By John Lawrence / Will Blog for Food / Originally published July 6, 2007
I used to work for the San Diego Free Press. It flourished for about two years from about 1968 to 1970. I guess there was a recent version [before our current SDFP] but it has nothing in common with the 1968-70 version except the name. It was an “underground” newspaper meaning that it was devoted to radical politics, alternative lifestyles, the counterculture in general. But mainly it was a political newspaper. I used to sell papers at the San Diego Zoo among other spots, one of the few people who actually went out and sold them on the street. Most of the staff just liked to put out the paper, do the art work, write the articles etc. I also wrote for the paper, took photos and was a reporter.
We all lived in a commune at Second and Thorn in Hillcrest. How we were able to rent this house I don’t know because it’s a really nice house. It’s been totally refurbished and is in private hands. I wonder if the present owner knows the history of the house, how it housed a bunch of 60s era radicals. In a later homeless period I used to park my van and sleep just a block away from my old home at Second and Thorn.
There I had my own room on the second floor. Across from me was Jan Diepersloot, the guy as much in charge as anyone. He wrote most of the editorials. In the masthead it says he’s the policy coordinator. I don’t even remember some of the people who worked on the paper, and some of the people who lived at the house didn’t even really work on the paper. I remember Richard Blackburn, “Black Dick” they called him. I remember Herman Rumper. Most of these people were present or former UCSD students. Larry Gottlieb was a Physics major. I was a Computer Science major. We were the only two from the science and engineering type schools. All the rest were liberal arts majors, mainly Philosophy students. Matie Belle lived with us but I don’t think she worked on the paper.
We also had a “retreat” out in Ramona where we could go to get away from it all. It was an old abandoned ranch with a little shack and a run down barn. One couple lived out there and grew marijuana. They got caught and hauled into court, but I don’t remember whatever happened to them. Once their dog had about 16 cute little pups. They were country people and didn’t like the city. Since I had a private pilot’s license, they wanted me to fly marijuana over the border, but I chickened out. I remember two of our girls drove across with some. Luckily, they made it but they were shitting bricks and never did it again to my knowledge. That’s how we paid our rent, I think. Anyway no one ever asked me to pay rent.
One time we ripped off a load of plywood from a building site at UCSD. We used it to floor in our attic so some people could sleep up there. The only problem was people were always stepping off the floored in area onto the lath and plaster and then they would fall through the ceiling directly over my bed. This happened two or three times. The UCSD operation was pretty sophisticated. We had look-outs with walkie-talkies. We used a converted schoolbus that belonged to this guy who stopped in from time to time and stayed with us for awhile. I think he was a friend of Jan’s. He was wanted for arson up in northern California since the police had kicked him off some land he was homesteading and in retaliation he had burned down the police station. I don’t think they ever caught him.
I had saved all the Free Presses and had them at the little duplex in Del Mar where I lived later after I’d gone my separate way. One day I threw them away which I later regretted. Some years later I searched for the San Diego Free Press and found them on microfiche at the UCSD library. I printed out some pages, mainly the ones on which I had written articles. I used to do a series on San Diego history. And then I did book reviews and a muckraking article on General Dynamics, a company with which I was still employed although I was also on a leave of absence from school as well while I pursued revolutionary activities. Our main goal was to create a new society which would require a revolution. We never quite reached that goal. In fact we never even came close.