1973, December 28: Hearthlight flyer and letter from Marcy to G&H

This envelope contained a one-page flyer for the foster home, Hearthlight, with a handwritten note on the back of it; also, a two-page typewritten letter from Marcy.

The flyer is on a sort of tan-colored paper that I think Peter and Marcy used for all official Hearthlight documents—the business cards were also this color.

Here’s the flyer:


Love, work and knowledge are the wellsprings of our life.

They should also govern it.

We are engaged in creating and maintaining a home, Hearthlight by name, for a few of the many homeless children of our times, particularly those afflicted with anomie, alienation, purposelessness and aimless rebellion. Our purposes in establishing such a home are to inculcate emotional security and stability; to lead these children into a knowledge of themselves, of each other, and of the larger community beyond the home; and to create a nurturing environment in which the children can be free to make continual discoveries about the world around them and how it works, as a whole and in all its parts.

Besides providing a loving and caring home, and acting as role-models and guardians, we are concerned with helping the children to understand and anticipate not only the immediate but also the long-range consequences of their actions. In this way we are fostering the growth of self-regulation and self-discipline, which are necessary for true maturity and independence. Away from home, there are abundant opportunities to become integrated into the life of the community, in such areas as school activities, sports, camping trips, Scouting, 4-H, community gardens, recycling/ecological centers, and church activities. We hope that by the time young people leave our home, they will be well-balanced, growth-oriented, and emotionally and physically healthy individuals.

In addition, we will help them to experience and discover for themselves the intricate workings of the wide world around us: we plan to work on such projects as building and operating an amateur radio station, grinding an optical mirror and building a telescope, participating in nature walks and wilderness survival classes, growing an organic vegetable garden, studying techniques of food preparation and basic nutritional principles, and the like. We will also encourage them to develop artistic and musical skills, as well as increased coordination and grace in movement.

Peter was trained as a counselor in the Awareness House Training Program in Berkeley, and worked for a year as a counselor in a drug-abuse prevention program. He has worked with disturbed and delinquent children for the state of Washington, and is working toward his master’s degree in psychology. His B.A. is in mathematics, and he is a capable teacher in that area as well.

Marcy is an elementary school teacher, now working as a substitute in the local schools. She has worked extensively teaching children to read, and is also working on her M.A. Additionally, she has studied nutrition and is an excellent cook.

Hearthlight is located between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, in a lovely semi-rural setting. We have over half an acre of land for gardening and raising animals, with plenty of room for play. Plumfield, Inc., the former owner, conducted a group home on the premises, and the house is well-equipped to withstand the rigors of hard use.

Visitors are welcome by appointment. We are currently interviewing applicants for placement: our fee is $400 per month. If you have any questions, please feel free to write or call.

Peter and Marcy Hartman

Address elided by Jed, Santa Rosa, California 95401

Phone number elided by Jed

On the back of the flyer, this note:

Here’s the famous brochure, finally on its way to all the proper agencies—

It’s also our Christmas card—so!

We wish You a most joyous

season of holy days

And a year filled with happiness

and peace.



Did I think you for the blankets, towels, and all? And the Indian sign template? I won’t thank you for the Cat In The Hat—you wouldn’t either, after 50 readings or so—but Joaquin does, profusely. It’s really a great teaching-to-read book. Just grrrrrrreat///We truly appreciate your many such thoughtfullnesses. Your packages are always a delight—Jed’s afraid we’re going to get more blankets for Christmas! I think he was kidding. love, M

And now the typewritten letter:

Dec. 28, 1973, 11:30 p.m.

Well! This has certainly been a most fantastic Christmas. It started out real slow and most un-Christmas-like--in fact I was sort of wishing that it would hurry up and be finished with. I really wanted to keep it simple, particularly because I was somewhat disturbed by the attitude of Mark, our 12-year-old foster boy, who was constantly asking, requesting, importuning, and, mirabile dictu, hinting--which I guess ought to be encouraged, as he is otherwise marvelously unsubtle, but this wasn't the time I felt like doing it--about when, what, etcetera, was coming to him for Christmas. So somehow I felt constrained to try to show him in particular that Christmas doesn't have to be entirely on the material plane. However, I seem to have been thwarted on all levels by such a fantastic abundance of marvelous and delectable goodies that it was not easy to achieve very much in the way of spiritual regeneration. In short, we had indeed a marvelous and delightful Christmas, thanks in no small measure to your thoughtful and cornucopic deliveries and presentations.

Peter had, I guess, been feeling about as un-Christmas-like as I had, but we went through with all kinds of plans anyway, such as driving down to Oakland to pick up Mark's older sister, who is at present living in Snedegar Cottage, Alameda County's home for homeless children, as she is between foster parents at the moment. We picked her up on Sunday, and were just "getting ready to get ready" for some last-minute things on Monday, when the UPS man came sailing by. Peter was off at the other end of the house, and didn't hear my joke, "Oh, look, they've sent us an organ!" Everyone was very excited, but I explained that it was full of smaller packages, and they could go ahead and open the big box now. Sure enough, there was one unlabeled package--"I guess that one's for everybody," Jed said. Beneath it were some sticks--"What a strange thing for them to send..."--still I suspected nothing. It wasn't till we removed the "sticks" and saw those black and white keys staring up at us that I began to suspect the true nature of this present. After a few interesting attempts, we managed to get the legs on, figuring that the shorter ones were for setting it up on a table. Well, what a change came over our house when that organ was set up! Suddenly it became

! * C * H * R * I * S * T * M * A * S * !

Peter in particular was vastly delighted with your present. (although he couldn't resist the moral: "See? It's because I was the only one out of four brothers to take music lessons when I was a boy.") Of course half the household is now ready to apply for a job as church organist, and the rest of us are waiting our turn to practice. It's a great relief to me when Peter sits down to play it, as I get a tad tired of "I've been Workin' on the Railroad," alternated with "Home on the Range," with a little bit a Beethoven thrown in for good measure. Peter says he's never had a nicer Christmas present, and I've never had a more amazing one. We haven't gotten any other music yet, but we will soon, and we'll be sending some tapes along.

So, we had a lovely Christmas, as I may have mentioned. Some of the "star attractions" were Joaquin's Toy Village (Fisher-Price); Mark's "new" bicycle; and a Parcheesi board for Jed. Also, we became cable-TV subscribers last Friday, which brings us about twelve channels, and, joy of joys, FM stations from San Francisco and Berkeley.

We could hardly believe our eyes when another package arrived here on Wednesday afternoon. What a good time you must have had with it! I'd like to comment about every last thing, but some have been spirited off to the far corners by now, so forgive me if I omit any:

It was especially thoughty of you to include some "gifts-at-large" for them as might feel left out. The bathrobe was perfect for Larry (he's fifteen), and Mark had a good time trying to master the labeler. (By the way, Peter thought up a good use for the labels--we applied emergency phone numbers to the cradle under the telephone handset.) Towels: perfect, lovely--sought after already. Washcloths, napkins: always handy (oosh). Purple slippers: pluperfect. Tea towel: teetotal! Porpoise: gives what to our lives? The hippopotamus, after many bites, might never make it to the bathtub, as he's a bit frayed around the edges by now; but the bubblepipes will get there. As to the purses, we haven't yet been able to figure out how to make sow's ears out of them, but we're working on it. The sewing cards were an instant hit--both boys were basting busily by breakfast. The little cherub candle is, Peter speculates, filled with the good vibrations of many Christmases past--is it the same one he remebers? And the tiny white dove did not come out to delight us till this morning. Ah, and the bulb--do you know if it needs to be refrigerated? When should it be planted? What kind is it, anyway? The message on the bag had me stymied till clever Peter suggested I look inside to see what kind of bulb you meant. Dividing line drawn here, with a note in the margin that says “fast asleep” above the line and “morning” below it; I assume that means Marcy went to sleep here and then continued the letter the next day. Joaquin's top is a super big hit; I have to ban it frmom the kitchen about once an hour--they think it makes a marvelous noise--"It doesn't sound so nice on the rug!" The slinky is another winner. I noticed it has a safety attachment on the ends that wasn't thought of when I used to have one. And of course, the long-awaited cup! It was just perfect. I expect a letter about it will be forthcoming when they take the time off from playing with all the new thingies. What else? Ah, the coloring book. Perfectluy timely, as Mark had gotten one for Christmas, and Joaquin was desolate that he hadn't. The clown was another nostalgia-evoker--my mother used to make them for school bazaars--as was the book of Christmas Ideals, which Peter remembers enjoying in times past. The Alice in TVland--I guess that was from you, too. It was out of the box and on to the stereo so fast I never has time to realize it had been in there. They really did it cleverly, using a TeeVee in lieu of a rabbit hole, etc. And the viewmasters--"Viewmasters??? They didn't send us any viewmasters!" Jed states. But Joaquin had found them right away, figured out that the stories went with them, and had me read while he viewed; Jed is at the moment busily engaged in trying to do both at once. And the plaque (tray?) --well, we're not perfectly sure what to do about it yet, but its use will manifest itself. 'Quin says to say, "It's so pwitty." The stethescope is really neat. We tried improvising one out of a toilet paper roll once, but this is ever so more satisfactory. Did you know that some mechanics use them to listen in to different parts of car engines--? Really works good, they say. But I think it works good to impress the customers, too. Peter: "Good for listening in to Christ as the Heart of the World...and it's up to us to channel the love that is its blood." How sanguine of him, ???? (what?) I guess we both had the same idea about covering boxes. Hope you didn't have to go through what I did to get ahold of cigar boxes. The calendar is just perfect, too. As usual, I had been trying to remember to buy one and hadn't gotten around to it. And the potholder was sorely needed, as well, and the pot was just perfectly potty. Did I ever thank you enough for the one you sent last year, which I use constantly....? It's perfect for tomato sauces, which I cook incessantly, and can't cook in my heavy iron pots...and of course (did you know?) that enamel is an excellent surface for cooking in, as it doesn't leave any traces in the food, which aluminum and teflon do. Iron does too (leave traces) but they're beneficial. This year's pot is perfect for re-heating the gallons and gallons of peppermint-rose hip-valerian tea that is Peter's thing these last several weeks. We do sure drink a lot of tea in this family. Peppermint alfalfa is my fave-rave, and the kids get all kinds of varieties, rose hips to add vitamin C, chamomile for good dreams, red sage and hyssop for incipient coughs, laced with honey, lemon juice, and diluted with a little bottled water//.

Then it was the dried apples and bananananans.....did you do them yourselfs? They were gone before everything was unwrapt, but Peter remembered. What else? what fa vorite thing did you put in just to see our reaction and we haven't even mentioned it? Oh, dear-oh-dear....

Anyway, first and last and most of all, it's the organ (Dylan Thomas, in Under Milk Wood, has the wife of Organ Morgan, the organist, comment, "It's organ, organ, all the time with him!"), it's the organ that made our Christmas, and will continue to go on marvelously organ-izing our hours. So our vast and multitudinous thanks and praises for your capturing and creating such joy in our household.

Handwritten by (in turn) Marcy, Jed, Jay, Peter, and Marcy again:

much love





Back to typewritten:

p.s. #1: Joaquin made all the letters himself; we just reminded him which ones come after which. Note upside-u.

p.s. #2: Did you say you had some more goodwill blankets? Seems strange to me to be asking for soemthing on top of such grand presents, but I'm sure you said you'd got some more, and they sure could be useful. We have evactly the right number now, but more kids coming soon.


again our thanks


And one more handwritten note, from the back of the envelope:

And the paintings!

We have perfect places for ’em.


I feel like I had emotional security and stability in our home, but I don’t know whether the foster kids ever felt that way. Based on what Peter and Marcy say about various of the foster kids in later letters, I kinda suspect not. :(
I don’t remember ever doing any of the listed enrichment activities. But we may have done them and I just don’t remember.
I’m not sure what Peter’s job had been “work[ing] with disturbed and delinquent children for the state of Washington”; I wonder if he’d had a temporary job at Cascadia, where George worked, at some point.
I suspect that “working toward his master’s degree in psychology” was an exaggeration; Peter had graduate credits (as mentioned in an earlier letter), but I don’t think he was enrolled anywhere at this point or making active progress on a degree.
Marcy did at some point actively work toward a master’s degree, but I don’t know whether she had started that at this point or not.
“material plane”
Avoiding the materialism of Christmas and the focus on presents is a running theme in these letters from Marcy—always tempered by her thanks for the deluge of grandparental presents.
I don’t think Marcy ever mentioned a Jewish holiday in these letters. I know that at least some years we vaguely celebrated Hanukkah, but only vaguely.
Mark and Larry
The first two foster kids! Mentioned by name for the first time in this letter! They had arrived sometime around November. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember them at all.

Snedigar Cottage
Turns out there’s a wiki page about it; it was “the foster care section of the Alameda County juvenile detention center, where foster children ranging in age up to 13 years old waited to be placed into homes.”
I think that this must have been an electric organ, maybe about the size of a modern electronic piano/keyboard? (Plus legs for it to stand on—the “sticks” Marcy refers to here.) I think George sent us his old one and acquired a new one; I assume the new one was the big (for a living room) organ that was in George and Helen’s living room as long as I remember. It’s possible that the one mentioned in this letter was the electronic-keyboard organ that I remember Peter having when I was a kid, but I thought he didn’t get that until years later. So I’m not sure.
“always handy” (etc)
I’m really tickled by the little jokes that Marcy made in this section about the various presents. Especially “Porpoise: gives what to our lives?” and “How sanguine of him,” both of which made me laugh.
dried apples
See a later letter for followup questions about a dehydrator.

3 Responses to “1973, December 28: Hearthlight flyer and letter from Marcy to G&H”

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    […] However, it was also clearly after the gift of the organ, the arrival of which Marcy described in a late-December 1973 letter. So this must have been sometime in early […]


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