Local TV News Broadcasts (1966-1967)

Featuring the Diggers, the Haight, &c.

The Bay Area Television Archive (BATA) has hundreds of hours of 16mm footage that was filmed in San Francisco during the mid-to-late 1960s. The archive is located at the J. Paul Leonard Library on the campus of San Francisco State University. The archivist of the collection, Alex Cherian, has been diligently digitizing and remastering the original film stock. Included among the broad range of cultural and political events that the reporters from KTVU, KPIX, KRON and other channels were covering, Alex has been finding film footage from the Haight-Ashbury as it was becoming the center of the burgeoning Sixties counterculture. And among this sliver of the collection, sometimes even unbeknownst to Alex, is the rare Digger interview. Here then are links to the videos that Alex has digitized that are of interest to Digger historians. {Many thanks to Alex Cherian for this work.}

When you search for "diggers" on the BATA search page, you get several hits (some of which have not yet been digitized). However, in addition to those that are properly tagged "diggers" there are several that are Digger-related or Haight-related. Here's a listing of what I have found, starting with the Digger-related news clips:

Digger- (and Haight-) related news clips at BATA

1. A Visit to the Diggers "headquarters" at 848 Clay Street.

This clip prominently highlights Motorcycle Richie and the Digger pad at 848 Clayton Street. Description (below).

2. Diggers dispense free food in Haight-Ashbury

This is the only known clip of the first Digger Free Store located on Page Street, with the only known interview on camera of Billy Murcott.  Description (below).

3. Right Now Happening in the Haight Ashbury

KRON-TV clip at the end of the Death of Money Parade that the Diggers held on Haight Street (Dec. 17, 1966). Description (below).

4. Free City Rally in SF

This clip shows the day when Ron Thelin was busted for wearing a face mask at one of the Free City Noon Forever events on the steps of City Hall (May 7, 1968).

5. LSD Lovefest Report (KTVU)

6. Street Views of Haight Ashbury (1967)

7. The Psychedelic Shop Gets Raided

8. Chocolate George's Farewell

9. Hippie Funeral in San Francisco I

10. Hippie Funeral in San Francisco II

11. Dancing in Golden Gate Park (1967)

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Descriptions and Links to the Clips at BATA

A Visit to the Diggers "headquarters" at 848 Clay Street

This was just recently processed (May 2022). What is curious is the address which the reporter gives for the location. Here is the description that BATA has for the clip:

KTVU news footage from 1967 with reporter Claud Mann featuring scenes from a visit to 848 Clay Street in San Francisco, which we are told is the headquarters of the Diggers community-action group. People are seen smoking banana skins ("mellow yellow") and when a spokesperson for the Diggers is asked about their "philosophy" he replies: "I'm not gonna pay for your trip and everything is free." Also includes silent views of young people relaxing outside in a park and of food being prepared in a kitchen. Opening graphic designed by Carrie Hawks.

Note that we consulted with one of the founding members of the Diggers Peter Coyote in May 2022, who advised that he didn't recognize anyone in this KTVU footage and that the core Diggers group didn't have a physical "office" location. Coyote thinks this might be a church group who were distributing food, one of the many loosely affiliated organizations who referred to themselves as "Diggers" during this period in San Francisco.

What is curious about this description are a couple of things. First of all, the video is obviously of one of the Digger houses. This was 848 Clayton Street. I know the reporter says it was 848 Clay Street but I cannot believe that he didn't really know which street he was on. Perhaps he was in on the spoof. The Diggers would not have wanted a local TV broadcast to mention their exact address. For anyone who needs proof that 848 Clayton was a Digger house (one of many by the spring of 1967) here is one of the Communication Company street sheets:

Another curiosity is Peter Coyote's comments which prove something that I have argued in all my writings about the Diggers. Which is this the Diggers were a movement and not one singular group. The first person to be seen talking in this video (at 14 seconds in) is Motorcycle Richie who was one of the original street people who joined with Billy and Emmett at the first free store on Page Street. Here is Emmett's description of Richie:

Billy hustled some dough and Emmett rented a six-car garage on Page Street that was filled with empty window frames. He was joined by some young dudes from the 4 P.M. feed, who helped him nail the window frames all over the wooden front of the garage and clean up the inside. Simolean Gary had come down from Redwood looking for parts for his motorcycle; John-John had roamed out from Brooklyn, riding the rails, sleeping in freight cars; Motorcycle Richie had also wandered from Manhattan, driving out on a hot Harley-Davidson. ... The combination of the three of them was enough to keep life from ever getting boring. (Ringolevio, p. 248)

Peter's mention of a "church group who were distributing food" gets into the convoluted definition of who was a Digger. Motorcycle Richie and others opened the "Digger Office" (whose sign we see in this video) at the All Saints Church on Waller Street. The rector of the church, Father Leon Harris, was so taken by the Digger message that he opened his church to them and invited the Diggers to use the space. This was an important locus for Digger activity (although the idea of a fixed "location" caused consternation among some of the Diggers, as reported in an article that Father Harris sent me). In June of 1967, All Saints Church became the location of the first Digger Free Bakery. "Digger Bread" became recognizable for the coffee cans in which it was baked, and for the whole wheat flour that was used in the baking both of which were innovations of the Diggers at All Saints. The Digger Free Bakery advertised in the Berkeley Barb for at least a year, offering free whole wheat bread every week. Yes, there were people calling themselves Diggers (all over the country eventually) who had not been involved at the very beginning. But remember, at the very beginning it was just Emmett and Billy bringing a 20-gallon milk can of stew to the Panhandle in the midst of the National Guard patrolling the streets of the city. Everyone who joined in after that initial Free Feed was part of the growing Digger movement.

Meanwhile, we find Motorcycle Richie mentioned later in the historical record in an article from The New Yorker magazine about free stores. He is also prominently mentioned in John Simon's The Sign of the Fool.

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Diggers dispense free food in Haight-Ashbury

After discovering the video above available on the BATA website, I contacted Alex Cherian to thank him and also to mention that there was one film clip that he had listed under the keyword "diggers" that might be the long-lost video interview with Billy Murcott. Billy had been mentioning this news clip for years. Two days later, Alex called me to say he had successfully digitized it. Here is the description of this clip:

KRON-TV news footage from December 2, 1966 with reporter Frank Johnstone featuring scenes from 1762 Page Street in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, which Johnstone describes as: "A sort of modern day beatnik or hippie salvation army," where members of the Diggers organization distribute "free food" at 4:00pm each day. Includes views of people gathering to eat together in a garage and an interview with Billy Murcott, who tries to explain where the food they distribute comes from. Murcott also describes an upcoming event tomorrow (referred to as a "grand opening") by stating: "I understand there'll be a few politicians, a few intellectuals, a few hippies, a few acid heads, a few speed heads, a few straight people, a few middle-class people, a few teachers, a few merchants, a few gods, a few devils, a few demons, anything you want." Opening graphic designed by Carrie Hawks. Thanks to Eric Noble who runs the Digger Archives, who recommended that we inspect this previously unprocessed film reel and also positively identified Billy Murcott being interviewed on-camera. This item was simply titled "Diggers" in the original KRON Shot log. This film reversal print was remastered in 4K (4096 x 2970) using a Lasergraphics ScanStation film scanner, in September 2022.

This then is the only footage we have ever seen of the original Digger Free Store which was eventually named the Free Frame of Reference. See the quote from Ringolevio (above) that mentions the window frames.

Note: the news reporter never mentions the name "Diggers" in the narration. That leads me to think that at this point (Dec. 2 1966) the news media was not aware of the Diggers per se. Ralph Gleason of the SF Chronicle had mentioned them and there had been articles in the Berkeley Barb but the fact that this clip did not mention their name is very interesting. The first clip (above) of the Digger pad at Clayton Street happened several months later and by then the Diggers were well known in the media.

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Right Now Happening in the Haight Ashbury

BATA has the following description of this clip:

KRON-TV news footage from December 17th 1966 featuring brief scenes from a happening in the Haight Ashbury. The reporter asks a spokesman what the signs "Now" mean and he replies with gusto: "The signs now mean right now! And right now is what's happening and going on right around here. Two thousand very beautiful people all together, having a very peaceful good time. We're enjoying ... this moment, now!" Also includes views of people congregating on the street and enjoying themselves.

This event was the Death of Money Parade put on by the Diggers. The reporter must have gotten to Haight Street after the main event. According to Emmett, the main contingent was on its way to the Park Police Station to bail out the two Hells Angels who had been busted for letting Phyllis ride on the back of one of their motorcycles waving a sign that simply read, "NOW."

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Free City Rally in SF

LSD Lovefest Report (KTVU)

Street Views of Haight Ashbury (1967)

The Psychedelic Shop Gets Raided

Chocolate George's Farewell

Hippie Funeral in San Francisco I

Hippie Funeral in San Francisco II

Dancing in Golden Gate Park (1967)

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