Letters from Marcy #27: 26 September 1967

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This letter is over a year after the previous one. Frustratingly, during that gap she met and moved in with Peter, so I have no information about how or when they met, or how she told her parents that she had moved in with him and was pregnant. From the casual tone of this letter, it seems clear that she had in fact told them all that stuff before this, but if any of that was in a letter, it's gone now.

I'm also not sure what she told them regarding marriage. Marcy and Peter were married by a friend sometime around the summer of 1967, but I think they weren't legally married until some time after I was born. I suspect that Marcy's parents weren't thrilled about that, if they knew.

(As for Peter's parents, a later letter suggests that they and Peter had been on the outs for a while, which I mention here only because (a) George and Helen's 30th wedding anniversary was in October 1967, so Peter apparently missed that; and (b) I have photos from Christmas 1967 that show Peter's parents and brothers, but not Peter—I had vaguely assumed Peter must have taken the photos, but apparently not.)

At any rate, even though I'm sad to be missing the material about how Marcy and Peter met, I'm very glad to have this letter and the next few; they fill in various gaps in my knowledge of what my parents were up to in the period just before and just after I was born.

I did some research on the background for this letter. For example, the “Six Day School” that she mentions is something that I remember my parents mentioning, but I didn't know much about it. It turns out, according to Wikipedia, that “It was a school that prepared students for survival in the midst of Armageddon through map and compass reading, survival in the wilderness and occult studies,” founded by James Neil Hollingworth (1933-1996), a.k.a. Ambrose Hollingworth Redmoon, “a beatnik, hippie, writer, and former manager of the psychedelic folk rock bands Quicksilver Messenger Service and Ace of Cups,” otherwise best known for having written the line “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one's fear.”

For more on Hollingworth and the Six Day School, see:

Anyway, all that is just backstory for one throwaway phrase in this letter: the Six Day School people apparently pointed Marcy and Peter to people who wanted to start a school in Mendocino, and that's how Marcy became part of the Caspar Community School. About which more anon.

In this letter, unlike the other letters, I'm including Marcy's page numbers, because they're amusing. (Also because they exist; most of the other letters are at most two pages long, and only rarely have page numbers.)

 

                                              Saturday night

H'lo.....just indulging in my favorite activity of getting
all kinds of papers and junk into some semblance of order
preparatory to sitting down and writing a whole bunch of
letters; finding all kinds of interesting things. Like some
clippings I've been wanting to send you, which I'd put in
one of those very safe places that I never find again; like
a ton of incense, which is duly using itself up; like some
old letters I'd really been going to answer x; like a whole
bunch of things we can use for the school that I knew I was
going to be able to use some day (ah, the vindication of an
inveterate pack rat!).....Peter has went to the city for a
day so I have the time and space for such things---it's
really tiny in here, and impossible to put anything into
order when anyone else is in the room. We're saved by having
and elevated bed (on platform about 3 1/2 feet high, built
by previous tenant who had a very neurotic dog that would
otherwise have smothered him nightly) with lots of storage
space beneath.

So. Not to imply above that writing this letter was part of
said activity, but just that that's what I'd been doing and
where my head is as I begin.....which I'd done yesterday
just as one of my little kids and his little brother and
another friend (the xxxxx latter more x like our age) showed
up to have dinner, and went stark staring out of my mind
trying to type with a kid in the WHY stage around....just
the thought of it drives me to error. Finally ripped the
page out and gave up........the "one of my little kids"
phrase is an indicator of the changes I've been sliding in
and out of in the past two weeks as the school got
started....Now it's under way, and I'm a teacher again, and
perhaps somewhat the better at it after nearly a year's
vacation. Much more relaxed and easier and looser; but then,
so is the school.............Actually,	the only
connection the Six Day School has xx withthis one is that
they are the people who first turned me on to the idea that
the people up here were trying to start a school, so we came
up here with that in mind. This is a community school (it's
called the Caspar Community School, tho it's in Mendocino.
Caspar is a very small rural community 6 miles north of
here, where most of the kids live, and especially where live
the people under whose impetus it got started.) in that
we're trying to involve partents and other people in the
community who are interested in working with kids. It's
hard, as we've been concentrating on academic stuff, which
parents aren't too super good ad at working with, but we're
making plans to branch out into trips and big projects and
suchlike events. Problems now include: l)No Home. We're
using a building that's quite large, but meant for living
in. It used to be a carpenters shop, then a pottery barn,
then a home, and now a school. I'ts big, and cold, and the
people who lived there aren't fully moved so their stuff is
there. All kinds of projects to rent a school (unused) from
the local school board and similar things have fallen
through. Right now our main hope is to raise enough money
(grants applied for; goodwil from the few rich community
members hoped for) to buy or be given a few acres of land
with good drainage and fertile soil, and build our own
school house and teachers residence, perhaps eventually xxxx
raise and grow enough of our own food to be self-sufficient.
Probably such buildings would be geodesic domes (a very
groovy new kind of building, made easily and incredibly
cheaply (like a few hundred dollars for a super big one,
auditorium size) of wood and heavy plastic, earthquake, rain
and snow proof (no guarantee about floods; you can worry for
us if you like.....), heatable, coolable, expandable, easy
to light and clean and maintain.....there's a whole town of
them in Colorado, called Drop City. One of the men who
started it is currently living at Longreach, the ranch in
Cloverdale where we got married. building a duck dome and a
goat dome and a chicken dome and possilbly one for rabbits
and several for people....)

                                                         2wo

But then the reason that someone hasn't come through with
land or a building already is the nature of projects around
here. Things tend to start off with a bang and ploop along
for a while gaily, then fall off or fall over or collpase or
peter out, or kind of melt slowly like a candle in the sun.
There have been many such in the past few years; one of the
fathers of one of the chickies was enumerating them: a
mustard field half full of tiny potatoes; a monthly paper
that comes out twice a year; an art gallery that's open
about once a week and never sells anything; a Fourth of July
pie baking contest that xx had 4 pies (I was in on that and
baked one of them); he forgot to mention a glass-blowing
shop that got dis-assembeled for repairs and never got back
together, 'cos that's his own personal lack of success. So
no one wants to xxx sink a lot of bread or land into a
project that might be successful for a while and then take a
year or so to die.....Somehow, I can't help thinking this
one is going to work. Partly because we've all been so
surprised that it's worked so far. Bertha (the other
fulltime teacher) and I have both been sort of half making
plans x to do xxxx other things as soon as this fails, which
we expected it to do in the first two weeks, and are so
surprised and delighted that we've pretty much decided to
make it work from here on out.-----end of problem #1.

Problem the second is that we can only take kids from 4 1/2
to not-yet-eight, till we get incorporated and are then
subject to the inspections and official rigor and red tape
that will keep us out of the building we're using. So at the
moment we have ten kids in that age range, and 4 hours, 4
days a week, to work out learning to read , write, and xxxxx
cipher (chiper? ciper? cipersh? anyway, do math) with that
number of kids, all at different levels, each with a full
set of different needs and demands and circumstances. Public
school, being so regimented, is really easy: all the kids
learn the same stuff at the same time, like it or no, ready
or not, do or die. What a stupid mess; but how much easier
for the stupid teachers.

end of problems two and three. Nuff of that. Oh, except that
of course the school has no funds at all, so neither Bertha
nor I get paid anything. In tangibles. Tho if we need money
we can borrow it from people who are lending it to the
school till it raises some money. Which we are doing this
coming weekend at a rummage sale, and monthly thereafter at
dances for the local teenyboppers. So far, we've done okay;
Peter has a steady job for a few months, fairly flexible
hours, working for a local architect who's renovating a
house (a beautiful, beautiful house! incredibly grand) 26
miles north of here in Westport. Low pay, boring work
(painting and carpentry; which may be fine for painters and
carpenters, but Peter is a welder), costs a dollar in gas
each day for transportation (did I tell you? (guess not)
that we have a car: a Chevrolet station wagon, 1958, bright
red, in beautiful shape, easy to drive ('cept it's so damn
big I can't ever back it up without hitting something or
another) and very roomy. with a mattress in back we could
live in it if we're ever evicted or when camping or when the
house burns down or somethong.)

I hope all the lists of problems don't sound negative to
you. Just the fact that they're few and small enough to talk
about makes it a very positive scene; plus the
between-the-lines factor that everything is very beautiful
and hopeful and looking like it will work xxxxx soon and
somehow. The kids are lovely and the school is tremendous
and it really looks like I might be going to have a baby
(April or May) and we are comfortable and happy and full of
enough things to do and think about and work with to keep us
that way.

Plans to live elsewhere or perhaps at the Sonoma ranch where
the 6-day-school is and suchlike have given way before the
vast impetus of the school here. Peter will still be
commuting to Sonoma to teach a math class to x adults once a
week. You ask about a degree, which I fail to understand.
What is needed to teach anything is knowledge and interest
and the ability to spark other minds. Degrees are so
institutions can check up on you and retain some measure of
control over xxx whom they allow to teach in their
institutions. Nothing to do with ability or knowledge at
all, just with salaries and prestige and self-righteousness
and pomposity and that kind of crap.

Oh, hell, it's hayfever season again. I could use some more
ambodryls (a bottle ) and Peter has been taking plimacen if
it's convenient to send either, twould be appreciated.

                                                        3ree

Look up some stuff about natural childbirth, if you at all
care about how I'm going to have my baby. It's really
interesting even though you're all through with it. You
could try the library or planned parenthood or the La Leche
league or the Natural Childbirth Foundation (or some such
similar name) in the phone book or the library or anything
.....but if you don't care to, you'll hear x very little
more about it from me. There's a book called "Thank You, Dr.
Lamaze" that's supposed to be quite good, though I haven't
read it yet. If you run into anything interesting let me
know; I'm hardly a fund of information at all, and don't
exepect to be ever more than decently and adequately
informed, so probably you'll find out a lot of things I
haven't encountered. and PLEASE do not ask me why I do not
want anaesthetics and operating rooms and lots of x fusses
and nonsense; see if you can figure it out.

Have to go start on my homework (we're producing our own
readers and workbooks) and put up some sourdough bread or
there won't be any bread tomorrow, and write some more
letters and read some of my kids' books so I'll know what
I'm sticking them with, and finish xx listening to the Bach
B-minor mass (which is an extremely fine thing to do of a
Saturday night) and find a recipe for pickled beets and go
to SEELP, or whaterver it is ...... regards to all......

(Peter went to San Francisco to see some people and go to a
Wobblies meeting --which is kind of a Thing up here--this
one is the regional meeting for California, expected to have
about 7 or 9 people there; there are about 20 local wobblies
'cos the cat who organized them locally is kind of an
assiduous nut....anyway, but he says to say hello and all
that.)

                                  [handwritten: Much love, Marcia]

 

Postmark: Sep 26, 1967, Mendocino, CA. Handwritten: “Rec'd this 9/30.” Also: “Sent Ambodryl + Plimisin to them on 10/6 — air mail.”

Attached to this letter was an article by Senator J. William Fulbright, “Distortions on the War,” condensed from his book The Arrogance of Power, and published in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 1967. Also a column by Charles McCabe: “Of Wowsers and Hippies,” also from the Chronicle, July 11, 1967.


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