The Coastal Post - February, 1997

A Talk With Marsha About Tribes


The 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love is rapidly approaching. That an anniversary is even considered is amazing. What was supposed to be a fragile flower seems to have tenacious roots.

What's the state of The Movement today? Is it surviving the attacks on its values of inclusiveness and preservation of nature?

Attacks are nothing new. The New Age movement, or whatever it's called these days, has taken heat for 30 years. It must be a shock to some to see our civil liberties still standing despite the Rights' tactics of humiliation, degradation and deceit.

The painful Jerry Gracia spousal trial, with all its implications to the community, is a case in point. Before that, Jerry's death in the San Geronimo Valley brought it home. We were not all Deadheads, but all Deadheads are us, and all of us are family.

Many issues have been raised since the last gathering of the Tribes. Did Jerry's death tear the family apart? Or is the family transforming into a new mainstream movement?

Have the ethics of the hippie movement gone the way of love beads, or are we in a new incarnation? Has the family tree been cut with new shoots, the kids, cropping up in its place? Or are the kids the branches of the living tree?

For answers to these and other pressing questions, I turned to Marsha Thelin, long-time San Geronimo Valley resident, hippie-elder personified, who's been here from the beginning.

Marsha is the widow of Ron Thelin, owner with his brother Jay of the first psychedelic shop on Haight Street during the Summer of Love, and one of the definers or the Hippie Movement.

When Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia) was up at 710 Ashbury with Jerry, Marsha was down at the shop with Ron. While Ron and Jerry got all the press, Marsha and Mountain Girl were Earth Mothers to us all.

In 1966, Ron and Marsha, with daughter Kira, moved from the Haight to Forest Knolls, It was this initial move which led many of the new hippie elders to follow.

KN: What made you move to the Valley?

MT: I was having a "nervous breakthrough." I wanted to go where the seasons were. It was too much for me with a child. Ron heard about the Valley from a girl at a dance.

Do you realize the Psychedelic Shop was only open from January, '66 to October, '67. A lot happened in those two years.

KN: That was from the first Human Be-In and Ron's Death of the Hippie in the Panhandle, the perimeters of the Summer of Love. The San Francisco Oracle helped by allowing us to communicate and exchange ideas. That's the role I see the Coastal Post filling today.

MT: Looking back gives you a different perspective. It was the beginning of something that's still going on.

One of the things I'm thrilled about was the decision not to cover up the existence of our children, with the public and each other, opting instead to bring them with us. I don't want to sound corny, but those little kids brought so much of the divine with them.

KN: I hadn't thought about it like that. You're right. The kids put the family into the family. Without them, it might have been only some crazy party.

Instead, we were forced to consider the future and what kind of world we would leave them.

MT: What's great is it's still happening. Look how great those kids are now that they're grown. And how great their kids are. Moms and dads loving and being close friends with their children works.

I'd like to say something about Ron. That's one thing that allowed us to stay married so long. Ron, we, never lost sight of the vision of a better world. It was what held us together and kept us from the prevalent cycle of divorce.

Do you realize how blessed we are to be living in the Bay area? To live next to San Francisco with all its cultural openness and innovation?

Sometimes, I see California as the baby in a baby country. In a way, we're lucky we don't have so much tradition to overcome.We're like newborns forming new ideas.

KN: A lot of people were upset by the fight over Jerry's money. I was glad Mountain Girl won her case. If anyone's paid their dues, it's her.

MT: Remember, people in the community love her. She'll always be cared for. And that girl can take care of herself. You know, she's so truthful and honest.

It's too bad this was carried out so publicly. The point is she deserves her share. She's the mother and Jerry the father of a huge family, and that family gave Jerry his money. Jerry was so loving and generous. I know MG. I don't know Deborah. Praising MG comes naturally.

KN: Much of the criticism I've heard is it should have been worked out in the family. MG was more than Jerry's ex-wife, she was his lover, mother of his children and one of his best friends. But even more, she's one of the great mothers of the entire movement.

Getting back to the roots of the tree. In '66 I met a psychic who told me 1966 through '69, and continuing to 2020, were years when a great era was ending and a new era beginning. This time frame would determine whether the planet would die or be renewed.

MT: That's what it's about.

KN: What do you think is the main component of the code we developed and live by to this day?

MT: Learning to speak the truth. In that I mean revealing our hearts and speaking from them. Truth leads to the good self, the beauty of truthful knowledge. I know this is probably not politically correct, but to see the divine plan. Oh, and self-respect.

That's what makes the kids so great. I'm thrilled they're continuing the work, taking over where we've left off and making it better. We haven't lost anything. It's still going on right here in the promised land of California. That's why we have to keep it together and let the kids do their own thing.