Randall's Scrapbook from Bethel

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My six-year stay was a happy one, in spite of the events that came down in 1979-1980. Before that time I was learning social skills and seeing the world, and during the shakeup I was happy to know what it meant to love Jesus Christ and share his grace and love.

All pictures taken between Nov. 1974 and late 1979. 

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left to right, the Bethel boys from Linwood Congregation: Rich McGee, Jack Glover, Lewis Williamson from Kentucky, and Ron McGee (Rich's brother). I am taking the picture. (Dec. 1974)


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 The view from my room at Brooklyn Bethel while living in the 107 Columbia Heights building.


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Having the members of my congregation over to the room, along with Bethel bud Mark Johannesen from New Jersey (the white boy).


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I was lucky enough to be assigned to the rotary pressroom (6th floor on #3 building of factory at 117 Adams St.) to work, probably because I had been an auto mechanic by trade previously. Better than doing laundry! We were a crazy, fun-loving bunch who took our work very seriously.


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My work in the first year consisted of "bundling" all day. (James Taciak pictured)


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Each of the two dozen M.A.N. presses we had looked like this, cost between $250,000 and $450,000 each depending on when they were purchased. We printed all the Bibles and Bible-paper based publications on the 6th floor building #3.


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Tom Cabeen (left) was assistant floor overseer in the rotary pressroom under Richard Wheelock. "Wheels" was on the Factory Committee most of the time I was there, so he was always upstairs while we ran the 6th floor. I was floor overseer of the building #3 sixth floor, Jim Petrie (right) was overseer of the building #1 floor, as well as Fred Fredean in building #2. Peach (Jim) was later in charge of offset printing and I was sentenced to the Wood-Hoe in the end, which had caused several mechanics to lose the desire to serve at Bethel.  :-))


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As all the trouble unravelled in 1979, Tom would share in private what was going on in the Service Depts. and Governing Body over the Franz Incident. He and his wife Gloria were privy to information from several key departments. This, along with material I gleaned from the Bethel Elders' meetings, as well as sitting at the Bethel table every morning and listening to the Governing Body, made a clear picture of what was happening.


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Tom Snaps me with a huge rubber band as we take out our anxieties. ("Will we get caught talking about these things?") Many who were at Bethel during that time knew very little about the Governing Body and Service Dept. covert operations. Even Bethel Elders, like "Fish" (stooping over in the background) were clueless about our discussions. Darold Block (right, smiling), on the other hand, took it all in stride.


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Tom Cabeen reminds me that he wasn't the ONLY one shooting rubber bands. (I'm the second from the left with the slicked-down hair and rubber band.)


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The Wood-Hoe was purchased by Nathan Knorr (3rd Watchtower President) at the peak of the 1975 fever. It was a prototype costing $1.6 million with three huge letterpress cylinders about 54" in diameter and 72" wide. It was designed to print 100,000 "Truth" books a day and was directly connected to a bindery upstairs. Chief Engineer (and formerly my roommate) Milan Miller was in charge of getting it going, but was away most of the time setting up presses in other countries. Eventually, I got the job.

The problem with the Wood-Hoe was that the cylinders were made up of magnetic, concentric rings that expanded and contracted so much during the course of the day (we had no air conditioning) that the printing looked like it was done with rubber stamps. Just webbing up the press took a case of books in paper, it was 70" wide and moved very fast. The press created such sway in the building when we ran it, the lathes in the machine shop on the floor below us could not keep register. The press was eventually sold to a low bidder in another country. After 1975, they had decided to print pretty books instead, as they could make much more money and woo in more people at the door. (see money)


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 Mark Cent gets "opened up" in one of the lighter moments of hazing on our floor. From left to right: James Rizzo (foreground), Ron Walker, Thomas Hagen, ____, and Mark Cent (who later returned my "What Happened At the World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses In The Spring of 1980?" essay in very tiny bits in an envelope. It was the first printed story of what happened by an insider (printed in 1981). Crisis of Conscience was next, the most influential work of all concerning the Watchtower.


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A more serious moment of hazing, the guys from upstairs dare to use our walkway!


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During my "elder" years we had more Bethelites transferred into the Linwood Congregation. I am in the gold jacket.


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I lived on the top floor of the 107 Columbia Heights building, and my room was a corner room directly across from the newly renovated Margaret Hotel. The motel was set to open the next day, but rumor had it it was sub-standard building code. It was all wood. On the night before it was to open, one cold Winter night (30 degrees below zero chill factor), it was set on fire by an arsonist. It smoldered for a week, as firetrucks could not get inside and all the water froze quickly. Even a firetruck was stuck in its tracks in several inches of ice for days. We had to evacute for a while.

The Watchtower Society later purchased and rebuilt the Margaret Hotel, using it for residences.

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I left Bethel while on vacation in California in 1980, deciding not to return to such goings on. I called up Dan Sydlik and asked if I could leave and take care of my family. He okayed the matter, and I had my roommate, Robert Sullivan (above), pack up my stuff and send it out here. (He later came to live out here and left the Watchtower.) The Linwood Congregation sent me a letter of recommendation to forward to my new congregation in California.

I looked up a Kingdom Hall not long after I came to California, the Airport Congregation in El Segundo. I was re-appointed to serve as an elder right away. A few months later, after going door-to-door with just the Bible (and disgusted with the Watchtower), I turned in a letter of resignation locally and to the sixteen members of the Governing Body directly. I went surfing that day, and never regretted my decision to leave, though I did miss Bethel for at least a year afterwards.  :-))

Randy Watters

flowers5.gif (3516 bytes) The stay for many Bethelites was not as happy as mine. This space is reserved in honor of Richard Wheelock who jumped to his death during a time of despondency and Thomas Hagen, who died not long after leaving Bethel (incidents not related). 

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