Alan Chadwick Scuffles with a Policeman
Peter Jorris responds to a question from Greg Haynes about an incident that had become proverbial among the apprentices: Alan's encounter with a policeman in Santa Cruz who had exceeded his lawful authority. Alan later had to appear in court, where the judge promptly threw out the case, severely reprimanding the police officer involved.
Paul Lee has begun asking me questions about Alan. Specifically, he wants to know if I have any information about the time Alan supposedly got arrested for speeding. I've heard that story over the years, with claims that Alan single-handedly disarmed the cop, took his gun, etc. etc. Do you know anything about that?
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 02:59
Subject: Re: Chadwick
I do recall hearing somewhat second hand about the incident with the policeman. I believe that dates back to 1968 or 69. Jim Nelson was retelling the story, apparently having heard it directly from Alan at some point shortly after it occurred, perhaps that morning or the day before. I remember Jim laughing and joking about it as several of us listened astonished during one of those convivial lunches or teatimes on the deck of the chalet. Alan was present and sheepishly adding remarks here and there about specific details, such as the gun sliding across the ground as they scuffled. As we were all amazed and amused at the outrageousness of the episode, he affected an attitude of one who had simply reacted in the only obvious way possible, like "Of course, dear boy, what else was I expected to do?" That was in the days when cops were "pigs" and the brutal oppressors of students and protesters. Fascist authority figures. We were highly impressed and truly awed by such a cavalier assault on an armed patrolman of the State.
I do not believe Alan was arrested, because I remember thinking, "how did he get away with that?" The conclusion of the story was left unclear, though it seems that the incident hinged on some unreasonable demand by the policeman, which I don't properly recall... something like not giving back Alan's license, and that became the reason for the tussle.
That's about all that comes back to mind. If Jim Nelson's memory has not disintegrated, he would be the one to ask for more detail.
Thanks for keeping me posted on your historical research and contacts. --Peter
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 16:44:36 -0700
Subject: Re: more on chadwick
Regarding the skirmish with the policeman, I wonder if there were perhaps two incidents, since my recollection places the event before you and Little Allen came onto the scene and deeded the Rambler over to Alan Chadwick. Alan previously owned a large white car of some make I've forgotten and commuted up and down the hill every day. Beth, who later married Jim Nelson when they started Camp Joy, remarked that the big white cruiser suited Alan's regal personality. It seems that the first car broke down later, proving irreparable about the time you were inspired to give Alan "This too can be yours."
It would not surprise me if Alan actually had several eventful encounters with traffic cops over the years. He certainly was the kind of person who did not fret or pay much attention to the constraints of civilized society, and his driving habits were somewhat unpredictable. I remember riding with him out to Bonnie Doon, or some such place in the rural back country, when he made a left turn and started driving on the wrong side of the road as it curved blindly to the left. Before I could recover from my surprise and say something, a car from the opposite direction loomed in front of us. Alan swerved sharply to avoid it, theatrically exclaiming, "OH MY GOD. I'm driving in England!!"
As you know he could be quite wild and entertaining during the most common everyday outings, whether in a cheerful or tempestuous mood. One time I accompanied him to a small local market in Santa Cruz, where he shopped on a regular basis. He rode the shopping cart up and down the cramped isles like a scooter laughing and joking about various ridiculous products on the shelves, selecting his favorite food items, many of which were extravagant sweets or the notorious canned Eagle brand sweetened milk for coffee, which everybody else thought was hideous. He would pitch items into the cart in rapid succession as if this outing were a race and a game, careful not to damage the elegant fruit or expensive steaks, about which he would make comical aspersions in deference to my being vegetarian.
People in the market watched in a kind of brightened amusement. And as we came to the checkout stand, he agilely ducked under the barrier intended for carts and kiddingly asked the checkout lady, who seemed familiar with his antics, "is this where I'm suppose to go." The lady smiled, happily playing along with the fun and asked me if I were his keeper today. With his tall gangly figure in red shorts and white shirt, he would toss back his head with the wavy grey hair in triumphant superiority and emit a loud trill like a cross between the mocking of an exotic bird and the boisterous laughter of a gleeful child. The twinkle in his eye suggested a spirit so light that flying was possible if he wanted to, which he maintained he actually did quite often in his dreams at night.
At these times I felt that he viewed life as an big absurdist game in which the best accommodation was to jump aggressively onboard, seize the reins and enjoy the colorful magic show and all its toys to the fullest. In contrast, I look back at myself and see a person much too tied-down to the earthbound gravity and too overly self-conscious to ever behave so zany (not too different from today), which is why the amazing free spirit still seems so fascinating.
I'm glad you've decided to probe into the distant lore of those forgotten and enchanted times, as they've revived several pleasant memories for me. --Peter
I remember Alan's old car as a white Ford Fairlane, because it sat in a state of disrepair on the road outside the Chalet for years. I'm sure Peter is correct about Alan having had several run-ins with the law over the years, because I witnessed several myself. He took great delight in outwitting the cops and setting them onto false trails, even if it meant incriminating others as a joke.
Paul Lee apparently was successful in collecting information about this incident, because he describes it in some detail in his book, There Is A Garden In the Mind: A Memoir of Alan Chadwick and the Organic Movement in California, (p. 70). He tells how, at the court hearing, the judge
"called the officer over to him and asked in an outraged tone:
"You arrested this gentleman for driving three miles over
the speed limit? You drew your revolver on this gentleman?
What? This gentleman took your gun away from you? You
should be ashamed of yourself! Case dismissed!"