These photographs cover the decade of 1948-1958 in California.
|This is an aerial photo of the Fountain, a religious order dedicated to humanitarian service, located in Box Canyon between San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles County) and Simi Valley (Ventura County), Lat/Lon 34.249989,-118.650858. The canyon is filled with oak trees, and this is the best property in the hills between the two valleys. The down-side is that fires ripped through the hills every 5 years. These days the lunatic fringe camp out all over the hills, and the property belongs to the State, but they don't even know that they own it!|
|Headquarters, W.K.F.L. Fountain of the World, Outercourt of the Aaronic Priesthood and Order of Melchizedek, Visitors Welcome. The 23 acres was very peaceful, warm, dry and quiet. We used rocks taken from the washes around the Los Angeles basin to construct the buildings, ditches and walkways, as you can see in the next photo. Photographers were allowed on the property, if and only if, they gave us copies, and non-exclusive rights, of all photos taken of us or the buildings. And they were not allowed to sell the photos, but they could use them to publish articles about us, since any news is good news for a charity organization.|
|Visitors were required to check in with Sister Muriel, mother of Sister Barbara, seen here leading 2 guests down the steps to the main building. Sister Muriel kept tight reign on every guest, but after she gave them an introduction, she would take them on a tour. However, visitors of members were free to roam the grounds and talk to members, and members could take trips into the 'outside world' at any time. And repeat guests usually had the run of the grounds.|
|Some artwork by Elzibah in the sidewalk near the nursery dated 1954. Elzibah (aka Peter) was one of the two suicide bombers that killed 10 people in Dec 1958.|
|The wedding of Brother Alvin and Sister Barbara (see News Articles - 1955/03/30 - Holy Days). Sister Barbara made a significant contribution to this documentary, and she is in her mid-70s! Members were only allowed to marry on the 29th of March, the birthday of Krishna Venta. And each marriage was 'spiritual', so you could also be married to someone in the 'outside world', as long as you didn't visit them for any 'sins of the flesh'. In the next set of photos you see another couple, Elzibah and Neria, who were rededicating their marriage. Elzibah then blew up Krishna Venta. I guess he didn't like the price of the wedding! In the next picture is a boy wearing the LTU robe (Love Truth Understanding) of the school age children.|
|A typical brush fire in the Santa Susanna Mountains, this one located on the Simi Valley side of Box Canyon road, sometime in the 1950s. We accidently started a canyon fire because we were storing cases of empty bottles in a cave behind the nursery. The hot sun treated the bottle like a magnifying glass, and the nearby grass caught on fire. Our fire department was located across the street from the Fountain, so we became volunteer fire fighters.|
|More brush fires from the 1950s. These fires are extremely common, and led to our becoming volunteers. People living in the canyons were required to cut a fire-break around the buildings, and if they couldn't then the fire department would do it for a fee. In 1958 the fire department told us to stop fighting fires because we were barefoot and wore robes, which isn't much protection from flying embers.|
|Check out the old cars near another brush fire. People used to drive up the canyon road just to see a brush fire. On time, when our canyon was on fire, I walked up and down the canyon road, visiting with the fire fighters who were setting back-fires as the flames would approach a house. All the fire-fighters knew barefoot Brother Jon, and they trusted me to stay out of trouble, so I didn't have to evacuate.|
Fountain Choir - June 28, 1955 @ Olive View Sanitarium
Audrey (my mom), Babs, Patrice, Ruth, Jane, Elesha, Bitzi, Lila, Leta
Rear L-RGene, Earl, Asaiah
1957 - Foreground (L-R) Helena, James, Marjorie Moady, Gene Shoenfelt, x, Muriel, x, Claude, Walli, Big Ben
Background: Patriark Wilbur Yates, Elesha, Barbara, Jane
The lady with the patch was missing an eye, so she had to wear something to cover the hole. This is a pretty typical example of our membership group.
1955 Sunday dinner, Top L-R: Helena, David, Erma, Claude, Wilber Yates
Bottom: Robert, Ruth Lewis, Anitoli B., guests
The lower dining area was used for meals, and could hold 40-50 people at a time. Then on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, the tables would be moved outdoors and the hall would be set up like a church. The photo is taken from the stage, which is in the next photo.
1955 Saturday Night Play, L-R: Babs, Chuck, Ruby, ?, Claude, Muriel
This is a very typical photo of a Saturday night play. At the Saturday moring meal the actors would be selected, and they would then practice their parts during the day. Most of the plays were about some moral lesson, but they were also very fun and creative. Two of the plays became very popular, and we traveled to New York for a 2 week performance off-Broadway.
|Sister Audrey, Brother Jon's mother, joined the Fountain in 1953. Photo taken April 1958. Mom was not really into religion, and she was fairly intelligent. Her handwriting was beautiful, she could do just about any crossword, she could make wedding dresses, Levi pants and was a terrible cook. Although she dropped out of 10th grade, she did manage to have 6 kids, gave the first up for adoption, and kept the rest of us to be raised in a fruit-cake cult. Ah, but it was fun at times.|
|June 1957. Sister Audrey-L, Prince Aaron (son of Neria)-M, Sister Neria-R. Enjoying a last warm day in Vista California (at the funeral of my grandmother) just prior to the move to Alaska (burrrrr). Oddly enough, my mother dropped out of school because she refused to wear gym shorts. She was afraid that the boys would make fun of her knees. And this is a woman who married 5 times!|
|Sister Marilyn, first wife of David Smith (2 children). Photo taken 1957. David and his second wife, along with their 6 children were killed by Reverend Jimmy Jones. As you can see, Marilyn was not the brightest of people, not to mention the fact that she was a bit nuts.|
|Fountain guest – L, and Mother Ruth - R. Mother Ruth, wife of Krishna Venta, returned to Alaska after the bombing. Mother Ruth was the warmest and kindest person on the planet, and she was very intelligent. I have no idea how she got hooked up with KV, but having 6 kids proves that she did indeed love, or even worship, the guy.|
|Bishop Asaiah, Brother Jon's step-father – R, preparing to wash feet of Bishop Nekona – L. Both Bishop Asaiah and Brother Jon taught Charles Manson all sorts of religious ideas, including foot washing. Bishop Nekona on the other hand did not like the Manson group of psycho-retards, and she told the police that they had only stayed 3 days at the Fountain. Oddly enough, Sister Barbara kicked the Manson girls out of the Fountain after the murders, and at that time we didn't yet know who had done the bad deed.|
|Bishop Wallie near one of the Fountain buildings. The trees grew in and around the buildings, and we rarely used concrete to make walkways. So foot washing twice a day was both neccessary and also a part of our religious practice.|
|Sister Alice at the mixing bowl, Priest Helena (mother of Sister Neria) sitting and eating, others unknown. This was one of those rare outdoor meals, at the request of the photographer. We had lots of women in the cult, but most of them, like my mom, were unskilled workers who didn't have a husband or welfare. Many learned new skills in the Fountain, and were also able to overcome depression or other personal problems. When they left the Fountain they were in much better shape than when they arrived, even if they were a little bit more obsessed about religion. Like Charles Manson.|
|Priest Mary – L, and choral group during rehearsal, L-R Sister Erma, Babs, x; Priest Ruth (Babs' mother), Elesha|
Lower dinning area in main building.
?-L, ?-M, Sister Muriel-R typing up the Fountain newsletter.
The back area by the fireplace was our Bible study room, where I sat down with Charles Manson and taught him our weird version of Christianity. You can read more about this in the books. Anyway, by the time I was 15 I had read all of the books in our library, and I started to do odd jobs for other residents of Box Canyon.
|July 13, 1949. Krishna Venta (front left), Priest Paul (right front), and 2 volunteers (rear) from Simi Valley carry a body from the crash site. The complete stories about this crash are available as links. You don't want to enlarge these pictures if you don't want to see burned bodies. This is what happened to us ten years later, and it was just as gruesome.|
|Diane, one of the survivors of the plane crash...|
|Caren, another very fortunate survivor, although she had a severly damaged foot.|
|Ruben Lackstrom painting of Master Krishna Venta (MKV), late 1940s.|
|Father Divine (the short guy in the middle), meeting with Sant Kirpal Singh Ji of Ruhani Satsang. When I requested a photo of FD and Krishna Venta, his widow sent me this picture. Although it isn't KV, it is a very good historic photo of the man who had such a tremendous influence on KV. He stated that he was God, KV stated that he was Christ, so they got along like dad and son. Who woulda thought?|
|A photo of Master Krishna Venta taken in the mid-1950s. This is the best photo that I have, since most of the official photos were destroyed in the fire-bomb that killed MKV and 9 others.|
|1949 Worcester Meeting, Rudi Balzer, Elsa Lackstrom, MKV, x, Signe Holme. This is a photo of KV recruiting more members during a lecture tour. Some of the people joined, and then left a few years later.|
|Mother Ruth, a little over dressed.|
|Notice the painting in the far left? This may be another painting of MKV, or just a painting of Jesus by Rudi.|
|MKV with a group of unknown people during a lecture tour in Vernal Utah.|
|MKV with his daughter Niki (neeka), in Utah on a lecture tour. KV took Niki with him everywhere when she was not in school, but he left his other kids in the care of the nuts running the Nursery and dormitories. And they did suffer for it.|
|Ads in New York Times 1954. This was just one of many lecture tours. When KV was killed, some of the Fountain members barely missed him, since he was gone most of the time.|