What happened was:
I was working on a new and improved post on painted doors.
I had an iPhone photo of the door at Kingman Co-op, 1730 La Loma. I wanted a good photo.
We walked up to Kingman.
There was a toad mural that I hadn’t seen. Cool mural!
But, the door was blocked by a chalkboard with the history of Kingman Hall on it. Daniella Thompson has written a detailed history of Kingman Hall, The brief history is: built in 1914 for Theta Xi fraternity, fraternity disbanded in 1964, functions as “Toad Hall” rooming house 1964-1969, rooming house with new owner 1969-1973, Ken Keyes Jr. and his Berkeley Living Love Center 1973-1977, and since 1977 the Students’ Cooperative Association. It’s all on the chalkboard.
But the chalkboard was in the way of the door. Stephen Whiting was standing at the front door. We asked if we could move the chalkboard. He helped us move it. Stand aside history – art beckons!
So we got the photo of the door for the painted door post.
Whiting graduated from Cal in December 2015 and left Kingman Hall for months woofing (or is it wwoofing?). He was back to see friends graduate, it being graduation weekend.
He asked what we wanted the door photo for. I explained Quirky Berkeley. He grokked it.
He pointed to the butterfly on the door and to his t-shirt. A butterfly!
He took us north on the property to an iron gate. That same butterfly!
And then he asked if we wanted to go inside and see the murals inside. Panic! I am SO old. They are SO young. Not sure that my Quirky Berkeley cred, such as it is, would carry much weight with this crowd. And – intruding, much? No, no, he assured me. People were open. No problem.
So we went inside and photographed some of the many many murals. Just inside the door:
This is a recent mural. Whiting said that in his time at Kingman there had been four different murals here. Some of the murals in the house are old, some are new. If you want to paint over a mural, the House Council has to approve. Quinn made this mural.
Into the house proper, in the front hall entryway, is this:
Upstairs and downstairs and around corners and half-flights of stairs:
“Oh shit it’s Tuesday,” sometimes embellished to “Oh Shit It’s Only Tuesday” and/or “Holy Shit It’s Only Tuesday.” is a meme with legs.
Homage to The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
A depiction of “Strange Frog” by Alejandro Giraldo, seen in his Strange Animals post. The original:
Some controversy is attached to this door. There are some – still a minority – who find the door aesthetically unpleasing and wish to paint it over. Others – still a majority – find the literary value compelling. I’m with the majority on this one.
From The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
One of the kitchen murals. Post-its!
A depiction of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
From Be Here Now by Ram Dass. The original:
Jack Baur of the Berkeley Public Library shows good knowledge by informing that this Is taken from the artist Jill Thompson’s her interpretation of the character Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. The original by Thompson:
Back to Kingman:
David Bowie. Obviously. Painted by Madelyn Covey when she lived there.
An ode to All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John, published in 2010.
An animated GIF of the first few pages was posted on Tumblr and became the most reflagged and liked post in the history of Tumblr.
Most of the photographs we took were of murals. A few weren’t:
This is the door to the room where (1) perhaps the fraternity did the hazing that got it disbanded, and (2) Ken Keyes lived when the house was the Living Love Center in the 1970s. The Co-op member with the most coop points gets to live in the room. I didn’t see the inside. Maybe some day? Or – maybe I don’t want to? Scary? Maybe not. Mady Cohen lived in the room, which they called the Guru room. She describes it in a comment to this post as “all beautiful carved wood with built in incense burners, Buddhas, green tile, and tall windows.” So maybe not scary.
Climbing stairs up to the roof:
A muraled sleeping place for guests under the eaves.
And then out onto the roof. Parties. House Council meetings. Relaxing. Sunset!
The murals were amazing, just amazing. Whiting told us that they are nothing compared to the murals at Cloyne Court. I will check them out.
Walking through Kingman was like drinking from a high-pressure fire hose. The murals, yes, but also the spirit of youth stirring. This was not very different at all from the scenes of my youth, 50 years ago. It seemed a tad chaotic and Oh My God Why Don’t They Clean the Bathrooms and all that, but, still, through it all, Youth called. Steve and Quinn and Ben – on a path not unlike the paths we chose 50 years ago, although the choices facing them are at the same time more and less limited.
Most of my experiences with Quirky Berkeley are with people roughly my age, people who came to Berkeley when the young and aspiring and creative refugees from the rational culture could afford to live here. With the post-it art on Milvia and here at Kingman I have had a big dose of the young. I feel old but I feel young. My back pages! I’m ready to grow young again – no surrender!
I showed the photos to my friend. He winced and then smiled. He promised me a whole night of stories about Toad Hall after dinner tonight. I’m game! As we agreed on Toad Hall stories, the mail came. In it was an over-sized envelope from Flint, Michigan, addressed to my friend. Oh my!
What about the mural photos?
Wonderful post. Curiosity leads us on!
Reminds me of my mis-spent youth, What a glorious time, long live Kingman Hall !
I painted those Bowies and I lived in the Guru room. The room was Ken Keye’s room (maybe his office? Nothing to do with the frat house.) and is all beautiful carved wood with built in incense burners, Buddhas, green tile, and tall windows. Not scary at all. Thanks for the lovely pictures of my old home!
Tom Dalzell: Love the photos but must add a bit of historical clarification for your site: Harold Mefford, the progressive lawyer father of a high school friend, acquired the defunct fraternity house (I believe around 1967-68) and turned the vacant building over to his son, Dwain, who contacted me in early 1969, inviting me to live there and help prepare the building for conversion to a coop/commune experiment—no major renovations, more like painting, patching and acquiring enough refrigerators (18) and furniture for the rooms. (I suppose it’s possible it was called Toad Hall between 1964 and 1968, but I doubt it. We certainly found no signage to that effect. As far as I know, I painted the “original” Toad Hall sign for 1730 La Loma in 1969.) I subsequently lived there from mid-1969 – 1971, minus 8 months traveling in Europe , then back again in early 1972. Over that time I lived in three separate rooms, the first being directly under the kitchen, the last being one of the two sleeping porches over Strawberry Creek. I was there when Ken Keyes, Jr. bought the building for his Living Love trip and began evicting folks. Just recently my wife and I stopped by and were given a tour of the building, from basement to rooftop. The very distinctive door to what is referred to as the Guru Room looks to be the door to my first sub-kitchen bedroom as most recently viewed. (I did not see another door on site to match it). In 1969, my door was a 10-paned affair decorated with self-created collages illustrating Joni Mitchell songs; instead of wood paneling, one wall I covered with drift wood and a few rusted/painted metal strips acquired in Jenner; no carved beams. All the fancy woodwork, new windows, and ceramic floor tile were obviously the work of Mr Keyes’ crew. However, I would be surprised to learn that Mr Keyes lived there as he was confined to a wheel chair due to a very serious auto accident prior to his reinvention/reincarnation as Guru. As for the “hazing room”, there was a black-painted “initiation chamber” complete with black robes on hooks and an electrical sparking device, but that was located further north in the basement, directly below the entry way if my memory serves me. (I used it as a photographic darkroom). Hope you found this at least a little interesting. Thanks.
Hi, Sean. Thanks for the clarification, it corrects some of the inaccuracies found elsewhere. I remember you & and many others, so well. Kwaku, too. Privileged to have been part of the magical early fabric there.
Hi Craig and Sean. Sean, I was your roommate for a time in one of the sleeping porches you mentioned. While Sean was on his roadtrip to Europe, Kwaku came under my care. By the time he returned, myself, girlfriend Helen, and three other Toad Hall residents, Mark Sawyer, Mike Mendolson and Marilyn Wallace moved to Milvia Street. Kwaku returned to Sean upon his return but eventually made her way back to Milvia Street. In 1973, Kwaku moved with Helen and I to Sacramento. She had a long, healthy life becoming a fierce guardian of our son Devin in 1980. She quietly passed away around 1983. If anything embodies the spirit of Toad Hall, to me it was Kwaku!
I lived at Toad Hall in Spring 1971 and Fall 1972 as a 17 year old UCB Freshman, mostly in Room “T” which was basically a closet with great bay view 🙂 I remember all the refrigerators in the main room. Each room got “half” a refrigerator. Mine had cardboard down the middle. My frig roommate was Diana, and her roommate, ?Kathryrn, I remember Mike Mendolson as a great bluegrass mandolin player and Marta and a few others. Fun memories!