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They Feed the Hunger for Yesteryears

August 14, 1986|THOMAS K. ARNOLD

SAN DIEGO — On one of his last albums, acid-rock survivor Country Joe McDonald wistfully bemoaned the passing of the tune in, turn on, drop out generation in the song, "Bring Back the '60s, Man."

At the same time, he called for a return to the flower-power values, beliefs and life styles he and his band, the Fish, had so fervently sung about at Woodstock.

McDonald--the fire of the rebellious 1960s still flaring in his eyes--is not the only one who has been doing a fair amount of looking back in recent years.

In the midst of the Impersonal 1980s, the air of nostalgia is thicker than ever. Fading flower children like McDonald, tired of stifling the carefree attitudes of their younger years, are inhaling it in deep, drawn-out breaths. They're letting their hair grow long again, dusting off their old Jimi Hendrix albums and scouting the want ads for Mustang convertibles.

Graying James Deans, knee-deep in six-figure mortgages and college tuitions, are likewise enraptured by the scent of nostalgia, which carries along with it memories of Saturday nights at the drive-in, of chaperoned sock hops and poodle skirts, of flattops, black leather jackets and "Rock Around the Clock."

And still older types--World War II veterans, survivors of the Great Depression--are equally eager to recapture the golden days of Swing, cinema and fashion.

Enterprising businessmen around the world have taken note of all this. Miniskirts from the 1960s, pleated pants from the '50s, and blazers with padded shoulders from the '40s have all made fashion comebacks. The blow-dry look has been replaced with crew cuts and ducktails. New wave bands freely admit that the basis for their sound comes from the simple, innocent rock 'n' roll of the 1950s and '60s.

But to some people, that's not enough. They want the real thing, not imitations: the real fashions, the real music, the real artifacts, signs and symbols of their past.

Here are just some of the places around San Diego where that past can not only be relived, but where it has never left.

Miniskirts, Go-Go Boots

Grandma's closet never yielded as many goodies as you'll find at Wear It Again, Sam, one of several vintage clothing stores around San Diego.

A visit to the Park Boulevard store Kristine Anderson has operated for 14 years is a fashion trip through time.

In the front is pop apparel from the 1960s. There are shelves of Beatle boots and racks of bowling shirts, miniskirts, lettermen jackets, sharkskin suits and even a pair of paisley pajamas.

Farther back are racks of clothes from the 1950s--circle skirts and crinolines, pleated pants--and, from the 1940s, wool blazers with padded shoulders and tuxedos with tails.

All the way in the rear are the real old-fashioned fashions: gracious lace, silk and velvet evening gowns from the 1930s; audacious beaded dresses from the 1920s, and, inside glass display racks, flowing Victorian gowns of white lace.

Aside from a few clearly labeled reproductions, Anderson said, everything's original--the result of countless visits to swap meets, auctions, estate sales and manufacturers' warehouses.

The penchant for old clothes, Anderson said, isn't limited to any one age group.

"We get teens who romanticize about the 1960s because so much of the music they listen to is influenced by '60s bands," she said. "We get people who want to make their own personal fashion statement, Baby Boomers who wear old clothes to costume parties, and members of car clubs who want to wear clothes that fit in with their cars."

In most instances, she said, her customers keep coming back because they have found they can purchase the original fashions for a lot less than the reproductions offered at other stores.

"Almost every day, someone asks me when is the fad for old clothes going to be over," Anderson said. "And I always remind them that as long as designers keep stealing from the past--which they do every season--I'll be in business."

Formica Counters, Gravy

At Rudford's Restaurant on El Cajon Boulevard, a real "Happy Days" diner, it's thumbs down on California cuisine--and on California cuisine prices.

For just over four bucks, you can get the Thursday Special: a hearty lunch of roast pork, stuffing, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes and a salad. It's all made from scratch, and it's brought to your table by a motherly waitress who won't bring you dessert until you've cleaned off your plate.

"We pride ourselves on the home-cooked food and on the homey atmosphere," said Maryanne Carlin, the operations manager. "You don't get that at very many places, and our regulars appreciate us for it."

The world around it may have changed, but Rudford's--a City Heights institution since 1949--hasn't changed at all.

There are the same Formica counters and imitation leather bar stools and booths, the same neon sign that sticks out from the rooftop, the same round windows, the same linoleum floor and many of the same waitresses.

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