Promise Of Paradise

3:30pm Thursdays
  • Hosted by Sarah Reith, Alice Woelfle, Kate Magruder, Laura Hamburg


Welcome to Promise of Paradise, Back to the Land Oral Histories of Mendocino County.  We are working to document an experiment that began roughly fifty years ago all across the country. In the 60’s and 70’s, young people began to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” Anything was possible. College-educated hippies began to stream away from the cities and into the country, to put a modern twist on ancient homesteading skills. We’ll hear about the sense of exhilaration, the resilience, and how these now aging hippies recall their rush towards freedom and responsibility.

We’ll also hear about how the lack of boundaries led to tragedy and disillusionment; the racial insensitivity; and how the back to the land experiment altered Mendocino County.

Who were these people, why did they come, and what mark did they make on this county’s history?

Promise of Paradise is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, California Humanities, the Arts Council of Mendocino County, the Judy Pruden Historical Preservation Fund of the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, the Mendocino Institute, StoryCenter, and Grace Hudson Museum.


Promise of Paradise Episode 32: Gina Campbell

Jul 11, 2019
Contributed by Laura Hamburg

This is Kate Magruder with Promise of Paradise, Back to the Land oral histories of Mendocino County.  In the early ‘70s, a knot of recent college graduates with Stanford diplomas in hand, came up with an audacious plan...not to go into professional careers, or even to get jobs at all…

but instead, to move to Mendocino County and create a new school for k-8th graders.

Promise of Paradise Episode 30: Vicki Patterson

Jun 27, 2019
Submitted by Vicki Patterson

Today we'll be hearing from Vicki Patterson of Ukiah.  Born in Manhattan in 1945, Vicki migrated to Mendocino County in 1969.  She lived on the Mann Ranch outside Ukiah in the early 1970s,  when it was a kind of "Esalen North," hosting seminars with great thinkers and philosophers like Joseph Campbell and Alan Watts.  

Promise of Paradise Episode 31: Kirsten Ellen Johnsen

Jun 27, 2019
David Emrick

This is Laura Hamburg with Promise of Paradise, Back to the Land Oral Histories of Mendocino County. 


Today we’ll be listening to Kate Magruder’s interview with Kirsten Ellen Johnsen of Ukiah.  


Kiri is a child of the back-to-the-land movement, part of the second generation of hippies whose parents settled Greenfield Ranch, an intentional community in the early 70s.


Today, Kiri still owns her family’s land on Greenfield, where she is raising her own children when she’s not working on her PhD studies.


Episode 29: Anne Marie and Don Samson

Jun 16, 2019
Don Samson

June 13, 2019 — Don and Anne Marie Samson came to Willits in 1972 with the express intent of taking part in the back to the land movement. While Don built their house from scratch, Anne Marie hitchhiked into town whenever she could get work as a substitute teacher. They made friends with the neighbors, who offered invaluable advice — and were amused when the newcomers couldn’t bring themselves to kill their chickens. Now retired, both Samsons play the piano and are active in the Willits Community Theatre.

Promise of Paradise Episode 28: Norman de Vall

May 30, 2019
Laura Hamburg

Today we'll be hearing from Norman de Vall of the town of Mendocino. Norman was a four-term Mendocino County Supervisor during the building code wars of the 70s and 80s. 

It was a time when the County pushed to outlaw the very houses the back-to-the-landers called home. 

It was also a time when tensions ran high, building inspectors might be armed and planning files went missing. The cabins the counterculture community built were targeted, red-tagged and declared illegal.