NOB HILL--In the decade from about 1965 to 1975 America sorted itself out by generations and reshuffled the population. Everyone under 30 hit the road. Wandering from coast to coast, city to farm, midwest to anywhere else, thousands of us ended up in the Land of Enchantment.
We were a generation of slogans...(you can probably think of a few besides "Make Love, Not War"). One of them was, "Sneak In." This phrase was rooted in the belief that there were enough material goods and waste in this country to take care of everybody without working full-time to support your Spartan lifestyle. And at the center of this "Waste not, want not" philosophy stood the Volkswagen bus.
If you are over 55 you probably owned one or rode in one. It was economical, simple to fix, and was still big enough to sleep half a dozen friendly people. And fixing them was part of owning one, a big part of owning one.
The Bible of those times was John Muir's book "How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step By Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot." The illustrator was Peter Aschwanden. He died last week in Santa Fe of cancer at the age of 63. John Muir died in 1978.
There was no "how-to" book that was more popular for that generation: almost 2,000,000 copies have been sold in 3 languages.
I was living on Canyon Road in Santa Fe in 1970, sharing a house with 3 women and another guy. One day he decided to rebuild the engine of his VW bus. He was sort of a small guy, maybe weighed 120 pounds...but this didn't stop him from taking the engine out of his bus by himself. The bus was backed up against a wall. He got in there behind the bus, undid 4 bolts, grabbed the engine with both hands, and pushed the bus away from the wall with his foot. He was left holding the engine, which he carried into the house and set on the kitchen table. He opened up his Muir book and rebuilt the engine right there.
You can read the Introduction to the book page for page on Amazon. The ABQ Journal Business Outlook ran an excellent article on Peter Aschwanden in 2001. Written by Emily Van Cleve, it is certainly worth reading.