Island Senior: Talking About My Generation

Posted June 3, 2021 at 5:30 am by

Peg­gy Sue McRae — con­tributed photo

“Island Senior” is a reg­u­lar col­umn on the San Juan Update writ­ten by Peg­gy Sue McRae.

When I refer to myself as a hip­py, I am not brag­ging. It is aspi­ra­tional. To this day I aspire to live up to the promise of my love beads and peace signs. 

That is why it caught my atten­tion that among May’s His­to­ry Month activ­i­ties there was a pan­el host­ed by Orcas Island’s Geneal­o­gy Club called “Back in the Day” cel­e­brat­ing Orcas past with a focus on the 1970s – 1990s includ­ing the “back to the land” move­ment and hippies.

My par­ents were of the “Great­est Gen­er­a­tion” and like so many peo­ple their age after WWII they left the small towns and farms of Amer­i­ca, in their case San Juan Island, seek­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in the cities.

Thanks to my fam­i­ly, I claim pio­neer sta­tus on the island but I grew up in the sub­urbs of Seat­tle. Tech­ni­cal­ly, I’m a baby boomer, but I also belong to a sub-set of the “boomer” gen­er­a­tion, I belong to what I call the “Wood­stock Gen­er­a­tion”. Described in song by Joni Mitchell, “We are star­dust. We are gold­en. And we’ve got to get our­selves back to the gar­den.”

While my fam­i­ly has old island roots, I myself came in on that wave of young peo­ple arriv­ing in the islands in the 1970s. Those were the days when a pod of hip­pies could rent an old farm­house for not very much mon­ey and between potlucks and beach par­ties, many of us made sin­cere attempts to get back to the land. 

There must have been some fric­tion between old­er more con­ser­v­a­tive islanders and my hip­py cohort but I don’t remem­ber it.

I do remem­ber enter­ing banana bread in the Coun­ty Fair and the lady who signed me in telling me how glad she was to see more young peo­ple get­ting involved. I remem­ber an old apple press being restored and brought back into use. There are fam­i­lies here who have farmed for gen­er­a­tions but island agri­cul­ture had been in decline after the war and I think we real­ly did breathe some live­li­ness into the island’s farm­land character.

Look­ing around today at our thriv­ing farm­ers mar­ket, our active Grange, and our beau­ti­ful Food Co-op, I know we can­not take full cred­it but we did lean hard in that direc­tion. Our influ­ence can be seen not just in a revival of agri­cul­ture but also in the arts and crafts that are so pro­lif­ic on the island. 

If you are as old as I am, and you are not already a mem­ber, it’s time to con­sid­er becom­ing a mem­ber of the Mullis Cen­ter. Sup­port essen­tial pro­grams for seniors and take advan­tage of the many perks. Mem­ber­ship is $25/individual annu­al­ly (waived with no ques­tions asked for those who can’t afford it).

For more infor­ma­tion and a down­load­able form please vis­it the Mullis Cen­ter web­site at Peace & Love.

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  1. Peace, love and rock ‘n roll!

    Comment by David Bentley on June 3, 2021 at 4:13 pm
  2. Thank you Peg­gy Sue, for this fun arti­cle. Being a part of this cohort of young peo­ple that arrived on San Juan Island in the 1970s, I can say that our influ­ence went far beyond agri­cul­ture and arts and crafts alone. We active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the for­ma­tion of the orig­i­nal Senior Cen­ter, the Whale Muse­um, the San Juan Islands Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, cre­ation of more park­lands, the “Friends of the Library”, pro­tect­ing the pris­tine beau­ty of the islands from devel­op­ment pres­sures, and much more. I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish.

    Comment by Susan Babcock on June 6, 2021 at 7:33 am

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