Linda Huntington, the driving force behind the counterculture scene of Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th neighborhood, has died.
Huntington died Sept. 24 from injuries “after suffering from a serious accident” in April, according to an obituary written by her family. She was 79.
Huntington owned the clothing store Mother’s Earth Things in the 9th and 9th neighborhood in the ‘70s and ‘80s, first with her sister, Tamara Buranek, and later as sole owner. The shop launched in the just-vacated second location of Cosmic Aeroplane, the iconic record-and-book shop.
Looking through Huntington’s house recently, Buranek found an old plastic bag they had made for Mother’s Earth Things. It had the words “please reuse” at the bottom, along with the year, 1970 — and was in perfect condition.
Buranek said her sister was a “great history keeper” who liked to have fun and had a good sense of humor. “She was an intelligent woman and she wanted to be respected for that intelligence,” Buranek said.
From a young age, the sisters loved crafting. “Linda and I have always loved crocheting, tie-dye, making things like candles. That’s what we did for entertainment when we were younger.”
Huntington was originally from Salt Lake City, but went down to San Francisco, “for the adventure and just to be somewhere else besides Utah,” her sister said.
When she came back, she called Buranek and lofted the idea of starting a store in Salt Lake City, inspired by what she saw and experienced in San Francisco during the “Summer of Love” — the social movement of 1967 that launched the hippie scene and the “Woodstock generation.”
“The thing about Linda is she would put her mind to something,” Buranek said. “She was very organized and would get things done [by] following through.”
In a 2017 blog post, from a Cosmic Aeroplane memorabilia blog, entitled “Memories of Mother’s Earth Things and the ‘9th and 9th,’” Huntington spoke of her experiences in San Francisco: “I experienced incredible social encounters, appreciation for new cultures, political views, relationships with the exuberance of freedom having a profound effect on my life & perceptions.”
The store, Huntington wrote, featured “quality hand crafted clothing” made from cotton, silk, wool and rayon. A third sister, Jill Huntingon, would also contribute to the store creatively. “We incorporated handcrafted international and bohemian influenced imports of embroidery, lace patchwork and vintage beaded dresses to augment our inventory.”
Buranek said that when they first opened the store there were no signs over the building, or a parking lot. “It was kind of pull over and go in.” Eventually, that changed. She has fond memories of modeling their clothing down the street in Liberty Park.
But, what brought the shop together was the interest in what they sold. For example, Buranek said that they sold paper for rolling “cigarettes,” and told people they were “items of interest.”
Mother’s Earth Things was considered a major driving force of 9th and 9th’s lasting counterculture legacy, infused with its San Francisco influence. It’s something many people involved in that original neighborhood agree on.
Other shops at the time included: Cosmic Aeroplane, which was called “the youth movement’s unofficial Utah headquarters;’ a sandwich shop called Desolation Row; Round Records; Skin Company Productions, a poster shop and a sign business; and Stone Balloon Waterbeds.
The 9th and 9th neighborhood was considered the “hippie mall” of its time, said Ed Hurd, owner of Nature’s Way Sandwich Shop, who remembered Huntington as nice and smart.
“The nice thing about that area at the time is that we all appreciated each other’s shops,” Buranek said. ‘We’d send people back and forth [between them].”
Michael Evans, a 9th and 9th historian who started the Cosmic Aeroplane memorabilia blog, knew about Mother’s Earth Things and Huntington because it was next door to Round Records, owned by one of his best friends.
“[Linda] launched 9th and 9th like a rocket,” Evans said. “It was in orbit when she stepped down to do another job.”
Through his research on his blog — done with an invitation from Steve Jones, founder of Cosmic Aeroplane — Evans learned that Huntington was also the one who coined the phrase “9th and 9th.”
“I lived at 999 South and 900 East,” Buranek said, “so we always called it 9th and 9th.”
Evans said Huntington was always grounded and friendly, wanting to listen to feedback and suggestions from customers.
Huntington was also one of the founding partners of May Fest at Westminster College, which was an “arts, crafts & music festival.” She was also a part of the original Salt Lake Jazz Society.
The East Liberty Park Community Organization, one of Salt Lake City’s community councils, is working on creating four historic plaques to affix to buildings on 9th and 9th, “to introduce the district’s exciting history to its modern residents,” said co-chair Jason Stevenson. One of those plaques, Evans said, will honor Huntington.
The legacy of 9th and 9th has endured, as a place to support local businesses, even if it’s lost some of its original alternative edge cultivated by those like Huntington.
“It’s a wonderful legacy,” Buranek said. “We really did enjoy ourselves, enjoyed going to work and all the little stores around us. ... There were shops before us and I think it’s always gone through some change. It’s grown and it’s still a wonderful place.”
Huntington is survived by her sisters, Tamara Buranek and Jill Huntington (and brother-in-law Doug Smith), nephew Marcel Buranek, and niece Misha Buranek (married to Gary Archibald).
By Huntington’s request, the family said, there will be no funeral service. Instead, according to the family, she would like loved ones and friends to “live from the heart and sing your own song.”