From an early age, Ifelt different from others in my age group. Though I went through the motions of being a part of school and its activities and later, my work, I felt isolated.For one thing, being "the preacher's daughter" set me apart. Besides that I had psoriasis, an incurable, unsightlyskin condition for which there was no known cure.I became a vegan and a sun worshipper, which was the only way I could keep my skin clear. Through ads in an offbeat health publication - a monthly magazine which my mother subscribed to, The Hygienic Review - I discovered another national off-beat publication The American Vegetarian through which I learned about a vegetarian commune in Florida that was looking for young people to do office work and other jobs. I was excited at the ofpossibility of being in a sunny place year round, as sun is a temporary boon for psoriasis. I quit my job as a telephone operator in Asheville, North Carolina and bought a train ticket to Sebring, Florida. The name of the place I was headed for was Lorida, a few miles south of and off the beaten path of,Sebring.
A GURU AND A GARDENER
I arrived at an isolated small community that was owned and operated by a strangely interesting man, Walter Seigmeister, who had a doctorate in philosophy from New York University.His brother Ellie, I learned by noticing phonograph records in his office, had been the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
We were half a dozen workers. Our job was helping Dr. Seigmeister, who we called Siggie, run his mail order business, which was selling subscriptionsand other items touting what he called the New Age Philosophy.He dubbed it Biosophy .We lived in rustic cabins, bathed in Lake Istapoga and ate the produce from the large organic garden and carefully cultivated papaya and orange trees. One of the inhabitants was a suntanned, bearded, well muscled young man, an artist.He expounded for hours on philosophy with other members of the group and ate a dozen oranges for breakfast every morning."Wow!" I thought. "A man who eats like I do!"
A few months later we were married.Ten years and three children later I realized that it takes more than eating oranges together for breakfast to make a marriage work.
Toward the end of that marriagewhile we were living in St. Louis, Missouri, The American Vegetarian, a national independentmonthly publication, ran a front page story with photographs of me and my vegetarian family, including our threebeautiful children - Louie, David and Betsy.I began getting mail from all over the country, including members of the local St. Louis branch of an organizationwhich today is calledThe National Health Association headquartered in Tampa, Florida. I became active in the group.In 1955 I attended my first national convention which was held in Washington, D.C. at the Shoreham Hotel.I was elected as the national secretary-treasurer.
SOLID GOLD CADILAC GIRL
Back home I set up an office in my five year old daughter Betsy's bedroom which was handily adjacent to the kitchen. I spent hours and days revising lists, organizing and sending out communications to members and thosewho'd let their memberships lapse. I took over publication of the heretofore erratically published official newsletter, which evolved into a sophisticated little bi-monthly magazine.The membership grew. I became known as the Solid Gold Cadilac Girl of the movement. Among new members were C.E. Doolin, founder of the Frito-Lay Company in San Antonio, Texas, and U Thant (a vegetarian), the first Secretary General of the United Nations, who commended me for my work.
The summer of 1958 the annual ANHS convention was held in St. Louis. I and a fellow member were convention chairpeople. Among the 300 attendees was one black man, an actor, from New York. His name was Robert Earl Jones. Management told us he wouldn't be allowed to stay in the hotel. We told management that if Robert Earl went, we would all go - all 300 of us.Robert Earl stayed. A couple of years later he introduced me to his son, James Earl Jones.Robert Earland I remained friends throughout his life.
A year after my divorce, two days after Christmas of 1958, I got married to Robert Gross, a Physiologist from New York, who was active in the group and was planning a new career: a Health Retreat.
THE HEALTH RETREAT
In the spring of 1959 we pooled our resources: two used cars, mythree children and his one, both of our savings,, and headed for Hyde Park, New York where we leased with an option to buy, an historic Georgian mansion sitting atop a knoll overlooking the majestic Hudson River. With our children we moved into thethird floor- which had a sweeping view of the Hudson River. It had been servants' quarters in bygone years. We renamed the historic mansion, dubbing it Pawling Health Manor from itsoriginal Pawling Manor.Our first ads were placed in the classified section of the New York Times.On Memorial Day 1959 we opened the doors ofthe Manor,filled to capacity.Minimum stay was one full week. Since I was preoccupied not only with caring for the children, managing the help, painting walls, hanging curtains, shopping and running the kitchen, I was forced to relinquish my role as secretary treasurer of the ANHS.Many of my and Bob's followers became our paying guests at the Manor.
Through my 30 plus years of hard work and often pain at Pawling Manor,I was privileged to share my experiences and growing knowledge with the thousands of guests who came to spend time with us.While Bob and I ultimately didn't make it in our marriage, we were crucial to each other in many ways. Our two daughters, Debbie - for years now a news anchor at WCBS newsradio, New York - and Wendy, a former psychotherapist, presently Managing Director at Town Residential Real Estate in New York - and chosen by the New York Post as one of New York City's 50 Most Powerful Women - have apparently absorbed some of the better qualities of us both. Daughter Betsy Jacaruso is a gifted and well known artist with a studio/gallery in Rhinebeck N.Y. Son David became known for his skydiving antics - such as attempting to land on the World Trade Center in New York - and converting a dormant church on the main drag in Rhinebeck into a popular restaurant.In the early 80 s my first bookThe Thirty Day Wayto a Born Again Body - a major hardcover publication - later went into mass market paperback, followed by quality paperback as Thin Again - Improved Fitness in 30 Days . A couple of years later The Vegetarian Childwas published andre-released under the title Raising Your Family Naturally.I did major cross country publicity tours which brought many more guests to the Manor.
Our guests were from all walks of life, though we did have a generous sprinkling ofcelebrities. Among first ones wereopera star Grace Bumbry,Veronica Lake, Cicely Tyson, George Steinbrenner, and Kate Mostel.Later on were Virginia Guilford, Lois Gould, Elaine Kaufman, Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, Judith Rossner, ShelleyWinters, Rita Jenrette, JessicaTandy,Jerry Stiller and Alvin Ailey. Mary Alice Bayh, an actress, discovered us while acting at the Hyde Park Playhouse. Her brother Birch (Buddy to her) Bayh later became governor of Indiana. While there she became friends with another of our guests,singer/actress Patty Sauer whose father played the lead in the TV series Rin Tin Tin.After five weeks her father came to visit her.When he saw her, so much thinner, he wept.Later she landed a stint as back-up in Hello Dolly on Broadway. Once when I drove her to New York to pick up some things, I went in to her apartment with her. "This is my roommate's dressing table" she explained. "She's always fighting with her mother. She's going to be successful - she's very talented."That roommate was Barbara Streisand.
Veronica Lake came with her friend Nat Perlow, editor of Police Gazette, who was there to interview Dr. Gross. Vickie, as Nat called her, was a smoker. No smoking was permitted! So, every evening, to get her fix, the two of them hightailed it to the quaint nearby village of Rhinebeck and ate at the bar at Foster's Coach House Tavern. Though she was on crutches due to a leg injury and her hair was pulled back snugly into a ponytail, she was recognized as she lit up and downed her vodkas.
Glynis Johns, who played the first Peter Pan on stage in London, came for what she'd planned might be a few days' stay. She was overweight, loaded with various medications, and was grumpy and hard to please.I spent lots of one on one time with her, encouraging her and listening to the many stories of her earlier life. This is what she wrote in the note she handed me as she slid into the limosine I'd ordered for her, that would take her - 40 pounds lighter than when she'd arrived - to JFK and her flight back to Los Angeles andBeverly Hills:
"Dearest Joy - My heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation for your loving care - way beyond the course of duty. You can be sure I'll return.
With love , Glyn"
Comments like this were the norm from departing guests.
LEMONS INTO LEMONADE
Looking back to those early years that were often painful and difficult, and the desperation that led me into the new and different way of eating and being, I am grateful that I was able to turn most of my lemons into lemonade.
Many - if not most - people eat,(anddrink , smoke and drug ) in a way that ages them prematurely and sends them faster to their graves.It is gratifying to look back and know that, through our years of hard work, Bob and I were able to share gems of health wisdom which enabled so manyto improve the status of their weight and their health.
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