Kaliflower Introduction

This text owes its existence to Covid. At the outset of the pandemic, a group of friends who had lived together in a close-knit group of communes in the 1960s and 1970s started meeting weekly via Zoom. We had initially decided to try Zoom since we couldn’t convene our traditional in-person birthday party for James Tressler, one of the original members of the Angels of Light Free Theater commune. After that first online meeting in 2020, we have met continuously on a weekly basis to the present. The group decided on an informal format for our zooms consisting of individual check-ins, a free-for-all discussion, and a period set aside for presentations. All the members of the group are artists or writers or theater people or in some other way creative in their lives. We decided to entertain ourselves by sharing our work in half-hour presentations. My contribution has been a series of history talks of which the following text is the latest.

A Bit About Me

I fell in love with history while living in the Kaliflower Commune in San Francisco in 1971 — this despite my utter revulsion for the subject in high school. The commune’s library was stocked with the Loeb Classics, courtesy of Irving Rosenthal, founder of the commune. After reading Herodotus and Thucydides, I was hooked. When my future husband and I left the commune in 1976, I began creating an archive of the San Francisco Diggers and the movement of Free communes which they spawned of which many were queer identified. Fast forward forty years. After retiring from a career as an information technology professional, I went back to school and earned a B.A. in History at San Francisco State University. I then enrolled in the graduate program and completed all the course requirements two months before Covid hit. My master’s thesis was to be an oral history of the Kaliflower Commune, but the pandemic shutdown made that infeasible. It’s interesting how misfortune can open new paths. The weekly zooms with ex-members of Kaliflower, Hunga Dunga, Angels of Light, Cockettes, Black Bear, Willard Street, 529 Castro Street, and Hearthshire communes became a form of group oral history. What an interesting discovery — group oral history as antidote for the frailties of individual memories. That will be a topic for another essay.