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Born Linda Marie Cassells, my named changed over the years. I was called Miki in high school by close friends. My name was changed to Charity while a member of the Children of God in the 70's and then changed to Caridad, while living in Costa Rica. I began writing this Memoir In June 2010. I invite you to join me in the writing, editing, publishing and marketing journey.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jim Jones and The People's Temple


In my upcoming memoir, Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money, I mention Jim Jones, a man I knew in my youth.  The name "Jim Jones" registers immediately with most people over the age of 30.  Many of the younger set, however, need more explanation.  With a couple of hints they connect Jim Jones with the People's Temple and then with Guyana -- and the light bulb comes on.  The impact of long ago history depends on its relevance to our lives.
Jim Jones was relevant in many people’s lives, including mine.  Back in 1971, my parents, hoping to convince me to leave the controversial Children of God religious commune, encouraged me to meet with Pastor Jones and join The People's Temple.  
Did I?  The answer is revealed in the memoir. 

Below is a quick history lesson, parts of which are excerpts from Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money.  
"Redwood Valley is not marked on most maps and yet has a compelling, contemporary history.  Redwood Valley was home to the notorious Jim Jones and The People’s Temple.  I knew Jim Jones as “Mr. Jones,” my substitute English teacher at Ukiah High School.  I remember his charismatic, captivating personality, which inspired students and adults. 
He was the founder and leader of The People's Temple that he built on East Road in our valley.  Jim Jones believed a nuclear holocaust would occur on July 15, 1967, and his research revealed Redwood Valley would be one of the few places in the world likely to survive it.  He predicted the surviving elect would create a new socialist Eden on earth. He intended to be the leader of that select group. 
The holocaust did not happen.  Even so, Jim Jones’ congregation remained faithful and the church membership increased.  He expanded, opening new churches in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
His sphere of influence continued to grow, and he and his congregation were applauded for helping the poorest of the poor –- drug addicts, the homeless, and racial minorities throughout California.
During the 1970s, The People’s Temple purchased and managed at least nine residential care businesses, including my family’s board and care home.  At first, my parents respected his work with the poorest of society; however, in mid 1975, he tried to cheat them out of a portion of their vineyard land and their opinion changed.
Nobody, however, was prepared for what happened after he moved his followers to a remote jungle in British Guyana, called “Jonestown.”  There, on November 18, 1978, Jim Jones, my former teacher, a man who lived in my hometown, ordered the mass suicide of over 900 followers.  Men, women, and children died agonizing deaths.  Some were shot, and others were forced to drink poisoned “Kool aid.”  Most were said to have willingly participated in what was called "revolutionary suicide." 
I heard the news on my car radio.  I pulled the car to the side of the highway and sat there listening in complete shock.  The pictures of death were soon broadcast to the world.  The dead, lying on top of each other, mothers lying face down holding onto their young children, and men holding their wives. 
I lost several of my neighbors that day.  They were good caring people who followed Jim Jones and moved to Guyana to find peace and purpose.  He had promised them life in a Utopia – he delivered death.  It was a sad day for the world, and for all of us from Redwood Valley."   




2 comments:

  1. The whole thing was more than most of us could absorb!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This whole things seems unreal. B. Deen

    ReplyDelete