MEMOIRS OF MRS AGNES NERODE -
To explain to our youngest sons what we did with a decade of our lives before we met them. Our oldest son knows, for he lived through some of those years. Knew Yogananda as my brother. He is not a holy man. He is not God. Disappointed in him.
My uncle did not tell me until it was time to register that he had no dollars and did not intend to pay the 5.000 he owned my father. After all he’d been a promoter of gold and oil stocks in LA, Chicago and NY. My father never knew about the disappointment until years later. I went to Woodbury’s
Business School to learn to type before I could go for one year residency for California to attend
UCLA. Here I stayed in a cousin’s house of my father’s brother. I had to support myself because it was 1927 – 1928 the height of the Depression. I stood outside in 4 cross form of people 2 blocks long for one typing job.
So I was glad to meet Mrs Becker of Mount Washington on top of the hill out of downtown.
Mrs. Becker was my first contact with Mount Washington. She came to Woodbury Bus College where
I was working ½ time for tuition and she offered me a job and hired me to type at Mount
Washington. I could stay there. It was a 4 story house. It was a mile up the hill from the street car so he could not get anyone who went home every night. Glad to stay.
Mount Washington had been a fashionable resort hotel at the turnoff the century. The rails of the old train tram that carried people from the street car were covered with weeds, the ties disintegrating, the rails gone, at the top was a shed or station for the tiny RR, nearly completely covered by a spreading pepper tree. It afforded some shade and a breeze on a hot summer day.
The tennis court was in shambles, weeds growing through broken concrete, broken tiers benches for spectators. A gate house at the road entrance had windows out and door off – but huge iron gates could be opened and shut. Castor beans, nettlewort, mustard and other wild things grow abundantly. Once tenderly cared for long trellis stood between the hotel and the gate home. The pale pink Cecil Bruner roses covered top and sides. The fragrance is memorable.
The hotel itself had a big entry way with a large area to the left with wood folding chairs and a platform. A very large front room welcomed guests and afforded opportunity for mingling.
To the right were two rooms that were bare and seemed to be a sunroom and a library but probably had been used for a place to view the moon and drink or dance or just gather.
The door to the north led into an enclosed garden with waterpools and a bridge led one to an enormous room – a very large many windowed dining room afforded light, air and a view of an adjacent hill with a few scattered simple homes across a ravine densely covered by chapparal.
It was dusty, dirty, completely empty. Stairs in the center directly in front of the door led to upstairs rooms, both over the main part of the building and over the huge empty room and the large kitchen to the West of it.
Mrs. Becker took me to a room on the 2nd floor in the front of the building. The furnishing consisted of a cot, a chair and an old dresser.
(Notes from Anil Nerode: She was offered a job as typist and typed five long manuscripts of
Yogananda as they were produced over the next year or two. She remembers that they were given to her in fairly finished form, having already been corrected by Center memberls and the typing teacher. She remembers nothing about them. She did see Yogananda in a great rage with the teacher because he felt certain corrections were unnecessary. He kept shouting “I am right, I am right”, and she kept answering, “No your not”. The teacher won these arguments. My mother said that Mrs Becker later married a US congressman or Senator from California. I have not yet checked this. My mother knew Yogananda, Swami Dhirananda, and everyone else there at the time.)
Jeanette and her sister stopped their car and called to me as I was walking down H Blvd. They invited me to dinner at their home. An always a hungry college student I could not refuse a home cooked meal. These sisters had a very good cook. Mrs. Bugbee.
Before we could go to their enormous home in Beverley Hills, I had to go to a meeting with them. That meeting was to change the rest of my life. Jeanette was a personnel manager for a large department store. Helen was a bookkeeper at another. They both looked like the middle age spinsters they were tall, neat, trim and gracious. Even on Sunday they wore the working clothes of the day – hats with a modest brim and flowers, suits and small collared white blouse. The white gloves were there to but Cuban heels on their pumps, not the high heels of younger women.
We were to hear Nerode at Mount Washington. I really did not want to go up there again but I had to in order to go home to dinner with them. Transportation by public convenience took a long time. If you wanted to go from one beach to another you had to take those marvelous big red street cars into downtown and out again.
Seated near the rear with my friends I listened to the lecture by a small Indian, unimpressed by his speech and waiting for it to finish, I don’t remember what it was about. He spoke eloquently and the audience was listening intently. My two friends had told me he was brilliant and I should not miss hearing him.
After the meeting we moved to the sunny room where Sri Nerode came to greet us. Most of the audience had already bowed to him as they left.
Jeanette introduced me as a colleague student. Sri asked 3 favors. One I don’t remember. The second was would I type for him. I had refused the first request and refused this one too, telling him I was too busy. Then came the third request. Would I introduce him to a professor at UCLA, a Dr. Hill. I felt kind of mean for so quickly refusing his first and second request that I thought “This can’t take much time.” So I said yes. The meeting was arranged for the next Wednesday in Westwood. Mount Washington is near Glendale and Pasadena. What I did not know was that he had the handy man chauffeur, a Filipino Tony Diegal, to teach him to drive between Sunday and Wednesday even so he could come alone. He picked me up where I lived at 8th, Vermont. He was driving a small Ford, belonging to Tony. I thought his driving was a little funny. He had trouble with the car’s switching at stop S and keeping it going straight. If I’d known he just learned to drive in order to be alone with me I’d never had gotten in the car.
We got nearly to Westwood when he said he had a headache. Could I phone Dr Hill and change the appointment to next Wednesday. This accomplished he said he’d feel better if we drove up the beach for fresh ocean air. He talked about LA, my school, the weather then he left me out home. The next Wednesday he picked me up again and exactly the same thing happened. The headache, the drive to the ocean, the postponement of his appointment with Dr. Hill,
Sri told Swami Yogananda he wanted to marry. SY told him not to because women would not come to a married yogi’s meetings. He’d lose his center. We were determined to marry anyway and after an all-
When we presented ourselves at the marriage license bureau the man queried “You don’t want to marry this man do you?” I replied, “Yes I do.” Then he announced “We don’t have a law against it like California, but I’m not going to give you a license anyway.” He made a face and turned his back, we left.
We headed for New Mexico, Anglos have married American Indians and Mexicans for many years.
The cold and wind was fierce. Tony had flats to fix and once was run of the road by a wild driver. We landed in a ditch and Tony managed to get it on the 2 way highway again. A light snow covered the land. Weeds lined the fences and the cactus and sage thrush wore white.
We arrived at Grants New Mexico around noon. The marriage registry was in a non-
The city clerk had no objection to our marriage and the magistrate spoke the words that sealed our fate.
Mrs Pickart offered us her Laguna Beach beachside home for one week for a delayed honeymoon. We gladly happily accepted her unexpected and generous offer. The house sat above the blue Pacific a five minute trip down a set of steep wooden steps to the strip of the beach. With great pleasure we packed clothing and food for a week’s stay.
Swami Yogananda did not have a place at the beach then and dearly wanted one. He said he should have been invited to vacation at the beach house of Mrs Pickart rather than us. He was affronted at our invitation. He said “she should have asked me”.
We drove off in anticipation of time alone together, which was what Mrs Pickart had mentioned as her reason for inviting us. She knew we live in a goldfish bowl at Mount Washington.
The cottage had a large front room with sturdy furniture, two bedrooms to the rear, and a kitchen with an icebox. We had stopped for 50 lbs. of ice for our milk, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Two shining eyes greeted me from the depths of the front room in the late evening light. The furry little creature wore a coat of shiny black trimmed with white stripes. A skunk. I’d met his relation in Colorado before and had no desire for his expressed objection to our invasion of his territory. I put the groceries down in the kitchen after he scurried to a bedroom. I saw him trying to sneak into the front room again. Grabbing a broom, I scrambled to the top of the mission table and tried to shoo him out the front door. There ensued a chase around the front room with the broom trying to shoo him gently to the exit, trying frantically to stay inside. I jumped from table to chair to couch – easy to do on heavy mission furniture. I was not sure how high he could shoot his perfume if he decided to take that action but I did not want to wear it. I tried to keep to his face and side and not to his rear end.
The skirmish lasted half an hour. My husband stayed outside. No use two of us getting sprayed. Finally he raced for the door and we never saw him again. Packing finished, we climbed down to the beach to get a bit of the last rays of the sinking sun over the Pacific. Sri was a good swimmer, I only fair but it was refreshing. A whole week – all to ourselves – a whole week of best days were to come!
The next morning we were awakened by 3 carloads of noisy people arguing about parking. Then we heard Swami Yogananda’s voice. He said: “We’ve come to enjoy with you.” “But it’s our honeymoon” Yogananda’s reply was to tell his girls to bring his things into the house. Soon the front room was filled with gear for bathing, sleeping and eating. There were 20 of them. They were to sleep all over, on the floor, everywhere. Changing to bathing suits. Swami Yogananda, the girls, the Mexican driver and helpers let out for the beach.
We took the hint, put our things back in the car and went back to Mount Washington where we had the whole thing to ourselves until they all returned at the end of our week. Swami Yogananda had stolen our honeymoon so we spent it in the heat of Mount Washington and he and his girls at the cool of the beach.
Sri told me he was 40, I was 23. I cried. He never wanted to think of age.
Put Jun 1, 1900. Finally got birth certificate. 20 years older. Did not want to be old. Later in … did not mind telling his age.
I became ill and demanded more dollars for more food, for a while did not know I was pregnant. I simply could not eat. Finally I went to the hospital, was informed to be pregnant, the vomiting stopped at 4th month.
S. Yogananda sent Sri and Hamid Bey to lecture in North California, I could not live on the poor diet in the kitchen so I ate separately in order to have an adequate diet for a child. I was alone in our room at this time. My sister and her 3 year old daughter came at this time because I’d been so ill. SY tried to tie her into his fold but she could not be subjected to his blandishments. She was brunette beautiful intelligent and wanted to help but she never became a devotee. That of course was necessary as far as he was concerned. She was the type who could be very useful to him. He always let us know he did not want any “dead heads” around.
At this time a student gave Sri and me a Studebaker with glass curtains all around. It looked like a buggy with spoke wheels. My sister drove me to the Good Samaritan hospital where our son was born. SY came to the hospital to see the baby. He insisted on putting a gold piece in the baby’s hand for good luck. They kept us in the hospital for two weeks then Yogananda let us know we would not be permitted to bring the baby back to MW. I’d have to find another place because he did not want any babies at MW. My sister found an apartment in Highland Park and packed and moved our things there. Sri was lecturing for Yogananda with Hamid Bey in North California and did not see his son for 3 weeks, Yogananda could have told me before that no baby was welcome at MW. My sister had to scramble to get me moved.
English Poet – stayed months. Swami Yogananda ordered me to take him where he wanted. To fancy hotels. To teas – dance. I do not dance. I have no fancy handkerchief to put perfume on. Liaisons with dancers – actresses – marriage spoiled romance – he never married. Asked me to sleep with him. I told Sri! He told swami Yoganadna – so I was not asked to chauffeur him anymore.
He was supposed to be and Egyptian but he was an Italian? Who learned to shut off circulation and slow down his pulse so he could be buried for one hour or so. He did this in circuses in Italy and then came to America where he felt he could make more dollars.
However this was the depression. He hooked up with Swami Yogananda thinking he could make more dollars in religion than in a circus. Sri Nerode was reluctant to go but Swami Yogananda insisted. Swami Yogananda felt Bey would attract a bigger crowd with his “buried alive” act.
Nada and their child lived on the North West side of the 2nd floor at Mount Washington, we were or had been on South West side, across the hall. She said she did not like this “damn business” there was not enough dollars. She wanted Bey to go back to the circus.
(25) We ended up going to San Francisco and Oakland with Nada, Bey and baby girl, I had our son with us.
One day we went for a ride above Oakland and ran into a police blockade. Bey and Nada’s child was blond. They had black hair, as did my husband and son. I was a blond.
The Lindberg baby had been kidnapped and the police were searching for him. They took the Beys to the police station and finally let them go when they took the diaper of Beys girl.
I on the other hand took my son in a big red baby buggy to shop in a department store. I could not get the buggy into the rest room and he was sleeping. When I came out he was gone. The employees had him and I had to convince them I was his mother because he had black hair and mine was yellow. He awakened and put his arms up to me so they let me have him back.
Sri Nerode’s mother died early in the spring of the year we were in Miami. We did not learn of it till later that fall. His family had written two letters from India telling him of her death. They had been correctly addressed to him at Mount Washington to be forwarded. They had returned the letters to India marked “unknown at this address”. Undoubtedly returned by the Wrights. They tried again later in the year and the letter was forwarded to Sri by Hazel whose job was to answer letters asking for advice about yoga, photos or any personal problem they had.
My own mother had died in Colorado in August. I had taken our son to Colorado because of my mother as well as to get him out of the Miami summer heat. It was a month after my return to Miami that the letter finally got through to Sri Nerode. He was stunned to learn his mother had died early that spring. His mourning was a period of several days of sitting alone on the beach in meditation. Sri wanted to build a temple in Miami and stay there. We had been running all over the country spreading the message. It would be a branch of SRF. It would be financed by Lynn of Kansas City who had promised $ 10.000. In those days we could have done it for that amount.
We had met Lynn when we were in Kansas City. He owned a string of cafetarias and an insurance company and had a very impressive home in a wealthy section of Kansas City. He had asked Sri about Yogananda and said he was not really impressed with his sincerity and motives. He was not going to follow him. Sri convinced him Yogananda was OK. He decided to stay in the movement and promised Sri the money to build a temple in Miami.
Sri told Yogananda about it and expected Yogananda to be delighted to have a satellite center in that part of the country. We never suspected what was to follow.
I could not get a meeting place for the consecutive days for classes. Lynn who was an officer for one of the largest Protestant churches in Kansas City said: “Oh don’t worry, we have lots of classrooms in our church. You can use one of them.” So we met in that classroom one night and the next morning were informed that we were heathens because Sri Nerode was a Hindu and taught Yoga. So we could hold no more classes there. I had to scramble to find another place and phone 200 students of the change. We had been kicked out of a Protestant church. Now when I pass a church and see yoga classes advertised on a billboard I think times have changed.
It was not long after Yogananda learned of the $ 10.000 that Yogananda asked Sri to return to SRF, to move back and talk to him. I did not understand why we all needed to go back to SRF and then return to Miami.
We still had that housecar. Sri was occasionally driving though he did not like it. We awakened in a motel in Texas to find a dreary damp day after a heavy rain at night. I was not feeling well so Sri decided to drive. The road was slick and somehow Sri lost control of the vehicle. It went over on its side and popped open. We managed to crawl out of the mess, unharmed. Battery acid was leaking as was gas. We stood surveying the wreck. A man stopped in a few minutes and offered us $ 25 for all our possessions and the truck chassis which was salvageable. I asked him to stop at a gas station and send a wrecking truck. He refused because I refused his 25, 00 dollars. The next man who stopped did send help. We packed our books and belongings and took the train to LA. So we arrived on foot. We were installed in 2 connecting rooms on the 2nd floor on South East corner, just under Yogananda’s rooms. It is a long way walking down the hill to the streetcar on N710.
Ettie Bletsch had always said “Swami Yogananda can smell money” Then she would give off her little tittering laugh.
Yogananda had been busy. He‘d gone after Lynn for to buy beach property at Encinitas. They had built an ashram where Swami Yogananda and Lynn could stay away from Mount Washington. It was quite luxurious – gold faucets and fittings in the bathroom, oriental rugs and expensive furniture. Beneath were quarters for student-
We soon learned that the 10.000 dollars we were to have had for a temple in Miami was to be used to construct the Golden Lotus Temple. Swami Yogananda had convinced Lynn that it would be better spent on the high narrow structure with a gold leaf lotus on top that could be seen by people on the highway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A kind of advertisement, a statement. The rooms were very small, one on top of the other and each had a bathroom, sink and running water. Why a bathroom sink? Why not a drinking fountain? There went Sri’s temple in Miami. Swami Yogananda could not see 10.000 available dollars slip through his fingers. He planned every detail of the building of it. It was supposed to be for meditation but only by invitation.
It was not with any sorrow that we read in the papers years later that it had slid into the Pacific and was no more. Yogananda had not taken into account the geology of the shore which gives up soil from its palisades with every heavy rain.
The dollars he had managed to convert to his own use was now splintered wood and crumbled plaster. Karma had worked after all.
Yoganada thought he had managed everything very well when he asked Sri to take over the 17th st temple which had been a synagogue.
Sri had classes there and Sunday services. It was by snow a drudge building on a dingy street. It no longer exists having given way to urban development.
We had many dinners there that I arranged. I was responsible for the guests and program and not the cooking. Except on X-
As the Wrights became more sure of themselves, they started calling the shots.
By this time I had the car in my name. I’d insisted before I’d agree to doing promotion for Yogananda. Most of my trips were not personal but for the organization. There was a charge account at the bottom of the hill I got full-
We lived at MW and cooked in our rooms, not with the group in the kitchen. Our son had become ill. I had taken him to CM hospital after having him in a tent with Vicks Vapo rub. I thought he had a cold. The doctor was in Westlake and was treating him by phone. He got worse, became purple. I rushed him to the hospital that he was dead, no pulse, no breath, next AM he was alert and laughing. It was allergy to a weed growing over the screen where he slept. 300 skin tests later proved him totally allergique to castor beans, nettlewort and sage.
We had all been eating the 17 cent a day meals downstairs, he was malnourished. He had a pigeon breast from it. We got a refrigerator and stove and cooked in our rooms. We started with 4 foods added to his diet. He recovered but not from the pigeon breast.
The diet downstairs was of course vegetarian, much of the vegetables being left overs and throwouts, the gift of the men who started one of the biggest chain of grocery stores out here. Not too much was an outright purchase at a store.
So the doctor said we had to feed our son more protein or suffer the consequences. I cooked chicken, lamb and fish. Often Yogananda came late at night to see what I had in the refrigerator. He went through picking what he wanted and ate. He finished the lamb curry – ate the half of a leftover chicken – his favorite.
We also were asked to give our son bacon. Of course the cooking wafted indoors. Yogananda announced many times from the platform that unholy people were in the house. They were eating meat. He did this in public and came regularly to eat lamb at night. He also had a cold and said the dripping from his nose was orange juice coming out.
A short time after Miami I was asked to see Yogananda in his quarters. He had a large fishbowl he nearly was encircling with his arms, gloating over the beauty of this fancy finned carps. They were expensive I knew. I thought why should I deny myself a decent iron or anything else so he can play with goldfish. He never denied himself anything. That was for followers.
The notice that he had become a Paramhansa came on a post card. He had been pushing it for a long time.
Darling Florina came at the same time as the Wrights. She was with her husband, brother, sister in law and their son. They spent several months there till the brother, his wife and child went away. Then Mr. Darling wanted his wife to leave with him. She would not. He came to my house and said
“can you help me got my wife back?” My husband said it had gone too far. Florina would not leave SY. Her husband was completely shut out. He was not the kind of person who would put up a big fight. He became more and more subdued and finally just left.
When Florina first arrived she was making herself useful to Swami Yogananda with many personal services, washing his sox and clothes by hand, carrying his dollars for him so he would not have to touch it, fixing special food.
She got an old sock of Swami Yogananda and carried dollars in that. Swami Yogananda trusted her and nobody else. She carried it for years. She turned loose of cash. She turned her life around. She had no education. Was uninterested. Swamy Yogananda send Darling and the Mormons together to get a HS diploma. They attended together. It was first time I saw him turn loose for dollars because they were not educated for him.
I went to the kitchen for a drink one day shortly after she arrived. The kitchen was quite large, had an eating area seating a lot of people, had an expanse of windows facing west with cabinets underneath. After all this building had been a resort hotel in its beginning. I saw SY and Florina standing hip to hip in earnest conversation looking out the window. They were unaware anyone has pushed the swinging door open. I knew then their relationship, because I have never seen people without a close relationship stand that close hip to hip. I’d only stand that close to my husband and never to a brother; cousin or friend and certainly not a self-
SY wanted recreation away from MW. He bought what he called a house car – a cabin mounted on a truck chassis. It had bright orange upholstered seats which folded down to become a bed, shelves overhead hold cooking utensils & clothing. Clothing could be hung in a small closest at the back. His Spanish chauffeur Castro drove him and the girls to Lake Elsinore for vacations.
Since SY had long hair he had a hard time with bathrooms marked for MTF. People would see him in a long yellow robe and long flowy hair and direct him to the women’s T. so he used a potty in the house car and Florina emptied it. Castro reported that she also wiped him with + paper.
Arrival of Wrights. He had been in Salt Lake City to lecture. He returned to LA a few days later. We saw 2 car loads full of people bring their things in. Mrs. Wright, Richard, Faye, Virginia and a younger brother were one family. The other family was a mother, two sons and a daughter who was married to Richard.
Part of their luggage was beauty shop equipment’s, dryer, etc.… This they set up in a room and all 5 of the women were fussing with their faces and hair all the time. This was quite a change from the behavior of the women already there who were not at all obvious about their beauty care.
Swami Yogananda did not seem to mind the time they spent on this, to his previous attitude was that time you wasted on such concerns could have been better spent doing something for him and the teachings.
Mrs. Wright became very much concerned with Swami Yogananda’s intimate apparel and his robes. She found someone in Pasadena to make new robes. She bought his socks and underwear. She behaved about the way a wife would. Before that, he had been able to take care of himself. She took charge of everything. Dick took over what I was doing.
Then she began going around and repeating to us several times a day that “We are not working for what we get now – we are working for the future.”
How prophetic these words proved to be, I had no idea.
Swami Yogananda also was telling us repeatedly how glad he would have been to have been born of Mrs. Wright’s womb. I could not understand his obsession with her womb and never have. I also wondered about what his own mother would have thought had she heard that.
We were on the floor meditating. Often for 3-
He said he was the father, he was the mother, and he was all. Always there was to be a single loyalty to him and no one else.
He played people against each other. When people were new, he gave them lots of attention. They sat in lotus posture on the floor while he sat in an upholstered chair, asking them every conceivable question about their family, their finances, and their intentions. They spilled the most intimate things to him. Then he used this knowledge to play one against the other and to control them, so they trusted no one.
The Wright family was the exception. They had a purpose in mind and worked together on it, I did not realize it then but it was control and ownership of this non-
We knew men had several wives and kept the families in separate houses in different parts of the city so no one knew and if they did they kept still. The women often had to scramble to support their children because few man had enough income to support two or 3 families. Mrs. Wright never mentioned divorce either.
Mrs. Wright was of an age where she was very conscious of how the Mormon Church began. She knew about Joseph Smith and his problems, she knew about Brigham Young and how he took over the church when Smith died and how he gained power, wealth and privilege. He was at the right place at the right time. She was aware Swami Yogananda was supposed to be celibate and therefore would have no heirs. Somebody would take over and the only one standing in the way was another Hindu most likely Sri Nerode.
It is clear now that she knew what she was going to do. That meant getting rid of us and that is what she did. My husband was naïve. Faye (Daya Mata) knew some short hand and that is why Swami
Yogananda brought them to L.A. A secretary meant books. He considered his every word precious.
Swami Yogananda sat on the middle step of his veranda in front of the one-
ETTIE – furniture – 2 rooms – 1 piled high –Yogananda promised her. How got her dollars. She was a member of a wealthy industrial family in Cincinnati. Not as bright as she might have been.
She inherited money and had income from business. Yogananda counted on her. Kept getting her dollars. Used Ettie for group trip to India. Brother came once to check on her. All told how to behave. I don’t know how he explained piled furniture in 2ne room. She was treated royally while brother there. And it …… to status quo.
I want to sew. I say I am renting a sewmachine. Ettie says I don’t sew anymore. You are welcome to it. You can have it. I take it; Thank her . Sew for a few days. Then Mrs Wright meets me in the hall. “Swami Yogananda says I am to have Etties machine. I want it right now.” I say “I’ll ask Swami Yogananda.” I do. He says “yes Mrs Wright wants it; I say but she gave it to me. He says what Ettie has is mine. Mrs Wright wants it. She can have it. “ So Mrs Wright carries it to her quarters. I rent one.
We were 30-
The wife of the owner of a powerful Midwestern paper came to spend a fortnight at MW. SY cooked elaborate Indian food and at one meal I was sitting next to her and SY on the other side; SY took hands full of food and put it in her mouth. She ate it but had a queer look on her face. She turned to me and asked why he did that. I told her I guessed he wanted to be nice to her. I explained about eating with hands. She was not convinced.
On returning from Florida we were welcomed on the wide veranda by SY and a group of people. Our son had been a baby when we were last there. Very attractive, dancing happy, large brown eyes, he was engaging and cute. Delightful to be around. He wore a shirt with short pants, baring his knees. The barber had given his brown hair a grown-
SY did ask again and our son turned and ran away. SY did not like our not letting our son kiss his feet. He said it was good training and a good example to other students.
Swami Yogananda believed implicitly in testimonials. The bigger name to testify, the better. He always had big celebrations at Christmas time. He sent out personal Christmas cards. One Christmas before I went to Mount Washington I received four of them. Evidently he did not then keep an accurate list of what he’d sent and kept on addressing them himself.
Swami Yogananda always had elaborate Christmas day celebrations with small gifts for each person he wanted. He expected large gifts like big dollars. I remember once a wealthy woman gave him a pair of leather gloves. He exploded in expletives because there was no dollars inside the gloves. The girls decorated lavishly. Always miss Marcklandt prepared the ceiling high tree, always very full and tall. She spent a day or so sniping white stuff which she slathered on every branch, to resemble snow. The tree was then loaded with colored bulbs, tinsel and trinkets. The tables were set in what had been the large foyer of the hotel and was also used as an entry way and meeting room.
There had to be name people at each dinner. The dinners were of course always vegetarian. Laurie Pratt had invited some prominent men who sat across from SY. One had been asked to give a testimonial and he dictated it to Laurie, who scurried upstairs to type it out. Then when swami Yogananda had the man engaged in discussion. Laurie put the paper on a clip board into the man’s lap and said sign it here pointing to a line. He read quickly and signed it. But it was not his statement he had signed. He did not notice that the paper had been superimposed over another and his signature was not below what he had dictated but on the lower sheet which was much more laudatory than the one he had dictated. How could he ever deny he had said it when there was his signature? I saw a very self-
Betty and her mother came to meetings. Betty and her mother where living in an apartment in Hollywood. They had come to give Betty a change at the movies. She was an exquisitely beautiful brunette with the classical peaches and cream complexion, charming, sweet. Her father was a typesetter in Indianapolis and he was supporting them. Her mother had a face with sharper features, had lighter colored hair, and probably was quite pretty at Betty’s age.
My introduction to Betty and her mother was in their Hollywood apartment. Sri Nerode and I were there with Swami Yogananda. I wondered at Swami Yogananda’s request to drive him there. He had never need me to chauffeur him before. He had a chauffeur and did not need me. It became clear why he did not want X. it was instantly obvious why he‘d asked Betty and her mother to move to Mount Washington. He was crazy about her. That was clear. His physical demeanor betrayed it. A man with a crush on a beautiful would-
We gathered their luggage put them in my car and went to Mount Washington. Swami Yogananda went in, alone, leaving us to take Betty and her mother and their luggage in as if they were our guests.
The mother spent her time doing a sculpture of Swami Yogananda., Full figure about a foot high, I think some of them were sold. SY had Betty in his apartment quite often. He had a couch full of soft pillows, where eventually he had her lie while he caressed her and then wanted on top or her. She then came to Sri Nerode to ask him to help her get away.
They did not have a car. It was a mile down the hill to the street car.
Sri talked to SY who was furious. Betty was not obedient. Sri was interfering. Sri asked SY, “Why don’t you marry one of them?” SY jumped a couple of feet of the floor several times and there was an explosion of anger in Bengali. I don’t understand Bengali but things were never the same again.
Betty wrote a long letter to Sri part of which is quoted here;
I don’t know how Margaret “beautiful blond got there or what she ever did besides being around and being beautiful.
There was an older woman Sahly who was nice looking but not beautiful. She worked in the office and spent a lot of time and money buying and refurnishing furniture. The place was bare of furniture when I 1st went there.
DINNERS AT 17th ST.
One professor – wait – after dinner speeches – swami Yogananda first even if I had other speakers, singers and pianists. He went on for 2 ½ hours to 3 hours before anyone else got the chance. One professor said I was awful for doing that to him. He featured speaker. After three hours he left mad at me.
Swami Yogananda got very emotional. Used his voice like a musical instrument changing cadence and loudness and gestures. I realized at last it was a game. Use the name of people to get a crowd but don’t let them talk until he had run out of steam. It got pretty hard to cope with this when I knew what he’d do. Few guests wanted to tolerate it. I never had anything to do with food. Always vegetarian and Indian.
Miss Bughbee and Mr Thind marry – sat by front door waiting for him – never came – finally Satler got her to give up all clothes for honeymoon. Thind did marry later Vivian.
About $, our money to live on, clothing food gas, everything but shelter consisted of the 2, 50 to 3,00 collection at 17th Street. Of course this was the depression and money bought quite a lot. But no $ buys nothing.
One day Yogananda told me that he needed the collection from the temple. Since that was our only income I said NO. I was never paid anything for my work. That was Sri’s compensation. At that time he was giving each of the people at MW 2 to 3 a week for incidentals.
Yogananda invited me to Encinitas the day his purpose was to get me to give him the collection money on which we lived. I was not aware of this at first. We sat outside at the corner of the building and he asked me to give him the money. Again I refused. Then he said he had to have it for some purpose or other I’ve forgotten. I still said no. then he said he was going to be in dire trouble financially if he did not get it. I still said no. He said he had to have it to help to keep up Mount Washington. I still said NO. Then he broke down and cried real tears and said he just had to have it. I looked at him and still said NO.
After all this cajoling pleading and tears he laughed shook his shoulders and said “you win”.
He changed the subject after each request, trying to get my mind on something else or make me soften. Then he’d try again.
It was a game. He pulled all the stops emotionally. He generally got people to give in to what he wanted with pleading. I knew what he was doing after he started because I had seen him do it before + I was determined not to give in to him. My husband always did.
At a light tapping on the door I admit a young man of about 18 years. He dartled inside and quickly closed the door. Boy told us that Swami Yogananda and girls got to get us at temple. He was new there. Could not understand Swami Yogananda asking him if he could leave his family. He understood talking about us by others. Told us that Swami Yogananda would arrest him or throw him out at next meeting at 17th ST Temple. I was tempered. Sri could not believe, I do.
Swami Yogananda inner circle never went to hear Sri Nerode at 17th St. Sunday morning I drove to 17the S. Saw Mount Washington cars and a strange one in front with a man who did not look like he belonged there. Saw Swami Yogananda’s crowd come back. Told Sri Nerode and drove off. I did not let Sri Nerode go in even if he wanted to go in. I was adamant.
It was just as the boy had warned.
The Wright’s (family Daya Mata) were going to defrock Sri Nerode – take his robe off in front of crowd and throw him out. They had a newspaper reporter in front to see Sri Nerode thrown out. It was the Wrights last ditch effort to get rid of Sri Nerode. They wanted to disgrace him so he could no longer teach. One brother, 2 sisters and the mother were there. We avoided that scene. All because of the girls.
Conclusion: "Knew Yogananda as my brother. He is not a holy man. He is not God. Disappointed in him. Played people against each other. Gurus, Gurus, Gurus, all just people. He took everything everyone had. Keep meditating. Take things that are valuable for you but forget Swami Yogananda. He was charming. Was going to write about it, but would rather write children's books. You do what is best for you."
|Interview Notes #2|