Boulder Back Then: 1960s & 1970s Edition

The Kinks Famously Sang: “Lazin' on a Sunny Afternoon, in the Summertime”

Imagine a sunny afternoon in town in the '60s. You’re strolling downtown gazing towards the majestic Flatiron views when you hear a Rolling Stones tune blasting from the record player. 

What brought folks to Boulder in the '60s and '70s does not stray far from what brings folks to our bustling mountain town today. Originally a hub for gold miners in the mountains, Boulder quickly morphed into a hidden gem for hikers, outdoors-lovers and young entrepreneurs. 

I had the opportunity to sit down with Hotel Historian, Laurel McKown, of the historic Hotel Boulderado to chat about all things vintage Boulder. She described this time period as an era of great “transition” and change moving into a more modernized age.

Nevertheless, Boulder’s uniqueness, charm and beauty prevailed as the main draw to the city. Like so many others, Laurel’s dream was to live in the mountains and be out West. 

“The ‘67 Summer of Love which started in San Francisco, was big with the free-spirited movement coming to town,” Laurel says. “People would come and camp out in the mountains West of here. Everyone wanted to settle in Boulder because it was a mecca.” 

The two economic groups that supported the town, in addition to the CU students and travelers, were the miners and ranchers. They would venture to Boulder to gather supplies––even dynamite––and then go back to their land.

While Boulder is now known for world-renowned brews and craft distilleries, it wasn’t until 1967 that they could serve or sell beer other than 3.2. When the prohibition officially lifted, Liquor Mart in Goss Grove was one of the first to receive a liquor license. 

The Sink, another Boulder institution (started in 1923), was a restaurant that sold 3.2 beer once it became legal in 1933 for the students, and Robert Redford was a dishwasher there,” Laurel says. “You just never knew who you were going to run into!” 

Pearl Street Mall as we now know it was less developed and more so a simple, functioning downtown. The two economic groups, in addition to the CU students and travelers, that supported the town were the miners and ranchers. They would venture to the local downtown to gather supplies ––even dynamite––and then go back to their land. There was a lumberyard in the area with other stores such as McClure’s Dry Goods (now where Peppercorn resides). Anything past 28th St. was considered farmland and outside of town. The introduction of the Crossroads Mall, now Twenty Ninth Street Mall, was the main source of business.

However, Pearl Street Mall was revived in 1970, when Governor John A. Love signed the “Public Mall Act,” which prompted city officials to close streets to accommodate the implementation of pedestrian malls. The mall was constructed during the summer of 1976 and formally opened in August of 1977. 

From here, Boulder started to welcome a growing community focused on cooperative business with an emphasis on the natural food industry. With like-minded individuals at the helm, businesses such as the Carnival Caf experienced a slow burn but had lasting impact. In 1969, Mo Siegel, founder of Celestial Seasonings, began his tea journey by hand-picking wildflowers in the Colorado mountains. 

While the days of flower power have seemingly passed, Boulder remains a haven for the curious, the free-spirited and the entrepreneurial. 

Styled by Nikki Malloy of New Relevance Vintage

For those looking to transport themselves back in time, check out these groovy fashion tips and spots that honor and celebrate vintage:

‘60s and ‘70s Vintage Fashion

Fashion scarves embellished with floral patterns

Bell bottom jeans and pants 

Flowy tops and tie-blouses 

Casual hiking attire 

Beaded necklaces

Levi’s and work shirts 

Eclectic but casual 

Where to shop vintage in Boulder + Beyond

Heady Bauer 1909 9th St.

Apocalypse 1813 Pearl St.

SLCT Stock Colorado 1140 13th St.

Meek Vintage 2901 Blake Street #160, Denver CO

New Relevance Vintage @newrelevancevintage on Instagram

Related Businesses

Related Articles