The Beat Museum

A Tribute to Carolyn Cassady

Carolyn Cassady was a central figure of The Beat Generation. In fact, given that her husband, Neal Cassady, came to San Francisco because of Carolyn, it's easy to make the case that there indeed never would have been a Beat Generation without Carolyn.

Carolyn was an artist and costume designer as well as a wife, mother and homemaker. And, of course, she's most well known as the wife of Neal and friend of Jack, Allen and the rest. The story she tells in her book, Off The Road, is compelling because, in a very real sense, much of the 1950s and 1960s took place in the living room of her home in Northern California.

On April 28th, we celebrate Carolyn's birthday. Carolyn has been living in England for many years now, and she will have a chance to read your tributes to her on this webpage in the coming weeks.

Thank you to everyone who submitted.
You made Carolyn's day!

Heather Dalton 

Although her legacy is forever entwined with the beat generation, Carolyn Cassady's imprint casts a much larger shadow. A timeless elegance that exudes grace and strength. She is an icon in her own right.

Carolyn Cassady embodies all the elements that make up a perfect woman; a loving mother, a dazzling intellect, a fiercely independent beauty, a woman who pushed the boundaries but never lost her own way.

As an artist and a writer she has a keen insight that captures the depths of others beauty (despite their flaws of being human) and allows the world to share those intimate moments with her.

Carolyn is also a spiritual healer. Her abilities transcend mere space and time and her generosity with her gifts should be greatly valued. She always takes the time to help those who might have lost their way along the path.

Carolyn is one of the greatest sources of inspiration in my own personal life. I am truly blessed to call her a friend. Her sense of humor keeps me in stitches and I am humbled to have been in the presence of her light and power.

Today we honor a woman that means so much to so many, and for good reason. Carolyn you are a heavenly creature and we are blessed to know you.

Happy Birthday!

All of my love and respect

Mike DeFrancesco Southington, CT

Happy Birthday Carolyn !!!!! Of course you don't know me, but I feel like I know you even if it's only a little bit. I really liked your book Off The Road and it provided a great insight into the world of Jack, Neal, Allen, yourself as well as friends and acquaintances. Ever since I visited the Beat Museum almost 2 years ago now I've been reading some of Jack's novels and other writings. I've also read books by those like yourself who knew Jack, Neal, Allen, et al, such as John Clellon Holmes's Go, Edie Kerouac Parker's You'll Be OK and Joyce Johnson's Door Wide Open. What I find especially interesting about the accounts by all the women authors is the common feeling of being left behind and more rooted to their environment while the guys just seemed to run off on a whim, whether it was across the country or just a few blocks a way to the local bar. Jack even makes a reference to the women staying home in the early pages of On The Road.

Tom Henry San Francisco

If it weren't for the beats, California could very well be another Utah or Texas. Happy Birthday Carolyn!

Lynn Rogers San Jose, CA

Carolyn I admire your witty and elegant literary acumen, and enjoyed the time we spent together. When you said my previously written portrayal of your ex-husband Neal Cassady was an accurate one regarding his later, "Kesey" days, I was encouraged toward the publication of my own youthful on the road story, Born In Berkeley. I especially enjoyed talking about our common interest in Edgar Cayce, karmic and soul relationships and art. I think your portraits are lovely and should be collected into anthology. Thank you for sharing your family with me; I won't forget New Years Eve. My late husband, Joe, found his time with you most hospitable and charming—no wonder your home was the hub of many early Beat activities. Love and Happy Birthday, Lynn Rogers

John Celona Victoria, BC CANADA

Dear Carolyn, Happy, happy birthday! Your book 'Off the Road' inspired my 30-minute film 'The Strange Case of DJ Cosmic' (2009) which is available free for watching on IMDb. My birthplace is San Francisco and I grew up playing tenor sax in clubs in North Beach during the late 60s. Cheers and all hale and hardy, John

Laurie Ferns Northern California

Happy Birthday, Oh Woman! Treasured "Off the Road"; an enormous "thank you" for your perspective. Namaste~

Ronald McGregor Riviere-Rouge, Quebec, Canada

Miss Cassady, it's a real honor for me to send you this word of happy birthday. Hope it's a beautiful day.

Kelly Pavlik Hometown, IL

Thanks Carolyn for giving us a look at the Beats from the perspective of a woman. In the shadows might be where you felt you were, but those who have read your story know that you were there for it all. Happy Birthday!

broo Humptulips, WA

Hurray to Carolyn, lover of both the ID (Neal) and EGO (Jack) of the immortal beat generation! (geez, I wonder who the superego wda been?!) Love you, darling!

Lauren Westchester, NY

Happy Birthday dear girl. Hope it's a lovely one. You're an inspiration.

Stephanie Pennsylvania

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Truthfully, I never heard of the Beat generation until January 2012. Now I'm slightly obsessed. My university English class is learning all about it. From the sixth gallery reading to the Hippies, or as my professor says, "the spawn of the Beats." Also anyone who the Beats have influenced. They are certainly starting to influence me. Have a wonderful birthday!

James AZ

Happy Birthday.

Jim Holzer New Jersey, USA

Best wishes as you celebrate your birthday. Congratulations for the part you have played in the lives of so many. Thanks for having given of yourself to so many. I know I owe you.

Victoria Russia,Moscow

Mrs. Cassady. Let me congratulate you on your birthday and wish you health, happiness and love. I think you're the greatest woman I ever knew. Your husband, Neal Cassady, will forever remain in our hearts.

Michael Palumbo Los Angeles, CA

Dearest Carolyn, Your book Off The Road has been an inspiration to me. You’re ability demonstrated through your values and ability to Love by nourishing your family through times that were challenging and turbulent is remarkable! In my opinion you are the “Shining Star” of the BEAT generation, and the catalyst that allows the truth to be known about these remarkable people, especially Neal and Jack. You’re sense of memory and detail allowed me to experience them as if I were right there next to you as the pages unfold. Your Wedding day and the bizarre irony of the “Woolwoth’s" Rings” made me laugh and cry. Having been brought up by an extended family that saved my mother and I, my heart goes out to you for the courage that is your gift. As a professional Artist, Designer and Writer, it just amazes me how you were able to do so much during a time period when there was a rather obvious gender biased. As a fellow Artist and Designer, I congratulate you on your marvelous art and wish the HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY ever! I love the BEAT museum and really look forward to seeing the upcoming On The Road movie; I’m hoping your character portrays you to be as beautiful as you really are. I’m helping Jerry with some design ideas for some possible enhancements to the museum’s Visitor Experience, that’s my specialty. I was delighted to meet John Allen at the David Amram concert last fall and enjoyed hearing about some of his life experiences with Neal, wow what a character and a pretty fun dad! Most Sincere Regards & Love, Michael Palumbo

Sam Aurora

You are the best. Neal was awesome. Thank you. <3

Bianca Sarah Bova Chicago, IL

Hi Carolyn! I know I've had the good fortune to be able to thank you for your writing once before, but I just wanted to say thank you again. It is so seldom that one gets to see their heros humanized with such grace, as Off The Road did for me. Happy Birthday and all the best to you, always!!

Nelson, Ann and Jodie Scotland

Our best wishes to you, dear Carolyn. Those nights in Glasgow and Edinburgh still spring vividly to mind - especially the final night fireworks at the Festival. Wonderful memories.

Chip Lyons Salt Lake City, Utah

Carolyn, my, how you have inspired, and continue to inspire, one generation after another. Thank you for the many blessings you have given us all. May the sun shine brightly upon you on your birthday!

Carolyn Kerouac Charlottesville, VA

Happy Birthday, Carolyn ~ you are one person that I regret not chasing down earlier, as I have followed a relative of Jack's around the country chasing his dreams. Mike Kerouac and I have been entrepreneur's in medical imaging, he has written books yet unpublished, became a Priest at age 45, raised a beautiful family, and all the while kept up with the Kerouac legacy. It has been a wild ride, never a dull moment, as I imagine your life was... Adoringly, Carolyn Kerouac

Tanali Giraldi Nova Bassano, RS - Brasil

Dear Carolyn! I wish you the best wishes and I hope you have a great day surrounded by special people on your birthday. I wish all the best. I admire you very much, you're a strong woman who endured many things in this life. I hope one day to know you personally. Hugs from Brazil. Happy Birthday!

Carolyn Brown Santa Clara, California

When I read your story I felt much more connected with the real people behind the characters I read about in Jack's novels. You made these larger than life men and women relatable and familiar. I admire your dedication to your art and to your wonderful family. You are an amazing woman and true hero of the Beats. My sincere thanks to you! Cheers Carolyn! Happy Birthday from the Valley of the Hearts Delight.

Coleen Toews Washington DC

Carolyn Your OFF THE ROAD book is THE BEST book I've ever read about the Beats, and one of the ten best books I've ever read, period. I've recommended it and/or gifted it to all of my friends. I thank you so much for it! Have a great and happy birthday, and I wish you good health and much happiness! Coleen

Mary-Anne McAllum Auckland, New Zealand

Thank you, Carolyn. My world is so much brighter for learning about Jack Kerouac, your Neal, and all the Beat people, all because of you. I loved your book, Off the Road, because it allowed me into your life and into your heart, where I learnt a little of how these guys thought, and worked, and wrote. And I learnt about you and your amazing inner strength and resilience. How you must have loved these guys! If you ever come to New Zealand, my home is open to you. You would be an honoured guest. Bright blessings to you, thank you again, and many more happy returns of your day on April 28.

Charlotte Chapman Napa Valley, California

For most of my life, I remember my mother, Elizabeth Bayless, talking fondly about her best friend, Carolyn Cassady. They became fast friends while attending San Jose State and by the time I was a “twinkle” in my Father’s eye, they had become the best of friends connected by their writing skill and artistic abilities. Carolyn has never been far from my thoughts over the years. I affectionately remember many of our times together as I followed my Mother and Carolyn around Carolyn’s house on Bancroft catching snippets here and there of not only Carolyn’s life, including the struggles with her wandering husband, Neal, but of her life and the lives of Cathy, Jami and John. As a child, teenager and adult, I adored and continue to adore Carolyn and her artistic and intuitive abilities. I still have her typed manuscript of a "reading" she did for me when I was 17 years old and I still have the oil portrait she painted of me one summer at her Los Gatos house in 1969 as well as pencil drawings of both my parents done in 1953. I treasure them and they are always lovingly displayed among my other artwork wherever I’ve lived in the world. Recently, I read Carolyn’s manuscript, circa 1968, of her intuitive “take” of me, at the time during my developing maturity into adult life and what was to unfold for me in the future. I found myself trying to fight back tears, yet couldn’t because of her accuracy, sincerity and her willingness to be honest with me at such a tender age. It was by reading this bit of my future and remembering our history together that reminded me why I still love her today as much as I did as a little girl. I could write succinct and heartfelt volumes about how I felt about Carolyn in the past and how I love her now. Fortunately for me, I am still connected with her to this day so that even though it may be only an email, I am but a “click” away from feeling her love and generous spirit. I tenderly remember that whenever my Mom trotted us off to Los Gatos for a visit, Carolyn’s vitality and positive energy was ever present in the house. She was petite, but fiery, with not only physical beauty, but an exquisite, magical energy that drew anyone in her presence towards her. Although she designed and sewed many an elaborate costume for local dancers and actors for their dance recitals and theatre productions to support her family, she too had a flare for the dramatic and could well have been right up on stage with them as well. I remember Carolyn as a sensible, affectionate, talented woman with a gregarious smile no matter what the time of day and believe if I were with her now, I’d feel as if no time had passed. Even as a child, not understanding the angst she must have felt when Neal left for destinations unknown, I only remember seeing Carolyn’s sensitive and cheery bright side. I thought that her sensible and affectionate personality would always be pretty much intact no matter what situation presented itself and to this day, I do not know otherwise. Carolyn, like me, was a romantic. She was progressive for the era she lived in and unbiased on the whole in her views of other people and events. No matter what the circumstance she could always appraise herself realistically when it really mattered, something I have yet to learn even at my age. If she had sorrow or loneliness in her life, I never saw it even though I don’t ever remember Neal ever being around much. She had her talented, adventurous children and her artistic forte seemed to be what mattered to her most after her family. I know that Carolyn’s mid-century modern home is no longer standing but since the home where I grew up, is a duplicate of that Los Gatos home, when I visit my Mom, I am reminded of Carolyn, our memorable moments and feel she is spiritually with me as I roam my parent’s home with its similar footprint. I’ve always known that I would keep a place for her in my heart as if she was a close relative as well as keep all the warm memories that come to my mind vividly from the years I spent in her company. Memories, which I seem to be able to recall like it was yesterday and, which I will always treasure. I love you Carolyn, and even though I miss the closeness of the physical space and time we spent thru out my life you are never far from my thoughts, or my heart. Lovingly, Charlotte Chapman

Jim Vines Beverly Hills, CA

Hi, Carolyn! I read your book just a few months ago and I thought it was magnificent. Wow, what a truly well-written, up close and personal look into your life and the life of Neal and Jack. Thank you for the lasting legacy, and a very, very happy birthday to you! Health and happiness always...Jim

Pat Gallagher Los Gatos

Hello Carolyn, and Happy Birthday. I have many fond recollections of talking to you and Johnny, and all the family members. And most especially of your stories of Jack and Neal. They were quite superb, and I wish I'd had a tape recorder, but I at least have memory to go on. One thing: that lamb neck stew? OK, it wasn't my favorite, but you put a lot of love into it, haha. John told me you had to kind of gnaw the meat off the bones. Well. I tried. All the best, your friend, Pat Gallagher

David Amram Putnam Valley, NY

Dear Carolyn,

Forgive me not writing you lately as you are always in my heart, but when i started to read all these wonderful notes from people to you, I HAD to agree with them that you are an extraordinary woman, a great friend, a brilliant author/visual artists and and inspiration and have GREAT KIDS (and grandkids!!) They were all in Denver for the third annual Neal Cassady celebration and our band and all in attendance had a toast for you then, (months before your actual birthday) Hope to get back to see you again in Jolly Aulde England and wish you were here in the colonies with us to spread your light!! Love from my kids and myself to you on this birthday, with many more to come.

David

Alessandro Tinchini Italy

Hello, Carolyn. I'm a writer myself but right now, I ran out of words. But it's delightful to remember that what Jack wrote in those burning years is not just an american dream, but a godly reality. Happy Birthday and best wishes. All the love and happiness, Alessandro

Frank Fourneau Waregem, Belgium

Dear Carolyn, I’m only a “youngster”, 39 years old, and I first heard of you and Neal through Jack’s book On The Road (off course, who hasn’t), which I’ve read at least 50 times. But last year, I bought your book Off The Road, and it really blew me away. You brought me to tears more than once, and that don’t often happen to me. You are such a wonderful person! And what an amazing life you lived! It can’t have been easy, but you did it anyway. I have the utmost respect for you! You have to be one of the strongest women I know, if not the strongest of them all! I am reading “Collected Letters” from Neal now (also an amazing trip), and the next one will be “The First Third”. I hope you have a very pleasant birthday, and many years to come! Please tell John I said hi. He won’t have a clue who I am, but we’re “friends” on Facebook :-) Happy Birthday!!! Grtz, Frank

Pawel 

Thanks for the kind words for Sage and I in this past podcast. We will deienftily have to get together at some point - if you're not sick of sushi after all of your time in Japan, that is one of Sage's favourite meals and she has a place she's quite fond of.On another note - I got a copy of episode # 13 from Gary a few days ago and listened to it on my train trip to Montreal this weekend. Fascinating episode. (Parenthetically - for future reference, you mentioned how long before there would be a washroom on your subway trip home - there is a washroom at Bloor (southbound Yonge Platform), and one at Kennedy as well. Might come in handy later. I had a bunch of other comments that I meant to write down as I rode but never got around to it. Since then I've forgotten them - my apologies.Also - I keep hearing references to all of your travels but I think that having recently subscribed I must have missed some of the explanations. Any suggestions as to past episodes to look up for the context?

Rhonda Straw Kansas City, MO

Thankyou for all that you have done to keep Neal, as he is lovingly known from On the Road. I appreciate all you do. I hope you have a lovely birthday. I will be reading your book Off The Road.

Susan Wilshusen Fresno, CA

Carolyn, I had the chance FINALLY to meet you at a book signing at the Beat Museum a few years ago and what a wonderful experience. Your book is one I can read and re-read and to be in your presence .....inspiring and wonderful!! I always say that if I ever get to England (a goal of mine), I am going to look up Carolyn!! Wishing you a very Happy Birthday!!

Jacqueline Starer Paris, France

Carolyn, You welcomed me twice in Los Gatos when I was preparing my thesis which became a book on the writers of the Beat Generation. You were completely generous with your time and memories and as keen as me on the truth of facts and feelings. The first time, in 1974, Yves Le Pellec, who was preparing his entretiens on the BG, was also present and you were equally kind to both of us and attentive to each one of our requests. I will never forget. In 1976, I was about to publish the book and you accepted to check all the points of my Chronology. Then, we kept in touch and exchanges warm letters. When you came to Paris to take part in the Shakespeare & Co Festival on Beat Writers, you were wonderful in your contact with people who attended. You answered their questions with such frankness! It left no room for false dreams on the reality of the life you lived nor of the real inside life of Neal. Then I discovered your 'Off the Road' and I loved it. It is a major book. Well, Carolyn, I would like today to tell you for your birthday that my feelings for you haver never varied. I send you all my love and I wish your comings days are as happy as you so much deserve! Jacqueline

Al West Yorkshire, England

Happy Birthday to a remarkable lady. I first became aware of you via a second hand copy of "Off The Road" bought from the British Heart Foundation. Originally I had bought the book for the photos,being interested in photography and 1940s/ 1950s Americana. I then started to read the text -and was engrossed. Best £2 ever spent! I hope that one day someone will do an exhibition of your art and photography -you are very talented. How many people can produce iconic photos....using a brownie? I particularly liked your painting of Neal's

Misty Roberts Torrance, CA

I hope to some day I have stories like yours to tell. That is so great that you have had so many adventures. Thank you for sharing some of your stories in your writing. I hope you had a great birthday, and I hope you have a great rest of the year. Thanks

'DK' 

Best wishes from Poland!!! You really mean so much to me.

Nadine Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Happy Birthday, Carolyn Cassady! I hope you have many happy moments.

Marketa Jozova Prague, Czech Republic

Dear Carolyn, I wish you all the best to your birthday. I read your books, and itś great and it helped me and my generation open eyes and find the truth in comunist czech rep. The revolution in 1989,,open our border to west and we can be free..thank you with all of my love and respect.

Jeane Harris Los Angeles

Dear Carolyn, A little late but wanted to wish you a wonderful birthday filled with family, friends and piles and piles of books. Also, a little music of course. You knew two of the most fascinating and incredible men. I'm so honored to be able to wish a heartfelt, happy birthday to you. Best of everything to you, jeane harris, still happy to be an 'ol beat.

John Allen Cassady Planet Earth (?)

Jerry, Well done! A fantastic birthday tribute to my mom, and thanks to all who contributed to it! Keep the Beat...JC