Checkpoint Charlie and the Neo-Hippie Cornfield Surfer - photo

I didn’t know a “Neo-Hippie Cornfield Surfer” was looking for me.

I’m glad he found me, and in time for the 30th anniversary of when we crossed paths—and didn’t know it.

On June 21, 1990, Melinda and I were in Berlin, eagerly chipping off chunks of the Wall. I paused to take photos of some of the choicest graffiti, including the esoteric “NEO-HIPPIE CORNFIELD SURFERS ROCK WORLD WIDE!”

Andrew Michael Kennedy of Kokomo, Indiana, signed the message and dated it European-style, “6-21-90.”

The next day, Melinda and I happened to eyewitness history. We were in the crowd that saw Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most iconic symbols of the cold war, ceremoniously removed and hauled away.

So was Kennedy, unbeknownst to us until a few days ago.

Last November, I wrote stories about the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie for the Messenger and for Forward Kentucky, a Louisville blog. (East German authorities opened the Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.)

My jaw dropped on June 11 when Forward Kentucky webmaster Bruce Maples forwarded me this email: “Hello! I have a very weird request...do you know of any way I can get in touch with Berry Craig? He featured one of my Berlin Wall scribbles in his ‘thirty years later...’ [Forward Kentucky] article and I’d like to thank him. Or, if you can, you can give him my email? it’s woodhengestudios@gmail.com. Thank you!”

I immediately replied to “woodhengestudios,” “So which handwriting on the wall was yours?”

The next day, he emailed back, “I’m the neo-hippie cornfield surfer, for the lack of a better description.” Kennedy, a musician, explained that “NEO-HIPPIE CORNFIELD SURFERS” was the name of his first album.

He said he found my Forward Kentucky story “totally by accident” after attending his 30th high school class reunion. Somebody recalled that the Kokomo Tribune ran a story about the album in April, 1990. He launched a Google search, keying in “neo hippie cornfield surfers.”

The Hoosier wondered if the story “had been archived somehow, which is how I accidentally came across your article.” (I found it in the April 23, 1990, Tribune via Newspapers.com.)

He spotted my photo of his graffiti, mistaking it for a photo he took. “Then I clicked on the image and found your article.”

He said he was at the Checkpoint Charlie removal ceremony. “I also was at the Brandenburg Gate, which is in the area of where I think I may have written my blurb if memory serves.”

He might be right. Melinda and I took our cuts at the concrete Wall on the East Berlin side over from Checkpoint Charlie. I also snapped a ton of photos of the Wall at the checkpoint and at the famous gate.

Kennedy explained that he and “a bunch of my high school classmates” went to Berlin shortly after they graduated. “We had no idea that that trip would be one of the most defining moments of our lives.”

He “was just so blown away that you used my silly note.” I was blown away by Kennedy’s email, which made this past June 21-22 extra special for Melinda and me.

Berry Craig is a journalist, author and professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. This article is part of a continuing series on the history of Mayfield and Graves County.

Berry Craig is a journalist, author and professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. This article is part of a continuing series on the history of Mayfield and Graves County.