From The Street Fair 1968 – To The Hatchery 1974

Painting by Dian Law

Synanon purchased one of the oldest buildings in San Francisco, an abandoned warehouse at 110 Lombard St at Sansome St.  This oil painting by Dian Law was done from a photograph taken at the Street Fair in 1968, ( the picture was painted in 1985).   There were rock bands in the courtyard packed with people enjoying the music.  Inside was food and sales of everything from antique rugs to homemade jewelry.  The picture shows people in the typical clothes of the era.  The small detail shows the Kissing Booth where three women were selling chaste kisses for $1.00 or any donation over and above that.  The woman in the middle Sandy Rogershare was then known as Sandy Arkin.  (See Love Letter to Sandy). On the other side of the door was the Bald Head Barber Shop offering free shaved heads for men.   I volunteered to shave my head but was curtly told it was for men only, ( it would be another seven years till women could participate in this tradition.) The bald heads were in protest for two Synanon members who had been sent to jail for refusing a drug test.  They were testing the case that Synanon was built on trust and community, being there was enough to show they were clean.  Eventually, this way of thinking was accepted by authorities.

Here is an interview with the artist Dian Law about her memories of the Seawall.

Booth at Street Fair
Detail from Painting of Synanon Street Fair 1968 by Dian Law – The Kissing Booth

Love Letter to Sandy from Elena

Mother and baby

She was one of three women in a kissing booth.  She was getting all the action.  The one in the middle.  Mocha colored, an explosion of soft curly hair, framing the wide grin on her face.  She was glowing, laughing, radiating.

The kissing booth, $1.00 a kiss, was on the left side of the entrance to the Synanon Seawall warehouse and Bald Head Barbershop was on the right the day of the Synanon Street Fair.  I was 18 and had hitched a ride with a guy on a motorcycle who had taken me there.  Didn’t even know Synanon was in The City. There was music and dancing and art for sale.  Free haircuts for men who wanted to shave their heads in support of a Synanon cause.

Nine months later I learned her name was Sandy. I watched her play a Synanon Game in Oakland.  I admired her courage, guts, humor, and intelligence, before knowing she would become a dear friend and sister.

<Elena and Gabriel in the Nesting Room at Pinehurst Hatchery Photo by Alice Martin

Still Friends after all these years
Sandy, Elena and Cory still write, laugh, and plot together

The Street Fair was in 1968.  I moved into Synanon in 1969 in Oakland and was rotated to Tomales Bay and The Academy five months later. I married Pete Gendel in 1971.  We were sent to Santa Monica in 1974 where our son Gabriel was born.  When our marriage ended, I returned to Tomales  Bay and the Hatchery where deep friendships were formed with other mothers, especially  Sandy and Valerie.  Bonds were formed with each baby we nursed. This was my happiest time in Synanon.  We shared a beautiful Craftsman, three-bedroom house, overlooking Tomales Bay. Our house was called Pinecrest as it was under a huge pine tree.  An identical house less than 100 feet away was called Bayview.   The Nesting room was for the mother of the youngest baby.  The room had a fireplace, a rocking chair by the window, and a beautiful hardwood floor.  I sat in peace and safety rocking and nursing my babe looking out at the Bay, through the fringes of the pine. In complete contentment, my nose nestled on the sweet-smelling spot at the top of his soft head.  We all shared in nursing and childcare and remain connected, both mothers and children, today.

Sandy’s children Harold and Cassidy viewing her photo hanging in SF MOMA

One response to “From The Street Fair 1968 – To The Hatchery 1974”

  1. Gary L Williams Avatar
    Gary L Williams

    Nicely written Elena.

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