I asked some old friends to write their memories of their time at the “Fountain of the World.” This is Tipp’s story and his sister’s story is in another post. They were thirteen and I was ten years old when they moved into the commune. They had a different experience since they were older and I was homebred. I was use to everything and they had a whole new set of eyes on their new environment.
Things I remember living at the Fountain of the World
The Brother’s Dorm was an enclosed carport with a cement floor, and two doors, one on each end. It had no plumbing or insulation, and the electrical wiring was a potential fire hazard. Staying warm and going to the bathroom made sleeping a creative endeavor. Therefore, to keep warm we stuffed newspaper into holes or cracks and blankets were a prized possession.
Our other ingenious ways to keep warm on cold nights to walk all the way to the main building for a bathroom break, we would pee outside the door. I remember we would laugh from fright hoping we wouldn’t get caught. A heater was an impossibility because it could easily start a fire, therefore we slept with our pants under the covers, this helped with the early morning chill. When getting in the main building and standing in front of the massive fireplace first thing in the main building was a warm relief.
The summers were tolerable compared to the winter. We had the shade of the large old oak trees and if we could find an electric fan; it was a blessing with little pressure on the crazy electric plugs. We stayed comfortable.
On quiet afternoons, we would spend hopping into parked cars near the men’s dorm. We pretended we were driving until we got caught.
Or we built rock walls with the miscelaneous stones on the property. We were surrounded by mountains, so that was a large playground to explore by hiking, rock climbing, and looking through the caves. And with an abundance of trees, there were many to climb and then we swam in the water storage towers.
On Saturday Nights, the members would have entertainment for ourselves and visitors who dropped by in the evening. Our policy was everyone invited and encouraged to be a part of the entertainment. Anyone could get up and read a poem, play music or whatever. We always had a play for the end of the evening entertainment, and the play always had a theme and a plot, but then we ad-libbed our parts, this gave us kids a great experience in standing in front of an audience. Charles Manson even stopped by a few times with his gypsy group. But they didn’t cause any problems. Bishop Asaiah would play an old gutbucket and sing “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea, there’s a hole in the bottom of the sea. There’s a hole, there’s a hole, there’s a hole in the bottom of the sea.” He got everyone going with that song. We had a small room in the back, with many pieces of equipment for sound, and my first jazz musical experience Getz/Gilberto and Carlos Jobim on a tape recorder in what we called a sound booth.
Part of Summer cleanup is to take the 50-gallon drums full of garbage to the city dump (maggots and all).
On our way back from the dump, we would stop in Simi Valley at the A & W Root Beer stand. What a sight if you can imagine dirty and stinky men and teens drive up in an all-wheel-drive truck used in WW2 called a Burma Truck used to transport soldiers to the front lines. We would stand in line for our special treat of a large root-beer, hamburger, and fries! People stared, but we didn’t care; our eyes were on the treat and we were happy.
I remember laying down blacktop driveways for the neighbors. It was hot and hard work for us teenagers, but we enjoyed helping. And I appreciated the water and ice tea during these kinds of hot summer jobs.
My first experience seeing skid row and the homeless is when we would go to the produce market in downtown L.A. We would solicit, asking for produce donations, and then load the crates full of fresh vegetables into the van thanking them.
Since there was always a potential for fires in the fall with all the dry brush around, fall Trash and cleanup was the main responsibility. For prevention, we cut fire breaks. Since the main building was in the center of the property and large areas of grounds filled with trees, we had plenty of work raking leaves.
In the winter was the Christmas Drive. We would collect donations, box them up, and distribute presents and food to the needy.
We washed our own clothes up the hill in the laundry room and hung them out to dry on the pulley operated clothesline. It broke once; I fixed the rope and had to start over.
When we ate our meals in the main building. On Left-handed week, we had to eat with our left hand and the Right-handed weeks we ate with our right hand. No talking allowed because they encouraged us to use telepathy to get the honey, salt, and pepper. Food went fast, so if I wanted a second helping, I had to eat faster than the others. The grownups ate at another table above, so no fooling around.
During the school year, we took a homemade lunch. Once we got dog food in our sandwich because the donated cans were without a label. Oh well, it didn’t kill us! But no one would trade sandwiches either!
I experienced many different edibles at “the Fountain.” I never tasted honey, creamed Tuna on toast and oxtail stew prior to commune living. And I remember this was also the first time I drank coffee. We ate well enough, considering, that we ate outdated and donated food. But what we did have is freshly baked bread in our own outdoor oven, which used firewood.
We went to the Simi Valley school district, and many times we wore our LTU top robe/shirt. We stood out and received stares or questions, but it was the 60s and “different” was acceptable.
We had few chances to buy new clothes, but this one time it thrilled me when I went with the other teen boys to get one new pair of jeans for school and I picked Levi 501 jeans.
We rode a full-size yellow school bus through the canyon and on the Santa Susana Pass road. Mr. Rogers, an older man, was a skilled driver of narrow and curvy roads. We would tease him by clipping his seatbelt backward behind the seat whenever he left to help one of the younger bus riders across the street. But he had a good sport, with a pleasant personality sport, but he gave us the evil eye from time to time. And I can’t forget to tell you about Polly one of our dogs, every morning he would try to bite the tires on the bus. He loved us kids and would wait for us to come back home to love him by throwing a stick or two.
“The Fountain of The World” was a quiet environment with a spiritual atmosphere. The difficult side was the discipline of non-family members. But the good side, I experienced the practice of hugging and having a loving attitude, chanting, foot washing, Sunday discourses, and singing. I had exposure to eastern philosophy, communal living, and charity to others.
As a kid, I didn’t comprehend everything, but I think it left me with a few good experiences and interesting exposure to life, outside