Barrie Mason remembers what is surely the first contact that led to the SFZC's purchase of Green Gulch Farm, featuring Huey Johnson, Bill Lane, and her - in 1970.
Interview with Bill Lane
August 14, 2012
Got the following email from Barrie Mason with the subject line: You Seem to be the ZC historian
Dear Zen Center Historian:
I don’t know if there is such a person, but I imagine that history is being compiled somewhere by someone. DC comment on this
Thank you for putting parts of the 50th Anniversary Celebration on line. I enjoyed listening to Richard Baker’s talk; I haven’t seen or heard him in over 30 years. I also listened to part of Reb’s talk about his own history at Zen Center. Reb gave a very incomplete description of how Green Gulch was acquired by ZC. Maybe no one knows, so I want to include what I know in the Zen Center history.
In 1969 Bill Lane and I were living in an apartment on California Street near Sokoji. We were working nights at Rincon Annex Post Office, so weren’t able to sit at Sokoji much, but we did attend lectures given by Suzuki Roshi . Working at night was very difficult for us, so when Silas Hoadley approached Bill with an opportunity to live on a bird sanctuary rent free, we responded. We were interviewed by Huey Johnson who was then head of The Nature Conservancy in San Francisco. They were acquiring what had been a duck club called Lower Tubbs Island which was between the north shore of San Pablo Bay and Hwy.37 at the southern tip of Sonoma County. We agreed to take the job even though there would be no pay, only a small stipend to pay the PG&E bill. The caretakers who had worked for the duck club had been paid. Huey Johnson really liked Bill Lane and was impressed by what a good job he did for so little money. Bill opened and closed flood gates with the tides, we greeted bird watchers, and even cooked meals for special guests.
Probably in 1970 Huey Johnson told Bill that the owners of a large property in Marin were looking for a non-profit to buy it. The wife had died and wanted the property left to Synanon, but the husband had learned that Synanon planned to subdivide and sell the property for profit. Not the sort of memorial he wanted for his wife. So this man came to Huey Johnson. Bill and I visited the property, which was Green Gulch, and met a man who was living there. I don’t know if he was Synanon, he had hair & Synanon members had shaved heads, but I do remember that he took us to the barn and told us how he & others were producing a play about Rocky Raccoon. The barn was their theater, and is now the Zendo. This was in 1970, well before Richard Baker came back from Japan. You might look for Huey Johnson to see how Zen Center was approached. If Bill Lane hadn’t impressed Huey Johnson, Huey probably would have gone to another nonprofit group to buy Green Gulch.
After that I didn’t hear about Green Gulch until 1972 probably. I was at Tassajara when it was announced that ZC was buying Green Gulch for $300K, the same price they had paid for 300 Page Street [and Tassajara], and that it would be a place for families to practice.
If anyone wants to research this further, Yvonne Rand, Silas Hoadley, [Richard Baker], and Huey Johnson could probably fill in details that I have forgotten or never knew.