Chapter Seven – “What Happened To You?: Hippies, Gospel Outreach,
and the Jesus People Revival”
by Marc Allan
The Carlotta Mansion “Could There Ever Be a Better Life?”
The large, Victorian-style home called the Carlotta Mansion was ornately trimmed but had seen better days. Built entirely of redwood lumber in the late 1800s by John Vance, a lumber/railroad baron, it was surrounded by fields and enormous redwood trees. The garden was framed by white trellises filled with flowers and bushes imported from Europe. Being far from the coast, it enjoyed more sunny days than the Lighthouse Ranch or Eureka, and on those days,
no one wanted to be anywhere else. Bernie Haraldson once spent an afternoon at the Carlotta Mansion with a group of Lighthouse Ranchers. As Bernie relaxed with the brothers and sisters, he looked around
at the blue skies, the forest, the hills and fields, and the white-trimmed, yellow house encircled by tall redwoods. Filled with wonder he asked himself, "What kind of life is this we have? Could there ever be a better life?”
Most of the brothers and sisters who lived at Carlotta would agree with Bernie—there was none better. The two-story house was painted a coat of sunny yellow paint, and the window frames were trimmed in white in the summer of 1973. The colors blended in perfectly with the green and red of the trees and the blue skies. Not much could be done for the inside. There was a big living room and next to that a piano room with a winter garden attached to it. In the living room, a dusty rug covered most of the floor. The king of the room was a long, ancient sofa pushed up against the common wall with the dining room. It lorded over a realm where no two pieces of furniture matched. A wood stove that was the main source of heat for the whole house completed the picture. Off the living room was the dining room filled with several long tables with benches big enough to accommodate a house full of people. Adjoining that was the kitchen, a hallway, and a bedroom. Stairs led up to the second floor, which had five or six bedrooms occupied either by married couples, or served as sisters’ dorms stacked with wooden bunks.
No earthly paradise can match the perfection of the heavenly, and this one had its flaw too. The house only had one bathroom, one toilet. The line in front of the bathroom door was less an opportunity for fellowship than for desperate prayer. Woe the pregnant mother whose bladder demanded immediate attention in a house whose population could range from fifteen to forty-five. Tony and Jane Tuck were the house heads for a while. Jane joked that, with so many people, each person was assigned a day of the week when he or she could use the bathroom.
Narrow stairs led up to the attic, which served as the brothers’ dorm. The bunks and beds were lined up in two rows—not unlike an orphanage—and the one window faced What Happened to You 88 the front of the house. A prayer room was built across from the window, on the opposite wall. Places like the prayer room at Carlotta, the Lighthouse Ranch, Living Waters, or Mendocino were secluded from the noise and bustle of the day. Small groups of brothers or sisters studied the Scriptures, prayed together, or just talked about this new life they had received from God.
Ron Juncal was the one who discovered Carlotta. His pre-G. O. ministry, the Maranatha Coffee House in Fortuna, was looking for a communal house for new converts. Through Gale Willy, a Fortuna, guitar-playing “cowboy Christian” (what was he doing with all these Jesus Freaks?), Ron, Tim Leslie, and others, learned about the “haunted mansion.” Long deserted and needing much repair, they looked at it and thought, Perfect! At about the same time, Ron brought his group into association with Jim Durkin and Gospel Outreach. In late 1971, Jim, working together with Gale, sealed the deal for a five-year lease.
In May of 1972, work was begun to clear the house of the wisteria plants growing through the windows, weeds, poison oak, junk and bats. The bats didn’t want to leave the attic. Several things were tried, including smoking them out. Steve Schrater finally convinced them to go with a BB gun, and the brothers could move into their new dorm. That helped for a while, but too many generations of bats remembered the attic, and they would occasionally stop by for a day’s rest.
The house was tired. The plumbing was tired; the electrical circuits were tired. Terri Schrater, Laurie Zeff Baca, and Rose Kiewit remember rusty water coming out of the pipes. You knew the clothes had been washed because there was a slightly orange tint to them. Kay Dragon tells of dark, gummy stuff popping out of the kitchen faucet, and says she was sick most of the time. Kerosene lanterns supplied lighting needs until the first group of pioneers could get the electricity hooked up. Terri said that no electricity in the house meant no vacuum cleaner. Without a vacuum to clean the rug, she would greet the brothers coming in covered in wood chips from work at the mill they started. She would sweep them off with a broom before they could come in.
The town of Carlotta (named after John Vance’s daughter) had only one store, a post office, and a lumber mill, so offered no job prospects. Gale helped the brethren set up a small mill that turned 2 x 4 boards into 2 x 2 grape stakes which were then sold to vineyards down near Ukiah. They called the mill “Split Stuff.” The equipment was old and worn out, including a 1949 forklift that did the heavy lifting. Henry Zeff says when a load of wood was wet, the forklift would tip forward and a couple of guys were needed to climb on the back to level it out again. Like a lame dancer, it did fine turning right but had trouble going to the left. The 2 x 4 boards were fed into a large table saw by a brother on one end, and the cut 2 x 2 boards were then caught by the another man—the “tailer”—at the other end. Sometimes it seemed as if the saw blade resented the hard work because, every now and then, it would hold the boards for just a second, then shoot them out like arrows. The tailer had to be ready. The 2 x 2 boards were sharpened on other saws, thrown into a pile, stacked, bundled, and loaded onto the next semi truck headed south.
As with many of the Gospel Outreach businesses or “work projects,” Split Stuff fulfilled two goals. The first, of course, was to make money to support the house. Second, it was an ideal training ground for new Christians. Each day was started with prayer, reading the Word and maybe a short Bible study. We learned what God had done when he saved us, and how we were now in the process of being “converted.” This was an important phase of our lives if we were to actually experience the promises of God and begin to live the life to which he had called us. The hard physical work and the tensions that sometimes arose between brothers supplied opportunities to react in “newness of spirit” rather than in the habits of our former lives. As we were being converted, we experienced more and more of the freedom that God had for us. When we laid aside the old habits and fears, they were replaced with the joy of the Lord and love for the brethren. Rather than something to be dreaded, conversion was embraced as the road to joy. We also began to experience something that, in our former “worldly-wise” opinion we thought impossible for Christians—we had a lot of fun. Tim Nabakowski was land steward at Carlotta. One morning at about 7:00 a.m., he was up in the brothers’ dorm in the attic and looked out the window. He saw a group of brothers walking down the road to the mill. As they walked, they were praising the Lord and dancing. Tim thought, This is just like a musical—except that it’s real. This is real life and they really are joyful!
Maybe because we all lived under one roof (though there were a couple of small houses in the back for married couples), the brothers and sisters at Carlotta had a sense of family not experienced by the other ranches. We worked at Split Stuff together, cooked, cleaned, and washed dishes together, tended the garden, and painted the house together. We prayed, worshipped, and studied the Bible as a family. Sometimes, the elders from the Ranch or Eureka would send out a new convert who needed the more relaxed, accepting atmosphere of Carlotta. There they could heal from a wrecked past and begin their journey into the new life. Rob Anderson remembers, “Carlotta Mansion was a beautiful experience; it was almost a Christian fairy tale except it was real, and full of the Holy Spirit. It was healing, and nurturing . . . it was what I needed.” Linda’s life was falling apart when the Lord saved her in Lemoore, California. Through a “typical” series of miracles, the Lord brought this young woman who would become my future wife up to Eureka to the Lighthouse Ranch. After spending her first night with Augie and Anita Lueras in their home, she drove out to the Ranch. There, the brethren greeted her warmly, but she still felt uncomfortable in what was obviously a discipleship center. They then sent her over to Carlotta. There, after the stresses and trials of the previous couple of years and the drive up to an unknown future, she could finally relax. At Carlotta, Linda experienced safety and love. This would be her home for the next period of her life.
James, Jim Durkin’s son, was made the house elder, following a stint by Jim DeGolyer. James felt Jim’s leadership and teaching would be a hard act to follow but promised the Lord to do his best to continue it. Instead, the Lord showed him that Carlotta was a family—that was all that was required. That would meet the needs of the people whom God brought out to the house in the redwoods.
Everyone received an allowance of three dollars a week—not much, but you could keep yourself supplied with candy bars for a while. These could be bought from the store located at the foot of the driveway leading up to the house. New converts had to be warned against enthusiastically sharing their new faith with the long-suffering store owners. They had heard it a hundred times and were ready to throw the next witnessing Christian out the door.
For all its idyllic setting and family atmosphere, things could get pretty exciting at Carlotta. Once, when Gary and Jeannie Crouthamel were the leaders, the house got taken over by some men with evil intentions. This happened in the summer of 1974 while I was at Carlotta.
The Hijacking of Carlotta Mansion
It all started with a knock at the door. Gary was sitting in the living room, reading a magazine. That’s strange, he thought, why would someone be knocking at the door? At Carlotta, most visitors just came through the unlocked door and it was usually open anyway. They never knocked. Gary himself had drifted in. His life had once consisted of living from one drug-induced high to the next. His encounter with Christianity had put an end to that and now, several years later, he was helping those in need. Gary’s humility, uncomplicated spirituality, and care for others resulted in him being appointed head of the Carlotta Mansion.
Theresa was a sixteen-year-old runaway who avoided school and ran with a much older crowd. Not knowing what to do with her, county authorities turned to the Carlotta Mansion for help. Gary and his wife Jeannie agreed to become guardians of the trouble-prone girl.
It wasn’t easy; Theresa didn’t want help. She was hard to manage and continued to hang out with her older friends. Things came to a head one afternoon when four of them drove up the long driveway to the house. They wanted to pick up Theresa and go somewhere. Gary met them outside. “I’m sorry, but she can’t go with you. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want her running around with you.” He studied their hard faces. They weren’t used to being told, “No,” and clearly didn’t like it. As Gary watched their car disappear down the driveway, he cautioned himself, Be careful. Keep Theresa away from them, but try not to provoke a confrontation.
That night, like every other Tuesday night, we piled into our faithful, battered vehicles and drove into Eureka for the midweek church service. Gary thought this would be a good opportunity to talk to Theresa, so he and Jeannie stayed home with the girl and two others from the house who were assigned to “house watch.” That’s when there came a knock on the door. When Gary opened the door he saw that the afternoon’s visitors had returned with a new guy. Now there were five of them, and it looked like they’d done some serious drinking. “What do you want?” he asked. Crowding the doorway they announced loudly, “We’re taking this house over!” They pushed their way past Gary into the living room demanding, “Where’s Theresa?” Gary hedged, “I’m not sure, everyone went to church tonight.” Two of them immediately raced through the house searching for the girl. The other three stayed downstairs. One of them, Theresa’s boyfriend, stared angrily at Gary. He swore, “I can’t stand you, you _______!” and with that, let fly a punch that knocked Gary to the floor. The new guy, the reinforcement, turned just as Gary struggled to his feet. “What happened?” he demanded. “I punched him!” growled the boyfriend. Victor, the new guy, swatted the boyfriend with the back of his hand. “Don’t do that!” he ordered.
The search party returned, pushing Jeannie, the house-watch pair, and Theresa in front of them. They were all shoved onto the long couch next to the dining room door. Now the hijackers were together with their captives. The men began to curse, throwing out threats of what they might do to their prisoners. Gary and Jeannie, more than the others, knew what could happen. Their pre-Christian past had included drug dealing and turf battles. They had experience with people like these and knew things could quickly get bad. Gary began praying and at the same time searched for a little bit of hope. He had to keep these evil men from doing something really bad. He looked at Victor who seemed to be different from the others. Maybe there was something there. “You’re not like these guys,” Gary said. Scarcely had he uttered those words when Victor fired him a withering look. “Shut your mouth before I shove a pillow down your throat.”
The other four were working on a plan. It didn’t look good. With each passing minute, the tension in the room mounted. The drunken hijackers seemed to be working themselves up to something. I have to confuse their plan, Gary thought. Maybe I can drive a wedge between Victor and them. He looked at Victor again “You don’t seem like these guys,” he repeated. The man’s angry reply was drowned out by the raucous laughter of the other four. The boyfriend looked at the women on the couch and laughed, “Alright! This is going to be fun!” Lord Jesus, Gary prayed urgently, we need your help now!
At that moment, and for the second time that day (or year for that matter), there was a knock at the door. Victor motioned to one of the others. “Open it.” He opened the door. There, in full uniform and seeming to fill the whole doorway, stood the biggest policeman Gary had ever seen. His appearance was met with shocked silence. Wordlessly, the policeman looked at the people on the couch. Then his gaze shifted over to the boyfriend and his buddies. Then he looked at Victor. He spoke. “Victor, what’s going on here?”
The boyfriend, not understanding why a cop would be on first-name terms with the gang’s new friend, repeated the question with a little more passion. “Victor? What’s going on?”
Rather than answer, Victor thrust his hand into his jacket pocket and stepped quickly back into the dining room doorway. “Don’t anybody move!” he shouted, “I’ve got a gun!” Everyone froze in astonishment. Then he motioned to the four would-be hijackers, “You! Get down on the floor; this place is surrounded!”
Victor spent a few minutes with the officers, then after the four hijackers were cuffed and taken away, came over to Gary and the others, visibly shaken, even close to tears. “I’m so sorry this had to happen,” he said. “You folks did so well. Theresa’s boyfriend was involved in a killing. He was in Vietnam and came back all screwed up. In fact, he went to Nam all screwed up. We’ve been watching him, worried he might try something else. I was afraid this was it. But you guys handled it beautifully.”
Gary looked at Victor. “You weren’t one of them. I was right!”
“Yeah,” he said. “You almost blew it for me. I’m a detective with the Fortuna police and I was—well, I wasn’t supposed to—but I was in a tavern in town this afternoon having a beer. Those four guys came in and sat down at the table next to mine. They didn’t know I was a cop, but I recognized them. Every cop around here knows the boyfriend. They started ranting and raving about you people out here. The more they drank, the more they talked about coming back out here and doing some serious damage. I decided to play it cool and acted as if I agreed with them. When it looked as though they would really do something, I said I wanted in on the action.
Three of them jumped in their car and one rode with me. My car is unmarked, but it’s got a police radio and a shotgun in it. The idiot never noticed! We parked at the bottom of the hill and walked up the driveway. Part way up I told them I had to go back to the car and get something. I really did—I had to get help! I radioed for backup then hurried up the hill to the others. I didn’t know what these guys were going to do—they’re really capable of anything.”
As the police really couldn’t pin any more on them than causing a severe fright, they were released with a warning. Theresa never did settle down and ended up running away. Gary and Jeannie kept helping young people straighten out their lives and then eventually moved to New York with the G. O. team that started a church in Brooklyn.
In 1975, Split Stuff was shut down. Wood grape stakes were being replaced by metal and besides, the brothers who worked there could make more money for the house by planting trees. In 1976, the five-year lease for the mansion expired and preparations were made to leave it. With many brothers and sisters leaving on teams heading for distant cities or shores, the house was no longer needed. The coup d’ grace was supplied by a couple who claimed they were Christian, but at the first opportunity, took off with all of Carlotta’s money as well as other valuables.
Like the other ranches, the Carlotta Mansion and all the people who lived there provided a resting place for those who had given up on the world and sought a new life in Christ. The beautiful setting and the atmosphere of God’s love and grace turned many an upside-down life right-side up. Living under one roof and growing together in the things of God was a special experience for everyone who lived at Carlotta.