Who Gets The Proceeds?
( Hint )
Some Thots On Big Sandy
When we first visited the Big Sandy campus, it was in November 1972. Things were good in those years for Worldwide Church of God. Money was still coming in at 30% per year, peoples' spirits (for the most part) were positive, the Petra exodus was now predicted to be seven more years away. Apostle HWA was on his throne, Garner Ted Armstrong was his right hand man, and all was right with the world.
In those years, we had no idea of the massive expenditures and no idea of where and how any money was spent. And the Big Sandy campus, like Pasadena, paid NO taxes because it was owned by a "church." This was a free ride for, what we later found, was good time party locale, and a social club for those who were among the upper echelon. But in 1972, we were given a glimpse of the Big Sandy version of The World Tomorrow. For a gullible deacon, it looked impressive.
I've forgotten how many acres there were on the campus, but it was enough to encompass a huge farming property, an airstrip, a golf course, a lake, camping grounds, luxurious homes, a full size college campus, and multiple acres of grassland, trees, fountains and streams.
One might have wondered how much all this original land had cost, that was only about an hour and a half away from Dallas and Fort Worth. The answer? NOTHING. The campus was a gift to Worldwide Church of God from the Hammer family. All they did was develop it with (among other things) underpaid, student labor, and the tithe money from trusting brethren.
Now, it's being sold, and we all must ask: "Who gets the proceeds?"
Mr. Hammer Snr. passed away - I believe - in the sixties, survived by his wife and family. While Mrs. Hammer and her daughter (the latter partly disabled in a car crash), lived on the property, with HWA's permission, the other children left the fold. Tony Hammer became a hireling, and many remember him with little regard. Shirley Hammer, earlier started dating Garner Ted Armstrong, got pregnant with their son Mark, and it was quickly decided by the Hammers and HWA that they should immediately marry. To this day, I understand that Shirley is still Garner Ted Armstrong's wife.
Life on Big Sandy was good in those days. All the upper cultmasters had a country club life. The jets would visit the campus, and the elite got to jet-set everywhere, while the doting students got to stare at this extravagance in awe.
Also, in those days, Worldwide Church of God had three jets. There was the Grumman Gulfstream II (or GII) - that was HWA's private transport, the French made twin jet Falcon - that was Garner Ted Armstrong's toy, and a Cessna Citation, twin jet, that was piloted by Garner Ted Armstrong and Bennie Sharp. Bennie was a fully licensed ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) and FAA instructor and examiner that taught many of the elite cultmasters to fly. There was also a Cessna 182 where many of the "evangelists" and elite learned to fly and also get their IFR (Instrument rating) license. With all these aircraft available, and airstrip with a hanger at their disposal, a qualified FAA instructor on the payroll, most of the honored ones thought it was time for they, themselves - the "privileged" of the country club - to learn the art of flying at the tithe payer's expense. Many obtained their double licenses, with IFR rating, and all sorts of flying fun was had by the advantaged over the skies of Texas for many years. Garner Ted Armstrong later bought a twin engine, fully equipped avionics, Cessna 310, and I was told, he took $25,000 from the tithe pool as a "down" for the private purchase. I understand it's still to be paid back.
The Country Club atmosphere of the Big Sandy campus was a delight for the swinging Worldwide Church of God upper class in those years of plenty. Meanwhile, widows and orphans in the outer church areas went hungry and cold.
Luxurious, fully furnished, and spacious homes with elaborately, landscaped grounds dotted the side of the runway on the campus. They stood back far enough to view the coming and going of the jetsetters without the annoying jet or IC engine noises. These homes were for the upper class and "chosen" of the faculty. Garner Ted Armstrong had a home there, and HWA had one of his five luxury homes also on the campus.
The farm land was well used on the campus. Organic growing was the "thing," and a huge variety of vegetables and fruit were grown in the fields. The growing here was done (naturally) by underpaid students, and the excellent produce obtained was served in the College cafeteria. The food in the cafeteria was in abundance, and a sign over the serving area said: "Take all you want, but eat all you take." Many students, after a short time of arrival, started to pack on the pounds. Most families in the outer churches never ate that well.
On the campus, there was a unique contraption. It was called "The Digester." It was designed in Sweden, built there, and Worldwide Church of God paid to have it shipped from Stockholm to Big Sandy. The concept was original, and it worked. This 60 foot long metal cylinder, was about 15 feet in diameter. It had three internal compartments, was mounted on about a five degree angle and rotated at approximately one rev per hour. It was operated by (predictably) underpaid students.
Garbage (no cloth or metal) was fed into the top compartment. Digestive enzymes were introduced, and this garbage was left to ferment for a week. At the end of that time, the top inner compartment was opened, and the garbage fell into the second and middle chamber. New garbage was now fed into the top chamber. At the end of the second week, the last and lowest inner chamber was opened to receive the pulverized garbage from the second chamber, and the second chamber now received what was fermenting in the top chamber. More garbage was then poured into the empty top compartment.
At the end of three weeks, the lowest chamber was opened and the contents recovered for soil distribution. By now, this substance was reduced to a soil/clay substance with no smell, and provided perfect, organic top soil that allowed the abundant growth of new fruits and vegetables. The above procedure was repeated for all new garbage coming in. Not only did Big Sandy get rid of their garbage this way, but the whole town of Gladewater (pop. About 7,500 in those days), used the Digester as well . . . for a fee, of course.
Big Sandy had it made. It's no wonder that Garner Ted Armstrong wanted the campus for his own cult work. The campus was self supporting, and as I understood, they also had their own cattle ranch there. Food was abundant. Land was abundant. Clean air was abundant. This place was the idyllic example of the agrarian society, so often preached by hirelings, regarding the World Tomorrow. In a large sense, they'd achieved the goal, but they did it by conning donations from the brethren. This impressive, agrarian ideal came from donated land, underpaid labor, and the huge sacrifices of tithepayers. Many in the outlying churches suffered, and went without necessities, so the few privileged in Big Sandy could live the life of Shangri-La.
But now it's gone. Sold, and probably for hundreds of millions of dollars. Who got it? Granted, it's a prize piece of real estate, with all its trappings, but it was originally given to a church for the proper education of its people. That was the intent that now means nothing to the sellers. And all this time that the church has owned the campus, they have paid NO taxes. Once again, the brethren have been screwed. The business of "church" has prevailed over honesty, ethics, decency and morality.
So again, I ask the question. Who gets the proceeds? ( Hint )
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