Letters from Marcy #31: 15 January 1968
This letter is largely focused on the Caspar Community School, the school that Marcy was teaching at in Mendocino, so I did some research about that. Even though the big grant that she’s so confident about in this letter didn’t happen (as far as I know), the school lasted a while longer than I would’ve expected.
(The photo on this page is of the school building in July, 1968, showing how close it was to the ocean. Photo courtesy of Carol Ross.)
The first thing I found was that there was a benefit concert for the school on November 18, 1967, performed by a band called Clover. You can see a copy of the poster for the concert online. A note on that page says that band-member Johnny Ciambotti’s “ex-wife was a teacher at the school”; since Marcy hadn't been married to him, I'm assuming that Ciambotti's wife was Bertha Miller, who Marcy mentions in these letters. Ciambotti and Clover later went on to play backing music on Elvis Costello’s first album, and Ciambotti later became a chiropractor. I don’t know what happened to Bertha.
The only mention I can find of the school in 1960s newspapers is from the Ukiah Daily Journal, 23 Sep 1968: “MENDOCINO picked up another new resident of fame—Smoke Dawson, the fiddler...he's appeared on the East Coast and in Canada and leaves shortly for a concert and club tour of the West Coast...he's appearing Tuesday night, Sept. 24, at a benefit concert at Kelli-owen Hall in Mendocino...after the concert, there’ll be refreshments at Caspar Community School (beneficiary of the concert) and music by the Caspar Flats Jug Band.”
But then there are two notices in that same paper in September 1985, saying that the school is a tax-defaulted property and will be sold for delinquent taxes, at a minimum price of $25,000.
And then there’s another listing of it as property-tax delinquent on August 30, 1996.
And in June 2001, the Ukiah Daily Journal listed it as having defaulted in July 1995.
So I’m not sure what was going on for all those years, nor whether it was still going as a school. But at least somebody seemed to be connected to it for quite a while.
Finally, a California business registry site says: “CASPAR COMMUNITY SCHOOL is an entity registered at California with company number C0539938. Company is incorporated on 30th January 1968, two weeks after this letter. Current status of the company is SOS/FTB SUSPENDED. Registered agent is CYNTHIA C LUNDQUIST, 15137 MITCHELL CRK DR,” which is also the address of the school. The school’s last statement was filed on June 6th, 2002.
15 January, probably, or 16th [handwritten: 1968] 'Allo, how do you all be? Daddy, aren't you supposed to be having another eye thing happening sometime around now? or when? what is it exactly? I'm sure you've told me before, but recipes all lost: how do you make potato latkes? I know ingredients, but what about relative proportions? Going to try corn or rye meal as I haven't the least idea where to get matzo meal around here--or rather a very good idea: nowhere. By the xx way, my sourdough rye bread is quite successful, usually. Discovered the secret: caraway seeds. The school is at the moment taking up perhaps even more time than I ought to let it, even at four days a week, as I have to make my own textbooks, along with planning lessons and everything--I'm totally out of the math parts, thank heavens: Peter is teaching one of the boys (the oldest) math through symbolic logic games and go, which is his favourite sport. It's an ancient chinese game, modified through Japan, very complex and beautiful, and quite mathematical, and rather hard. Long time ago (pre-World War II at least) rank in the Japanese army used to be tied up with skill at go-playing, in that the highest officers were of necessity the best go players. xx Played with round black-and-white pieces on a board 19x19 squares, such that when pieces are placed on 4 corners of a square, they just barely touch. Can be any size; our go-board is most beautiful, about a foot and a half square by 4 inches thick--Peter made it during the summer when we were taking the class at Lost. Nearly all the xx wood around here is redwood, so even little shacks and makeshift carpentry looks good, and when you really work with it, it's extraordinarily beautiful. Anyway, more about school: Bertha, the other teacher, handles rest of math, and I do the reading, which is inordinately difficult. We have 12 kids, of whom all but 3 are at various stages of beginning to read. This means an individualized program for 9 individuals, without benefit of textbook. Daily say a prayer of thanks to whoever invented carbon paper, as some things I can use for different kids at differnt times, though most must be separated. Just before we opened the school at newyears (immediately after) I became very upset at how impossible it was, ranted and raged and wrote letters, realizing that we couldn't open with no paper, no paint, no space, no heat--and recieved a contribution of $200 from local "reech heepie" (translates to rich hippie) which allowed us to install another stove (now we have two useable rooms) and buy juice for snacks and insulate the bathroom and pay another small piece of salary to Bertha and me. (We figured out that according to records I've recieved $26 per month since October, though it's been slightly more due to a few non-recorded cash transactions. I really don't believe that we're doing this, hut we really are, and it's fantastically beautiful. The kids are learning and growing, and I am gaining priceless experience, and next year we should be getting a grant of something fantastic like 100 thousand dollars, as Judy (the director, sort of) has some friends who are professional grant-writers for the University of California and will write one for us, and have never had one turned down. They know all the ins and outs of jargon and which foundations to approach how, and we have high hopes and great plans. If we get that money, we will buy about 5-10 acres of land and build our own school, and houses for teachers, and raise our own animals, and things like that. Own g arden, fresh, organic vegetables; safe, isolated place for kids to be, crafts room, potting wheel and kiln, schoolbus, separate classrooms for different ages, and all that........'Corse we probably won't be here for it, as Peter is deciding to go back to school and get his x degree, which would be nice indeed. 'Cos no matter that it's quite true that he can do anything anyone with an m.a. in math (or is it m.s.) can do, no one believes it without you got graduated. No problem of tuition; after one quarter, National Merit Foundation will pay for all the rest. But he will have to work some, anyway, as that's just tuition, and I will try to get a part-time or something job at some groovy nursery school, or perhaps some private school for older kids. Will have to be just half-days, as I wouldn't leave the baby for a full day. Probably (well, pretty definitely) he will be at U. of Wash in Seattle, as that's where most of his credits are, and he knows and digs Seattle (it's a pretty fine city), and there's plenty of places for us to live in semi-country, within easy commuting distance. Or at the very worst, we'd live in a houseboat in Seattle. Which is exciting and very cheap and amazingly comfortable--visited several when I was there. But neither of us are really willing to live in the city again, and don't want the baby to contract city-tensions just by being around a lot of nervous tense rushing people. Allo, again- --now it's Wednesday. Just got your letter; thanks for informat. on CHanukah. No school today, as Bertha got a job substituting and is going to snitch some textbooks.....nice to have a 4-day week, it's flexibler. Glad there's no school, as gives me a chance to get caught up with myself and cook a good dinner, and besides the baby is kicking so hard and so constantly I'd never be able to concentrate. Will be sometime between Mar 20-April 10, I'm sure; Peter dreamed April, but he's pretty big and heavy and developed right now, and I think it might be March. Peter also dreamed a boy, but I kind of think maybe a girl. I can feel the shape of his (etc) body as twists and turns x and does flips; he's really big, and has 2 more months to grow--have no idea how he'll ever get out. Peter weighed 9 pounds when he was born--and I want to make it without cutting or tearing or stitches, ho ho. Glad Hank is doing something--can be a very very lucrative field. Ah, I believe the country where the Glicks are is called Uganda--did you look on a map to see where it is? Notice where the equator goes through Africa--surprise. Thought it was through the bulge, didn't you? Had thought they were going to be in Nigeria......What's happening to their house? What are Sara and Dave and Stelle doing to each other lately? Ah, the sun is shining, the cats are xxxxxxxxx cowering (dog next door is in heat and her following grows larger daily---cats terrorized. (We have the same two we had in the city plus one with 22 toes, 12 in front and 10in back. She is currently proving to herself that it hurts when you stick a paw in front of the typewriter keys and someone is typing.) , the ocean is leaping up with 10 - 15 feet of spray, and the baby is somersalting......all's welll with the world. love, [handwritten: P/M]
Postmark: Jan 18, 1968, Mendocino, CA. Handwritten: “Rec’d this 1/22/68.” And: “Ans this 1/25/68.”