Sunday, May 6, 2018

COG History: Lake Tahoe and the "Godders"


There is a great article up in a Trukee/Lake Tahoe newspaper about the Worldwide Church of God's Lake Tahoe feast site:

When Worldwide Church of God invaded North Lake Tahoe!: A boon to local business, this church gathering had some skeletons in its closet (Moonshineink)
In the fall of 1961 the Radio Church of God held its first Feast of Tabernacles at the Blythe Arena in Squaw Valley (home of the Winter Olympics skating events just a year earlier.)
The week long gathering brought up to 10,000 church members to Squaw Valley every fall, until the Blythe Arena collapsed in the early 1980s. While North Tahoe folks saw the annual visits of the Radio Church of God (later changed to the Worldwide Church of God) as a much needed boom to the slow fall economy, it turns out the church was an unorthodox and controversial organization, with many ex-members referring to it as a cult.  
Rod Stollery, who in 1961 helped his parents put out the then fledging Tahoe City World, remembers the church’s first visit to the area. “The merchants weren’t expecting much business from them,” said Stollery. When the owners of the Alpine Liquor and Sporting Goods left town for what they thought would be a slow week, Stollery took over the shop. “We were quickly inundated by church members who were fond of liquor. We sold out in two days and had to have a truckload sent up from the valley … needless to say, the event was an economical godsend to the area.”
The event would be front page news in the Tahoe City World every year, and a full page spread inside welcomed the church to town with a map showing church members Tahoe’s recreational opportunities. The paper was also full of ads from local businesses welcoming church members to Tahoe City’s finest dining and shopping establishments.
Cheryl Bechdolt Balbuena back then was a waitress in her family business, The Tahoe Inn (At the current location of Blue Agave). It was an inn, bar, and had two restaurants. “We were crazy slammed for ten days. The girl church members always wore modest dresses and no makeup, and the men wore sports jackets and ties. They were nice, but kept to themselves. And were really bad tippers, sometimes they didn’t tip at all.” In fact, the slogan around the restaurant was “Oh, no, The Godders are coming. We are going to work and not get paid,” said Balbuena. (“The Godders” was the universal locals’ term for the members of the Radio/Worldwide Church of God). 
The story ends with this:
While the goals of the Worldwide Church of God were certainly controversial, many long time Tahoe locals still fondly remember how the “Godders” helped North Tahoe businesses get through the deadly quiet days of fall.
Read story here.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

“We were quickly inundated by church members who were fond of liquor.

Understatement of the Century!!!

. They were nice, but kept to themselves. And were really bad tippers, sometimes they didn’t tip at all.”

This surprises me. My family always tipped huge. Primarily to get rid of the excess second tithe so we wouldn't have to send it back to HQ. Seriously.

“Oh, no, The Godders are coming.

Wasn't there a movie close to that name a few decades back? LOL

it turns out the church was an unorthodox and controversial organization, with many ex-members referring to it as a cult.

100% correct.

The pictures in the article are also interesting.

Anonymous said...

The Bakery Ad:

They should be glad we didn't go there for DOUB. They'd be extremely confused at how things work!!! Scenario:

"HEY! THEY ATE EVERYTHING UP LAST FALL! NOW, THEY AREN'T EATING ANYTHING! WHAT'S WRONG WITH OUT BREAD?"

Six months later, the decision not to make bread:

"THEY'RE DEMANDING THE BREAD AGAIN! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE!!!!! MAKE THE BREAD!!!!"

Six months later....

"THEY'RE NOT EATING IT AGAIN!!! ARRGHH!!!!!!!!!!"

Byker Bob said...

Finally, an incident that happened during my freshman year at the F/T in Squaw Valley makes some sense. Someone had mildly vandalized a group of church members’ cars. A couple of us students were discussing it in a restaurant that was within walking distance of the chalets. One of my classmates had overheard a merchant who was apparently a witness tell police that the cars belonged to “some of them Godder people”. I had never heard that nickname for us, and it registered somewhere deep in my memory, and lay dormant for the past several decades.

I never knew until the article above that this was a popular name for the church people used amongst the local community in the Squaw Valley area. We must have been quite controversial. All that booze, stingy with the tips. They didn’t know a lot about us, but these were some of the things that stood out. It must have seemed strange and even counter-intuitive. Obviously, most Christians would have been concerned about projecting a more Christ-like image, but, hey. We weren’t Christians. We were Armstrongites! Memorable for booze and no tips. It’s a wonder more cars were not vandalized!

BB

nck said...

I cannot place the "bad tipping".
Perhaps the problem was that during the feast a lot of "group dining" or "teenager group eating" occurred and while bills might have been split the tip got sacrificed, I don't know.

Lake Tahoe was not known for loads of international visitors ignorant about American evil ways to not pay waiters and waitresses a decent salary. Evil to the core and bad planning ability too.

I do remember the booze. In my memory it was because of 2nd tithe people were able to spend a little more than usual on the "bristol cream" hwa advertised. Also in some areas the Fall warranted a little warming up. Also when 10.000 people descend on a tiny store it might feel overwhelming even if people drink modestly.

I do recall the newspaper articles about the well behaved children. But hey what do you expect with that superb training at the poconos spanking tents.

nck

Connie Schmidt said...

Wasn't the FOT's Lake Tahoe north shore the location of a GTA gambling and drinking binge that was the "last straw" event that led to his ouster from the WCG?

Anonymous said...

We always tipped.

Allen Dexter said...

Lake Tahoe is beautiful, but we had precious little time to enjoy any of it. After that "vacation," a real one would have been mighty welcome. Every possible moment was dedicated to indoctrination. I deliberately stayed away from services a couple days one year because I could use an injury to my foot by hitting a bed frame as an excuse. It was a little swollen but not infected, as I feared and wanted to believe so I could get away from listening to the same old same old yet again. I was already getting disenchanted and skeptical, but still fell for the overall load of BS. The Feast I enjoyed the most was the one held in Long Beach one year. Easy drive and much more relaxing. Lots more places to eat and certainly more variety.

RSK said...

Wasnt this posted a couple of weeks ago?

RSK said...

That happened at our local Bonanza, lol.

James said...

Connie, yes the North shore. He liked to gamble at Harveys.
https://thepainfultruth.org/2017/06/24/taken-for-a-ride-with-garner-ted/

Anonymous said...

Church members did not drink any more than other people do when they go on vacation. A lot of them probably drank quite a bit less. Very few that I saw, if any, ever got drunk. Compare that to activities in the "world".

Anonymous said...

They sold out of booze quickly because 10,000 people invaded what was probably a small town. What do you expect? Some of them took booze home and drank it after the feast, so it wasn't all consumed in 10 days.

Anonymous said...

well, i was a kid in them days, and my memories were of beautiful natural scenery, the visiting ponderosa ranch, getting stung by a bee while waiting to ride horses, and subsequently getting anointed and prayed over by a minister...

c f ben yochanan

R.L. said...

WCG trivia: after the Squaw Valley roof caved in, the Feast site for that area was moved to Sacramento.

Anonymous said...

Wasnt this posted a couple of weeks ago?

Yes, I posted it as a general comment. It was bumped up as a headline today.

"Church members did not drink any more than other people do when they go on vacation. A lot of them probably drank quite a bit less. Very few that I saw, if any, ever got drunk. Compare that to activities in the "world". "

What world do you live in? Excessive alcoholic behavior was extremely common not only in the church but also at AC. Someone recently posted quite the slideshow of that. FOT Monitors had to inform people how to clean up their motel rooms so that the evidence of excessive alcohol would not be seen by housekeeping.

If you are attempting to be an apologist for the COG's in this area, you don't have a leg to stand on. It would be best not to trot out old cliches unless you have evidence to prove your assertion. Also, quite a bit of "worldly" activity also has happened in COG's. Do you have any idea how many Y.O.U. or Youth Group age teens lost their innocence at the Feast? Have you not read the many accounts online of the activities of COG'ers? Be educated so you do not appear naive.


Allen Dexter said...

"hey sold out of booze quickly because 10,000 people invaded what was probably a small town. What do you expect? Some of them took booze home and drank it after the feast, so it wasn't all consumed in 10 days."

Trie. Not all church members were lushes. When we students used to go to Gladewater, we swung thru El Paso to go through the border and bring back up to a gallon of liquor at that time. It lasted most of us all year and then some, but I'be never been particularly drawn to alcohol. That is not a part of my genetic makeup, and that's true of lots of others. We can take it our leave, and most of the time, we leave it.

nck said...

8:23

You are full of bull s.
Not because others might appear naive but because you represent (perhaps obsserved and perhaps factual) behavior as policy.

I even recall AC students in international areas being monitored to abide by american law and standards on alcohol consumption even if in visited countries booze was available for 18 year olds. If anyone attempted to abide by the local custom that was definitely not policy.

nck

Anonymous said...

NCK -

Nowhere did I represent observed and factual behavior as "Policy". When I said "FOT Monitors" I was referring to specific areas (I did not say Corporate Worldwide Policy) that had serious problems with Alcoholism in the church.

In the Journal, issue 167, as one of many examples, it was posted:

"Mr. Swisher remembered another incident involving East Texans opposed to the consumption of alcohol. “We had one motel owner that called us after about 30 or 40 of our people had a party one night. He went out and counted the beer bottles. That was a problem to him."

If I had suggested that there was a corporate internal policy regarding alcohol, I would have said as such. All I said was:

"FOT Monitors had to inform people how to clean up their motel rooms so that the evidence of excessive alcohol would not be seen by housekeeping."

This was true. It was not general policy. This happened in areas where the drinking problem was causing a very negative rap to the church, which was causing enough problems that there was concern that the church might lose reputation or motels - and if I recall correctly, possibly even the festival site itself.

As a matter of courtesy. Before you go saying someone is "full of bull s", you might want to consider simply asking "what do you mean by that", or "could you explain yourself a little further, did you think that was policy or was this isolated". Proper journalism requires asking who, what, when, where, why. If you don't know the answers to those questions, just saying "you are full of bull s" is not finding the answers to your questions. It's just being arrogantly judgemental. Quite likely the poster intended something different then the assumption you have generalized as fact.



Byker Bob said...

The crux of the matter is that after a new member became acquainted with all the legalism, he realized that the only socially normal activity that was left for him was to drink alcohol. In a totalitarian environment, one tends to revel in and to celebrate whatever is left. In a sense it was like being able to demonstrate to friends or co-workers that you could relate and be related to as a normal, functional fellow human being. You just couldn't get together with them on the sabbath.

But, strictly speaking, you weren't supposed to relate to outsiders. They were supposed to think you were weird, and they were to hate you because you were a "true Christian". And, yet, your example of passive Christian magnetism (not the time-honored and more overt personal evangelism) was supposed to attract people to what was euphemistically referred to as "God's True Church" (Armstrongism).

Bottom line is that every human being thinks that every other human being is a little weird. Armstrongites always took that personally.

BB

nck said...

7:47

Although your 7:47 posting contains valid and important points it is quite clear that there us nothing in your 8:23 posting that constrains the content to a certain and specific event in time and place. it is full of "commonalities directed at all the cog's anywhere, everywhere", throughout the ages......that prompted my full of bs.

But hey the "asking question thing" is a very valid point.

nck

nck said...

Byker,

I think your 10:17 is very good and perhaps accurate for many. I don't think that anything was supposed to "attract to the church", the official line was "to witness of Gods way of life", ("as a living sacrifice", for the more religiously inclined).

In most areas the church went out of its way to hide the "church" thing and register under the name of the college.

Nck