In 1947, a group of Evangelicals founded a private college in Pasadena, where they imagined they could educate their children in a wholesome, Christian environment, free of the wider world's corrupting influence. Naturally, the 1969 yearbook is pure gold.
Ambassador College, a regionally accredited institution that at one time had satellite campuses in Bricket Wood, England, and Big Sandy, Texas, closed in 1997. But the 1969 ENVOY, its "annual pictorial record," is still available on PDF. The ENVOY starts, as all periodicals for the ages do, by taking stock of the Global Situation.
It is 1969, so naturally the Global Situation is bad.
"NEVER was the world like it is today! Gigantic leaps ahead in technology and certain sciences — men walking and cavorting about on the moon, yes — BUT, unsafe to walk on sidewalks here on earth," write the yearbook editors.
The ENVOY (all capitalizations, exclamation points, typographical quirks, elisions, solecisms, mis-spellings, elipses, and random italicizations are original) sets out to examine five categories of human progress, before getting around to chronicling the year from the perspective of the Japanese Club and the men's basketball team.
All five are found lacking. History, Education ("In modern Education we find perpetuation of FALSE VALUES, the teaching of distorted history, warped phychology, perverted arts and sciences, worthless 'knowledge'"), Science & Technology ("The principal contribution of Science and Technology has been the production of constantly more terrifying weapons of mass destruction. Pushbutton world? Yes, today either of two men could push a button and destroy two whole continents, probably ending in the extinction of mankind!"), Commerce & Industry, and Governments are all given a serious dressing-down. The authors seem dismayed to find ruthlessness and dishonesty among business executives, and "selfish, greedy men of excessive vanity, ambitious in their lust for RULE," among world leaders.
"Morals in the cesspool of homosexuality, perversion, public nudity on stage and television, widespread acceptance of premarital sex, adultery, divorce, breaking up more than a fourth of our homes!" It seems modern society is doomed — and how. "In all five of the categories that principally plunged ancient Rome to its fall, today's western civilization is following that precedent, riding to its fall, with increasing vehemence!"
It's strange how little the rhetoric changes; even today, mainstream conservative organs like the Heritage Foundation are still comparing contemporary American society to 5th Century Rome.
It gets worse. "Fashion has brought us the mini-skirt and the micro-mini, 'topless' bars and restaurants have sprung up — and even a few 'bottomless' and 'nude' have attempted to emerge. Now comes the "see-through" fashion for women. A whole new type of society has emerged — the Hippie movement, rejecting and rebelling against the 'Establishment,' putting a premium on slovenliness, filth, 'free sex,' and drugs. [...] The Social Order today is acutely SICK! It supplies no PURPOSE for human existence, knows nothing of the TRUE values, has no knowledge of THE WAY to real peace, happiness, and abundant well-being."
Except for at Ambassador College, where all the students dress like they're going to a John Birch Society social in 1953, and they live and learn in their own little palatial, green oasis of traditional, Godly Education and Values.
For this unique institution is "where the true answers are known, taught, and joyfully lived! . . . where smiling students radiate happiness, assurance, purpose . . . where there is vigorous, enthusiastic, enjoyable study, work and play in a refreshing atmosphere of tone and character, beauty and true culture. So come along!"
This leather-clad inter-racial couple is presented without comment, caption, or context. But I get the impression they are probably one big Don't in the eyes of Ambassador.
Not since Philip Johnson toured Nazi Germany has modernist architecture been put to such nefarious ends.
The yearbook is interspersed with these trippy, dream-like collage illustrations. This one says, "The continued attitude and policies of the tobacco industry are an example of today's business practices. Industrial giants continue to produce and market admittedly harmful merchandise for the sake of corporate profit without regard for public welfare."
Looking through the pictures of all these smiling, perfectly posed, carefully lit, healthy-looking young white people, I couldn't help but think of Joan Didion's essay "Good Citizens", the third section of which gives Didion's account of the 1970 United States Junior Chamber of Commerce Annual Congress. The essay is kind of about how these men and women were prepared for a world that, thanks to the agitations and upheavals of the late 1960s, no longer exists:
"At first I thought I had walked out of the rain into a time warp: the Sixties seemed not to have happened. [...] this resolute determination to meet 1950 head on was a kind of refuge. Here were some people who had been led to believe that the future was always a rational extension of the past, that there would ever be world enough and time enough for 'turning attention,' for 'problems' and 'solutions.' Of course they would not admit their inchoate fears that the world was not that way anymore. Of course they would not join the 'fashionable doubters.' Of course they would ignore the 'pessimistic pundits.' Late one afternoon I sat in the Miramar lobby, watching the rain fall and the steam rise off the heated pool outside and listening to a couple of Jaycees discussing student unrest and whether the 'solution' might lie in on-campus Jaycee groups. I thought about this astonishing notion for a long time. It occurred to me finally that I was listening to a true underground, to the voice of those who have felt themselves not merely shocked but personally betrayed by recent history. It was supposed to have been their time. It was not."
The caption to this photo reads, "'That's Art?'"
Domestic Sciences, in case anyone is wondering, are a "feminine realm" where every "girl" can learn "tasteful flower arranging" in addition to practicing cooking at her very own kitchen. There are "most rewarding experiences for young women preparing for future responsibilities."
In case the Domestic Sciences wing didn't scare you enough, there's this ambassador of the Women's Club, here to either help you teach your baby to read, or to devour it in front of you.
The tipster who alerted us to this little gem helpfully pointed out the ENVOY's only picture of a non-white student.
Every year, the college would throw a major concert. In 1969, they chose Mendelssohn's "Elijah." Let's hope they never found out the composer was Jewish.
This photo is captioned, "Look out, Woman driver!"
So if you prefer your vintage publications with a side of stone-age rhetoric, the ENVOY is for you. Read it, love it, pore over its fashions — and take pleasure in how the world didn't end because some hippies totally invented extramarital sex.
The 1969 ENVOY (PDF) [Herbert Armstrong]