Roberts chose to photograph a community in Chapel Hill where people could come together and build houses if they had at least five acres of land. The group attracted a variety of people, including a “hippie couple” that built a house room by room out of whatever materials they could find.
“It was this community of people free from restraints of traditional society,” Roberts said.
The UNC campus itself also experienced cultural changes during the 1970s. Roberts lived in a dorm with coed floors his first year, which he said was a “big deal” at the time because dorms had previously been single-sex.
Coed bathrooms were a shock for Sheri Opper when she came to UNC in 1978 from Wallace, a small town in Southeastern North Carolina. She said her first experience with a coed bathroom was at a party at what is now St. Anthony Hall, a coed fraternity.
“The first time I went to a party and I was in the bathroom and a guy walked in, I was like, 'Alright, I’m not in Wallace anymore,'" Opper said.
Though the free love movement had permeated college campuses in the 1960s, Opper said it was more normal by the time she attended in the late 1970s for people to look for someone to date.
“I don’t think it was like the early ‘60s when I was there in ’78,” Opper said. “I think things had swung back so rather than, ‘I’m looking for free love,’ it was more like, ‘I’m looking for someone to date.’”
John Bass attended UNC from 1966 to 1971, the years that would later become known as the height of the Summer of Love, but he said the time to him was more characterized by students’ freedom to express their own thoughts and ideas.
“When you look back on it, it became labeled Summer of Love, all that kind of stuff, but I don’t think at the time we realized that was going on,” Bass said. “It was more of a freedom to express yourself whether you’re male or female or whatever.”
The campus during Bass’ time as a student was characterized by protests and unrest over political issues. The Vietnam War, he said, permeated students’ lives as it was constantly in headlines and on their minds. He said students became more comfortable questioning ideas and authority because of the unrest, regardless of what society may traditionally say — which contributed to the “hippie-ish” culture on campus.
Turek said a culture of liberalism formed independently in Chapel Hill rather than “trickling in” from California. Just as the effects of the Summer of Love lasted into the 1970s, he said the factors that led to such a cultural revolution still remain in Chapel Hill.
“The Summer of Love was almost like the one blossom of the century plant, but the plant that led to that bloom was there before it,” Turek said. “So, the Summer of Love is kind of just the flowering of that thing that was there before and is still there now.”