BROOKE VALLEY, Ont.
Ormond Lee has a question. And he’s serious: “Have you ever done a psychedelic?” The 40-year-old tree planter seems disappointed that his visitor has not experimented with hallucinogenic “psychedelic” drugs such as LSD or magic mushrooms. “If you haven’t, you might not know what we’re talking about.”
Lee and his friends are discussing how they’ve managed to hang on to hippie values and lifestyles long after most fellow baby boomers traded their love beads for power suits. Brooke Valley is one of numerous pockets across North America where the 1960s never really went away. This rural area west of Perth became known by locals as “hippie valley” after it was settled by American draft dodgers in the 1960s. Young people from all over Canada came here to drop out of mainstream society and turn on to drugs, communal living and cosmic love. Today, several dozen people subsist in a variety of odd houses, including one with a sod roof. They make their own music, run an alternative school and shake their fists at police helicopters patrolling for marijuana over their organic vegetable gardens.
Yet within the privacy of the community there is whispered debate about whether they have truly escaped consumer culture and expanded their spiritual’ consciousness or whether they are being tainted by the materialism of the 1990s. “This is a very yuppie community .now,” says Dawn King, 45, one of the original Brooke Valley hippies. “Ours is one of the few families without a TV or VCR.”
Morning Glory Farm is a former hippie commune that has learned to adapt to the 1990s with success. Located about 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa near Killaloe, it started 23 years ago with about 15 people in two houses sharing work and meals. Today six adults and nine children live in six houses. Each family owns a share of the 100-acre site. “Everyone is happy with the way it is now,” says resident Christina Anderman. 33. “We consider it a neighborhood except closer. We have our separate lives, but we take care of the land together.” Anderman’s husband Robbie, 44, was one of the founders. He dropped out of University of Toronto’s Rochdale College (which later earned notoriety as a drug centre) to help buy the $4,300 parcel of land. “The original idea was to learn to live on the land as a community, with everyone helping each other,” he recalls. “Basically it was an open door for years.” It eventually evolved into separateon: dwellings because of disagreements about lifestyle (some wanted to build new buildings, while others got stoned and disappeared for days), gardening techniques and food. “People couldn’t agree whether we should eat meat or not, whether we should just eat grains or macrobiotic or raw food,” says Robbie. Similar disagreements and tendencies towards individualism led to the breakup of a commune at McDonald’s Corners, near Brooke Valley, where Or-mond Lee lived for 11 years. He had taken a vow of poverty and shared his material wealth with anywhere from 18 to 60 fellow residents. The commune disbanded in 1985 and many of its residents drifted into Brooke Valley.
“Up to that point we put all our money into one pot and shared it out as we needed it,” said Lee. “Then people started wanting to have their own money. That’s when I stopped enjoying it.” While Iee won’t disclose whether he still uses dings, he says they’re one reason he has maintained his hippie values. “Good clean acid opens up your heart. It shows you compassion. It shows that you’re one with the universe, that you have to take care of everything around you.” Dawn King challenges this rosy picture. “They’re using it to deaden consciousness, not expand it.” Today the word “commune” is a faintly embarrassing anachronism that conjures up an image of group sex. The current hip term is “intentional community.” “The word ‘commune’ makes people think we want a whole bunch of people to keep coming and living here and that’s not really true,” says Christina An-derman. “It also tends to attract guys who are drunk and want to see if we’re working in the garden with no clothes on.” Kenneth Westhues, a sociology professor at University of Waterloo who studied the hippie movement, estimates that tens of thousands of North Americans are still living communally. “But most (hippies) got married, got kids, got a mortgage and now vote left,” says Westhues. The goals of the movement were transformation of western society through social justice, peace, spirituality and a back-to-the-land lifestyle. “We don’t want to spend as much money or spend that much time making it,” explains Olga Zuyderhoff, 39, of Brooke Valley. She and her common-law husband Cam Gray, 41, support themselves and their three children on about $15,000 a year.
“Having these alternate values is really swimming upstream,” says Gray. “Lots of people pay lip service, but even around here people are getting bigger and better cars and swimming pools.” Gray is a self-employed carpenter by day and rock musician by night. Zuyderhoff is homeschooling their children, Orion, 9, Flinder, 7, and Marlen, 3. They have an outhouse, chickens and a 1975 Buick Regal. “We try and define what our values are and maintain them by staying close as a family,” says Gray. The entire family sleeps in two double beds pushed together. Zuyderhoff had her children at home and nursed them until they were two years old. “It’s an experiment,” she says of their child-rearing. “I don’t know what the end result will be. I think my children are learning to become nice human beings.” But Dawn King, who worked as a midwife while raising four children without electricity or running water, is tired of experimenting. “That lifestyle is so physically exhausting and time-consuming that it was self-abusive,” says King, who is on social assistance. “We were trying to go back to the way pioneers did it. I’m much more realistic now.” Although she still raises most of her own food, she has electricity and a washing machine. “I’m not going to wash clothes by hand anymore.” At the Morning Glory commune, Robbie Anderman also recalls the difficulties of the early days. He shakes his head at the memory of middle-class city kids learning how to garden, chop wood and survive winter in the bush. “We made a lot of mistakes.”
Robbie avoided the Vietnam War draft because his parents got a psychiatrist to write a letter saying drug use made him unfit for service. Today Robbie is the volunteer principal of the farm’s alternative elementary school. He makes dulcimers, a wood folk instrument, while Christina works part-time at a health-food store in Killaloe. They have a well and a solar panel, which provides energy for their fridge and stereo. The Andernians support their children Daniel, 13, Daryl, 11, Ethan, 8, and Benjamin, 4 on $12,000 a year. His parents bought them a car. And they are hoping to earn some savings through sales of a child backpack carrier they invented. “Basically it’s fun here,” says Daryl, adding: “I don’t miss having a TV. Some of the stuff they put on it is pretty absurd.” The Andernians stopped smoking marijuana with the birth of their first child. “If a child needs me, I can’t be too spaced out,” says Robbie. The “free love” of the ’60s was part media invention and part sad myth, says Robbie. He and Christina got married barefoot in an apple orchard near his parents’ home in New York. He is Jewish, she is Quaker and the ceremony was American Indian. “Part of free love is avoiding responsibility,” he says. “That’s why in this area there are a lot of women with children and no men around.” While most former hippies have become mature adults, others retain a certain narcissistic, self-indulgent quality, says Westhues. Indeed, Cam Gray shows impatience when attention is directed to someone else during a discussion at Brooke Valley. “You’re losing me,” he snaps. “I’m getting uninterested. This is just trivialities.” Westhues says the hippie movement’s legacy is greater sexual freedom, feminism and environmentalism. But he says it fell short of genuine political change because people don’t get involved. Gray sees it differently: “Our lifestyle is a political statement.”
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada29 Sep 1992, Tue • Page 21
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