History 1960-1965

Stereotypically, the 1950s are regarded as a relatively placid and quiescent period in the life of this country, especially when contrasted with the 1960s, which gave rise to, among other things, the free speech movement, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war, political assassinations, urban riots, flower power and civil disobedience. In some measure, similar things can be said about these two decades at Quaker Center, It is somewhat ironic that conflict started here at about the same time that Friends began to notice and imagine themselves using this property which had been given to them eleven years before. Since Friends had not united on doing anything specific at Quaker Center earlier, there was nothing over which real conflict could arise prior to 1960.

By the end of the first decade, the perceived absence of Friends in Ben Lomond seems to have led the relationship between Lucile Manley and Sequoia Seminar, who both had their “feet on the ground” there, to take on a life of its own. A sense of what was going on, or at least what people were imagining was going on, becomes clear when reading the exchange of letters between the various parties in the ongoing drama.

In the first month of this decade, we read in a short handwritten note, dated 1/30/60, from Lucile Manley to Russ Jorgensen of AFSC, that she is thinking about a purchase by Sequoia Seminar of the upper part of the property, with her buying back the remainder from AFSC. “As I said before, I am heartily in accord with any plan whereby the Seminar might purchase the tract already used by them. The ‘Lodge’ (Ed. Casa de Luz) is located on the choicest height and has served their good purpose. I’m glad they have it. Should it transpire that I am permitted to purchase the balance of the tract, please know that I am eager that the Service Committee realize gain over and above the considerable amount it has already put into the property. I am mentally prepared for my financial share though it might take some time to meet it….Finally, I am concerned that the Service Committee be spared anything like a dilemma. There have surely been perplexing problems in the past.”

While Sequoia had not succeeded in making any formal changes to the original 15-year lease agreement with AFSC, which had another five years to run, it continued thinking along lines it had proposed in the late 1950s for more thorough use of the property, and apparently not limited to the “upper part” referred to by Mrs. Manley. Leon Carley, as the Sequoia attorney, had very clear ideas in this regard, in a letter to Allen Longshore, clerk of the AFSC Executive Committee [2/28/60]: “The development of facilities for our continuation seminars and perhaps for small family seminars …could proceed very logically on the lower portion of the AFSC property (Ed. now the Redwood Lodge area)….It would appear that any use which the Service Committee might make of the property would be a joint use centered in the lower area. We are wondering if there is any such use projected which the Service Committee would consider as constructive as the use which the Seminar might make of the property. With foregoing considerations in mind, it has occurred to us that as the Seminar has been the organization which has actually carried out the provisions of the trust under which the property was given to the AFSC, it might simplify the entire situation if the Seminar were to take over that responsibility on a permanent basis and, with Mrs. Manley’s approval, acquire the title to the property subject to the existing trust provisions…..We understand that the amount which the Service Committee has spent on Ben Lomond is between $15,000 and $20,000. We therefore suggest that the Seminar pay to the Service Committee the sum of $20,000….As we have decisions to make in the near future, it would be appreciated if the Executive Committee would give this subject consideration at an early meeting.”

Mrs. Manley was clearly involved in such speculations at that point, even though she was no longer the owner of the property. She wrote something quite startling to read from the present vantage point, in a note to Harry and Emelia Rathbun, the founders of Sequoia Seminar, on 3/22/60: “When you first stopped by in early December to tell us that the Friends were planning to give up this property, I was greatly surprised, almost shocked. I have yet to learn the reason….I supposed that the Friends would communicate with me, but in the course of a month I heard nothing from them….I finally wrote to the Service Committee and said, in substance: that if the Friends had definitely decided to give up the property, I was eager that the Seminar take title to the area they have so profitably used, and that it was my desire to purchase the remaining acres…..A brief reply from the Service Committee stated that nothing had been settled in connection with the disposition of this property, and they would communicate with me later. So far I have not heard again from them. Now I can only state my case to you. All the arguments are plainly on your side….I believe you and I would agree that whatever the Friends decide to do will be for the highest good of all concerned. I have always sensed a sort of cosmic justice that moves over and above the affairs of men…..”

Mrs. Manley, in her correspondence, had always seemed to have the interests of AFSC at heart, in spite of her regarding Sequoia’s position as having some legitimacy. She later summed up her feelings about all this in a note which reveals some regret and possible confusion: “Mr. Thiermann, my chief reason for writing now is to say I don’t know what possessed me to speak as I did upon your mention of the Seminar wish to purchase the area they have been using. In fact, I had already written earlier that I was willing and eager that the Seminar take title to that area. In a copy of their letter to you they offer $20,000 for the whole tract. It hurt me to stand in the way of reimbursement of this sum to the Service Committee. Should the Seminar take title to a limited area, at least a portion of that $20,000 would return to the Service Committee. Shall we consider this, then, ‘unfinished business’?” [Lucile Manley to Stephen Thiermann – 8/11/60]

Whatever confusion Mrs. Manley may have had did not arise only from within herself. Earlier, in March of that year, Harry Rathbun admitted, in a note to her, that he may have made a mistake: “If I conveyed the impression…that the Friends were planning to give up the property, I did so unintentionally and quite in opposition to the facts. The initiative was ours and so far as I know the Friends had no such intention…. Perhaps this explanation also makes clear why you have not heard from the Friends…. Now to speak of more basic and serious misassumptions under which we of Sequoia Seminar have apparently been laboring. The first of these we may have been led into by our own wishful thinking….Perhaps it was natural that we…should think of the Seminar’s activities as being one effective way of giving realization to the purpose and intent of (your) gift.”

These communications between Mrs. Manley and Sequoia must have been shared with AFSC, since copies are now in the files it transferred to Quaker Center, but it is not clear from the record how much they affected the attitude of Friends and spurred their movement towards making their ownership more than just something on paper. The first thing that is heard from AFSC in 1960 indicates a clear hesitation about selling anything to Sequoia, and suggests that Friends may not have been fully aware of how far those who were living on their property had imagined proceeding. Stephen Thiermann wrote in a note to his files on 4/22/60: “…I had talked with Lincoln Moses, Vern James, and had heard from Herbert Foster about their views of the proposed purchase. My conclusion from the conversation would be that these three parties would want us to continue the present lease arrangement with Sequoia Seminar through 1965 and that at that date we would review the situation and work out a new lease arrangement.”

This note doesn’t say that Friends had any real plans yet to do anything here, only that a sale is not recommended. It didn’t take long, however, for real plans to begin to surface, and the Friend who seems, from the record, to have taken the first concrete steps towards making such plans is Herb Foster who, with his wife Eleanor, had recently moved to Santa Cruz and helped establish the Santa Cruz Monthly Meeting. He was also a licensed realtor with a sense of the value of property. Some years later he recalled in a letter to the clerk of the College Park Quarterly Meeting committee overseeing the transfer of the property from AFSC that he “was on the Executive Committee (Exec C) at the time and began agitating for the property to be developed. This met with considerable resistance from the Exec C, because most people felt the land was mostly a remote and useless burden, but the Exec C finally consented to establish an ad hoc committee composed of Herb Foster, Vern James and Welvin Stroud. ” [Herb Foster to Ruth Flower, 3/28/79]

The ad-hoc group of three did not waste time in becoming active and ending the period of almost 10 years in which no Friends committee activity focused on the Ben Lomond property is recorded. The sudden appearance in 1960 of the first notes of this new ad-hoc group gives credence to the conclusion that an official AFSC Ben Lomond Committee had not actually been meeting for some time. An early report of this ad hoc committee was drawn up by Herb Foster and submitted to the Exec. C on 11/22/60:

“In my judgment this 50-acre piece of property represents an exceptionally beautiful and useful resource for recreation, seminars, and other group or individual purposes…. I believe that the following purposes are most important:

1. Facilities to accommodate family camps or other camps remaining one or more weeks.

2. To accommodate small groups coming for just one day or an overnight.

3. To accommodate individuals coming for study or meditation for varying periods of time.

4. To accommodate persons who in retirement wish to continue to participate actively in the life of the Service Committee and the Meetings….

Should the Service Committee decide to proceed with development of the property, I feel that it is of considerable importance that we retain legal ownership of the entire 50 acres, and an appropriate understanding with Sequoia Seminar should be reached. Should the Service Committee decide against development, then I believe that we would be under obligation to return the property to Mrs. Manley in order that she could seek other means for its development in line with her wishes.”

By June 1961, the ad-hoc committee had drawn up a survey questionnaire and sent it to eleven Monthly Meetings or churches, nine program committees, and Friends Committee on Legislation asking whether, how and how often they might use the Ben Lomond property, and what facilities they would require. There is no record of the response to this questionnaire or of what the committee did with the results, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that at least awareness of the property and its potential had now been raised among Friends. To have funds available to support activities, the committee recommended to AFSC that the amount they had been paying to Sequoia for its share of the caretaker’s salary be terminated and the funds be used instead for the committee’s purposes. The ad-hoc committee also seems to have begun referring to itself by the earlier title “Ben Lomond Committee” (BLC).

It must have taken some time for the AFSC Exec C to respond to the committee’s proposals, because a number of correspondences appear which suggest doubt about the firmness with which the property was held. Besides a possible sale to Sequoia Seminar, another possibility that the property might be broken up came from within the Manley family, through Lucile’s adopted daughter Eleanor, who had for some time been institutionalized for mental health problems. “…(Eleanor) reverted to wild ideas and one of them was that she would see ‘her lawyer’ about her claim to a third of this property.” [Lucile Manley to Stephen Thiermann – 7/17/61] This claim does not appear to have been acted on, and this is the first and last time the name of Eleanor Manley appears in our records.

Meanwhile, Sequoia continued to extend its use of the property, as they had long clearly intended. “Herb Foster and John Levy (of Sequoia Seminar) have advised me that Sequoia is interested in the possibility of building a residence on the AFSC property in Ben Lomond for the use of Harry and Emelia Rathbun. Before approval for development of the AFSC land for this purpose can be given, our BLC needs to have an opportunity to discuss the proposal.” [Stephen Thiermann to Leon Carley, 1/16/62]

At the Exec C meeting of 4/16/62, several options for the Ben Lomond property were discussed, none of them being any actual use of the place by Friends. One was conversion of the assets to cash and using the proceeds to develop an AFSC conference site at the Quaker-operated John Woolman School in Nevada City, CA. One member thought that if the property were sold, it should be done as a whole, and not sold only in part. A meeting was suggested with Mrs. Manley, to include alternative proposals for the use of the proceeds from a sale. Other views expressed were that any use of Ben Lomond by Friends would be a burden without commensurate return, that Friends could rent better facilities as needed, and that AFSC should not administer such activities in any case because the users were unlikely to be committees and groups within its organization.

From the written record, it seems that the administrative office in San Francisco and the newly-active BLC were on somewhat separate tracks as far as Ben Lomond was concerned. The Exec C still did not seem to know what to do with the place, but the BLC began to act as if Friends should just start using it. In early 1962, the BLC held what seems to be the first Quaker activity on the property, a work party, which included brush clearing and burning to “…enable committee members and others to have a first-hand look (and feel) at the site…. I believe one good work day will enable us… to make possible some actual use of the land during the coming summer.” [unsigned note, 1962]

The Exec C meeting of 6/18/62 tabled a proposal that with the consent of Mrs. Manley the entire property be sold to Sequoia Seminar with certain rights of use reserved for the AFSC. This was partially because it wasn’t clear that Friends would be able to use anything anyway under those circumstances. Sequoia was now fully scheduling the existing buildings and Friends would not have access to them even though they owned them. New buildings would have to be constructed for any planned use by Friends.

The Exec C notes from that time onward suggest that it was slowly beginning to become aware of what the BLC was beginning to do at Ben Lomond, and to accept its initiatives. At its meeting of 11/19/62, the Exec C delegated several specific tasks to the BLC:

1. Clarify AFSC’s options re donor’s wishes;

2. Prepare plans and budget for a modest conference site, with operating budget;

3. Open the way to renegotiate with Sequoia re increased use by AFSC.”

Some preliminary negotiation between AFSC and Sequoia began to take place by 1962 as the end of the first lease approached. Herb Foster and Vern James were involved for the Friends, Harry Rathbun and Leon Carley for Sequoia. Items raised were that Sequoia wanted to continue its present use; that for more than 20-30 AFSC campers, more water sources would have to be developed; noise by campers was a factor; if any part of the property were to be transferred, the other party would have the first opportunity to acquire it. Several courses of action were presented: 1) Sequoia could buy the entire property. 2) Sequoia could buy that portion on which it had erected buildings. The group agreed to submit these ideas to the AFSC Exec C.

Meanwhile, Sequoia Seminar continued to act as if they were going to be around for what the first lease had said was “the indefinite future”. After a building hiatus of about seven years, a new assembly hall named Sunrise Lodge – architecturally similar to their Main Lodge – was constructed by Sequoia in the northwest corner of AFSC land in 1962. It is not clear from the following note whether approval had been given in advance. “As you know, we are proceeding to build with volunteer labor a leadership cottage in the area adjacent to the parking lot. We do not have anything written confirming the permission granted by the Exec C to proceed with this construction….We would be glad to acquire this small portion of ground at the northwestern corner of the Service Committee property on any reasonable basis….As this is above a steep drop-off, it is in no way integrated with the area that you are considering developing.” [Leon Carley to Allen Longshore, 4/13/62]

In spite of their beginning attempts to make greater use of the property by Friends, the BLC remained aware that things were still unsettled. The idea of some other ownership of the property simply would not go away. A sale, not to Sequoia, but back to Lucile Manley, or simply giving it back to her, was mentioned in 1962 minutes: “I talked with Mrs. Manley and she would like to have first chance to buy the property back if it is to be sold. I told her that I felt we should just return it to her without obligation, but she says she would not wish that.” [Herb Foster to Stephen Thiermann, 4/24/62]

In the original 1950 lease with Sequoia, the buildings it had constructed in 1950 – the dining hall and the Casa – would be fully amortized and become the property of Friends in 1965. At a meeting on 11/29/62, Herb Foster and Vern James of the BLC met with Leon Carley and John Levy of Sequoia Seminar in what seems to be the first attempt to deal with that aspect of the agreement. Specifically, the relinquishing of the dining hall by Sequoia in 1965 was discussed, and seemed to be acceptable to Sequoia at that meeting.

The original lease had also been based on the assumption that the two parties had mutually compatible goals and practices. This assumption slowly seemed to dissolve as the end of the 15-year period approached. Completely apart from various proposals to have Sequoia purchase some or all of the property, a number of differences in goals between the parties had begun to arise by the early 1960s, and persisted throughout the decade. One BLC member noted early in the decade that “Sequoia Seminar is evidently in process of destroying the natural beauty of the area … by overbuilding… and by overuse of the bulldozer.” Some Friends saw them as “anthropomorphic”, by which was meant they were more interested in buildings for people than in conserving the land.

Under the 1950 lease, AFSC paid for part of the costs of utilities, maintenance and the Sequoia Seminar caretaker’s salary. By 1962, Sequoia suggested that since the property was used almost exclusively for its activities, AFSC no longer needed to pay for those expenses, and that Sequoia would assume full responsibility for maintaining the property.

At its 10/11/63 meeting, the Exec C gave no approval for additional construction by the BLC , but only to continue gradually expanding work camps and introduce camping on the property. This suggested use seemed to be taken quite seriously by the BLC for, at its meeting on 1/14/64, attended by Herb Foster, Clerk, Chuck Atlee and Bob Newick, the minutes state: “…it was felt that we should now proceed to promote the active use and development of the site by: 1) concluding the agreement with Sequoia, asking at the same time that the dining hall be returned to the full use and control of Friends; 2) sponsoring work camps and other activities at the site in order to improve facilities and in order to stimulate greater use; 3) asking the Exec C for an allocation of funds on the order of about $500 for the year to underwrite purchase of tools and incidental expenses for the work camps and especially to cover costs of poison oak eradication.”

At the same meeting the BLC agreed to proceed with a new lease with Sequoia Seminar, noting that the dining hall be returned to Friends and that Sequoia be required to pay rent for the land at 6% of the fee value per year.

In spite of these initiatives, there persisted suggestions in 1964 that the property might be sold. On February 12th of that year, Herb Foster wrote to the other members of the BLC that the AFSC Exec C had on its upcoming agenda the possibility of selling the Ben Lomond property to raise funds for development at John Woolman School. Herb asked committee members to respond to this proposal with a clear statement of its current plans and thinking about how it wanted to use the property.

Sometime in 1964 Sequoia received a formal request to vacate the dining hall in 1965. Although they had seemed open to this outcome just two years earlier, they responded with shock at this idea on 3/21/64 in a 9-page summary of their position, noting that their current experience of this new group of BLC Friends differed from their previous experience of AFSC. They seemed to not imagine that there was any problem with their continued use into the foreseeable future of what they had built. Their response included the following points: (1) The work of Sequoia Seminar has roots in the Society of Friends: Henry Burton Sharman, whose writings on Jesus were an important part of the Sequoia program, had taught at Pendle Hill. (2) The previous 15 years of cooperation had been only positive. (3) Sequoia is only asking for an extension of what it has already received. (4) Friends’ new desire to open the Ben Lomond property for camping by families and small groups is not helpful to the quiet retreat atmosphere preferred by Sequoia. Camping should be limited to the eastern end of the property. Sequoia would cooperate with AFSC in setting up another quiet retreat center there. (Additionally, Sequoia Seminar expressed that it did not see camping as an appropriate endeavor of AFSC, especially on this property. It was certainly not as elevated as the use they were making of the property. They commented that, if camping was what Friends were interested in, there were many other existing facilities for this purpose in the area.) Following several pages of this background support of their position, Sequoia went on to make three specific proposals: (1) Stating that they did not want to own property as such, they would transfer to AFSC all of their real property in Ben Lomond (Sequoia Seminar had acquired some adjacent parcels by this time) in exchange for the right to use what it had built on AFSC land for so long a time as it needed it for its work, i.e. on that part of the Manley parcel west of a north-south line just east of the Cold House. (This is approximately one-third of the Manley parcel.) Sequoia would help AFSC build a quiet retreat center on the other part. Sequoia went on to say that, except for Mrs. Manley, they probably know more about the property and its possibilities and limitations than anyone else, because they have been the only other ones there for the past 14 years. (2) Because AFSC was also known to be unwilling to own property, do what is outlined in (1) without Sequoia giving any property to AFSC. (3) If neither of the foregoing was acceptable, then Sequoia would buy the land west of the Manley life estate, continuing the life estate provision to Mrs. Manley. AFSC would also not subdivide its eastern part or do anything there in conflict with Mrs. Manley’s wishes. Sequoia suggested paying $20,000 for the western part.

In a response just 3 days later, Herb Foster stated: “The point at issue right now is not whether Sequoia is an enterprise of merit — that we take for granted — but the issue is what are the prerogatives of AFSC.…I should like us to stay as closely as possible to the topic of how Sequoia may adjust to increasing usage by AFSC, and how may we best assist Sequoia in making that adjustment.” [Herb Foster to Harry Rathbun, 3/24/64]

From this point onward, matters did not seem to get much better between the two groups. Fundamental differences had now arisen. It appears from our present vantage point that Sequoia had simply not imagined, after a period of almost complete inactivity by Friends for 14 years, that AFSC or the BLC would now be taking steps for greater use, which seemed to mean lesser use by Sequoia. A joint meeting with representatives of both sides occurred on 3/30/64, described as a “constructive and encouraging exchange of ideas” by Dick Lagerstrom of Sequoia Seminar in a letter to Herb Foster. He goes on to say they could not get along without the dining room, and were encouraged that Friends want to build on the lower half of the property. If so, Sequoia will contribute $10,000 to help with this. In exchange, Sequoia would be given a long-term charter to operate and evolve on the upper half. It seems clear Sequoia imagined each group using about half of the Manley parcel for the indefinite future.

The response to this proposal was given by Herb Foster on 5/26/64: “It is our considered opinion that the need of the Service Committee and of Friends Meetings and other groups in this area for the Ben Lomond property as a retreat and conference site will grow considerably in the next few years, and with this in mind we feel it is imperative that we retain full title to the property and the unimpaired right to develop according to the dictates of our need all areas of the property, excepting the area containing the Lodge (Casa) and the new seminar building (Sunrise Lodge). In return for a grant of $5000 from Sequoia.…Friends will grant the following arrangement: 1) use of the NW corner including the Casa, Sunrise, parking lot, warehouse (now the Haven), and volleyball court (now the Redwood Circle), for a period of 15 years, renewable by mutual agreement…. 2) Full use of the dining hall until 3/1/67, at which time we shall take full use and occupancy. 3) Full use of the caretaker house until 7/1/69, at which time we would take over occupancy.”

Sequoia responded to this letter by offering the members of the BLC and their spouses the opportunity to take one of their seminars during the upcoming summer at half the cost. There is no record of any Friend taking up this offer.

By 9/30/64, Sequoia wanted “assurance that it can continue and evolve its operation into the considerable future…free from the recurrent question of (its) use of the property. The proposal is this: Partly in return for the assurance that AFSC will be content not to terminate the agreement for some long period of time (perhaps 25 years), and partly in grateful return for the generous help that AFSC had given Sequoia in the past, Sequoia would contribute a sufficient sum to pay for materials and minimal contracting to allow AFSC to construct a functional cooking-dining building and develop water and access roads to the east end of the Manley property.”

[Dick Lagerstrom to Herb Foster, 9/30/64]

Herb Foster responded [11/3/64] that “While we assuredly do not wish to terminate the relationship with Sequoia, we do feel that a realistic and current statement of contractual arrangements is needed both as a sound foundation for our cooperation and in order to avoid confusion of our successors…. We have had a couple of meetings and are also feeling that we can now move toward a mutually beneficial conclusion. Perhaps the simplest way to proceed might be to merely leave the present agreement in force, bringing it up to date with appropriate amendments…”

In a hand-written memo added to his report to the Exec C about these proceedings, Herb Foster confessed that “Sequoia Seminar is not very happy about our proposals for agreement”.

A tentative replacement agreement was drafted at the end of 1964, for 15 years, including use by Sequoia of all buildings currently used by them, in exchange for a $10,000 grant to help Friends develop the eastern half of the property, plus $500 per year, and with the right of either party to terminate the agreement with a one year’s notice. This last suggestion by Friends turned out to be the sticking point, because Sequoia saw the only reason for termination being, as stated in the first agreement of 1950, that the objectives of the two organizations were no longer compatible, and this did not seem to them to be the case. They also did not want to limit the agreement to just 15 years.

To facilitate the Friends building another dining hall near the Camp Unalayee site, Sequoia offered to donate $1000 on 5/6/65, $3000 ten days after working drawings appeared, $3000 after the first $3000 had been spent, and another $3000 when a total of $8000 had been spent, and then $500 each May after that until further notice from Sequoia.

Friends were still not actually using the property for any extended periods, or even overnight, but they continued to plan for such activity. A work party was held by Friends at Ben Lomond in early 1965, attended by 16 adults and 7 children. A construction site was chosen in the lower half of the property to be the first Friends structure built since the early Camp Unalayee kitchen in 1950. “People seem ready to move ahead with volunteer work as quickly as we can have some funds. Chuck Gardinier has talked of bringing high school groups down for a monthly work camp, and AFSC staff…have expressed interest in building a small cottage as a retreat for staff…” [Herb Foster to Vern James, 3/3/65]

Seeing that Friends wanted to make more use of the property, Leon Carley expressed frustration at the various attempts to negotiate a new lease. He says “…it appears that there is some support for the development of a meeting place for Friends at Ben Lomond….We see that you need funds to get started….We have decided to make an outright contribution…and a check for $1000 is being forwarded to Stephen Thiermann on this date. Throughout the years we have never heard anyone connected with the AFSC express dissatisfaction with the program of Sequoia Seminar. Everyone has always said that they want us to remain there….We are accepting this at face value. Likewise we feel good about (our) contribution of $500 per year in continuing support of the further development of the property for use by the Friends.” As to how long Sequoia Seminar might stay here, he goes on to say “…the buildings which we are using have been erected entirely with money and labor supplied by Sequoia. We need them for our work, and we expect to occupy them while doing our work for as long as we continue to function.” [Leon Carley to Herb Foster, 5/6/65]

Having seen a copy of this letter, Stephen Thiermann wrote back to Leon Carley that he would hold the check for $1000 until he received instructions from the BLC. In the end, the check was returned in January 1966 after it became evident that no agreement had been reached on how to proceed. Struggles by both sides towards this end fill the notes, minutes and letters from that period, as if this were the only thing of interest going on.

“Sequoia was not willing to accept our use agreement proposal because of our option to cancel on one year’s notice….I should very much regret to see us come to terms with Sequoia without our first having achieved a better attitude towards them. It is true that they have not helped in finding a mutually satisfactory arrangement, but at the same time I think on closer inspection we can observe that some of our proposals have been less than fully considerate of Sequoia’s genuine interests.” [BLC Minutes, 7/2/65]

A new draft of a lease in the summer of 1965 extended the term to 1995, dropped the right of Friends to terminate after a year, and added that the dining room would be leased only one year at a time, and the caretaker’s house and shop two years at a time. Friends could terminate the agreement on these buildings with a one year’s notice.

Sequoia apparently did not accept the latest draft, because Herb Foster wrote to Harry Rathbun [10/18/65]: “I am quite disappointed that you could not accept our proposal….Friends now wish to have full use of the property in order to develop on a comprehensive, long range basis; this planning includes use of the entire orchard area which will be important particularly after Lucile Manley gives up use of her life estate…..We are willing to grant continued long-term use of the areas which include the two lodges.”

Sequoia was trying hard to hold onto something: “We propose, therefore, that your entire committee and ours come together and meet in silence after the manner of Friends and seek together the guidance of God as to the working out of his purpose for us. After an initial silence we would meet to hear the fullest expression by the members of your committee both as to what they see as the very best use of the Ben Lomond property and as to the best way to achieve that.”

[Harry Rathbun to Vern James, 10/12/65]

The proposed meeting was held at the San Jose Meetinghouse on 11/22/65, attended by 22 persons with about equal representation from Friends and Sequoia. Some of the disagreements that persisted over the next 10 years surfaced in this meeting. Sequoia insisted they had been carrying out the Manley trust for 15 years, and that property in general belonged to no one, but was for the service of God. They felt that Friends had been over the last 15 years in the process of devolving their ownership to Sequoia. Harry Rathbun, a law professor, brought up the concept of estoppel: if no objection was raised by the property owner, improvements belonged to the builder, in this case Sequoia. They felt some of the BLC committee members were new to the situation and did not represent what they had come to believe were the views of AFSC at the beginning in 1950. A few from Sequoia thought some of the Friends present were “unQuakerly”. The possibility of a lawsuit or arbitration was first brought up at this meeting. In the end, Sequoia agreed to a joint committee to negotiate only if Vern James was on it. (He had taken a Sequoia course and was apparently the Friend best known to them.) Finally it was agreed that each side could name its own committee members, and that AFSC should provide Sequoia with a site plan of their proposed developments. They were particularly concerned about noise bothering the users of their two lodges. Sequoia also suggested that Friends should develop their own water system.

At its next meeting on 12/19/65, most of the members of the BLC “expressed disappointment in the meeting” with Sequoia Seminar.

As the first lease ended in 1965, the prominent expressed concerns of Sequoia Seminar were:

-to have a permanent location

-to continue use of the buildings rent-free without termination

– to receive financial compensation if this were not to be extended (Sequoia claimed it had maintained the buildings since 1950 and had thus “bought” their current fair-market value (rather than let them deteriorate)

– to perhaps purchase the use right to part of the property

– to perhaps help Friends build their own separate dining room

Accompanying these concerns Sequoia noted their belief that there “is a new element” in the BLC which “doesn’t understand why we exist at Ben Lomond and (we) feel they must face some facts.” In the end, Sequoia expressed an unwillingness to accept a proposed three- or even five-year termination notice by Friends.

In December, as 1965 and the lease with Sequoia came to an end, the first formal proposal for new development by someone other than Friends came from Dwight Clark of Stanford University (he later brought Volunteers in Asia to Quaker Center each year for more than 20 years), who proposed to the BLC an educational center for 25 college students. A-frames would be constructed for housing, and a small staff of four would manage the three-month program twice annually, for an approximate cost of less than $400/student. The estimated income to AFSC would be $3750 per year. Dwight closed this proposal by saying that such a program “would allow the AFSC to participate in a pioneering educational venture which reflects strongly several of the leading themes of the Quaker experience: silence, a combination of solitude and community life, and simplicity.” There is no evidence that this proposal was carried any further than this introduction.

The first half of the decade ended with no signed agreement with Sequoia, no new facilities built by Friends, and after five years of talk about it, little actual use by Friends. It is clear that Friends, unlike in the 1950s, were on the property more often and that the BLC was meeting there some of the time. But nearly everything we now associate with Friends’ use of Quaker Center, including that name, still lay in the future.