| Chapter 12
During the 60's, four large social movements came together, the anti-Vietnam war peace movement, the environmental movement, the Black Civil Rights movement, and the Women's movement. The combination of all these social movements helped to create an exciting, positive air of freedom and progress in America. It was a popular response to the assassination of President Kennedy, the awful human toll the war was taking on both sides, and the long overdue civil rights of African Americans and women. The American people were rising up. Between Sharon and myself, we were active in all these movements.
There was also an organic farming movement embedded in the environmental cause. Allan Chadwick was holding forth at U.C. Santa Cruz with a large organic garden and a crew of disciples. I did some filming of this garden and soon some of his students started a "French Intensive" garden on four acres right around the corner. Jim Nelson and Beth, his wife at that time, were the leaders of this endeavor. Jim and I became friends and I gladly participated in their struggles to gain community acceptance. Soon they were providing a vegetarian diet for sixteen families on their four acre plot. It was amazing and inspiring. Jim is still, after all these years, holding forth on the farm.
At that same time, the Army was tearing down some old World War II barracks on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay and Jim somehow got permission to do the work, and in return claim, the lumber from this project. He arranged to transport the lumber from the island to the mainland on a ferryboat. I played a small part in that project, going out to the island to film and help with the careful deconstruction, salvage project. We brought the wood back to the Camp Joy farm on ancient lumber trucks. Jim and his crew built a large, handsome house for themselves with it. Those were heady times. We literally were "turning swords into plowshares." If I have ever met one moral giant in this life of compromise, it is Jim Nelson. His life and steadfast purpose and energy have long been an inspiration to me. While caring for my ailing mother in the 1990's I produced a series of painting from drawings I did on the Camp Joy farm. We had a show of this work at the Boulder Creek library. Many of the paintings and drawings are still on the walls of the Camp Joy farmhouse.
But I digress. Let's go back to the sixties and the founding of a youth commune on the San Lorenzo River. Although they were a scruffy lot, I admired their courage. They were experimenting with the barter system and a free dropped out social order. They were young, full of idealism, and into trying something new. It was definitely outside the mainstream.
It wasn't a nudist camp but there was a lot of nude bathing in the shallow rapids of the river. The water was cold and clean in the summer and shallow enough for small children to play in. The beach was private and far from the road so the children played in the nude and moms and dads watched them, also in the nude. Now there may have been older people living nearby but I couldn't see any houses from the beach, so if they were offended they would have had to walk through the woods and hide in the bushes to get a peek of this bare action. Apparently some did and an elderly cop was called who hid in the bushes and took Polaroid pictures of the bathers. We knew him as "Shakey Jake." It was said he had a drinking problem when off duty which caused him to tremble until he got off duty and had his first drink. He would show up from time to time, come out of the bushes, and order everyone out of the river. The young folks would taunt him mercilessly until he finally pulled his gun and threatened to arrest everyone. Then, begrudgingly, everybody would traipse off wrapping towels around themselves or putting on their scanty summer outfits.
These people were trying to drop out and turn on as Professor Leary had suggested. They had a community based on democracy and run on consensus which they arrived at in weekly meetings. They had an older married couple who they looked up to and sought leadership and counsel from. They were using their lives to resist the war, the system, and a social order they no longer believed in. Soon the local press took notice of them and dubbed their commune "The Holiday Cabins," after the old name of the dilapidated commercial tourist court. Many letters to the editor of the local paper featured the subject of The Holiday Cabins, some positive but most negative.
Some commune members came to my perfect music sessions, which made me aware of them before their notoriety in the press. I visited their camp at their invitation and found it a charming, honest experiment in a peaceful social movement. I thought their plight could be helped by a movie showing their attempt in its’ beauty, and positive nature. I attended their weekly meetings and presented them with my ideas. After a couple of meetings with much open discussion they agreed to allow me to film them in somewhat intimate detail. I advised them not to invite anyone else to join in this filming project so as to avoid possible exploitation. My plan was to make a documentary film which possibly would earn them some income.
A little before this project I had written a short piece which I called "The Paradise Proclamation." I recorded myself reading this piece and mixed in a perfect music tract behind it. "The Paradise Proclamation" declared the earth was the Garden of Paradise. To my mind, the complex interaction of nature, providing for the incredible diversity of life on this planet being so finely balanced, only makes this obvious. I also stated that when human social evolution is denied it creates revolution. I compared the foreign policy of our nation to "a drunk in a bar trying to pick a fight with a Chinaman."
At this time, I was the host of a jazz radio program on which I sometimes played perfect music tapes. I played "The Paradise Proclamation" on this program. I felt that if people only realized how beautiful and perfect nature was, perhaps they would take better care of it. I said the only thing wrong with the earth was what we had done to it. These ideas led me to name the documentary project "Beachhead in Paradise."
It was the time of huge music festivals. The time of Woodstock, the Monterey Rock Festival, and the Newport Jazz Festival. I tried to take the Paradise concept international. I wanted to have a "Paradise Pageant" which would put the stamp of Paradise all across the planet. I sent a tape to the Beatles, hoping they would see and understand the value of this concept. I never received a reply but shortly after this, their recording of "Revolution" was released.
Meanwhile back at the Holiday Cabins, I thought a small local music festival would be a nice climax to the film we were making. There were a few musicians living up in the Santa Cruz Mountains as I was. Most were rockers. There was a pretty good band just around the corner on Hiway 9 that I was friends with. They agreed to participate in the mini-festival. I put together a perfect music jazz band and we planned a finale of perfect music to end the festival with as many participants as possible. I brought this plan before the weekly meeting at the Holiday Cabins and, as you might expect, found no opposition to it. Again I stressed not letting anyone else film this festival. I had high hopes for this mini-Paradise Pageant and wanted exclusive rights to the film for the commune and myself.
On the big day of the festival, Pat and I loaded up the "Space Bass, my bass, and the filming and recording equipment and drove down to the Cabins. When we got there, we discovered another film maker setting up. I already had several hours of film in the can so there was no possibility of turning back. Now this guy had much better equipment than I did. We set up our equipment and the music started with the rock band. I stayed very busy--playing, filming, recording, and keeping things going. What I didn't see or know about until later, after it was all over, was that this other film maker was passing out LSD and filming the kids taking it. He also brought a large stash of grass and filmed a phony deal that he set up for a dramatization of the sale of this grass. This was a complete falsehood dramatization set up and filmed by this intruder. The outcome of this fabrication was that he sold that part of his film to a national news agency which in turn played it all across the nation on T.V. news programs.
After this appeared on T.V., the local police became much more interested in "The Holiday Cabins." I showed my film around, first at the Cabins, then at various gatherings around the county. I spent about ten grand on this project and didn't receive a penny back. Eventually the cabins were burned to the ground by the police and fire departments. This was an example of just the kind of exploitation I had warned about. It was, of course, the very type of slick propaganda of the social order the kids were trying to drop out of.