Arivaca: a land of peace, love and rock ‘n roll

by Mary Kasulaitis

There once was a time of great change. During the 1960s and 70s America underwent a drastic overhaul of politics, social norms, religious affiliations and cultural practices. Most of the followers of this movement were young people who traveled the country, hitchhiking or whatever, going from place to place, searching for answers. Some of them came to Arivaca.

There are people who live here now who were in Greenwich Village, at Woodstock, hung out at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, gave out flowers on street corners, knew Weathermen in Wisconsin, went to the Gathering of the Tribes, followed the Rainbow people, traveled the craft fairs, or in other ways were in the absolute middle of the counter-culture movement.  They represent many of the values that grew out of the rebellion in those years. There are any number of different definitions of the term hippie. Many people just think negatively of drugs and student riots, but we need to remember the reasons behind the rejection of the culture that had developed after World War II.  Rejected were:  racism, segregation, Joseph McCarthy style fear and control, unthinking exploitation of nature and animals, discrimination against hiring or educating women, gays, Jews, Catholics and other groups. Hippies denounced the consumerism which, spurred on by advertising, had taken over people’s interests and drove their competitive lifestyles. Questions were raised as to who our enemies were and why we were at war in Vietnam.  There was women’s liberation. Like primitive Christianity, Eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism promoted peace and love; but churches had buildings and rigid exclusionary doctrines that had to be supported with money.  Most importantly, for hippies, individual freedom was the ultimate goal. For many people, freedom lay in owning very little. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.”  People began to demand the right to be free–there was no one right way or wrong way to live, eat, dress, sing or practice religion or politics. Some had no goals: “You went with the flow–you didn’t have expectations.”   Being instead of doing. “Living in the present moment,” Sunny said. Spurred on by music, which became a driving and unifying force behind the revolutionary changes, our country became a different place.  Looking around us now, we can see the results of the generation that changed everything, both the benefits and detriments, and we watch as our culture’s pendulum swings.

Frequently rejecting their parents’ lifestyle, and traveling (often hitchhiking) across the country from one place to another, young people searched for their perfect haven.  Some of them found it here. Bobbie’s first sight of cows walking down a totally deserted Main Street gave her a vision of the peaceful life.  One might say that Arivaca was the perfect place for hippies. One could tune in, turn on and drop out and no one’s the wiser.  There were old vacant mining camps and shacks in the hills, recently inhabited by old prospectors like Walt Edwards, Tomás Torres and George Goehring who had died or moved away, leaving their places unoccupied. Why not move in?  And what is more perfect than a patented mining claim (privately owned land) totally surrounded by National Forest on which you could camp?

The late sixties-early seventies were a different world. Arivaca was at one of its lowest points of population in those days, but the community of hippies, most of whom were from somewhere else like snow birds, grew together. Many of them came to Ruby, a deserted mining camp with habitable buildings, and California Gulch, where Tom & Eileen Shook and John Godsil & Debra Rosegrove had bought a mining claim. The Lower Lakes was a good camping spot. Quite a few people set up tents or teepees and moved in. Some people lived in buses.

The women raised their children with help from each other, learning midwifery, gardening,  herbalism, goat-raising,  how to find and prepare good natural foods, living a life similar in many ways to homesteaders. They practiced kind, peaceful living and opened their homes to strangers. Although not really a commune with no group philosophy, it was communal living by choice and freely made. There were couples and families, not just free love. People learned that being loving means setting limits, because there is karma. Was this a life of ease? Not hardly. The days were filled with chopping wood, keeping fires going, hauling water, grinding grain, making fry bread, cooking, gardening, milking goats, dipping candles, yoga and caring for children. In the early days these were mostly young city kids, unprepared for what amounted to an extended camping trip in dry rugged canyons. Living in the hills like the prospectors. The ones who couldn’t take it moved on. The ones who stayed spent time hiking, discussing spirituality, philosophy, politics, practicing old time crafts like leatherwork, carving, dyeing cloth, beadwork and other Native American crafts, carving gourds, weaving and making music.  As Jerry Garcia said, “What we’re thinking about is a peaceful planet. We’re not thinking about anything else. We’re not thinking about any kind of power. We’re not thinking about any kind of struggles. We’re not thinking about revolution or war or any of that. That’s not what we want. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life. A simple life, a good life. And think about moving the whole human race ahead a step, or a few steps or half a step.”

Terry was the caretaker at Ruby from about 1968-72. He first learned about the place from some hitchhikers. He thought, “Here’s an adventure!” Then he came back several times to visit before he finally came here for good, feeling a strong draw from the place.  Most people who stayed have a strong attraction for place. They just know this is the place for them. One weekend Terry showed up and the caretakers were gone. Just like that. He asked Marge at the Mercantile and she said they had gone to South America!  So Terry became the caretaker. At that time he had given away his truck, so he had to depend on others to get a ride to town. It sure was fun, those times, he said. For a long time he didn’t even have a bedroll, just a big long leather coat with a sheepskin lining. And a big white dog. It was primitive living–getting by on very little. Jeannie remembered: “We’d go to the Warehouse in Tucson and get a big load of food. 50 pounds of rice, flour, beans, oatmeal, carrots–staples. A big block of wax, and we’d make candles– and that would hold us for the month. People would come out from Tucson on the weekends and bring food and share it.” At the swap meet in Tucson you could trade for things and meet like-minded people.  A guy came up in a big truck and asked Rex for directions. It was Terry.  She said, “I don’t know you.” He said, “Sure you do, I’m just one of the brothers.’

Obe, Hal, Mike, Brad, and Tom always had their guitars along. Singing and playing music came together. Brought people together. Rock, bluegrass and folk music, playing and writing songs. Any number of bands have emerged from the musicians who moved here.

Obe liked what he saw in the Gulch and asked Tom if he could set up a teepee.  He agreed, so Obe went off to get the materials, then spread the cloth out in a field and sewed it himself, eventually (in the 17 years he lived there) making four teepees.  To earn money for this, Obe and Sabrina made and sold candles at the Coop in Tucson where they did yard work and house cleaning to buy food and gas, then would come back and stay here until they needed to earn more. People would go to the Tucson swap meet to sell things they made. Eventually, the gulch people moved to Arivaca where life was a little less rough. A not-uneducated group of souls, they joined their neighbors and helped Arivaca grow, and so we got the Gadsden Coffee and Cafe Aribac, Arivaca Community Center, Arivaca Arts Council, C Hues’ murals, Alan’s internet–, Blue Sky Learning Center, Sarah’s Bakery, the Clinic and the Library, the Main Street Artists’ Coop, Hal’s Woodworking, Obe’s Solar power, Kevin’s Recycling, yoga, the cooperative buying club,  Ellen’s tie dye, Robert and Nancy’s mesquite furniture,  Marian’s Farmers Market and the Arivaca Action Center, thanks to these folks called hippies.

What has remained in Arivaca with the people who came here in the 60s and 70s is an evolved sense of lifestyle: living as best you can within the constraints of the economy but maintaining the ideals of freedom, acceptance and the quiet life in the country. Where else can you find signs that remind you of PEACE, LOVE and COMMUNITY!

Please join us on January 26, 2019 at the Old Schoolhouse from 10 am to 4 pm to celebrate the world of hippies at the Arivaca Memories and Music Festival, which this year features the 1960s and 70s. Gertie N the Boyz will again perform at 12 noon, following the Mariachi Estrella. Not hippie music, but it’ll wake us up! Then Banjo Bob will lead Arivaca musicians in playing for the rest of the afternoon. We’ll have historic displays at the Schoolhouse, with photos of the Gulch and that other world. A meditation corner. Food of all kinds, crafts, games, something for everyone!

6 Comments on “Arivaca: a land of peace, love and rock ‘n roll

  1. I really miss those days, living in the cave in the gulch, hitching into Arivaca to clean the bar and restrooms which Louie paid us for in burgers and fries! I so would have loved to have been there to visit with old friends…nowhere else has felt like home as much as Arivaca and the gulch and Ruby…those were the days my friends…. Alice Enlow


    • Hello Alice, Nancy who lived in the gulch with Jim…do you remember…just came upon this…hope you are well. Many years ago saw Tom and he said you and Dale still lived in Arivaca. I’m in Sedona if you ever get up this way.


  2. I miss the loving magic and people that I’ve come to know as “Arivaca”. Have a nice celebration and please post pictures!!


  3. I liked the swimming hole that was so deep you could dive from the cliff up above and stlll not touch bottom.


  4. Mary Kasulaitus’s skillfull writing brings readers back into an era many (including me) wish they had experienced. Thank you Mary.


  5. This was such a sweet read! I was one of the children who grew up in the gulch…i remember so many hot afternoons hanging out at the well, smelling the sweet aromas coming from the cooking ramada. I enjoyed the swimming holes, learning to bead and make granola over a camp fire and milking the goats, just to name a few. Thank you Mary for writing this my heart is full of love…..Laura (Sabrina and Obe’s daughter)


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