Thursday, March 22, 2012

Peace Center, 407 Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA

The center was originally known as the Palo Alto Peace Center, and was founded in the 1960's by Barbara Jo Wenger, Connie Yu and Helen Keating.

To help pay the rent on the ramshackle house that was headquarters of the Peace Center, Kepler and Sandpearl used to rent out most of the rooms, at first mainly to needy Stanford students, but then to anyone who could afford the dirt-cheap monthly rent. (1a)
"The Peace Center was a great place for social trips", Jerry said. "The Peace Center was the place where the sons and daughters of the Stanford professors would hang out and discuss things. And we, the opportunistic wolf pack-the beatnik hordes_would be there preying on their young minds and their refridgerators. And there would be all these various people turning up in these scenes and it just got to be very good:really high."(1a)

In 1969, the Peace Center was located on the site on Lytton Avenue where the 7-11 Store is located today.(2) The address of the 7-Eleven today is 401 Waverly Street when it(the Peace Center) used to be 407 Lytton Avenue.

It was the headquarters of The Grapevine, an underground newsletter that was critical of the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon. Members of the Peace Union were actively involved with demonstrating against the war. The Peace Union was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation twice in 1971.

In 1982, the center was renamed the Mid-Peninsula Peace Center, and a final name change to Peninsula Peace and Justice Center in the early 1990s reflected the organization's commitment to a broad program that addresses the interconnectedness of the many issues and problems facing our world.(1)

Today, the Peace Center is located in the First Baptist Church on the second floor at 305 N. California.

Jerry performed here with Bob Hunter

-- (pg. 40*), They lived with Willy Legate for a time, after Hunter returned in July 1961 from the National Guard training camp, at the Peace Center. Willy at least, had a political streak, but Hunter and Garcia had little interest in the center's activities, a fact that was not lost on Ira Sandperl and Roy Kepler, who tolerated them there and at Kepler's but never really warmed up to them personally.

Page 36, bottom; more on the Beats and the Peninsula crowd:

"In my room at the Peace Center, or driving with Laird in Los Trancos Woods, or walking around with Alan in Palo Alto," says Willy Legate, "I often talked about 'this group of people,' working out my somewhat hazy notions about a 'New England Group' or similar collection of artists which had, as it were, 'chosen' to be born and brought together in one place.
"In the spring of '61 I'd started a long list of the 'mysteriously connected' people we knew; the social register. In late 1961, Alan and folks he knew started discussing an 'artists' identity for us. One day in the garage, Jerry sat up and said, 'You know what we are? We're beatniks!'" (Many years later, Garcia described himself and his friends during this period as "early hippies; beatniks with that kind of [hippie] consciousness.")(1a)

Page 40, lower middle; more on the Boar's Head:
In July of '61, Garcia and Marshall Leicester played a show at the Boar's Head that was taped on a reel-to-reel recorder by Rodney Albin; it's one of just a handful from the pre-Dead days that has survived. (Years ago Willy Legate organized that performance and a few others from '61-'64 onto a series of six cassettes that were dubbed "Primordial Writhing, Vols. 1-12.") On the tape, Garcia plays guitar and Leicester plays banjo on a handful of folk standards, including "Darling Corey," "Wildwood Flower" and "Jesse James." It was all very relaxed and informal; really just a hint of what was to come from them over the next couple of years as they developed as players. Jerry also spent hours studying and learning how to play Child ballads (songs collected by the 19th century British folklorist John Child), which his friend Danya Veltfort used to copy out of books in the library for him. (1a)

Page 32, middle; more on Paul Speegle:

"Paul was also an incredible painter," says Laird Grant. "He would have set the art world on its ass by the '70s, the way he was going. He was majestic. He could make ghosts come out of oil paint. He was working on this amazing series of paintings called 'The Blind Prophet' series, which were these great, somber, Gothic pieces." One of his "Blind Prophet" paintings hung in the Peace Center for a while; later it graced the walls of the Grateful Dead's recording studio.(1a)

Page 30, lower middle; more on Kepler's:
"Palo Alto always had a well-to-do liberal contingent, but not many activists," Ira Sandperl says. "In those days, Kepler and I were probably the most active radical pacifists, and we 'got it' all the time from people who didn't agree with us. It was only later in the movement, when the violent activists came, that they looked back on us with appreciation," he says with a hearty laugh. "Roy Kepler was the most extraordinary fellow I've ever met anywhere. I've never met a man so committed, with so much dignity and intelligence, who was also almost completely nonjudgmental. He got along with everybody, and that's one reason everybody hung out at Kepler's."
The area's most famous pacifist, however, was Joan Baez, who in 1960 was not long out of Palo Alto High School and already making a name for herself as a singer of both traditional folk songs and contemporary protest anthems. "She was absolutely marvelous," Sandperl says. "She was very young still, but from the day I knew her, which was from about the age of 15, she had this public poise that you could not believe. When we met — I gave a talk at Palo Alto High School — I had no idea that she sang or anything, but already it was clear that her fellow girl students mimicked everything she did; whether they knew it or not, I don't know. She'd wear a cut-off sweat shirt for a blouse and the next day everybody would have them on. She was very magnetic and totally delightful." And, needless to say, a great asset to the Peace Center and its activities. Whenever she was in town, which became more infrequent after she moved to the East Coast and as her popularity grew, she'd always stop in at Kepler's and the Peace Center.(1a)

1.)^Teddy GoodBear <>
1a)^*Blair Jackson ("Garcia, An American Life"), pg 30, 31, 32, 36, 40
2.)^Thorwaldson, Jay, Palo Alto Weekly, 2005-05-11, On Deadline: When Roy Kepler Stood Up
3.)^Palo Alto Online, 2007-04-17, The Roots Of Peace And Justice,


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. North California Avenue and South California Avenue are divided by the train tracks. Thus the site of the Peace Center at 305 North California was very near to the future site of the Keystone Palo Alto (formerly Sophie's) at 260 South California, but it would have been very difficult to walk there, except by illictly crossing the train tracks.

    California Avenue had been the main street of Mayfield, the town next to Palo Alto. Mayfield was notorious for its numerous saloons, but the town collapsed during Prohibition and was annexed by Palo Alto. Up through WW1 or so, California Avenue (then called Lincoln Avenue) was very definitely "the wrong side of the tracks." Even in the 60s and 70s, there was still a faint tint to South Palo Alto as inferior to "downtown" Palo Alto.

  3. The Baptist Church is the current location of the Peace Center. I can't locate any info on where it was located when Jerry and Hunter stayed there. I just called their office, they're closed till Monday. I'll try then.

  4. 305 North California...Hi Corry, where'd you find that info?...this says it was Lytton Avenue: Palo Alto Online, 2007-04-17, The Roots Of Peace And Justice,

  5. I think I looked at the current address of the church and just assumed it had been located there. I know the 7-11 on Lytton. I think it's Lytton and Waverley. The 7-11 did not open until the late 70s.