River Views

by Malcolm Macdonald, April 11, 2012

The main office of Mendocino Redwood Company in Calpella contains a concrete enclosed room referred to as “the vault.” Along the wall opposite the vault’s doorway sit a long line of filing cabinets, each several feet deep with papers. Most of the cabinets are labeled with the names of current or past neighbors of Mendocino County’s largest landowner. The only file I have direct knowledge about holds several boxloads of material pertaining to the Macdonald Ranch.

During the ownership of Mendocino Redwood’s direct predecessor-in-interest, Masonite Corporation, from the late 1940s to about 1980, the motto “Don’t Say It — Write It!” was stamped on top of inter-office memos. The preponderance of material in the Macdonald file is from this Masonite period; however, during Louisiana-Pacific’s ownership, mid-1980s to late 90s, someone clipped River Views columns from the newspaper, presumably because those columns rather mildly rebuked L-P’s logging practices. One Louisiana-Pacific forester’s memo states that the company needs to keep the Macdonalds “socially indebted” to us.

Several key foresters and consultants of the L-P era are still employed by Mendocino Redwood Co. and its timber partner Humboldt Redwood Co. Some of these personnel were holdovers from the Masonite Corporation years or mentored by Masonite forestry employees.

Amongst the Masonite keepsakes rests a copy of a full page ad in the Ukiah newspaper from the 1960s. The gist of the wording (it reads more like a petition) is a call for tolerance regarding the Redwood Valley church then recently founded by Reverend Jim Jones. At the time of the newspaper ad Rev. Jones and family were recent arrivals in Mendocino County. Most likely because Rev. Jones and his wife, Marceline, had adopted children that included Asian and African-Americans, some of the narrower-minded denizens of the environs had treated the Joneses, their church, and home as if it were a playground for Ku Klux Klan rallies. The ad/petition in the Ukiah paper called for cooler heads to prevail and was “signed” by dozens of individuals and businesses. The names included prominent physicians and attorneys, including one who would go on to a long career on the bench, most notably as judge in the Bear Lincoln trial. The list of names included my parents. All of the names were typed in, so no one could be sure who had actually signed the petition. My parents’ names were misspelled.

This ad/petition was apparently copied by someone at Masonite Corporation and slipped into the Macdonald file. One can only speculate at the motives behind clipping and saving such an item. Sinister is a word that comes to mind. To the best of my knowledge the ad/petition regarding Rev. Jones still resides in the vault at Mendocino Redwood’s main office.

I have a somewhat greater insight than most regarding the activities of Rev. Jim Jones before things unraveled into the murderous mess at Jonestown in 1978. Rev. Jones came to Redwood Valley in 1965. Soon thereafter his wife Marceline gained employment as a nurse at Mendocino State Hospital. My mother served there as a psychiatric social worker. The incidents of racial intolerance that prompted the newspaper ad preceded, by a couple of years, Marceline Jones’ pleas to doctors at Mendocino State Hospital to have her husband evaluated for what she perceived to be behavior anomalies caused by mental illness. Mrs. Jones made similar suggestions to her husband, but Rev. Jones refused to undergo anything like a psychiatric evaluation, and as an adult, by law, he had every right to do so — just as Aaron Bassler did.

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