Random Rochesterite: Kathy Nichols
One resident, numerous anecdotes
Name: Kathy Nichols
Where we found her: Jeremiah Program fundraiser
Are you originally from the Rochester area?
No, I grew up in California. I was born in San Diego in ’46 and then I moved to San Francisco after high school.
What spurred the move to San Francisco?
After high school, I went to college for about a year and a half, and then I just lost all direction. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I tried business school. That’s when I met a fellow and we became engaged. I found out he wasn’t who I thought he was, and I broke the engagement, but he would not give up. They didn’t call it stalking in those days, but it was. My mom was really worried, so I went to San Francisco to live with my aunt, Marguerite.
How was that move?
It was a beautiful place to live. At the same time that I was living with her, one of her best friend’s daughters, Cory, had almost the same situation going on as I did. So she lived with my aunt, too. Eventually, Cory and I moved out of Aunt Marguerite’s and got our own apartment. We didn’t quite get kicked out, but it was suggested! My aunt had always lived on her own, and to all of the sudden have two young women in and out of her apartment, and all that goes with that, we came close to overstaying our welcome.
San Francisco in the ‘60s had to be an experience. I knew nothing about hippies to this point. Then one day I was out walking, and there was a young man sitting on the side of a fountain. His name was Jake, and he was just the sweetest, nicest young man. We’d talk about his viewpoint on life, and I thought, “That’s kind of an interesting way to look at things.” He lived in Haight-Ashbury and was my first introduction to that lifestyle. This was in 1966, the Summer of Love, and that’s when Cory and I started going down to Haight-Ashbury. [Eventually], I got a flat on Ashbury Street, one block from Haight.
You were in the center of hippie culture.
It was an interesting, fun time of my life. One of the other fellows we lived with worked in the head shop on Haight Street, where you’d buy candles and jewelry and tapestries and incense. We kind of all pulled together whatever we had to pay the rent and buy groceries. We spent a lot of time at The Fillmore, Bill Graham’s music venue. We begged and borrowed to get money to go. I saw anyone you could think of—Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Creedence, Three Dog Night, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Ravi Shankar, Santana. Everybody and anybody. Tuesdays was jam night. The Hell’s Angels put that on. They had keg beer, and for $2 you could get in. Anybody who was in town to play other venues would come and play on Tuesday nights.
How did you land in Minnesota?
Things started to change; a harder element was moving in. The Haight was getting a little dicey. There was also a huge back-to-the-land movement starting. There was cheap land in Minnesota, so eventually my partner at the time and I bought 200 acres south of Shevlin, with a house and barn. I think we only paid $11,000. We must’ve been a laughingstock. We were disguising ourselves so we didn’t look like hippies, but we stood out like a sore thumb. Eventually, that relationship ended, and he returned to California. I stayed in Minnesota with my two daughters and met my husband, Mark.
How did you meet Mark?
Through friends of mine. Mark was working up in Hibbing as a carpenter. He was a very good-looking man, four years younger than me, and had a reputation with the women. So I said no, he’s just a pretty face! Then we connected at a party, and had a conversation. We started writing back and forth, and have been together ever since. We moved to Blooming Prairie 30 years ago, but also have property that we bought near Bagley when we first got together. We built a log cabin on it.
You built it yourselves?
Yes. We lived on the property, in a four-person tent, while we were building until October that first year. There was no well, no electricity, nothing. We started the cabin by putting the logs up as far as we could reach, and then we rolled them up ramps. All the logs came off our property. … It probably took us three years to get it to the point that we lived in it. We didn’t have a bathroom for a while; we had an outhouse. We finally put a bathroom in on about the fourth year. It’s taken us about 47 years to get to where we are now. After we retired, we built a garage. When we built the garage, we also made a wood floor to put in the house and laid it ourselves in the five bedrooms and living room. I took a lot of pride in the fact that I could do it. I was over 70 years old.
Do you have a big family?
We have four children—Heather, Iris, Luke, and Zachary—and 10 grandchildren.
What do you think your kids remember of you when they were growing up?
My oldest daughter, Heather, remembers that I used to do all the cooking from scratch. She probably does not have a fond memory of my lentil burgers, but she liked the buns I made for them!
What memories stick out from raising your kids?
I started raising kids in my early 20s, and it’s been such a big part of my adult life. For the longest time, I’d go places and I’d see parents with young children, and I’d think, “Oh man, I hope you realize this is one of the best times.” Because it goes so fast. Those times when you’re watching them grow and you’re seeing each personality develop. To me, it’s just magic.
What do you hope your children know about you?
That I’ve always tried to do the right thing. And it hasn’t always been easy. I hope they know that they’ve been the most important thing in my whole life. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t had each and every one of them.