During the summer of 1969, 14 cases of young people being admitted to the hospital for drug-triggered attacks of terror and depression were directly linked to the ongoing “hippie gatherings” in Delaware Park.
It was usually about 200 young people at “the nightly gathering of hippies in Delaware Park near the Albright-Knox.”
“Some hippies create light shows on the gallery’s walls, by using a footlight installed to illuminate the building,” read one story. “Others play games on blankets, sing, talk, eat, and listen to rock music provided by portable radios and stereo tape players. Some dance in the gallery’s pool.”
“We know that drugs are involved in those gatherings and have the area under close watch,” said Buffalo Police Narcotics Chief (and later Erie County sheriff) Michael A. Amico at an August 1969 press conference.
The trouble started six weeks earlier when “the hippies and other drug abusers” started lacing “yellow jacket” barbiturate pills with LSD.
The man who chronicled much of the action in the park that summer is familiar to longtime WNY TV viewers for another kind of reporting.
Years later, John Pauly was an investigative reporter for Channels 7 and 2. But in the late ’60s, reporter Pauly spent some time on the hippie beat. In a piece appearing on the front page of the Courier-Express, a Meyer Memorial Hospital (now ECMC) psychiatrist ran down some of the more disturbing cases that had been flooding the hospital since the new drug cocktail had hit the scene.
Police picked up two boys wandering around nude. Another youth thought his car had turned into a monster and was trying to eat him.
“Another youth was brought to the hospital by his parents after they found him performing a weird Oriental religious ritual in their backyard,” reported Pauly.
An investigation in another case turned up two women whose drinks were slipped acid without their knowledge. One of them was found running through Delaware Park naked. Many of those treated had become depressed because they “felt filthy.”
Routinely, police broke up the parties at the park’s posted closing time of 10 p.m. And routinely, said Amico, this is when they’d find people needing help. “We found one girl alone and semi-nude under a blanket in the park after taking drugs.”
These gatherings were a part of the summer that also saw the first moon landing, the Manson murders and Woodstock. As summer became fall, a task force of 50 spent a day making raids to put a dent in the drug supply that helped fuel the parties.
One raid at 309 North St. netted “209 ‘nickel bags’ of marijuana, a pillowcase of raw marijuana, a ball of hashish and a small box of LSD.” Nineteen total arrests, it was hoped, would put an end to the “dope terror outbreak.”
The raids centered on Allentown and “other known ‘hippie’ hangouts in the area.” Many of the men arrested “wore women’s length hair – shaggy looking, Van Dyke beards or had been unshaven for days.”
Later known for his undercover style of reporting on TV, Pauly had at least two more assignments on the peacenik scene for the Courier. In 1968, he reviewed a Peter, Paul and Mary concert at Kleinhans.
“It was folk music at its best and the nearly 3,000 persons attending applauded wildly as the group moved through songs of protest, love, war, the generation gap, race and other social problems.
“The performance was marred only by scores of camera-toting fans who punctuated each song with a barrage of blinding flash exposures.”
He also talked to a Soviet envoy who was touring the United States, sharing Russian culture. Pauly reported she was not impressed with hippies she met in Boston and Buffalo. Her words just as easily could have been then-President Richard Nixon’s.
“They strike me as being lazy and doing nothing for the society they live in,” Lyubova Muslanova said. “They were just lying around looking dirty and dressed in rags. I didn’t know what they were doing until someone told me they were doing nothing.
“Maybe they don’t agree with the system, but they must work and not just go around in rags and protest. Maybe they consider themselves revolutionaries, but in this age there is no excuse for being dirty or dressing in rags. They are not doing anything for the society they live in the way they act.”