Of course, the paper sometimes got carried away. The stadium story asserted that "in 35 years ...San Dieqo Stadium will look to us like the Whaley House looks to us now" and prophesied a citizen in initiative in the late 1990s to tear it down.
Using the underground press as a gauge, the social ferment of the 1960s came late to San Diego.The Los Angeles Free Press, the country's first underground paper, was established in 1964. The Berkley Barb appeared the following year. Then came New York's East Village Other, followed by new papers in Detroit, Austin, and San Francisco. Dozens of papers were formed in 1967. In January 1968 the San Diego Door began publishing in La Mesa, and nine months later the Free Press hit the streets. While the Door roamed more common underground turf — rock and roll and sexual liberation — the Free Press devoted itself to politics, which was a natural development, given the paper's germination in Herbert Marcuse's philosophy classes at UCSD.
Marcuse was a European Marxist whose dense tomes — Eros and Civilization, One-Dimensional Man — dissected the repressive underpinnings of capitalism. His radical notion that tolerance of dissent in free societies was really a form of intolerance, "an instrument for absolving servitude," helped him gain notice by the New Left. Student demonstrators in Berlin and Paris began to invoke his name in the mid-'60s, and then a protestor in Rome was widely quoted as saying, "We see Marx as the prophet, Marcuse as his interpreter, and Mao as the sword." Though relatively few protestors made it all the way through his books, Marcuse was hailed worldwide as an inspiration for revolution.
Marcuse had taught at UCSD since 1964, but it wasn't until 1968, when students protests and strikes became common at UCSD, that a rabid faction of San Diego patriots took notice of the 70-year-old German immigrant. The San Diego Union demanded an investigation of Marcuse on June 11, 1968 (Brute Krulak's first day as editorial director) in an editorial headline "This Is an Order!" San Diego Post 6 of the American Legion quickly raised $20,000 to buy out the remaining year of Marcuse's teaching contract.
Fanned by Union headlines reading, "Marcuse Says Marxism Not Radical Enough" and "Marcuse Calls for Revolution," the local fervor produced numerous threats and bags of hate mail to both Marcuse and the man who was to decide whether to renew his teaching contract, UCSD Chancellor William McGill.
On July 1, Marcuse received a written death threat from the Ku Klux Klan. "After the death threat from the Klan, we decided the immediate thing to do was to put armed guards around [Marcuse's] house," explains Street Journal founder Jan Diepersloot, a graduate student in linguistics at the time who also took some philosophy classes. "we rook turns standing guard, 24 hours a day. And the next thing to do was to start a newspaper, to spread out point of view."
Diepersloot grew up in Escondido. Bergman was from Brooklyn. They met a UCSD undergraduate named Dick Blackburn in classes and at antiwar rallies, and the three of them, along with several others, developed the concept for the new paper. Diepersloot says that there were many organizational meetings before it was launched, but they chose the name early: the San Diego Free Press. "It was mostly for name recognition — there was already an L.A. Free Press. But also, we felt San Diego was the victim of a controlled press."
After receiving a $4000 grubstake for start-up costs (Diepersloot still won't reveal the source of the money, though he does say it was someone associated with the university), almost all of the founders dropped out of college to work without pay on the paper. They survived on donations, communal living, and selling copies of the paper at 20 cents each.
Diepersloot says Professor Marcuse never became involved in practical discussions about starting an underground newspaper. In fact the professor (who died in 1979) seems to have been rather conservative himself in some ways. "He always said rock and roll was fascist," laughs Winifred Golden, who worked on the Street Journal and is now a local literary agent at the Margaret McBride agency. She says she became good friends with Marcuse. "He was a very traditional kind of person. If the American Legion had just left him alone, maybe none of this would have happened."
Ultimately, Chancellor McGill decided to keep Marcuse on a year-to-year-contract, and the Union's attacks ceased after Krulak and McGill had a personal meeting on January 2, 1969. The hate mail and the threats dried up too after Marcuse disappeared from the pages of the dailies. But the professor continued to awe young people. "I told some members of a rock band that I was having dinner with Marcuse one night," Golden reports, "and one of them said, 'Wow! That's like having dinner with Plato!'"
Golden is 47 now. A native San Diegan, she met the dozen or so people who established the Street Journal in late 1968. She was a student and actress working at the avant-garde Theater 5, based in a small shop on Turquoise Street in Pacific Beach, across from the Lucky supermarket. (The building now houses the European Cycles store.) The paper took over the old bookstore offices next door to the theater, at 751 Turquoise. (The current occupant is a lighting equipment manufacturer.) "They were completely improvising them." Golden observed. "There was no planning. It was like spontaneous combustion, the Monty Python school of journalism." She eventually contributed as a writer, researcher, and editor.
From the beginning, advertising was skimpy. The first issue contained ads from businesses such as the Odyssey head shop in Ocean Beach; the Blue Door bookstore in Hillcrest; the Yellow Balloon clothing store in La Jolla, which specialized in handmade bellbottoms, ponchos, jewelry, "and other groovies"; and the Mangelsen alternative school in Pacific Beach, which advertised a teacher-child ratio of less than 1:10. With little ad revenue, much of the production cost was covered from street sales. Golden says there were also some donors in Rancho Santa Fe who secretly contributed cash to help it through tight spots.