In spite of the fact that I was working half-time and carrying a full load of classes, I did somehow find time to do and learn things that I never would have imagined I would when I was a lonesome, dateless, bespectacled teenager living five miles outside of Groveland, Florida. My boyfriend Gale was responsible for much of this extracurricular education. I had fallen into a conversation with a nice-looking young man coming out of my linguistics class in the first week or so that I was in Berkeley. We had gone and had a cup of coffee together on the terrace and he had learned that I grew up around boats and love the water. He subsequently took me sailing on a boat owned by UC Berkeley, to which he had access, being a member of the Berkeley sailing club.
When I mentioned this to Gale on our first date, his competitive spirit kicked in (he had played rugby at Yale) and he soon after invited me to go sailing on a boat moored in Sausalito and owned by one of his professors. He had sailed at Yale. The professor allowed certain of his students who sailed to use the boat on weekends when he was not using it, in exchange for maintenance. Since Gale was a master deal-maker and a star of the department, I strongly suspect that he had set up this deal specifically to better court me. During the two-and-a-half years that Gale was more or less my boyfriend, we went many times sailing on the bay, sometimes by ourselves and sometimes with friends. I made it a point to conceal this activity from my lefty friends, knowing that they would tease me unmercifully for engaging in an activity so associated with rich folks. I knew that my argument that it had nothing to do with status in my case would carry no weight with them. I loved the sailing for itself and I have loved sailboats ever since, even though I only once again got the chance to sail.
Gale had a certain amount of money to spend, certainly much more than I had, because after a brief but shining stint as a physicist after Yale, he had received a large scholarship to attend Berkeley and get another Master’s degree, this one in City Planning. He liked to take me out to dine in San Francisco or in Berkeley or in Marin County, places far fancier than any I had ever been to before, or worked for, because as a city planner-in-training he was deeply interested in cities and what could be found in them. He had worked his way through college as a ski instructor, so he also took me with groups of his friends skiing two weekends, at the end of which I did manage to make it down the intermediate slope with him skiing close by, without breaking any of my limbs. We also went camping in the Sierras, the Coast Range and Canadian Cascades, which resulted in my being a bit of a camper and backpacker for sometime after that. Gale bought me my first and only pair of Red Wing hiking boots so that I would be able to safely backpack with him.
We frequented the Steppenwolf and Albatross bars in Berkeley, usually with a group of his friends from the City Planning Department. I enjoyed the mulled wine, the popcorn, and the atmosphere, in spite of the cigarette smoke, (I had given up trying to learn to smoke cigarettes myself) but I did not especially enjoy Gale’s friends and they did not especially enjoy me. After he graduated and got a promising job in New York, and we ascertained that I would never choose New York over Berkeley, my life in Berkeley took a somewhat different direction.
Insofar as I had a social life separate from Gale, I had gravitated toward fellow FSM bustees and artistic types. These were not hard to find in Kroeber Hall, which housed not only the Anthropology Department but also the Art Department and the Anthropology Museum. Eventually, through Hazel, who was an archaeology student, I fell in with a group of graduate archaeology students centered around two very dynamic students of Professor Robert F. Heizer.
Although I was a cultural anthropology student, my friends came almost exclusively from this group of archaeology students—C. William Clewlow, whom we called “Billy,” Richard Cowan and Richard Ambro, “Cowan” and “Ambro,” respectively. Billy was clearly the leader of the group and, I am chagrined to say, I allowed him to influence me far more than I would have admitted at the time. It was not only because of his keen intelligence, mesmerizing articulateness and erudition, but also his Southern accent and his refusal to ditch it.
I had been trying to stamp out my accent for years with a large measure of success, having understood as soon as I left the south that “Southern” and “intelligent” were mutually exclusive in the minds of many people, particularly in the case of females. So, I was fascinated by a person so respected professionally who said everything in a Virginia drawl. Billy’s being Southern was not, in his case, the drawback it would have been for most other Southern men, in terms of relating to me. As he explained to me so carefully, there is a difference between being Southern and being a Southern ex-pat. However, any romantic fantasies I might have had were doomed from the outset, not only because he was, except for brief periods of time, never available, but because he was clearly “plantation South” and I was clearly “wrong side of the tracks.” Nevertheless, I think his understanding that problem may explain why he seemed to take me under his wing and include me, at least in the anthropology student lounge and at political demonstrations, as one of his group.
For the first time in my life I was awarded the great honor of having a nickname that stuck. In Southern culture, if you have not been awarded a nickname that stuck, an affectionate nickname as opposed to a malicious nickname, it is one more sign that you are a misfit. Nicknames given by one’s family are acceptable, but only if they stick. My family could never quite agree on what my nickname should be. My name was Barbara. My mother called me Bobbie or Barbie, my father called me Babs, and my siblings called me Barb. None of these names followed me to school. The only nicknames I got at school were so hateful I cannot bear to repeat them here. I entered Berkeley under my married name, as Barbara Samuels. Within a half-hour of my first conversation with Billy, inevitably about the South, and our escapes from there, he was calling me “Sam” and Sam I was to many people in the department, even after my divorce, when I took back my maiden name.
Until I left Berkeley, no matter who my boyfriend was, who I really wanted was Billy. My lunchtimes and breaks were spent in the Kroeber lounge on the outskirts of whatever group was being entertained by Billy, perhaps with Cowan as straight man. No subject was too outrageous to be discussed, from DesCartes to Disneyland, from the latest dig in the Black Rock Desert to the latest demo on Shattuck Avenue, from the Black Panthers to the progress of my sex life. One’s ability to withstand the teasing of the group and throw it back blow-for-blow was a prerequisite for membership. Had I been found to have changed anything about my life in order to please Billy, it would have been my downfall.
When, one summer, I applied to Professor Heizer to be included in that Summer’s dig in Nevada, led by Billy and Cowen, a somewhat presumptuous thing for a female undergraduate in cultural anthropology to do, his first question to me was, “Do you think you can stand the gaff?” I was able to assure him that I had been standing the gaff from those two for quite a while and that I was a country girl who had camped out quite a bit by then and would not be dismayed by conditions at the dig. Heizer accepted me but, as it turned out, I realized that I could not afford to go on the dig, even though it would presumably have furthered my career in anthropology. I needed my full-time museum summer wages to pay my expenses for the next academic year.
I met other people in Berkeley who were very influential in my evolution in general, in ways other than political. Vera Mae Fredrickson was a co-worker at the museum but I knew her there only casually.
The Fredricksons lived in a beautiful Maybeck-designed house in Berkeley with their children and were close socially with my advisor, Gerald Berreman, and May Diaz, who was later on my Master’s committee. I was surprised when Vera Mae invited me to her house for dinner one night and then deeply grateful when she and Dave proceeded to extract from me the story of my frostbitten childhood, my two expulsions, my divorce and my FSM bust. From that point forward, they were essentially my godparents until I left Berkeley over their strenuous objections. It is not too unreasonable to speculate that there might have been conversations about me between the Fredricksons and Gerry, if not also Professor Diaz, whom I never knew well enough to call May. It would explain why all of them would take an interest in a student not especially impressive academically, by Berkeley standards.
Also in Berkeley, off and on during my time there, was my old friend Roger from Tally, who had been somewhat instrumental in my leaving Mike. He had disappeared some time after our chance meeting in the lobby of the Oakland movie theater and our subsequent reconnection, leaving me to think I would always be grateful to him for that slap in the face, so to speak, for pulling me back from the brink of dull obscurity and returning me, emotionally, to where I belonged, on the cutting edge of social experimentation.
Roger, the king of peripatetic, had returned and, through another strange coincidence, turned out to be acquainted with one of my bosses at the museum, Art Director Alex Nicoloff, with whom I maintained a vaguely flirtatious relationship and whom I suspected was a backslidden beatnik who had found a good job. (My suspicions about Alex were based not only on his mustache and cryptic humor, but on the fact that he kept a noisy espresso machine in the exhibit prep room, quite an unusual thing to do at the time.) It was Roger who taught me how to sneak out of parties, when he took me to a party at Alex’s house, to which I had been invited but was too shy to attend on my own. After we had been there for a while, had spoken to Alex and the few people we knew there and I had ascertained that there would be no dancing, we decided it was time to go. Still a daughter of the Old South, I could not conceive of leaving a party without saying good-bye to my host. I started looking for Alex, but Roger, with his teaching face on, said to me, patiently, “Seriously, why bother? He’ll never notice that we’re gone and neither will anyone else.” Feeling positively daring and most definitely unconventional, I allowed Roger to pull me out the back door and into a world where I could sneak out the back door from any party where I thought it would not be noticed for the rest of my life. I owe the man much.
Roger was in Berkeley off and on most of the time I was there and I even once found him a house share with a good friend of mine in the department. I always found it gratifying that I never again saw on his face the shock I had seen under his beard when he found me at the movie theater. My best memory of him is the day he came over to the apartment I was sharing with my then-significant other, John, with the gloomiest expression and bearing I had ever seen on him. Concerned, I said “Roger, Roger what is it?” He looked at me, stunned, slouched into the sofa and said, “I’m 30. It’s my birthday. I can’t believe it.”
Two years younger than Roger and basically a nice person, I managed to restrain myself from laughing out loud, but John, six years older than me and not nearly as nice, cracked up. When John is laughing, it is hard for anyone not to laugh, so I could not hold it in for more than a minute. Roger continued to look at us unmoved, then got up, squeezed my arm apologetically and made his departure with a nearly visible grey cloud over his head. The next time I saw him, he was over it and he went on to have a long and wonderful life on the coast of Puget Sound.
In addition to people I knew, I met people in Berkeley who were either famous at the time or became famous later. For a hick like me, who once wondered if she would ever escape the sound of semi tires singing down a lonesome highway in the night, that was more than I ever could have imagined. One of these was Theodora Kroeber, author of the well-known book, Ishi in Two Worlds and widow of Alfred Kroeber, for whom the UC anthropology building, Kroeber Hall, is named. She was attending the
preview of the first exhibit that was held when I was there, the Dead Sea Scrolls. I remember being somewhat tongue-tied in her presence, unlike Hazel, who was a faculty brat accustomed to being in the presence of important people, but she had a beautiful smile and was as gracious as they come. Many years later, when I read in Co-Evolution Quarterly her story of meeting and marrying an anthropologist 30 years her junior, I was very happy for her and felt a bit vindicated that so prominent a person in my discipline turned out to be at least as unconventional as I was.
I also met the Norwegian anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl, a man who, contrary to his reputation and mythic name, startled me by being so physically small, albeit every bit as handsome as his pictures. By the time of this encounter, I was quite a bit more confident in my job at the museum and as an anthropology student. And, in this case, I had a bit of a story to tell.
Heyerdahl’s book, Kon-Tiki, describing his voyage from South America to Easter Island in a raft he built from balsa wood, just to prove it could be done, might be the first anthropology book I ever read. There is no doubt that I was drawn to the adventure of it and I probably read it because I had loved sea stories ever since childhood. I had found it quite appealing to imagine just being in the company of people who would consider building a raft of logs and then sailing it to the most isolated place on the planet.
When I took my first anthro course, at OCC, and we were assigned to do a book report on an anthro book of our own choosing, I had proposed, naïve as I was, doing mine on Kon-Tiki. My conservative anthropology teacher had quickly diverted me away from controversial Heyerdahl and toward a more traditional account of the earliest settling of Polynesia. I had no choice but to acquiesce and, in fact, Ienjoyed the assignment immensely. By the end of it, my interest in anthropology had been greatly expanded. When Heyerdahl asked me politely but with interest, if I was an anthropology student, I told him that I was, indeed, and partly because of him. I then proceeded to tell my story to the half-dozen or so people in the office, including him, and finished off by thanking him for the favor. Everyone was delighted, not the least of whom Heyerdahl, who said, “Well, I’m glad I had something to do with bringing you into anthropology, even if it was by such a convoluted route.”
Among my celebrity encounters was one that was a strange memory of the future. That was the occasion when I met Ernest Callenbach, co-author of the counter-cultural sci-fi novel, Ecotopia. Ernest, it turned out, was part of the group of the Fredricksons’ friends that included Gerry Berreman and May Diaz. One night, I went to a party at the Fredrickson’s and did my usual sneak-in-and-hide-in-the-corner-until-the-dancing-starts maneuver. Solo dancing having not yet become a common thing, I generally waited until some man I knew, usually one of my museum or anthro lounge buddies, arrived, whereupon I would draft him into being my partner. Vera Mae, however, was the kind of hostess that had no compunctions about throwing people at each other.
I soon found myself being dragged out of my hiding place, over my protests, by Vera Mae, who said, “Hey, you dance, come with me.” She introduced me, flamboyantly, to her “good friend,” Ernest, who looked even more miserable about it than I did. She then abandoned us on the dance floor and fluttered away to see whom else she could throw together. Ernest and I looked at each other for a moment, recognized our mutual discomfort, shrugged our shoulders and proceeded to dance. It was a fast one, so there was very little conversation beyond his asking if I was an anthro student and my answering yes, I was a student of Gerry’s and worked with Vera Mae at the museum. In spite of his reluctance and initial uneasiness, Ernest turned out to be quite a good dancer. When the music ended, if we were not friends, we were at least memories for each other.
I know this because about 20 years later, having extensively quoted him in my own book about the counterculture, I wrote him to ask him to review it. He called me sometime later, having read it, to say that he would gladly review it and was I the same Jentri Anders that was in Berkeley in the Sixties and had made the drag-me-out-like-a-lady remark during the FSM bust. I told him that I was and that not only that but we had been introduced when I had a different name by our mutual friend Vera Mae Fredrickson. He asked me where that could have been and I told him at a party at her house in Berkeley in the late 60s. He began to laugh and said, “Were you the girl I danced with in the black leather mini skirt?” When I said I was, we had a good laugh together and he subsequently wrote me an excellent review in Co-evolution Quarterly.
When I had read Ecotopia, which had been handed to me by one of my fellow dropouts, I had thought all the way through it that, although most people would consider Callenbach a Founding Father of the counterculture, I had the distinct impression that he was describing what I had experienced developing around me in my later days at Berkeley. I kept thinking, he’s describing us, he’s describing us. I figured we were the models for his Ecotopians or at least part of the cultural stream or eddy that had inspired Ecotopia.
That idea was certainly supported by the fact that I had met him and knew just how close he was to the “us” I remembered. When I mentioned this to him on the phone, he readily agreed that rather than starting it, he and his co-author had been describing it and extending it. In a later letter to him, I thanked him for doing so and thereby providing me with an excellent starting point for my discussion of my little piece of the counterculture, to which he responded, “You make me feel like I’m part of a movement.” I wrote him back, “No, you have that backwards. You are a big part of a movement you helped start and I’m just reminding you.”
Another one of the people I knew in Berkeley who became famous later was another one of my bosses at the Lowie Museum, Grover Krantz, who became one of the world’s leading experts on Bigfoot. Once I had maneuvered myself into functioning as a preparator instead of a clerk-typist, I began being assigned to work with the collections. One of my first assignments was to work with Grover in the basement of Hearst Gym where was located the museum’s collection of physical remains, meaning human bones. I had probably landed this assignment because I started out in anthropology thinking I would be a physical anthropologist and had taken all but one of the physical anthropology classes required for that field.
It is an activity that repulses most people when I describe it and one that I would not engage in now that I have worked for Native Americans and know how they feel about it. But, in my defense, not all of the physical remains collections were from sites in the Americas, all of them were alleged to be hundreds of years old and I could see the scientific value in knowing the many things that can be known from studying bones, including information now valuable to the environmental movement. I spent many a long hour across the table from Grover delicately brushing the dust from skulls, teeth, and leg bones, describing them, measuring them, determining their sex and painting numbers on them. It was something that could be done easily while conversing, so that, in addition to Grover teaching me most of what I know about bones, we also had many conversations about his struggles in the department and his interest in Bigfoot.
Grover was considered something of a sad case, academically. I do not remember if he was actually still a graduate student or had gotten his PhD and had simply not been able to get a job as a professor. The rumor was that the museum job was far beneath him and that he had been screwed by a doctoral advisor who did not like the quality of his kowtow. It was well-known that his dissertation had been held up much too long over something trivial. Whether this was related to his interest in Bigfoot, something of a joke at that time in anthropology, or not, I do not know. I do know that when I became a graduate student at Washington State University years later, he had become a highly respected professor there, in spite of his ongoing research on Bigfoot. Once again, I availed myself of his meticulous mind, this time in a more formal setting. I took a graduate physical anthropology class from him and learned all I could possibly learn from him about the evolution of the brain. Grover was instrumental in my going to Pullman in that I wrote him before I applied, for a description of the person I wanted to study with, Professor John Bodley.
Grover had allayed every fear I might have had, promising me that Bodley was what he seemed to be from his books—rational, socially conscious and courageous. Grover, a very large man, described Bodley as a very small man and told me that people called him, because of the courageous unconventionality of his books, “the mouse that roared.” Knowing well my poverty and how difficult it was going to be for me, Grover even set up my physical transition to Pullman, allowing me to caretake his apartment and his dog my first two weeks there, while he pursued researches elsewhere. He wanted to be on my doctoral committee, but I was very nervous about having someone on my committee with whom I had had such a long personal relationship, especially when it had been a somewhat flirtatious relationship and we were both single.
Grover understood this perfectly, as I knew he would. We remained friends during my time at Pullman and I was delighted to watch his reputation grow on TV shows about Bigfoot after I left. Since I knew him so well and I knew that he was one of the most rational and pragmatic people I ever knew, I have always believed his arguments supporting the existence of Bigfoot, even though the biology professor on my doctoral committee argued against it.
I just cannot believe a person like Grover would risk his entire academic life for a delusion. It makes me sad that he never found Bigfoot in person but I am glad for him that he was able to spend his life in a position to study his subject. Since Grover’s death, his place as the television Bigfoot expert has been taken by Jeffrey Meldrum, of the University of Idaho, another highly rational and pragmatic person, with whom Grover collaborated on Bigfoot research. I find it satisfying that the man who signed my award from the Northwest Anthropological Society is the same man who continues Grover’s work.
One of my more fleeting brushes with celebrity in Berkeley, ala Forest Gump except that I am sure I left no lasting impression, was with the famous folk singer, Malvina Reynolds, whom I had seen performing at folk music concerts and whose picture I had seen on album covers. One day I was shopping for produce in the Shattuck Avenue Co-op, looking for the perfect tomato. I was dimly aware of another shopper also picking through the tomatoes. As I spotted the perfect tomato and reached for it, the shopper next to me did the same. My hand landed on it first. I looked up without moving my hand, directly into the eyes of Malvina Reynolds, who had an inquiring expression on her face. I exclaimed, “Malvina Reynolds!” She smiled and said, “Yes.” I picked up the tomato and handed it to her, intoning, “Ms. Reynolds, please allow me to present you, in honor of your achievements in the field of folk music, this lovely tomato.” She cracked up, as I knew she would, and we enjoyed a very pleasant chuckle together.
© Jentri Anders, 2016