The Way Back: The Love-ins

The Romans might have called 1968 an annus horribilis—a horrid year, full of tumult, protest, and violence. In order to counteract the anxiety and disillusionment many young Americans felt at the time (due in part no doubt to the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy as well as the escalation of the Vietnam War) student activists at UT organized a series of “love-ins.” Channeling their inner flower-power, students organized these events on the patio of the Texas Union, as well as in partnership with locals at Zilker Park and Wooldridge Square.

An emblem of the California hippie subculture, love-ins were expressions of affection for one’s fellow human beings—places where human chains might be formed or “Kum Ba Yah” might be sung. Some love-ins had a seedier side, but the ones at the Texas Union seems to have been more about free cookies and lollipops than hard drugs or free love. In true Austin style, the love-ins were essentially free gigs with a fair helping of goodwill to go around. On the menu: balloons, bubbles, flowers, lollipops, dancing, hugging, and petting. (Puppies were brought in by organizers for this purpose.) Not everyone was happy though. One elderly gentleman walking by one shouted, “Go to Russia.” The hippies, quite amused, responded with laughter and peace signs.


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