20. LIVING IN HAPPY VALLEY, PART 1 (Happy Valley School)

HAPPY VALLEY SCHOOL

In the spring of 1969, I interviewed for a teaching position at Happy Valley School, a seventh- through twelfth-grade boarding school, one of the several schools worldwide that Krishnamurti had started and by whose teachings it was inspired.

Franklin Lacey, the headmaster, invited me for the job interview and afterward took me to lunch nearby on the terrace at Alan Hooker's Ranch House Restaurant...Franklin was vegetarian and told me that the cuisine at Happy Valley School was too...and this Ranch House lunch was a real treat.  It was a beautiful Ojai spring day.  After lunch, Franklin asked me if I liked macadamia nuts and we went to The Oaks Hotel for its specialty...macadamia nut cream pie which was incredible.

Franklin was an extrovert who loved people...very funny and a great storyteller.  I don't think I was ever with him when he was without his contagious smile or his hearty laugh.  He was a playwright and Hollywood screenwriter, and co-wrote The Music Man with Meredith Willson.  He was 'the music man'...certainly the salesman and optimist, without being the con man that Professor Hill was. 

His wife, Glady, was equally extroverted and sweet.

Franklin's parents were avid Krishnamurti followers and he had been taken to hear Krishnamurti talks since from the time he was a small child.   He knew and was surrounded by Hollywood actors, comedians, writers, composers, and musicians.  

At the interview, he laid out my duties: high school art, biology, and music appreciation as well as seventh/eighth-grade social studies...plus, I would be driving the school bus.   The task seemed dauntingly beyond my capacity...in fact, impossible...but Franklin, being 'the music man,' assured me I could handle it.  Hmmm.

I was hired to start in the fall.


THE SCHOOL IN TRANSITION

At the time I was being hired, Happy Valley School was going through a series of transitions.

Years before, in the 1920s, social activist Annie Besant, head of the world Theosophical Society, benefactor of and surrogate mother to Krishnamurti, raised funds to purchase over 500 acres of pristine land in the Upper Ojai Valley.   She envisioned this site as a place to establish an educational center that would nurture spiritual, artistic, and intellectual growth as well as physical and mental well-being.



To carry out her vision, she established a non-sectarian foundation that she named Happy Valley Foundation.   
Thereafter, this somewhat remote tract of land in the Upper Ojai Valley was known as Happy Valley.  

In the 1940s, when the war did not permit Krishnamurti to travel, he, in association with Aldous Huxley and others, in the spirit of Annie Besant's vision, established Happy Valley School on a smaller parcel of land in Meiners Oaks in the lower valley, on the site that had been provided for Krishnamurti's talks and gatherings.  The school's purpose was to educate children in a non-competitive, cooperative atmosphere and to avoid the conventional conditioning that turns individuals into automatons. 

There was a large meeting room that served as a small auditorium/gymnasium/dance hall, classrooms, a dining hall, dormitories for boys and girls, and some cottages to house faculty.



When Franklin hired me, a former Richfield Oil administration building, utilitarian and not particularly inspiring, in the Upper Ojai Valley had been acquired to temporarily house the school near the site Annie Besant had purchased years before.   When the school had been moved to the temporary site, the construction of a new school would begin on the nearby Happy Valley land.




Happy Valley School was headed by Rosalind Rajagopal, the Director.   She had known Krishnamurti and his younger brother, Nitya, from the time they came to the valley in the early 1920s in hopes that the warm, temperate climate would cure Nitya's recurring tuberculosis.   Rosalind eventually married Krishnamurti's associate and manager of his practical affairs, D. Rajagopal.

Rosalind, along with Annie Besant and Krishnamurti, had been with the Happy Valley Foundation from its inception.  With Krishnamurti, she co-founded the school in 1946 with Italian literary critic Guido Ferrando, and friend English author Aldous Huxley.  

At the time of my hiring there had been some issues brewing in the school that I knew nothing about.  One was that Krishnamurti had severed his association with the school and was planning to start another at some future date on the land in Meiners Oaks adjacent to and including the Oak Grove.   A second was the anticipated move from the established and quaint lower campus in the little village of Meiners Oaks to a generic and impersonal vacant corporate administrative building with an asphalt campus in the Upper Ojai Valley in the middle of nowhere.

When I came to the school, the influence of Krishnamurti's and Annie Besant's view of education was still the guiding force.  Though Franklin was the headmaster, the larger direction as well as many of the details were laid down by Rosalind with an iron fist.  No detail at the school was beyond her watchful attention.  Rosalind was polite but forever remained aloof.  She was always the intimidating boss somewhere in the background.  The school was 'her baby.'   And though she and Krishnamurti had been close in the past, at this point they were personally at odds and estranged.

When I was hired, reshuffling in the school was happening and a number of the old faculty had left; I and other young teachers had been hired to replace them and start the new school relocated to the Upper Valley.  It was both an exciting and confusing time.



Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

24. DRAFTED (what next?)

3. MOSTLY MUSIC (high school)

1. IN THE BEGINNING... (early childhood)