1969, August 21: Letter from Marcy to G&H

As I mentioned previously: at the time of these letters, Peter’s brothers David and Dobe (who was known at the time as John) were in prison, at FCI (Federal Correctional Institution) Lompoc, about 2/3 of the way to Los Angeles from where we were living.

There’s some potentially scary stuff in this letter, so I want to note upfront that nothing long-term bad happens to David or Dobe (or Peter or Marcy or me) at this time.

But content warning for descriptions of bad behavior by prison guards, and a brief interaction with police.

Also content warning for a possible pejorative term for a little person, at the end of the letter—I’m not sure whether I’m reading Marcy’s handwriting correctly there, but it might be a word that’s no longer considered appropriate.

This letter was handwritten, six pages, on unlined yellow letter-sized paper, in orange(?) ink.

The star image here is a drawing in the upper right corner of the paper, about an inch wide, in the same color ink as the writing; presumably Marcy drew it.

This was written a few days after Marcy’s 24th birthday. I assume that the birthday present that she alludes to here was money, but I may be misinterpreting.

Star drawing
Star drawing

Dear Grandma & Grandpa

What grand grandfolks!–what a lovely birthday present. It was just what we needed, at that very moment, due to circumstances which will presently unfold. And truly appreciated. I had a lovely birthday, sunny and warm and filled with good feelings & good food.

As to sizes of clothing and such – you will always make me happy with the present of a copy of a book you have enjoyed reading, or some exotic cookbook, or a pretty hair ribbon/scarf thing. I buy clothes so rarely, & have such limited taste, that I hardly know what sizes I wear (the waist size is increasing rapidly at the moment, anyway) and I just got the most perfect all-purpose comfortable healthy excellent shoes I have ever had (birthday present from Peter – picture enclosed) & anyway have very few needs along the line of clothing – but, as I said, your particular present was most appropriate for the time –:

On thursday we recieved a letter from John, so emotional the words jumped around on the page, telling Peter to hie himself down there over the weekend, as fast as possible, don't bring the family, urgent urgent "legal & family matters" – we conjectured everything from immediate Parole to imminent transporting to The Black Hole of Calcutta, even guessed that the plea was a bit more dramatic than the cause thereof, which turned out to be the case.

We collected ourselves as best we could (I decided Jed & I were not to be left behind, so I planned to go, & tell John we'd wait outside if necessary) but on short notice that best is none too speedy, & we didn't get to leave till Saturday afternoon, well equipped with a mattress in the back of our lovely & now well-running but crosseyed bus, and lots of food to cook as we planned to find a camping spot on a beach.

The trip down was lovely, warm & sunny & full of about 20 happy & friendly hitchhikers. We finally stopped for the night (after eating in a restaurant) in Santa Maria, about 20 miles north of Lompoc, parking on a quiet back road by a grove of eucalyptus trees. The night was warm & smelled wonderful, the police who came by to check us out (we were about 3 blocks from the local highway patrol office) were as friendly & polite as you could expect them to be in the middle of the night, and all was well.

We got to the F.C.I. at about 9:45, and had to wait an hour as the boys were in church & then eating breakfast, & they waited till through to tell them we were there. Thus heightening the suspense no little bit, you can imagine.

Well, the story finally came out: The week before the one that had just passed, there had been a work strike, for all kinds of various & disorganized reasons. Mostly, it seemed, just a general dissatisfaction & outlet for frustration. It was on a Wednesday; a few hundred men participated. On thursday, everyone was kept in their "houses" & on Friday they were told to go back to work. John was not among those who had orignially planned to strike (the workers in Industries) & did do so – David, with about 200 others, continued to strike. They had no violent intentions, merely wanting to be heard. However, due to a lack of communication between the prisoners & the authorities, just as the men were standing up to return to their cells, a riot squad was sent in, complete with gas masks & teargas guns – which look like shotguns, & in the ensuing confusion & fear & noise & disorder, there was quite a bit of tear gas & such, ending up with about 200 men being put in "the hole" under "administrative detention" – the jail of jails. David was among them. They were kept there for a day or so, then released, then a day later a number of men were arbitrarily returned there. About 30, who were assumed to be the organizers, were shipped out to other prisons, the rest were kept in "the Hole" for several days. David was also in this second group. John became panicky, because he couldn't see David, but since he knew that the detained men were allowed out for visitors, he sent for Peter to come down so they could get David out for the day. When we got there Dave had been out for 2 days, all was well, evidently no major repercussions, and John was considerably calmer & mildly apologetic for having put our heads through the machinations they went through. David, of course, was calm & cool throughout, as always. He was hardly tremendously delighted at the previous two weeks, but he always seems to manage to keep a certain detachment, & not let petty things get to his calm & beautiful inner self.

Evidently, John sent off a number of tremendously garbled messages during the period of stress – they are not allowed to mention disturbances within the prison in letters to outside, so he asked us to write to you, & his two young-lady friends, and for you to tell Paul & Linda, so everyone would understand his strange notes. I hope he caused not too much worry – we tried to explain to him that no purpose was served by garbled messages and half-told tales, that imply much worse in what is left unsaid. And that especially for those who could not reach him more directly, perhaps he might consider calming his own self instead of uselessly upsetting others.

John & David & Peter spent the rest of the day discussing go techniques & methods – Peter has joined the local go club & played in a tournament in S.F., & I am well on the way to becoming a go-widow. J. & D. are becoming quite proficient at the game, evidently. We sent them one book on go techniques, & can send others.

Of course we put Jed through his repertoire. He knows about 30 words, can identify dog, cat, kitty, duck, truck ("guck"), clock (“gock”), car, bike (motorcycle & plain), horse (hopf), cow (“dow”) (also moo), mouse, house (“hawpf”), nose (“nōōō”), eye, teeth, ear (sort of), toes (“tow”) and many others. He keeps us busy translating his new ones.

Then, on the way home, we drove first about 20 miles to Buellton, on highway 101, and there ate at Anderson's pea soup restaurant, a justly famous & truly nice place. They have a gift shop, bakery, wine cellar, & restaurant & snack bars – Added in margin: and also can a wide variety of very good soups The restaurant features all the pea soup, wine, bread, (delicious onion-poppy-seed-rye) and coffee-tea-or-milk you can eat for 95¢, and is it ever fine pea soup – Thick & rich and full of flavor. Two bowls each just about did us in – and we had help from Jed. Then we shared a lovely large "seafood Louis" – crab, shrimp, lobster” – & finished with delicious hawaiian coffee – for $450 total bill. Plus good service & quiet, pleasant, non-rushed atmosphere. We passed up the complementary after-dinner wine as we were entirely stuffed. What a lovely birthday dinner!

The trip was hard on Jed, as he couldn't move around in the car very much, & got very bored, but other than that John's urgency gave us a lovely weekend.

Now we have to spend the rest of our time looking for a new home – we have about 2 weeks left here, so I will cut short the flow of words & be off to the classifieds.

Again, many thanks for the check – hope to hear from you soon.

Love from

Peter, Marcy & Gentle Jed

(the ferocious

biting widget)

…Possibly that last word starts with an m instead? It looks like a w to me, but it could be an m.

…I feel like Marcy and Peter may have been a little hard on Dobe (John) here. I get that his panicky letters had scared M&P and possibly others; but I also feel like he was in a pretty scary situation, and he was only 19 years old.

…I vaguely recall that Pea Soup Andersen’s became a regular stop for us on trips to Southern California—we didn’t drive down there all that often, but occasionally.

Facebook post for this letter.

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