1901 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA.
Meher Baba and his entourage arrived from Los Angeles on the 3rd August and departed 5 days later ( 7th ) for his first visit to Australia. Many years later this hotel was demolished.
Baba departed Los Angeles for San Francisco at 9:00 A.M., on Friday, 3 August 1956, aboard United Airlines Flight 465. The welcoming committee of Hilda Fuchs, Gladys Carr and Marguerite Poley were there to see him off, along with some of the others. Hilda had brought a tiny bouquet of red roses as a farewell offering for Baba.
Once the Douglas DC-4 airplane was in the sky, Baba walked down the aisle greeting each of those accompanying him. Later, a few came over to his seat to discuss certain things with him, as others took his picture. When Filis Frederick sneezed loudly, Baba cracked, "You will bring down the whole plane!"
The group arrived in San Francisco two hours later at 11:00 A.M., and Baba was met by an enthusiastic crowd and garlanded by the children within the group. It was quite cold, and Bili Eaton gave Baba her cloak, which he wore a few moments and then gave back to her. Baba was driven to a new motel, the Holiday Lodge at 1901 Van Ness Avenue. (Nearly every other hotel was booked, because the Republican National Convention was being held at this time.) Baba had been given a duplex suite far from the central court, but he did not like it, as it was too far from his lovers and there was not a connecting room for the mandali.
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Other hotels were suggested; homes were offered. Baba was testing the patience of those who had made the arrangements.
He remarked to Ivy, "This is the way I work."
Then he told Lud Dimpfl, "Everywhere else, the arrangements were perfect. My requirements are simple — just two connecting rooms. But it isn't only the rooms, I just don't like this place. Therefore, I will leave San Francisco Sunday morning, two days early."
Lud, a native of the area, was crushed. Baba had instructed him in Los Angeles that he wanted no publicity nor to meet newspaper reporters in San Francisco, thus allowing more time with his close ones before he left America. This had meant rearranging appointments and interviews at the last moment. Now again, there were changes!
Suddenly, Baba turned to Carolyn Frey, who was in charge of arrangements in San Francisco, and remarked, "If those people [in the connecting rooms] leave by one o'clock tomorrow, and the food here is good, I will stay."
Baba was given temporary quarters, and had his lunch, which he liked. He called a few of his lovers upstairs later. They found him seated on the divan, surrounded by a dozen children. He looked like an innocent child himself and smiled broadly. "Now that the children have monopolized me, the rest of you will have no chance!"
He added, "I, too, am a child."
Baba said he was happy; he liked the food and would stay. In a lighter mood, he played with the children for a while, met his San Francisco lovers who had not been on the trip, and gave the rest a quick embrace. Baba asked Enid Corfe what she was thinking, and she said, "I was thinking that if you take the i out of Enid, that is the end!" Baba enjoyed the remark.
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When the group had returned, Baba again called them into his room. He looked grave. It turned out that in all the hurry to leave Coit Tower, Sparkie Lukes and little Tara Frey, who had been going up the tower, had been left behind.
Fred Frey, an interior decorator by profession, had spent hours the day before in beautifying a conference room with plants. Someone had put them all in the refrigerator, thinking to preserve them, but it ruined them. So Fred had to go all the way back home and bring more. After returning, Baba asked him to lead the way to the room, and Fred could not find it.
"Fred has now become one of my mad disciples!" Baba teased. In the room the group was seated before Baba, who lay on a chaise lounge, backed by a beautiful display of leaves and flowers. Baba continued, "When you go mad for me, really mad, not in the worldly sense, then you find me. Only those who go mad with love for me, find me."
They were to go see an Ice Capades show in the evening, and Baba added, "All must stay to the end of the show, even if I leave early."
Baba did decide to leave early and was driven back by Lud, who was not feeling well. Baba told him to take two Anacin tablets, go right to bed, and in the morning call the doctor.
In his room, Baba lay down for the night. There was a television set in Baba's room, and Baba instructed Eruch, who was keeping nightwatch, that he could switch it on without the sound to pass the time.As Eruch was watching TV, at about 2:30 A.M., the telephone rang. It was Harry Kenmore in New York. No one had informed him that he could have accompanied Baba to California, and he asked if he could fly out immediately. Baba gestured to Eruch to tell Kenmore, "Don't come now. You will have many more opportunities to come to me."
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On Saturday, 4 August 1956 at 9:30 A.M., Baba came to the conference room for interviews, conducted behind a curtained-off portion of the room. Most of those meeting Baba were San Francisco Sufis, but many others came — including Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind, 62, a Sikh spiritual teacher and author, who had had a strong influence on some of Baba's lovers (such as Joseph Harb) before they had come into Baba's contact. Baba later met with all, and Don read the message "God's Divine Business."
Another Indian, a learned Brahmin in his early 60s named Manmatha Nath Chatterjee, also met Baba that day. Chatterjee was a former professor of sociology at Antioch College in Ohio, and a dear friend of one of his former pupils, Agnes Baron. Agnes had been trying to convince "Chat" to meet Meher Baba for years, but he had scorned her attempts, saying, "You Westerners are so stupid! You run after all these big chaps, not knowing what the consequences will be. Until you are ready to have your life turned inside out — stay away from them!"
By sheer coincidence Chatterjee had phoned Agnes that day at 11:00 A.M., inviting her out to lunch. Agnes was furious and threatened, "If you don't come to meet Meher Baba, I will never speak to you again!" So, reluctantly he came to the hotel. It was time for lunch, but Agnes pleaded with Adi to let Chatterjee go in. They were seated outside Baba's room on a bench. Adi informed Baba, who came out, and taking Chatterjee's hand between his palms, Baba escorted him into the room. Agnes was told to wait outside.
Half an hour later, Chatterjee, who was always very straight, almost military in his bearing, came out almost doubled up. Agnes took him to her room. Chatterjee was nearly unconscious, muttering, "I had to come, I had to come!" He left after some time and later sent a copy of one of his books to Baba. Shortly afterwards, Agnes learned that he had become paralyzed on the left side and he died soon after.
The doctors were unable to diagnose the cause for the paralysis, one of them opining that he had "a shock of some kind."
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Herman Alvarado, 34, heard of Baba in 1950 through his fellow Sufi, Joseph Harb. But Baba's visit to San Francisco was Herman and his family's first opportunity to meet Baba. In his private interview, Baba looked lovingly at him and said, "I will help you to find what you are craving for." At an interview the following day, Baba met with Herman and his wife, Helen. He put their heads together and told them, "God has married you both."
After lunch on the 4th, Baba held a brief meeting with Filis Frederick about The Awakener magazine. He was pleased at her resolve to keep it completely devoted to him and to carry on despite being hard-pressed financially. He informed her, "After I drop this body, then everything will go — books, pamphlets, magazines. I will help you."
The interviews continued, and Don Stevens read several other short messages.
** These were later published in "Life at its Best".
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Baba then drove back to the hotel and visited Lud in his room. Lud had been diagnosed with pneumonia. "Aren't you glad you got sick?" Baba asked. "For now Baba has come to see you on a personal visit."
Do you realize how fortunate you are that you have fallen ill while I am here and that I have come to visit you?" Lud smiled helplessly. Baba gave instructions to his wife, Bea, and said he would be well in two days.
Much to the doctor's surprise, Lud did fully recover in exactly two days. Baba later revealed, "I precipitated this illness to save Lud from a much worse catastrophe due in a few months."
Baba had lovingly christened Lud's fourteen-year-old daughter Diane as "Three-B" — meaning, Baba's Beloved Baby. He told Three-B: "Next time I come, I will call you to India."
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Early in the morning on Sunday, 5 August 1956, Filis Frederick, Adele Wolkin, Bili Eaton and Beryl Williams were summoned to Baba's room. After talking with them a while, he called in Ivy and Don Stevens and informed them of his wish that they publish all the messages given out on the trip, within five months. They agreed, but as it turned out, it was more than a year, before Sufism Reoriented was able to publish Life at its Best.
That morning, Baba, the mandali and several others visited the homes of Ivy Duce (at 45 Old La Honda Road in Woodside), Don Stevens (323 Oakwood Place, Menlo Park) and Fred Frey (1326 Marlboro Road, Hillsborough). At Ivy's, Baba walked through the whole house, his fingers working continuously.
When Baba returned to the hotel, Margaret's dancers had their long-promised chance to perform for him.
Baba had asked them in Myrtle Beach, "Do you want to dance for me?" and told them to be ready in two days. Although the dancers had not come prepared, they went to the beach and choreographed something together. They had no music, so they had to hum and clap out the rhythm. But Baba did not ask for their performance. Only when they arrived in San Francisco did he tell them, "Tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 P.M. you will dance for me."
Baba closed off the interview room for them. Only he, the mandali, Margaret and Bili Eaton were present. Marie Adair, Tex Hightower, Bunty Kelley and Peter Saul performed a Highland fling, and Tex and Bunty did a dance titled "The Black Bottom." Marie Adair's solo "Dance of the Sun Maid," from "Land of the Midnight Sun," followed. Peter Saul brought some different shoes and danced solo for Baba. He was rewarded, as were the others, by Baba's warm embrace.
Baba, happy and relaxed, commented, "I would just like to go on watching dancing like this!" He posed with Margaret and the group for Charmian. Later in his suite he gave the dancers a few minutes alone with him. He joked with them and played his old trick on Margaret of tapping her on the cheek when she was not expecting it.
Many times Baba met with individuals or small groups of two or three. He urged one boy, "Love me more and more."
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Standing : ( L - R ) Tex Hightower, Meher Baba, Peter Saul
Seated : ( L - R ) Bunty Kelley, Margaret Craske, Marie Adair
The above images came from the film that Charmian took. The images were captured by Anthony Zois.
At 2:30 P.M., there was a meeting of the Meher Baba Hospitality Committee. Marion Florsheim read a report of the finances and final balance. Baba commented, "All trust you, and I trust you, so everything is all right." Ivy thanked Marion on behalf of all, then Elizabeth Patterson rose to express the group's gratitude to Baba for coming.
Baba replied: "When I see your ocean of love and feeling for me, the limitless Ocean of Love is stirred by the love of his lovers. Your love creates waves in that Ocean. You do not know how many".
"Everything these past days has gone according to my Divine Plan. With the love you have given me, I feel immensely happy."
Three messages were then read: "The Inviolable Unity of Life" and "All is from Within" and one more.
At 3:15 P.M., the whole group reconvened in Baba's room, and there was further discussion about the trip to India. Baba stated at length:
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Around 6:30 P.M., Baba called Filis, Adele, Beryl, Bili and Sylvia to read him their letters to Mehera and Mani for his approval. Baba remarked to them: "When I heard about the Australian program arranged for me, I felt tired. I have no relaxation. My only relaxation is making my lovers feel my love. You must not feel sad about my leaving. We will be together in India. Think about the meeting in India."
That evening, Baba went to see a puppet show of Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the Lilliput Theater, on Fillmore Street near Union Street, one of the smallest in the world.
He left after 20 minutes (at the conclusion of the first act), but as he wished, his lovers stayed and watched the play.
Late that night the Holiday Lodge was robbed. The next morning, Monday, 6 August 1956, the manager had a chance of Baba's darshan and informed him about it, saying he was sure Baba's presence had prevented more serious harm.
After breakfast there was a brief meeting of the Universal Spiritual League of America in Baba's suite. Baba then went to the income tax office with the mandali and Ivy to receive an income-tax clearance certificate that they had received no income while in America.
When he returned, the group was called downstairs to the conference room. Baba was in a serious mood.
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Baba called for a full explanation of the Hospitality Committee accounts from Marion Florsheim, then untangled another quarrel over a movie camera, calling on the persons involved (Ivy and Ben Hayman) to speak up. At one point, he said, "No one wants to pay attention to my wish or will! Let your wish and will be done."
The rest of the people sat silent, each feeling his or her sanskaras too were under attack, even if indirectly.
Eruch explained, "We should have our tea or coffee in the morning, then our lunch in the afternoon. But this morning we called for a second breakfast."
No one knew the prayer by heart. Someone rushed off for a copy in the office. After it was read, Baba said, "Let us ask pardon of God for our misunderstandings, for unnecessarily hurting the feelings of others, for our faults. May God give you all one percent of the infinite patience Baba has! Let us ask God's pardon. Now one by one, embrace me."
Slowly, they formed a line and each embraced Baba, who had risen and was standing by the table. This was to be each one's last embrace, as Baba was leaving the next day and he had said he would not permit any embrace thereafter.
Kitty had slipped out before the meeting was over to prepare Baba's lunch, and therefore missed the prayer and embrace. Baba scolded her, "Have I asked you to cook and be preoccupied the entire time, or to be with me as much as possible?!" Then he forgave her and gave her the embrace she had missed.
Baba had agreed to Jeanne Shaw's suggestion about a trip to Muir Woods that day. The meeting had delayed it, but soon everyone boarded buses and rode over the Golden Gate Bridge and up Mount Tamalpais. Baba was taken in a car and stopped first to visit the home of Joseph and Kari Harb (at 837 Faxon Avenue). He went through the whole house, distributed prasad and sat in Joseph's favorite chair.
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The above images were taken at the Holiday Lodge Hotel. The images were captured bt Anthony Zois from a film by Sufism Reoriented.
He asked Kitty when lunch was scheduled, and on hearing they were late, signaled for all to return.
At the motel, Baba met with individuals in the afternoon. He called the Shaws into his room to have tea with him. Eruch served it. In discussing the prospect of an operation on Leatrice's eyes to straighten her vision, Baba decided she should go ahead with it.
He assured her, "Don't worry, everything will be all right. Your eyes will be fine. Don't have any anxiety." Baba tossed her a heavy plastic paperweight he had held a while, telling her to keep it with her while in the hospital, and he told her to have the operation that September or October between certain dates.
Later, when only Jeanne was present, Baba asked her again, "Do you realize what it means for me to allow you to launder my sadra?"
Jeanne did not know what to say and replied simply, "No, Baba." Baba looked at Eruch as if puzzled, and Jeanne continued, "But I feel greatly privileged and happy to have this task as a favor to me."
Baba looked pleased and gestured, "Good answer."
At about 4:00 P.M., Baba came out of his room with a tin of sugar cookies (presented to him by Etta Mehdy, Rabia Martin's daughter). He gave each of the group one of the powdered, star-shaped cookies. With his sugar-dusted fingers, he painted a white mustache on Beryl William's face; playfully he touched Enid Corfe and Margaret Craske on the cheek, and hugged Lud Dimpfl's sister, Eleanor Smith. Baba wished the group to disperse half an hour early that day, at 5:30 P.M. instead of at 6:00, and kept asking the time.
Early in the morning on Tuesday, 7 August 1956, Baba called his close ones into his room for the last
Recovered, Lud Dimpfl drove Baba and the mandali to the airport. Baba asked him to roll his window up, as he did not like the draft, but Lud, in his excitement to be driving Baba, kept absent-mindedly rolling it down! Baba had to ask him to roll it up. "Now whenever I am in that car and touch the window handle, I think of him," Lud later said.
The entire group had followed Baba to the airport to see him off, but as he had earlier instructed, Baba prohibited any of them from embracing him. He frowned as one woman broke into loud weeping and begged for an embrace.
At 11:00 A.M., Tuesday, 7 August 1956, Baba, accompanied by Eruch, Adi, Nilu and Meherjee, flew from San Francisco to Australia on Pan Am Flight 841. The group arrived at 5:15 P.M. in Honolulu, Hawaii, where they were to have a three-and-a half-hour layover.
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