Each installment of The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.
This week she speaks with two women who grew up in the hippie counterculture of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Stephanie Blank dated Kelly Fleming’s brother while attending an alternative high school, then followed him to Mexico where she met Kelly and the rest of the family, who were living on a converted school bus while they traveled around. The romance didn’t last, but Stephanie’s friendship with Kelly did, even as they grew up and their lives took very different paths.
Stephanie Blank, 65, a writer and the owner of a home-accessory business, who lives in Marina del Rey, California
Kelly Fleming, 63, a fiber artist and substitute teacher who lives in Langlois, Oregon
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Julie Beck: Tell me about your upbringings, because it seems like they were somewhat unusual.
Stephanie Blank: I was born and raised in Southern California. I was a student at Beverly Hills High School in 1969 or 1970. I was really unhappy there, and frustrated with everything that Beverly Hills stood for—all the kids in their fancy cars and fancy clothes. I was becoming part of the counterculture; I was going to love-ins and be-ins with my older sister. Then I heard about this communal school up in the Santa Cruz mountains in Northern California, and I pretty much just dropped out of Beverly. I only finished ninth grade there. My parents were going through a divorce, and they were really distracted. So they didn't really care as long as they knew where I was.