Growing up in a Hippie Commune: Part One

I was born on a sunny Sunday afternoon in August 1977 in a community house owned by the Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon (also known as the Love Israel Family) in the Queen Ann Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. This community or commune was formed in 1968, and was a prominent alternative community in the Seattle area during the 70's and 80's. These are my experiences of growing up in the Love Israel Family and my understanding of the community's practices and customs.

At its peak the Love Israel Family owned several properties in Seattle, a homestead in Alaska, a house in Hawaii, a cannery in Yakima, Washington and a 300 acre ranch in Arlington, Washington. We primarily lived on the ranch in Arlington. My parents joined the community in 1974 with an infant girl and a toddler boy in tow -my older sister and brother.

Some joined the Love Israel Family because they sought a spiritual life, some joined because they thought it was a "far out" experience, some joined for the free drugs and sex, and some joined because they believed the ideals of the Family's frequently quoted declarations: "love is real", "now is the time", "we are one" and "love is the answer." My father told me of his desire for a spiritual life with simple responsibilities and an emphasis on mediation and yoga -this the Love Family promised. There were many reasons why people joined and at its peak there were some 350 people in the Love Israel Family.

It was the mid 70's, near the end of the Vietnam War and my father longed for relief from the disillusionment he experienced after being drafted and serving in the first National Guard unit to be sent to Vietnam. He longed for something better. He was hopeful that joining the Love Israel Family would be a much sought escape from the modern American culture that he was raised in, but no longer felt that he belonged to. He came back from the war like so many others, embittered. The hippie movement had been in full swing for some time and both my parents identified strongly with the desire to shake off the traditional societal structures of the previous generations. My father believed he had found the solace he sought in the Love Israel Family community.

My mother was not convinced that this community would be the spiritual haven that my father hoped for. She was skeptical. Having grown up in the Seattle area she was wary of the Love Israel Family because of an article she had read in the Seattle Times about a member who died from inhaling toluene, a toxic solvent. She saw the Family as a group of people taking advantage of the hippie movement for self-gratification. For her, joining the Love Israel Family did not feel like a joint decision made by two reasonable adults but more a proclamation of intention made by my father. Joining went against her better judgment. With help from her parents, she tried to convince my father to give up this dream of living in a spiritual utopia and concentrate on the responsibility of his new family. They were unsuccessful and my father, a very stubborn man, had his way. My mother, with an infant and toddler and few other options, followed.

So my parents gave away what little they had to the greater good of the community. They renounced their old lives and were given the new identities of Certain and Goodness Israel and set out to raise their children in what must have seemed like a new world.

My father and I (2 years old)