And Then They Were Gone was published in April 2018, and is now available for purchase.
From the preface:
We would like to think that the teenagers we knew, some of those who died and the few who lived, can help make Jonestown more than a barely remembered story of people who perished in a faraway jungle, a tale often reduced to the dismissive phrase coined from the tragedy: “To drink the Kool-Aid.” We hope this story about our young students—their hopes, their poetry, their efforts to help make a better world—will bring some light to the dark story of Jonestown.
And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown
by Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral
6×9, paperback, 320 pages
To order from Sugartown Publishing, go to:
In September 1976, Reverend Jim Jones chose San Francisco’s Opportunity II High, a public alternative school where Bebelaar and Cabral taught, as the one he wanted the Peoples Temple teenagers to attend. And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown introduces 28 of those Temple teenagers and focuses on the fifteen Bebelaar and Cabral knew best of those who attended the small school until their sudden departures to Jonestown in the spring and summer of 1977. Most never returned.
More about the book:
And Then They Were Gone tells how two teenage populations met at Opportunity, and made important connections in spite of the Temple rule forbidding fraternization with non-Temple students. Poetry that Temple students wrote in Bebelaar’s class and their writing for Cabral’s journalism class are included the book. The Temple students, many of them good athletes as well as good students, made possible the school’s first baseball team. The Cobras, coached by Cabral, included Jones’s adopted sons, Tim and Jimmy Jones, as well as others from the Church. Many of those youngsters survived because they were away at a basketball tournament in Guyana’s capital on November 18, 1978. Stephan Jones, Jim Jones’s only biological son, was Bebelaar’s counselee and was the spearhead of Jonestown’s basketball team. When Bebelaar reached out to him after she and Cabral decided to write the book, Stephan was most helpful in getting the Jonestown part of the story right, and generously shared his own vivid writing about life as a teenager in Jonestown. In many ways, Jonestown was built by young people whose strength and resilience were turned toward clearing land, building cottages, tending crops, caring for children and serving as Jones’ personal protective service. But the young people also found ways to be normal teenagers and to rebel against strict rules in spite of the hard labor required of them and harsh punishments meted out in what had become a prison camp. The book concludes with the last months and days in Guyana.
And Then They Were Gone provides the social context for understanding Opportunity, Peoples Temple, and Jonestown as part of a complex decade of turbulent cultural change. The murder-suicides in Jonestown on November 18, 1978, constituted the largest mass death of American civilians until September 11, 2001. One-third of those who died in Jonestown were under 18, and half were in their twenties or younger.
And Then They Were Gone was written by Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral, former teachers at Opportunity High School in San Francisco. To find out more about the teachers and the book, follow them on Facebook.
Excerpt from the Book:
FROM CHAPTER 3: In Small Dreams
Joyce and Dorothy
Joyce had convinced Dorothy to join Creative Writing. Dorothy was born in Mississippi, and she and her mom and Loreatha, her older sister, had lived in Ukiah before they came to San Francisco. One of Dorothy’s first poems expressed both nostalgia for a simpler world and a sense of foreboding about the future. I asked her if she’d read it to the class today.
She seemed pleased, even touched, but said she’d rather not have the class hear it. “It’s kind of personal, you know, Ms. B. I don’t think I want to read it.” . . .
As kids began to drift in, I pulled out her poem to read it again. Something nagged at me, but I wasn’t sure why. She always had a smile on her face; I had no reason to worry about her, right?
Walking down a busy wide street
Seeing many people pass by me,
I’m happy with my friends,
Like a bluebird when it sings its happy song,
The smell of the biscuits cooking in my friend’s house
The street lights on my face like the stars,
Looking down on the earth, my earth mother earth,
Now home, looking down on the busy cars
Wanting my brother to come home,
But he won’t never come back
She hadn’t wanted to tell me more about her brother when I’d asked her. Maybe he was dead? In prison? Was he the reason her mother had gone to Indiana and joined the Church?. .