All posts by Eric

Fred Moore: Trust in People

Fred Moore died in a horrendous car accident in 1997, much too young for such a committed activist and pathfinder. Fred carried out one of the (if not the) first of many anti-military protests on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. In 1959 at the age of 18, Fred sat-in on the steps of Sproul Hall to begin a fast protesting mandatory ROTC training for all entering male students. Future activists who led the Free Speech Movement credit Fred’s act in 1959 as the opening round of the Sixties student protest movements.

As much as Fred’s career as a lifelong pacifist, non-violence advocate, continental walker for peace and justice, and devoted father deserves a clarion call of remembrance, that is not my purpose with this posting. Instead, I want to call attention to Fred’s connection with the Diggers and the philosophy of Free. Fred played an important role in proselytizing the vision of a society free of buying and selling, just as the original English Diggers (1649) and the San Francisco Diggers (1966) had done. Fred also was instrumental in my uncovering a forgotten piece of Digger history.

First, the uncovering story. In 1974, I had been living in the Kaliflower Commune for three years and had started collecting the leftover remains from the Digger movement that had burst onto the scene in 1966 and finally dissipated (at least in the public eye) in 1968 (or thereabouts). We were actively collecting Digger Papers, Communication Company broadsides, Free City News sheets and posters. We had reached out to all manner of folks — Ron Thelin, Peter Berg, Judy Goldhaft, Peter Coyote, Eileen Ewing, Linn (Freeman) House, Vicki Pollack, Siena Riffia, Phyllis Wilner, Allen Cohen … etc. We were begging, and borrowing whatever we could turn up for the Digger collection. We were also interviewing folks. Tape recorders made people nervous so I would write up notes and type a “memcon” when I got back to the commune. The term memcon came from the Watergate hearings, which Irving was avidly watching every day on a black-and-white TV he had bought cheap at one of the used furniture stores in the Western Addition.

I would reach out to total strangers and ask if they had any Digger materials they could share or let us borrow to make Xerox copies. In January 1974, I contacted Fred Moore. I wrote to him at the address in Menlo Park where he was coordinating something called the Information Network. (More about it later…) Fred responded and we had a phone call the following month. Fred said that the only person he knew who had been involved in the Digger movement was a man named Walt Reynolds who had taught the Diggers how to bake bread in coffee cans. Fred had met Walt at Resurrection City in Washington, D.C., in 1968 (the last project that Martin Luther King had planned before his assassination). After our phone call, I contacted Walt and he told me his story. Here is the memcon I wrote at the time about my phone call with Fred and then with Walt: (to view any of the images, click and choose open in new tab)

Fred’s introduction of Walt Reynolds uncovered a whole piece of Digger history that had not been documented. The result was the page on the history of Digger Bread and the Free Bakery(ies).

But wait, there’s more. Fred may have contributed this significant piece of history to the Digger story. But even more importantly, he was an influence on the budding personal computer revolution in the early 1970s. Fred was involved with Lee Felsenstein and the Community Memory project that created the first online computer switchboard (later termed bulletin board). And in 1974, Fred started a project in Menlo Park called the Information Network that was his vision of a society without buying or selling. The following year, Fred and Gordon French put out a call for a group of computer enthusiasts to come together and share ideas, inventions, and technology. This became the Homebrew Computer Club. Much has been written about this moment when some of the long-haired underground computer hobbyists first began experimenting with the new Intel and Motorola microprocessor chips.

Fred’s role in the Homebrew Computer Club has been widely recognized. See, for example, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Or John Markoff’s What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. Or Steven Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Or Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism.

All of those (and more) sources are replete with the influence that Fred had. But none of them totally explain his philosophy. That’s where this last piece of the puzzle is so crucial. At some point, Fred visited Joseph and me after we had moved out of the commune, and he gave me a document that I think is the missing link between the Diggers and Fred’s inspiration that can be seen in the open source and free software movements. Recently, in our ex-commune member Zoom group, we got to talking about Fred. I pulled out the copy of Fred’s manifesto that he had donated to the Digger archive. It was printed on newsprint but I scanned it several years ago. Nevertheless, both in the hard copy and the scanned version, it is not an easy document to read. The printing is tiny, quite dense. So, I decided for the sake of our Zoom group to transcribe the text. The title of Fred’s vision is “Put Your Trust in People, Not Money” and it lays out the philosophy that is still practiced today in many corners of the World Wide Web. Here it is:


North Beach; Weather Resonance

The past several days have brought snow accumulations to the San Francisco Bay Area rarely if ever seen — Mt. Tamalpais, Mount Hamilton, Mount Diablo ring the Bay like crystal jewelry suspended in memory. A friend forwarded an article about Gary Snyder which was a joy to read (“Man. Verses. Nature” by Hillary Louise Johnson, Sactown Magazine, Sept-Oct 2022, Though the writer mentioned several of Snyder’s best known works, there was one that was notable for its absence. This was a broadside published in 1975 which is a paean to that neighborhood in San Francisco with some of the best weather on the planet. “North Beach” resonates with places of the mind, places where synergy combines to further human consciousness of the natural world.

In thinking about the history of the Sixties, North Beach takes on a significance similar to the outcroppings of limestone that dot the surface of that neighborhood. The truths that the Beat poets uncovered in the 1950s became the ground on which the 60s radicals continued the social assault.

Here then is the (semi-anonymous) manifesto/ode/paean to “North Beach” (published by Canessa Gallery, 1975).


North Beach

In the spiritual and political loneliness of America of the fifties you’d hitch a thousand miles to meet a friend. Whatever lives needs a habitat, a proper culture of warmth and moisture to grow. West coast of those days, San Francisco was the only city; and of San Francisco, North Beach. Why? Because partly, totally non-Anglo. First, the Costanoan native peoples — peoples living around the Bay for five thousand-plus years. Sergeant Jose Ortega crossed sand dunes and thickets to climb a hill (Telegraph) there around the first of November 1769. Later, Irish on the hill (prior to Quake and Fire) and tales of goats grazing those rocks —

Tellygraft hill, Tellygraft hill
Knobby old, slobby old,
Tellygraft hill

— then Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese (fishermen), Chinese (Kuangtung and Hakka) and even Basque, down from Nevada sheepherding on vacation.

When we of the fifties and after walked into it, walk was the key word. Maybe no place else in urban America where a district has such a feel of on-foot: narrow streets, high blank walls and stairstep steeps of alleys and white-wood houses cheap to rent; laundry flapping in the foggy wind from flat-topped roofs. Morocco; or ancient terraced fertile crescent pueblos.

A tiny watershed divide is at the corner of Green and Columbus. Northward a creek flowed, the mouth of which, on the little alley called Water Street (now some blocks up from the Fisherman’s Wharf coast — all fill) is under the basement of a friend’s apartment. The easterly stream went down by what was the Barbary Coast and Geodetic Survey offices on Battery. Storms come out of a place in the north Pacific, high latitudes, pulse after pulse of weather (storms deflected north in summer). San Francisco, North Beach, like living on the bow of a ship. Over the dark running seas, from November on, breaking in rains and flying cloud bits on the sharp edges of Telegraph hill.

A habitat; midway between two other summer-and winter-ranges, Berkeley and Marin county . Who would not, en-route, stop off in North Beach? To buy duck eggs, drop into Vesuvio, City Lights, get sesame oil or wine, walk up Grant to this or that place. Or living there; the hum of cable-car cables under the street — lit-up ships down on the docks working all night — the pre-dawn crashes of the Scavengers’ trucks. Spanning years from a time when young women would get arrested for walking barefoot, to the barebottom clubs of Broadway now tending tourist tastes from afar.

A habitat. The Trans-America pyramid, a strikingly wasteful and arrogant building, stands square on what was once called Montgomery block, a building that housed the artists and revolutionaries of the thirties and forties. Kenneth Rexroth, many others, lived there; foundations of post-war libertarianism; moves that became publicly known as “beat” in the middle fifties. This emphasis often neglected the deeply dug-in and committed thinkers and artists of the era who never got or needed much media-fame; who were the culture that nourished so much. Many people risking all — following sometimes the path of excess and not always going beyond folly to the hoped-for wisdom. Yet, like the sub-Aleutian storms, pulse after pulse came out of North Beach from the fifties forward that touched the lives of people around the world.

I worked the docks in those days. “Down to Pier 23 to work, Smith-Rice cranes, and Friday a white egret that fluttered down on the pier, dwarfing the seagulls, riffled its wings and feathers delicately a few times then flew off back in the direction from which it came.” 23.Xl. 52

“It is of no particular significance that I sit writing Chinese characters and practice pronouncing them in Japanese; it’s all here: vines in the Mediterranean, taro-patches in Melanesia, the clover yards or Vancouver island – the eye sees, the hand moves, the world moves in and through; like a complex spiral shell. ” — 4. II . 54

And, a Peoples World headline from October, 1958

Outmoded Capitalism
Threatens Humanity
With Multiple Perils

— while walking to Gino and Carlos, another place we met and drank (Jack Spicer gave me a whiskery hug) —

“The necessity to roam at wild . . . large, useless, and nowhere scenes, to follow the city cat-track down, ‘out of my head’ etc. — we need the big gamble of a physical economic urban Void in which you have to dive … ” — 3, XI. 58

That close, loose, circle of comrades, lovers, freaks, and friends (how many we mourn already!) in the rolling terrain of North Beach (virtually the only place in California that didn’t freeze out plants in the cold snap of December 1972, in fact, warmer than any place else in San Francisco except for Noe Valley, and having the most frost-free days per year of any place in the U. S. short of Florida) is the rich soil of much beauty, and the good work of hatching something else in America, pray it cracks the shell in time.

Gratitude to the Spirits of the Place; may all Beings flourish.

Billy Digger Needs Our Help

Many people know me as the Digger archivist. I have the website, Digger Archives (, which has been up and running since 1992. Lots of folks have used the primary source materials that are archived there to inspire and get inspired by the fascinating social revolutionaries who took the name of the 17th century Diggers to carry out a program of autonomous collective actions in the Haight-Ashbury starting in 1966. Many people have read the rip-roaring account in the 400-page book Ringolevio by Emmett Grogan, one of the two people who started publishing street manifestos and soon began a series of programs all without charge, including Free Feeds in the Panhandle, the first Free Stores ever, the Free Bakery at All Saints Church, the Free Medical Clinic, the Free City Bank, etc. The name Emmett Grogan became widely known, even to the point that some people doubted such a person existed. What was not widely known was the name of the other person responsible for founding the Diggers. In the Digger Papers, Emmett called him Billy Landout. He was known as Billy Digger to many. Eventually, his true identity became known. Billy Murcott was as elusive as Emmett Grogan was recognizable. Billy never grabbed the limelight. To this day, he tries to maintain the anonymity that the Diggers initially espoused. It was the idea of his friends to set up this GoFundMe page.

In mid-December, 2022, Billy had a stroke that put him in the hospital for two weeks. He’s back home now (on the same Brooklyn street where he and Emmett grew up as childhood friends). He is in rehab and is doing well. All his friends have finally been able to breathe a sigh of relief. What we want to do now is help Bill with his medical bills. Bill never made a cent on his stake to fame as the co-founder of the San Francisco Diggers. He drove a cab until his early 80s when Covid made it impossible. His financial situation is, like so many octogenarians, not prosperous. Please help if you can. Thanks.

“Tattoo on the skin of time”

Serendipity is always lurking around the corner to jump unsuspecting into the path of daily routine. This past week the spirit jumped out once more to provide a jaunt into the historical dimension.

I made contact with Lucas Natali who is researching Tie-Dye in the counterculture He is interested in the origins of tie-dye among hippies, culminating in its first public prolific splash of color at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. In searching through my notes on the Diggers and their role in the introduction of tie-dyeing into the Haight-Ashbury scene, I ran across a reference to Luna Moth in one of the bibliographic listings of Peter Berg’s writings. Luna Moth was one of the key people who brought the ancient art of Tie-Dye to life and taught people at the Trip Without A Ticket free store in 1967 how to create the beautiful fabrics that became the hallmark of the counterculture.

The reference in the bibliography of Peter’s writings was to an article titled “Trucking Into New England” and it was included in Jodi Palladini’s (aka Luna Moth’s) book Roll Your Own (co-edited with Beverly Dubin). I had never heard of this piece of writing by Peter so I was eager to track it down. Fortunately, the Summer of Love Archives book collection had a copy. Looking through it at first I was stymied. None of the chapters are attributed to particular authors. I didn’t find any chapter with the exact title “Trucking Into New England” but finally at the very end of the book is a listing of “Credits” and in the smallest print that these septuagenarian eyes can discern was this notation: “Newsletter, pp. 167-9: Peter Berg.” Here is what is on those two pages:

If the Credits were hard on the eyes, this was worse. No wonder I passed it by the first time through looking through the book for Peter’s piece. If you read it (see enlarged images of the individual pages, below) indeed it does sound like a newsletter. The title that was transcribed for Peter’s bibliography is actually the first part of the first sentence: “Trucking into New England with video letters from the planetarian West!”

Here then is a most rare document. Peter’s four-page letter back to Luna Moth is a first-person account of the caravan that the family of Diggers undertook in 1971 heading out from the Red House in Forest Knolls to points easterly and roundabouts. Coyote talked about this in his book. But I had never seen an account written at the time. The “Homeskin” manifesto, yes. But “Trucking …” is not so much a manifesto as a journal account of some of the scenes they encountered. Read it to understand the idea that would eventually lead back to San Francisco and the founding of Planet Drum as one of the Bioregional Movement’s nerve centers.

I will post all four pages below at high enough resolution that even septuagenarians can read the content easily. But here is the one paragraph I want to highlight in this celebration of serendipitous moments:

“Showing tapes the next night was an enormous-sized intimate event. Video tape reflects the real-time surface of life processes and events, and unedited tape stretches past the usual span of filmic attention to make a tattoo on the skin of time. We watched tribal home movies pulling together consciousness from both sides of the continental divide.”

That’s IT! “Tattoo on the skin of time” is a perfect description of Peter’s cinematic sense of everyday “life processes and events.” Not only is it the apt description of the video letters that Peter was filming on the Homeskin Caravan in 1968, but it can also be seen as the underlying aesthetic to describe the other important film project that he produced—NOWSREAL. That was the movie that Peter Berg and Kelly Hart filmed in 1968 in the last three months of Free City, three years before the Homeskin Caravan. I finally have the perfect description for NOWSREAL to use on that page in the Digger Archives—”a tattoo on the skin of time.”

Remembering Diane

Diane di Prima left our plane of existence this past Sunday (25 Oct 2020). I recently came across the attached document in my researches, and wanted to share it with everyone. This is an early printing of Diane’s Revolutionary Letters, soon after she moved to San Francisco in 1968 and joined in Free City. Free City was the Digger project that wove together dozens of communes that had formed out of the Summer of Love.

These are the first fifteen poems of what eventually were sixty-three published by City Lights. This set of fifteen was originally printed by the New York Communication Company which was inspired by the SF Communication Company which itself was inspired by the Diggers. The NY Com/Co publication of the Revolutionary Letters was then reprinted widely in the underground press (such as the attached excerpt from the underground literary journal Quixote, thanks to Independent Voices).

In Revolutionary Letter #11, Diane mentions going on a free food run with Kirby Doyle to supply the Free City Convention which was held at the Carousel Ballroom on May 1, 1968. This was one of the Digger events that inspired the Sutter Street Commune to set up the Free Print Shop and start publishing the inter-communal newsletter Kaliflower the following year.

These poems seem eerily reminiscent of the present as our democracy is under attack by many of the forces that Diane foresaw half a century ago.


Madeleine Stern’s quote about the the Prince of Serendip (one of the Praxis passages on the Digger web site) came true this fall. The COVID pandemic has been conducive for uncovering missing sources, apparently. I was looking through boxes of ephemera that had not yet been scanned, one of which was Freeman House’s archive that he donated in 1980. One sheet caught my eye, titled “term paper.” Perhaps because it wasn’t signed “Diggers” I had not paid it close attention before. But the first sentence jumped off the page:

the relationship between poetry and revolution has lost its ambiguity—gregory corso’s poem POWER was the sole reason behind the concept of the Diggers: autonomy.

—”term paper” (Digger street sheet, 1966-7)

I immediately looked for Gregory Corso’s poem POWER. Peter Berg referred to one of Corso’s plays in a remembrance of Gregory on the Planet Drum web site:

It was easy to feel brotherly toward Gregory. I knew his Gasoline poems and some others, and was especially impressed by a one-act play titled Standing on a Street Corner. It exuded the spirit of a wise clown epitomized in the line, “Standing on a street corner doing nothing is power.” I used the script in a weekly play study class in my Haight-Ashbury apartment for fellow San Francisco Mime Troupers. It helped inspire the concept of guerrilla theater that was incubating then for future pieces performed in Sproul Plaza during teach-ins, at a bus station, and on actual street corners.

—Peter Berg, memorial speech for Gregory Corso (2001)

But “term paper” didn’t say “one-act play”—it specifically said “poem.”

Then, this past month, my communal zoom group suggested that I give one of our weekly presentations on “The Life & Times of Irving Rosenthal (to 1971)” to uncover the hidden connections in the lives of anyone who was influenced by the Kaliflower network (comprising the hundreds of communes in the SF Bay Area in the 1960/1970s).

In researching the presentation, I came across a most interesting reference. In early 1959, Irving Rosenthal was putting the final touches on Big Table 1, the literary journal that he founded with Paul Carroll to publish the Beat writings that the University of Chicago had banned after the Chicago Review scandal in late 1958 (Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, Old Angel Midnight by Jack Kerouac). Rosenthal wrote to Allen Ginsberg that he had decided to add three poems Gregory Corso had just sent him: “Power (for Allen Ginsberg)”; “Army”; and, “Police.”

So here then was the missing link. Corso’s poem “POWER” (in all caps, just as the Digger sheet titled it likewise) was published in Big Table 1 in March 1959. It became the inspiration for Digger autonomy. And notice the slight shift in wording from Corso’s play that Berg referenced. See images below of both items that were uncovered.

“term paper” Digger street sheet (1966-67):

“POWER (for Allen Ginsberg)” excerpt from Big Table 1

“Standing on a street corner waiting for no one is Power”—the missing link between the Beats and the Diggers.

The John Dillinger Computer

This is a presentation that I gave at the Tenderloin Museum in San Francisco in 2017, the 50th anniversary (approx.) of The Invisible Circus at Glide Church. Click on the image below to be taken to the page on the Digger web that displays the slides and corresponding notes.


“Some thoughts on capitalism and the virus”

Richard Woolf is a marxian economist who has had a stellar academic and popular career. Currently he is teaching at the New School in New York City. He also continues his career as a movement activist in his work with the group Democracy@work. Woolf wrote the following communiqué on the state of world capitalism confronting the COVID-19 (and various other names) virus pandemic. What is striking is that many of his arguments will likely resonate with a much wider range of citizens than they would have six weeks ago before the virus had spread everywhere. The question occurs to what extent are the arguments Woolf is making reflective of leftist analyses during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Below is an image of Woolf’s letter (and a PDF is available here):



The Bard Speaks

Today (March 24, 2020) Lawrence Ferlinghetti is 101 years of age. Let’s pause to consider the moment. We have a poet, a living poet, whose fame will reverb through the corridors of time. Here he is reciting his poem “Trump’s Trojan Horse” to reignite our passion:

ferlinghetti trojan horse