The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

Dating at Ambassador
John B.

Reading about Michelle Vice and her date from hell brought back some memories of my own time at Ambassador College. I was not a student however, but a "civilian" employee.

It might surprise some Worldwiders, both past and present, to learn that during the Vietnam war young men in the Worldwide Church of God were expected to register as conscientious objectors. Being an obedient son and a true believer, I did exactly that. Once I was classified as "1W" (long story there), I was "drafted" by the Selective Service and ordered to seek employment from an authorized employer. (If you were a CO, you had to serve two years in a nonmilitary capacity, generally for some "nonprofit" organization.) Ambassador College was on the authorized list, and in the spring of 1968 I went to work at "God's college" in Pasadena, counting myself the luckiest fool on the face of the earth.

We weren't allowed to date college students. But there was a thriving singles community in and around Pasadena. As Michelle explained in her article, a "date" could be anything, and usually was. Weddings, Sabbath services, Bible studies, any church function was an opportunity for a date.

Anything that cost money was less of an opportunity, because if you worked for AC you didn't make very much, and after tithes. . .

Most of the girls I dated were former college students, graduates who, I suppose, had failed in their primary duty to become the wives of rising young ministers. Some of them were fine girls--in fact, most of them were. Some who were less than stellar were the daughters of ministers and deacons. There was a real variety of single people in the area.

If you were male, single, and in the church, you were a "bachelor". Didn't matter if you were only eighteen (I was nineteen), you were a bachelor. Technically, that description was correct, but I had always thought of a bachelor as a man who chose not to marry and was getting on in years. I resented being called one.

Nevertheless, there were a lot of bachelors (by my definition at the time) in the area, men in their late twenties, thirties, forties, even older. The sermons directed at bachelors were sometimes funny, sometimes insulting, and probably damned accurate in many cases. Because this was the biggest collection of losers I had ever seen in my life. I went home two years later convinced that every geek in North America had moved to Pasadena to follow Herbert Armstrong.

I know the girls suffered at the hands of some of these clowns. I remember one young lady named Judy. She was divorced before joining the church and was probably close to thirty. She and I became close friends and she confided things to me. From what she told me, I know that being a single girl in Pasadena was not all roses at that time.

It could be tough on the guys, too. Nonstudents attended Los Angeles Number One (the one for college employees; Number Two was for nonemployees, and Number Three was for black people. Herbert did not discriminate--he was equally contemptuous of everyone). About twice a year the singles organization, headed by Al Corrozo, staged some kind of Big Event. Just before the Big Event of spring 1969, it was announced that at the last Big Event a lot of girls had not been able to go because many of the bachelors had not gone, or had gone stag. Corrozo ordered every bachelor within the sound of his voice to attend the upcoming dance and to take a date.

Okay. No problem.

I immediately asked a girl I knew to be my date.

She turned me down.

"A bunch of us girls are going stag this time."

Well, shit.

I finally got a date, but a lot of guys didn't. And they got jacked up by Local Elder Joseph "W" Tkach for disobeying the ministry.

My friend Judy was asked to the dinner-dance by a guy named Art. (If you lived in Pasadena in the 60's you almost certainly knew Art, though I won't mention his last name. He was, I think, a graduate of AC, a 4-year guy. Five feet five, black hair, horn-rim glasses, coke-bottle lenses, and righteouser than thou.) Judy accepted the date, of course. When Art arrived to pick her up she looked splendid in a blue gown that she had spent a few extra bucks on (Judy didn't work at the college, she had a real job), and I was frankly envious of the nerdy prick.

When they arrived at the dance, Art paid for his entry ticket and waited for Judy to pay for hers. Astonished, Judy had thought this was a real date, not a dutch treat, and had not brought any cash. So, in front of the entire line of people waiting to enter this fairly fancy place, Art loudly and righteously advised Judy that he would pay her entry fee, but she should have known that it was a dutch date because Mr. Armstrong had always said it wasn't fair for the boys to have to pay for everything, since both boys and girls had expenses to pay.

Art was still living by college rules, though he had been out of AC for a couple of years at the time.

Judy, naturally, was horrified, humiliated, and her evening was ruined before it had begun.

My own date from hell came later that same year, but I can't blame it on anyone, really. I was not a victim of nerds or geeks or dweebs. I don't think I was even a victim of God. It just wasn't my night.

The girl's name was Lois. She was a deacon's daughter and she was really hot (so hot that I only ever got two dates with her, her calendar was so full). This was our first date. We doubled with a guy who worked on my crew and had a car. He was 34 years old and still single, a really nice guy. His name was Dale.

Dale and his date, Lois and I went roller skating. I had only skated once in my life and did not know what I was doing. Lois was one of those graceful types who can skate backwards in rhythm to the music with her eyes closed. I spent most of the night skidding across the floor on my butt, and I must have taken some spectacular falls because Lois spent most of the evening bent over at the waist, holding her stomach, laughing until she hurt.

It was only the beginning.

When the skating rink closed, I took off my skates and found that I could barely walk. I was still trying to compensate for the extra few inches under my shoes where the wheels had been, and when we started down the front steps of the building to the parking lot I lost my balance and rolled all the way to the bottom (about 25 steps). I picked myself up to find Lois hanging onto a lamp post, laughing so hard she literally could not stand up.

We got into Dale's car and went to a restaurant, the North Woods Inn. North Woods had a sawdust floor and a live piano player. We were seated next to the piano and the waitress asked us if we wanted cocktails. I was just a month shy of 21, but I had been buying beer for over a year. Not once had I been carded. . .

You guessed it. I ordered drinks for myself and Lois (she was 19) and the waitress demanded my ID. We wound up with 7-Up while Dale and his date drank tequila. At that moment the piano player stopped right in the middle of his medley, pointed to my glass, and yelled in a loud voice, "IS THAT 7-UP?"

My humiliation was complete.

Well, almost.

When we took the girls home, we dropped Lois off first. She lived in Eagle Rock, and hoping to salvage something from the evening, I wanted to see her up to her door. We were sitting in the back seat of Dale's two-door chevy, and he opened his door to let me out, leaning his seat forward. I reached out with my left hand, placed it on the roof, and hauled myself out. I had never ridden in his back seat before and didn't know that the door had a two-inch lip that I had to step over. My heel caught on that lip and, already moving and unable to stop, I landed on my ass in the street in front of Lois's house.

The last thing I remember of that date was Lois climbing the front steps of her house, bent over at the waist, laughing uncontrollably all the way to her door.

Actually, looking back on it, that was one of the more pleasant memories I have of working at Ambassador College. At least I can laugh about it now


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