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The Communication Company

"Publishing Arm of the Diggers"

San Francisco Haight-Ashbury
January — August, 1967

[Member of the Underground Press Syndicate]


The collective members of the Communication Company fashioned themselves "the publishing arm of the Diggers." As such, their record of broadsides, manifestos, leaflets and street sheets leaves us a rich slice of Digger philosophy as it played out on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury during the spring and summer months of 1967. Many of the anonymous sheets came from the Diggers themselves; others had been penned by Chester Anderson, one of the Beat survivors from North Beach who gravitated to the new scene in the Haight. Inspired by the Diggers and their Free philosophy, Chester and his partners Claude and Helene Hayward set up a printing operation with two "beautiful" Gestetner mimeograph machines that had been nefariously obtained through the offices of Ramparts magazine. Everything (or nearly so) was free of charge. If someone had heard a rumor of a bust, or had a good lead on free food, or wanted to announce a poetry reading, Communication Company had roving reporters on the street who could rush at a moment's notice back to the flat where the Gestetners were kept. Within a short time, a new street sheet would appear, to be distributed by the volunteers who acted as the distributors.

I started collecting ComCo sheets, as we called them, in 1971. Chester had estimated there were "around 900" unique sheets. To this day, I've collected around 350. My plan for these Web pages is to create a history of the Diggers out of the enormous archive of writings and publications they left behind. This collection of street sheets is a vital link to that history. I only hope they will bring as much pleasure to my audience as they have me over the years.

Note on the format: I have used the catalog numbers that I assigned to the Digger and Communication Company materials as I collected them. Thus, the very first ComCo sheet that I collected is CC001. (It also happens to be the first ComCo sheet that was printed, as far as I know.) I have included a title for each item, although in many cases this is simply the first line of the broadside.


The Communication Company broadsides

NOTE (10/16/97): I now have my bibliographic database available through a Web form. I will be working on the format for displaying the ComCo collection in order to integrate the database with this listing. For now, click here for a complete listing of the catalog.


Set #1 of broadsides

The Communication Company ... OUR POLICY
Remember the Love Circus?
Survival School
There Is Only 1 Digger
Hippies In Free
Prepare Now For The Potlatch
All In All, Dear Friends...
What Part Of The Day Do You Spend Running?
Got It Anyway Who Wants Haight Street This Summer Any Way Got It?
"Things are getting a bit out of control"
War is Decor In My Cavern Cave
All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace
A Moving Target Is Hard To Hit
Free Acid!
Carte de Venue & Street Menu

Set #2 of broadsides

Uncle Tim'$ Children
Gurus Wizards Teachers
about time we started doin' our own livin' and dyin'
The News Before It Happens
Saturday -- April 29 -- Santa Fe, N. Mexico
street news for the tenth of may
Nation Scheduling Cover on the Hippies

Set #3 of broadsides

street news for the tenth of may
Nation Scheduling Cover on the Hippies

Chester's Archives

Among the many myths surrounding the Communication Company was always the idea that Chester had a stash of ComCo sheets that he had sent his "archivist". Chester had trotted out this story on numerous occasions when I had visited him at UCSF after a kidney operation in 1973 (1975?), even referring to this as a "complete run" of the Communication Company. Now, twenty years later, in one of those moments of serendipity that brightens any collector's day, I discovered the following notation while searching MELVYL (the online University of California Library Catalog):

FI PA ANDERSON, CHESTER
Search result:  22 records at all libraries

D 3 LONG
Type HELP for other display options.

3. ARCHIVE/MANUSCRIPT
Author:        Anderson, Chester, 1932-
Title:         Chester Anderson papers, [ca. 1963-1980].
Description:   1 box (.4 linear ft.)

Notes:         Records (Jan.-Sept. 1967) of the Communication Company (San
                 Francisco, Calif.), a member of the Undergound Press
                 Syndicate, including broadsides, flyers, and handbills printed
                 for the Diggers, San Francisco Mime Troupe, and the
                 Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council, among other
                 organizations, individuals, and events, including Human Be-In
                 and the Invisible Circus at Glide Church. Also includes copy
                 of a letter, 9 Feb. 1967, written by Chester Anderson to his
                 friend, Thurlonius Benjamin Weed in Florida, discussing his
                 move to San Francisco, his work, and his involvement in the
                 Haight-Ashbury community. Also, includes edited typescripts of
                 "Puppies" (Entwhistle Books, 1979) and "Fox & Hare"
                 (Entwhistle Books, 1980).
               Literary figure of the Beat Era and the Haight-Ashbury community
                 of San Francisco, Calif. in the 1960s. Founded the
                 Communication Company, an innovative news service in 1967.
                 Published works under his own name and a pseudonym, John
                 Valentine. Anderson died in April 1991 in Homer, Ga., where he
                 lived with relatives.

Subjects:      Communication Company (San Francisco, Calif.)
               Underground Press Syndicate.
               Diggers (Organization : San Francisco, Calif.)
               San Francisco Mime Troupe.
               Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council.
               Human Be-In (San Francisco, Calif.)
               Invisible Circus (San Francisco, Calif.)
               Beat generation -- California -- San Francisco.
               Psychedelic art -- Specimens.
               Haight-Ashbury (San Francisco, Calif.)
               Ephemera.
               Handbills.
               Poems.

Other entries: Weed, Thurlonius Benjamin.
               Valentine, John. Puppies. 1979
               Anderson, Chester, 1932- Fox & hare. 1980

Call numbers:  UCB   Bancroft  BANC MSS 92/839 c

So, I skedaddled over to Berkeley, laying all prejudice against an East Bay outing aside, and visited Chester's MSS Collection at Bancroft. I have started to take notes which I have included here for anyone not in the vicinity or the fortitude to venture to the Camponile. Most impressive so far is that Chester apparently dated many, if not most, of the sheets he was sending his archivist. Also be sure to read the letter he wrote, as a newcomer on the scene, before he was totally immersed in the goings-on of the "New Community" in the Haight.


 

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