Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guest: Lee McKenzie

 Lee McKenzie is joining us today with a blast from the past! To celebrate her new release, she's giving away a copy of FIREFIGHTER DADDY and a rockin’ pair of peace sign earrings to one lucky commenter. [Winner announced on Friday 16th.]

I love the city of San Francisco and when I decided to set a couple of books there, the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood was an immediate choice for the setting of the first book. I was intrigued by the William R. DeAvila Elementary School located just a few short blocks from that world-famous intersection, and wondered what it would have been like to raise a family in that neighbourhood “back in the day.” Firefighter Daddy was born out of that question.

The school has served several purposes in recent years, including a satellite campus for a community college. I took the liberty of reinventing it as the neighborhood’s public elementary school, although in the book it doesn’t have a name.

Firefighter Daddy is a contemporary story and while I didn’t want to make my hero’s and heroine’s parents come across as clichéd, I wanted to explore their hippie roots.

I started by investing in a copy of The Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopdia of the 1960s and 1970s by John Bassett McCleary...

...and indulged in a trip down memory lane.  For sure my book needed a hippie van...

...and references to flower children and 1967, the epic Summer of Love.

And although I couldn’t justify dressing one of my characters in hippie garb, I couldn’t help remembering the crazy clothes we wore in the late sixties.

Remember bell bottoms? Mine were hip-huggers worn with a macrame belt I’d made from jute and wooden beads, strung through the belt loops and tied at one hip with the ends dangling almost to the knee.

T-shirts were tie-dyed and bandanas were worn as halter tops. Hemlines oscillated between granny skirts and short, short minis. Jean skirts were fashioned by picking apart the inseam of an old pair of blue jeans, inserting wedges of fabric, and adorning the finished product with appliqués and embroidery.

It was the era of sit-ins and love-ins and outdoor rock concerts. We made peace signs into jewelry, wore flowers in our hair, and everything was groovy.

Scott McKenzie (no relation) summarized it best, and I’ll leave you with his iconic “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”—the song that became an anthem for a whole generation.

Favorite memories of the sixties? Not-so-favorite memories?! I’d love to hear them!

Lee McKenzie lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. FIREFIGHTER DADDY is in bookstores now and her second San Francisco-set book, THE WEDDING BARGAIN, will be out in January 2011. You’ll find Lee at http:///


Lou said...

I am not a child of the 60s. I am a Gen-Yer, those as describe as being born somewhere between the mid-70s to 1999 by some and 1983 to the attacks of 2001 by others.

But, that said, my favorite memory is knowing that my grandparents came together and had my mom. Without her my brother and I would not have been born, so that's my favorite.

MJFredrick said...

Being born is my favorite bit :)

Had to say hi, and Firefighter Daddy is already on my nook!

Laurie said...

Your book sounds wonderful. I enjoy firefighter heroes... courage, honor, and athletic.
I also grew up in the 60's.Favorite: The MUSIC!! The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Animals The Four Seaons, The Dave Clark Five, The Lovin Spoonful. The Rascals...
I do like long hair on guys too. I liked JFK and Martin Luther KIng. I liked the moon walk. I liked color TV (1964 for my family).
I didn't like the the 3 assinations, drugs, the free love concept, the wide , wide bell bottoms, or the micro mini skirts. I didn't like the war in Vietnam (the deaths, the protests). I didn't like the racism. I also didn't like the Cold War with the USSR and the bomb drills.

Laurie said...

OOPS assassinations

KylieBrant said...

Welcome, Lee! I remember the 60s as a crazy chaotic time, culturally and socially. I have four older siblings and my oldest sister is really the child of the sixties. But I was exposed to the music (still LOVE it) and the ridiculous clothes, LOL. But as a small child I recall being absolutely traumatized by the assassinations.

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Lee and welcome! I'm on the tail end of the baby boomer generation. Would have to say the music is most memorable for me.

Sounds like a fun, what-if story! Congrats on the new release!

Lee McKenzie said...

Lou, you've put a great twist on being a child of the '60s. Thanks for visiting today!

Alexis Morgan said...

I think it was the lasting influence of the music that came out during the sixties and things like seeing the Beattles on Ed Sullivan, etc. The WHO actually did a concert at my husband's high school, if you can believe that. Still love a lot of of music from that time.

Marin Thomas said...


Great post and fabulous pictures! I was too young to remember much about the sixties but I do recall coming across a pair of bell bottoms in my mother's closet one day while we were spring cleaning and I'd asked her how come her pants were so fat at the
bottom :-)

RT Top Pick
Dexter: Honorable Cowboy July 2010

Lee McKenzie said...

Thanks, MJ! Great to see you here!

Lee McKenzie said...

Laurie, that was the '60s in a nutshell. The music still does it for me, too. I'd forgotten about the advent of color TV, but 1964 was the year we got ours, too.

Lee McKenzie said...

It's great to be here, Kylie!

The '60s were definitely chaotic, but I like to believe a lot of good from that time.

krisgils33 said...

congrats on the new release.
I was born mid-60's, but my mother did save all her clothes from that time period and it was funny to look at them when I was a kid.

Lee McKenzie said...

It's great to be here today, Helen. Thanks for having me!

Lee McKenzie said...

Alexis, I remember being glued to the TV when The Beattles were on the Ed Sullivan show. I also remember my parents being horrified by their long hair!

Lee McKenzie said...

LOL, Marin! Similar to the skirts made from jeans, I remember ripping open the outer seam of a pair of bell bottoms, from the cuff to the knee, and stitching in a triangle of fabric to make them even wider.

Lee McKenzie said...

What fun, krsgils33! I wish I'd saved more stuff from the '60s.

Playground Monitor said...

If you remember the sixties, you weren't really there. Or so they say. I remember them well. I started college at the tail end of the sixties in the fall of 1969. Kent State was the next spring. And my college had a rock concert that featured Iron Butterfly. My sons were duly impressed that their mom had heard Inna Gadda Da Vida live. So yeah, the music is probably the biggest thing about the sixties for me. Lots of the other stuff has faded, but the music lives on.

I had jeans with frayed edges and a peace sign embroidered on the leg, tie-dyed my own t-shirts and had a pair of wire-rimmed granny glasses. Now I *am* a granny. LOL!

Great blog! It was great to walk down memory lane before I get too old to remember it. ;-)


CrystalGB said...

Great post. Your book sounds good. I love the cover. I wasn't born until the 70's so I don't have memories from then. I like the music from the 60's.

Laney4 said...

Hi, Lee!
Lots of memories for me....
Slinky ... go carts ... stilts ... GI Joe ... clackers ... banana seat on the bike....
The Flintstones (yabba dabba doo!)
The Real McCoys (still imitate Walter Brennan's walk at times)
Perry Mason (loved his logic)
The Andy Griffith Show (Opie's all grown up now!)
My Three Sons (Uncle Charlie was quite the character)
Hogan's Heroes ("I know nothing!")
Batman ("To the batcave!")
Gunsmoke (ah yes, Miss Kitty and Doc)
Beverly Hillbillies (Granny was hilarious)
Candid Camera (loved the episode with the temp secretary using the typewriter when the platen fell into the garbage can)
The Lawrence Welk Show (reunions are still enjoyable)
Hazel (quite the maid)
The Man from Uncle (enjoy Ducky character on NCIS even more than his Illya Kuryakin character)
Bewitched (with both Darrens)
Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!

Lisa McManus Lange said...

Hi Lee,

I do often wish I was around during that era. Sounds like it would have been fun! I look forward to reading the book!

Beverly Carstensen said...

Hi Lee, after reading your blog my head is popping with '60s flashbacks! I was 16 in 1967 and my bff and I practised singing "House of the Rising Sun" over and over while I struggled to play along on the guitar. When my mom complained, we told her we intended to go to San Francisco and become famous. She said, Fine, go play Far Far Away . . .

Debra Dixon said...

I wasn't a teen yet in the 60's, so it's an odd Era for me. It feels very familiar and I "know" it but it's not really a formative experience.

Except for when my mom made me some big bell bottoms out of remnant drapery fabric. I loved those pants. (big flowers)

We have some home movies that are pretty hysterical.

Ros said...

Although I wasn't born until the late sixties, the music from that decade (as well as the seventies) left a lasting impression. Thanks for the video clip, Lee. I enjoyed listening while I read everyone else's comments. They just don't make music like that anymore! Thank goodness for classic rock stations.

I'm looking forward to reading Firefighter Daddy!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Hello, Memory Lane!

I graduated from HS in '66 and college in '70, so the 60's were my formative years. I was never a druggie--never even tried pot--but I was there, I was SO there. You'll never convince me the clothes were outrageous or the causes are lost. I'm a believer (yea yea yea yea).

The music. Still the best. Thanks for posting one of my favorite songs (I have so many), Summer of '69 I went to SD while my friends went to Woodstock. After graduation (and Kent State, which was a blow to all of us that spring) I went to the Dakotas to teach while 2 of my best friends went to San Francisco. We weren't looking for big pay back then. We wanted to make a difference. Teaching, social work, Peace Corps. There have been lots of second careers (like writing) but we value those efforts still. I see that in the kids graduating from college now. I hope that's what I'm seeing.

I'm a believer.

lois greiman said...

Thanks for the blast from the past, Lee. A little memory lane walking is always good. And best of luck with the book. Sounds great.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, yeah, the music. My college in Western MA was withing a few miles of 3 other great colleges, and among the 4 campuses, we had concerts to die for. My boyfriend was photographer for the yearbook staff at UMass, so we always had front row seats. If I start naming bands I'll go on and on.

But my college, small as it was, was able to bring in 2 acts I'll never forget--Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Barry--to our little auditorium, just for us girls. We went wild.

Ah, the music.


Christie Ridgway said...

Oh, yeah, the music. My husband, Surfer Guy, is in a classic rock band. I never get tired of the songs they play.

Book looks great. I grew up in the SF Bay Area so enjoy the setting, too. Thanks for riding with us today!

Mimi Barbour said...

When I think about the 60's I get red cheeks remembering every time I said something stupid at those kids today, the way they dress and act and their music - my god call that music!!?
I loved the clothes, (my parents didn’t) – especially the mini-skirts- and I loved our music...(again, my parents didn’t). Oh god…it just hit me – I’m now my parents! I take it all back about the kids of today. Rap is sweet and hip-hop awesome even if there aren’t any eligible words and my ears actually ache after a few minutes.
I want my copy of Firefighter Daddy put aside on the 16th when you’re doing the book signing at the Save-on-Store at the Country Club in Nanaimo.
I’ll be in to say hello.

robynl said...

Hi and welcome; wow talk about bringing back memories: the painted vans, the peace symbol, the bell bottoms(I had a pair, yes) and the song. Love the song.
I remember Flower Power also. Thanks for the memories.

I enjoy firefighter stories also.

Lee McKenzie said...

Wow! I do government temp work on the side and was called in to work this morning. I came home, expecting to find a few more comments. Instead, you've been having a party without me!

Marilyn, CrystalGB, Ros, Bev - '60s music still really speaks to us.

Christie, your husband's band sound fun! My son (who was born in the late '70s) is in a band that plays '60s rock. They call themselves The Wedding Band! I went to hear them a couple of months of ago and it was great to see all the young people who packed the dance floor.

chey said...

I don't actually remember the '60s, but I did hear lots of stories about them!

Lee McKenzie said...

Laney4, thanks for the list of TV shows! I loved The Man from U.N.C.L.E.! And yeah, especially Illya Kuryakin ;)

I was also a huge fan of The Time Tunnel. Had a serious crush on James Darren - a carryover from the Gidget movies.

Lee McKenzie said...

Lisa, thanks so much from joining me today.

Debra, your drapery bell bottoms sound, um, interesting ;) Thanks for the smile. You've reminded me about a pair of green - and I mean bright green! - paisley pants my mother made for me c. 1968. I loved them then, but I bet they'd make me cringe now.

Lee McKenzie said...

Kathleen, your comments really resonate with me. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I'm a few years younger than you but we were sure on the same page back then.

Linda Henderson said...

I was in high school in the late 60's so I remember them well. The music, the fashions, and the hair. My kids laugh at my pictures with my ratted up hair. Iron Butterfly was supposed to be in concert where I live now and they couldn't be there so I ended up seeing Strawberry Alarm Clock. I don't know if anybody remembers them or not. Those where certainly different times. I think I used to have some peace sign earrings, don't know what happened to them.

Lee McKenzie said...

Thank you, Lois. I'm so glad you joined us today.

Mimi, you are a gem. You make me smile the way no one else can.

Lee McKenzie said...

Hi, Chey. Thanks for dropping by today!

Robynl, so glad you enjoyed the song. It's one of my all-time favorites.

cindy gerard said...

Welcome to the Vert, Lee. Book looks great and I love the inspiration.

I am a child of the 60s. Wheat jeans, penny loafers, The Beach Boys, Beatles and tie dye. Drive in Movies, sock hops and peanuts in Pepsi. And the music. Man. it was great!

All things come around - wore a tie dye dress (so did Leanne) at RonCon last weekend. We were really groovy :o)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I wasn't around long enough to remember the 60's, but I do remember all the hippy-ish teachers I had in elementary school and the songs they taught us (the Beatles was okay, but "Leaving on a Jet Plane" was a rather odd choice for little kids to sing). Also, edgy 60's TV fare became kiddie shows in the 70's, like "The Monkees". I think my siblings and I talked my parents into buying "The Monkees Greatest Hits" for us.


Anita Birt said...

Lee, I had a 15 year old daughter and an 11 year old son in 1960 - I'm way out of your league! I think I belong in the semi-dark ages.

I was in Chapters to-day and had a look in case your latest book was there but no luck. Make sure to tell me when it's out.

Lee McKenzie said...

I've always liked "Leaving on a Jet Plane" but you're right, cories. It's a very strange choice for young children. I'll bet the parents were surprised, too!

Lee McKenzie said...

Fun, Cindy! Where did you find tie-dyed dresses?

Lee McKenzie said...

Anita, I'll bet you were the sixties' coolest mom!

Laurie said...

A few more 60's treasures:

feeling safe: walking, biking alone (we didn't even lock our doors)

penny candy

no divorces

TV shows: Dobbie Gillis college campus with "The Thinker" statue, Maynard G Krebbs was also a character, Leave It To Beaver, The Jetsons, Outer Limits, Superman, The Hawaiiain Eye, The Mickey Mouse Club (afterschool), Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Rawhide, Combat

One bad memory singing at my brother's friend's funeral in 1968. He was killed in Vietnam at the age of 21.

Another,the bombing of Sterling Hall in Madison, Wisconsin.

I graduated from HS in 1972 the year the Vietnam War finally ended.

Lee McKenzie said...

Laurie, we were so lucky to have grown up with that feeling of being safe. I'd forgotten about this, but in the mid sixties my mother worked and I remember coming home from school to an empty, unlocked house and never feeling afraid. In many ways, an innocent time.

Laney4 said...

OMG - Time Tunnel! I'd forgotten that one. I don't know which came first, Star Trek or Time Tunnel, as they both started in 1966, but I bet one was influenced by the other, as do you remember when Star Trek went back in time and Joan Collins was Kirk's love interest? That was one of my favorite Star Trek episodes.
As for Time Tunnel, yeah, James Darren still does it for me. Can you believe he's 74 already? I Googled his image, and he's still hot (at least to me). Must have been all those time transitions he made, LOL!
Thanks again for the trip down Memory Lane!

mbreakfield said...

I was a little child in the late sixties, but I loved watching Bewitched.

Lee McKenzie said...

Bewitched was great fun! I can still hear the sound effects when I think of Samantha twitching her nose.

Also have to say those are two gorgeous kitties in your avatar!

Jessie B Tyson said...

Ah, I had such warm sighs reading all the posts here. It brings that song to mind, "Memories, are made of bliss"...ooops I mean "this"

I still have a pair of those round John Lennon sun glasses in Fushia pink...and I sometimes wear them, even if they are a tad scratched..haha. EVERYTHING looks so rosey with them on. Its amazing how wild the colours look!

I'll be returning to read some of these posts again and again so I can feel as warm and snuggly as I do now. Thanks one and all.