We were part of a larger family:
Experiencing Jonestown from a distance

Photo by Rex Morningstar
Photo by Rex Morningstar

When Christine Cobb and I married in early 1975 we resided in the San Francisco area with her two youngest children, Brenda and Joel and our adopted daughter, Mona. Christine’s three older children – Ava, Sandy and John – left for Guyana shortly after we married. Christine left for Jonestown in late 1976. In early 1978, I put Mona on a plane to be with our family in Jonestown. That was the last time I was ever to see them again, except for John, who was in the capital city of Georgetown when the tragedy took place.

When Jim Jones left the States permanently, I began to spend more time at the Temple building in San Francisco and I began conducting the public meetings along with my visitation responsibilities throughout San Francisco and the further East Bay, especially Oakland and the Richmond areas.

At times, I and various temple staff members would meet in small groups during the week in a member’s home. Our main purpose was to ensure the members in the States that we were still a part of a larger family and that we would continue to serve our local communities and members of the San Francisco and Los Angeles Temples.

We would encourage our members – and at times their immediate family members – to consider, one day, moving to “The Promised Land.” Knowing that many would never consider leaving the States, they were assured that Peoples Temple would continue to be a part of their communities, but naturally on a smaller scale.

If memory serves me well, during most of the public meetings at the San Francisco Temple, we would listen to tapes sent from Jonestown with Jim Jones and various family members proclaiming the good works that Peoples Temple was performing in Guyana. Sometimes we would have a slide show of Jonestown showing its growth and the expanding services for members and neighboring villages. Other times, Marceline Jones would return to the San Francisco Temple to report to the members, and at public meetings as well. She would tell of the progress Jonestown was making in Guyana, our interaction with Guyanese officials and expanding interests in neighboring country’s such as Venezuela.

As far as I was aware, the San Francisco Temple had daily shortwave contact with Jonestown. My understanding was that “shortwave geeks” were monitoring our conversations with Jonestown as well as some of the local media. All in all, the short conversations I had with family members via shortwave radio confirmed to me that Jonestown was becoming a true example of a Socialistic Democracy in progress. We were part of a larger family.

(Guy Brewster Young is a former member of Peoples Temple. His poems in this edition of the jonestown report are Remembrance, Forgiveness, Hope and Mona. His earlier writings are here. He can be reached at guyy@rocketmail.com.)