For most of his life as a hippie, Normal Bean has collected stuff: piles of music show posters, stacks of books and poetry, instruments, records and clothing. Finally, he has a place to put everything.
In downtown Springfield, Bean owns a two-story venue he calls the Hippie Museum. A large mural of original Merry Prankster George Walker holding a pitcher of Kool-Aid is on the outside wall. Inside, there’s a bar where Bean serves coffee, tea and soft drinks — but no alcohol. Bean’s gray dreadlocks sway below his waist as he walks over to the full stage in the opposite corner, which hosts live music from local and out-of-town bands below the walls of bright orange and yellow tie-dye tapestry that match Bean’s shirt.
And across the venue, behind a wall of windows, is a large empty room. This room will be the museum; it’s where all the stuff will go. The goal of the venue — according to Bean and his friend Dobe Doinat, full name Dobe Fugin Doinat — is to create a place for music, entertainment and hippie culture while preserving the history of the movement.
“Just like any museum, we want to capture our culture,” Doinat says. “We want to eventually go around and capture hippies’ stories from around the nation and around the world.”
Bean will rely on his extensive collection of hippie memorabilia and donations from people around the country. Right now he’s got plenty to work with: one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars and some of Janis Joplin’s clothes. Bean has letters and recordings from counterculture legends like Artie Kornfeld, Woodstock music festival promoter, and Ken Babbs, local author and original Merry Prankster. Walker has an extensive archive of author and Prankster Ken Kesey’s work, and artists from the GRA Group record label — of which Bean is also a member — are contributing signed memorabilia.
“I had a vast archive, and I was thinking about selling some of it or putting it in a museum,” Bean says. “I was talking to Dobe and he said, ‘You need to keep that stuff, don’t get rid of it — let’s have our own hippie museum.’ So this was born.”
The museum has already hosted multiple music performances, but the venue will host counterculture staple Big Brother and Holding Company on Feb. 26 as its grand opening. Then it will continue to host music and other live events, including stand-up comedy.
Bean has two rooms in the back of the museum that add to the versatility of the venue. Around the corner from the museum is a full kitchen, where he produces a cannabis cooking show for his upcoming hippie TV channel, which he says is currently in pre-production with several networks. He also cooks for large potlucks during the music shows. He says he doesn’t want to limit what the space can be used for.
“There’s really no clearly written path to this — it’s kind of uncharted territory,” Bean says.
Despite all the new ideas, the building also has a history of hosting live music events. Back in the ’80s, the venue was known as The Lost Dutchman and hosted rock and metal shows. It was the Hollywood Taxi in the late ’90s and early 2000s, when it hosted live music six nights a week. Kesey and the Pranksters used to throw large parties there, according to Bean.
Bean claims the hippie movement started in Springfield. Kesey, Babbs and Walker are all from the Eugene-Springfield area. For that reason, Bean says he wants to cater to the old Merry Band of Pranksters — the group of counterculture friends led by Kesey who came together in the ’60s – but also to bridge the gap between generations of hippies.
“Unlike any other time before, the generations are all speaking together,” Bean says. “We have young and old working together. This is the first time we’re able to collaborate — before there was always an opposition from young to old. That’s what the very hippie movement was built on.”
Part of Bean’s collaboration with the younger generation involves restoring a 1937 International Harvester school bus, called “Farthur,” which he plans to take on an inaugural cross-country road trip this summer. Along the way, he plans to visit college campuses to spread the history and culture of the movement while collecting stories and memorabilia to bring back to the museum.
The trip is meant to commemorate the adventures of Kesey’s original bus Furthur, which Kesey and the Pranksters took cross-country multiple times in the ’60s. Farthur would be the third incarnation of Furthur, the original of which is said to reside on Kesey’s farm east of Eugene. Similar to Kesey’s voyages, Bean will be taking video and audio recordings of the trip, which he’ll then use to produce a documentary, he says.
Bean has a few other projects in the works as well, including finding another space in Eugene that’s similar to the museum where he can park the bus. Doinat says he wants to take the bus to Washington, D.C., and take part in a million-hippie march. And Bean wants to visit Europe and Asia, spreading the hippie movement that started in Springfield.
“It’s a humanitarian project and it’s something that’s bigger than any of us,” Bean says. “Down the road we hope that it will benefit the community long term.”
The Hippie Museum is at 535 Main Street in Springfield. While not currently open, it will host Big Brother and Holding Company on Feb. 26. Visit TheHippieMuseum.com for more information or to purchase tickets, concert admission $100.