As we look at what remains written from the early 1960s, we find letters back and forth between Friends and Sequoia Seminar, between Mrs. Manley and AFSC, and between AFSC and its Ben Lomond Committee, but few minutes of consistent committee meetings where decisions were made. We know of a few work parties held here and invitations from the BLC for greater use by Friends, but it is not apparent what the initial steps and the motivating elements were which led by the middle of the decade to a sudden flowering of ideas and concrete actions relating to this property which AFSC had been given 16 years before. All we know is that up until then a handful of committed persons believed strongly in its potential and were determined that Friends should use it regularly.
It is clear from what can be read that the BLC began, in early 1966, to act as if it had been given full responsibility for the development of the property. Even though the original 1950 lease with Sequoia Seminar had technically expired, that organization was still using everything here that they had built during that lease, and both parties to the agreement felt this use would continue in some way, although exactly how had yet to be spelled out. The onset of the closing of the original 15-year agreement, however, must have allowed Friends not only to imagine how they themselves would also use the property, but to act as if they had every right to use it.
The new BLC vitality was partly revealed by its growing membership. At the beginning of the decade, the committee apparently had only three members – Herb Foster, Vern James, and Welvin Stroud (on the AFSC staff in San Francisco). By the end of 1965, Art Currier, Chuck Atlee, Robert and Dorothy Newick, Clara and Clarence Lack, and Lincoln Moses had joined the BLC. During 1966, the names of Arnold and Corinne True, Otto Heck, Dan Dana (the husband of Elizabeth Duveneck, daughter of Josephine) and Win Osborne (another AFSC staff member) began appearing in committee minutes. With the energy of this increased membership, the BLC soon manifested greater responsibility for development of the property. Early in 1966 it had outlined eight objectives for Ben Lomond (still their preferred name for the entire property), perhaps the first systematic presentation of what Friends had begun to imagine they would do to fulfill the intentions of Mrs. Manley. They stated these objectives as follows:
“- to foster closer relationships and communication among groups which are separated due to racial,
economic, and age considerations.
– to give young people healthy outdoor activities, fun, and opportunity to gain new insights.
– to be a training center for participants in AFSC projects throughout the world.
– to serve as a retreat for seekers to discover new meaning in their lives and to deepen spiritual roots.
– to provide a place for study and contemplation on the West Coast.
– to provide a place for conferences and seminars.
– to give opportunity for meetings of student/faculty groups from the nearby university, state colleges
and high schools.
– to preserve a valuable ecological area.”
Accompanying these objectives was a multi-phase Master Plan for development, including some of what Sequoia Seminar had already constructed.
“Phase I: renovate the large kitchen and dining room; construct a multi-purpose dining area at the base camp [Ed. Friends’ name at that time for what had been Camp Unalayee] including a nearby bunkhouse.
Phase II: construct a dormitory having 18 double-occupancy rooms and meeting rooms; improvements to roads, water supply system, campsites, and outdoor meeting area; purchase the Balovich parcel.
Phase III: build a second lodge [Ed. i.e. meeting hall] for 30 people; new roads; a nature museum; a library; an ecological preserve.
Phase IV: replace existing dining hall and upgrade facilities required for a permanent staff.”
Seeking to give a proper name to the place, the BLC minutes state that “Quaker Meeting Ground” was favorably considered. [Minutes, BLC, 3/28/66]
Apart from plans on paper, by that time Friends also began to be more active on the property in a real physical sense. More work parties were scheduled. Mailers with a wish list were distributed. A brochure was printed inviting families to camp at the “Friends Meeting Ground” using the remaining Camp Unalayee facilities. Young Friends of College Park Quarterly Meeting gathered here in July 1966 (while Quarterly Meeting itself was being held in Santa Cruz). Five hundred flyers were sent out to AFSC committees and to other possible group users. We learn of these activities because, membership on the BLC having increased, minutes of regular monthly meetings appear and continue from that time on.
Incredibly, while all this was going on, there persisted suggestions from AFSC that the property might yet be sold. This may have been due to the fact that, while there were plans, nothing new had actually been built by Friends since the early 1950s and very little money had been raised or spent to that point.
Soon after the eight objectives and the four-part Master Plan appeared, a somewhat formal “Growth Program for the Quaker Meeting Grounds at Ben Lomond” was prepared by the planning firm Osborne and Stewart of San Francisco. It included a fire circle campsite (at the current labyrinth), lookout and promontory campsites with access roads (ultimately for up to 240 campers), permanent facilities clustered around the Manley House, and mutual guidelines, agreed upon by neighboring property owners, for the watershed. Camping seemed to be the main focus.
A large work party was scheduled in March 1966, accompanied by a site planning day with Osborne and Stewart. On the same weekend Osborne and Stewart made six specific suggestions:
- start using the place now;
- decide how a permanent camp would be used;
- make the “rustic camp” (formerly Camp Unalayee) part of the permanent camp;
- expand watershed communication among the neighbors;
- trace all water sources;
- write a history of the place;
- keep the road private.
The first of these suggestions imply that “the place” had not previously been used by Friends, certainly not in any sustained way. The BLC agreed at that same meeting that the Master Plan would be shown to Sequoia Seminar to “establish the presence of AFSC on the property, and to let them know that the logical plan for use of the land includes the dining area.” This was the first indication that the BLC expected Sequoia to return at least some of the buildings they had erected on the upper third of the property.
A formal request by the BLC to AFSC to allow it to raise its own funds was approved by the Executive Committee (Exec C) of AFSC in May 1966. Approval was needed because the BLC wanted to use its parent organization’s extensive nationwide mailing list. A fund-raising letter was then sent to about 1000 persons, outlining the needs of the Ben Lomond property and announcing that it was available for camping. The prospect of camping raised concerns about insurance (Sequoia Seminar and Lucile Manley carried their own). AFSC covered groups under its sponsorship. Other users now needed to be included. The BLC acknowledged the need for a list of rules to be sent to people using Ben Lomond.
As the BLC prepared for an influx of campers, the impact on the others already living there had to be considered. Sequoia Seminar had already raised its concerns about the noise campers would bring to their previously quiet space, unused by Camp Unalayee for six years. The Manley estate in the center of the property had a new resident, Joe Correia, who had earlier built Edith Cold’s cottage and continued there as the family “house carpenter”. He was then staying in that small cottage and Edith Cold was in the Manley house. Her sister Lucile Manley, whose health had declined, was being cared for by her daughter Virginia Rusinak at her residence in Santa Cruz. Mrs. Manley wrote at the time that “There’s so much going on and going to happen that I’m dizzy thinking about it.”
The BLC and Sequoia Seminar continued to work on a renewal of the 1950 agreement. Friends’ position was roughly: the 15-year agreement has expired; we should be able to use what now fully belongs to us. Sequoia’s position was roughly: we have assumed the agreement would be renewed for an indefinite period; it would be very difficult for us to find other facilities.
Whatever disagreements had prevented an earlier settlement seemed to erupt in the following example of the testiness between the two organizations as they tendered alternative proposals. In the very first paragraph of a brief note from the chair of the BLC to the founder of Sequoia, with no prior explanation, we read: “Regardless of how remote a possibility it may seem to some, I would like to have the figures on how much money is involved to take over the Sequoia buildings on our property. I’d like this from you before September 25th, if this is possible. As you can see, this agreement is very important to me, and if necessary I’m not just going to let it happen — I’m going to make it happen.” [BLC clerk to Harry Rathbun, 9/13/66]
Following this, another BLC member noted that “We are further apart than I thought we were. The spirit of (the clerk’s) letter to Harry may have had a bad effect on them. I had a talk with Harry before he wrote this agreement. I told him that I thought the agreement we offered was reasonable: that … the temper of the committee indicated that unless we could get the dining hall and caretaker’s house as we needed them they would have to vacate the whole place.” [Vern James to Win Osborne, 9/22/66]
Working hard to keep what they had enjoyed for 15 years, Sequoia continued to be strengthened by its belief that they would be on Friends’ property for a long time. In a short note from Leon Carley (Sequoia’s attorney) to Harry Rathbun (a copy was sent to Friends on 9/19/66), we read: “Inasmuch as this agreement will continue in effect beyond the lives of some of us who are involved at this time, I would recommend that the signatures be acknowledged so that the agreement may be recorded and made a permanent record.”
Some frustration was apparent at the delay in a settlement at a meeting of the BLC on 10/1/66: “…it was approved that the Ben Lomond negotiating committee would hold another meeting with the Sequoia negotiating committee…. if no agreement could be reached at this meeting, notice should be given to Sequoia to vacate all AFSC buildings by January 1968.” There was also concern about what Sequoia would take out of the buildings when they left. The BLC felt they could take furnishings, but not fixtures. At this same meeting, the concern about long-term ownership of the property once again came up “by writing a clause in the agreement (with Sequoia) which will enable AFSC to dispose of the property or return it to the donor if the need should arise.”
Somehow, in spite of the tone of the previously cited notes, the two groups found unity at their joint meeting in October 1966, and things moved quickly in a very short time. The BLC approved what became the second formal agreement with Sequoia at its meeting of 10/24/66. The Exec C of AFSC approved it on 11/21/66, and it was recorded in Santa Cruz County a month later.
The main features of this second agreement were that Sequoia would have rent-free use of the dining hall, to be turned over to Friends by 6/1/68; rent-free use of the caretaker’s house and shop, to be turned over by 6/1/70; rent-free use of the Casa, Sunrise, adjacent parking lot, and the warehouse (now the Haven) until 10/31/95; exclusive use of the northwest corner – the site of Sunrise Lodge and the parking lot – until 10/31/95. The road above the dining hall would be maintained by Sequoia, and Hubbard Gulch Road would be maintained equally by both parties. Sequoia had ingress and egress rights over Hubbard Gulch Road through Friends’ property, but Friends could travel on Sequoia property only to lay water lines. There were to be separate water systems. The first right to buy any part of the property that might be sold would be held by Sequoia. Sequoia could terminate on a 30-day notice. Friends could terminate on a prior notice only if Sequoia did not use the property for eight or more weekends in a year and then only if it did not resume any subsequent use after the request for termination.
The agreement was signed for Friends by NCRO Treasurer Fred Fellow and Stephen Thiermann. It was signed for Sequoia by Harry Rathbun and Leon Carley. There is significance in the identity of the Friends’ signers because, as we will soon learn, this became a critical point in the lawsuit that would be filed seeking to overturn this new agreement. Friends would also later claim that the different ways in which the lease could be terminated gave less authority to the property owner than to the tenant.
In what now sounds like an instance of buyer’s remorse, we read in an unsigned note written by a BLC member shortly after the agreement was recorded that “according to Sequoia and based on the 1950 agreement, AFSC could have bought out Sequoia’s entire equity in the property for between $20,000 and $22,000 in 1966. To me, this does not mean that Sequoia was willing to do this, only that these would have been the terms of such a purchase”.
At the same meeting at which it approved the agreement with Sequoia, the Exec C “asked the BLC to move forward as quickly as practicable with the formation of an independent Friends’ corporation to own and operate the Ben Lomond property.” This brief request was the first step in a 16-year journey towards the way Quaker Center is managed now. Spurred by this encouragement, the BLC became increasingly more comfortable in asserting its own direction of the property’s future. A great deal would be accomplished within the next six months, including the first buildings constructed by Friends since the early 1950s boys’ camp kitchen. The tentative name for the site of the new buildings (at the present-day Redwood Lodge) was the “Hostel area”. The location of these buildings would provide some separation from the activities of Sequoia Seminar in the upper third of the property.
In May 1967, plans for the Hostel dining room were approved by the Santa Cruz County Planning Department. A new building required a new use permit, which was also approved by the county on June 16. The Use Permit set a limit of 30 for this facility, and required the Camp Unalayee kitchen to be upgraded to meet the health code. The first work on building the Hostel dining room and small (lower) bunkhouse began in the summer of 1967: slabs were poured in August; framing for the dining room had begun by September.The BLC wondered if it had lost any water rights due to non-use as it considered putting in new lines for the Hostel construction. A water system separate from Sequoia Seminar was agreed on, with a pump placed downhill in Marshall Creek. The minutes of the BLC tell us there was $800 in their account at AFSC, “enough to finish the present building project.”
During a work camp in July of that summer, about eight attenders came up with the idea of starting a “Quaker Country Club” as a means of financing development. Checks from two charter members were submitted on the spot. There were to be three levels of giving: “Bread and Butter” memberships at $5/mo; “Share the Jam” memberships at $10/mo; and “Bricks and Timber” memberships at $25/mo. Shortly afterwards, a mailing was sent to clerks of all Meetings in the United States, to all attenders at PYM, and to individuals who might join. In spite of this initial enthusiasm, however, there is no other reference to the Quaker Country Club in any notes or minutes after that time.
Even though the new Hostel dining room was still under construction in September 1967, the BLC could not wait to announce it. A brochure was prepared for mailing and 10,000 copies printed. The first information sheet for users of the new facilities was proposed, the rates being $2/night/family and 75¢/person in groups.
The 11/21/1967 meeting of the BLC minuted the need to plan for a “steady program” after 6/1/68 when the large dining room above the orchard would be returned by Sequoia Seminar, and suggested a plan for a sleeping lodge or lodges near that dining room. For the time being, the property not leased to Sequoia would be used only by Friends and groups under Friends’ supervision. One weekend a month was set aside for the use of families, with one couple required to be in charge.
A subcommittee of the BLC recommended the name “Quaker Center” be used in a new brochure to describe the entire Ben Lomond property, and also confirmed that the base camp area be formally known as “the Hostel area”. These names were approved at the BLC meeting of 12/19/67. It is interesting that although the name Quaker Center had now been chosen, the name of the committee in charge continued for many years to call itself the Ben Lomond Committee, and many persons in College Park Quarterly Meeting and AFSC have continued to refer to this place as simply “Ben Lomond”.
The now newly-named Quaker Center “came out” to a wider public through an article entitled “Pendle Hill West” written for the Feb. 1, 1968 issue of Friends Journal by Virginia Brink, a member of the BLC and of Palo Alto Meeting. In it, some of the early plans are manifest:
“The Ben Lomond Committee of the AFSC is now going ahead with plans for full development of the property’s use. To fulfill the spirit of the deed, West Coast Friends hope to build a “Pendle Hill West”, for which a master plan has been drawn up…. Major work on the hostel has now been completed and the first program of the year will be held on the property in early June.”
(Ed. The reference in this article to the June 1968 date for the “first program” became the basis for the 25th anniversary celebration held at Quaker Center in the summer of 1993.)
The choice of Virginia Brink to be the author of the article is a small sign of how active she and her husband Paul had already become on the BLC. Paul was then its clerk and held this office for much of the next decade. Virginia did a great deal of the fund-raising over many years.
Two couples responded to this article and offered to live here and do work exchanges: Carl and Maurine Merriman arrived in the spring of 1968 and stayed through the summer. Wendell and Alison Davis, from the Storrs, Connecticut Meeting, and their son Mark drove their RV across the country and spent the summer of 1968 renovating the large dining room, then returned by Sequoia, and improving the water system. These are, from the written record, the first Friends to live on the property for an extended period of time.
The BLC formalized suggestions made the previous fall by minuting that “For the time being, the property (Ed. i.e. not leased to Sequoia Seminar) will be used only by Friends or groups under the supervision of Friends. We will experiment with having perhaps one weekend a month set aside for individual families, with one couple taking responsibility for the group.” [Minutes, BLC, 3/19/68]
On 4/6/68 a memorial service was held here for Shirley Gross of Palo Alto Meeting, and a fund established in her name to raise money for the construction of new sleeping lodges which the committee had agreed to build near the large dining hall. The timing fit in well with the expected return of this building by Sequoia the following June.
On Easter Sunday, 4/14/68, the first recorded activities – a meeting for worship and a potluck – were held in the newly completed Hostel dining room. From the minutes of the BLC meeting held that same day we learn that “Carl (Merriman) put up the framing for the new bunkhouse and a good part of the roof sheathing. A group from College Park Meeting (now San Jose) finished the sheathing and shingling of the bunkhouse under the direction of Cal Lack…. June 16 has been designated as open house day. ” [BLC minutes, 4/14/68]
No details of the June 1968 Hostel open house are found in the minutes. There is no count of how many persons attended and their names are not recorded. We do learn that Lucile Manley was present as guest of honor.
The celebration of the new Hostel and the pending return of the large dining room were tempered in early 1968 by the news that Sequoia Seminar had begun a campaign under the name National Service, advocating universal conscription (either in the military or an alternative) for all American youth. Since involuntary conscription was opposed to one of the basic testimonies of Friends, the already fragile relationship with Sequoia became more openly brittle. The concern rippled outward from the BLC to wider circles of Friends. From the AFSC Newsletter of May, 1968 we learn that
“In his KPFA commentary, April 10, Ben Seaver, Regional Peace Secretary, said: ‘In spite of the growing awareness and opposition to the whole concept of conscription, some people are of the opinion that the only thing wrong with the draft is that it does not apply to everybody. Under the name of National Service they propose that at 18 all men and women register with National Service.”
At least some BLC members believed that Sequoia Seminar was “using AFSC property as a training center for this kind of conscription of American youth.” [Paul Brink to AFSC Exec C]
As if to document the concern, someone kept in the files a photo of the sign at the Alba Road entrance to Sequoia Seminar, which stated: “Sequoia Seminar, National Service Training Center”. Friends seemed quite upset that property owned by Quakers, specifically what is now the Casa de Luz, was being used to train young people for involuntary national service.
In March 1968, Philips (Phil) Patton of Santa Cruz became the Quaker Center attorney and a member of the BLC, and right away was asked to “look over the agreement with Sequoia Seminar.” Although the agreement was less than two years old, Sequoia’s national service activities raised serious questions in the minds of Friends as to whether the aims of the two organizations were still mutually compatible, one of the main foundations for the original relationship in 1950.
Although the reason is not apparent, there being no reference to national service, a note of 6/4/68 from Stephen Thiermann to Sequoia Seminar expressed some reluctance to wait for the next scheduled return of property to Friends : “In accordance with paragraphs #2 and #14 of the agreement between AFSC and Sequoia Seminar for the use of the Ben Lomond property, I am requesting herewith that Sequoia Seminar vacate the caretaker’s house, garage and shop on or before 6/10/1970.”
The new concerns about Sequoia’s activities led to suggestions about altering the 1966 agreement with Sequoia, including the possibility of property transfer, and opened a new discussion among the BLC about the best way to manage property transactions in a way that was legally possible and less difficult. It seemed that decisions needed to be made locally, but the owner of the property was technically the AFSC national office in Philadelphia. Having more independence would also make it easier to deal with any unforeseen consequences after the death of Lucile Manley, who was being cared for off the property while her sister Edith Cold was exercising the family life estate in the Manley House.
Responding to the AFSC Exec C minute of 11/21/66 that there be an independent corporation to manage Quaker Center, Phil Patton suggested that a first step could be setting up a Board of Trustees to hold title to the property in the meantime. Some members of the BLC did not want to be fully independent, but saw value in remaining part of AFSC, a prestigious national organization.
The presence of an attorney on the BLC lent an increasing legal tone to BLC minutes over the next decade. Besides the overarching struggles with Sequoia, there are more mundane examples. The committee became aware that its roads were used not only by Sequoia Seminar, but also by other neighbors who had to get to their parcels over Hubbard Gulch Road. Phil Patton proposed that Friends close their portion of this road for one day a year (with prior notice to neighbors) to assert their ownership and that these others were using it only with AFSC permission.
Although the BLC had minuted that the part of the property not leased by Sequoia be used only by Friends, the availability of the new Hostel and small bunkhouse with its indoor sleeping accommodations must have led it to become open to use by others. There must have been some formal outreach, because letters of interest were received by the BLC in the summer of 1968 from UCSC, Yokefellows (a religious organization founded by the Quaker D. Elton Trueblood), American Association of Humanistic Psychology, College of San Mateo, Stanford University School of Business, and the Esalen Institute, all of whom expressed interest in the possibility of using the facilities. Records of who actually used it did not appear until a year later.
The presence of two families living at Quaker Center – the Merrimans and the Davises – helped to raise the possibility of a more permanent resident staff. The first hint that anyone had already thought of this possibility appeared in a note from Stephen Thiermann to Paul Brink on 7/19/68: “If I remember correctly, Carolyn Haas and her husband had written earlier expressing the hope they might some day be considered for caretakers, but it seems to me the Collinsons are a much better bet.” However, in spite of these apparently interested parties, it would be two years before the first resident caretakers arrived.
In May of 1968, Liz Dana (architect and daughter of Josephine and Frank Duveneck) had presented to the BLC drawings for two lodges to be built next to the dining room. Jim MacRae, son-in-law of Paul and Virginia Brink, offered to live and work at Quaker Center while constructing the lodges. He would thus fulfill his service obligation as a conscientious objector, and would be paid the $200/mo. earned by AFSC interns. His wife Paula would do hospitality and respond to needs. They offered to live in a tent or in the dining hall until Sequoia had vacated the caretaker’s house.
Moving quickly, the BLC minutes state that “It was approved to get estimates on location and cost for housing to accommodate 30-32 people with a long range plan in view to make maximum use of the property.” [Minutes, BLC, 8/7/68]
And just a month later plans were finalized for two lodges with sleeping rooms in the “western frontier hotel” style, with the suggestion that they be sited above the “warm farm yard”. [Minutes, BLC, 9/17/68]
A new fee schedule for use of the Hostel was approved: $20 for outside groups plus $1/day/person; Quaker groups $1.50/day/person with no other use fee, or $3/day/family. The AFSC policy on scholarships would be followed when appropriate. The BLC approved that “Friends expect groups using the Ben Lomond property to not bring alcoholic beverages.” [Minutes, BLC, 10/15/68]
By the end of 1968 there were rumors of additional property being given to AFSC. Russ Jorgensen, now the executive secretary of the NCRO, assured the BLC that if any such property were accepted that might in any way compete with Quaker Center they would let the BLC know from the first. At the end of 1968 the BLC had 18 members drawn chiefly from nearby Monthly Meetings.
Even though a new system for pumping water up from Marshall Creek to the Hostel had been developed during the summer of 1968, by the end of that year there was so much silting in the creek that the BLC considered getting water from a spring on the Balovich property. From then on, that adjacent parcel became the subject of more and more interest to the BLC as a possibly more reliable water source.
A matching grant of $10,000 from the Friendly Fellowship Foundation was announced to help build the proposed new lodges. The Palo Alto Meeting gave $2289 to make sure the full amount was matched, which did happen by the 12/31/68 deadline. At its meeting of 1/21/69 the BLC asked AFSC “if it should not cause hardship to the AFSC, the BLC would appreciate receiving the approximate amount of interest earned on our funds.”
By the end of the 1960s, a relationship had been established between Quaker Center and
John Woolman School in Nevada City. The JWS Newsletter of January 1969 announces:
“High in the Santa Cruz mountains in the tiny town of Ben Lomond, 29 John Woolman students found themselves communicating with nature via a little good-old manual labor. We were in the process of readying the newly acquired AFSC retreat and camp grounds….”
This relationship continued well into the 1990s during the annual work week of JWS, when its students traveled from their campus to sites around the Western United States to contribute their volunteer labor. Quaker Center was fortunate to be a chosen site each year.
During the winter of 1969 the roofing over the main dining hall leaked badly and had to be replaced. At the same time the roof was extended over an adjacent service area for storage and waste disposal.
In an effort to widen the circle of Quaker Center’s influence, two Friends from Southern California were nominated by AFSC Pasadena to be on BLC. Ed Morgenroth agreed to be the Southern California liaison. In spite of this outreach, names of Friends from that part of the state did not appear in BLC minutes.
The earliest extant copy of what became a regular publication over the next ten years appeared in the spring of 1969 under the title “News from Quaker Center”. The first issue gave a list of Center activities and asked for contributions. That same spring, letters were sent to at least four foundations asking for grants to help build the lodges.
The first concrete suggestion towards financing the purchase of the adjacent Balovich property appeared at that time: “Corinne True suggested that the Cowell Foundation might be willing to buy the Balovich property to conserve the watershed. Howard Wolcott agreed to check out the value of the Balovich property.” Anticipating the construction of the new lodges, “Paul (Brink) reported $21,029 in the building fund.” [Minutes, BLC, 2/18/69]
And at the very next meeting “Bill (Gross) suggested that we ask the Cowell Foundation for $250,000 for purchase of the Balovich and Ella Wright properties, improvements, etc.” [Minutes, BLC, 3/18/69] There is no record of whether this request was made but, in any case, funds for this purpose were not received from that source.
The idea of additional land acquisition does not occupy much space in BLC minutes before that date, and was never at all a priority of AFSC, but later in 1969 the rationale for any such expansion was clearly spelled out in the minutes. “Zach Stewart [Ed. Of the planning firm Osborne and Stewart, who had prepared the Master Plan] carefully explained maps of the surrounding watershed and pointed out the necessity of our acquiring as much of the watershed as possible. Zach feels that we should spend as many dollars on the land as we do on buildings. He said that we should set a goal of 640 acres.” Besides justifying land acquisition, the Quaker Center planner was asked to complete more immediate tasks: “After much discussion, the Committee approved paying Zach Stewart $1000 if he will give us plans within 30 days: (1) A building near the large dining hall eventually to house about 24 people — construction to begin this summer; (2) sketches and estimates for a building or buildings to house an additional 36 people.” [Minutes, BLC, 4/15/69]
At this same meeting, the BLC expressed their intention that the general feeling of the “farm” should be maintained and the orchard left as open as possible. The original Manley buildings were not to be razed, and the feeling of the place as Mrs. Manley gave it should be in evidence.
Paul and Virginia Brink’s son-in-law, Jim MacRae, began work on the two lodges adjacent to the large dining room as his alternative service as a conscientious objector in the summer of 1969. He and his wife Paula Brink lived on the property, mostly in a tent but at times in the dining room. In addition to Jim’s construction work, the two of them welcomed all groups who used the Center, helped with physical arrangements, pointed out all rules and regulations, and were on hand to take care of emergencies. They were also responsible for care of the land and its preservation as an ecological area.
While construction proceeded on the lodges, Sequoia Seminar’s caretaker continued to live in the adjacent residence. Sequoia’s activities continued to take place in the Casa. It is not clear, other than their experiment with national service, what might have prolonged negative feelings on the part of Friends, but complaints about Sequoia seem to appear regularly in BLC minutes. Some difficulties arose over deterioration of Hubbard Gulch Road in 1969, which the BLC believed was caused by heavy trucks carrying construction materials to the Sequoia property. Much more seriously, suggestions of a change in the relationship itself are apparent. “Between us lawyers, it is my present view that you occupy the lands of AFSC by revocable license. There are about 26 years of ‘life’ left in the 11/21/66 Agreement, if it is not modified or terminated. In my opinion, that is far too long a time to share properties and obligations under strained relations, and our relations do seem to be strained at this time. Perhaps we must indeed shift into a formal and legalistic landlord-tenant relationship.”
[Phil Patton to Leon Carley, 8/4/69]
Complaints like the following occupy a large part of the communication between the two groups at that time. “Phil Patton reported that he will meet tomorrow with Leon Carley to discuss Sequoia’s piling of junk and used building materials on AFSC property; Sequoia’s removal of step timbers on a steep hill on our property across from the dining hall that could cause serious erosion problems; Sequoia’s failure to repair damage to our roads during their building program; and the expense incurred to replace the roof over the kitchen which Sequoia left in very leaky condition. Phil will also bring up the matter of Sequoia vacating the caretaker’s house.” [Minutes, BLC, 8/29/69]
When Friends complained in writing about alleged abuses by Sequoia, their response would often cite counter complaints. In one instance, Sequoia reported back that Quaker Center guests had trespassed on Sequoia Seminar property, asking to use their swimming pool.
Even though Sequoia had the right to remain in the caretaker’s house until June of the following year, the BLC believed that they had acquired other houses on their own property which could accommodate their caretaker and, based on this belief, tried to advance the date so they could use that home for the MacRaes. On 7/28/69, Leon Carley responded to such a request by reporting that “the Cochran house is being used as a meeting place for 20 people every weekend….Our camp manager was hired with the understanding that he would have the use of (your) house until we could get another adequate house built….It therefore appears most unlikely that we will be able to turn over the house this fall.”
Meanwhile, work on the lodges proceeded without this housing option for another year. “Foundations are in for both dormitories between the dining hall and the caretaker’s house and under-flooring joists in place for one dormitory…. Jim MacRae has been efficient in working on the building from blueprints, ordering materials, helping put in new septic tank, etc…. It was decided to rough-in plumbing for washbasins in each bedroom. For the relatively small expense, it was felt desirable to look towards the future when people might be at Ben Lomond for long periods of time as at Pendle Hill, and this convenience would be important.” [Minutes, BLC. 8/29/69]
Construction of new buildings and the concerns about Sequoia strengthened the desire for more independence on the part of the BLC. “There was agreement that we are now strong enough to pretty much stand on our own feet; that it would be desirable to lift a burden from the Regional Office; and that there would be advantages in having more autonomy. There was a brief discussion about forming an independent corporation, but a strong feeling emerged that we should keep our ties with AFSC. Phil (Patton) suggested that we could very simply set up a Board of Trustees who would be given the deed to the property and power to manage the property for AFSC. Phil will draw up appropriate papers, and Paul (Brink) should discuss this with Russ Jorgensen.” [BLC minutes, 8/29/69]
The link between this direction and feelings about Sequoia Seminar is apparent in the following letter, which shows how quickly the committee was moving towards greater independence. “The matter of long-term use by Sequoia Seminar of portions of our Ben Lomond property is now being re-examined by the BLC in view of the fact that Sequoia has undertaken long-term political activities to promote universal conscription of young people within the United States (National Service). It is possible that it will be in AFSC’s best interests to terminate the joint-use association. This might be done by simple agreement, by buying out Sequoia’s interests, or selling our interests in the portions of our facilities they are using, or by trading some portions of our property for other equally useful property, or in some other way. But the BLC is really not in a good legal position to undertake such discussion with Sequoia no matter how objectionable their activities may become until the committee can communicate quickly and act decisively with the persons who are legally entitled, under California law, to control the use of the land. If the Committee and the San Francisco Office of AFSC agree to these suggestions, I will prepare a form of the California Land Grant Deed to be executed at Philadelphia on behalf of AFSC to convey the legal title of the land to the new board of trustees.” [Phil Patton to Paul Brink, 9/3/69]
It is somewhat ironic that Sequoia’s national initiative project was still generating this kind of energy, because it had apparently been largely a failure a year before this letter was written. According to Gelber and Cook’s history of Sequoia Seminar (See Appendix One), they had planned for up to 5,000 young people to be trained in national service during the summer of 1968, but by its end only 12 had actually signed up. Sequoia had also by this time changed the name of the umbrella organization under which it operated from the original National Service, first to National Initiative, and then to Creative Initiative, as if to reinforce their movement away from service, and from a national perspective. But the belief that Sequoia advocated involuntary conscription of all young Americans had stubbornly survived within the BLC and seemed to influence its decision-making.
The degree of tension between the two organizations is revealed in the fact that, between June and November 1969, there are in the files 57 letters sent back and forth between staff members and lawyers of the BLC, AFSC (both San Francisco and Philadelphia offices) and Sequoia Seminar, and among neighboring property owners, regarding items as diverse as the approval of the Board of Trustees, liability insurance, joint use of roads, property tax exemption, trash on the property, use of the buildings, and the lease agreement.
The Board of Trustees concept did not take long to become reality. The underlying rationale was given as follows (in Phil Patton’s notes). “The reason we need to have legal ownership under local control has to do with Sequoia Seminar and the 1966 agreement, signed by persons really not having the legal authority to do so. Their objectives are no longer religious or compatible with AFSC objectives. Sequoia Seminar has for a number of years exercised every right and privilege they claim under their lease, but has failed to perform almost all of their obligations. AFSC is imposed upon and taken advantage of regularly by Sequoia Seminar, …who know the Friends are loosely organized and unable to carry through locally on any hard decision because local people do not have authority to deal as owners of the real property.” The Board of Trustees was seen as the way to deal with this situation.
There must have been strong agreement with this direction, because the first draft by Phil Patton led quickly to final unity. “Some time was spent discussing the proposed Board of Trustees…. minor changes were made in the draft drawn up by Phil on the Declaration of Trust. Ben Lomond Committee members will be asked to sign the final Declaration before it is presented to the Executive Committee on September 29 for approval.” [Minutes, BLC, 9/16/69]
The Declaration of Trust establishing “THE AFSC BEN LOMOND PROPERTY BOARD OF TRUSTEES” was approved by the regional AFSC Exec. C on 9/29/69, by the national AFSC Board of Directors in Philadelphia on 10/30/69, and recorded in Santa Cruz County that fall. Title to the property was transferred from AFSC to the Board on 10/31/69. Under the new Declaration the three members of the Board were appointed by the Regional Executive Committee of AFSC for terms of 3 years and served until replaced. The Clerk of the BLC was an ex-officio member of the new Board. The first trustees were Philips Patton, Arnold True and Paul Brink.
With the Board of Trustees (BT) in place and title to the property in hand, the BLC must have felt it had the legal muscle to effect what it had only contemplated in regard to Sequoia up to that time. In November 1969, within a month of the BT’s approval, the BLC approved a minute to negotiate termination of Sequoia’s occupancy of AFSC land at the earliest possible date. This minute stated: “(1) Sequoia is to be notified that we expect them to vacate the Main Lodge (Casa de Luz) and the storage house (now Haven) before the end of 1970. (2) The BLC would be willing to buy Sequoia’s interest in the Sunrise Lodge (built in 1962 with no notice to Friends at a cost to $10,257). (3) The BLC is not agreeable to any change in boundaries of the property.”
The BLC clearly recognized that such actions in regard to Sequoia might have to be resolved in court. Phil Patton made it clear to the BLC that even if it won a lawsuit with Sequoia Seminar, it would still have to compensate them for their reliance on the 1966 agreement. If it lost the suit, it could sell the property to a third party (most likely a Friend), who would not be obliged by the agreement, but would then have to pay Sequoia for the fair market value of their improvements.
While this intense legal activity was going on, there were also initial signs of the kind of activity that we recognize now as being the regular business of Quaker Center. The first summary of rentals was distributed at the end of 1969, showing that 13 groups had used the Hostel during that year. Since only the small bunkhouse provided indoor sleeping accommodations, groups larger than about eight probably had some persons outside in tents. The BLC announced that there would be an annual open house, and that the fourth weekend of every month would continue to be set aside for family camping. There was as yet no full-time resident staff. The MacRaes were living in a tent working on the lodges and meeting renters, but the oversight of Quaker Center use was carried out by the BLC. Until the lodges were complete there would be nothing like what we now call Quaker Center programs. Bills were paid and financial records were kept by AFSC in San Francisco.
This first decade of activity by Friends on what had been Lucile Manley’s property closed with her death in Adelphi, Maryland on 11/23/69, where she had been living under the care of her daughter Virginia Rusinak. Although she had given her 51 acres to Friends 20 years earlier, at the time of her death these beneficiaries of her gift were engaged in a complicated legal struggle to assert their right to use in an unrestricted way what they had received, a struggle that would continue in one way or another and with varying levels of intensity for seven more years.