You might call April 20 a Bay Area holiday. Every year on 4/20, at 4:20 p.m., thousands of marijuana users honor the drug, 420, with a celebratory smoke.
But where did the term “420” come from anyway?
Bay Curious listener Jess Lyons grew up in Marin County and always heard the code name had local roots. She asked Bay Curious: Did 420 originate in the Bay Area?
In short, the answer is yes.
The story starts in 1971 with a group of five guys nicknamed the "Waldos.”
“We’re all good friends and we used to hang out on this wall at San Rafael High School on campus, and that’s why we’re called the Waldos,” says Dave Reddix, better known as Waldo Dave.
The Waldos were the jokesters of the school. They were always laughing, playing pranks, impersonating strangers and having a good time. And they got high … a lot.
“We were the guys under the high school grandstands during Friday night football games, smoking a doobie,” Reddix says.
But they weren’t the deadbeat stoners you might be imagining. The Waldos were a curious bunch, who would go on unofficial field trips after school. One time they trekked down to Silicon Valley to see groundbreaking hologram technology. On another trip, they ventured to an off-limits portion of the Golden Gate Bridge. They started calling these adventures "Waldo Safaris."
One day the Waldos got a tip from a high school friend about some marijuana plants ripe for the picking. A few men in the Coast Guard, based out in Point Reyes, were growing the crop but had gotten spooked.
“They thought that their commanding officer was going to bust them,” says Steve Capper, or Waldo Steve. “They didn't want to get busted. They decided, ‘We're going to abandon this growing project.’”