Hippies Suffer Sermon for Feed-in

By Thomas Edwards, Staff Writer at the Huntington Beach Haven

March 15, 1968, North America

Desperate pleas from parents of runaway youths are tacked to a small bulletin board leaning against the inside of the storefront window.

Above the announcements, a tiny sign echoing a distant plea of optimism reads “You can help change the world.”

Lingering near the entrance, a few bearded, beaded and sandled youths look guardedly toward the rear of the room for signs of the nightly feed-in—trays laden with sandwiches.

THE SCENE—Huntington Beach’s newest hippie haven—a gathering place that has become a center of controversy for the city’s residents and the visitors who frequent it.

The Orange County Light Club, located unobtrusively on Main Street a few steps from the Huntington Pier, is the temple for the crusading evangelists of “Teens for Christ” and the visitor can expect pressure salesmanship for Christ to accompany the menu.

The interior is a facsimile of a Japanese teahouse resting on a large patchwork quilt, replete with psychedelic lights, live musical entertainment and quotes from the scriptures updated to the mid-’60s hip dialect, adorning the walls.

Furnishings are sparse—six large wooden tables fashioned out of donated telephone company cable drums each about a foot tall. A few folding chairs line the front of the room and an elevated stage, doubling as altar and bandstand, is tucked away in the rear.

But the main physical attraction for the youths is the perennial coffee urn jutting upwards in the center of the room, dispensing a seemingly endless stream of potent caffeine.

“How are you? Do you know Christ?” is the standard greeting, and new comers—seldom well—versed on the subject—are unable to collect their thoughts in time to counter and limit the conversation if they so desire.

BUT MANY frequent visitors have become adept at escape and evasion tactics, easing toward the door if it even appears a sermon is coming, then waiting in the shadows of nearby stores for the feed-in.

The mission is operated by Rev. David, his wife Jane, sons Paul, 21, and 19-year-old Jonathan, and daughters Faith, 17, and Linda, 22, and 19 other youths who claim to have been “saved” from evil in the past few months. All live communally in a large house donated by a wealthy Huntington Beach businessman now vacationing in Michigan.

They assumed control of the storefront mission last month after aiding its predecessor, Teen Challenge, for five months.

The operation is financed by donations.

Group members make the rounds of catering services, and bakeries for the food. They claim there is a steady flow of funds from interested individual and church groups.

The hippie church opens at 8 p.m. every evening and remains open until midnight, but the members are available for emergencies at all times.

YOUTH wander in aimlessly, passing under a large white peace dove emblazoned over the door. They recline on donated patches of carpeting, scan the miniature booklet of Bible verses given to them as they enter and talk with friends or the nearest stranger.

There is a relaxed mood as Paul strums his guitar at the microphone and sings pop songs subtly interspersed with spiritual phrases.

The subdued atmosphere doesn’t last long. The music stops, and the phalanx of crusaders trod forward to redeem.

There is a self-admitted zeal among the members. “We are a little fanatical,” Paul says.

One visitor, echoing the thoughts of many, objects to this. “They are always pushing this religion on us; they never leave us along,” he complains. “Sometimes, when you go in every night, it gets on your nerves.”

The disgruntled youth admitted that he only came for the food and left early because of the sermon. He missed the feed-in by five minutes.

Many of the drifters have little choice. The roastbeef or meatball sandwich, donut and coffee, is all they eat.

Paul, who acts as spokesman for the missionaries, is enthusiastic about the program. He realize most of the visitors come only for the free food, but he claims he still reaches more youths than the churches and he says there is a steady flow of persons into the hippie church who are interested “in a new scene” regardless of their previous religious preference.