Many people were attracted to getting more in touch with the basics just mentioned, but the movement was also fueled by the negatives of modern life: rampant consumerism, the failings of government and society, including the Vietnam War, and a perceived general urban deterioration, including a growing public concern about air and water pollution. Events such as the Watergate scandal and the 1973 energy crisis contributed to these views. Some people rejected the struggle and boredom of “moving up the company ladder.” Paralleling the desire for reconnection with nature was a desire to reconnect with physical work. Farmer and author Gene Logsdon expressed the aim aptly as: “the kind of independence that defines success in terms of how much food, clothing, shelter, and contentment I could produce for myself rather than how much I could buy.”[5]

There was also a segment within the movement who already had a familiarity with rural life and farming, who already had skills, and who wanted land of their own on which they could demonstrate that organic farming could be made practical and economically successful.

Besides the Nearings and other authors writing later along similar lines, another influence from the world of American publishing was the unprecedented, vigorous, and intelligent Whole Earth Catalogs. Stewart Brand and a circle of friends and family began the effort in 1968, because Brand believed that there was a groundswell of biologists, designers, engineers, sociologists, organic farmers, and social experimenters who wished to transform civilization along lines that might be called “sustainable”. Brand and cohorts created a catalog of “tools” – defined broadly to include useful books, design aids, maps, gardening implements, carpentry and masonry tools, metalworking equipment, and a great deal more.

Another important publication was The Mother Earth News, a periodical (originally on newsprint) that was founded a couple years after the Catalog. Ultimately gaining a large circulation, the magazine was focused on how-to articles, personal stories of successful and budding homesteaders, interviews with key thinkers, and the like. The magazine stated its philosophy was based on returning to people a greater measure of control of their own lives.

Many of the North American back-to-the-landers of the 1960s and 1970s made use of the Mother Earth News, the Whole Earth Catalogs and derivative publications. But as time went on, the movement itself drew more people into it, more or less independently of impetus from the publishing world.

Otto Ernest Rayburn was a writer, magazine publisher, and collector of Arkansas and Ozark lore. Vance Randolph, in his introduction to Rayburn’s autobiography, Forty Years in the Ozarks (1957), defined Rayburn as a “dedicated regionalist” and added, “There is no denying that, in the period between 1925 and 1950, Rayburn did more to arouse popular interest in Ozark folklore than all of the professors put together.”

In Kingston, he published his first magazine, Ozark Life: The Mirror of the Ozarks, beginning in June 1925, edited jointly with James T. (Ted) Richmond. The sixteen-page paper struck the tone that continued in virtually every periodical Rayburn ever undertook from then on, a tone that the late twentieth century calls boosterism or hype. Kingston is “Nature’s Beauty Shop,” and the King’s River valley is “one of the fairest dimples in the face of the smiling Ozarks.” He also wrote a column, “Ozark Folkways,” for the Sunday Arkansas Gazette for eight years beginning in 1927, as well as the column “Ozark News Nuggets” in the Sunday Tulsa Tribune.
Rayburn and Richmond sold the magazine in 1931. The same year, in Eminence, Missouri, Rayburn started The Arcadian, sometimes known as The Arcadian Magazine, with the subtitle, “A Journal of the Well-Flavored Earth.” Rayburn wrote much of the material himself, but he also published poetry, fiction, and commentary by other writers. The Arcadian Magazine ceased publication in mid-1932. Rayburn enrolled at East Texas State Teachers College in Commerce, Texas, and published another magazine, Arcadian Life, subtitled, “A Journal of Ozarkian Lore and Pastoral Living,” at Sulphur Springs (Washington County) and Commerce,

Regionalism is an American realist modern art movement that was popular during the 1930s. The artistic focus was from artists who shunned city life, and rapidly developing technological advances, to create scenes of rural life. Regionalist style was at its height from 1930 to 1935, and is best known through the so-called “Regionalist Triumvirate” of Grant Wood in Iowa, Thomas Hart Benton in Missouri, and John Steuart Curry in Kansas. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Regionalist art was widely appreciated for its reassuring images of the American heartland.

However, Regionalism bridged the gap between a completely Abstract art and Academic realism in much the same way that Impressionism and the Post-Impressionists like Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin among others had done in France a generation earlier. The Regionalists prepared the way for Abstract Expressionists to emerge in America. Jackson Pollock’s power as an artist was reinforced and he was encouraged and he benefited from the influence of Thomas Hart Benton in the art classes that Pollock took under Benton; while a student at the Art Students League of New York. Regionalism had a catalytic effect on later American art in a similar way that Post-Impressionism in Europe did via Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and other movements.
In Grant Wood’s pamphlet Revolt Against the City, published in Iowa City, 1935, he asserts that American artists and buyers of art were no longer looking to Parisian culture for subject matter and style. Wood wrote that Regional artists interpret physiography, industry, and psychology of their hometown, and that the competition of these preceding elements creates American culture. He wrote that the lure of the city was gone, and hopes that art of the widely diffused “whole people” would prevail. He cites Thomas Jefferson’s characterization of cities as “ulcers on the body politic.”
Regionalism had a strong influence on popular culture. Regionalist-type imagery appeared in magazine advertisements, and influenced American children’s book illustrators such as Holling Clancy Holling.

The hippie subculture developed as a youth movement that began in the United States during the early 1960s and spread around the world. Its origins can be traced back to classical culture, and to European social movements in the early 20th century i.e.: Fabians and Bohemians. From around 1967, its fundamental ethos — including harmony with nature, communal living, artistic experimentation particularly in music, and the widespread use of recreational drugs — spread around the world.

In fin de siècle Europe, from 1896–1908, a German youth movement known as Der Wandervogel began to grow as a countercultural reaction to the organized social and cultural clubs that centered around German folk music. In contrast to these formal clubs, Wandervogel emphasized amateur music and singing, creative dress, and communal outings involving hiking and camping.[3] Inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Goethe, Hermann Hesse, and Eduard Baltzer, Wandervogel attracted thousands of young Germans who rejected the rapid trend toward urbanization and yearned for the pagan, back-to-nature spiritual life of their ancestors.[4]
During the first several decades of the 20th century, these beliefs were introduced to the United States as Germans settled around the country, some opening the first health food stores. Many moved to Southern California where they could practice an alternative lifestyle in a warm climate. In turn, young Americans adopted the beliefs and practices of the new immigrants. One group, called the “Nature Boys”, took to the California desert, raised organic food, and espoused a back-to-nature lifestyle. eden ahbez, a member of this group, wrote a hit song called Nature Boy, which was recorded in 1947 by Nat King Cole, popularizing the homegrown back-to-nature movement to mainstream America. Eventually, a few of these Nature Boys, including the famous Gypsy Boots, made their way to Northern California in 1967, just in time for the Summer of Love in San Francisco.[5]
Beat Generation[edit]
The Beat Generation, especially those associated with the San Francisco Renaissance gradually gave way to the Sixties counterculture, accompanied by a shift in terminology from “beatnik” to “hippie.” Many of the original Beats remained active participants, notably Allen Ginsberg, who became a fixture of the anti-war movement. On the other hand, Jack Kerouac broke with Ginsberg and criticized the 1960s protest movements as an “excuse for spitefulness.” Bob Dylan became close friends with Allen Ginsberg, and Ginsberg became close friends with Timothy Leary. Both Leary and Ginsberg were introduced to LSD by Michael Hollingshead in the early 1960s, and both became instrumental in popularizing psychedelic substances to the hippie movement.
In 1963, Ginsberg was living in San Francisco with Neal Cassady and Charles Plymell.[6] Around that time, Ginsberg connected with Ken Kesey, who was participating in CIA sponsored LSD trials while a student at Stanford. Cassady drove the bus for Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, and he attempted to recruit Kerouac into their group, but Kerouac angrily rejected the invitation and accused them of attempting to destroy the American culture he celebrated[citation needed].
According to Ed Sanders, the change in the public label from “beatnik” to “hippie” occurred after the 1967 Human Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, where Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Michael McClure led the crowd in chanting “Om”. Ginsberg was also at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention, and was friends with Abbie Hoffman and other members of the Chicago Seven. Stylistic differences between beatniks, marked by somber colors, dark shades and goatees, gave way to colorful psychedelic clothing and long hair worn by hippies. While the beats were known for “playing it cool” and keeping a low profile, hippies became known for displaying their individuality.
One early book hailed as evidencing the transition from “beatnik” to “hippie” culture, was Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña, brother-in-law of Joan Baez. Written in 1963, it was published April 28, 1966—two days before its author was killed in a motorcycle crash.
Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters[edit]
The Merry Pranksters were a group who originally formed around American novelist Ken Kesey, considered one of the most prominent figures in the psychedelic movement, and sometimes lived communally at his homes in California and Oregon. Notable members include Kesey’s best friend Ken Babbs, Neal Cassady, Mountain Girl (born Carolyn Adams but best known as Mrs. Jerry Garcia), Wavy Gravy, Paul Krassner, Stewart Brand, Del Close, Paul Foster, George Walker, and others. Their early escapades were chronicled by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters are remembered chiefly for the sociological significance of a lengthy roadtrip they took in 1964, traveling across the United States in a psychedelically painted school bus enigmatically labeled Further, and for the “Acid Tests”. Kesey believed that psychedelics were best used as a tool for transforming society as a whole, and believed that if a sufficient percentage of the population had the psychedelic experience then revolutionary social and political changes would occur. Therefore, they made LSD available to anyone interested in partaking – most famously through the “electric kool-aid” made available at a series of “Acid Tests”; musical and multi-media events where participants were given “acid”, the street name for LSD. The tests were held at various venues in California, and were sometimes advertised with colorful crayoned signs asking “Can you pass the acid test?” The first Acid Test was held in Palo Alto, California in November 1965. (LSD was legal in the United States until October 6, 1966.) The young psychedelic music band the Grateful Dead supplied the music during these events.
Red Dog Experience[edit]
Main article: Red Dog Experience
The Red Dog Saloon was a bar and music venue located in the isolated, old-time mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. In April 1963, Chandler A. Laughlin III established a kind of tribal, family identity among approximately fifty people who attended a traditional, all-night peyote ceremony which combined a psychedelic experience with traditional Native American spiritual values.[7]
During the summer of 1965, Laughlin recruited much of the original talent that led to a unique amalgam of traditional folk music and the developing psychedelic rock scene.[7] He and his cohorts created what became known as The Red Dog Experience, featuring previously unknown musical acts – Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Charlatans, Grateful Dead and others. There was no clear delineation between “performers” and “audience” and the music, psychedelic experimentation, unique sense of personal style, and Bill Ham’s first primitive light shows combined to create a new sense of community.[8]

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Back To The Land Bohemians

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    Zorthian fled the Armenian Geneocide, and died a General of the Armninian Army in exile. He was titled ‘The Last Bohemian’. In 1965 I attended a party at the Zorthian Ranch with my childhood friend, Nancy Hamren (whose grandmother owned the recipe for Nancy’s Yogurt) and Barry and Seyburn Zorthian, the daughter’s of the artist, Jirayr H. Zorthian, who was influenced by Thomas Hart Benton. Thomas is the cousin of the muralist, Garth Benton who married my late sister, the world famous artist, Christine Rosamond Benton. These four women and myself would live in a commune in San Fancisco, our rent paid by Betty Zorthian, the heiress of the William’s Shave fortune. Seyburn is an artist.

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