Hippie Volkswagen 'Honey Bear' promotes new museum exhibit around campus, community


Mississippi freshmen Tyler Tobias and Piper Mophett, both museum employees, sit in the colorful interior of a 1971 Volkswagen bus named "Honey Bear" April 10 at Rowe Hall.

Jay Martin, Central Michigan University's director of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, was driving around in a 1971 Volkswagen van named "Honey Bear" when he made an illegal U-turn.  

The turn drew the attention of a police officer, who stopped the museum curator dressed in a 1960s hippie get-up. 

“(The police officer) just wanted to tell me my van looked cool,” Martin said. 

The week of April 8, Martin and a group of museum study students dressed up as hippies and drove around in a vintage bus promoting an upcoming museum exhibit called “Kozmic Clash: Peace, love and outer space.” Excursions will continue until April 19. 

Martin said the promotional exercise has gained the attention of people from all walks of life, especially free spirits and those at retirement age. 

Martin grew up in a conservative small town where the 1960s hippie movement was less accepted. He was surprised at the willingness of students to participate in the unique activity. 

“When I was a student, I may not have been up for this, but you have to push beyond your comfort zone,” he said. 

Museum Curator Jay Martin greets students in his 1960s military jacket April 10 at Rowe Hall. The jacket honors a former professor and student of CMU who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

Martin’s costume consists of a red bandana, bell-bottom pants and a military jacket. While hippies in the 1960s often despised military members, Martin said the olive-green jacket honors William Nolde and Donald Schmidt — two former CMU community members who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Nolde was a professor of military science at Central Michigan University before joining the army. Schmidt was a CMU graduate and ROTC member. 

Martin is not alone in his antics.  

Mississippi freshmen Tyler Tobias and Piper Mophett, both museum employees, turned back their appearance by 50 years and sported hippie clothing.

While perusing the city, Mount Pleasant graduate student Marc Van Horn watches out his passenger-side window in purple-tinted glasses for people who may be attentive to the hippies. 

One of the promotional devices used by the group is called  "Circle 'C.'’’ Martin compared the act of jumping out the van's side door and circling the vehicle before climbing back in to the more common “Chinese fire drill.” 

Students of the museum studies program pose in front of "Honey Bear" April 10 at Rowe Hall.

"Honey Bear" has been painted with chalkboard paint, allowing students and residents to express themselves during a stop. At the end of the day, Martin documents drawings and saves the best while making room for others. 

“No one’s seen something like this since the 70s,” Martin said. 

For those who do not see "Honey Bear" around campus or Mount Pleasant, Martin is moving the vintage van to the museum lobby for the grand opening of their exhibit at 4 p.m. April 22. 

Martin said the Volkswagen will also participate in CMU’s upcoming homecoming parade. He hopes members of the CMU class of 1969 will be walking alongside the vehicle. 

Students draw peace symbols, flowers, fish and quotes on the side of "Honey Bear" April 10 at Rowe Hall.