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NYC Free Store 1967

The Digger Free Store

The Diggers invented the idea of the Free Store and it became a counterculture institution. Anywhere communes thrived there was the inevitable Free Box, a smaller, less labor intensive version of the Free Store. A section devoted to the Free Store will be filled with stories of serendipitous finds and fortuitous gifts. Of potlatches and give-offs.

Some of the best Digger stories revolve around the goings-on at the Free Store. For example, one of my favorites:

One day two reporters (one from Life Magazine and the other from Time) showed up about the same time at the Trip Without A Ticket, the third Digger Free Store. Each reporter independently asked to interview the Digger leader in charge. The Diggers took aside each reporter and confided that the person they wanted was there, but that he would be difficult to interview and would not acknowledge that he was a Digger leader. They then introduced both reporters who proceeded to interview each other thinking they were the elusive Digger leader for their big scoop.

The Free Store was where 'reality came to change its wardrobe'. Soldiers who had gone A.W.O.L would head to the Free Store, enter in full military uniform and leave looking like any other hippie on the street (often carrying new ID as well.) Hippies believed in the Free Store, and it worked. People whose needs were circumspect could find all manner of accoutrements that were surplus energy to another sister or brother. The phrase "What goes around comes around," if not coined to explain why free stores work, certainly became a good metaphysical maxim for the way the universe seemed to operate in the realm of Free.

There has been but little written about the Free Store, but Serendipity at my side, I discovered a wonderful piece originally published in the New Yorker in 1967 that describes a journey into the Lower East Side of Manhattan and a thriving Free Store there. Surprise of all, the main person mentioned is Motorcycle Richie. Having made his way from the Free Frame of Reference, he served as a Johnny Appleseed of the Digger movement in his biker jaunts 'cross country.

Here's a link to the article: Free Store from The New Yorker's Talk of the Town, Oct. 14, 1967.

Click on photos for larger versions
The Frederick Street Free Store
Frederick St. Free Store
 
Typical scene in the Frederick Street Free Store, especially after a busy day of "shopping"

A communal free store in the Kaliflower network of free communes.

 

 

 
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