The Coast Family Society, A Historic Counterculture Collective That's Now Almost Forgotten

When i first moved to Roberts Creek in the mid-70s there was a thriving rural non-profit collective named The Coast Family Society still alive and well. It had been formed in the late 60's by a unique combination of back-to-the-land Canadian hippies, US draft dodgers and at least one rich benefactor. The fact there was a benefactor who bought and donated the money to buy the original land and structures [recent picture of the original structures above] then paid for the supplies while many the other community members renovated and expanded the buildings was how the collective was born.

By the time i arrived The Coast Family Society was a bit past its heyday having suffered a big loss to its infrastructure in a fire that had wiped out the community garage and much of the marketplace. Of course the loosely organized horizontal collective that had been legally structured as a Society to protect the original benefactor from legal liability had no fire insurance. But the Society continued to own the land and the buildings and it evolved into a couple of rental units, a home for the caretakers and The Goon Saloon - one of the greatest quasi-legal clubhouse bars ever - upstairs above the rental units.

The Society also re-started the tradition of community dances at the Roberts Creek Hall featuring both a variety of talented local musicians and some great touring bands who'd all heard of legendary dances put on by and attended by the underground community in the area. Between the dances, the Goon Saloon and the rentals the Society was able to maintain the property, pay the taxes and make the odd anonymous donation to folks in need of a hand.

One thing led to another and the Society decided to put on a really big multi-day, outdoor, multi band, mini-Woodstock type festival. Everybody in the underground/outlaw community pitched in to build the stage, prepare the farm field that had been rented for the occasion, work on the transportation of expected Vancouverite hordes to/from the venue, provide security, collect tickets do clean-up...you name it everybody was involved and of course we all got in free in exchange for our work. The bands were hired, the advertising was printed and distributed, the rent was paid on the farm. Of course it rained, almost nobody from Vancouver showed up, it was a great show attended and loved by all of us local outlaws but...The Society had gambled everything even borrowing money from the bank which they could do because they were a legal Society. They/we lost it all.

Almost all that is. The Coast Family Society was done and the bank sold the property, fortunately, to a couple of local guys in who's hands it changed into what is now The Gumboot Cafe, the Hair Salon, the woodworking school and a 'cosmic' mini mall named The Heart of Creek. Because the property has had a few different long time locals who've owned it through the decades its has changed but still remains the center of 'The Creek' community just as it was intended by the original Society.

The underground community that formed the Society has changed some over the decades too. But 'The Creek' hasn't totally lost its unique character. The dances which were such a huge central force in the community in the old days still continue though now they sell less beer and the smell of pot drifting in through the doors is far less. The artists, builders and activists that once whirled like dervishes at the hall are now mostly gone to the last roundup or hanging out and tending the garden but others have come, others who each year now paint the mandala down by the pier, others who's kids race and scream around the school yard just like ours used to, others who - whether they know it or not - love 'The Creek' in part because of the energy still reverberating through that began with those almost forgotten old-timers of The Coast Family Society and the community they built.