The May 20-21, 2017, Wall Street Journal article “Suddenly, That Summer” by Bob Cooper describing the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967 brought back memories, especially as one of the article’s photos featured the Jefferson Airplane performing that summer of 1967 in Golden Gate Park.
Although the summer of 1967 I was not in San Francisco, the summer before I had seen the Jefferson Airplane perform in San Francisco when I visited my high school newspaper’s advisor spending the summer in Sausalito. I went off to college (Michigan State University) in the fall of 1966 with a Singer turntable for which my father had negotiated and on which I would later play my two Jefferson Airplane albums before people in the Midwest had even heard of the group.
The summer of 1967 I spent at Harvard Summer School taking two English literature courses, learning to sail on the Charles River, and having a later curfew than at MSU. My freshman year at MSU (1966-1967) female students had to be in their dorms by 11:30 p.m. during the school week and 1:00 a.m. on Friday nights and Saturday nights. (Male students had no curfew.) At Harvard that summer of 1967 female students did not have to be in until 2 p.m. on weekends and, as I recall, there was a procedure for signing out ahead of time to stay out even later.
Of course, the scene in Cambridge was probably not as open as in San Francisco that summer of 1967. For example, when my boyfriend (who later became my husband) came to visit me for the weekend he stayed in a lodging house that did not allow women in the rooms.
When I returned to MSU in the fall of 1967 there had been a sea change in the university’s in loco parentis attitude to female students. Curfew had been abolished over the summer! The only problem was that, while dorms now had night watchmen to let female students into the buildings after these were locked at night, sororities did not.
Thus, as I now lived in a sorority house, I had to take my turn waiting up for sisters who came in late on weekend nights (4 a.m. in the morning wasn’t unusual). This was because the MSU Panhellenic Council had decreed that sorority houses could not issue keys to their houses so that no one had to wait up. (Of course sorority houses could not afford night watchmen.)
Part of the rationale for this decision was the assumption that insurances rates would go up if sorority sisters had keys to their houses.
While I had not been in San Francisco for the Summer of Love, I was not going to take waiting up for my sisters lying down!
As I worked Sunday through Thursday afternoons on the editorial staff of MSU’s student newspaper the State News, I decided to use the power of the press. I got on the phone and called insurance companies to learn that insurance for sorority houses would actually decrease because the houses could be locked earlier in the evening. As the keys wouldn’t carry identification, a lost key wouldn’t indicate which sorority house might now be vulnerable.
Writing up a proposal for the Panhellenic Council, I then presented it — and it was approved although non-mandatory rather than required. My only disappointment was that my sorority — Alpha Epsilon Phi — was the second house and not the first to vote to implement the key system.
FYI — I still have my Jefferson Airplane albums from college, although now I also have the group’s songs “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” on CD. To me this music is as powerful in 2017 as it was 50 years ago.
P.S. My women’s friendship novel MRS. LIEUTENANT, which takes place in the spring of 1970 right after the Kent State shootings, includes flashback scenes from my time at MSU. Click here to read reviews of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT — which was a 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist.
© 2017 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller