Country Joe's Place

Blue Fairyland Memories


If you have any reminiscences, photos, or whatever of the school, please email them to me and I will post them here.

Aimee Sessions with her daughter Alana and son Dominic

Aimee Sessions and Seven McDonald

Aimee Sessions, ?, Seven McDonald, Aminta Steinbach

Seven McDonald, Aimee Sessions, Melinda Marsh at Joe's wedding to Janice Taylor

Susan Lydon and daughter Shuna

Shuna Lydon

Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda

Robin McDonald (Menken), Joe McDonald, and Seven

Morgan McDonald

Bonnie Lockhart with (back) Annie, Felix, Seraphina, Jenny; (front) Johnny and Courtney. Photo by Cathy Cade.

Bonnie Lockhart with Gabe and Annie (with hand percussion.) Photo by Cathy Cade.

Joe McDonald · Allen Imbarrato · Mully Mullally (Demuth) · Susan Lydon · Jane Fonda · Skip Demuth · Billy McDonald · Carlos Zensay Hill · Bonnie Lockhart · Bruce Gilbert

Joe McDonald:

My first Blue Fairyland related memory is going to a motel on University Avenue in Berkeley with my then wife Robin Menken to visit with Jane Fonda. Jane had just come from Canada where the customs people had made a big deal about her vitamin tablets thinking that they were drugs. And she had just been somehow involved with the American Indian Movement. Just to put it in a time frame: Must have been 1970. Country Joe and The Fish band was to soon break up or had broken up. Janes’s water bed in the motel had leaked. Robin I think knew Jane from the Pacific Film Archive film community in Berkeley and a small group of feminists in Berkeley. I knew nothing about Jane except that she was a movie star.

Very soon afterward Janes' daughter Vanessa and my daughter Seven Ann begain to attend the Blue Fairyland Nursery school. The school was very close to our house which was behind the Anderson Schall Dance Studio which was behind the Buttercup Bakery which was all behind the Safeway market on College Avenue in Berkeley on the city line. I had time off and began to help in the school with the kids and we had sessions with singing where I would sing with my guitar. But I also helped in the yard watching the children. I remember Christopher Fingland; Aminta; Cere; Christopher Sheer; Aimee. One memory is of singing this revolutionary song that we popular with the left wing at the time that had the words "We love the Pathet Lao" which was a revolutionary South East Asian group at the time, and thinking this did not make any sense. But I also sang Woody Guthrie kid's songs and some of my own kids' songs and we did the hokey pokey and lots of fun stuff like that.

I knew that the Red Family ran the place. Country Joe and The Fish had played for Bob Sheer’s campaign to get elected to something so I had met Bob. But I did not participate in any of the political stuff. In fact I avoided anything like political meetings and discussions of any kind because of my background with my family being investigated by the FBI for being in the Communist Party in the 1950s. I generally thought that the left wing folks were all nuts and underestimated the trouble they could get into. But I liked the music and I liked the kids. It was a refreshing and fun experience being involved with the Blue Fairyland Nursery School. And I hope that the kids have good memories of it. Of course with many of the families it was hard and confusing times and the political times were terrible for all of us.

Allen Imbarrato:

I was excited to learn from Skip and Mully, about your reserving a time and place for a Blue Fairyland Reunion. I recently reconnected with Skip and Mully after many years. Too many years have gone by. I don't know if you remember me, but I was one of the original founders of Blue Fairyland. I lived next door with Suzanne (Steel). We were not members of the Red Family. Just young hippie students at UC Berkeley.

I remember the times when you would come and lead the kids in songs. It was a lot of fun...

I ended up living briefly with Skip, Mully, and Cere, before moving down to Venice, where I hooked with Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda. I worked closely with them on various anti-war activities.

In the Spring of 1970, UC Berkeley campus was shut down, for the last 6 weeks of the quarter, due to widespread demonstrations against the spread of the war into Cambodia.

In June of 70, the discussions began about starting a cooperative nursery school. I don't exactly remember when the school opened, but I am thinking it was at the end of that summer.

I was supposed to return to UCLA to continue my college education, but I became so involved with the Blue Fairyland School, that I never even considered returning, as there were "more important" things to be doing at that time.

One vivid memory I have is having long meetings discussing various philosophical points of view. Robert Scheer, had recently been to North Korea, and tried to bring some concepts of education from that experience. I remember that he and I didn't always agree on the approach to take.

One of the revolutionary ideas, was to empower the children to have more control over their time there. We would have "sleep overs" and give the kids responsibilities. We tried to expose them to other cultures. We tried not to encourage the traditional roles of what boys and girls do, or should do. We had field trips that sometimes were with coordinated with the Black Panthers, and designed to open them to other races and cultures.

I know a lot of thought and care went into the design of the activities, underlying values and assumptions, and trying to reinvent a "new" way of nursery pre-school education. I had been involved in creating an alternative approach to college education at UCLA, where we received a large Ford Foundation grant to explore new approaches to learning. I tried to bring some of this new way of thinking into the Blue Fairyland. However, as you know there was a strong influence of the "Red Family" that was oriented toward more "socialist and communist" ideology.

Mully Mullally (Demuth):

My memory was that it was Tom Hayden and Ann Wiells idea as they were living with Christopher, and he needed friends ... but it was also coupled with the notion of "LIBERATED ZONES" which was something the North Vietnamese (the NLF) created as they took on their struggle to liberate themselves, first from the French, and second from the US.

Some members of the Red Family had enough money to "buy" houses in 1968 .. Ann and Robert Scheer had each bought a house at either end of Bat(e)man street so that they could co-parent Christopher ... and he would just go from one end of the street to the other. Then there were the twins (apolitical folks) who lived on Bateman and were Christopher's age. Then there was the "group" house that was on Hillegas that shared a yard with what became the Blue Fairyland facility ... so quite of few folks lived in that house (communally) ....

Do you remember Vicki and Ben Pope? they lived about two blocks away ... and Mark and Jennifer Bramhall lived within walking distance as well.

Somehow I met this group of mothers with young children ... we lived on Grove Street at the time ... near the People's Park annex, and Skip and I had just gotten back together ... that is when I met this group of mothers with children ... (I think this is the right timing) ... and we all needed childcare, so we could do our "important" work. Ann was in that group and so was Susan Lydon ... so we started first by forming a play group and then by taking our children to a Montessori program in the Berkeley hills. I was "immediately" upset with the pedagogical approach to early childhood (as if I knew anything) ... but that coupled with this house on Bateman, may have been a partial reason I was included in the planning of the childcare program for the children of the left wing.

I remember being in Tom and Ann's bedroom with Christopher and we all asked him what he wanted to call the place ... and he said Fairyland, and then he thought maybe the Blue Fairyland would be good.

So there were meetings, and meetings and meetings, and we lived in Oakland by now ... so I was going back and forth, to meetings .. .Cere was acting out meetings at home ... and Allen was also independent and totally involved, and we were the two first teachers, and somehow your brother found out we existed and he was in nursing school, so he brought Morgan before you came with Seven.

I didn't do any legal work, like licensing, etc. so don't know who did that. Maybe Allen, maybe Tom ... but maybe you didn't need a license, who knows? ... but we cleaned, painted, gathered materials, etc. Again, maybe Allen is better with dates ... but I think we were open sometime in 1970 ... and then you came with Seven in '71 ... and we left for Whidbey in Feb. of '72.

Remember we took all the children to the Y to go swimming and we would all file into the men's dressing room and change ourselves and the children into suits and off we'd go. We went to San Quentin to protest the death of George Jackson, and we danced to you playing the Hokey Pokey .... I remember certain children well ... have regrets that I didn't know more about child raising at the time ... and remember when Jane brought Vanessa and how I argued with Roger Vadim about their parenting plan, found them a nanny to go home to France with him and Vanessa and try to have a better approach to meeting her needs ....

Susan Lydon:

From an article on CNN Money: Most Powerful Women
The Many Lives of Susan Lydon

Even as a 19-year-old, Lydon had a talent for connecting with the highest-wattage people in town. In Berkeley her closest comrades were, in fact, comrades; she lived in a house run by The Red Family, Tom Hayden's commune. She did silk-screen art and candlemaking projects at the Blue Fairyland preschool for kids, including Jane Fonda's daughter. Even then, she was not your run-of-the-mill radical. "She was never a hippie-dippie type," says Robert Scheer, the journalist and activist (and Lydon's boyfriend at the time). "She was eager to explore the world; she was not a bitter rebel person. But she was nobody's fool, ever."

Jane Fonda:

From an article on a talk Jane gave on her new book in Berkeley, Sept 2011:

PS: At the beginning of her talk, Fonda's opening question to the audience was, "Who remembers Blue Fairyland?" I do! "When Tom Hayden and I lived here in Berkeley," she continued, "we were part of the Blue Fairyland pre-school cooperative. In fact, there are ten pages of notes in my FBI file just about Blue Fairyland alone."

"My friend Susie Lydon used to send her daughter to Blue Fairyland back when her husband was the drummer for Janis Joplin and we all hung out with the Floating Lotus Magic Opera on Woolsey Street. Good times."

From a Berkeley e-Plaque:


Jane Fonda’s Residence: 3016 Bateman Street
Blue Fairyland School: 3031 Bateman Street

Jane Fonda and her daughter Vanessa, child of director Roger Vadim, moved to Berkeley in 1971 while Fonda was working in Petaluma on the anti-establishment comedy crime film Steelyard Blues. The film was consistent with her vociferous activism against the Vietnam War and her private sympathies for the socially marginalized. They lived on Bateman Street, a tranquil short block that had once been the carriage entrance to the Webster estate.

Three-year-old Vanessa attended Blue Fairyland, a progressive free nursery school run by parents and the Red Family commune, a New Left group whose members included journalist Bob Scheer, editor of Ramparts Magazine, his wife, political activist Anne Weills, and Tom Hayden a founder of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and future state senator. Fonda and Hayden met there, later marrying in Los Angeles in a ceremony officiated by Richard York, pastor of the Berkeley Free Church, an institution committed to social justice issues and providing free food, counseling and health services to the needy.

Fonda was a familiar neighborhood figure. She did her food shopping at the Berkeley Co-op on Telegraph and Ashby. When strangers told her she looked a lot like the actress, she replied “Oh, everyone says that.” Even back then she was health conscious, asking parent participants at Blue Fairyland to prepare fresh beet juice for her daughter.

Both Fonda and Hayden have returned to Berkeley from time to time. For her 73rd birthday, in 2011, Fonda dined with friends at Chez Panisse. Hayden once visited the house where Blue Fairyland had been, unexpectedly finding the original sign on the property. He asked the owner if he could keep it exclaiming, “I painted it!”

Contributed by Diana Kehlmann, 2012
Note: This text was drafted in consultation with Burl Willes and is based on his book, “Tales from the Elmwood: A Community Memory,” Berkeley Historical Society (2000).

Skip Demuth:

It'd been only months since our little family of me, Mully and Cere were reunited following a breathless descent into some pretty dark Weathermanesque politics in '69 and early '70. But in that summer of '70 we crossed paths in the Berkeley hills at a Montessori school with Tom Hayden and Ann Weills, and her son with Bob Scheer -- Christopher. Cere was three, Christopher a year younger, and they needed playmates. Mully and I were twenty-five.

I didn't know much, but soon found out that Weills, Hayden, Scheer and others constituted the "Red Family" collective on Bateman Street, a few blocks southeast of Ashby and Telegraph, close by Alta Bates Hospital. They owned or rented several houses, including the big collective HQ residence, the Blue Fairyland house, plus Bob Scheer’s house, and maybe another one. Bateman was more like an alley, with very little through traffic. You could stand in the middle of it and talk for an hour.

The Blue Fairyland house soon came to life as a little revolutionary day care after lots of energy and work from the collective and its friends, neighbors and parents. Cere and Mully commuted from our new rental on Haddon Road in Oakland, about five miles away. We met lots of people on Bateman, really nice people and their kids, Berkeley radicals, doctors and lawyers, trust fund people, and younger students like Allen Imbarrato. Cere loved the kids at Blue Fairyland, and the three of us liked being a family again. We liked not being in a collective.

Always the observer and chronicler of small ironies, I thrived on my proximity to the personalities and energy surrounding this little "school." For example, I routinely encountered the peripatetic Bob Scheer, who'd just returned that summer from a tour, with Eldridge Cleaver and other Black Panthers, of Vietnam, China and North Korea. With considerably less publicity, I'd recently wrapped up several "tours" of San Francisco, where we’d spray-painted "Free Huey" on walls, set off fire alarms, and ran from the police. I didn't have much to talk about with Scheer, but figured somehow we were part of the same revolution.

I think it was early winter in 1971 when Jane Fonda first appeared on Bateman Street with her daughter Vanessa Vadim, who needed daycare when she wasn't in France with her father, Roger, the director. I’m 90% sure Jane was in the East Bay to film Steelyard Blues with Donald Sutherland, because the timing is right (the movie came out January 1973). Mully attended a little soiree with Jane at that time, and Sutherland was there. Vanessa was about three and just another lefty ragamuffin. Her mother brought figs, sparkling apple juice, and avocados for snacks when it was her turn at Fairyland. I remember one day on Bateman when Mully was half underneath the rear of our VW bus with a greasy copy of Volkswagen Repair for the Compleat Idiot (1969). I was standing there looking at Mully's torso and legs extending out as Jane walked across the street from the school to Scheer's house. She paused, joined me in observing Mully under the bus, and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?" It was a moment. I also met Roger Vadim that May at the Red Family house, a few days after he was the best man for Mick and Bianca's wedding in Saint Tropez.

It was so rarefied, for me anyway, that I was actually relieved to find myself sitting one night on a couch next to Country Joe McDonald. It was a "men's meeting," a event with definite cachet in light of collapse of the student left and the rise of women’s consciousness. I cannot tell you what we men talked about, but Joe was post-Fish, post-Woodstock, pretty much chillin'. I remember I thought he was too cool for words as just a regular dad like me but with lots of tattoos on his arms (something I'd never seen on a dad before.) Joe's been a pretty good friend for more than forty years now and I love that he's organizing this Blue Fairyland reunion, even though I was mostly a tagalong for a lot of the time.

Our golden run on Bateman lasted about a year-and-a-half. We finally abandoned the East Bay for Seattle in early 1972. This was shortly after Tom Hayden bailed on Ann Weills and the Red Family and moved to Santa Monica with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Vadim. One of my final memories of that time was eavesdropping on the Red Family women in their kitchen at the big house as they vented their disdain for Tom's behavior … again, the ironic observer.

Billy McDonald:

I remember the Blue Fairyland fondly. It was around 1970, and my son Morgan was 3+ years old, and he attended for a summer. He was having behavior problems, and my new wife did not get along with my son. Two of the teachers offered to take my wife out for coffee and talk with her about my son, and to possibly give her suggestions about how to be more supportive to Morgan. They did have this meeting, and I was so impressed and grateful. I wish I could remember their names.

Carlos Zensay Hill:

My name is Carlos Zensay Hill. Caroline & I operate a children's academy of Capoeira and Kung Fu in Berkeley, on Fourth Street, Playing Life Academy. I wanted you to know that there's a Blue Fairyland story that continued on through 1988. Beth Montano, Board President 1984-1986, lives on 5th Street in west Berkeley. Her daughter Jossie, attended Blue Fairyland from age 2-5. There are many families still residing in Berkeley today who can recant the Blue Fairyland mystique. Here's a little bit of the puzzle I recall that I hope may be useful to you in your reunion planning.

Many folks were greatly influenced by what the original Blue Fairyland (BF) at the Bateman Street residence strove to accomplish. Amunka Davila and his family are among them. Amunka helped move Blue Fairyland to it's new home at the John Muir school on Claremont and Ashby. Amunka brought a taste of Latin American music to Blue Fairyland and also spear headed the bilingual efforts. We were all drawn to Blue Fairyland because the well being of the child was placed at the center of conscious thought. It was Amunka who recruited me to take over the bilingual component when he decided to become a physician's assistant and he and Isa, his beloved companion, launched their home birth preparation for new parents classes in Berkeley. Amunka then lived with his family in their home on 8th Street near Dwight Way. Both of our children were born at home, coached by Amunka ans Isa, with Gabriela H. And Sarah Peters as doctor and mid wife.

I became involved in Blue Fairyland in 1984. Returning from a Capoeira adventure in Brazil (the Brazilian dance/fight) Amunka, by then a very close friend, invited me to join Blue Fairyland staff to eventually replace him as bilingual coordinator. Following the tragic accidental death of their eldest daughter, Caralua, Amunka and Isa moved to Ukiah and founded Capoeira Yokayo. Caralua had been a Blue Fairylander. Amunka passed away last year following a bout with stomach cancer. There were memorials in both Ukiah and Berkeley for this beloved Berkeley Guatemalteco,

Many details now escape me, those pertaining to the exodus from the Bateman home. Blue Fairyland found itself at the John Muir School site for a brief spell following the end of the Bateman Street residency in 1973. BUSD conceded reluctantly, to allow us to move to a vacated Whittier School Bungalow site in 1984, now Berkeley Arts Magnet. In the late 1970,s through 1985, Blue Fairyland was run by the Scatina family. By 1985, the new Board of Directors appointed Lorraine Scatina the head teacher and asked me to direct the financial affairs and enrollment processes of the pre school. SDE refused bluntly to allow Blue Fairyland to continue operating unless Lorraine conceded administrative leadership. The Board agreed.

The State Department of Education (SDE) wanted to close BF because the promise of generating matching funds to keep the school running was not happening. So my job became to create the financial base to regain SDE liaison support. We did this in two years, doubled enrollment and attendance to about 40 children. We invested in an awesome staff and created a wonderful learning environment. Lorraine was an amazing teacher. Unfortunately her talents were compromised by complex family issues. We actually provided daily snacks and lunches prepared by our very own kitchen crew! We got the SDE approval to do our own meals for the children by coordinating our efforts with the certified kitchen at BAHIA. We got ridof the toxic foods program and ushered in an era of pre school health via great nutrition! Yes, we shopped daily at Monterrey Market and Berkeley Bowl! Each day food was freshly prepared and juices were fresh squeezed as often as possible.

By the start of 1986 BF was a swinging alternate school. At Arts Magnet a handful of supportive parents and staff painted the Bungalow and beautified the site. We created and outdoor big wheel track for the kids. Our efforts brought enrollment back to a robust place and we were swamped with new applicants.

So although we had now regained the trust and support of the State liaison at SDE, BUSD, however, reconfigured its school house priorities at different local sites and - although aware of our successes as an alternative preschool-kinder resource - refused to include Blue Fairyland as an extension of preschool planning options.

The Blue Fairyland community -kids and families - publicly addressed the City Council and School Board in 1986 and again in 1987 with request for site support and continuation. Time ran out on us. The school district could not find a way to support our unconventional nature. They were in fact moving to reorganize under more rigid and tight conservative guidelines. New Site plan opportunities closed one after another for Blue Fairyland. BUSD sent us an eviction notice for the end of the school year 1987. I stepped down as administrator in the Spring of 1987 with the idea of opening a martial art school someplace in the Bay Area.

The straw that broke the camel's back came in the form of a certified letter from the IRS demanding employee back taxes dating back to the late 1970's, early 1980's. The Board informed me that my name as Director was attached to most of the penalty, even though the debt was incurred before my arrival. Late penalties far out weighted the original dues. With the help of an attorney I ended up paying for a portion of the total IRS demand from my pocket.

The event scared most of the new families on the Board and caused a lot of anxiety.

There was some panic, naturally and especially among new board members. The school dissolved in that year, Spring 1988. The dream of Blue Fairyland lives on in my own family. We have a robust an caring environment with the child's well being as the center piece both at Playing Life Academy and Footfire Soccer.

Hope this is useful information as you plan the reunion.

Bonnie Lockhart:

A vivid Blue Fairyland memory: 1978, the day after the budget-slashing Proposition 13 had passed. A small group of long-faced child care workers took to the yard in the afternoon calm of naptime. But our grownup sharing of worry and disgust was soon interrupted by one of those inveterate non-nappers. Peeking from behind the back door to discover the adults looking alarmingly somber, Atif came out to offer his sympathy. Knowing nothing about the recent election, he grasped the emotional truth of the situation and his customarily mischievous face turned earnest. “You’re all so sad,” he observed. “We’d better sing “The Little Pig.” And sing it we did. In that ancient tale, begun in some former century with the death of a beloved swine, we found the tragic/comic attitude we needed to face the recurring condition of loss. I came to Blue Fairyland in the mid-seventies. It was there that I first flirted with and soon fully embraced what was to become a lifelong vocation of making music with children. The opportunity to develop my first music residency at Blue Fairyland was an experience for which I’m forever grateful.

My friend Myrna Cozens—sister and comrade from the Berkeley/Oakland Women’s Union— urged me to sing at the school where her son, three-year-old Aaron, went. I was resistant. Children kind of scared me. My mother’s insistence that I get a teaching credential as a “backup” seemed like a major vote of no confidence in my musical aspirations, and I figured schools might annihilate my passions. But I gave in to Myrna’s gentle coaxing—c’mon, you know all those old Woody Guthrie songs; kids love to sing; bring your guitar! Singing at Blue Fairyland quickly stripped away my ignorant assumptions about child care. I saw that this was not just a necessary institution for the liberation of women, but a vital, creative, playful and provocative world where smart, imaginative people (mostly women) were doing immensely interesting and important work. I loved singing with the kids, and I found that the things I valued in music—listening, experimenting, improvisation, and most of all, deep connecting with people—were valued in that world as well. Parents and teachers encouraged me with a part time position at the school, and I was hooked.

The mid-seventies at Blue Fairyland brought a lot of growing pains as the school moved from a parent coop to a structure with hired staff and teachers. The storied Red Family and Anti-War Movement roots of Blue Fairyland had not, alas, produced an understanding of how complex and demanding the job of caring for young children and running a school really was. A heap of staff turnover burdened the project. Cellist Toni Gross was head teacher for a little while, and the two of us enjoyed making Blue Fairyland a musical place. But the school community was unstable and struggling.

In a stroke of good fortune, and probably some good planning of which I was unaware, Rory Darrah became Blue Fairyland’s director sometime around 1977. Like her predecessors, Rory was lively and smart. She also brought a wealth of experience running this kind of operation—she’d been involved with the child care center at Merritt Community College. She knew that staff and teachers needed respect as workers, and that stable staffing was key to meeting children’s needs. She was also a serious and engaged student of Child Development and introduced me and other staff members to the fascinating thinkers grappling with the subject.

Rory sought out and hired a diverse, gifted staff including head teacher, Lorraine Scatina; Amunka Davila; and cook, Ann (whose last name escapes me.) Rory’s leadership transformed what seemed to me a well-intentioned but threatened experiment into a sustainable school that served children, families and staff, nurturing the growth of all. Rory arranged a Five Year Plan Retreat for the staff—a weekend in Pajaro Dunes where we gave our project the serious consideration it deserved and affirmed our dedication to the school and each other.

A little older than me, Rory was like many a bright, hardworking woman who found a home in Early Childhood. Largely ignored—if not down-right scorned—by the almost-exclusively-male academic world, Child Development was an area where intelligent women met, wrote, advocated and worked with passion. How lucky for me that Rory opened that door!

I was young, unschooled, and certainly foolish in some of my undertakings at Blue Fairyland. Nonetheless, with the help of some older and wiser leadership, the school was often a wonderful place for children. It’s too fashionable these days to take the cheap shot at our twenty-something idealism during the sixties and seventies. But I remain proud of the values I developed as an anti-war-socialist-feminist-hippie. I’m glad I could play my small part in creating a school reflecting the culture we longed to live in. I’m grateful for those relationships with staff and families who wanted a peaceful world and who worked to understand and remedy the injustices that stubbornly divided our reality from our vision.

Ok, I admit that my “Birthday Party for the ANC” (for the anniversary of the African National Congress) was not “age appropriate,” and deserved the long-suffering complaint from Seraphina (age three): “The trouble with you, Bonnie, is you’re just celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.” But I’m happy to remember our makeshift memorial for Malvina Reynolds. Learning of her death, I photocopied lots of pictures of her, which we glued to popsicle sticks and planted in the sandbox while singing “Don’t Bother Me,” “I Live in a City,” “I Went A-gathering,” and other favorites from her Tweedles and Foodles for Young Noodles songbook—beloved by me and the kids. I remember the joy of a four-year-old with serious hearing impairment as he held my drum and moved to the rhythm. I remember exuberant art projects with parent/muralist Osha Neumann. I remember three year olds dancing in a ring while Amunka drummed and sang “Al Tambor.” I remember a field trip to the picket line protesting city budget cuts, and four-year-old Forest joining in with his revised chant: “They say cut back, we say bite back!” I remember flour dusted little hands kneading bread with Ann. I know these, and so many forgotten experiences, nurtured what’s most important for children. I remember those times fondly, thankful for the foundation they laid for my life’s work.

Bruce Gilbert:

I was one of the younger members of the Red Family Commune and the only one, to my knowledge, with a background in developmental psychology, which had been my major at Berkeley.

Looking back we had an unfortunate proclivity for names with color. Yes, Blue Fairyland (thank you, Christopher Scheer) was sort of non-threatening, but to me the process was a lesson in why you don't let a three year old name a school. Cute, sure, but also embarrassing when you had to say where you worked when you were a 22 year old male.

Calling ourselves the Red Family, sounded more than vaguely communist - not to mention exclusive - and it didn't much help with outreach in the community. I think we were by turns both horrified and proud that so many people considered Red Family members elite and separate.

We did try to be disciplined and approached the political and cultural issues of the day with upmost seriousness. Sometimes maybe with too much seriousness.However, the decision to start a pre-school for 3-5 year olds was definitely ahead of its time in most leftist political circles. Even though it would be 10 more years before I had kids of my own I was happy to be assigned (within the Red Family) with helping start (ahem) Blue Fairyland.

It certainly was never designed to be a cadre school but it was dedicated to exposing pre-school age children to a multicultural experience and developing some certain skills that would set them up for later learning. I tried to make sure we had enough of the equipment and tools that Piaget, Montessori, and others had developed for very young developing minds. It would be decades before research would prove that between the ages of 2 and 5 human minds undergo their greatest development. They can never fully develop if they are not properly stimulated and socialized during these formative years.

The fact that parents' participation was mandatory at Blue Fairyland was a great decision and also ahead of its time in terms of the mainstream. I was one of the few non-parents working in the school and my relationships were focused more with the kids then with the parents but I don't remember any duds on the parental score.

Scheer made sure food was a constant topic of discussion. Well prepared, locally sourced, and delicious meals were yet to be known as California Cuisine. At the time I thought this was so bourgeois, as if eating brown rice and vegetables was the only authentic way to eat. I so wanted to be authentic and in the vanguard, but maybe I had just a wee bit too narrow a POV. Not the last lesson on that score.

Economically, I'm not sure if we actually implimented this but we certainly talked endlessly about having a sliding scale for costs based on parents income. Another progressive idea ahead of its time.

I also remember spending a fair amount of time taking the kids in the puke green Dodge van on various field trips around the community. Kids got exposed to a lot but not too much for their level of development and we had a lot of fun.

One thing to clear up here. Jane never was part of the Red Family. She visited the Red Family. Tom was living with Ann Weils and Christopher. I think Scheer was living with Susan Lyne around this time or soon thereafter.

When Jane was on location in northern California making Steelyard Blues she left Vanessa with the Red Family during the week and she would come back on the weekends, sometimes staying in Berkeley, sometimes going back to L.A. I was the one assigned to take care of Vanessa and we have a bond to this day.

Tom was long kicked out of the Red Family and moved to L.A. before he really hooked up with Jane. After Tom went, I too left the Red Family. I was nominally "reassigned" to San Diego to organize against the coming Republican Convention (later moved to Miami because we were too successful in organizing according to the RNC).

Ironically, but maybe not so ironically, I moved back to L.A. after the Republican Convention moved from San Diego. I hooked up with the Indochina Peace Campaign, led by Jane and Tom. In organizing events Jane and I (and sometimes Tom) started a game (theoretically) that asked the question, "If you could make any movie you wanted, what would it be?"

That "game" resulted in my researching, co-writing, and Associate Producing Coming Home and then totally changing careers by forming a production company (IPC Films) and developing and producing China Syndrome, 9 to 5, On Golden Pond and many other projects with and without Jane. It wouldn't have happened had it not been for the Blue Fairyland so I guess I should stop complaining about the name.

I often wondered what happened to the Blue Fairyland. I'm was so glad to hear it went on in some form and that there were so many good experiences.

Kids, parents, and staff really tried to make it a great experience and I know while I was there for its first year, it largely succeeded.


H  O  M  E