1972, October 24: Letter from Marcy and Peter to G&H

Handwritten on lined three-hole-punch paper by Peter and Marcy. (First section in Peter’s handwriting; then switches as noted by my notes in the text.)

Helen (I think) wrote “Oct. 24, ’72” at the top of the first page, and that matches internal evidence within the letter, so I’m assuming it’s accurate.

Content warning for description of painful dental issues.

This is dictated by Marcy:

Dear Grandma & Grandpa,

Today is the day of:

(1) my first bath in our real live bathtub, which is happening right now as I lie here x beneath the suds contemplating

(2) Peter’s new profile… I can’t decide whether he looks more like Paul Hartman or Catfish Hunter, who (the latter) is our New Hero.

Picture us, Sunday afternoon, x eyes fixed on the screen of our——would-you-believe?——Color TV, eating tortillas & beans, blissfully watching the World Series, cheering for Catfish and his hairy teammates, trying to be patient with Jed, who asked incessantly, “Is it over now?” and “Will you tell me when one team wins?” to the accompaniment of Joaquin’s “I’m tired of watching tewevizin.” This domestic scene is only marred by Peter’s having a toothache instead of a beer; he obligingly wore an undershirt for the occasion (even though it was tie-dyed)

The handwriting switches to Marcy’s at this point.

The toothache was resolved by an emergency extraction yesterday (xxx Sunday after the Game)—the dentist didn’t believe the X-ray & had to take a 2nd one—it was so badly abcessed—evidently our dentist in xxx Berkeley didn’t belive it either, as Peter had told him of a toothache there & he’d insisted it was okay & filled the tooth next to it. The dentist xxx here also referred Peter to a periodontist for pyorrhea, also untreated by the Berkeley dentist. Pretty scary, the things dentists can get away with…

The Profile is resolved (today) by beardlessness, but still long hair & mustache. The kids were wide-eyed but not quite able to figure out exactly what had happened. Looks good—we’ll send you a picture, as soon as the skin where the beard was gets a little tanner. He says he cut it off ’cos he wanted to see what he looked like after 3 years. (He looks about the same as he did, only 7 years and 8 months younger.) (approximately)

this is the end of dictation by Marcy. The rest is mostly joint effort:

That’s confusing, because the previous two paragraphs were in Marcy’s handwriting, as are the next several.

Peter is digging his bath—first bubble bath he ever remembers, first bath at all in a long time. We use Shaklee’s “Delight” for dishes & bubble baths—makes bubbles forever.

Note in margin: Pumice stone of Persian lava is highly recommended for caloused feet.

The photos of the house were supposed to be in color, but Peter didn’t know the film was black-&-white.

Alas, we did not get to listen to your tape, as the recorder we have was not put to work by new batteries, & was the wrong size anyway.

But your letter was marvelous. We loved the Avocado—went right out & bought one that very day. Also, from the library “The Avocado Pit xxx Growers’ Indoor Handbook”—along with tomes & volumes on organic gardening and composting, now that we have the space. Rototilling next week for the winter garden, I hope.

The photos were fun, & the article on Mendocino was interesting, tho we didn’t see too much of the touristy stuff when we were there. We did spend a lot of time at the laundromat beneath the Water Tower that was in one of the pictures, and I think one of the art teachers pictured may have been someone we knew.

But the best thing, Grandpa, was the news of your new teaching environment. I can see you stepping into a phone booth on your way from a regular class, ol’ George, mild mannered magister, and out steps a blue-denimed, psychedelic-xxx shirted, long-haired SUPERTEACH!!! barefoot, of course, faded jeans, bright orange chalk, a stack of old copies of “Rolling Stone” under one arm and a peace sign at his fingertips. Seriously, what I mean to say is that I expect the new methods of communicating that go along with the new places for learning are much more subtle and very much more challenging. Making a movie is ever so much more work than grading a piece of memory work—more fun, too, but most older teachers don’t seem to realize that. (Hope we can get to see it too / The movie, I mean)

Peter’s contribution is that if you vote for McGovern you’ll be able to tell your kids when they ask—but if you vote for Nixon, you’ll have to say “—Ahem. I don’t think I ought to tell who I voted for.”

We really appreciate your letters, & hope to do better about replying. It was nice to find that one here when we arrived, especially. x A postcard from Paul & Linda, too.

Peter will have to be working over the Christmas holidays—why don’t you come down here? We have lots of space for all kinds of Christmas stuff—including a live indoor Christmas tree, we hope. Can’t serve up any snow, though. Or maybe that’s no great loss.

Switching back to Peter’s handwriting.

I’m back from bath-Nirvana——want to tell you about some things happening job-wise:

1) I’ve been getting acquainted with the 100-odd kids who come around to Rising Sun, and have taken part in 3 group sessions. Also, I’ve been assigned my first 1-1 client.

2) I’ve been informally teaching many of the kids how to play games such as 5-in-a-row, cala, tactix, go, chess, and dominoes (almost everyone already knew the last, and almost no one the others…)

3) I’ve been meeting the Judge, newspaper owner-editor, principals, teachers, etc., and will be meeting more “VIPs”…

4) for the whole of this week (Tues.-Fri.) we (the staff) are closing the house and conducting a staff retreat, wherein we’ll get our heads together (individually & collectively), exploring each others’ strengths and weaknesses, using Gestalt techniques, psychodrama techniques, the “Synanon-type” Game (“attack therapy”), and other methods of getting into the Now, and becoming more an integrated team.

5. We’ll also be planning the directions the program will take, particularly regarding activities: crafts, classes (Marcy will be teaching a cooking class, also perhaps a drug-education class to primary-school kids), projects (such as perhaps organizing and running a coffeehouse-bookstore-art gallery-(with chess & Go boards), and maybe making a movie of this endeavor), trips (to the mountains, to Marine World/Africa USA, etc.)

anyway, everything’s working out… more later——love, Peter, Marcy, Jed, Joaquin

My Lord, Thou art in every breath I take,

And every bite and sup taste firm of Thee.

With buoyant mercy Thou enfoldest me,

And holdest up my foot each step I make.

Thy touch is all around me when I wake,

Thy sound I hear, and by Thy light I see

The world is fresh with Thy divinity

And all Thy creatures flourish for Thy sake.

For I have looked upon a little child

And seen Forgiveness, and have seen the day

With eastern fire cleanse the foul night away;

So cleanest Thou this House I have defiled.

And if I should be merciful, I know

It is Thy mercy, Lord, in overflow.

Kenneth Boulding

(from “Naylor Sonnets”——from Fellowship Publications, Nyack, N.Y.——referring to James Naylor, an early Quaker saint)

(quoted by Maurice Friedman in “Touchstones of Reality”——subtitled “Existential Trust and the Community of Peace”: E.P. Dutton, N.Y., N.Y., 1972)


Catfish Hunter
Pitcher for the Oakland A’s.
Color TV
I’m surprised at this. We didn’t have a TV for much of my childhood, and my memory was that during the brief time when we did have one, Jay and I were only allowed to watch PBS shows.
World Series
I’m also surprised that we watched the 1972 World Series. Until now, the only evidence I’ve seen in these letters that any of us had any interest in baseball was the baseball uniform that I loved to wear. Jay got very into baseball later, but I don’t recall Peter or Marcy ever expressing any interest in it when we were small.
hairy teammates
Turns out the 1972 Oakland A’s were known as the Mustache Gang, “a team that broke the traditionally conservative baseball views by sporting mustaches. Prior to the 1970s there had only been two baseball players who had facial hair during the regular season: Stanley ‘Frenchy’ Bordagaray[…], who was then ordered to shave by his manager, and Wally Schang[…]. This changed when the A’s outfielder, Reggie Jackson, showed up to spring training with a fully grown mustache which would later be thought of as the catalyst that sparked the move away from the conservative baseball era. This move [led] to the World Series final [being] dubbed ‘Hairs vs. Squares’, as the Oakland A’s Mustache Gang faced off with the conservatively clean-shaven Cincinnati Reds.” I wonder if that’s what sparked Peter and Marcy’s interest in baseball.
Another word for periodontitis.
wrong size anyway
Huh. Were there different sizes of cassette tapes in 1972? …Possibly this was a reel-to-reel tape recorder, but I’d be a little surprised if George and Helen mailed a reel of tape. (Various family members did mail cassettes to each other later.)
Surely this doesn’t mean that we hadn’t had avocado before this?
new teaching environment
I’m not sure what that refers to.
tell your kids
Took me a couple reads of that line to realize that they meant the kids George was teaching.
Probably another name for mancala.
A game that’s kind of like a 2-dimensional version of Nim. I had never heard of it before this letter.
Synanon Game/attack therapy
A form of supposed therapy in which members of a group said nasty things to each other. For a bit more about Synanon, see Rationalwiki. For a lot more about Synanon, see LA Magazine, though the first several paragraphs of that article oddly have nothing to do with Synanon at all.
coffeehouse-bookstore-art gallery-(with chess & Go boards)
I don’t recall hearing Peter talk about this idea until I was in late high school or early college, when he started semi-seriously planning to move to Seattle and start such a place. (By that time, he also wanted to do computer and math tutoring in the back room, iIrc.)
James Naylor
James Nayler (or Naylor; 1618–1660) was an English Quaker leader…”

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