The summer of 1970 passed way too quickly. Before I knew it, it was time for us to return to Idaho.
During our first year of "school" in Idaho, schuckardt had made and carried out plans to have a school and convent built on his property, which he called the "City of Mary". The idea was to have the school part up and running by the beginning of the school year, '70 -'71. I was in Montana, so I am not exactly sure of the time frame, but before we could move into the school portion, the whole building burned. It wasn't talked about much. I don't think that an exact cause was ever given. A lot of my friends who lived in the area were thrilled - maybe this would postpone the misery of another school year in the cult. Alas! That was not to be. It was back to the basement of a nearby home for the girls.
Before my Mom, Aggie, and I returned to Coeur d'Alene that Fall, my sister, Janet called my mom. She said that schuckardt had asked her to call and inform my mom that the family that had been our dearest, closest, most fun friends had "left the community" and we were to have NOTHING to do with them. They were now 'enemies'. We were really sad. This was a mom and her 4 children whom we had made friends with at our little cabin near Hauser Lake. We did everything together that first year. Patty, Paula, Aggie and I had a good time making fun of how stupid we had to dress, of the dumb gynormous veils we had to wear on our heads, etc.... Meanwhile, our moms totally mortified us by making themselves faux habits, like the nuns. They were much more on board than us girls. I remember driving to Spokane for a church service with them, and we literally hid on the floor in the back of the van so that no one would see us with our crazy mothers. And, yes, again . . . that was just the beginning. No one ever told us why our friends had left. We were left to assume that they just didn't have the Faith. They had "fallen away". schuckardt's instructions to my mom were: "If you see them, you are not to speak to them."
Then, my mom received a call from schuckardt himself. He called to ask her if she would consider running a boarding house for girls in Coeur d'Alene. There were parents who were interested in sending their girls to this TRULY Catholic school, but needed a place for them to live. My mom, honored to be asked by such a good and holy man, said yes. schuckardt found a home on 4th street in Coeur d'Alene for us, and he named it the "Villa Maria".
We did not have many boarders at the Villa Maria that year. I remember only 3 that were with us most of the year. But, since it was a pretty large home, we were often asked to house people who came to check out the 'church'. One young mother left her husband in California to follow schuckardt. She brought several of her young children with her, and she stayed with us. It was a nice deviation from our ordinary routine. I liked having little kids around. They were with us for a short time and then one day while she had gone and left the children with us, there was loud banging on the door. It was the police and the children's father. He had come to get them and take them back to California. This was really scary for me. I knew that we were part of the one and only true religion, and this was merely a form of persecution. (Yes, I knew that at 12 years old!) The mother soon returned to find her children gone. It was a very sad and upsetting incident. She shortly thereafter returned to California to be with her children. She continued to follow schuckardt from afar. Her husband, wise man, never succumbed to the religious beliefs being perpetrated in our little cult.
It was not easy sharing mom with others, in spite of the tumultuous relationship we had always had. It seemed like I was the only one who needed disciplining during that year. Mom would pass that off to the religious sisters or brothers. I never really even knew what I had done wrong. I just knew that I wasn't as submissive as my sister and that was not desirable. My will must be broken. I must not question.
Oh, it is all just so ridiculous! For those who grew up in the confines of a loving family, who were raised with a wholesome relationship with a loving God, this must seem like a work of fiction. I assure you, it is not. It was my life.
We were separated from society as the rest of the world knew it in the year 1970. We were cut off. There was no television. No radio. Secular periodicals were highly discouraged. francis schuckardt had to approve every book we read. Needless to say, our choices were few & far between. I am not even sure that schuckardt himself knew how good of a cult leader he was. For those of us who remained in his flock, we had unconditional allegiance to him. And, if WE didn't, well, our parents did, and that is where any questioning ended. "Brother Francis said." End of discussion.
The things that I learned during my year of 7th grade in the cult were:
You may NEVER talk to a boy. EVER. If families get together, there must always be at least 3 feet between members of the opposite sex! (No, seriously. I am not kidding. Ask Rhonda!)
Girls had to wear clothing to the ankles, to the wrists, buttoned just below the chin, and head covered at all times outside the home. Minimal hair can show. Belts must not be so tight as to reveal that you have a waist. No padded bras.
It is amazing to me that our numbers were growing at that time. I have often wondered why. It was 1970. Were people afraid of the changes in society? Did schuckardt take advantage of that fear? (Hell, yes!) The end of the world was imminent. The anti-Christ was knocking on our doors. If we didn't belong to this one, true church, our hope of salvation was nil.
And so, we wrapped up our 2nd year attending the cult's make believe school. I believe my sister most likely repeated 8th grade another time - because there were no religious competent to teach grade levels that high. Apparently, they were not equipped to teach me, either. I received a notice that summer that I had FAILED 7th grade. I was so embarrassed. I was a smart girl. How did this happen? Oh, that's right. I didn't really have a teacher. I was somewhat comforted to find out that I was not alone. A couple other girls had failed also. They were my friends. I guess we were busy making the best of a bad situation - having fun, trying to survive another year.
Does it end? Nope. It just gets crazier.