mad in pursuit home
Green Valley :: The beginning
What a rare thing it is in life to leave everything behind and start over somewhere
What a rare thing it is in life to leave everything behind and start over somewhere completely new.
It also took me well into middle adulthood to notice that extroverts won't even go to a funeral parlor by themselves, but arrange to go with a buddy. It's ironic that I never thought of that buddy thing. As a shy person, I believed that everyone else was comfortable doing things on their own so I needed to act "normal" and not be afraid of the world.
So, frustrated with my life in Chicago, I picked up and joined Green Valley School in Florida. It was a good deal, from my youthful perspective. They took care of all your worldly needs, gave you $7.50 a week cigarette and beer money, and allowed you a day a week off with a car (referred to in Orange City as a VEE-hicle).
My room was the second-floor sun-porch of the administration building, fairly far from everyone. I was the only resident. The kids lived a mile or so away, at the other end of the campus, with most of the other staff.
This being Florida, the administration building had giant roaches in the kitchen. They gave me a heart attack every time I had to go down there in the evening. Me being a city girl, I walked to town and with my $7.50 and bought a can of Raid. The day after my spraying campaign, I heard bellowing from the kitchen up through the floor to my room. "WHO SPRAYED INSECTICIDE ALL OVER!?" The ranting continued. "I TOLD YOU NEVER... MY ALLERGIES..." I cowered. I was the culprit but they'd have to beat it out of me. I hid my can of insecticide and, after waiting till the ranting was safely over, I skulked out of the building.
That was my introduction to George von Hilsheimer.
I spent the first week being second cook to Lee Ricketts, learning to prepare meals for a hundred or more people. As long as Lee told me what to do, I got the hang of it and demonstrated myself to be a fast, hard worker. The food was plentiful and wholesome but devoid of sugar, which meant I spent my "cigarette" money on candy bars (when I wasn't investing in insecticide).
There were apparently rats in the central kitchen and one of the anti-poison staff had the bright idea of bringing a big rat-eating snake into the kitchen. The snake would have his fill of rats by night, then curl up behind the stove during the day. I found the logic acceptable, as long as I saw neither rats nor snake. But the snake got pulled. Someone was apparently worried about the health department opinion on the matter.
Beyond cooking, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. The idea was to make yourself useful doing various activities with the kids. There was a Puerto Rican kid on campus. Jorge was about 17 and a recovering heroin addict, skinny and nervous. I decided that he and I would teach a Spanish class in the evenings. Maybe 5 kids were interested. I was not a born teacher and Jorge got quickly frustrated with the whole thing. We had two or three classes before that idea sputtered out.
I arrived at Green Valley School in Orange City Florida in February 1971. Around May, Lee Ricketts and I drove 10 kids north to the Catskills to start our own little farm adjacent to GVS' Buck Brook Farm. I left the Green Valley family, with my future husband, in August of 1972.
Green Valley was a residential program for troubled kids and a sixties-style commune for its staff.