(Nota del editor: una traducción al español de estas cartas se encuentra aqui.)
Ann Elizabeth Moore (1954-1978) was the youngest daughter in the Moore family: John and Barbara, the father and mother, Carolyn Moore Layton, the oldest daughter, and Rebecca Moore, the middle daughter. Annie and Carolyn died in Jonestown, along with Carolyn’s four year-old son Jim-Jon.
The following excerpt is from The Jonestown Letters: Correspondence of the Moore Family 1970–1985 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986).
We hadn’t reckoned with Annie’s strong sense of independence and offbeat sense of humor. She never took herself very seriously. And in spite of her deep commitment to Peoples Temple, she had difficulty taking it seriously all the time. Life for her was something to use to help people and find a laugh at the same time.
Her commitment to social justice came from a spiritual rather than political viewpoint. While [my sister] Carolyn told us several times that she was an atheist, Annie seemed to maintain some kind of belief in God. While Carolyn worked from an ideological foundation, Annie worked out of a simple desire to be of some use in the world as she found it. While Carolyn talked seriously, Annie made faces and laughed at everything.
Annie organized a peace vigil in Davis, California when she was in high school, and challenged the school administration to let her show a media presentation on the air war in Vietnam at a school assembly. She collected the money for the Yolo County Hunger Hike and hid the proceeds in the butter compartment of the refrigerator.
In 1969, Annie wrote a letter to my first husband Patrick, who was going through Army medical training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. She was fifteen years old.
… The army is a tough place to be, but there are a lot of tough places to be. Just let’s think of every soldier and every Vietnamese farmer and family and all of the Biafran people and even here in the U.S. The world is full of them. That’s what it is. I can say I’m glad I’m not in your shoes or in any army boy’s shoes. Life is full of sacrifices. That’s what [United Methodist minister] Phillip Walker told us and some people have to do the dirty work and some are luckier…
I can have an easy conscience because I don’t have to do much of the dirty work. That’s what life’s all about and I’m sure you know it, but I just thought I’d remind you…
Some things you just can’t explain, but with one mind you can do wonders, and with two you can do more, and with three you can do even more. We are really in control of our lives, and if we think positive, it works better. You can’t forget the suffering, but you can feel better. You make other people feel better too…
In the summer of 1971, she stayed with Pat and me in Washington, D.C. She got acquainted with some of our friends as we organized a group house which became known at “Sanitary House,” because the Sanitary Market was located on the corner.
During that summer, she volunteered at Children’s Hospital, an older hospital in the heart of Washington’s black ghetto. She rode the bus through rundown parts of town every day, carrying her guitar to play for the kids. She spent most of her time in the hospital’s burn ward, where children with grisly wounds looked forward to her visits. She became friends with one child in particular, Tyrone, who had been set on fire by some teenagers.
The next year she stood at a crossroads. John, my father, described it in a speech at Kansas State University:
… Annie was graduated from high school in June 1972. We traveled East. There were two places she wanted to go. She wanted to see her sister and brother-in-law in Washington, and the Yazoo Delta in Mississippi. She loved soul, jazz and blues. She had made a ceramic man, an old man sitting in a chair, playing his guitar. She wanted to see if the Yazoo Delta was as she had imagined it. In September we moved to Berkeley. Annie visited Carolyn over the weekend. They gave her the hard sell, and she changed her plans to live with Becky in Washington. She chose to become a member of Peoples Temple. Barbara was crushed.
Pat and I were disappointed. We’d looked forward to her living with us. She explained her decision in a letter.
August 7, 1972
Dear Becky and Pat,
Well, I have finally made up my mind for good I think and I am not going to stay permanently with you. It was hard for me to make that decision since I have been looking forward to it for almost a year. I hope you won’t be angry at me for not coming to stay and I hope that you won’t think that I don’t love you. Maybe you’ll be relieved.
The reason is because (and you’ll probably groan) I am going to maybe live with Carolyn or in one of her church dorms. I visited her and her church a week or so ago and I am convinced that it is a good place to be. (Even better than D.C. I guess.) I get along with you guys better than I get along with Carolyn but I think her church really has something to offer. It seems like most of the people who go there, stay. Well, now I know why. Her church or Jim Jones has and knows more secrets about the world than any other group or person. Also their church is socialist in the real sense (the kind of society Jesus was talking about). I thought I may be dumping the real regular world by joining with them, but I think there is little alone that I can do.
So that’s my decision. I was also convinced about Jim Jones’ power and his ‘words of wisdom’ when I saw him pull incurable cancers out of peoples’ throats. I’ve never heard of any faith healer who could do that (let alone any doctor). So as you can imagine, Mom and Dad are really bugged by my decision because they think that Carolyn’s church is a real weirdo church. I must admit that I think it’s pretty weird. But the reason people are afraid of it and ridicule it is because they don’t understand it, and because they are skeptics. So if I hadn’t of gone to visit Carolyn I would still be coming to Washington and although I was really looking forward to being in Washington, I’m glad that I will be involved with Peoples Temple. You probably think that I am brainwashed and stuff, but I think I am a sensible person and no one can tell me what to do. I decide for myself.
I think another reason why Mom and Dad are bugged is because they think I’ll be like Carolyn and cut all ties with my family and friends which I have tried to convince them that I won’t do. Carolyn kind of went overboard and I don’t think I’m the kind that would. Well, enough talk of this. Now you know what I have decided. I hope you will still like me and not think I have deserted you. And I hope you will treat me the same and not like some mentally ill person from Peoples Temple. So I’ll see you when Mom and Dad and I come and I hope I haven’t caused you any trouble like moving around in the house and stuff.
Pat and I didn’t like it, and we told her so. We were selfish: we wanted her to live with us. But we had also seen Carolyn’s withdrawal from the family. Our letter in reply must have been critical, because Annie wrote back on September 3, 1972:
… You obviously think that the Peoples Temple is just another cult or religious fanatic place or something like that. Well, I’m kind of offended that you would think I would stoop so low as to join some weirdo group. I think I am a pretty sensible person and I can tell what’s real and what’s not. People have a hard time fooling me. The reason that the Temple is great is not just because Jim Jones can make people cough up cancers but because there is the largest group of people I have ever seen who are concerned about the world and are fighting for truth and justice for the world. And all the people have come from such different backgrounds, every color, every age, every income group, and they have turned into constructive people from being dopers and thieves and being greedy, wanting lots of money and having ‘things’. So anyway it’s the only place I have seen real true Christianity being practiced. Well, I can’t explain all of why I want to go there; I guess I kind of want to be a follower because I sure can’t try to change the world all by myself.
The exchange of letters continued. We expressed our skepticism and doubt. Annie defended her choice.
September 25, 1972
Sorry if my last letter bugged you. Your letter back was good. I know already now, that the Peoples Temple isn’t phony, but I will show you and Becky that in time. The faith healing stuff bothers everyone at first; they have people in the church who were more skeptical than you are, so I guess they are the kinds who have to ‘see it to believe it.’ Anyway, that’s not the most important part of the church.
Jim says that after death (or after the heart stops beating and breathing stops) the subconscious of the person still lingers and by making that man I told you about last time come back to life he transmits his spirit (or whatever) and says stuff like, ‘We love you, and care about you,’ I’m not sure what else, and the body functions come back along with consciousness. Normally anyone who came back to life after 12 minutes would have brain damage, but Jim has extraordinary power I guess. I certainly don’t understand all of it. Anyway, people can’t be brought back to life if their subconscious has gone somewhere else, but when people have been pronounced dead, many times their subconscious has still been lingering around their bodies…
Annie believed in the sincerity of the faith healings. At the same time, she decided to pursue a career in medicine. Her experiences at Children’s Hospital did not discourage her from thinking about entering the field of nursing. She worked as a nurse’s aide at a convalescent home in Ukiah shortly after joining the Temple. A nursing friend remarked that if she could do geriatric nursing, she could do any kind of nursing.
It turned out that she could, and that she wanted to. She applied to the nursing school at Santa Rosa Junior College, and eventually was admitted into the program.
Within a few months of joining the Temple and moving to Redwood Valley, Annie’s job at Ukiah Convalescent Hospital dominated her thoughts.
December 2, 1972
Dear Pat and Becky,
Hi! How come you haven’t written to me? I’ve been waiting because I figured it was your turn to write me. I’ve been really busy lately with working and the church. Did you know that I got a job? I work as a nurse’s aide at Ukiah Convalescent Hospital. The work is really hard and tiring but I like it OK because I like the old folks. It’s a messy job of cleaning up the people and crap. The funny part of it is going around and seeing who’s had a B.M. Then you have to ask if it is large, medium or small. You have to watch with half the people because half of them don’t know what they’re doing anyway because when Mendocino State Hospital closed down, most of the convalescent hospitals got their share of patients coming to their hospital. What they do in ours is hide them all in the back so when people come in, they won’t see them. The patients in the front get a whole lot more visitors than in the back. The people in the convalescent hospital are really pathetic, some of them, but there sure are a lot of humorous moments too. I sure rush around all day to get my work done. The employer is a real snot so the place is underhanded [understaffed]. You have 12 patients usually and although that may not seem like many, it is if you have to dress half of them and change the beds and run around trying to find someone to help you lift them. You have to keep changing some of them too in the afternoon before the P.M. shift comes on because they’ll have a fit if anyone is wet when they come to work. Our morning shift is the hardest of all I am told. I work from 6:30 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. It sure is tiring by the time you get through spending your day on your feet, running around. I get to do some official stuff like irrigating catheters, measuring urine, and writing in charts. I have never given a shot and know I won’t do that. Oh, I’ve taken blood pressure too. So it’s o.k. work.
I applied to Santa Rosa Junior College and hope I can get into their nursing program. I will be going in January if I get accepted, but I don’t know how soon I can get into the nursing program because they are really tight when it comes to that. They try to discourage you before you get a chance to see if that’s what you want to do. But I won’t be discouraged.
I’ll have an extra bonus especially after working in Children’s Hospital in Washington and from working here, if I do O.K. here. All I can say is that I’m doing as well as I know how. It’s hard work.
I’m sure glad to be living here in Redwood Valley. It’s really beautiful country around here and I love the people in the church. It’s the only place I ever saw that people aren’t phony and really come face-to-face with their hang-ups and problems. It’s really refreshing because then you don’t have to deal with people through blocks they put up. If they have molested children, they say they did but they don’t any more. Or if they have had homosexual experiences, they say so and that makes one less block to communicate through. No one really cares what you have done anyway. As long as you’re doing good now, it doesn’t matter. The main part is working for change in our society but you can’t work effectively or as Jesus said, ‘You have to take the cinder out of your own eye before you can change others.’ (Or something like that.) So that’s what we’re doing and I think that’s the most important thing to do.
I don’t mind sacrificing things to help change the society because there’s not much in this world to offer anyway. I don’t see how anyone can find happiness or true satisfaction or whatever until the whole world is free of oppression and people are totally equal, honest and unselfish. I’m not worrying about getting married anymore because no matter what the cover-up is, people don’t act like their marriages are all happy and fulfilling like the big romantic story is. Anyway the dudes around here are real creepy and I think they’re a bunch of queers anyway. So are girls queers too but it seems like dudes are worse off, so I don’t want to hassle with it.
This church offers a place where you’ll never be lonely and the counseling group stays up till 5 in the morning doing stuff. People are really giving. So we have here a real apostolic community, just the way Jesus was saying with black and white and old and young. And the reason I know it ain’t fake is how could it be if the leader can bring life to dead people, make the blind see, the lame walk, know the thoughts of your mind and the intents of your heart. I can tell a fake if I see one. I literally saw in one meeting this lady’s leg literally grow out four inches because it was shorter than the other leg. Last week I saw 8 people cured of blindness, four of them totally blind for all of their life. And of course spitting up cancers and expelling them from the anus or vagina is old stuff. So I know it’s real. Anyway, that’s not the most important part. That’s just a sideline so that we will know that working for true brotherhood is the right thing to do.
Willie [the dog] is doing fine and likes Redwood Valley I think. We have lots of animals around. It sure gets cold here, though.
Well, tell me how Washington is and how you like school and work.
Annie’s experiences in Peoples Temple, meeting people of different classes and races, made a profound impression upon her. In the spring of 1973, my mother Barbara wrote me that:
Annie spent two days with us during Easter vacation but was very pressured to finish her term paper so was not exactly her old whimsical self. No smiles, just a few good piano workouts. She’s going through culture shock, I believe. She now realizes how the poor live and the way it really is for so many people in the U.S. and the world. I thought she already knew before she began going to services at Peoples Temple, but I guess not …
Peoples Temple changed her life. The decision to join was not an easy one, but once made, she committed her life and thoughts to the institution. John reflected upon her choice in a letter to me dated December 5, 1979:
… When Annie decided to join PT, she quoted scripture, which I’m sure she had been taught in PT.
‘If you love me less than your family, you are not worthy of me…’ Jesus’ words about forsaking family and following him. Matt. 10:37 ‘take up your cross…’ ‘forsake mother and father, sons and daughters, and follow me…’
This was actually the choice Annie was feeling. She wanted us to join PT. She wanted us to be together. She did not want to cut the tie with family. The tie would not have been cut if we had joined PT. She chose a new family. This is the choice that often confronts the young, perhaps always in marriage, or joining a religious order. The new family she chose did not allow her the freedom we had respected.
Matt. 19:21 ‘Go sell all you have and give to the poor…’ Annie sold her records. Mom bought them from her. She was going to sell her guitar, but PT told her not to sell that. She entered PT in the same way a woman might enter a religious order .. with a vow of poverty. Mom knows more about this.
What Annie had been taught in the home about loyalty beyond mother and dad, i.e., loyalty to God, and readiness to renounce possessions, or a distancing from possessions, were the things in PT that pulled her … among other things. We could not renounce what we had taught, although we did not like her new allegiance… [ellipses in original]
The following letters date from 1973 to 1974, and reflect Annie’s views on life, nursing, Peoples Temple, and Jim Jones. She also discusses men, somewhat cynically, although she doesn’t include her boyfriend, Chris Rozynko, in her characterization of all men as “queer”.
January 7, 1973
Dear Pat and Becky,
Howdy! You should be back in Washington by now. I’m glad I got to visit with you even though it was for such a short time. I sure was busy that Christmas week. I worked for six days in a row after I visited with you guys. Then I skipped a day and worked four days in a row. My schedule is always so weird. I won’t have to hassle with it much longer because I’ll be starting at Santa Rosa Junior College on February 5. I have my appointment on this Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll know what I’m doing and I’ll do well — hope, hope. The thing I’m worried about most is chemistry and other math courses. Well, I guess I won’t bother myself worrying about them.
Thanks for that neat photograph and the book you gave me. Everyone likes Becky’s original photographing techniques and the book is really interesting so far. Three people have died in the hospital since I’ve been there. I didn’t know any of them very well. Two of them were so sickly that they were like walking skeletons but one was a surprise to me because he seemed to be O.K. — to me. Now the place is full — 58 beds. I’ve had it kind of easy lately because I haven’t had to clean up any B.M.’s in peoples’ beds or pants. Just wait until tomorrow or the next day. I’ll probably have some awful messes.
I hope you are enjoying school O.K. again. You never told me too much about it. I guess there wasn’t much to tell. School is school.
The Christmas service at church which we had New Year’s Day was really good. The reason we celebrated on New Year’s is because after Christmas the prices on toys are cut in half and the kids get double what they would normally get if they were to spend $16 on each child before Christmas day. Some really miraculous things happened in the service. People are always being restored after dying but better things than that happened this time.
Well, [President] Nixon makes me boil. It’s too bad people don’t see how much like Hitler he is. I think he is a devious person. He doesn’t have any intention to end the war at all. I don’t see how the American people can be fooled by all of his lies. He keeps putting us off again and again.
Well, enough of him. Thanks again for the good stuff. Say hi to Sanitary House folks and tell Barbara [a friend] that I really like it here. She wondered about it.
February 4, 1973
Dear Pat and Becky,
I just moved to Santa Rosa a couple of days ago. The dorms are really neat. All they are are duplexes that the church bought. Ours will have seven girls in it. The garage is all fixed up and has all of the beds in it. There are bunk beds. Then there’s the kitchen and living room and three bedrooms which are converted into study rooms with each person having his or her own special desk with partitions kind of like at the library. It’s really neat. Everyone is gone right now except for a few of us because we had to stay to take a nursing entrance exam. (It’s the weekend and everyone else is in the L.A. meeting.) The test was sure weird. They want to know some funny things before you become a nurse. There was a vocabulary test making you give synonyms and antonyms of words. Then there was a math part (easy math), science part, a general information part and a reading comprehension part. The general information part had some pretty dumb questions on it. One of them had the word Tinkerbell and you had to match it with A) Robin Hood B) Peter Pan C) Jack and the Beanstalk D) The Old Man and the Sea. It was sure a dumb question. Overall, it was an easy test compared to the SAT test that I took. (Watch me wreck up on this one.) Oh, and at the end of this test there was a psychological part asking like A) I like to read about murders and other violence in the paper or B) I would like to be a recognized authority in my field — and you had to choose which one you would rather do. They kept repeating it again and again these questions to try and catch you up on it. I had a hard time figuring this test out. On some I can figure them out but this one was different. So, I hope I did good so I can get into nursing school …
How is everything in Washington, D.C.? I know a girl here who lived there all her life. We were talking about it there. Everyone likes that picture you took and mounted, Becky. I’m still reading the death and dying book but am almost through with it. It really is a good book.
Oh, I quit my job a week ago at the hospital. I totally earned about $500 in the 2-1/2 months I worked there so I didn’t earn much, but it has been a little bit of help to me. It costs $750 a year to live in these dorms. That pays for food, room and books so that is pretty good. We have to pay for our own personal articles. Well, I have more letters to write…
February 21, 1973
Hope you have an exciting 24th of February now that you’ll be a big 22 years old. I thought this was a cute card, appropriate for you.
School is exciting for a change, what a shock! I actually am enjoying it. I’ll tell you about my classes. First I have Sociology 2 — The Study of Social Problems and ‘Deviances’. We had a prostitute come in last week to talk to us. All I could think was that from her attitude, she sure was masochistic. This week we have some people from the gay liberation coming…
I really like my English 1A class. It is readings on social problems. My book is called Love, Violence, Capitalism and Other Topics and has excerpts of things written by all kinds of people like Dostoevsky, Erich Fromm and Eldridge Cleaver. I always argue in that class. I don’t want to sound egotistical but most of the people in that class are sure dumb, especially the teacher. She tries to be hip and be in on the new stuff happening today but she just can’t quite ‘get it on’. My best friend in that class is a 35-year-old housewife. I’m not speaking as Miss Experience but most of the people in that class sure are naive about the world. I like the class though because it’s more fun to argue than always everybody agreeing on something…
I really like Santa Rosa J.C. It is a beautiful campus and the classes aren’t full of any more idiots than a university, contrary to popular belief of snooty ‘intellectuals’. I like living in the dorms too. There are three and what they are are 3 duplexes. We have seven people in ours and it works good. All the bunkbeds are in the converted garage. Then two rooms are study rooms with desks and one room is for storage and then there’s the kitchen and living room. It may sound small, but I like it and get along well with the people. We are all organized so that the house is always clean and people can’t leave messes around and have their certain chores.
Anyway, I like it here so far. I hope you have a cheery birthday and have a good time. I was glad to get yours and Pat’s letters.
March 30, 1973
Dear Pat and Becky,
How are you? I was glad to receive your letter, Boo-Boo. The train is going by our house right now. We live right near the railroad tracks. In fact, they are right behind us. They don’t ever wake me up in the night, though. I am usually so tired. I average about four hours of sleep a night. It’s not quite enough but I’m hoping it will be soon. I feel good all day when I get just six hours. That is an average for me now. It just shows that you can adjust yourself to less sleep if you want to or have to…
I don’t know if you two or Mom and Dad understand where my thinking is. You see, I don’t care if I have a so-called ‘good time’ and take time out for my personal pleasures. All I want is to work hard for the ultimate goal — brotherhood for all. I’m not interested in carrying on a relationship with a dude at least right now. I have never found enjoyment at parties or games or going to movies. I don’t believe anyone can enjoy life or really be happy with so much pain and suffering in the world. They would have to be totally unfeeling if they did. It’s not fair for me to have more ‘things’ than someone else, or more money to spend on personal pleasures than others. Americans are such gluttons. We eat so much more than we need while 2 out of 3 people in the world are starving. We put all of these poisons into our systems like meat and other unhealthy food. Then everyone wonders why so many people have cancer today. I can’t believe how unconcerned about the state of our country and the world that people are. Here each one of our checks that we write is photographed, it is impossible to take $5,000 or more over the state border without telling why, slowly our freedom of the press is being taken away, Nixon says our Congress is irresponsible, people were arrested for bringing food to people who were protesting at Wounded Knee, Billy Graham goes to South Africa and says how wonderful it is there and all kinds of other things are happening. Anyway things are going to get worse and worse unless people join together and make them better. I want to be in on changing the world to be a better place and I would give my life for it. So I don’t care about cute dudes or good times. I am the gladdest I have ever been, to be in this church working for social justice and brotherhood. There’s no place else that I would rather be because I know I am doing what my conscious [conscience] says is right to do.
It’s not important that Jim Jones can heal people of cancer and blindness. What counts is that he gives his whole self for others. He averages 2 hours of sleep a week because he is up all night doing counseling and church work. I never saw any soul care and have so much love for all aspects of life as I have in Jim Jones. He would not kill the slightest bug or pull a weed unless it was harming man as a whole. I’ve never seen such dedication in any person before. This is how I know the church is good. No one else could bring black and white as close together as in the church. Anyway, I want to work hard and make something of myself because I have the brains (I think) and I should put them to good use. It took me a while to figure this out but I finally did.
So, now you know how I think. I hope you and everyone else in Sanitary House are doing well. Everything is okay with me. I’ll hear from you another time.
June 14, 1973
Dear Pat and Becky,
Well, it’s taken me a long time to write but at least I’m finally writing. I’ve got all kinds of things to tell you…
The super-duper good news is that I got accepted into the nursing school here at Santa Rosa! Out of 500 or more applicants, they picked 40 students to be in the program, and I really lucked out. So, I’ll have my R.N. is just two years and if I want to go on further, I can. I don’t know what gave you the impression that I didn’t like medicine and that I was doing it because I wanted to help the suffering in the world. I enjoy the sciences, especially physical sciences. I have always been interested in different diseases and physical anatomy. (Pat seemed to think this. I don’t know if you thought this, Becky.) I can’t think of anything I would rather do right now than become a nurse. They put you right to work in the program that I am in, right in the hospital. I’ll know how to give shots by this December even, so they really put you to it. No one from Santa Rosa Nursing School has ever flunked the board examination. At least they said 99% of their students pass. Someone told me that they flunk everyone out of school before they can get far enough to get out of school.
Anyway I am glad to be in nursing school and I’m actually pretty proud of myself for it. In response to Pat’s letter about Bach, I think Bach was a good guy but music isn’t all there is. You don’t give a starving man a Bach concert or give a person who is burned all over a Bach concert. I don’t know how great a loss it would have been if Bach hadn’t been around. To me, the greatest person is someone devoted to working for justice and brotherhood for all and not one who isolates himself from the problems of the world to ‘do his thing’. How could one even compare any musical genius or artist or inventor or scientist to someone who would give his all for others. I’m comparing Beethoven and Franklin to someone like Jesus I guess. There’s not much to compare, to me, because they are at such different extremes.
Well, I get a week off, and then I get to start summer school. I have to take anatomy before I start nursing. I’ll be living in Redwood Valley so write to me there because I’m going to commute to school. I’m going to find a part-time job somewhere too. I was hoping for somewhere other than Ukiah Convalescent Hospital, but knowing how hard it is to find work, I’ll probably end up working there. I still never got a job as a hamburger flipper but maybe I will someday.
What are your summer plans? Do both of you still work at the same places? Who’s going to move into the house with you guys? I bet it’s getting really hot and humid in Washington now.
Well, I must go now. I’ve got to look for a job this morning. Then I get to clean up the house and take care of the animals. We now have six dogs (including Willie), four cats, one new kitten and one myna bird named Barney. It’s real nice here. I hope to hear from you.
August 1, 1973
Dear Pat and Becky,
How are you? I’ve been fine and busy. I’m going to summer school here in Santa Rosa and am taking an anatomy class. In lab we took EKG’s the other day and naturally mine was the weirdest-looking one of all. My heart waves barely showed up… I found from the testing that my heart overreacts to everything. We also did some blood testing the other day in class. We already had some blood in the lab that was stored so most of the people used it. But a few of us used our own blood, like me and my white blood count came out just right. So that was good since my heart beat was so screwed up before…
I’ll be glad when summer school is over or else when I’m living in Santa Rosa and going to school there at the same time. I’m getting all excited about nursing school. I’m the youngest one or one of the youngest ones in the program now. When I start in September, they will put us all in the hospital right off. I’ll know how to give shots by December and everything. They told me that they first practice on oranges. I’d rather do that than practice on each other at first. I guess I’ll have to get used to blood and gore again from when I was working at Children’s [Hospital in Washington, D.C.] with the burn patients. One lady must have had cancer on her legs here at the hospital and they are all raw as if the cancer was just cut off. They were something to get used to. They are looking a lot better now.
Boy, all I can say is that our society is really screwed. This hospital is such a perfect example of how bad it is. Nobody cares about old people. They are just a lot of excess material hanging around, cluttering up the world to Americans. It makes me sick how they are treated. Most of them are just as sweet as they could be and could use some loving care, yet some of these nurse’s aides treat them as if they are some object or piece of machinery the way they throw them around, rolling them one way and then the other way. It sickens me to even think this is one of the better convalescent hospitals around. Just imagine the hundreds of other places that are worse than this.
We always seem to completely or almost completely discard all that we don’t feel comfortable around; all that we want to have nothing to do with. I remember seeing a program about the mentally retarded and it talked of the terrible conditions these ‘creatures’ were in. It showed the poor children naked, all curled up on the floor screaming and moaning, many banging their heads against the wall or floor. It makes me sick how people could even joke about the retarded and call each other ‘retard!’ Then we shove off all who have committed crimes (many committing the crime of just being black) off to prison. It is so terrible to think of all of those who have been set off from our society because us more fortunate ones don’t have the care, time or patience to do something constructive with them.
I guess it must be some kind of test to have all of these ones around to see how people will respond; who will be compassionate and who will want to do their own thing. It is so painful to think of all of this suffering that exists right now that most of us don’t want to hear anything about it. We would rather live as ostriches with our heads in the sand than face the truth, the whole world stirring and churning full of many different kinds of suffering.
I didn’t want to get on a low note but I was just sitting here at work thinking of everything outside of my own little world, imagining how it would be to have to be in a hospital like this. That is what set off the rest of this brainstorm. The world is such a crazy mixed-up place. Anyone that would think it is wonderful and great must be completely set off and isolated from the reality of the world. There are many good people in the world, this I don’t deny, but it is hard for single persons to make a change in the world, in fact it is most probably impossible.
That’s why I am so glad to be here in this church or body of persons here in Redwood Valley. I have never before met such a caring group of people who love truth, justice and freedom. I don’t know anywhere where you will find such a huge group that is totally integrated with all races, ages, income backgrounds that get along so well. The animal shelter, children’s home, senior citizen homes and college dormitories are only a few of our projects. Practically all of the students down at the dorms now (which are just converted duplexes) wouldn’t have had the chance to even go to college because they did not have the money and because they may have done so poorly in elementary school. But anybody that can’t pay, the church pays for. We recently paid the tuition for two of the students to go to medical school. Both, before they were in the church were drug users, one of which was so bad that he had brain damage. Some of the people said that when they knew him before, when he first came, he didn’t even know his name, he was so strung out. It’s really neat to see all of these people who never had a chance or who were screwy on drugs, now take a concern for what is going on in the world, working for change.
Mom and Dad could tell you about Mr. Muggs, the chimpanzee. Muggs kept jumping on Dad’s head when he and Mom came up to visit. He’s the funniest thing. The other day he took all of the cans of Spam in Joyce [Touchette]’s (the lady he belongs to) house and opened them and gave them to the cats. That was so funny when we heard it. Muggs is too much. I’m just so glad to know that there is a group of people who care so much for animals that they will take in any homeless animal.
And on Christmas it was so great to see each child have an equal Christmas. Little black children who had never known what it was like to have a Christmas with presents have one here. And everybody doesn’t get the same thing. It is all different, but each has a certain amount (the same amount) of money spent on them. I think that is really great. At any rate I’m glad to be here although I wish I could see you folks again soon. Well, Pat, I’ve been here over six months, so now you know it’s not phony. I had some doubts at first, but I have seen too much already and know that this is real.
Well, I hope I’ll be able to see you sometime in the near future. That was interesting to hear of your experiences with writing and talking to those people about the towns in France and South America, Becky. I’m glad to see you are interested in those other political systems since ours obviously doesn’t work well at all. I hope you both enjoyed [Rick] Freeman although I’m glad I wasn’t there to experience him. I do fine without him. July 4 leaves bad memories for me anyway since beside that being ‘Independence Day’ for America that was the day little Tyrone was lit on fire by these teenage boys. I won’t ever forget Tyrone.
Well, write again. Carolyn says hello and to give you her love and so do all of the animals.
January 17, 1974
Dear Pat and Becky,
Well, I’m finally finished with finals and I sure am relieved. I did well in both my nursing and nutrition classes. I spent my entire Christmas vacation doing my term paper for nursing and fortunately and rightly so I got a 99% on it. (1% off for misspelled words. I re-read my paper again and it turns out that my teacher missed half of my misspelled words … )
I have really learned a lot about medical stuff along with learning about people this one semester. One thing is that the nurses in a regular acute hospital aren’t much more sensitive to the patient’s feelings or anything than the nurse’s aides at the convalescent hospital that I worked at. They made fun of this man that was incontinent of his bowels and already had a urinary catheter and felt de-masculinated because he had a prostatectomy and vasectomy, both. This one dumb-ass of a nurse told me what a dumb-ass I was for buying a Datsun or having one and that I should buy from Americans and all this stuff. She is always convinced that anyone who shits in their bed does it on purpose just to get attention. I hope that when she gets old that she can’t control her bowels and then maybe she won’t think that.
Anyway I really enjoyed the presents you sent. I’ve already worn all of them. Everyone comments especially on the muffler and hat and all. I really needed them go thank you very much. My present for you guys will have to do, I guess, even though it got kind of messed up. I wish I would have had time to make something better. When are you guys moving or are you going to? I bet you’ll miss that old house if you do.
Thank you for those poems, Pat. I finally have a chance to read them, now that I get two weeks off from studying.
I’ve been practicing the piano a lot. Did you know that I am getting taught lessons from our church organist and the pianist? They want me to be able to play if they need a fill-in sometime. It’s really neat because it’s that gospel-type stuff and the pianist (who does most of my teaching) sings just like Aretha Franklin and plays better than any of those people on the radio. I feel really fortunate to be able to learn from her. She refused an offer to go big time, just so she could play for the church.
Chris Rozynko (my Russian friend) is fine I guess. He’s been on a break for more than a month from S.F. State. He’ll probably go back to school when I do. I think I already told you that he’s studying to be a lawyer. I’m bringing him home next weekend to meet Mom and Dad (or just Mom if Dad is at a meeting).
Well, I have to be going on now because the library is closed now. Hope to hear from you soon.
(Also this is my last piece of stationery and it would look weird with an old piece of binder paper attached to it.)
May 2, 1974
Happy Birthday (belated of course). What would it be like for me to send a birthday card or present on time? At any rate, I know how little time you have, but I was hoping you may have time to read this in the summer. I don’t know how popular or well-known this book is out there in Washington, but everyone is talking about it here in California. At any rate it is pertinent, and written in an interesting manner, unlike some books of its kind.
I don’t have too much time to be writing but I thought I should. I’m really bogged down with schoolwork in nursing and microbiology. I just had my 6-week clinical evaluation and my teacher told me I did everything excellently. She likes me, anyway, so probably anything that I might do, she would like. I have learned the way to go about kissing asses so that is a major factor in getting good grades. You learn to agree with everything the instructors say and do and be sure to ask them lots of questions to build their egos. I’m sure my pleasant attitude has helped me to pass the class. It really is difficult for such a crammed period of time. We learn in two years what a regular R.N. learns in four years. I was talking to a friend who is a R.N. and is in the nurse practitioner program now and she graduated from the SRJC program too. She said that our school is so hard that they only pick ‘the cream of the crop’ to be in it. I don’t know how creamy I am, but I know you sure can’t be a dummy to get through. I’m going to have to study my butt off in the next few weeks so I will do well on the exams.
Next year will probably be interesting in the program. All of the second year teachers are active homosexuals. There are three women and the director who lives with his boyfriend. I don’t mind at all because I would rather have that than some phony-acting feminine-type teacher that I have now and some creepy flirtatious man who tries to get you all the time. I just found it interesting because it seems like a lot of people in nursing are homosexual. Maybe it just seems this way. I’m not imagining this either, because Joyce, the girl I told you about, who is working for her practitioner degree walked in on one of them making out with her (the teacher’s) girlfriend when she went here to school. I don’t know how well I will do with the male, but he and I get along well, but I know with the women, I can try to appeal to them for a good grade. Oh yes, I have learned how to get a good grade besides doing good school work. You should see how some of the teachers have done with Debbie [Blakey] and some of the other girls here. One teacher was coming on to Debbie and this other girl, Jeanette, all the time and as long as they flirted with him, they did well. Another teacher Debbie had, when she talked to him about her low grades in one class he told her not to worry about her grades and that he graded on other things and gave her this weird smile. She luckily has gotten A’s on her other tests for him, but isn’t that something how if you kiss-ass you can do well. I’m going to always talk to my teachers from now on (I always have in J.C.), because it really works. You should try it if you haven’t. It is pretty humiliating sometimes, but becoming a nurse is so important to me that I’ll do it. After I finish with school, then I can tell them off. Well, I must study for microbiology as I am having a midterm exam for it this Monday. So, happy birthday and I hope the present gets to you about the same time as this letter. This is for Becky to read, too.
Sorry I couldn’t think of a more original present. I had no time, this time, to draw a picture. Chris says hi, too.