My name is Donald Traill, son of Stewart, head of COBU. I have elected to release the first six chapters of my upcoming autobiography for free in electronic form. Thank you to the operators of this site for hosting.
I reserve all rights of authorship. Feel free to post links, but do not redistribute all or in part without my consent.
Many mainstream scientists believe humanity is on the verge of accepting the existence of parallel dimensions. Sometimes they may collide and when they do they may set off Big Bangs. In one of the multiple universes Napoleon may have won Waterloo. In another maybe the attacks on 9/11/2001 were prevented. In others you perhaps were never born. Pathways between dimensions or universes are called wormholes or Theta. Some believe there are people with the ability to cross dimensions who are called Thetans.
My life is a conundrum yet to be solved. I have multiple memories of the same events in which specifics are different. I remember some things vividly that those who experienced them with me do not. Often it also is the other way around. Many times through my life when I needed comfort most, it was provided. I have seen three of those flesh and blood people who came to me when I needed them, disappear from before my eyes and each time they invited me to join them. The only rational explanations that occur to me are time travel or parallel dimensions.
As you might have guessed from the last two sentences I have a long history of incarceration in mental wards. A check of my medical records will reveal that for the entire month of September 2001 I was confined to a mental ward at Bellevue Hospital in New York. My room had a direct view of the Trade Center. My employment records on the other hand show that I was employed at Lehigh Valley International Airport as an in-flight caterer that entire month. Maybe, just maybe, this entire book is just a collection of delusions. But if you read on you may find it interesting. As much as possible according to my and other’s recollection. I will use real names and places so that as many facts as possible can be verified. I will include the full picture, warts and all about myself and others. Many mentioned in this book may say conversations, events, or actions I recount never occurred. To them I apologize. Maybe it was the “you” in another dimension. I myself have nothing to hide. Let me start from the beginning.
I was born in Allentown, PA USA on August 13 1969 to Stewart Tanner Traill and Shirley Anne Rudy. I have four siblings which I shall name in order of age. Shirley, Lorraine, Stewart and Eleanor. I am the baby. My mother wished that all of her children’s names ended with the “E” sound. Therefore nicknames were almost always used. Sissie, Sonny, and Ellie. My father put his foot down though about anyone calling me Donny. The Osmonds were to blame. Once in school my brother’s teacher noticed an unfortunate phonetic resemblance. “Oh, Sonny Traill! What a cute name!” The class laughed. From then on he strove to be called something else.
The first house I remember living in was in Cumberland Gardens Projects. We had several houses before that when I was alive and for some time my family had lived in a school bus.(I do not directly remember that bus but during my lifetime my whole family still owned it and took occasional trips in it that lasted weeks.) Cumberland Gardens was three blocks from a candy store named Mary’s but at the time getting to it required “an extensive expedition”; according to my brother, looking back. “You had to start walking early in the morning and keep an eye on the sun!” I remember vividly finding a candy necklace from Mary’s that I had completely forgotten was around my neck. It was like rediscovering lost treasure. Those necklaces were my favorite thing but they cost a nickel whereas jellied fish were a penny apiece. I was not quite so fond of vegetables. At first Mom would not let me have desert till I had finished them. When that failed to always work she forbade me to leave the table till I had. That resulted in numerous standoffs that lasted hours. This did not make it any easier on my mother. Dad was often away from home and even when not, was seldom a real help to her in raising five children. Oftentimes she simply stayed up all night because there was so much to do. It got easier on Mom when I learned the trick of serving myself a few vegetables and choking them down. Mom was so overjoyed I was beginning to like vegetables she failed to notice that the portion size I served myself was miniscule compared to when she put veggies on my plate. Mom did the best she could with the twenty dollars for groceries my father doled out after Mom begged him each week. Out of that he expected to be served real cream, real butter and a supper consisting of Ground Round and mashed potatoes every night. Sometimes the only meat Mom could afford for us kids was liver which none of us could stand. She became an expert at disguising it to the point we could not smell it cooking. She also baked many desserts from scratch which she also became very good at. In the later years of my parent’s marriage Joan Sebesta often babysat. She introduced us to Popcorn balls as a desert and she remains a close family friend to this day.
Dad first attempted to make a living selling vacuum cleaners but in later years turned to buying and selling camera equipment. He was the head of a religious organization called the “Forever Family” which later was renamed, “The Church of Bible Understanding”. From now on I will call it “the group” or “COBU”. (Joan was a member.) My father is over six feet tall. His appearance has not changed as long as I can remember. Sabrina Williams, a reporter, described him best as having the beard of Santa Clause and the steely eyes of a prophet. His outfit was always the same: Converse sneakers, black socks, brown painter’s pants and a green dress shirt with a tee-shirt underneath. His shirt was always both completely tucked in or all out, and varied between extremely rumpled or neatly pressed, never in between. I was scared to death of my father. He had and has a way of inspiring fear without being physical which holds his group together to this day. But with me and my four siblings he combined emotional abuse with spankings which he himself called beatings. Once I gave someone the middle finger in front of my father before I had the slightest comprehension what it meant. He proceeded to beat me immediately. We were not allowed to cry when spanked. If we did we were hit harder and longer. At first it was the belt and later two by fours. I cannot recall a single beating that did not result in bruises. But I remember the feeling of power it gave me when my mother allowed me to finish my father’s breakfast after he left on the mornings he was home. It usually consisted of a peanut butter and jelly grilled sandwich and a cup of coffee both of which he would only half consume. (A local restaurant actually sold that sandwich, my mother revealed during the proofreading of this book. Try grilling a Peanut Butter sandwich like a grilled cheese one of these days. It is a Traill delicacy to this day. Put twice the peanut butter you normally would on both slices of bread. Then about half the jelly on one slice. Put the completed sandwich onto a plate and butter one half. Put that side down into a pre-warmed pan and butter the other side. Let cool a few minutes after it is finished grilling especially before a child consumes it. The jelly may be molten.) Dad had a habit of sitting at the table long after he was finished eating both at home and in public eateries. That drove restaurant managers crazy. Sometimes they pleaded with him to let them close but dad would stoically refuse for a while. (After a while many local restaurant managers found it easier to simply refuse him entry to the premises.) Anyhow by the time I got to his coffee it was stone cold, with plenty of cream and enough sugar it tasted like liquid candy.
According to my mother when I was about a year and a half we went to Irving Street Park for a swim. My sister Ellie picked me up. I remained limp however and fell backwards so my head hit the concrete sidewalk. According to Mom my eyes rolled completely back into my head. When I was about two, I was led away from my house by a boy who lived in the same project named Ceasar. He took me to a small depression in the ground where he bade me lay down. He then piled large rocks on top of me until I could not get out. Then he walked away. Several hours later I was found by an elderly gentleman and his wife.
My father did not believe in giving presents for Christmas. His logic was it was not right to receive gifts on someone else’s birthday. But he was not totally heartless. We received presents on New Years Day. Once a few months before then I noticed some intriguing looking boxes in the closet. They were unwrapped and I had no concept they were destined to be presents. I unpacked a few of them and merrily began to play. My mother caught me, screamed at me then gave me one of her few spankings.
I do not remember Joan ever spanking me but she said she did at least once. Afterwards I looked at her and said, “I hate you.” What bothered her most was that I said it as a calm statement of fact rather than a childish emotional reaction.
In its early years my Father’s group met in the basement of Calvary Temple in Allentown, PA. It was in that basement that I first playfully experimented with sex. An African American girl and I would take our clothes off and press our bodies together in a bathroom stall. I was too young to achieve an erection. After one meeting my father thought I was with my mother and my mother thought I was with him. I spent the entire night at a police station because I did not know my address or phone number. I did know the tail number of the group’s aircraft and the radials of two navigation stations called VORs that intersected over my house. A helicopter pilot finally happened to come in and that solved the case. When the police told me they were taking me home I said, “But I wanna stay with you guys!”
As far back as I can remember my father’s group was going strong and owned many properties. But of course it was not always so. In the beginning, however there was not much to distinguish “The Forever Family” from other “Hippy-ish” conglomerations. A group of teenagers began to meet in city parks to study the Bible. My Father emerged as the leader. At 34 he was by far the oldest, and also the best at the controlling ways and manipulative mind games my Uncle Lawrence says he lived his life by even as a child. After a while, enough people came to these impromptu meetings in the park that the group began to rent the aforementioned basement of Calvary Temple. Then there was talk of buying a house so select members could study and spread the Word continuously. This came to fruition when the group bought its first house on Church Street. (My only memory of this house was when my father flew us kids to see it shortly after it had been razed. The only section of wall still standing was a section containing a white painted square. Inside that square was a solid red circle. In that circle in white letters were the words of the group’s original motto, “Get Smart Get Saved.” Those selected to live in the house gave their entire paychecks to finance the group, receiving a small allowance in return. Over a relatively short span of time the group owned many houses and spread to many cities. So my Dad convinced the group it was “God’s Will” to purchase an aircraft and pay for his flight training so he could more easily travel between houses to exhort or admonish the brethren. They have never told him “no” and at last report the group owns five planes. Every once in a while all the group houses plus whatever outsiders could be cajoled into coming would assemble in what were called “Big Meetings”. They usually lasted several days and in between sessions and meals everyone except Dad and Mom would sleep camp style on the floor. The first Big Meeting I remember was in a large hangar at Queen City Airport in Philadelphia. The group’s recently acquired aircraft sat gleaming and roped off in a corner. There was a sign in front of it that read, “Our Church aircraft. Please Do Not touch.”
There were some good times with my father when I could almost swallow my fear. I still remember the first time he took me flying in the first airplane the group purchased, Piper Cherokee 140 N15297. We walked into the large hangar where the Big Meeting had been held. I followed Dad on his preflight walk-around inspection. I was proud of the fact that I could walk under the tail upright and my father had to go around it. There was a slip of paper taped to the windshield. My father glanced at it and putting his hand to his forehead shook his head several times then swiftly swung his hand down. I realize now it must have been a maintenance bill but at the time I thought it was a report card for his last flight. I jumped involuntarily as was my habit whenever I saw my father’s hands move swiftly. He was not looking at me though. We got into the plane and my father asked me, “Well Donald, where do you want to go?” Having no idea the limitations of range or speed I first thought of Paris or California. Then a better destination occurred to me. “Dad, can we go into the cloud Jesus is in?” He smiled then started the engine. A few minutes later he advanced the throttle till the engine roared with the brakes on. A man appeared waving his arms wildly and my father shut down the engine. I know now that my father was revving the engine to test the magnetos that drove the spark plugs but that is not a good idea in a hangar that was now crowded with other airplanes. We were towed out of the hangar with a tractor. The only thing more I remember about that first flight was traveling down a canyon made of clouds that rose high above us on both sides. We turned, following this canyon and in front of us was a cloud with such a golden glow I was sure Jesus must be in it. We headed right for it, and then went into it. The gold hue rapidly faded into gray. My father quoted the entire verse about God dwelling in deep darkness. We came out of the cloud on the other side.
During the proofreading of this book my mother said, “I don’t remember that flight!” As if it never happened. I clearly remember Dad took me to the airport alone. Remember that attitude if she claims other things in this book never happened.
According to my mother shortly after he got his license Dad flew her to Philly for dinner at the international airport terminal. Being accustomed to small airports he mistook a taxiway for a runway and landed there. The tower, amused, let him know. He was convinced he would lose his license but no letter appeared from the FAA.
My former babysitter Joan said she was flying with Dad once and suddenly things got quiet. Dad said something she cannot recall but was calm. Only later when they were safely at a group meeting did Dad announce he had lost power to the engine for a few minutes. Many years later Joan’s husband Dan, my mom and all of us kids tried to figure out what Dad had said to Joan at the time. The answers ranged from “Look for a straight stretch of road!” from Dan to “Brace!” from me. My Mother thought Dad had told Joan, “My pants feel wet”.
Through the years the hippy movement faded, but my father’s group espousing communal living continued to blossom. After a while a name like “The Forever Family” would evoke images of the Manson Family and was regarded by Dad to be beneath the group’s maturity. I still remember the meeting where the name change was enacted. My fervent wish for a new name was “The Mickey Mouse Club” but it was not to be. There were many suggestions but none clicked with everyone. Then my father said, “Well, what is the goal of our church? Don’t we want to live our whole lives by the Bible?” There was a roar of assent. “And hasn’t God gifted us with more understanding of the Bible than any other church?” There was an even louder Roar. “Therefore I propose that we name our new church the “Church of Bible Understanding”. The vote was unanimous. I believe it was the desire to sound like a Founding Father to declare, “Though we are totally reorganizing our church from top to bottom we will pay every penny of our previous debt!”
During one Big Meeting my father asked someone to ask him if he was Elijah. Someone did. My father’s reply was, “No… But then again that is exactly what John the Baptist said.” The media has since then often reported that my father directly preaches that he is Elijah incarnate. But that is not the whole truth, and that one meeting was the only time to my knowledge my father could be said to be hinting that he was.
A good friend of the family was Herman Hesse; until his death when I was an adult. As a child he let me steer his orange Duster while I sat on his lap. He was also an excellent chess player once rated a Master, and I learned to play chess decades before checkers.
There was never a TV in our house because my father believed it rotted the brain. My sister Ellie was a major help in my learning to read. It was only later revealed that she herself had mainly memorized the books. Once she asked my mother what a word was. It was the word “The”. But she turned out just fine in the end. Anyway, my first day of school, I took a Time Magazine for something to read. Mom had treated my chapped lips. As soon as I was out of her sight I wiped the Vaseline off on my sleeve.
I was a prime target for bullies right up to the last three years of High School. Sometimes my teachers did not make it any easier. I was in the habit of peeing like Dad with my pants still up, my fly and button undone. There was apparently some rule instituted by this teacher that we had to pee with our pants around our ankles “like little boys do”. I was ratted out by another boy. The teacher assembled every boy in the class and led us into the bathroom. There she told me to pee. I started to do it my way then she yanked my pants all the way down. The boys laughed. “Now shake your wee-wee so you don’t dribble in your pants.” I refused. I had a young prostate and never dribbled. Also I already had the concept that touching my wee-wee was a sin though I do not know where that came from. Finally, over a minute after I finished peeing when no further drops had come out, Teach shook it for me. The boys laughed even harder.
When I was approximately seven in mid 1976 my mother had had enough of my father. As the country celebrated the Bicentennial my mother increasingly wanted her own freedom. My dad threatened to leave and take us kids if she was not more obedient. After a meeting at a group home on Church Street my father told my mother she could leave but could not take any of us. He said he would soon take us to a meeting of the entire group- all the houses. She refused to leave without us. Eventually everyone went to sleep in the Church Street house. All of us kids except Shirley who was at another group house were sleeping in the living room. Very early in the morning my mother called Mister Hesse who came and picked us up. We went back to our house in the projects where my mother asked management to change the locks. She knew Saturday and Sunday Dad was at the all-house meeting which were called Big Meetings. Monday when my mother was upstairs packing and I was at a neighbor’s house(Gloria), my father came to the front door. He threatened my sister Eleanor with a spanking if she did not open it. She did. My mother heard the door open and screamed, “Run!!!” Ellie ran out the back door. My brother Stew jumped out the second story window. My father got Sissie.
Mom met Stew, Ellie and me at Gloria’s house. She told us to stay there for a while. Then my Aunt, Delores Cole, drove my Mom to Ponderosa or a Dempsey’s where Dad was with several members of his group. Sissie merely cried when Mom asked her to come with her. (At the time Mom did not know how to drive.)
My mother and aunt D went back to the house to pack more clothes while the children she had left stayed with Gloria.
My mother took the rest of us to my Aunt D’s house in Raubsville, PA. She herself had four children Debbie, Wayne, Keith and Wendy. Aunt D had a swimming pool in her back yard. I do not recall when it happened but once I decided to take a dip on my own. The water was over my head and I could not swim. I could only breathe by jumping and several times I ingested water when my mouth failed to entirely clear the water at the top of the jump. I was rapidly weakening when my Cousin Wayne pulled me out.
My father found out from my sister Shirley how to get to Aunt D’s house. From then on the house was under constant watch by members of the group with binoculars despite numerous complaints by neighbors to the police. Every time we kids left the house we did so from a vehicle parked in the garage and crouched down so we could not be seen. But we were always followed by members of the group. My aunt D knew the back roads so she always managed to lose them. Most of those trips were to lawyers so Mom could sue for custody. My father took care of the divorce.
About three weeks later, fearful that the group would break into the house we were staying and take us, my mother found somewhere else to go. A former neighbor in the projects named Joseph Lucas invited us in. He owned a five bedroom row house, 221 Northwest Street in Allentown.
Sometime during the next few weeks I was playing on the porch when a female member of the group spotted me. She worked at the hospital which was on the next block. Skip O’Neil, a member of the group knew Phillip Miller who lived next door.
One night my mother and Joe decided to take us out for ice cream. Excited, I went out onto the porch to wait. Meanwhile my mother was looking for me inside. I saw Robert Whipple, a member of the group, on the porch next door. I did not recognize him. He was jovially swigging from a bottle covered by a paper bag. He kept me laughingly entertained for several minutes. Either Rem Lederer or Skip O’Neil or one of the other two members of the group my father asked to kidnap us appeared. They then slowly stood next to me on the top step, left and right. Then almost simultaneously they took my arms firmly. I did not scream. They began to lead me through a cul de sac beside the Miller’s house. At one point there I stopped walking. “Will I see my mother again?” “Yes”, was the calm reply from both men. I am almost positive I called them liars but even so I did not scream and once again began walking. In the alley, positioned with its sliding door exactly centered with the cul de sac was a windowless gold van. It opened and I saw my father.
My mother was still looking for me in the house. Joe walked out to get into the car with Ellie and Stew. Bobby Whipple, a former weight lifter, bent Joe backwards over the hood of a parked car and held him. Stew ran but was caught. They got Ellie too.
My brother was the last to quit struggling as five men much stronger than him held him to the carpeted floor of the van.
My father first took us to Atlantic City. The next day he took us to my first ever movie, Puss and Boots.
The FBI found us within a few days time but since we were with our father there was nothing they could do under the laws at the time.
Six weeks after his divorce became final Dad married Gail Gillispee, the 19 year old secretary of the group. According to scripture that made him an adulterer but that affected his hold on the members of his supposed “Church” not a whit. (Wait a minute… Mom was a wicked unbeliever. So my father was not bound. Therefore instead of remaining single or being reconciled to his wife he was free to marry another.) My first words to Gail after the service were, “Blessed be the fruit of your womb.”
Soon my father appointed two members of the group to drive his kidnapped children to Canada in a white Dodge van. Dad planned their roundabout route carefully according to the laws of the various states concerning child custody and whether they would seize the van, arrest those two, or both. Stockholm syndrome had quickly set in and none of us kids wanted the nice man and woman to get arrested. On at least one occasion we were pulled over.
Sometime during that trip events began to unfold that taught me my first major lesson in life. It started one night when I was sitting alone in the van outside the group home we were spending the night in. I pushed the cigarette lighter in and waited for it to pop out. I then pulled it all the way out, turned it around and admired the red glow. After several times the novelty wore off and I left the van. Once in a while during our sojourn my father would meet us and unfortunately this was one of those nights. The next morning a hole was discovered burned into the driver’s side armrest. It looked as if it had been made by a cigarette lighter. Dad lined all five kids up and asked us one by one if we had done it. I truthfully said no but because I looked scared Dad nailed me as the culprit. Under pressure I admitted playing with the cigarette lighter but denied burning the hole. Dad said I was lying and gave me a spanking. I again denied it so he spanked me again. After the third spanking with a two by four I had had enough of telling the truth so I admitted to burning the hole. My father then told me he was going to give me a fourth spanking twice as long as the three, both for burning the hole and lying three times. He did. I learned my lesson. From then on, under stress, my first reaction was to be deceitful or lie though it cost me many more spankings over the years. My father’s methods did not help. If an offense had been committed in his opinion he asked what I had done with a menacing tone and if he was not satisfied with my answer he would accuse me of deceit. If I said I could not remember he said, “Perhaps a spanking will refresh your memory.” I often came to believe punishment was inevitable and I had nothing to lose by attempting to lie myself out of it. Such was my view of God the Father presented by my own father.
We did not always stay in fellowship houses, occasionally the two transporting us would take us to a hotel because a group house was not convenient. There we indulged in watching TV. Once we were about to go swimming in the pool. The woman suggested for expedient’s sake we change to swimming trunks in our room. My sister Shirley insisted we change in the bathroom one by one. When asked why she indicated me. “Him?” asked the woman. “He’s too young to know anything!” “He already has a dirty mind” was my sister’s reply. But she would not even share the bathroom with Sissie or Ellie and especially the woman as she changed.
We were not in Canada long but soon returned to the states and settled down for a while in a house in Union Town, Ohio. The curtains were always fully drawn. We were not allowed to be in the yard. Tutors came to the house to keep us up with school. When we left the house the vehicle was always initially in a closed garage. In the beginning we used an ordinary station wagon to appear as suburban as possible. Once again we crouched down in a vehicle to avoid being seen, this time on my father’s orders. At some distance away, our guardian would scan for police and tell us whether we could sit normally. After a while when we were established in the neighborhood the station wagon was switched for a windowless cargo van, which made hiding easier on the back.
We were not cloistered so for more than a few months. One of the several Ohio towns we eventually lived in was a highly Mennonite community and our family became friends with a local pastor and his family. I remember he had some beautiful teenage daughters. We stayed overnight occasionally at their house and I was mortified when one of those nights I uncharacteristically wet the bed. In my dream I thought I was standing at a toilet.
We now went to private schools which had agreed to keep us off the official attendance rolls. This was so my mother could not find us. At one time they handed out citizen’s achievement awards. We had not been at the school at the beginning of the year, but my sister Ellie and I received a special award because we had not missed a single day of school in the months we had been enrolled.
At one time in Ohio, Child Services got a tip about the condition of our house. Group homes always contained more people than originally intended by designers or fire codes. Another major point was that we were all (except Dad and Gayle) sleeping on the floor. We were moved to foster homes. My first was a fire chief and then I was reunited with many of my siblings on a farm. Mom was notified and Herman Hesse drove her to Canton for a custody hearing. Every one except Ellie was too scared to say we did not want to live with dad. But the judge thought keeping the family together was more important than letting Ellie decide. He also let slide the fact that Mom had been awarded custody in Pennsylvania. Mom thinks Dad bought him off. Mom was awarded visitation and tried coming to see us a few times after that but Dad carefully prepared us beforehand. He would say something like, “Your wicked, wicked mother is coming out here and she wants to take you away. Do you want to go with her?” On at least one occasion when he told her we were not at the house we actually were. As we heard Mom and Joseph Lucas screaming at him outside I felt glad my father was “Defending” us.
It was hard for us to imagine what my mother was going through. It’s sometimes hard to remember someone loves you and wants you back when you have slipped so far into survival mode as everyone but Ellie had.
For a while we stayed in the city of Detroit. My father was a man of dogmatic extremes, which might be an anachronism coming from anyone else. I do not recall this incident but Stew and Ellie do. All of the adults in the group thought it was their duty to keep us kids in line. Often we were told contradictory things and Ellie especially was sick and tired of being told what to do. We had to give everyone the utmost respect no matter how they treated us or everyone felt justified in threatening us with a spanking. Dad lined us all up at a meeting and said, “These are my children! I will tell them what to do. Who do you think you are???” That was one of the few times we thought, “Yeah, he’s on our side now!!!”
We were in some city in the Midwest when the following incident happened. Once, my sister Ellie and I were sitting in a van waiting for our father. The van was parked facing the street on a steep driveway. I was sitting in the driver’s seat and my sister was in the passenger’s. I had my arms at my sides when I heard something snap. The van began to roll forward. I reached for the steering wheel but it was locked. I fumbled for the brake pedal but I forget if I could even reach it. In any case the van kept rolling. We narrowly missed hitting a man on the sidewalk then ended up in the street. My father appeared just as I shakily got out of the van. Characteristically, he was absolutely sure what had happened and proceeded to act on an assumption. “I am going to give you the worst spanking of your life!” were his first words. The man had heard the snap and turning, had seen my initial reaction. He placed himself between my father and me. “No. I saw what happened. The parking brake cable snapped. All your boy did was try to stop the van.” My father was initially unconvinced. The man said, “Before you make the worst mistake of your life, try to reapply the brake.” Eventually he convinced my father to do it. The lever swiveled uselessly in his hands. Dad did not apologize to me even though the man the van almost struck insisted he did. But it was still a major lesson. Not everyone in the world was afraid of my father.
Another time in the Midwest a brother named Chris was working on a van. I was playing outside till he asked me to hold up the hood while he used both hands. After a while my arms got tired and I had to take a break. He went to find something else to hold up the hood and apologized for not thinking of it in the first place. He found a long piece of wood and cut it to the right length. It was wedged in between the battery and the hood and he went back to work. I was playing with my matchboxes a few feet away when the piece of wood slipped. His arms were deep down in the engine bay. The hood came down and pinned him, coming to rest on his neck. I ran and lifted the hood. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have kept holding it.” His only injury was a chipped tooth. My father called it a “Church Miracle” he was not hurt worse.
I had high hopes for my matchbox collection when my father produced a sleek Lear Jet. I reached for it excitedly and began to thank him profusely. He jerked his arm back and said, “This is my toy. Get your own. What’s the matter with you?” The people with the group who were with us laughed. I never saw that particular matchbox again.
A few years later Dad for whatever reason decided the entire group should concentrate in New York. They rented lofts where hundreds of men slept on the floor side by side. There were separate lofts for Sisters as the women were called and occasionally a few Brothers as the men were called would rotate staying at the sisters’ loft to keep them safe. Brothers and Sisters took showers at public swimming pools and otherwise made do. But rats and other vermin were prevalent and the health department became alarmed at so many children being sick from so few addresses. Eventually the group bought an apartment building in Hell’s Kitchen with an address of 515 on a street I cannot recall. In the early years of the group everyone had a job outside but donated their entire paycheck to the group. Then the group started a carpet cleaning business called “Christian Brothers” which became so successful; what to do with all the money became an issue. It was decided to start a relief mission to Haiti. Other charities were considered to have too much overhead and Haiti was the poorest country in our hemisphere. Bobby Whipple was one of Dad’s chief helpers in this endeavor. His entire family moved into the house in the suburb of Teaneck, NJ where my father and some helpers lived. Many more commuted from the city every day. Pat was Bobby’s wife and they had a daughter close to two named Stephanie. Her crib was placed in the room I shared with my brother. Over time she must have liked me because she would grab the sides of it and jump up and down chortling with glee whenever I entered the room. You might say she was my first love.
Note: To avoid an obvious source of confusion I will capitalize the first letter of “Brother” or “Sister” when referring to a member of COBU not in my actual family.
I remember my ninth birthday party on the Staten Island Ferry. Joan Sebesta was with all five of us kids and my dad was not there. We cut the cake as we passed the Statue of Liberty. It seemed fitting. Another time we five kids and Joan piled into a Volkswagen Beetle for a trip to the beach. I fit snugly in the trunk.
It was in Teaneck that I learned to ride a two wheeler, a ten speed. It was actually my brother’s bike, and way too big. I had to put a towel on the crossbar and use it as a seat. My brother positioned a crate in the driveway and that had to be the starting and ending point of every ride. It was the only way I could put my foot down. Once in the middle of a ride, to pull a vehicle out someone repositioned the crate to a place I could not see. I was forced to circle the block till Stew came to the rescue.
Eventually I acquired a bike that was more my size. But once going down a steep hill suddenly the pedals began to spin instead of remaining stationary as I coasted. My feet flew off the pedals and I could not stop. As I went faster and faster, I saw a station wagon backing out of a driveway. I had a feeling of inevitability. I attempted to swerve to clear it but it was backing out too slowly and I impacted the hood and flew over it, landing on my back on the other side. At first I could not breathe but after a few minutes I just hurt at the back of my head. Bobby Whipple came to get me and was furious at my father for giving me a bike like that. “Look, every one of these bolts is loose! These pedals are spinning as I push this bike, no wonder you crashed!” Despite the fact that he once participated in a kidnapping at my father’s request, Bobby was the one member of the group that had his own mind and sometimes spoke it. He proceeded to tell my father off but dad led him into his study. When Bobby came out he was a lot meeker.
Dad’s study was beneath the stairway to the second floor. We had to tiptoe up and down it. The slightest noise would result in a sister telling us to report to Dad which could result in a stern reprimand or a beating. Sometime during the time we lived in Teaneck, Joan Sebesta was replaced by Joy Irey as our primary guardian/babysitter. Unlike Joan, she is currently in the group.
Every once in a while the Traill Children as we were called by group members were left to our own devices for long stretches. It was like a bow slowly stretching. Every once in a while the archer’s strength holding it back would slip and the arrow of discipline would be launched. That would result in vicious beatings which admittedly some of which were deserved. We had become brats in the periods my father was less interested in us.
During the bad times I looked increasingly to my brother Stew for a sense of protection if not the actuality. I did not want to leave my bedroom to go downstairs without him in the morning and I often hid in the bushes after school till he or at least one of my other siblings was home. Once I overslept and he left for school before I went downstairs. I cried more than I ever did after one of my father’s beatings and my sisters could not figure why. Stew invented a new breakfast sandwich he called the “Traill Special”. It consisted of two sunny-side up eggs with popped yolks and two slices of buttered toast. He quit grilling his PB&J sandwiches, saying using buttered toast tasted almost as good with much less time and effort.
My brother was willing to spend months of effort to transform a pile of balsa sticks, rings and ribs into what was supposed to be a remote control airplane. Just when it was really looking like that and Stew was just saving up money for the covering I accidentally sat on it.
My brother was financing the airplane with money from a paper route. He was also able to go half and half with Sissie on a 110 millimeter film camera that was fairly top of the line.
Once in Teaneck, when I was fairly certain every one of us children were outside, I was walking back towards the open kitchen window when I heard the sound of someone receiving a spanking with a two by four. That piqued my curiosity. Whoever it was was not making any noise, so they must have been acclimated to it already. Was it Gayle? The beating continued for several minutes then stopped. I tried tiptoe but could not see. I heard my father’s voice and then a low female voice I could not identify. I could not contain myself any longer. “Dad, you spankHer too???” His reply was a Roar, “Donald, Get out of here!” Neither one of us mentioned it again till now.
None of my sisters mentioned receiving a spanking around then and I did not directly ask them. But we Traill children usually knew of each other’s troubles. In Teaneck my father often hit me with a two by four and made my siblings watch. I do not think he would have yelled like he did had he been “disciplining” one of my sisters. Years later my father in a meeting at which I was present responded to a seemingly unrelated question from a Brother in a strange way. He said, “That question is like asking, “Brother Stewart, do you still beat your wife?” You now know as much as I do about the matter.
Not all the times were bad. The blackout was a blast. Dad handed us a huge electronic flash unit and said, “Here, go out and play hide and seek.” Collecting fireflies in jars was a frequent tradition. Once, Sissie took all of us kids except Shirley on an illegal joyride around the block in a Chevy Nova. We were not allowed to go “Trick or Treating” on Halloween but when we were waiting for the bus for days afterwards she would ring doorbells and snag some candy. Sissie always managed to be the life of the party. My only memory of David Berkowitz at that time is a picture I saw in a newspaper of a race or demolition derby car named “Son of Sam”.
The school we went to was a Christian private school that was grades one through twelve so we Traill children rode the same bus. One day after school one of the teacher’s cars overheated badly. He tried to pull off the radiator cap to put water in. Almost instantly there was a geyser that was at least twenty five feet if not more in the air. The teacher was instantly burned very seriously. I stood, mesmerized by the fountain. A few seconds later, water that was still near the boiling point began to literally rain on me. I began to run. I noticed the heat of the water first in my eyes. I closed them and kept running. Unfortunately as my footprints would later show, I then ran in an almost perfect circle. My eyelids, face and hands were rapidly cooled by the air passing my face as I continued to run as fast as I could. It took a surprisingly long time for the radiator to stop gushing and the water to stop falling. But some instinct made me keep pulling the long sleeve shirt I had on and my pants away from my body. The ambulance arrived for the teacher. (I remember that both the model of the vehicle and the sound of the siren I later recognized in movies shot in Europe, which is a strange but totally useless fact.) When the ambulance was ready to pull away, another teacher came up and said, “I know you are in a hurry but I really think you should check out that boy.” He was pointing Standing there in my clothing soaked through to the skin I was suddenly scared. “It’s okay. We won’t hurt you. We just want to look.” I was stripped down to my underwear in the parking lot. But nowhere on my body was the slightest sign of a burn. At first several faculty members and students began to thank God for a miracle. But I knew better, it was pure instinct to do so but by taking the correct course of action when hit by scalding liquid I was not burned.
This portion of my complete autobiography that I am releasing for free is only supposed to cover the first eleven years of my life. But I will include this paragraph as a bonus AND a public safety message. When I was fifteen I had a short-term job at a radio station, where I was reunited with a nurse that once had tenderly cared for me in a Children’s Hospital. Her name is Kelly, and she was moonlighting as a disk jockey when we met again. There was a five gallon coffee urn on the table perpendicular to and at the end of the desk I was sitting at. It was being powered by an extension cord that ran through the middle of the aisle where my desk was. Perhaps it was inevitable that a secretary tripped over it. Instantly I recognized the sound, and looked toward the coffee urn. At the speed it was approaching the point of no return I was sure it would tip over. Not wishing to be unnecessarily melodramatic, I watched Kelly to see if she would get out of the path of the coffee before I acted. She opened her mouth to scream, but remained transfixed just past my chair in the aisle behind me. With one swift motion I stood, whirled in front of Kelly and untucked my dress shirt in the back. Kelly’s scream sounded just before the coffee hit me, but still she did not move. I waited for just a second or two till I was sure the vast majority of coffee had hit me then reached back to pull the shirt away from my body. My shirt had a long “tail” and I was relatively certain all of the coffee had hit it. But just to be safe I pulled at my pants with my other hand. Kelly insisted on seeing my back before she could be convinced I was unhurt. Years later when Stephanie Whipple and I were in the Lamb House kitchen almost the same situation occurred. There was a coffee urn missing a leg that a Brother named Steve Greene had replaced with a stack of cassette tapes before making a half full pot of coffee. Stephanie I believe was waiting for her toast to pop up. There was no way I was going to let a beautiful teenager whose crib had been in my bedroom stand so close to such an obvious danger without me being an arm’s length away. Just when Steve Greene was starting to question my motive for lingering so close the pile of cassettes gave way. I bodily shoved Stephanie backwards as much as I thought I could while allowing her to keep her feet but there was no time for me to spin around. Almost the full amount of coffee in the urn hit me in the front of my thin T-shirt. But I pulled it away from my body and once again was not burned. Both women thought this was something heroic, but I would hesitate to even call it a calculated risk. I knew what to do when struck by scalding liquid, and was relatively sure they did not. It was the only decent thing to do, interposing my own body. I would not hesitate today to do the same thing even for a man. I hope by including these anecdotes in the free portion of my autobiography I may prevent more serious burns in the future. Remember this paragraph if you forget everything else you read by me.
Once, a car came down the street as I was crossing. It was traveling far too fast. Something came over me and I paused in its path. The sedan came to a stop ten feet from me without screeching its brakes. The woman who got out of the passenger seat was furious with me. “I want to talk to your parents! Where do you live?!?” I was in front of my own side yard at the time. Wordlessly I pointed to the house. She rang the bell of the door next to the garage and was cursing at Joy furiously for the first few minutes. Finally Joy got her calmed down and heard her version of events. When the woman left with a screech of acceleration Joy said, “Donald, come in the house.” I never told anyone about why I had acted so. Without being told I went to my room to await the summons to my father’s study. It never came.
My dad took us flying once in a while, once he even let Stew have the controls. There was a sudden jerk up and down and Dad instantly blamed Stew. My brother’s version was that it was an air pocket. Dad never gave me the controls, though at Children’s Hospital after he lost custody he started ground training me in an obvious attempt to get me back. But once again I am getting ahead of myself.
The group bought a banner to tow behind the Cherokee that said, “Get Smart Get Saved”. That was the big motto of the group, though in later years it was scrapped. To earn the right to wear a button that said that, you had to memorize twelve specific verses. It was considered a big deal to earn a button. Everyone wore a flat red and white one but Dad’s had a black background with raised white letters. Always the individualist.
I remember one time we were at the airport when Dad wanted to take the banner for a flight down the Jersey coast. Stew was appointed safety man. His job was to be ready to cut a cable so that if something snagged, the plane would not be dashed to the ground when Dad tried to pick up the banner. Dad was very dramatic about it, as he usually was about flying. No one could talk in the airplane when approaching an airport to land, and we prayed before every takeoff. Sometimes Brothers and Sisters would pray before a long drive but Dad never observed that tradition. At just the right moment, when my father had dropped the hook and would have had to maneuver hard not to pick up the banner, Stew crossed his arms with the cable cutter in his hands. No discipline ensued.
In addition to cleaning carpets the group started a business buying vans in Detroit where they were cheap and reselling them on the East Coast. A few select individuals with higher-paying jobs still worked outside the group, but it was soon called “Working for Pharaoh” and increasingly frowned upon. The vans purchased traveled in convoys, with one van towing another. Vans in stock were often used to transport Brothers and Sisters. Some of them were pretty custom, others were pure cargo. One time Reggie and Angela delivered what would become my father’s personal van. It was a custom green Dodge with a bench seat facing the side door and a huge wraparound dinette in back with a table. When the steel pole holding the table up was removed and the cushions rearranged, it became a queen if not a king size bed. (Reggie and Angela later married.)
My father’s ride in the air also improved as the church bought him a Piper Aztec twin. To my knowledge my dad has never gotten rid of an aircraft unless it had been destroyed, as happened several times. The group is now reported to own five. But I am getting ahead of myself.
It was the Aztec that several Brothers including Bobby Whipple and my father used to first go to Haiti. Winter was upon us and I remember sitting next to the aircraft in a blue cargo van with no insulation and no heat finally crying because my legs were stinging so bad beneath my thin polyester pants. Joy said to me, “Do you really want your father to see you crying?” That did the trick. It took my dad forever to prepare the plane and when he got airborne his heater failed and he turned back from Haiti. Another time they got lost at sea in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. One of the Brothers happened to be looking at the right place at the right time and pointed out what my father realized was a hole in the clouds with an airport on one of the islands beneath it showing clearly.
Eventually they made it all the way to Haiti. The group eventually invested a lot of time and effort in relief work there. That appears to be their chief aim there rather than disciple procurement. They now run several orphanages and sponsor several clinics. Even some of the most bitter former members wax nostalgic about being part of that, directly or indirectly. It was another way for Dad’s hold to function. Anyone who left the group was not only leaving their Brothers and Sisters, but leaving Jesus as well as starving children. That was a powerful hold. It was nonetheless fairly common for a Brother or Sister to leave the group shortly after returning from mission work in Haiti. Peer bashing was common in the group homes in this country. It was common for someone to state their opinion about you as a fact and if you disagreed you were arguing or “creating discord among the Brethren”. If you said the word “but” in a sentence it would quickly be asserted that you had just taken back everything you just said. Or, “Yes, but means No”. Rudeness was rampant in the name of insisting on the truth. There were also times, especially toward newer members that Brothers and Sisters showed remarkable kindness and humility. In Haiti I bet there was plenty more of that spirit. I never went to Haiti though I think I understand why the trend of leaving the group afterwards was so prevalent. But it worked both ways. Michael Rosa once returned to the group and remained in group homes in the States for years after when he was given the chance to go right to Haiti when he first returned. (During the writing of this book I initially confused Mike Rosa with Mike Montoya, who never went to Haiti and was only in the group once from 1980 to 1984. Mr. Montoya currently runs a web site about COBU and attempts to help former members or those who want to leave. If you Google “Church of Bible Understanding” you will most likely find his site in addition to the group’s.
With the mission in Haiti going strong the group planes were now becoming useful for more than just my father’s personal use. He was then rewarded with a new aircraft, a Rockwell Turbo-commander 690A. This was the first aircraft in the COBU inventory large enough to carry all five Traill children plus Dad and Gayle.
One time a Sister in the group was sick and was upstairs when Dad left the house for dinner at a restaurant with every other adult. As soon as the sound of the van turned the corner there came a raucous cheer that shook the house. “Dad’s Gone!!!” We could do what we wanted and make as much noise as we could doing it. According to her a few minutes later I appeared at the door to her room. “Are you Okay?” When she nodded I remained unconvinced. I asked, “Do you want some orange juice?”
It was in Teaneck,NJ that I first discovered I could easily lift a forty pound box of orange juice. I also had my first experience with horticulture. My class started tomatoes from seedlings in Styrofoam cups and mine was later transferred successfully to the ground outside the house where it grew taller than me. We harvested most of the tomatoes green and Joy fried them up.
Another time in Teaneck I wrote a letter to President Carter. I think the embargo or some other crisis was on and I looked to the future in my summation. I wrote, “If you lose the upcoming election it is Not My Fault. Everyone Knows Nine Year Olds Can’t Vote”. In the dark days of his reelection bid against Reagan, Jimmy Carter and his aides would pass my letter around whenever a laugh was needed. Thus Carter became the first of a long streak of Presidents who in one way or another knew who I was, a streak I hope to continue with Obama.
In Teaneck I had two oral surgeries. One resulted from an abscessed tooth that was not treated till my left cheek looked like a chipmunk holding a winter’s worth of nuts. The other was to repair a birth defect. My tongue was held down to the bottom of my mouth by a flap of skin. This is commonly known as being tongue tied. For the operation I was given an injection of Sodium Pentothal. I did not flinch during the shot but bawled like a baby when I woke up. I kept trying to stop, but I could not. I said my father would spank me if I did not succeed. The doctor came back in with a tape recorder and began to ask more questions. He believed all the answers because of his lucky choice of anesthetic. This resulted in a complaint to Child Services of which apparently nothing came.
My brother’s sense of humor led to several wacky pictures. Once, Joy asked us to clean up our room because it was messy. Stew suggested we make our room as messy as possible before then and take a picture. We merrily proceeded. Before we were done with the first phase Joy reappeared to check on us and once we informed her of our final intentions did not object. We even hung a pair of dirty sneakers on the moon globe hanging in the center of the room over Stephanie’s crib. When we were done messing up the picture was snapped with Stephanie as the grinning star.
Another picture was at a restaurant. We always put our waitress through hell with a promise we made good on, “We Tip Big”. At the end of one large meal Stew had the idea of piling together every dirty plate that everyone had used. That did not make an impressive enough pile so we took some as they were being returned to the salad bar and also from other tables after patrons left. The manager appeared but Stew managed to talk him into going along with the plan. Finally Stew posed sitting in the booth behind a massive pile of plates wearing a food-smeared face and holding a knife and fork.
Most importantly, during my time in Teaneck I met my first Thetan. Dad had just given me a spanking for getting too many math questions wrong or some other offense. (I was a lazy student but read like a fiend. That did not help with Math till I got more practical written out math problems in High School. You have this much fuel and you are burning this much per hour and are traveling this fast. How far can you go? That is a math problem I can sink my teeth into. Mere numbers were incredibly boring. My rear was still stinging so I was lying on the grass on my side at a vacant lot next to my house and sniffing back my tears while I tried to read a book about dolphins. Jim Becker came up and introduced himself. He kept me engaged with questions about dolphins and took my mind off the pain. A few minutes later he said he would see me later and walked away. That may seem unremarkable but sometimes Thetan’s actions are. It was many years later before I knew what he really was.
The Teaneck era rapidly came to an end when several articles about the group appeared in local papers. The group was renting the house we were staying in, whose address was listed in at least one article. The landlord evicted us on the spot and after a stop at a Ponderosa, the Philadelphia era began.
The group home we now moved to was 6713 Woodland Avenue, a former grey stone farm house with a huge kitchen that time had relocated into Southwest Philadelphia. My dad was big in those years on Jesus the shepherd. So, new members were called lambs. And the house we now lived in was called “The Lamb House” because it was intended to be used exclusively for new members and those who served as teachers and guardians. There was a sign displaying that name above the door, and it was back-lighted at night. The old stone house still stood, but there were two huge wings added, the rear one was half two stories that made it a total of 36 bedrooms and twelve bathrooms. It had formerly been a home for the blind, so there were railings in every hall. Members of COBU were fond of saying, “Now it’s a home for those who see”.
The house was in the finishing stages of renovation when we moved in. Hardly anyone lived there and we had some fantastic games of hide and seek. My Dad had a separate apartment on the second floor of the original stone structure, and there was a private staircase to the three big bedrooms and one small one on the third floor we lucky kids moved into. We had our own bathroom which contained a mysterious staircase that ended with a wall. The hallway that divided our bedrooms two steps up and a door from it was wide enough for us to put in a leather couch, a few chairs including one recliner, bookcases and a few pictures mainly of airplanes on the wall. It was a homey place.
We swapped rooms a few times, but all of us Traill kids remained alone on the third floor through our Lamb House years. After one of those swaps I saw Ellie had written on her wall, “Mom and Me”, with a heart around it. I was a lot sorrier for Ellie than I was for Mom. Like I said, I just didn’t know.
One of the two porches of the Lamb House stretched across half the front of the house and all the way back along the side to the start of the rear wing where it ended in steps. We positioned a few chairs and even couches there and it was a snug place to watch thunderstorms. Shirley even told a Brother to pretty much buzz off and leave us be when he tried to join us when we were there but got away with it.
Milk crates had played an important part of the furniture in group homes through the years. They served as everything from bookcases to bed bases. But at the Lamb House this escalated to new heights. Brothers and Sisters had long sat on milk crates, but at the time we moved in Joy Irey was overseeing a massive project to actually cushion and upholster over 150 of them for the lambs to use.
The 13 Trolley line ran directly in front of our house and went downtown or to Darby. There was a cheese steak place named Danny’s next door, a meat market on the corner and a convenience store across the street. We children of course patronized the cheese steak place most. They also had sticky buns which were great when grilled to order. Black and white milk shakes were worth saving up for.
The wings built on to the original house we lived in all had flat roofs. The two story rear one joined our happy commode in such a way that you could go through a door and be walking on its roof. At the far end a fire escape ran down to where a further addition to the rear wing, with the same color brick as the side wing, continued as a single story. Then the fire escape went across and to the ground. Ever the adventurer, Stew was not content to walk on a flat roof. In the corner the stone house portion of the building had a crease that he climbed up. The angle, the texture of the shingles and existence of a gutter with the same texture made it easy. He discovered that the top of our apartment had another flat area. But I came up to investigate also and achieved the honor of being the first to climb onto what we called “The Lookout”. Our house was not that much taller than the three story structure containing Danny’s next to it. But, standing up, you could see for miles. We could see all of Downtown Philly and the stadiums. We could even sometimes see the tails of jetliners that were sitting on the ground at Philadelphia International through binoculars. The view up on “The Lookout” was good enough for me to score well on a game I invented, “Bomber”. For each plane I saw before I heard I gained a point and if it were otherwise I lost.
Part of the Lamb House renovation process was re-tarring of the flat wing roofs. Only after that the inspector insisted that hoping to walk across a tar roof during a fire was not the height of feasibility. So an elevated metal catwalk had to be constructed that led from our apartment to the start of the fire escape. My job during the extensive welding was to use buckets of water to put out the many small fires resulting from hot embers hitting the roof. When I often hesitated because I wanted to watch them burn the Brother welding laughed and said, “I see you have a conflict of interest.”
The whole house was painted at first but never to my knowledge repainted during all its years of group occupancy. The metal catwalk on our roof rested on wood which the brothers attempted to seal around. But their failure to accomplish this and also lack of gutter clearing led to standing water on the roof and copious interior flooding. The stairway leading to the second story of the rear wing that was called the “Sister’s wing” looked like a waterfall during one storm. The down-flow started affecting the electrical wiring and suddenly the battery operated lights all over the house that came on when the power was lost became extremely useful. The water also set off the fire alarm which was directly wired to the Fire department. They arrived in minutes. They sloshed through water up to their knees and cleared the gutters on our roof. They then asked us to call them in case of fire because they would disregard any further alarms that night.
It was and is a COBU tradition to only let Brothers sleep on the first floor. This is purely to keep Sisters safe from predators outside the group, not to keep them prisoner. The methods used to hold members were always psychological, never physical. Children of members were alas out of luck.
Dad elected to leave us alone for a while, and life was good. He was gone to Haiti or other group homes for long stretches of time. The house filled fairly quickly but the crowding affected us Traill kids only in the kitchen. On weekends busloads would come and the number would soar to 150 or more. Usually about 75 were in residence during the week.
Often we were the only children in the house. A few came on weekends, but not always through the years. Hanging out with adults so much matured us beyond our years and the hero worship that reflected off Dad onto us did not serve to deflate our heads any. There could be multiple conversations going on but if I spoke at the kitchen table sometimes they all stopped. No one stopped me when I decided to cook for myself, usually macaroni and cheese or chip steak sandwiches for when I could not afford Danny’s. Once I was trusted to make Cream Of Wheat for the whole house. That ended badly when I seriously overestimated the amount of salt I could put in just to try to make the water boil faster... There was an air conditioned room downstairs set aside for food storage. It had a keyed padlock so in the early years we kids just took the door off the hinges during meetings. Later the lock was a cheap combination job that Stew managed to figure out by feel.
Being new members, many of the lambs were not trusted to work in the group’s businesses. They mostly had menial jobs downtown. For years the total collected from all the paychecks they handed in was divided amongst the number of members at the end of the year and that was the amount of income each claimed to the IRS. Many members and former members are still having tax problems because of this.
The Lamb House stood on one side of an acre of ground. There was a rectangular sidewalk path with a railing for the blind and grass and trees in between that covered the next forty or so feet. The remainder was an open expanse of grass that the neighborhood kids had become accustomed to playing football and other games in. For years between occupancy by Chapman’s Home for the Blind and the Church of Bible Understanding the property had been vacant.
The rear of the Lamb house had a ten foot barbed wire topped chain link fence installed by the previous owner. It had a gate leading to a small parking lot that the group kept a lock on at almost all times. But in the front was only a low wrought iron job with more ornamental purpose than security. There was one gate in the front fence in the center of the original stone part of the house with a sidewalk that led to the front door. At first neighborhood kids politely knocked on it and asked to play football in our yard. For a while the Brothers even formed a team to play against them occasionally.
I was sitting in on a house meeting which I occasionally did though it was not required of me. (The vast majority of Big Meetings I spent joyfully playing with the children of other group members.) My father was not in the meeting. An “Ambassador” came down from my father’s apartment that said, “Brother Stewart says, ‘Everyone run out and get those neighborhood Brats out of our yard.’ “ Everyone dropped their Bibles and instantly complied right down to the “running” part. For the fun of it I joined them. At first the kids in the yard thought we were all coming to play also as Brothers had done many times before. They were indignant when the true purpose of our venture was revealed. “All of you Brats get out of here!!!” many Brothers and Sisters said in unison. “But we asked permission and you said yes!” “We changed our minds”. “What happened? You used to come out and play with us!!!” “Well, I realize now that was wrong of me,” several Brothers said after an awkward pause. An ambassador came to say, “Brother Stewart says, ‘I notice none of you out there have any bibles’” There was a mad dash to become so equipped. Just before the neighborhood kids left another pronouncement came down from above. “Tell them they are always welcome to come in for a Bible Study.” None were interested at that point.
At the front of the house was a room to the left where the porch had been closed in. (From the color of the brick it had been built at the same time as the Brother’s wing that came off the left of the original house parallel to the street then hooked ninety degrees to the rear.) A guard had always been constantly posted in this room which had a large window facing the street. But he could not see far to the right and had to leave through the front door or right porch door occasionally to check the side and rear of the property. So it was relatively easy for the kids to hop the fence in front and still play for a while before they were discovered. This led to more all-house confrontations that resulted in their eviction.
They took it out on our leaves. A pile had accumulated almost all against the rear fence. They were awaiting bagging and transport to the dump. Someone tossed a match and maybe a little gas through the chain link fence near the shed in front of which a car was parked. Many leaves had tumbled from the pile under the rear of the car where the gas tank was. I was sitting in the guard’s room and his first knowledge of the fire was when the Fire Department came to the front door. They had been called by the neighbor of the one house across the street behind us. The part of the fire nearest the shed and car had already been put out by the time I went outside and there was no danger of a gas tank exploding. There was still an impressive line of fire going on. The single pumper was working from the car over and even when it was joined by a second, it took a while to fully extinguish the blaze. They continued to soak the pile of leaves long after the fire was out. “That’ll get you through the night,” said the firefighter who had rung the doorbell. “But tomorrow you have to get the rest of those leaves back from the fence.” The next day there was a long all-house effort to do so. Security provided by Brothers acting as guards was tightened to the point that the neighborhood kids could not play in the yard at all. This did not serve to ease the rapidly escalating tensions between the Lamb House and the world outside.
Once, when we Traill kids were out of the house with our father, a neighborhood teenager punched through the plexiglass of the front door to the Lamb House. The guard came out of the guard room just as he succeeded in reaching in, undoing the lock and opening the door. He punched the guard in the face then pulled the fire alarm located in the foyer. The firefighters again responded quickly to an alarm in such a large, crowded structure with everything they had available. They were not pleased with it being false but the guard’s explanation, the shattered plexiglass and a growing black eye appeased them.
At first I had been friends with some of the neighborhood kids, but they now turned to tease and bully me. Groups of teenagers took to congregating on the sidewalk in front of the Lamb House and making as much noise as possible at all hours of the night. They would quiet down when they saw an approaching cop car and the racket would be denied by the row of houses across the street. The police could not legally disperse them.
One night my father was with a group of Brothers that went out to confront them. A teenager came through the front gate swinging a belt with a sharpened clasp commonly called a “spinnaker”. He caught my father in the face just below one eye. My father’s first reaction was to kneel down and pray rather than try to run away. This story was repeated many times in the succeeding years and made a huge impression on the brothers and sisters. “I wish I had faith like that!” was the common reaction voiced by David Louisa. My father required stitches. He was human after all.
The group responded by procuring plexiglass shields and mace for the Brothers rotating as guards, but had always stopped short of firearms. After numerous shatterings by various objects, bulletproof glass was installed in the huge guard room window. The front door window was replaced by painted plywood.
For years we Traill kids had been attending private schools. When we moved to Philly we began attending public school. My first was somewhere between two and three miles away and I walked most of the time. The teacher who made the most impression on me there was Mr. Weston. He was a character through and through. As an example once he told us that the next day, in class, we would see John Travolta in “Grease”. We were all excited. The next day there was a large jar of Vaseline half empty. In it was a picture of John Travolta cut out from a magazine. During recess select students would play “eraser ball” in the classroom with a thin wiffle bat. I developed a method of arcing the eraser so it would fall almost vertically into the strike zone, looking like a wild pitch ninety percent of the way. This made me highly desired as a pitcher but I was lousy at bat. Then one of the students tried to use my pitching method against me. First he hit the ceiling and I got at least one ball. Then eventually he achieved an arc that cleared the ceiling, but unfortunately the apex occurred right in the strike zone. The eraser froze right in front of me and I whacked it with the sweet spot of the bat. It hit the back wall with a thud, above the rear blackboard. According to Mr. Weston’s eraser ball rules it was a definite home run. One of my teammates ran to hug me, jumping up and down. It was needless to say thrilling. But the bat was used for more than recreational purposes. Mr. Weston occasionally dispensed parochial punishment with it. Some of those times it was me experiencing it. I can only say I wish my father had always used a wiffle bat.
There were plenty of magazines around Mr. Weston’s classroom and when we were finished with our work we could read them. I often chose to read them before I was done. Once I found a short article about a comet that had hit the Soviet Union decades before. It was printed in that particular Time Magazine in the off colored background reserved for less relevant articles. It ended with the sentence, “If that is true, diamonds may be had for the picking in the forest of Tunguska”. I forget what we were studying a few weeks later but that article was relevant. I found it again and showed it to him. He was highly impressed. Not only was it relevant but he himself had read that magazine thoroughly several times and had not noticed it. He said that in front of the whole class. He thanked me for showing it to him and read the article I found aloud.
Shortly afterwards an event occurred that would reoccur through my school years. The teacher would ask a question that had nothing to do with what we were studying at the time. In this case the question was, “Why do we study History?” I was the only one to raise my hand. My answer was, “By examining the mistakes of the past we can avoid repeating them in the future.” Mr. Weston excitedly said, “Come here and let me shake your hand!” The next day there was a man in a tweed suit sitting in on the class and my teacher repeated the question and then me to repeat my answer. This odd experience would continue occasionally through High School.
I forget how I got it but one of my toys was a rubber band rocket. It came with a thin rubber band that wrapped around a launcher a certain way. You fired the rocket by hooking the rubber band then bending the plastic launcher and letting the rubber rocket fly. Eventually the thin rubber band broke and the two replacements were used up. There were plenty of thick rubber bands around group houses. They were used to hold stacks of file cards together. But I struggled to wrap them around the launcher. Eventually a Brother showed me a better way. “Forget the launcher. Wrap the rubber band around your thumb and forefinger. Then hook the rocket here and stretch it back.” Not only did this method work excellently, with a thick rubber band the rocket flew much higher. Alas, I tried to demonstrate this at school and it wound up on the roof. My school building was at least four stories. I asked the custodian to get it but he acted incredulous that I had brought a rocket to school. I said it was a rubber band rocket and he said he never heard of such a thing.
Months later Mr. Weston came up to me with my rocket. It had been thoroughly bleached by the sun on one side. I exuberantly thanked him but felt the urge to say more. Unfortunately what came out of my mouth was, “Where’s the launcher?” Mr. Weston said with a snort, “I’m gonna launch you!!!” The class laughed. I said nothing more.
One winter day I was out in the schoolyard during recess. The wind was blowing hard. I went to the steel fence near the gate. I put a hand on the fence and arched my back. I put my head back and my long hair flew in the breeze. It looked like I was desperately holding on to avoid being blown away. Many kids laughed and some came over and copied me. It felt good to be laughed with, not at. But I asked the boys with me to look terrified instead to put on a better show for the passing cars. Several honked in appreciation. Eventually a few of the boys left. I wanted to hold onto my newfound popularity. There were numerous small stones near the gate to the schoolyard. I dropped one to see how far from vertical the wind would make it drift. Several other boys did the same thing. Then a boy came over and ruined it. He picked up a rock and instead threw it at a passing car. He was rapidly joined by others. I slipped away.
A teacher came up to me and said several boys who had been caught throwing stones at cars said I had started it. I told the truth and the boy who had first launched a stone on a trajectory other than vertical said he would “get” me.
My walks home were much less pleasant over the next few weeks. The boy had no trouble forming a coalition against me. The school crossing guard in my direction of travel defended me like a lion but I was not always in her sight. Eventually my brother’s pleas resulted in my being dropped off and picked up by a group vehicle each day.
Once Mister Weston turned his plastic bat onto a boy’s shin in front of the entire class. The boy burst into tears and tried to pull away but Mr. Weston held him as he cursed out his teacher. He then proceeded to hit the boy several times on the rear, again in front of the entire class. Usually the miscreants were taken into the cloakroom for discipline. (One time I had emerged smiling after the class heard an especially long “Beating”. Mr. Weston had actually been hitting the coats on the wall. But I digress.) “You Nigger!” the white boy called black Mr. Weston. “I’m going home to tell my mother and she’s gonna fire your ass!!!” If it were not for me, he might have made good on that threat. There was an investigation and I was the only kid to be questioned more than once privately. My version was better than the other kids, but worst than Mr. Weston’s. After they went to Mr. Weston several times than back to me the two stories matched in almost every detail. Almost none of the other kid’s stories matched so well with each other, and according to scripture the testimony of two is true. Mr. Weston kept his job. He thanked me privately for telling the truth. Several weeks later, when he caught me staring at the clock with unfinished work in front of me, he threw his wiffle bat at me. The class laughed and I did too, mainly with relief. I would now no longer be regarded as purely a “teacher’s pet”.
I walked to and from school in all weather. Once with fresh snow on the ground which melted in on the holes in my sneakers it took several minutes for the feeling to return to my feet. The next day partly home after more snow had fallen I stopped at a payphone and pleaded for a ride. My sister Shirley answered. She started talking to a Brother off the phone. “He’s where? He got that far, why can’t he walk all the way?” “Come on!” my sister replied. “It’s freezing and all he has are those holey sneakers.” An admonishment ensued. “That’s what they are, Holey!!! They have holes in them!” Eventually she prevailed, though with the way my feet felt by the time a van arrived maybe I should have kept walking.
Shortly after our guardian took us all to clothing outlets in Reading where I acquired brand new leather Nike’s and a whole new wardrobe. My classmates noticed the overnight change. Joy Irey had even given me a haircut. “What, your Dad hit the lottery???” my classmates asked incredulously. I only grinned.
I have said my brother had a paper route in Teaneck, but I do not know where he got his money from in Philly. Among the toys he acquired was a used electric remote control car, a Bolink Challenger street racer that could exceed thirty miles an hour when properly driven on a straightaway. Also there was a second hand BMX bike with hand brakes and a suspension shock. One day my brother brought home a kinetically powered Seiko watch that was waterproof to 150 feet. It required no winding or batteries, just the day to movement of your arms or an occasional shake if you were extremely sedentary kept it going. I forget exactly how it happened but thanks to me that watch wound up under a school bus owned by the group and was crushed. I set out to swipe Stew a new watch to make up for it. My target was the Brother, Reggie Smith, a group mechanic who had once delivered Dad’s personal van to Teaneck. He was in the habit of removing his shiny watch to protect it from grease and often had to hunt for it after he was finished working on several COBU vehicles in one day. I figured one of those times he would just not find it, because I had picked it up. But I lingered in the Lamb House parking lot far too long after the swipe. Reggie came up to me and asked me if I had seen where he put his watch. I said no but Reggie’s eyes drifted to a bulge in my shirt pocket. I arched my back so the bulge became even more apparent and grinned mischievously though my mouth was getting drier by the second. Finally Reggie smiled knowingly then reached into my pocket and retrieved his watch. From his point of view it was a harmless practical joke rather than attempted robbery. I actually did him a favor; it took him much less time to find his watch that day than usual.
A child that came to the Lamb House and stayed much longer than a weekend was Anthony. He came with his mother Irene. I do not know where his father was. Anthony was quickly integrated into the Traill family especially by Stew, Ellie and I. The kid was fun to play with.
One evening all of the Traill children plus Anthony, Irene, Dad and Gayle were at a restaurant. Anthony was almost finished drinking his soda through a straw. He paused and said, “No slurping”. He then merrily proceeded to slurp his soda to the last drop. Dad looked at Anthony with crossed eyes, and then said to Irene, “Do you see what just happened? He knows the rules, but he has no idea there are consequences for breaking them. To learn that, he has to suffer consequences.” Irene nodded and my hopes for the brightness of Anthony’s immediate future diminished. “He needs to suffer consequences”, Irene said. Dad asked Irene, “Irene, has Anthony ever suffered consequences?” She said yes. “ Really suffered consequences?” Under the pressure, Irene changed her tune. “Irene, Irene. Whatare you doing to him??? My father asked this then continued. “The First thing any child needs to learn is that there are consequences.” (Note my father’s words. Children do not need to first learn that they have a father on earth and in Heaven who loves them, but that there are consequences.) My father then convinced Anthony’s mother that she was poorly suited to teach Anthony consequences. There was a long pause and then Dad began to accuse Irene of attempting to maneuver him into teaching Anthony consequences. “Irene, don’t be a maneuvering woman. Instead ask and you will receive.” “I want you to teach my son that there are consequences”, Irene said in a small voice. There remained the determination of how. Finally Dad convinced both Irene and little Anthony that the best method was to use “Just plain old fashioned beatings”.
Just the threat was enough to “improve Anthony’s behavior” for a while. Then it came to pass that, in a house with twelve bathrooms, four year old Anthony soiled his pants. Perhaps he had bad colitis. I listened helplessly outside Dad’s apartment when Anthony was summoned into the study. First my father asked general questions about his day, but there was plenty of evidence in his voice Dad was leading up to something. He then asked, “Did you go to the bathroom today?” The tone of his voice left little doubt what Anthony had better say. Then in an even more menacing tone, “Did you use the toilet?” With fear in his voice, Anthony once again said yes. Finally Dad said, “Did you do it in your pants???” I heard Anthony shakily say no. After a while Anthony admitted that though he had used the toilet several times, once he had done it in his pants. This to me seemed the height of bravery, but Dad was not impressed. “Anthony, were you deceitful just now?” Finally Anthony was hammered into saying that he did deserve a good old fashioned beating for “Lying to your face” so many times. Dad was only too happy to oblige. The sound was a two by four, and with every initial blow Anthony screamed. Dad put a stop to that with, “Don’t scream when I hit you!” and then “Do you want me to give you something to really cry about?” When he was done Dad asked Anthony what lesson he had just learned. “Don’t do it in my pants” was Anthony’s reply. His voice showed the struggle not to cry was ongoing. Dad eventually convinced Anthony he had learned, “When in doubt, tell the truth.” Dad assured Anthony he would never get hurt for telling the truth. I had my doubts.
I am not sure if that was the only beating Anthony received at the hands of my father. I am sure Anthony had more beatings in store for him, but one day when I was at school Irene abruptly left the group. I can only hope it was because she saw the bruises Anthony was surely accumulating. But little Anthony still regarded the Lamb House as a fun place to play more than the House of Horrors it could sometimes be for children. According to Brothers and Sisters who were there, Irene had to drag Anthony to the 13 trolley. “But that’s my house!” Anthony protested. I live there!”
I do not know where they came from for Anthony to prefer living under the same roof as my father, but I can only hope he and his mom found something better. I missed Anthony, but was glad he was gone.
Inadvertently, Dad was not the only one to inflict abuse on Anthony during his Lamb House days. We had been playing hide and seek one day and Stew had helped Anthony to climb into the industrial sized dryer in the basement to hide. The door of the dryer was partially open and was left in its exact position after Anthony was inside. Ellie was it, and Anthony was the last person she found. When she succeeded, Ellie playfully slammed the dryer door shut. Unbeknownst to any of us, the timer had a few minutes left from the previous use. Anthony braced his hands and feet against the dryer walls and spun around several times before we could get the dryer door open again. He begged us to let him do it again.
Uncle Larry once came to the Lamb House with my cousin Ginny. The condition of the house had slipped considerably in its time of group occupancy, and mice as well as cockroaches had encroached in the areas Dad and we kids did not live. He had it out with Dad then smoked his first cigarette in years outside the house. He slipped me mom’s phone number and a few days later I talked to her on the phone for a few minutes. I forget how Dad found out but it was a big stink. I had been deceitful. Just by not telling someone I was going to call my mother meant for a while I was sure my first spanking in years would come. I did not call her again.
A few months later Dad changed his tune completely and suggested all us kids go to visit our mother. Shirley and Sissie could both drive by then, so transportation was not a problem. They were even part of the convoys bringing ever more vans from Detroit. We spent Christmas at Aunt D’s house once. Eventually Mom also came to see us at the Lamb House and brought lots of presents. We also met her a few times outside our house in Philly. Ellie told her she wanted to come live with her but Shirley was too busy trying to get Mom to “obey Jesus”.
Once a reporter was obviously working on an article about COBU and staying across the street. I was on my way into the front door of the house. She came to the front gate and asked me where I lived. I paused on the front steps and said, “The Lamb House.” She asked again and I repeated myself. Finally I said, “Read the sign!” She said, “Point to it.” Feeling somewhat stupid, I did. The resulting picture does not show “The Lamb House” sign, just me seemingly pointing reverently into the air. It appeared in Parade Magazine, a nationwide publication inside certain newspapers.
Eventually I graduated from Mr. Weston’s class. He told me in the end that I was one of the few students he would miss. I missed him too.
When I graduated from Elementary school altogether I was sent to Middle Year’s Alternative which was much further from the Lamb House. This was the same school Ellie was attending which she made a fuss about. The first day we took the 13 trolley together. She had many friends and usually arrived to school half an hour before she had to spend time with them. I was never as good at making friends so once I was sure I knew the way I elected to take a later trolley. This pleased Ellie, who at the time did not want to be seen with me.
The trolley I wound up taking every day from then on was the same one a large group of Sisters took together without any Brothers. Those Sisters all had jobs downtown. They were not ashamed to be seen with me and I enjoyed their company very much as well. I usually got to my homeroom a minute or two before the final bell.
One of the books in the MYA library was an autobiography titled “Wilt” by Wilt Chamberlain. It was full of curse words and descriptions of his sexual exploits which he called “cooping”. At one time, unbeknownst to me, my father’s group was in negotiation to buy a property owned by Wilt. One day a man calling himself “Neville Chamberlain” called for my father and I answered the phone. (My father had a direct line to his study, but the number was never given out. Instead a Brother or Sister in the “Phone Room” downstairs would “Put the call through to Brother Stewart”.) I said, “Oh yeah, I read your autobiography!” If Wilt was disappointed that his usual ploy (mentioned in his autobiography) to avoid long conversations with secretaries had failed with me he did not show it. “You did? How old are you?” I forget now how old I was. Wilt then asked, “How’d you like it?” referring to his book. “All the cursing and cooping were a little hard to take, but the other two percent I liked.” Wilt laughed and I put him through to Dad without further delay. Another book from the MYA library I still remember was one by “J.J. Armes”, a Texas boy who lost both hands in an explosion and later grew up to become a famous private investigator and a licensed helicopter pilot. I wanted to be like him when I grew up, minus the artificial hands.
The movie “Kramer vs. Kramer” about a custody fight between parents made a big impression on me. Shirley had seen it before and said there was a part I should not see. She covered my eyes when the boy met the nude woman coming out of the bathroom, but I squirmed enough to catch a glimpse. Shirley called me a brat. Another secular movie we Traill children went to see was “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. That one concerned an astronaut and his identical looking robot who are transported back in time with hilarious results.
I did not see the movie “Star Wars” till after my father had lost custody, but somehow a book adapted from the screenplay appeared on the guard room table. The door in front of the main staircase that led to the foyer was screwed shut for security reasons. This was so anyone coming into the house would have to pass through the guard room. But that meant that the only way to get out of the house in the front was to go into one of the two big rooms used for meetings, then through the guard room into the foyer and finally out the front door down the steps or out the other door that led to the porch. So one day when I was in the guard room my father passed through on his way out. He saw the book on the table and picked it up. He examined the cover and then shook the book several times. “Get Rid of this,” he ordered.
Since the guard did not want to leave his post, I offered to “Get rid of it”. I am pretty sure the guard discerned my true intentions. Bread eaten in secret is sweet, and reading Star Wars on the couch and in the recliner in the Traill children was especially delicious. I envisioned myself as Luke, my father as Darth Vader and my siblings excluding Shirley as fellow members of the Rebellion.
Overall the first few years in the Lamb House were relatively happy ones. It was not always so…
After a while there were signs that the benevolent archer holding back the arrow of what my father called discipline was weakening. For the first time in years my father appointed a new guardian over us, Kevin Brown. All others before had been female and Kevin’s first focus was me. He made pathetically obvious attempts to befriend me but when he told me his desire directly, I told him Jesus was my friend. Once when we were in the kitchen a Sister was having trouble reaching a container of salt on the shelf. By standing on tiptoe and leaning against the shelves I was able to get it for her. Kevin was in the room and said, “Donald, that’s good! You help the Sisters.” Every Sister in the kitchen then and several who came in shortly afterwards began to recount all the ways they found me helpful, including “Keeping us safe on the morning trolley”. I found it highly embarrassing.
I was not the only one Kevin attempted to endear himself to. One day my sister Ellie came up to me and said, “That Kevin is a real character.” She then recounted how she had just been in the basement laundry room with several other Sisters. Kevin came in to put his laundry in the machine just when at least one Sister had finished drying hers. Kevin said, “I want to be like Donald. I want to be a help to the Sisters.” He then picked up a bra and with a straight face asked, “How do you fold this?”
After a while, Kevin gave up using honey on me. Dad apparently thought he was too old for the strenuous exercise of beating our behinds. The first spanking Kevin gave me was in front of my family minus Dad and Gayle for no particular offense, just my “General attitude of disrespect”. I forget what all the rest were for but he could be counted on to come up with something. Often between spankings he would double his belt over and snap it at me. I would jump and he would laugh.
I managed to get back at Kevin in my own way. One day I went into his room in the single story “Brother’s wing”. I put a thumbtack facing up on the bed that doubled as the only seat. I came out of his room and entered a bathroom a few doors up with several toilets and sinks on the way out of the wing. I forget if I actually used it but just as I was coming back out of the bathroom Kevin came through the double fireproof doors that separated the wing from the stone house. My timing was impeccable. Just as I was innocently looking back just to see if anyone was behind me to hold the Brother’s wing door for Kevin flew out of his room and glared at me. I paused, looked at him as if wondering why then continued on my way. He never mentioned the incident again.
For several years I had been keeping a composition notebook. The first page read; in large colored in letters, “Do not read this book.” Then, “I told you not to read this book. I guess you can’t read in which case it might not matter.” My last addition at the time Joan and my sister Shirley read it in its entirety was a rewritten church hymn. Shirley, laughing, told me she and Joan had sung it together. The chorus was, “Oh, how I hate Kevin, Oh how I hate Kevin, Oh how I hate Kevin; as much as I love my bro….” I had too much going on at the time to be angry about the invasion of what little privacy I had previously cherished.
I don’t know what bothered my siblings more, that I was getting hit day after day or that it was not even Dad who was doing it. Over the next few weeks Stew waited for my rear to get nice and colorful then took some pictures. Armed with them, all five of us hopped on the 13 trolley to go to Child welfare. We all carried as much personal stuff as we thought we could without arising suspicion. Stew thought we would go right to a foster home from downtown. Fat chance! Though once the complaint was filed Kevin disappeared for a while and hit me no more. Through it all he had only used a belt. Compared with what was to follow Kevin Brown was pretty tame. (There I go, getting ahead of myself. As long as I am here, let me say that years later when out of the group; like Bobby Whipple, Kevin apologized for his actions. But unlike Bobby, Kevin not only is currently in the group, he became Vice President. He is there to this day.)
Over the next few months my father worked hard to break down his children’s unity. He took us to see a lawyer he said wanted to know more about our complaint. Unbeknownst to us beforehand, she was hired by Dad and what we said only went straight to him. Wary of another trick, I was reticent with the actual investigators. It was decided we should go to family counseling. But the order was not enforced, we were not monitored and my mother was never notified of our complaint. I can speak from bitter experience when I say Philadelphia does an excellent job of protecting abused children. They just have to see blood before they do it.
But for a long while, things did get better. Kevin was not the only one who would try honey. Dad took us back to Edmund Scientific Company, a store near our former house in Teaneck. Among other things, he bought one of the neatest toys I had ever seen, for me… It was a piece of cardboard with plastic that rose above and covered it. On the cardboard was a top down view of a town with miniature buildings glued on. By using a magnet held underneath the board you could maneuver a miniature bulldozer to clear the roads of sand. Dad said Edmund Scientific would be a yearly tradition. He also started another tradition that would occur more than once a year when he piled all of us and Gayle into the Turbocommander and flew us to Mifflin County in Midwest PA. for a weekend “Family vacation”.
Among the presents my father continued to lavish was a ten speed bike just about my size. The Turbocommander had lost a foam plug for one of the exhausts that served to keep birds out of the plane’s engines when on the ground. Someone needed to go get the remaining plug so a similar one could be fashioned. Stew issued a challenge… Could that someone be me? I set off proudly on the sixteen mile round trip and carried my trophy home in a paper grocery bag. Stew was playing a game of chess over the phone with a friend. He said on the phone, “Listen to this… My brother just rode a bike all the way to the international airport and back. Do you know how far that is from our house???” I nearly burst with pride and love and began to go to the airport quite often. There remained the problem of just what to do when I got there. I could only stroll around the terminal feeling important for so long. I sometimes swiped chocolate milks from a deli in the terminal but there were so many cameras that it was a serious risk. The solution came with a combination of the airport arcade and a ten dollar roll of quarters taken from the group’s unlocked cashbox. I hadn’t had a raise in allowance for a while…
Terri Bergamini, one of the members serving as one of the group’s accountants, confronted me privately. I did not lie. I just hung my head and said nothing. She explained that she had to account for every penny. She would not tell my father. At first I did not hear the “Not”. She repeated herself soothingly. She told me I was a good boy that deserved more than fifty cents a week allowance. She then said that when she could manage it with balanced books there would be another roll of quarters in a certain place in the cashbox. Then, and only then, could I take it. There would now be a lock on the cashbox but she told me where she would hide the key. I scarcely believed my double good fortune. From then on I always called her “Terri Beramoney”. No one ever found out it was more than a public joke.
I ran into another good thing on the way to the airport one Sunday. I saw my first remote control airplane flying, and found the field just off the road in a clearing surrounded by tall weeds. There were three principle fliers I remember. Frank and Tony used to do an excellent synchronized aerobatics show with their planes. Ed drove a Volkswagen Beetle and wrote for a model aviation publication. I went to the airport a lot less often, but every Sunday I was with those fliers.
Once Ed was flying someone else’s low wing plane. He did a loop and at the bottom the rubber bands holding the wing on snapped. The airplane plummeted straight down to the ground. Ed kept it at full throttle, hoping that plus some up elevator could lessen the angle of the impending impact. It did not and the body of the remote control airplane hit with a solid thud. The first thing Ed did after that was apologize for not checking the number and condition of the rubber bands the owner had placed on the aircraft before takeoff. The he placed the transmitter he had been using on the ground with the raised antenna facing where the airplane’s fuselage had impacted. He and fellow pilots calculated the distance the fuselage was away on impact judging by how long it had taken to hear the “thud”. Before he and the aircraft owner went to see what they could retrieve of value, Ed grabbed my shoulder and said, “Get that wing.” The wing was taking much longer to reach the ground and was crossing the road in front of the clearing into another large vacant field on the other side. It was fluttering down slowly, tipping end over end and moving forward. I ran toward the road, trying to place myself where the wing would land. “Look both ways!” someone yelled. As I reached the other side of the road I hesitated. The weeds were well over my head. If I went into them, I would lose sight of the wing’s landing spot. But if I waited the wing would land and I probably would not be able to continue at the right angle to find the wing. I decided to try to split the difference. It was more out of desperately wanting to be useful than hope that I searched as long as I did. I could have come less than five feet from the wing in the six foot tall weeds and never known it.
Ed was disappointed when he found out I had failed to find the wing. But after he and the aircraft’s owner had left in a vehicle and searched fruitlessly for a few hours I felt vindicated. By the time I had given up looking for the wing they had had returned with what was left of the fuselage. Not much of value could be salvaged. Even the solid looking metal engine of the remote control plane was split in two.
Frank was partially handicapped and required leg braces and crutches. I once shared his cluttered station wagon during a thundershower. I had gotten in the habit of bringing an insulated jug of iced tea to the field. One day I let some of the pilots there have some. Frank said, “Next time your mother makes you iced tea ask her to put less sugar in it.” I replied that I did not have a mother and had made the tea myself. Frank then asked when my mother had died. I replied that she had not, but I had not seen her in a while. When asked why I said, “She’s wicked.” “That’s not anything a boy should say about his mother,” Frank said. “She chose adultery so Dad divorced her.” That was Dad’s version of events (strenuously denied by my mother) but according to scripture and his actions six weeks after the divorce became final it was at best a case of a pot calling a kettle black. Frank said nothing more but I am sure he wondered about my home life.
One Sunday when I was at the remote control flying field for some reason all the pilots decided to go to another field in Northeast Philly. I said no one would mind if I tagged along as long as I was back at my usual time. I rode along with Ed in his Beetle. Being used to carte blanche in COBU vehicles I reached for the radio. Ed lightly slapped my hand and said, “Don’t touch anything in my car. If you want music, say “Music Amundo”. I laughed and then said the magic words. It actually felt good to receive some direction from an adult for the first time in a while.
My brother once again attempted to get a remote control plane of his own into the air. His task was much easier because the aircraft he purchased was in the new class of “Almost Ready to Fly”. But it was an early attempt at this design strategy and was made of cheap, thin plastic. It somewhat resembled a Cessna 172. Shortly after my brother placed the order with Tower Hobbies but before the plane had arrived he said that he wished he had ordered a taildragger. This was because he did not think a remote control airplane with a nose wheel could be steered on the ground. I told him every aircraft I had seen at the field with a nose wheel could steer on the ground. My brother was unconvinced. “How could that possibly work?” “I don’t know but I see it working every Sunday”. It was not until well into the assembly process that my brother said, “You were right!” The special electric motor called a servo that swung the rudder had two linkages. One went back to the rudder and one went forward to swivel the nose wheel simultaneously. So the airplane was steerable on the ground.
After assembly came the task of breaking in the .15 cubic inch engine. My brother did not have an electric starter and it was difficult to get more than a few sputters out of the brand new engine by flipping the prop. My brother came to the flying field a few times but I am not sure he brought that airplane. In any case, it never flew.
One Friday when we supposed to go to Mifflin County, we kids plus Dad and Gayle were waiting in the Turbocommander for permission to taxi for takeoff. There was a long delay and eventually a Postal service flight radioed, “Relax Sixteen Echo. We’ve been waiting longer.” Finally Dad gave up, shut down the engines and uncharacteristically apologized. “I’m sorry children. It looks like we won’t be going to Mifflin County.” We went back to the Lamb House where Dad “Sought God’s will” for a while. He then decided to take us there in his personal van. This van had an identical layout to the one he had driven in Teaneck, but was of the next generation with the engine hood sticking out further from the passenger compartment.
Fifty gallon trash bags had always served as laundry bags and convenient luggage at COBU houses. (Dad and Gayle on the other hand had top of the line actual luggage) So it came to be that in the rush of our second departure to go to Mifflin County, I grabbed my dirty laundry instead of the clothes I had packed for the trip days before. The obvious solution was a Laundromat. But Dad preferred to start a long tirade against Stew for “not looking after your younger brother better”.
Since my brother was “not looking after me” my father began to turn more attention to me after that trip. But he was more benevolent for a while and even though we Traill kids had no official guardian for a while I was never “beaten” by Dad personally again. Instead I had to write out certain sentences a certain amount of times when caught in an infraction. I numbered each sentence to keep track. Even when he caught me cheating by skipping ten numbers every time I finished a side of a page Dad seemed more amused than angered.
My father apparently reached the conclusion that I needed to be surrounded by spirituality even in my education. So I was taken out of MYA and sent to a unique school located in the basement of a Baptist church. The best way I can describe their teaching methods was that it was home schooling before home schooling was legal in Pennsylvania. We went to a building every school day but there were no traditional classes. All of the students in all twelve grades sat in cubicles. There were course booklets that we read and then occasionally when we had progressed to a certain point we took a test with all booklets removed from our cubicle. We were on the honor system even to the point of often grading our own tests. The penalty if you were caught cheating was a paddling by the principal. Usually it was Sissie who drove me to that school and often my lunch was a ham and cheese hoagie that we bought at 7-11 on the way. I very much enjoyed my lunch on those days, especially when I microwaved the hoagie.
The students at my new school were free to progress at their own pace in every subject, and this led to my courses becoming lopsided. I was simultaneously studying the Latin nomenclature used to scientifically identify animals and simple addition, subtraction and division. During one check of my progress in school my father noticed I was still on the same type of math I had been doing in Teaneck. My stepmother pointed out that my progress in math had been much faster when in Teaneck I received a spanking for each wrong answer. My heart skipped a beat but my father laughed and said, “Gayle, you’re Mean !” He jokingly referred to her several times after that in front of his children as “the wicked stepmother”.
My father now asserted that Stew’s example “was getting grosser and grosser” and maybe it was best for him to move downstairs with the Brothers to separate us. My brother told me he would give no resistance to this idea, but perhaps when my father saw that the prospect did not bother Stew, Dad relented and I continued to share a bedroom with my brother.
When my father decided I needed a further counterweight to my brother’s “bad example” he appointed a new guardian over his children. The lucky designee was a brother named Jimmy Greiner. His previous claim to fame was that he had once rolled a COBU school bus down an embankment after the brakes failed.
At a private meeting with the Traill children Jimmy assured us that he would not be like Kevin Brown. This was a commitment Jimmy stuck to in his own way. In the beginning he was better, but Jimmy would eventually prove himself far, far worse. To his credit Jimmy Greiner has at this writing been away from COBU for years.
Jimmy struck me as a jovial redheaded elf, and his attempts to befriend us seemed far more sincere than Kevin’s had. Among other things Jimmy arranged for one of the group vans to take me to the remote control flying field on Sunday before going downtown to “witness”. Often he drove the van dropping me off himself, and to my relief all the Brothers made no attempt to recruit or preach to the pilots there.
Under my father’s direction I had made a chart to show my behavioral progress. One of my duties to be checked off was “Go to see Dad every day after school”. I went through several charts before my father complained that the small print on my chart was hard to read. My daily requirements had not changed and there was really only a need for me to be able to read my chart. But nonetheless I contrived to make my next chart easier to read. I misjudged the spacing and was forced to leave out the “After school”. So my chart now read, “Go to see Dad every day”. I had never gone to see my father on Saturdays, Sundays or any other day I had off from school. But one day my father came up to me and said, “Why didn’t you come to see me yesterday?” I explained that it had not been a school day. “It says Right here in Big letters, ‘Go to see Dad every day’. What part of that don’t you understand?” He sentenced me to write, “I will go to see Dad every day” five hundred times. From then on I went to see Dad every day he was home. But I balked at writing the sentences out for the first time since my father had come up with that discipline technique. I did not tell my father why but to me the punishment was unjust. So my father said I was grounded until I wrote them out. I remained grounded till he lost custody.
I could no longer go to the flying field on Sunday, but being grounded did not preclude me from leaving the Lamb House accompanied by Brothers or Sisters. So one night in December 1980 I went to Cherry Hill mall with Shirley and Joan Sebesta.
I split off from them at the mall to go to Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby. I forget what happened to my first rubber band rocket, but I wanted a replacement. I searched the whole store and those rubber rockets were no longer sold. Two other things caught my eye however. One was a metal “bomb” that would fire a cap when dropped. The other was a miniature Rubic’s cube. I had enough money for either one, but not both. Then a thought occurred to me… I could still have both. So I put the “Bomb” under my still zipped up coat and went to the register to pay for the Rubic’s cube. I was almost home free, but when I leaned forward and reached for my change the metal bomb hit the floor with a “thud” I was sure the cashier heard. So I reached down as if it had been lying there all along and asked, “How much is this?”
The manager who was acting as cashier was not as easily fooled as Reggie Smith. He said, “Stay right there.” I had too much respect for authority to run. The manager took my arm and led me into the back office. The shame of being caught was sufficient for me to resolve never to shoplift again. But I never voiced this conviction. At first the toy store manager said he was going to call the police, but then asked what my father would do if he called him. “He will give me a spanking.” The man who had caught me elected to let me go after he called the Lamb House. He talked to more than one person there but I do not know if he was “put through to Brother Stewart”.
I was allowed to leave the store by myself and met back up with my sister and Joan.
My father’s more benevolent turn since the Kevin Brown fiasco was not sufficient to erase the conditioning of years of his disciplinary methods. Ellie told me later that once she had been caught shop-lifting, had gone to Dad on her own after getting home and was not spanked because she had “already learned her lesson”. But I had a much dimmer view of the concept of forgiveness. I had done wrong, I had been caught and would surely be punished. My only hope was to delay the inevitable. So I did not tell anyone I had been caught shoplifting on the way home. I went straight up to the Traill children’s apartment and desperately searched for a pair of shorts that would fit under my jeans. But I was not successful and settled on an extra pair of underwear. I then silently pretended to read a book on the leather couch on the third floor while my brother was in the recliner.
Thus my brother was blindsided when Jimmy Greiner came up to the apartment where we both were and said he was taking me downstairs for “a spanking by the younger brothers”. He protested to Jimmy for a while and then went to Dad’s study.
Meanwhile I was taken to the rear of the Brother’s Wing, to almost the same spot I had played goalie in many indoor games of soccer with my brother. A chair was already pre-positioned in the middle of the hall, apparently for the sake of variety. Dad had decreed that the “really good beating” should be witnessed not by my siblings, but by every Brother and Sister in the Lamb House.
I could only recall the names of five Brothers who participated later, but there were more than that especially during the first spanking I received in the Jimmy Greiner era. They apparently hit me till they were tired, and each rotated several times through the batting order. So that first spanking under Jimmy’s direction was about the equivalent of half the total number of spankings by Kevin Brown. But like all things it eventually ended.
The brothers decided my jeans were providing me too much protection from the blows. So it was decided I should lower my pants. One of the sisters said, “We don’t need to see this” and she prevailed.
With my jeans down I once more positioned myself on the chair. A brother looked closely and said, “He’s wearing two pairs of underwear”. Another agreed, “He’s deceitful.” But Jimmy also looked and said, “That’s enough”. Already bruises had formed.
Prince, who was to prove one of my main antagonists, protested that “He’s not even crying yet!” Jimmy then assured him that if I ever “went for pity” like that, I would be punished more severely.
I was allowed to get up from the chair and raise my pants. It was over. I had practically sailed through. After all, it had only been a belt. But Jimmy was huffing and puffing from his exertions. I made myself breathe harder too so I would seem to be trying not to cry.
Jimmy and I went up to my father’s study. His first question was to Jimmy, “Well, did he get a really good beating?” Jimmy assured him that I had.
My hopes that it was over were dashed before I left my dad’s apartment. My behavior “was so gross one good beating is nowhere near sufficient”. I forget all the math, but it was wrong not to tell anyone about my shoplifting on the way home, wrong not to “come straight to me” when I got home and others. All in all, my father told me, “You deserve four really good beatings and you are going to get them”.
Before those four were over I had committed further transgressions I cannot recall and realized it would take a while for the beatings to catch up. I began to spend an increasing amount of time in my room. My logic was that if I was not seen eventually “they” would run out of reasons for spankings. Eventually the Brothers told me they wished to spend more time with me than just during the beatings but I was not persuaded.
I was not required to drop my pants anymore, but did not dare to acquire extra padding for fear of discovery. The third “beating” was the last with a belt. Jimmy did not think I was suffering enough and exhorted another brother, “Hit him harder, his life is at stake!!!” That appealed to my sense of irony which has always been somewhat twisted. I have always had the ability to divorce my mind from my situation and I burst out laughing. “See what I mean?” asked Jimmy. “He thinks this is a joke!”
So the next day the Brothers started taking turns on me with two by fours. They hurt a lot worse when applied to my posterior but they did have one redeeming quality: They broke eventually. The first few times that happened, the Brothers would stop the beating.
One day my sister Ellie and I had to walk to a dentist for an appointment. I shared a pot of macaroni and cheese with her beforehand. When we returned before I could get upstairs Jimmy took me aside and said, “Do you remember what we told you?” With a general question like that, who could answer? But I was “maneuvering badly and had better cut it out”. Eventually he told me that I had not washed out the pot after using it. It was not till after the sentence of another spanking had been pronounced that Ellie reminded me that she had told me she would clean out the pot, but that we had both forgotten.
Up till then, I had been reassured that my father knew about each and every spanking and its severity. But my father was in Haiti, and Jimmy had not made a phone call after the Pot-Gate inquisition had started before pronouncing sentence. So I knew I had been lied to and Jimmy not only had been giving carte blanche over my behind, he was “motivated” and running with it. From then on, since my school had let out for Christmas vacation already I did not leave the third floor of the Lamb House except to get beat. I drank water out of the bathroom sink, but the taste of water did not appeal to me much. Combined with the lack of food I became increasingly dehydrated.
The Brother striking me would always stand on the same side of the narrow hall to my left. So the accumulated force of all the blows was concentrated on the right cheek of my rear. Over time most of the blows had hit in an area only a few inches in diameter. That resulted in deep bruises, and the seemingly perpetual rain of blows from two by fours then broke those bruises open. My “good old fashioned beatings” had turned into a good old fashioned scourging.
My only memory of Christmas and New Year’s that year is that there were two days I had beatings left to get but Jimmy did not come up to get me. It was only after I made it to the hospital that I realized why.
I began to slip into shock and grew increasingly weaker. On every trip to the bathroom for water I had to sit several minutes on the bottom step of the stairway to nowhere to rest. I began to notice blood on the white painted wood when I got back up. For some reason I wiped it away before leaving.
The trip back up the steps after a beating began to be like walking to Mifflin County and I had to rest several times. Then I had to start resting on the way down. Sisters noticed me looking increasingly pale.
My brother caught me resting at the bottom of the steps from our apartment. He then grabbed me by the arm and forced me to walk fast the rest of the way to the first floor. He took me to Jimmy Greiner and made him put a hand on my heart. “Now do you believe there is something wrong with him?” Jimmy said, “His heart is beating fast. Maybe he was running.”
My sister Ellie finally cajoled me into coming downstairs for a meal one evening. She fixed me some Campbell’s chicken soup. For days I had been past feeling hungry, but after the first few spoonfuls I wound up eating the whole batch. Her fortunate choice may just have saved my life; it later took several days of IV saline solution before my dehydration went away. Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup has a high salt content.
Jimmy said that I Had looked pale going into the kitchen, but after I sat down I was fine. After I was finished eating Jimmy came back and said that the Brothers wanted to talk to me in their wing. He assured Stew that was all that would happen.
But that was another bald-faced lie. Before the last beating I would receive, I asked to speak to my father. I was accused of “stalling” and something else, so I racked up two more beatings to be given at a later date. I had long since lost track of the grand total. Then one of the Brothers mentioned a remark I had made about Gayle over a year before. “We ought to give him a spanking for that too,” declared Prince.
Through it all, Prince and one other Brother formerly involved in gangs kept telling me I was “lucky”. “We used to get it with chains and baseball bats!” They finally began to repeat this one too many times and Jimmy said, “Shut up!” I began to wonder if he was on his way back from The Dark Side.
I realized I had to submit to the beating Jimmy had lied about or I would only be given more. For several days when I screwed my eyes shut as the blows landed I had seen red flashes. But now they were white hot. Something flew out of my nose during one blow in the middle and I looked at the floor to see a fleck of blood. The board broke several blows later but this time the Brothers did not stop.
Prince was the last Brother to take a turn at me. Through a process of elimination he had narrowed in on the area of my buttocks that was now a large open sore. If you want to know how that felt, imagine the common childhood experience of skinning you knee and then bumping it against something before it was fully healed. Now imagine you have an even deeper open sore somewhere on your body and someone is whacking it with a two by four. It didn’t tickle.
Finally, with the strength of desperation I managed to raise my legs to stop the blows though two Brothers were holding them down. “You’re just making this worse for yourself!” was the refrain. I did not see I how it could get any worse.
Jimmy had repeatedly cautioned the Brothers not to be “impressed by the noises he makes”. By this point in my ordeal I could not help making some noise with every blow, especially the ones that landed on what Prince dubbed “the sweet spot”. More brothers rushed in to lower my legs and hold them down and there was nothing more I could do to forestall the additional blows I was deemed to deserve. The white hot flashes became ever brighter till finally, during one blow, something remarkable happened. I believe that when a person has reached the point of maximum helplessness and pain, something in the brain snaps and they achieve the ability to call out to forces beyond themselves not yet explainable by science. It felt as though a model train track switch had shifted within my head. But I was not being hit on the head. The forces did not fully manifest themselves till years later. But the last three blows by Prince did not hurt at all. With the third, the two by four broke into a now useless stub.
Something prevented the Brothers from remembering that there was a perfectly good solid piece of oak in the basement an inch thick. One brother had lovingly stained the plank after a handle had been cut out with the words, “Jesus Is Lord”. The Brothers decided instead to act on their previous declaration that they wanted to spend time with me without beating me. I was taken to a room where I sat on the bed and was told to read several Bible verses out loud.
I then returned to the kitchen where I told Stew how he had been tricked. I wanted to go right back upstairs, but Stew insisted we both confront Jimmy when he came in the kitchen. It was not Jimmy, but an excited Brother who had not been in the group long and had not participated in the beatings who came into the kitchen. “Donald, you have to come back to the Brother’s Wing. They found blood on the bed where you were sitting!”
I went back into the room I had read the verses in and several minutes later lowered my trousers in front of others for the first time since the first spanking with a belt. It hurt to do so and Jimmy helped me, pulling faster than I would have wished. The Brothers saw what they had done. There were several exclamations of disgust, but Jimmy said, “He’s not hurt that bad.” I was not hit again, but it took my brother a few days to convince Jimmy I should go to the hospital. Finally Jimmy said, “I don’t see how it would hurt to have him checked out.” All of my siblings accompanied me and Shirley drove us to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in a Chevy Suburban.
Shirley was having a blast and suggested we all race down the hall to the Emergency Room once we got out of the parking garage. I yelled at her in no uncertain terms that I was in no shape to run. In triage I was asked to list my symptoms and said I was getting dizzy, saw spots before my eyes, and couldn’t walk far. When my vitals were taken I had been sitting in a chair for a long time so while not normal, they were not a cause for immediate concern. I was to be released without treatment and referred to a private doctor. We were almost turning to walk into the garage when a nurse began to scream, “Where is that little boy who was just sitting here??? There’s blood on the chair he was sitting!” For whatever reason, at that moment my brother rolled his eyes. Perhaps it was because I had been struggling for so long before I was finally paid attention to. Events were set in motion that resulted in my spending ten days in Children’s Hospital and my father losing custody. Through the whole ordeal, boards had broken but I had Not.
My Childhood experience with COBU was over.
When I was about 19 my sister Shirley returned to COBU and assured me my father had changed dramatically.
I spent several years of my adult life with COBU, first before I came to realize no “bolt of Lightning” fundamental change had occurred in my father. Later, I was estranged from other family members and though working did not have sufficient resources to live on my own. I still maintain that COBU beats the streets. Others have disagreed with their actions.
I do not agree fully with Mike Montoya about how destructive COBU is to adults. My father has his effects on those willing to sacrifice their own judgment and live in the fear of man rather than Fear of God. But they would most likely have problems anyway. COBU can be very good in the end as a wake-up call for them.
I still believe it is no place for a child to grow up. That being said, I know of no instance since Anthony that my father has meted out corporal punishment on someone else’s child. Spankings by parents themselves were in my adult experience non existent to very light. But the high powered psychological bashing is nearly as strong as ever, though it usually comes nowadays from underlings, not Brother Stewart himself.
COBU can be beneficial in other ways and even lead to acquiring various skills. For example, if you hang around long enough to be trusted at the various enterprises you can have help in getting your CDL driver’s license, very valuable for on the road experience. You may even learn new things about the Bible.
But if you want assurance as to whether my father currently lives his own “escape recipe” I talked to him within a month of this writing. He was initially very amicable in an overly done Santa-Clausy kind of way but after a while I tried Traill kryptonite- a simple direct question. He hemmed and hawed and eventually resorted to silence instead of “Letting his yes be yes and his no be no”. The question? I merely asked, “Do you want a relationship with me?” God, if he exists, apparently wants a relationship so badly with me that he sent his only Son to die to make it possible. But a simple “yes” was too much trouble for my father, who is supposed to provide a view of my Heavenly Father through his example. “He who will not provide for his own family has deserted the Faith and is worse than an unbeliever”.
If you want to know my current beliefs, at this time I am an open-minded agnostic. If I ever meet someone who acts like Jesus seventy five percent of the time, that to me will be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt there is a God.
I believe in History and Science. I believe there was a man named Jesus who lived in Judea when that region was under Roman occupation. I believe he was crucified. Whether or not he is the Son of God I am willing to devote my life to be more like him. I do not believe there is sufficient evidence that Jesus ever claimed to be the Son of God. So the argument “Jesus is either Lunatic or Lord” is not logical.
Thetans exist outside known laws of physics. There is no doubt in my own life experience that Thetans do exist and that an especially powerful one can accomplish all the Signs of Jesus. It can be proven by examination of my records from 2001 that it IS possible for the Thetan Jesus to exist simultaneously on a cross and also somewhere else. Thus he could overcome death.
So if Thetans exist, are powerful and are by nature good and non violent, why do events like 9/11 occur? The process of a Thetan receiving their powers kicks into overdrive around puberty. Drugs were developed in the former Soviet Union that can induce a temporary manic or schizophrenic state. The ten questions commonly asked upon admission to a mental ward are specifically designed to catch Thetans. I forget all but one. It is, “Do you believe your mind sends radio waves?” The answer “yes” is considered evidence of a delusional state. I believe in Science. If the brain does Not emit radio waves, how can a doctor tell you are not brain dead??? What about “biorythms”? However a Thetan can answer that they have the ability to send and receive actual thoughts nonverbally and not be delusional. Under the influence of forcibly administered psychotropic drugs they are deprived of all their special powers yet can still remember and profess they once had them. What are they then, almost by definition? Looneytunes.
The laws governing commitments to mental wards do not help. In many states including Pennsylvania, commitment proceedings are considered civil proceedings. Not everyone knows that since they are being deprived of their liberty; even though in a hospital, not a prison they still have all the rights of a criminal defendant. They have no Miranda warning and a joke can easily be twisted into a delusional or threatening statement. For example, once I sang the chorus to an old country song, “Short People got No reason to live”. What appeared on my chart? “The patient said that all short people should commit suicide”. The vast majority of mental patients who have been involuntarily committed sit there while hearsay is used against them without protest. When someone smart like me objects, it is upheld. But the state does not appeal the case so they are not forced to change the laws. My “jury” I demanded once consisted entirely of staff members from my mental ward directly subordinate to Dr. Shilke, who had committed me and was arguing I should not be released. The judge said he believed they could remain impartial, then struck my protest and his answer from the record. Afterwards the laws of Pennsylvania were changed and the farcial right to a jury trial was dropped. Often I was told after the fact that a hearing had occurred and my right to attend had been “waived”. Nowadays even if a patient does make it there the judge actually deciding the case is not required to be at the hearing.
I believe in the existence of mental illness, but the mental health system doubles as a giant prison for Thetans. As you will see if you buy my full length book, some staff members of mental wards are aware Thetans are real and participate in an active conspiracy to suppress them because they answer to those who cherish power at the expense of others. Who else suffers besides Thetans and the ones they cannot save in a powerless state??? Commitment proceedings are a popular way for abusive spouses to keep their partner in line or increase their chances of success when they anticipate a battle for custody of children. Greedy relatives without the stomach for murder can get their hands on an estate early through misuse of the mental health system.
The current mental health laws are the worse injustice perpetuated on Americans since slavery. It is a direct case of the actions of states against their residents in violation of the Constitution and every American ideal. There is no requirement for new laws. It is the President’s duty and responsibility according to his Oath to take action if a state habitually violates the civil rights of an entire class, even one so repugnant as mental patients. He has every power to accomplish this through the Justice Department. If Congress knows that a president is knowingly allowing civil rights of American Citizens to be infringed they are obligated to impeach.
My failure to prevent 9/11 in this dimension still hangs heavy upon me. In another dimension thanks to a maximum level of warning and response that had many specialists twiddling their thumbs at hospitals not a single person died in the city of New York on September 11, 2001, even by natural causes. (One police officer was shot, but survived.)
It was only in mid 2002 that my spirit was finally broken through no fault of COBU. It takes a while to come back after you have given up on life, and my slump has only taken a steady upward turn in January of 2009. But to know the whole story you will have to read the full length book to be titled: