1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The demographics of human habitats have changed over its emergent history: from nomadic groups, to tribes, nations of similar tribes, villages, urban & rural systems, massive metropolis, favilas & slums, colonization, globalization, cities devastated by warfare, refuge movements and settlements. Yet, remnants of all types of habitats can be found in a few, small populations. We even have stations on glaciers in the Antarctic, in space stations orbiting Earth, and for a short period, on our Moon.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 What might the distributed demographics be if&when we survive/thrive our Crisis-of-Crises and a new humanity emerges and evolves for centuries to millennia? Will most people live in high concentrations, and where will these new “cities” be located? Will there still be nuclear families living in single family homes? What might be their economic and governance systems, education, healthcare, food production and waste disposal systems? Will there be violence and wars? What about Science and The Arts? We can’t assume that in the far future, humans will be living much like they are today – even with our current diversity.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Today, we must be open to experiment with alternative housing and habitat systems. We have radically new technologies to use. Yet, variations from diverse “traditions” is rare.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 A long time friend, Stan Pokras, is part of the leadership of a cooperative movement in Philadelphia, recently launching a shared housing movement. He has asked me to comment. One of my responses is this report of my experience living in a successful urban commune in New Haven, CT.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 ===============

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 When I first went to New Haven/Yale as a graduate student, in 1958, I had prior arranged to stay in an attic room of the spinster secretary of the physics dept.  She was paranoid and had multiple locks on the front door.  One weekend I came back early from a square dance outing from a college in MA and found myself locked out. I slept in my office in the physics building. My office mate, finding me there, informed me of an opening in the Rochdale Coop, located immediately across the street from the physics building. YES, a street separated me from my lodgings and my classes.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 I went, applied, was interviewed at their collective, gourmet dinner, was approved, and moved in.  I had come from living in a grad student dorm at the University of Chicago – my second experience not living at home with my parents. My first was a summer during undergraduate school, in Cleveland, again with two spinster ladies – which went well. I commuted from home for all my undergraduate years at RPI.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 I immediately fell in love with Rochdale Coop and communes.

The name “Rochdale” is of the birthplace of the modern Co-operative Movement, to which more than one billion people worldwide belonged in 2012. This famous British commune, has now grown into an urban center with high rise habitats, Rochdale in Manchester, England (recently tarnished by hosting a child sex trafficking ring).  There is also a Rochdale Village in Queens, NYC.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Rochdale Coop in New Haven had been formed during WWII for families, and had become the informal International House for Yale – often half our residents were not USA citizens. The rent was very inexpensive and the “management” of the commune was very well organized and highly democratic. Unanimous approval by all voting members was necessary. I witnessed a “vote” when the one objector convinced all others to vote his way – after dialog during a post-dinner meeting.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 I started with a roommate in double room, but moved soon to a single room (which cost me a bit more). The house was a three story, old Victorian mansion (once home of the mayor of New Haven – I was told) that had been remodeled for a commune. The kitchen in the basement had four, 2 oven, 4 burner gas stoves and a bank of 6 refrigerators.  These had been purchased recently when one Rochdale member (Don, the father of our family, with 2 young children), working as an architect, acquired the kitchen items from a restaurant that was being remodeled.  There was a large storeroom for food purchased in bulk.  There was a large dining room, in the basement, with two very long tables.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 The criteria for membership was primarily a strong desire to be a respectful part of the community; but there was no “participation” requirement. A Japanese grad student used Rochdale as a rooming house, and never ate with us; but as friendly. He left behind a chest, from within we discovered he was the son of a very wealthy Japanese businessman, and was at Yale to study to become CEO. Laws didn’t permit him to bring enough money into the USA, so he chose to live at Rochdale. But most became part of a healthy community. There were men and women, straight and gay, different ethnicities and ages. Some were students, some were laborers and school teachers.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 There were four elected “officers”, who earned  1 hr/week labor credit for their “work”: President, Kitchen Kaiser, Labor Czar, and  Secretary/Treasurer.  The work responsibilities for each office had been established years before, and new officers were quickly trained to be effective and efficient. Over my years at Rochdale, I served in two of the four offices: Labor Czar and President.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 KITCHEN KAISER:  Kept accurate inventory of food supplies, and kept the shelves stocked. The KK daily ordered delivery from local grocery, with a  heavy discount; and saw that the food delivery was properly shelved. The KK created menus for evening dinners for the cook of the day (unless the cook wanted to propose his own menu – which many International students often did). There were six evening meals, with pot-luck on Sunday. Residents had to signup on a chart if they were NOT planning to attend (eat), and to indicate guests.  They were not charged for meals not eaten. The cost of a meal was about $2/meal. Every evening meal was gourmet – with 2 appetizers, 2 main courses, choice of 2 deserts, and beverage.  The number at dinner ranged from 15 to 40.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Members could prepare their own food at any time (except during dinner). Each person had a long, thin strip of paper on which they recorded what food they consumed from our large larder. Prices of all food was listed on a chart.  The Treasurer would sum up the lists each month and bill each member.  Private diners were responsible for their own cleanup – which all did – under supervision by the Labor Czar. Individuals could request special foods to be ordered by the Kitchen Kaiser, and charged to them.  Occasionally there were feasts, such as a spit roasted pig, and many parties and food/drink supplied meetings (hosted by members).

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 COOK & KITCHEN SERVER & KITCHEN CLEANUP. One person for each task/dinner. Cooking earned 4 hours labor credit (often took 6+ hours) – and I usually cooked once a week.  Kitchen Server and Cleanup persons earned 2 hours labor credit per meal.  I often took Cleanup, as I usually cleaned up my cooking utensils while cooking. The Server set the table and helped move food from kitchen to dining room – with the help of others.  Diners helped move items from dining room to kitchen, where the Cleanup person washed dishes and put them away.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 LABOR CZAR.  I inherited an 8.5X11 template of a form that listed all tasks to be performed and labor credit to be earned. These forms were posted on the main board, for two weeks ahead.  Members signed up for their tasks.  There was a bookletwwith clear instructions for each task – which had been worked out long ago. There were always a few special tasks listed, with labor credits assigned.  I can’t remember how many hours/week of labor was required, but I think it was less than 10.  The Labor Czar kept books on labor earned and informed a person if they fell behind.  Members were permitted to go into labor debt. If some tasks didn’t have signatures just before the start of a labor week, the Czar found persons to take those labor responsibilities. The Czar monitored task performance, such as cleaning periodically all public spaces. This was a very efficient process, which I inherited.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 SECRETARY / TREASURER kept financial records and paid all utilities and rent. They also participated in negotiations we might have with businesses and governments. They also took notes during meetings.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 The PRESIDENT chaired meetings after evening dinners, but primarily served as Secretary-of-State, conducting “foreign relations” with other social and societal institutions. There were issues with zoning and what we could do or not do with our back yard. Most of the time we had good relations with the City of New Haven.  Our relationship with Yale University was a different matter. At some point Yale had purchased the house and were our landlord. Given our success being an alternative student housing (sometimes, up to half our residents were students – not only a Yale) we periodically suggested the model to Yale administrators.  A few residents (Oberlin College students on one year exchange at Yale) actually chose Yale because of Rochdale.  Yale expressed no interest in our model of “housing”.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 We also had some controversy as to events we sponsored. Although we had no political or religions requirements, we were primarily liberal, if not progressive. The only member we had to ask to leave was a young Trotskyite, who refused to do his labor or pay his bills. Once, when the Chairman of The Fair Play for Cuba organization had his speech canceled by the Yale administration, we hosted his speech at Rochdale. As President I was called in by Yale to inform me of the subversive event that had been hosted at our house.  They were surprised that I had been the person inviting the speech. The FBI also became interested and I was invited to a large room in downtown New Haven, with very little furniture: a large desk, 2 chairs, a large American flag and an enormous painting of J. Edgar Hoover.  At the end of their meeting I was asked to spy on some members of Rochdale, which I refused.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 I joined Rochdale Coop in the fall of 1958 and left in the summer of 1960 – to winter over in the Antarctic. My prior experience at Rochdale helped me function as one of twenty men isolated under the ice in the Antarctic – where one month our only contact with the outside world was garbled Morse Code. I returned to Rochdale in the Spring of 1962, and was part of a contingent from New Haven that went to DC for the freedom march     where Martin Luther King gave his famous speech.  I left Rochdale in the fall of 1963 – having completed my PhD, taking a position teaching physics in a high  school in Westchester County, NY – and got married.  I visited Rochdale a few times after leaving.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 A few years later, Yale University decided to experiment with communal living for students.  They evicted a working commune and brought in about 12 divinity students, with cooks and maids. It failed within a year.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 The residents of Rochdale (I was no longer there) discovered a very large Rochdale Alumni in New Haven.  These alumni arranged for Rochdale to get a non-down-payment bank loan to purchase a 5 floor building across the street from the main Yale Library. The building had been gutted and was to have been torn down. The loan also paid for a new interior designed for Rochdale.  During construction the family that had been living at Rochdale rented a large house and had many guests. I visited them at the temporary location and had mixed feelings about their future.  I visited the new location around 1970 and was very disappointed to find that the Rochdale process had been abandoned. It was full of Yale students that had no sense of responsibility or interest in coop living. I have no idea of its current status.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 While living at Rochdale, groups of members would plan and do things together. We did canoe camping trips to Lake George in New York State, and went spelunking to caves in Tennessee.  We were participants in political and social service activity.

3 Responses

  • Are you the Larry Victor that took me spelunking outside of Zeneca Haven in the 1960’s⁉️

    Larry Selman

  • Larry Selman

    I lived in Rochdale house in the early to mid 196o’s. Knew Don and Basha , and Phil Moloso. Don’t have any connections with people from that time. I was working on a PhD in Organic Chemestry but really interested in early music. Got my Chem degree in 1966.
    Opened a glass gallery in Santa Cruz Ca in 1969 and am still here.

    So nice to see this story about Rochdale. Great years for me.

    Thank you. Let me hear if you know any folks from that time.

    Larry Selman

    • Larry, I was ASTOUNDED to discover your comment in my blog – which has almost no visitors; and that you had discovered such an obscure part, not even a post. How DID you find it? This is what I found when I searched ROCHDALE NEW HAVEN. I have no memory of writing the doc on Rochdale, as I don’t remember writing most of my essays.

      I left the commune on Prospect Street before it was formlly abandoned, and visited once at their temporary site before they moved on campus. I visited that site, probably in 1965, and in talking to residents concluded that it was now simply a rooming house and no longer a commune. The issues described in the above url were not present in the commune. We had disagreements that we worked out, but no conflicts. We all cooperated in keeping the facilities clean. I don’t think Don and Basha, or Phil were there when I visited. I visited Phil in a commune in Phoenix in 1970. Things must have got better when you were there – and I am pleased that the “commune” spirit didn’t die.

      As you read in my long essay, living at Rochdale was very influential in my life, and was interupted by my wintering over in the Antarctic (Nov1960-Feb1962), researching the aurora (which became he content of my PhD thesis). My political radicalization matured at Rochdale. I left Rochdale after I finished my coursework at Yale, married and lived in Mt. Vernon, NY for a year, teaching high school physics while expanding my PhD thesis from the shortest submitted to the longest submitted (to Yale), using the Columbia U library. In 1964 I took a prof position at UofMinnesota, primarily part of a major NSF project (MINNEMAST – Minnesota Math & Science Teaching), developing an integrated math/science curriculum for K-6. Had to return to Yale to defend my thesis, second time, in 1965. When the US got to the moon, most curriculum projects were shut down, including MINNEMAST. I resigned my physics prof position and entered UofM to earn a second PhD in Educational Psychology. I was a leader in the Minneapolis anti-war movement from 68-71. We (with woman who became my 2nd and current wife) left Minnesota in Oct 1971, for Tucson, AZ where we still live. I taught psychology , philosophy-of-science, and college-survival at Pima Community College from 1974 to 1997, and have been retired since. I never “was” either a physicist or psychologist; rather a transdisciplinary explorer of emergent reality, and activist

      I just turned 84 and reside in an independent living facility, still recovering from major cervical spine surgey on May 23, 2018. If you examined any of my other post in my blog, nuets nodes, you would discover I am a strange “savant”, with a drive since 1974 to “insure the survival/thrival of Humankind/Gaia”. See UPLIFT & Up2Met, with my current focus, Beyond Extinction.

      I’ve lost contact with everyone from that era. Very nice to hear from you. I assume you are a glass artist. My current wife is an artist, currently weaving and beadwork. One grandson did great glass blowing artwork, and plans to return to it. Advanced virtual reality and the manufacture/marketing of “vapours” for “smoking” occupies his time, while working for the Post Office.

      I greatly appreciate your commenting in my blog and would enjoy dialog, should you desire.


      my email of this had many url links.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *