John Trechak - Visionary
By Bob E.
There are probably numerous frequent visitors to this site who have no idea who John Trechak was, the magnitude of his accomplishments, or the significance of his work ---The Ambassador Reports, featured in totality on this website. Most of the people who left "God's True Church" up until about 1972 simply dropped out of site and became invisible to their former brethren. Unfortunately, they lacked any type of forum by which to communicate their feelings towards, and differences with Herbert W. Armstrong, and the Worldwide Church of God. John, a very resourceful and imaginative person, created his own forum and, I believe, was just as instrumental in toppling the evil empire Worldwide Church of God as was Ronald Reagan in toppling the Soviet Union.
When some of us left the Worldwide Church of God, we did it in a selfish way, but usually it was the only way open to us. I personally decided that I didn't like the game, or the rules of the game. You might say that I placed a bet, using my eternity as collateral, that if Herbert W. Armstrong was correct in his teaching, I would be going to the Lake of Fire, plain and simple, no fear, no regrets. This was actually preferable to spending all of eternity in whatever situation Herbert's God would choose for me. At the time, this seemed very brave. But, John Trechak took bravery to the next level. He thought as a Marine is trained to think---You don't leave your dead behind! It became important for him to save as many people the grief of "The Ambassador Experience" as possible.
Around 1970-71, the Worldwide Church of God embarked on a very major publishing project. Herbert's newest booklet was to be printed and bound in-house by the Ambassador Press. If memory serves me correctly, the title of the book was "The Missing Dimension in Sex". This was to be a very special book and differed from the church's previous efforts in that rather than being stapled (saddle stitched to the graphic arts professional), this book was to have a full color, full wrap cover, with the cover hot melt glued to the spine of the book (Perfect-bound), as all soft cover paperback books are bound. This project was so big, and so important, as to require additional manpower hired on a temporary basis, since the existing staff at AC Press would not be able to absorb the extra man-hours required to perform the labor in a timely fashion. A call was issued during headquarters' Friday evening Bible Study for applicants to fill temporary positions on a special night shift.
Now the 70's were a very turbulent decade for everyone, economically speaking. AC graduates who were passed over by the now infamous Manpower Committee, not hired by the college, or Imperial Schools, and not sent into the field ministry found it very difficult to find employment commensurate with the time they had spent in obtaining a degree that had as much value as Confederate money in the real world. Any job in 'the work' was seen as providing perhaps a second chance, while also helping to pay the bills. Hence, when I arrived for work at the AC Perfect Bindery the first night, I was greeted by the familiar smiling faces of several of my former AC classmates. Among this group was John Trechak. John had been in Bricket Wood for his freshman and sophomore years. Since I had been asked to leave AC at the end of my second year, and since John had matriculated to Pasadena effective the following year, we were contemporaries, but never actual classmates. But it seems he had the advantage over me, in that he knew me by reputation, since I had been such an outrageous presence at AC during my two year tenure, that he had had to listen to all of the expressions which I had coined, heard incredible anecdotes, and, would you believe, there was actually someone running around on campus that they had christened Bob E., Jr. It was always easy to shock Ambassador people.
One of the hallmarks of a true intellectual is the ability to operate freely amongst all levels of humanity. Be equally comfortable discussing Plato, Sibelius, or Salvador Dali with one group of friends, or be able to come to a different level to relate to the janitor cleaning your office or classroom. It is insightful to note that the group of my friends into which he had blended was my weight lifting buddies! He was a true intellectual who eschewed snobbery. While at Bricket Wood, one of the pastimes he really enjoyed was horseback riding. The British seemed a bit pretentious to him, in that the stablemaster required that persons renting horses be attired in proper riding toggery. John showed up so many times in Levis and a sweatshirt that he was eventually banned pending his finding proper attire.
Although classically trained, John also liked rock'n'roll. One of our fellow classmates had attracted a sizeable following singing folk songs at Pasadena's Sawmill on South Lake Ave. He composed a rock song called "Hollywood" which was a social commentary on some of the youth trends of the day. John played several of the instruments, and did the sound mixing for the record. They lacked funding and promotion, so the record went nowhere, but the effort did display talent and creativity. I quickly discovered that taste was key to John. One day on the way to work, in my '60 Impala convertible, we had the top down and the radio blasting. I was really enjoying watching John get into the music, because I believe that he probably actually listened to the AC faculty and adhered to the ban of rock music during his four years. So, here I was, watching someone experience some new found freedom without fear of reprisal. Suddenly Paul McCartney's new smash, "Smile Away" came on at full volume. I watched John tapping his foot to the long instrumental introduction, but as soon as the lyrics commenced, his jaw dropped and he came unglued, calling the lyrics crass and offensive. In retrospect, compared with a Brahms Lullaby, he was of course correct. Because this song is rarely played today, most readers probably would not remember the lyrics, so I will print them here so that the reader can be the judge:
"I was walkin down the street one day, Aw, who'd I meet?
I met a friend of mine, and he did say, Man I could smell your feet a mile away!"
Always one to thrive on shock value, I found John's displeasure to be hilarious. Hell, if McCartney had been driving, he would have probably wrecked the car laughing!
Many intellectuals do not have a sense of humor. John certainly did. He kept us in stitches one night with some dead on impersonations of some of our classmates. One time, I called him Jean Tres Jacques, in a pseudo French accent. He was not really big on nicknames, and explained to me that I was the only one to ever call him that with the exception of a gay piano teacher employed by his school. Due to the curriculum at Ambassador College, we were all homophobic in those days. I never used that nickname again.
Above all things, I believe John Trechak was a seeker of the truth. I know that he valued the opinions of Dr. Ernest Martin, and was somewhat close to Mr. Al Carrozzo. John began to share some of their ideas with some of us, and then suddenly, they were out of the church and publicly marked. About that same time, details of the Garner Ted Armstrong scandal were leaking out. John seemed to have his finger on the pulse of the Worldwide Church of God, and I could tell that he was beginning to be deeply troubled by what he was finding out. I argued with him, but ultimately, I realized that he made some good points. Way before it was ever published, he gave me a photocopy of what has become known as the "Gerringer Letter," explaining to Mr. Charles Hunting the reason for Bob and Connie's decision to leave. I can't say that I really knew Bob, other than to say a brief Hello now and again, but I knew that he was not a trouble maker, and generally applied himself to his studies. Why would a man with such a good attitude suddenly sour? Although I never saw it, apparently there was also a 92 page letter penned by my former roommate, Orlin Grabbe, to his Mother, expressing his disillusionment and disgust for the Worldwide Church of God. I knew Orlin to be intellectually honest, he had what the faculty would have considered a good attitude. What would make him sour? It seemed that there was a lot of talent about to go out the door, and John had no problem collecting this talent and putting together the Ambassador Review, a major assault on the lies and exploitation promulgated on the Worldwide Church of God members.
One time while I was working on John's car, I asked him why he was doing all of this. What impressed me was that he was, unlike certain others, not trying to build some kind of following, or aggrandize himself. His answer was totally altruistic. He told me, "Bob, there are people left back there (in the Worldwide Church of God) who are sick and believe that it's wrong to get medical attention. There are poor people less fortunate than you or I that believe that they must pay their tithes rather than buy food and clothing for their children. Good, functional families are being broken up because of the church's divorce and remarriage doctrine. All of this is happening while Herbert W. Armstrong is jet-setting around the globe, and Garner Ted Armstrong is nailing all the chicks!" It was so obvious that this man deeply cared for his fellow human beings. He certainly had the talents which would have made him an excellent minister. But, at this point in time, he was living in what he described as the modern day equivalent of the catacombs the early Christians were forced to live in. All his resources were going into the Ambassador Review. It is not known whether at this point John envisioned that the A.R. would have such a long life. It is certainly obvious that it never became a profit center for him. One would have to believe that John and his backers were prepared to go as far as required to accomplish their objective.
And, accomplish major goals, he and his team did! In the mid '70's the federal government had declared certain government owned property surplus, and planned to donate the property to qualifying non-profit organizations. One such property was the Vista del Arroyo Hotel, strategically located across Grand Ave. from some apartments which were owned by Ambassador College and used as auxiliary dormitories. This hotel had been a luxury hotel built in the early 1900's in the style of the day, replete with cottages or bungalows which the very wealthy could rent for more opulent and personalized accommodations than were available in the main hotel building. AC's public relations spinmeisters launched a major lobbying effort to be considered by the feds as a possible beneficiary for this very desirable property overlooking Pasadena's lush Arroyo. Now, many of us felt that it was bad enough that Herbert W. Armstrong had conned each of us out of thousands of dollars in tithes and offerings. Now he was after some of our federal tax money, as well! John Trechak did something about it. He appeared at the hearings surrounding this gift to point out that free speech, while guaranteed by the U.S Bill of rights, was not practiced at Ambassador College. Simple? Yes. Derivative from the hippie movement? Possibly. But, the tactic was definitely effective. The hotel ended up being used to house federal judges and officers of the court while in the L.A. area for federal trial.
After Joseph Tkach was named successor to Herbert W. Armstrong, John wrote an incisive expose based on the deficiencies and myths surrounding the new "Apostle". He exposed the tough guy myth by relating an anecdote involving AC grads, Jack and Rick. Joe Tkach was stalking Rick's apartment looking for Jack, to disfellowship him. Rick handed Jack his unloaded shotgun, and told him to go walk around the block with it. Jack actually didn't believe that Tkach was waiting for him, and thought Rick a little paranoid. Nonetheless, Jack took the cased gun out, and sure enough heard Tkach's car speed up behind him. Tkach saw the gun, panicked, and told his driver to get them the hell out of there. This story was autobiographical. I know, because I was at Rick's apartment with them that night. You see, John did not want to be stigmatized by being disfellowshipped and marked, because it meant that some of his friends that he loved might not choose to talk with him any more.
John died way too young. But, while he lived, he rocked an empire that everyone prior to him had feared to take on! Considering his talents and motivation, he would have been a mover and shaker in whatever field he chose as his arena. Sadly, I let our friendship lapse. I read the first few issues of the Ambassador Review, extracted what I needed, and then felt perfectly justified in turning my back on the Worldwide Church of God, including both members, and ex-members, and went on with my life. It's only been very recently that I've been able to read his entire body of work on this website. I laughed at some of the AC Manpower reports from which my own name had been expurgated. I was able to catch up on some of the events which occurred in the lives of some old friends, and read a few obituaries, as well. What a history lesson! During the short time I knew John, I gave him some rides, I wrote letters to the editor of the Pasadena Star News supporting some of his positions, and worked on his car. But, you know, I still owe him, BIGTIME! I should have done more to help him, like others did. Because, you see, he helped me buy back my life. I was prepared to face the Lake of Fire on pure bravado. The research presented by his theology scholars has debunked all of the Worldwide Church of God doctrines, and now I have great peace of mind. None of us can do anything more for John Trechak in this lifetime. But, we can all appreciate his body of work and try to help others who are still in bondage to the Worldwide Church of God cults. Somehow, I think that John would feel as if that were payment enough. So, John, wherever you are, I'm right here, buddy, with all of your new friends on this site. And, we're continuing your work!
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