Thursday, November 23, 2006

No one will buy tie-dyed shirts!

This post is from Cass Cumerford's Beatnik Casbah Blog. Cass is not totally correct on Frank's Cafe being the first shop in Sydney selling hippy leather gear and so on - although he's right in a way, in that Frank's Cafe morphed from the one that was - the Peg & Awl

Around 1965

In 1965(?), the first place where "hippy"-made clothes and artefacts were made and sold was "Frank's Cafe" or "the Sandal Shop": it was a part-time dwelling place for creative entrepreneurial beatniks. Never having been there I can't describe it, although I was once invited to join. Graham Holt, John Sandie and I were in the kitchen of 98 Hargreave Street one afternoon, about to be guinea pigs in an experiment to test of the strength of Lesley-Mindless' newest chemical discovery, Scopolamine. The mind-blowing stuff had not yet taken effect when Graham told us,

"How cool it this, man! We made forty-five quid this week now I have use of the Sandal Shop equipment to make old car tyre-sandals. Who'd have ever thought normal people would ever buy stuff from us weirdos? Wow, what a cool scene."

The white walls of the room were beginning to look as if they were melting, and the white paint had taken on a more colourful hue. I yelled out to Mindless in the next room,

"Hey Lesley, I think it's working."

Lesley called back to me,

"OK, tell me if things start disappearing."

Sandie lit a cigarette that seemed to melt and then re-arrange back to its original shape. He said,

"Jeeze, she sure knows a lot about drugs. Makes you feel real safe - like you're in a proper laboratory experiment place man," Graham and I enthusiastically agreed as Sandie went on,

"You know I'm going to make plenty bread soon with my secret invention of making psychedelic patterns on shirts. Don't youse go shooting your mouth off about the way it's done. All it costs is the dough it takes to buy a dozen white T-shirts from Chinatown plus six bucks worth of dye powder and a two bob packet of rubber bands!"

I smiled at Sandie's dreamy vision. He actually thought that people would want to purchase his creations for real money? What child-like naivety. I clued him in,

"Look man, no square's ever going to pay bread for some weirdo coloured Tie-Dyed Shirts. The only people you might sell some to will be other hippies, and they never spend bread on clothes. Wake up man!"

And that was how I stayed poor and a year later John Sandie became the Tie Dyed shirt trade's first rich beat-hippy.

I can't remember why the hell I wasn't on the dole in those days. I guess it was because I was too busy hustling around to front up to the employment office. I got just enough food from soup kitchens or the Royal George Hotel to keep body and soul together, and whenever I'd be invited to one of the many "push" pads it was consider OK to raid the communal 'fridge. Life became an endless round of "dropping in" to visit people's pads. And you never knew what was around the corner - a big three-day party, a bit of casual work at the railway depot, hitchhiking down to Melbourne with a well-healed pal or conning ten bucks out of some square tourist. There were ways to get by.

Early some mornings, Dutch Andy would steal a bottle of milk from outside shops. Later on, when he got more taste he took only Buttermilk. We'd raid communal 'fridges in the kitchens of rooming houses if we were starving hungry, but I only did it once and hated the idea. If you were real hungry, that's what soup kitchens were for. Many of my "Love Generation" pals acted like complete psychopaths at times, even me.

We had an us-versus-them mentality, and justified a lot of behaviour that I now consider "not cricket".


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