Someone sent me an e-mail about this, so I decided to put up a web page about it. LRY used to be the high school age Unitarian youth group. The reason I say used to be is because they did away with it in the early 80's and replaced it with something called YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists). They also had Jr. LRY and I don't know what they replaced that with. God knows why they let Ronald Reagan and his moral majority convince them to get rid of the L word. They also had another group that was college age called Student Religious Liberals and they cut that out as well and replaced it with something called the Young Adult Group. LRY used the logo until 1974, when they decided it had sexist implications.
Like the adult part of the church, LRY operated on a local, a regional and a national level. I was never able to go to any of the national conferences though. I did go to most of the regional conferences. We had about four conferences a year, a mid-winter, a spring and two summer conferences. The conferences were run by six elected officers, a president, vise-president, a secretary, treasurer, editor and registrar. At the conferences, we also elected a Conference Affairs Committee. These were the peace keepers who made sure everyone acted in a friendly manor.
Most of the conferences were five days long. They started on Sunday and ended on Friday. I'm not sure why, but the Spring conferences were only a weekend long. This was probably because everyone didn't have spring break during the same week. The conferences were usually held in a youth camp in Oklahoma.
The conferences consisted of a morning and afternoon workshop, a theme talk, some kind of planned recreation and a worship service at the end of the day. Wednesday was stunt night, where we put on skits and Thursday was howl night, where we usually had a band. I think they called it howl night because at one conference back in the 50's, they couldn't get a band, so they had Allen Ginsberg come and read Howl instead. I think that was the first time the parents threatened to disband LRY.
LRY had close ties to the counterculture because we were concerned about many of the same things, the Vietnam War, the draft, the environment and altered states of consciousness. We had a lot of hassle from the adults about the latter though...mainly over drugs. Luckily, there was only one conference where we had a bad drug freak-out, and it wasn't like a typical bad trip that you can talk someone down from either. It was more like some kind of psychotic reaction, and we had to finally call the men in their clean white coats to come and take him away. I still have no idea what caused that bad reaction, but I have never seen that happen before or since.
The thing that was such a freak-out for me over this was that the guy who went nuts was the President of the TOAK federation and I had written a fictional story almost a year before about him getting sick and somebody else having to be President, so I go to the conference and when it actually happens, you can see how I'd be freaked out by it. Also, he ruined my turntable by throwing a handful dirt and gravel on it while a record was playing for a jazz workshop I was trying to help someone do. You can see how the adults would be upset by all this, but the truth of the matter was they were upset when there wasn't any hanky-panky going on at all.
At the local level, we had meetings at church every Sunday night and for a while, we had a coffee house, which was great, but the adults kept getting on our case about that. We also did stuff to raise money, like selling donuts after the church services. Each year, we had Youth Sunday where we put on the church service. The thing that was a hassle about it was blacking out the sky lights so we could project films and stuff. The sanctuary was pretty big and it had about 90 skylights that we had to put black plastic over and hold it down with rocks. Once we got that unpleasant task done, we had a great time doing the show.
Throughout just about all of LRY, we seemed to have one crisis after another with the adults. I remember one time, they had a fake bust at one of our rallies to try to scare us about the dangers of getting busted and instead, it just ended up getting everyone all upset about being tricked. There were always allegations of LRYers sleeping with other LRYers at our conferences and rallies and we never heard the end of it. Then, there was the time they were all upset about our coffeehouse. I don't remember what the charges were, but what I do remember was that was the Sunday I went to the park and got dosed from the electric Kool-Aid that I had no idea was electric, and it was one of the strongest doses I ever got. We had a confused LRY meeting that night for sure.
I think we all got a lot more out of LRY than the adults ever gave us credit for, as far as personal growth goes. Maybe if they had realized this, they wouldn't have hassled us as bad. One of the main activities we did was to look into alternative ways of thinking and doing things. We'd get into concepts like Eastern religion and noted how it differed from Western religion. I wish we had gotten into alternative politics, but for some reason, they wanted us to stick with Robert's Rules. In particular, I think we should have used the system of consensus where appropriate, like when we had to make some decision on someone's fate.
The last year I was in LRY, they elected me editor. Actually, I was more or less the communications officer the whole time I was in LRY because I provided the sound system, but this was the first time I was an elected officer. The first thing we had to do was come up with a name for the newsletter I was supposed to edit. We had to rename it because the federation we were in had split into two, so that people living in Houston wouldn't have to drive all the way to Oklahoma for the conferences. Various names where thrown around, such as Federation Under Central Kansas, but we wimped out on that one because we knew the parents would get all upset if we called it F.U.C.K. Then someone thought up the name The Toak Times and that's what we went with, since I was going to edit it and everyone knew I was the most notorious head in the federation and had the longest hair and beard.
Oh the problems we had the year I was elected. We had found this brand new youth camp in Beavers Bend, Oklahoma and I think LRY was the first group to use it in June, 1970. It had nice A-frame cabins that even had attic fans to keep them cool, and it also had a really triply mess hall. But come June, 1971, we couldn't get that camp for some reason, so we had to use some older camp we had never been to before, which turned out to be the pits. I think the first thing that went wrong was my bunk bed collapsed on top of the cat below me. The only thing we could do is drag the mattresses onto the floor and sleep there. Well, one thing after another went wrong. We were gulping water from the outside bar, when yet another pleasant surprise happens. They told us they were going to have to shut off our water because a water main had burst somewhere.
Well, great! How do you run a conference without any running water, especially during a heat wave. We had been having enough problems with people coming down with heat exhaustion when we had plenty of water. That was the reason for the sunshine salt tablets mentioned in the review below. This situation was about as bad as Woodstock, because you can't cook the food without water, nor can you wash the dishes. Hank, the camp nurse, told us there was nothing we could do but abort the conference, but then he went down to the ranger station and convinced them to let us move to the other camp, which wasn't being used after all, and it had plenty of water. We had a meeting and decided to move to the other camp. So I fired up the sound system first thing the next morning, found someone to operate the board and got on the stage and said, "Good morning." My mike was turned up way too high and it just about blasted everyone out, and I heard my voice bounce off some mountain a few seconds later. "Sorry about that! I didn't know this damn thing was loaded," I said after they got the volume set right.
I told everybody we were moving to the other camp, but before we do, we have to clean up this camp. I then preceded to break down the sound system and pack up the sound truck while everyone proceeds to clean the camp and pack up. I had to get to the other camp first because I needed to get the sound system up and running before others started arriving. I got everything set up at the new camp and as soon as the people started arriving, I put on the theme to 2001 and when it ended, I said, "Welcome to the rebirth of June Conference." It was a rebirth for sure.
The following is a review from the Toak Times of our June, 1971 conference, which was my last conference as editor of the Toak Times. The next editor was Scott Brix. JUNE SUPERCONFERANCE RAVING REVIEW
Wasn't it just darling staying three wonderful days in luxurious Youth Camp #1?! Ah, memories: Wooden toilet seats, showers that flooded, cabins resembling steam baths, bunks that were collapsible (whether you wanted it to or not!), cabins facing the steady stream of traffic, nearby campers that, for some reason, didn't seem to like 200 Motels played over P.A. systems and all the Mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers a person could ask for were just a few of the highlights of that lovely resort. We spent a lot of time chewing Colin's sunshine salt tablets and gulping wawa at the outdoor bar, when yet another delightful surprise springs out: The water was going to be shut off for a while. I, upon arriving, had the privilege of working kitchen duty and being elected to CaC all on the first night:
But seriously, folks, we had a nice time, At this new meeting called Thingy, we got to know more people faster and decided to move to youth Camp #2. (Thank God!) Workshops were done by Bob Ross on family living, by Royda Brix on Tai Chi, by Rachel Van'Citters on life drawing, by Gene Leggett on how to be different (I think. I came in a little Late) and a lot more that I can't recite at the moment. We had this nice little thing on women's consciousness which was funsies, followed closely by men's consciousness, then we put them together and watched the fireworks. Not really, it was a pretty good discussion. We moved to the other camp on Wednesday. Colin played music from 2001: A Space Oddity when we arrived. We had planned rec, which was swimming volleyball, and Frisbee-slinging the whole time; Worship service was given every night, of course. Wednesday night was Stunt Night, Some of that was Tammy and the Twatts' featuring Big Hank and friends; the Dick sisters, Caressa, Eda, Fonda and Anita; a typical Richardson LRY meeting featuring Colin and Richardson LRY; Mystery Blanket featuring a bunch of people .(I fergit who) Consumer Retort with me, and Mary Bath MoKay and a foot-long Little-Thingy about masculine hygiene deodorant, (All you male LRY'ers, take a look at yourself! But keep your hands On the paper!); and a few other stunts Ifergit. Thursday Howl Night. Colin got a band called Roach which arrived two hours late. We were beginning to wonder if they'd gone to Broken Arrow. After Howl Night's wonderful band played, some- thing happened to Howl Night. Maybe it was the Old Dime-A- Dance Romance Disease or something, but I thought that Howl Night could've been a hell of a lot better. How was it for you? The food was good, but someone swiped the potato chips. You want Taters?: Next morning we roused our bods, ate our last plate of cream corn on French toast, cleaned up, had Friendship Circle, cried, said goodbye, and left. Barbara Lawrence
As more LRY pages go on-line, I'm going to be including them here, so check back and you may find one by someone you knew in LRY.
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