Maysville & The God**** Hippies - Part IV
This stretch of Highway 52 winds along the north bank of the of the Ohio River for about twenty miles, from Ripley through Aberdeen to Manchester, and there was a time in my life when I knew it as well as I know the way to my own bathroom. At Aberdeen, there's a toll-free bridge across the Ohio to Maysville, Kentucky, the hometown of my high school and college years... and since Ohio permitted the sale of 3.2 beer to eighteen-year-olds, whereas in Maysville you couldn't darken a tavern door until you were twenty-one -- and then only until ten o'clock at night -- that bridge loomed as large as the Golden Gate in the landscape of my adolescence.
In a 2005 interview with the Kentucky Kernel, Ed McClanahan gave this account of his return to Maysville:
I had made a trip home to Kentucky ... and went in my hippie garb.
I was wearing my bellbottoms and a shirt with great big sleeves, and I had long hair and granny glasses and had grown a mustache. People would stare at you on the street if you turned up in Maysville in clothes like that, and people did. But I thought, 'Aww, I can handle this, you know. It's no big problem.'
I went to this place called Penington Club. And I was there drinking beer, and three big guys, young guys - much younger than I - immediately wanted to take me out, you know.
They said, 'God damn hippie from Cali ... Wella, wella, what are you anyway, you know? Are you some kind of freak, you know? What is this?'
I said, 'Well, let's talk about this a little bit.' I said, 'I bet I'm nearly twice as old as you are.'
They said, 'Aww, the hell you are.'
I said, 'Yeah, I am. I went to Maysville High School and graduated in '51.'
And one of these guys said, 'You're full of shit because you never went to Maysville High School in 1951 because my brother was in the class of 1951 at Maysville High School.'
And I said, 'Who ... what's your name?'
And he told me, and I said, 'Your brother was one of my best friends, you know.' And so it turned out we ended up drinking beer together for a couple of hours and having a good time.
And that was that. This little excursion to Maysville Kentucky had impressed McClanahan so much that when he returned to Palo Alto, he furiously scribbled the story A Misdemeanor Against Nature, based on this experience. That story was included in Famous People I Have Known, where he chronicled his humorous brushes with the who's-who of the famous. "Sigourney Weaver baby-sat my children," and so on.
A fitting end to the story of Maysville and the God**** Hippies is Ed McClanahan's own words wrapping up his journey from a small Kentucky town to the middle of the '60s counterculture revolution and back again...
And not until years and years later, when I too had become a Kentuckian again, did it come to me that in the Penington Club that night, in my own small and, I trust, ineffectual way, I had aided and abetted a ravishing of innocence: the Californication of Kentucky.
This series was pieced together with much thanks to this article in the Kentucky Kernel, Wikipedia, and Google.