SAN FRANCISCO — It's been a long, strange trip to the cash register.
They saw their share of drug parties, rock concerts and antiwar demonstrations. But on Saturday, more than 300 items from the "Summer of Love" were sold at an auction for hundreds to thousands of dollars each--prices that the freewheeling hippies of the '60s probably never imagined.
The Summer of Love evolved out of 1967's "Be-In" gathering in Golden Gate Park, where LSD guru Timothy Leary encouraged tens of thousands to turn on, tune in and drop out.
"What I set out to do is basically to celebrate the art, music and culture of a time that changed the way we live now," said auction organizer Eric Christiansen. "Also, I wanted to use money coming out of that era to cure some ills."
Absent from the auction block was the much-hyped house where Jerry Garcia and members of the Grateful Dead lived in the late '60s. The Victorian home in the Haight-Ashbury district was to have been offered at a minimum bid of $990,000.
But there was no interest beforehand, said Laura Taylor, a real estate agent with Pacific Union.
"It didn't move, so we're happy to stay there," said Michael Felice, 60, whose family has lived in the house for 20 years. "It would have been like giving up a good friend."
Items related to the Grateful Dead and the Beatles generated the most interest. Among the counterculture memorabilia sold: Garcia's handwritten lyrics to "Loose Lucy," which drew $4,900; two postcards from John Lennon and Yoko Ono to Black Panther leader Huey Newton, $6,300; and a Garcia acrylic painting that went for three times its estimated value at $6,325.
"It's a little emotional for me," said Stacy Kreutzmann Quinn, 33, daughter of Grateful Dead member Billy Kreutzmann. "It's kind of weird to have these family items up for auction."
Quinn pointed to a leather medicine bag that keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKiernan used to carry drugs backstage--and drew $3,700 on Saturday.
"Pigpen was my first baby sitter, for Christ's sakes," she said.
Everyone who donated items to the auction was under contract to give a percentage of the proceeds to local charities, including the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic.
The high profits came as a pleasant surprise to many.
"I didn't realize there would be such a market or interest in the '60s," said Grant Jacobs, 49, whose portfolio of black-and-white photographs from the era sold for about $2,000. "In those days, nobody was thinking of that. If I had been thinking of that, I probably would have taken more pictures. We were all just people being part of a scene."
Jacobs and Quinn joined a small crowd in the lobby of the Butterfield & Butterfield auction house for an impromptu reunion of survivors of that scene. While people in suits shelled out thousands in the silence of the auction room, these Summer of Love veterans laughed and traded stories.
"We live in the '90s in a capitalist society, so none of this surprises me," said Chet Helms, promoter and organizer of the 30th anniversary Summer of Love concert, scheduled for Oct. 12 in San Francisco.