Sunday, April 17, 2005
Dreams to Remember
by Jay Taber
In the spring of 1972, I began helping out at the Fairhaven Cooperative Flourmill milling supplies for the Bellingham Food Co-op. Like other cottage industries that sprouted in those days, the flourmill was pretty low-key. That summer, the hippie economy was thriving: Sur Lado Taco--where my future partner Marianne worked--joined the Fairhaven Tavern and Fast Eddie’s sandwiches as new endeavors. Brett and Daugert, Attorneys at Law (hippie sympathizers) hung out their shingle in front of the ramshackle Terminal Building where they occupied a suite upstairs above Tony’s Coffee.
Early that fall, rumors started to circulate about a California developer buying up the old Fairhaven buildings that housed such going concerns as Toad Hall Pizza, Bank Books, Fairhaven Post Office, and the Kulshan Tavern. Just when America started to read about the Watergate break-in, we suddenly became aware of how vulnerable our alternative community was. Come October, after these mainstays of our cultural identity had been evicted, the cheery mood of our counter-cultural summer had turned as apprehensive as the first chilling rains of autumn.
Were it not for the Good Earth Building--Fairhaven’s incubator of cooperative industry and alternative press--the Whole Earth movement in Bellingham might have died out. Instead, it became more focused and intense: gardener Sven started what would be the first of Bellingham’s official community gardens; the Fairhaven Cooperative Mill expanded production; Bellingham Food Co-operative added new product lines in response to the growing demand for organic and whole foods.
One Sunday morning, a truck with a bulldozer towed behind pulled up and parked next to the flower and shrub nursery. While most of Fairhaven was still waking up, a couple of my friends and I were sharing a pot of coffee and cinnamon rolls at the co-op before opening the store. Outside in the lot next door, waiting members played with their kids and shooed their dogs out of the co-op garden.
The driver got out of his truck and walked over to the people playing and started talking with them. When the expressions and gestures became animated, I went out to see what was going on. One of the guys I knew came over and said, "He’s gonna bulldoze the garden!” When I got close enough to hear the conversation, the co-op members were explaining to the equipment operator that we had a lease on the land with the lady who ran the post office, and that no one had said anything to us about a new owner, let alone that the garden would need to be removed.
By the time he had the bulldozer off his trailer, a crowd of hippies had gathered and about a dozen decided to stand their ground. When he drove his dozer across Harris Street, the group met him at the sidewalk and refused to budge. As onlookers cheered on the defiant ones, he shut off his machine and walked across the street to the pay phone booth next to Tony’s. During the break in the action, someone built a campfire and started cooking soup in a large kettle, tossing in vegetables from the garden, while others created a festive mood by playing guitars and singing songs.
By the time people in the neighborhood started going to church, the scene began to resemble a very small scale, laid-back version of Woodstock merged with Chicago 1968. For some of us who’d missed both, it was another chance to express our dissatisfactions. Then, city transit busses filled with riot-equipped cops rolled into the intersection, and the Chief of Police ordered the crowd to disperse. No further discussion like earlier in the day would take place under his command; the officers simply walked into the crowd and starting making arrests.
I was surprised how peaceably it went, that is, until some resistors began going limp and sitting down. As one officer escorted me to one of the buses, I glanced back and saw a policeman striking the co-op manager with a baton. Moments later, handcuffed and guarded by our own personal cops, we sat on the buses headed for the jail at the rear of Bellingham City Hall. Sitting in the holding cells, I wondered what we’d gotten into over some broccoli and cabbage.
After we got released, we headed back to the co-op. The garden was gone, and the lot of freshly-dozed dirt sat waiting in anticipation. The next morning, we had an appointment with Dean Brett to begin making a list of witnesses. When we met with him, he asked if any of us would like to assist in researching the legal issues of our case. Three of us volunteered, and spent the next week poring through law books on the floor of his office.
As the case developed, it became clear not all the cops were on the same page. Statements from the Chief and Mayor were incoherent. The co-op manager came up with an idea. As a philosophy student, he had become friends with a logic professor. The plan they concocted was to show by use of logic that if one identity was mistaken, then all identities were in doubt. We liked that a lot.
Once the prosecutor completed his opening remarks and examination of the police, Dean cross-examined them and began getting conflicting testimony, as we expected. He then called on the professor to diagram the illogic of the prosecution’s case on a blackboard. To our surprise, the judge informed our attorney that if he wanted to call another witness, that would be fine, but that he was not interested in logic. He wanted witnesses—not professors. Later, when Dean announced to the court that a Fairhaven College student had come forward with film of the day’s event, the judge called a recess for the day.
We never saw the film. The prosecutor dropped all charges other than trespassing, asking for twenty-five dollar fines, no jail time. The judge concurred. We went back to stacking firewood for winter and telling the tale over tea at Tony’s. Later, the Northwest Passage would dub us the"Fairhaven Eight.”With the closing of the Kulshan, Toad Hall and Bank Books, 1973 was a pivotal year for many of us. Our dependable lorry driver went to work for Burlington Northern Railroad. Our bookkeeper moved out in the country to raise goats. Several of the co-op irregulars moved away or enrolled in college. Many of the "mothers” of our young community began to raise families of their own.
That summer, as U.S. Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina captured our attention in the Watergate hearings, the Northwest Passage relocated to Seattle, and I went to work on one of their writer's campaign for public office. In that tumultuous year of revelations of high crimes in the Oval Office and OPECs debut oil embargo, we imagined ourselves like the founding fathers striking out to set things right and build a new, more accountable America. For some of us, that dream never died.
Originally published: From Skookum: *An online journal of the American psyche in transition http://skookumgeoduck.blogspot.com/2005/04/dreams-to-remember.html