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Celebrating the Spirit of 420: The Legacy of the Waldos

Spirit Of 420 San Rafael High School Friends

The 420 Gardener

As April 20th approaches, a day now enshrined in the annals of cannabis culture, it’s time to look back at the originators of the “420” phenomenon—the Waldos. This legendary group from San Rafael High School in California didn’t just leave behind a time code; they sparked a movement characterized by freedom, fun, and a profound appreciation for the quirks of life.

Meet the Waldos: Humor, High Times, and High School

In the early 1970s, five high school buddies—Steve Capper, Mark Gravitch, Larry Schwarz, Jeff Noel, and Dave Reddix—formed a group that epitomized the era’s spirit of rebellion and camaraderie. Known among their peers for their humor and antics, these friends would gather around a wall at San Rafael High School, a spot that soon became their designated meeting point. Here, they observed the bustling social life of their peers, which they likened to a “people aquarium.”

The Waldos were not just spectators of their high school’s social scene; they were active participants who loved to entertain each other with exaggerated impersonations and spontaneous comedy routines. Their daily gatherings became a workshop for perfecting the art of laughter, which they considered the best medicine. Inspired by comedian Buddy Hackett, who used the term “waldo” to describe odd, out-of-the-ordinary people, they adopted the name for themselves, embracing their unique blend of eccentric humor and laid-back lifestyle.

The Advent of 420

The pivotal chapter in the Waldos’ story began with a simple treasure map. In the fall of 1971, they were tipped off about an abandoned cannabis crop in the nearby Point Reyes Forest, left by a Coast Guard member who could no longer tend it. The Waldos seized the opportunity for an adventure, setting their meeting time at 4:20 PM, right after school activities. The time was practical—it was late enough to evade faculty supervision, yet early enough to allow ample daylight for their search.

Their treasure hunts may have been fruitless in terms of finding the crop, but these escapades were rich with laughter and bonding. The term “420” evolved from a meeting time to a code word representing not just cannabis, but a whole lifestyle of freedom, fun, and friendship. It was a private joke that perfectly captured the essence of their youthful rebellion.

Spreading the Vibe

The story of how “420” leaped from a local in-joke to a global phenomenon involves another key cultural icon of the time: the Grateful Dead. Connections between the Waldos and the band—through relatives and friends—helped transplant the term into a broader cultural milieu. As the Dead toured, the term “420” traveled with them, picked up and propagated by Deadheads and eventually the wider public.

More Than Just a Number

Today, “420” is much more than a time or date; it’s a symbol of the ongoing fight for cannabis legalization, a reminder of the power of community, and a call to challenge societal norms. Every year, on April 20th, people around the world gather to celebrate this symbol in a variety of expressions, from festivals and peaceful protests to quiet nights shared among friends.

For those of us who embrace cannabis culture, “420” is a time to reflect on our journey—how far we have come and the paths still ahead. It’s a moment to connect with others who share our views and to celebrate the personal freedoms we cherish.

The Legacy Continues

The spirit of the Waldos—of laughter, camaraderie, and an easygoing defiance—lives on every April 20th. It’s a spirit that encourages us to take life a little less seriously, to make each other laugh, and to keep the flames of friendship burning bright. As we near another 420, let’s remember where it all started—with five friends in California who had no idea they were about to change the cultural landscape.

This April 20th, as we gather with friends or engage in quiet reflection, let’s think of the Waldos and the laughter-filled afternoons that gave rise to a global celebration. Let’s remember that at the heart of 420 is the idea that life should be lived joyfully and freely, and that sometimes, the best moments arise from the simplest beginnings: a group of friends, a wall, and the willingness to dream a little differently.


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