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Interview with Don Harris, October 9, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Don Harris, October 9, 2007
October 9, 2007
Interview with chaplain Don Harris.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Harris, Don Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  10/9/2007 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person with the University North Carolina, Wilmington, and we are, on this date, the 9th of October in the Year 2007, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Our interviewee today, is Chaplain Don Harris. Good morning, sir.

Harris: Good morning, sir.

Zarbock: How are you?

Harris: All right.

Zarbock: Well, what individual, series of individuals or event, or series of events, led you into the ministry?

Harris: It's a fairly complicated story, because I had no intention of going into the ministry, and I was going to be a professor of English, because my father was a professor at MIT, and I thought, "This is a very nice life," and so I was going to graduate school in California. Prior to that, I had a classmate at William and Mary named Charlie Anchor, who was from a Dutch milking family. So I went out to California to visit his family, and there he had a brother named, believe it or not, Christian Anchor.

Zarbock: What year was this, by the way?

Harris: This would be around 1959. And he and I got to be very close friends-- he was young; 19, 20. And the whole family was a devout, Dutch-Reformed, solid-- fine, fine people, and I was very impressed with them in many ways. I was from-- as I mentioned before-- from Greater Boston, and most of the people I knew were Harvard/MIT types who were intellectual and pleased with themselves; but as far as any kind of, I don't know, rock-solid humility, it was often lacking. Anyway, soon, Christian and I were good friends, and he discovered-- a cow kicked him, and they found out that he had cancer and within six or eight months he was dead. But in the process of that, I saw how he handled this news, what his faith was, and was completed. And he was not sentimental or anything. It was very Calvinist, "So, if this is God's will, then so be it, and then we'll--" Well, that made a huge impression on me, and I've kept up with the family ever since. But I then looked at what I was doing at Claremont Graduate School, and I was becoming a very articulate academic English type. But I asked, "What was all this for, what was the purpose of this?"

Zarbock: How old were you when you started to ask questions like that, Chaplain?

Harris: Twenty-- I was born in '36, this would've been '59-- What's that, 26?

Zarbock: Yes.

Harris: So I left graduate school and I joined the Coast Guard. And it was a very strange thing, because I was not at all interested in the military, but it was something that I did and I went-- .

Zarbock: Just spontaneously?

Harris: Yes.

Zarbock: You walked in and knocked on-- ?

Harris: Well, this is too long for this interview, but I was basically-- my family was not much of a family. So I was sort of on my own all the time. So this is a decision I made on my own. So I went to OCS in Yorktown, and then I went on a ship out of Seattle, and there I loved it. I loved seagoing and I liked the fraternity aspect of it. I loved belonging. I just loved everything about it. But in the process, I was an officer, and under me was a young sailor who was one of nine children, and there were all kinds of things going on in the family, but then they decided to transfer him for no particular reason. So I went to the captain and said, "You know, you could transfer someone else. If you transfer this guy, he's the only person keeping this family together and I think there'll be dire consequences." Well, the captain said, "We're not running a kindergarten," he goes. So he went, and his father ended up being beaten up and then froze to death, and there was Bob with all these kids and his alcoholic mother. Well, because of that, I said-- this again, was an education to me, coming from elitist Belmont, Massachusetts; here was life. And so I wanted to minister to these people, these young people who had had nobody.

So what I realized, that the Coast Guard was paying me to drive ships, not take care of people. So I got out and went to Southern California, and I ended up being a, through circumstance-- well, it's a good story. I went in to get a job teaching, because I had a lot of friends with credits in English and so on, and the teaching California, whatever it's called. Anyway, they said, "Do you run a course in audiovisual communication?" And I said, "Well, I showed the movies on the ship." They said, "Well, you may laugh, but you can't have a job without that."

So I walked out the door and across the street was the California State Employment Agency, and I walked in and here's this woman, and she said, "How would you like to be a social worker?" And I said, "Well, I don't have any background, no courses other than English." And she said, "Well, that doesn't matter because Douglass has just laid off 10,000 people in Long Beach, and we need somebody to do these interviews and so on. If you'll take the exam and pass it, you've got the job." So I took it, passed it, got the job. So, but then, realized there was-- and I loved it. And a lot of these people were from Oklahoma, another group of people-- but I realized the-- what do you call it?-- the County of Los Angeles Bureau of Public Assistance really was not interested in these people; they were interested in administering funds and make sure they were handled correctly. And so I had a huge caseload, and I was able to interact with some people, but not much.

So then, I said to myself, "How can I minister to these people, particularly the sailors?" And I said, "Well, I'll become a chaplain." So to become a chaplain then I had to, of course, go to seminary. So I went to the-- I had a slight Episcopal background, very little, but I liked the liturgy and it was familiar. The Bishop told me that it was a waste of my talent to be a Navy chaplain, and that he would be glad to send-- he had some money, he could send me to Oxford for something. And I said, "No, I want to be a Navy chaplain." So he said, "Well, you can go up to the seminary in Berkeley, but you won't like it there, and then you can transfer after that."

So I said-- and I did, went up to Berkeley. And again, how I think God works. There was a woman, a widow of a Navy admiral and when the admiral was dying, the only people she-- there were no Episcopal chaplains around, and the person who really ministered to her husband the most was a corpsman. So her name was May DuWright. So she set up a scholarship, that if you got through, for the clergy types, if you got through one year of seminary, then she'd pay for the rest, and the only provision was that you serve three years, on Active Duty.

Zarbock: As an Episcopal?

Harris: As an Episcopal.

Zarbock: Episcopal pastor.

Harris: Yeah. And for the Corpsmen, if they could get through college, she would put them through medical school at University of Southern California.

Zarbock: A woman of real wealth.

Harris: Yes, and a rather wonderful person.

Zarbock: Yes, truly.

Harris: So there was the money, so I could go. So I-- Now, in fact, I can go further. The question was, "How did I end up--?" Yes, it's all fitting together, right?

Zarbock: Sure. So you probably were in your early thirties.

Harris: Uh-hum. I graduated, ordained in '64. So I was-- what's that? You're terrible.

Zarbock: You were born in what year?

Harris: '36.

Zarbock: '64. Okay, you're in your fifties, then.

Harris: What's that, late 20s?

Zarbock: Yes.

Harris: And that's another kind of interesting story. While I was in seminary, I was a Coast Guard officer still, but then I became an ensign probationary. So I actually had overlapping two commissions, which is illegal, but it happened. And so on Reserve Duty in the summer, I went off on a Coast Guard cutter with Coast Guard and Navy.

Zarbock: Wearing the Coast Guard uniform.

Harris: Wearing the Coast Guard uniform.

Zarbock: Probably, you were referred to as a line officer in the Coast Guard, or is--?

Harris: Well, let's see, whose uniform was I wearing? No, I was wearing the Navy uniform. This was a chaplain-- No, I wasn't; no, it was the Reserve, the Coast Guard Reserve. Right. So they didn't have-- ran out of officers of the deck. I mean, underway. And so I was serving as a underway with a Navy Chaplain Commission.

Zarbock: A man of all seasons.

Harris: So then I went back and I was teaching at the Coast Guard boot camp under the chaplain-- and, I'll think of his name, and a really wonderful person. Well too, one was Lorne Lindquist who was a Episcopal priest and had many, many children, and was great with young people.

Zarbock: What were you teaching, by the way, sir?

Harris: Sort of ethics and morals and baptism, basically those two things.

Zarbock: Are you ordained at this time?

Harris: No.

Zarbock: You're still in seminary.

Harris: Still in seminary. So, then-- and I really had no dioceses because Diocese of LA really didn't, as I told you, wasn't interested in Navy chaplains. So it turned out that one of my classmates was the son of the Bishop of Hawaii, whose name is Harry Kennedy. So what Harry Kennedy would do, is he'd come once a year to the seminary, to Berkeley, or actually, to San Francisco, and he would ask his son, "Who are some people I might like to get in my diocese?" So then, his son would invite these people to go to a- it was a cocktail party-- of course, this is the Episcopal Church-- at, I think it was Top of the Mark or something like this.

Zarbock: For the purpose of this recorded, the Top of the Mark is what?

Harris: It's a very fine...

Zarbock: Hotel.

Harris: ...hotel in San Francisco in Knob Hill.

Zarbock: With a magnificent view.

Harris: Right. Classic. But you know, he had-- so I came but I came in my uniform because I was teaching at the Coast Guard base and went over to-- right? So, there was a method-- Well, he said, "Oh, what we really need is Navy chaplains." Of course, he's from Honolulu. And I said, "Well, you may need them, but I'm getting all kinds of flak from the Bishop of LA, who wants me to take all kinds of courses which are really unnecessary for-- ." So, he said, "Just write a letter to me and you'll be in my diocese." And it happened. So, but there was a method to his inviting all these people. He particularly wanted to see who had problems with alcohol or who were party types. So they went to this grand affair, and if they showed they were party drinker types, he wouldn't-- . He was a recruiting screen, at the least the way I looked at it. So I became-- actually, it was Missionary District of Hawaii or Honolulu, I don't remember which. So I became that, and then eventually was ordained by the number-two bishop in the Diocese of California-- which was San Francisco-- for the Bishop of Hawaii.

Zarbock: As an act of courtesy, is that correct?

Harris: Yes. And then six months later, I was ordained to the priesthood by this wonderful guy, he was in his nineties, he was an old bishop who, named Gooden, Bishop Gooden. There are several Goodens involved, particularly in missionary districts down in South America. Anyway, he drove himself from Beverly Hills all the way over to Long Beach, and we had this great ceremony, and he said-- we played, of course, the Navy Hymn-- and he said, "Well, I'm going over to England in a couple of weeks, and I'm going to visit the grave of the man who wrote that." It was really, really fabulous.

Zarbock: So the Navy Hymn was written by-- .

Harris: An Englishman.

Zarbock: An Englishman.

Harris: Right.

Zarbock: Was it-- ?

Harris: "Eternal Father, Strong to Save."

Zarbock: Yes, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Obviously it was used in England, as well.

Harris: Yes. And I can go on. But the other great thing, was that my music professor said, "Oh, you're getting ordained on this date. It happens is the boys' choir are coming in from Houston on their way to Disneyland. So how would you like them to sing at-- ?" So there was a beautiful boys' choir. It was amazing.

Zarbock: Did you family attend?

Harris: Yes, right.

Zarbock: And what was their attitude towards your direction in life?

Harris: They thought it was nice, whatever-- they're not particularly involved-- but that was a respectable, good thing to do. And the Navy added to it. So, and the first thing that happened to me, though, I did not go to any parish, because the Bishop of Hawaii said, "There's no reason for this. I want you to be Navy Chaplain. Why should you learn parish administration when we have all this need?" This is 1964 or five-- five. So I got assigned immediately-- I don't think you can do that anymore-- but got assigned, immediately, to Washington DC. And it turned out that was right after Jack Kennedy had died. Everybody wanted a caisson, blue-plate special at Arlington, and I was the only Episcopal chaplain of any service in town.

Zarbock: And your rank was what?

Harris: I was a Lieutenant JG. So I had an average of 30 funerals a month, and so I knew the Burial Office before I knew Communion. But it was a very interesting thing. I got involved-- two things-- I got involved with the Ceremonial Guard. Well, the interesting thing, is you're dealing with grief all the time, every day, and it affected me. I don't know; it was certainly a baptism of some sort. But the other thing which affected me at least as much, is that the Ceremonial Guard, who are all physically very handsome, attractive, all-stars, really weren't; because if they were really that all-star, they'd be going off to Navy schools. So there were a lot of them with a variety of problems, and nobody was dealing with them. They were dealing with grief every day, and nobody was dealing with them. So I did. So-- for awhile. Then I got married. And I was supposed to be there for two to three years. Well it turned out we were, Ruth and I, were in Washington for two months, and then someone got sick and I was put on a destroyer squadron out of Norfolk. So Ruth arrived in Norfolk. She had never been in the East or the South.

Zarbock: Where was she from?

Harris: She was all over, but generally the Southwest. Her father was a medical missionary, for the Reform Church. So she was the proverbial, lots of boxes in the room and I was waving goodbye. And loved it. And it turned out that my first deployment, it was six months, but it was fabulous. We went everywhere you could dream of. In fact, the sailors were complaining we had too many ports of call, because they were running out of money. But one of them-- and this is-- we got to Thessalonica, and I had read about Mount Ethos. Do you know what Mount Ethos is? So I said, "Wouldn't it be great to go to Mount Ethos? And I want to pick 10 or 12 ordinary sailors, not particularly pious types." So I had to get permission from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople because I was clergy. And we went out on a fishing boat out to Mount Ethos, which is-- in case people don't know-- it's a monastic island and it's all male. There are no cows, no female cats.

Zarbock: Nothing of a female.

Harris: All male, because apparently, they claim that that is when the Virgin Mary left the earth. So they didn't want to corrupt it with corrupt females.

Zarbock: And by the way, isn't it a perilous method to get into or onto the Mount?

Harris: Right; so you're getting hauled up on ropes and-- .

Zarbock: Probably not a very modern and efficient elevator.

Harris: No. No electricity. And by the way, as I mentioned, when I was on the ship I high-lined, which was very exciting.

Zarbock: High-lined being transferred from ship to ship.

Harris: By a rope. So this thing was sort of a vertical high-line.

Zarbock: How many sailors went with you?

Harris: I'd say 11 or 12.

Zarbock: How did you recruit them?

Harris: I said, "Would you like to see something cool you'll never see again?"

Zarbock: So they went along as just sort of anthropological luck.

Harris: Yes.

Zarbock: More than the theological.

Harris: Well.

Zarbock: A combination?

Harris: Yes, yes. And I've always had a gift to connect to that age group, the 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. And so they liked me and this sounded interesting. So we went on the ship and we arrived at a boat. We arrived at the monastery, and of course the monks all were excited to have a bunch of sailors show up, and they invited us to dinner, which was really a bowl of hot water with olive oil floating in it and some crusts of bread, and that was-- it was Lent.

Zarbock: Chaplain, what about the language?

Harris: I didn't speak any Greek.

Zarbock: Did they speak English?

Harris: Oh yes, we had a professor, I got a professor to go with us, Basil, I can't pronounce his last name, from the University of Thessalonica, and he was our translator. So, we--

Zarbock: But you had bread and water.

Harris: That's right.

Zarbock: Warm water?

Harris: Warm, it was-- and olive oil. And so then the monks pointed out where the sailors were going to sleep, which was on stones. There was no heat. It was March. And they said, "Well, the first service of the day is at 3 a.m., if you'd like to get up for that." And of course the sailors are saying, "No way." Well, it was so cold that three o'clock was time enough to do something. So we got up and they went to-- there were two worship areas. One was with the prayers. And we went into this thing and it was black; there's no electricity, and the monks were all dressed in black and they had black beards. And so some guy was singing a Psalms and all you could see was sort of a little bit of his face and an oil lamp. And it was really, really wonderful-- and they thought so, too. It really was amazing. So then we proceeded over to the next place which was where the Liturgy was to be celebrated, and we were trying to come in, and it was sort of amphitheater style, but you can see. So you're crawling like this, and you sit down and you might sit down on someone's lap. But eventually we got in. And it was a remarkable event for everybody. The only downside: as we were walking around, some guy jumped out of the bushes and he said, "Hello, hello." And I said, "Well who are you?" And he said, "Well, I'm from Los Angeles." Of course. And he said, "I had a-- I went to a Billy Graham Crusade, and I had a revelation that I should go to Mount Ethos. And so I left my wife and kids, and here I am." And I said, "Well, what about your wife and kids?" And he said, "Oh, the County of Los Angeles is taking care of them." So anyway-- I can go on and on with all these things. The cruise. But then, also, I went to Spain, which later on changed my life, too; and that is, we stopped at Majorca and Valencia and Barcelona and Terroba, and I just-- when I stepped off the ship, it was like home; really, really.

Zarbock: What aspect of the environment?

Harris: The warmth, the children. The children were treasured. And the whole-- I'm sure some other Mediterranean, too. But the children were the focus of everybody, and the whole neighborhood took care of the children, and they were-- . And as I mentioned before: my family, no way. Neither my brother or me had much contact at all. So here was a beautiful place with warm, loving people, and all these great kids. So, but that's later on, because I ended up going back to Terroba. All right, so I'm moving along. When I got back, they sent me to Coast Guard Alameda boot camp-- I mean, as a chaplain, and where I had been before.

Zarbock: Again, for the sake of the record, the Navy provides medical, dental, spiritual and probably other services to the Coast Guard, in addition to the Marines. Am I correct?

Harris: Well, the medical and dental comes from the Public Health Service.

Zarbock: In the Coast Guard?

Harris: Right, because the Public Health Service takes care of merchant marines and so on. The Coast Guard is not Defense Department; never has.

Zarbock: No, no.

Harris: And so this is a weird-- . Anyway, we're in the chaplains. Now, this was a place I had been when I was in-- back to the same. Well, I loved it. But the interesting thing with this-- as I say, I can connect with kids, that's a gift. So, and a boot camp is very small, for the Coast Guard-- hundreds, not thousands. So I got to know-- and there was a Roman Catholic chaplain there, too, Colonel Coughlin. And he's an interesting person, Colonel Coughlin. And we got to know everybody. And the boot camp was 12 weeks long. Well, in the meantime, I had-- we were living over in Berkeley and I became aware of the whole drug scene and-- this is '65/66.

Zarbock: And the Vietnam War was-- .

Harris: Vietnam was heating up and the place was-- things were disintegrating. And of course, soon thereafter, Bobby Kennedy was killed, and Martin Luther-- so it was really bad times. And I felt-- .

Zarbock: If you enjoy chaos, that was the place.

Harris: Hum, hum. But you see I felt that what really was going on, was that there's a-- and I know it's a cliche now, because it's many years later-- there's a real void in a lot of these kids' lives, and they didn't know how to fill it. So, one way was drugs. And so I decided to find out, and I ran a survey of all, 100% of the recruits at a certain time, and I asked them all kinds of things. I'm sure it's illegal, now. But back to their demographics, and how many brothers and sisters and divorces and so on and so forth. And do they use alcohol or-- ? The whole gamut, and sexual activity and so on and so forth. So we had this huge, very valuable amount of information. Then we gave it six months later. And the command went along with this, in order to try to identify what was going on; including, we asked religious background, participation and so on. Well the problem was, this is pre-- early, early computers. So everything was on IBM cards.

Zarbock: Punch cards, yes.

Harris: And the only one who could process it was over at Stanford, and you had to wait in line. So unfortunately, it was never, ever processed. I wrote down some of the stuff. It's a real loss. But I was a Lieutenant JG, and it's not going to happen. So, but, out of that, I was convinced-- well, addressing this void is the most important thing. Now, some of it is an adolescent; unfortunately, it was far more than that. So, in the meantime, I was transferred back to Norfolk on the ship for a little while, and then I was given assignment to the Naval Hospital Oakland in the Psychiatric Service. It was a training thing, but it wasn't a very well-organized training thing. But there I was, with a lot of people who'd flown back from the front to-- the ward was huge, it was large. We had 32 psychiatrists and me. I was the chaplain trainee. And, talk about suffering. And this sort of ties into back when I started off with the Arlington National Cemetery.

A huge dose of this, and a lot of them, are involved in drugs. And I was pretty, I want to say, overwhelmed, getting there. In the meantime, I arranged that I could work also over at the Langley-Porter Youth Drug Unit, which was in Haight-Asbury. So then, I had two groups of people, the same age, and you could see the two of them and how they acted. One of them was very self-destructive over in the Summer of Love, and the other ones had some structure in the Navy. But those were-- and I think one of the most amusing things, at that time-- There was a Drug Education program; I had to give that. And you'd show a piece of paper, and, "These are all the drugs and this is what they do." And somehow or other, it's supposed to encourage the Marines and sailors not to use drugs, but of course, it was a dictionary.

And we had to point out how self-destructive drug use was, but a lot of people-- and mind you, this is controversial-- but there were a lot of semi-self-destructive people who joined the Marine Corps. And so, to tell them, "This is the way to do it," is crazy. So at that time, I raised this issue with Washington and I had it armed with these surveys and so on. And I said that the real issue has to do with values and God, not-- you have the police and you have the medical, but those are peripheral because you need to address the void in these people. Well, to make a long story short, who was I? And I was a troublemaker and so on and so forth. So I said that if they wouldn't allow me to do something along these lines, that I'd resign, that I'd stay in San Francisco because there's so much to do. And I talked to Dick Hutchison, who you've interviewed, and he was sympathetic with me, but-- he was, I think, Number Two Chaplain, at the time.

And the Senior Chaplain-- I mean the Chief of Chaplains, was passing through San Francisco, and I was on my way out, but I wanted to see him anyway. So I saw him and I told him what I felt and I handed him some of the underground newspapers, that this is what's going on in San Francisco and what's going on with the kids. And you see, at the time, no one-- they were two different universes. So anyway, give him credit, he said, "Let's do it." And so we went down to San Diego and we set up something which ended up being called CREDO. Now, at the time, it was supposed to be marriage, alcohol and drugs. And so I was the only one assigned there, but there was-- now and then, in alcohol, Jim Williams came. He's dead now. And there's Ray Fitzgerald; there's someone you should know. Can you remember that name?

Zarbock: There's a pad right there. Where does he live?

Harris: Bethesda. He's an interesting guy, in that he was in the early Clinical Pastoral Education program just as it's being set up, and he was at the Naval Hospital in San Diego with additional duty to CREDO. And his interest was at first, very-- he did lots of surveys and people took various exams, trying to compare what the population was. Well to make a long story short-- and I can do hours on CREDO. What CREDO was, in a nutshell-- and I have a book which I'll send you-- what CREDO was, in a nutshell, taking sort of the CORSEO format-- Do you know what that is?

Zarbock: No.

Harris: CORSEO is set up in Spain, and in the Catholic Church by lay people, to help educate the lay people in what it was to be a Christian. And it started on Thursday, went through Sunday, and they progressed through this time, and there were prayers and songs and also people gave talks, maybe about discipleship or suffering or whatever, and then it built to a community. And it spread; it's in lots of churches now. So I went to that and I thought that was an interesting model, except it was a little churchy for who I wanted to-- it was presuming that all these people were Catholics. What I liked about it was the food was served by other CREDO people-- I mean, CORSEO people, who, some of them were bankers and so on, but they were just servants. So I, with the help of Jim and-- Jim Williams was the alcohol guy-- and Ray, we put together this structure, which is fabulous. Rather than instructing people, we put a bunch of people in a room, maybe 25 or 30, and say, "You're going to be here from Thursday till Sunday."

Zarbock: These people came from where, and how did they get there?

Harris: Military.

Zarbock: Okay, and they were ordered.

Harris: Somewhat. They got orders, but they volunteered. But the first bunch, we took people they couldn't stand, the guys who hang around in the-- What's that called? You know, the barracks, and they get rid of them but they're-- transient barracks. So they were a pain in the neck. Anyway, if we would take them for four days, all is wonderful.

Zarbock: All of these are sailors? Some Marines?

Harris: We got some Marines and some chaplains. Very interesting. I don't need to go on for hours here, but this is interesting. So you take these people and you say, "We aren't going to preach at you, we're not going to tell you to do anything. The only thing you have to agree to, is to attend. You don't have to say anything, don't have do anything, and you're not to repeat what went on." So the first night I would play-- it changed, but I would play a block of music. A footnote here. A lot of people, including chaplains, said, "I don't know what these kids are thinking about. What's going on in their heads?" Well, all you had to was turn on a radio, in those days-- Right? There's Bob Dylan and John Lennon, one of the most profoundly depressed person in the world, and they loved him. So I would take a block of this-- at first, it was three-quarters of an hour, which is a bit much-- and I'd just play it, with no comment. And when it was over, we'd just turn it off and we'd just sit there, and people would start talking. "I know how he feels and..." In other words, the first thing was depression. So it reached people. And what's good about music, is it breaks through all the intellectual barriers-- well, it breaks through everything. Have you seen-- what's that movie about trying to reach people who are autistic, and--?

Zarbock: Yes, yes.

Harris: It reaches everybody. So for the intellectual, their guard is down, and for the inarticulate, they've got some singing how they believe. So then we played-- and it was a series. There was depression, then anger, and then conflict-- say marriage and relationships-- and then moved toward, "What's the resolution?", the resolution being, we can take care of each other-- "Come on everybody, let's all get together." So it's music, which was more pleasant, and then finally, was really very religious music, but in the most part, it wasn't, meaning-- in those days, "Amazing Grace" was not in fashion; that would be one of them. Or Aretha Franklin singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," or this kind of-- . So they all loved it. Anyway, it was the kind of music that, whether or not you were affiliated with anything or not, it reached. But of course, out of ten songs maybe only three reached you, and that's fine, or one, whatever.

Zarbock: But the void is being filled.

Harris: That's right. Now-- and this was a controversial thing all the way along-- I always ended it with the Eucharist, because for me, the idea of what we were doing is sort of setting the table for the Holy Spirit to do whatever he wanted to do, and there was no guidance, no manipulation. This is not a group therapy session, and we're not talking about who's sick and who's well; we're talking about the unlovable, really, a lot of them felt they were; and sharing who they were, and being accepted and so on. And I feel that that what we were doing was that, if some of these kids could get a glimpse of the grace of God's love, even if it's five minutes, then fine. If more happened, that's fine, too. I remember one kid named John Predo; he was very self-destructive. He rode motorcycles around the place, and he lost a finger, and he did drugs, and so on and so forth. But somehow, he came on a CREDO weekend. I guess he was curious, or I don't know. And out of the whole experience and programs he's done, he's now married, two kids, a very straight wife, and is a postman-- I'm sure he's retired, now. But at the time, he was crazy. His hero was Evil Knievel. And, but he said afterwards, he said, "CREDO may not have been a burning bush, but it was an ember." And I loved that. And this is an uneducated kid.

Zarbock: Again, for the purpose of this tape, Evil Knievel was a contemporary daredevil, derring-do individual, who used a motorcycle to jump over a variety of barriers. I'm not even sure is he-- he died, didn't he?

Harris: I think he did. And one of the things with John, we were having Thanksgiving Service at CREDO-- we were having sort of a potluck-- and John walks in the door just covered in blood. And it's not funny, but he had crashed his motorcycle, and he didn't know where else to go. So he came into us and we welcomed him. So he was part of the community. And this is another thing which did not progress with the original-- the original CREDO was what I just said, setting the table for the action of the Holy Spirit, which means that the people leading it have to believe there is such a thing; and if you don't believe it, then you're going to have to manipulate people to get things done, but if you do believe it, then you let things happen-- hard to do, but it works. Secondly, to underline that, you end with the Eucharist. Now, everybody didn't have to go. We had a break and I said, "We're going to have this one inside." Eucharist was, I don't know, a piece of bread and either wine or water, whatever we had. And for a lot of people, they had never connected all of this. And so it was, I think, very important, and I think, fundamental. Now the other fundamental thing, which didn't last, was it was a community. The point of the weekend was to have people acquainted with the action of the Holy Spirit, and then you could translate it into a community, people with life experience, right? Well, many complaints, and some of them valid. "You're setting up a church and these people ought to be going to the Navy Chapel or things in town, here; that's something you should be doing." Secondly, the conservative Catholic chaplain said we were flock stealing. And to some extent, there were probably a higher percentage of Catholic sailors and Marines because they're used to retreats, at least way back then. Now they use retreats for IBM, and some-- in those days, it was a retreat. The conservative Protestants thought it was-- we were not evangelizing, and so we were really in the league of the psychobabble types, right?

Zarbock: Chaplain, that reminds me of that, now a cliche, that not only was the food poisoned, there wasn't enough of it. You have been accused of being two things at the same time.

Harris: Well more than that, the psych people thought we were trying to convert people, so they were opposed to it, too. But you see, back then, it was really working, because we were trying to...

Zarbock: There were results.

Harris: ...span all these-- . And we had a Marine colonel; I think he was in charge of security, and he kept funneling these kids down, and I said, "Why are you doing this?" Because it would seem that we were-- it appeared that we were being sort of hippie; we weren't, but it was less structured. And he would say, "Well, my first responsibility is to my Marines, and if this is good for them, that's what I should do." And I think all the way along, the Marine Corps, to this day, has been most supportive. Which, to some people, well, that's crazy: They're a bunch of warriors, and why would they like this touchy-feely stuff? Well the Marines are talking about "You are your brother's keeper," and this is what we were saying.

Zarbock: And it's the responsibility of a Marine officer, above all else, to make sure that he takes care of, or she, takes care of the troops.

Harris: That's right. So, very, very interesting. Now, the other interesting thing is, I tried to get churches involved. I had the bishop, the Episcopal bishop for the Armed Forces came. We also had it in Spain-- I'll get to that in a minute-- and he thought it was very interesting, but nothing happened. We had Adam Jones, who's now Dean of Grace Cathedral, and he thought it was wonderful, and we met with the bishop and he thought it was great, "We're going to do it;" never happened. And I think, because-- and we also had CREDO in the civilian world in Salt Lake City; we had a homeless shelter, and we involved people from the churches and the homeless. And I thought that might work. And the people who got involved loved it, particularly because you will discover that all the homeless are not these derelict drunks; all kinds of people on the edge of society, many of whom you can't distinguish from yourself, which was the education for these church people. And it was interdenominational. We had CORSEO people, Mexican-American Catholics, and we had Congregationalists. And so it was wonderful. And the second time we did it, some of the people who went in the first time prepared the food and served it to the next. It was a beautiful model, but nobody picked it up.

Zarbock: Where is it right now?

Harris: There is something called CREDO in the military, still-- it's been 30 years or more-- '71 to-- so, it's 36 years. I lost track fairly recently. I saw it-- the reason I wrote the book, is to try to get down what was really orthodox, this is, what it is.

Zarbock: What's the title of the book?

Harris: It's called, "That's How the Light Gets In."

Zarbock: Is it copyrighted?

Harris: Right. And I have a few issues left. I was selling it on Amazon, but recently not. I wanted to put down what it really was, because I mentioned before-- it's kind of funny, it's sort of like the history of churches and so on. Here we have this is it, and then there's this variation and that one, and this here is the true one. I learned later on, when some RP or religious program specialist was unpacking my books and she said, "Oh, I know the founder of CREDO." It wasn't me. So I didn't hear it as far as ego, I just wanted to be sure to get down, as I wanted to stress that this is not-- . It got name changed to-- oh, what's it called?; I'll think of it in a minute-- personal growth retreat. Well that's not exactly right. Personal growth is personal, individualistic, you work on your problems-- which is what our whole society has done, now. And I was saying "communal." But so, I wanted to stress that. I wanted to stress, they are all-- as anything happens, it became very institutionalized and there were procedures, and that's necessary and good and bad; but we see that in our churches, now.

Zarbock: 9 October, 2007, interviewee Don Harris, tape 2.

Harris: "That's how the light gets in," is a line from a song by Leonard Cohen, and the whole thing is, there's a crack in everything, and that's how the light gets in. So again, your imperfection, God can enter. A very interesting man. A Jew, at least, culturally, a Jew; written a lot of beautiful songs. "Suzanne," you may have heard of-- "Suzanne makes you-- " Anyway-- and I'm running out of time here. Okay, a very interesting person, very religious, very spiritual, wrestling with major things in life. One line was, "Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water, and when he saw the world go by, from his lonely wooden tower, he said, 'All men will be sailors then, until the world is over.'" Etcetera, etcetera. Interesting guy. Very depressed, or melancholy; as opposed to John Lennon, who was extremely depressed, and Janis Joplin. You play those two songs and depressed people, you can look around and they start smiling, because that's how they feel. So anyway, to move along-- where were we? Eventually, CREDO continued, and I got transferred to Spain. But one thing here, which I think was unfortunate. I was totally involved in CREDO. I had a wife, one kid and a new one arrived, and I was just absorbed, to such an extent that I, for a little while, would have a CREDO weekend from Thursday to Sunday, and pick up another one Wednesday, on Monday. That was unhealthy. But the supervisory chaplains, nobody said anything. Now, and maybe they thought this was a wonderful thing and, "He knows what he's doing," but I think you should have-- there are a lot of people who really get rolling on something which is important, but you have to be your brother's keeper and slow them down.

Zarbock: Yes, you can reach the point of not-- of being less of a professional and more of a zealot.

Harris: Right. And the CREDO weekend is so painful, part of it, that-- and here, I'll get to-- this is inter...I'll get to it later, and I don't want to go into all of it. It turned out-- I'll get there in a second-- some of the people, a lot of the people ended up-- once it got rolling, you didn't have to look for people, they would come. It turned out that a lot of them were sexually abused-- men-- and particularly in those days, nobody talked about that. Women were the victims; men were the perpetrators. So, a lot of these people started showing up unable to talk about some of this stuff, including, I mentioned, this John before, whose mother was a prostitute-- no, she was loose, she'd take in all kinds of people; everybody would have sex with her and then they'd have sex with him. It was horrible. But he was able to talk about this, and as I say, fashioned a pretty good life. Now, and the problem with sexual abuse, you never get over it. It's a matter of coming to terms with it, and now you're going to live your life. Now it turned out, many years later, that I discovered that I was sexually abused. I remembered my family background was crazy and chaotic, but that part had been blocked, until I was around 52. And so obviously, then, this thing I designed would appeal to those people, because I was one of those people. The problem with that, is I could continue to-- it's called trauma revisiting. Every time I heard one of these stories-- even when I was talking about John, a minute ago-- I feel sad, and that's not healthy, for me. It may be good for them-- I certainly do know that, today-- but it's not good for me. So but, that's where I-- back, what I was saying a minute ago-- this is not therapy. And one of the things people thought, that they had to have someone bare their soul or the weekend would not be successful. But I feel that if I had been in a situation like that, at 30, and bared my soul, who knows what the wreckage would've been. It took me another 20 years to be able to sort it out. And that's fine. So again, the purpose of CREDO is to help people know the love of God, not to have a personal growth retreat and resolve all their problems.

So, moving on fairly quickly, went over to Spain, which I loved-- of course I told you before I loved Spain, before-- and I thought, "Enough of CREDO, I'll be a regular Navy chaplain." And I loved St. John of the Cross; I resumed his stuff and so on. Well, the first day, in walks this sailor. And he's a little drifty and I immediately bonded with him. And it turned out that he was-- he had a wife and three kids, and he had gone down to Morocco and gotten some hashish, was caught at the border, of course-- he was very easy. And the problem is, that in Franco's Spain, seven years in prison. And but, before he was to go in prison, he had to have a trial. Well, I sensed-- and of course I had had this background of-- did the psychiatric ward in Oak Knoll and then the background with CREDO-- I sensed there was something wrong with him, more-- he was drifty, not because of too much hash. There was something going on. And lo and behold, I referred him over to a doctor, and they says indeed, he was mentally ill. Well, this is amusing, but not. You couldn't try him because he was mentally ill. You couldn't get him any psychiatric treatment-- we had no psychiatrists on the base, and all the psychiatrists in Spain spoke Spanish. So there he sat. And eventually, the Spanish thought we were pulling something and they said, "We want to see him for awhile." So they took him over to, it was sort of a camp, in the next town, in Puerto. And I went to visit him there, and in the camp was everybody; there were Alzheimer's and there were crazy people and everything in between, including Al and the daughter of an Air Force colonel, very nice looking. Well you know what happened, then. Al was fabled-- what's the word?-- Don Juan. So in the meantime, his wife and three kids were sent back to Oklahoma.

Zarbock: What was his rank, by the way? He was an enlisted...

Harris: Oh, an ES. So, but I saw him all the time. And eventually-- this is great-- Franco dies. King Juan Carlos comes in and declares an amnesty of three years. Well, if you add up the years he'd been sitting around on the base, plus time for good behavior, if we could convict him, he was free. And so we did, and he got back to-- .

Zarbock: He was convicted by the Civil Defense?

Harris: The Spanish. He didn't have to go to prison. Went back home, and in the meantime-- this is the sad part of the story-- his wife was involved in a grocery store robbery, and the kids were taken away. So he got the kids back, and then he fell in love with this woman who said, "I'll marry you, but not the kids." So he gave up the kids, and then a few months later, she left him; a very, very sad story. But those are the kind of people that connects with me-- not all. An interesting group at CREDO were YWAM, Youth With a Mission, which is a-- what do you want to call it?-- conservative, well not that conservative; a free church mission group where they go to an area and befriend the people in the area and then try to attract them to-- .

Zarbock: What did you call it?

Harris: YWAM, Youth With a Mission. They're all over the place. Mainly, they're a good bunch of people, very interested in what we were doing with CREDO, because it's similar to what they were doing, except they were more aggressive than the Christian. And so we had a CREDO weekend with YWAM. And what was interesting about that, was they were from all different kinds of countries-- the Dutch and Spanish and French, and so on. So we had to carry on CREDO with some translating. And the woman who translated it, was a former prostitute from Amsterdam, and it was just a beautiful thing-- it took longer, of course. And one of the interesting things, later on, I did a CREDO with graduate students at Regent University, which of course is very conservative Christian-- Pat Robertson. And they came expecting something rather fluffy, and instead they were given CREDO. And what was beautiful about it, at first they heard the music and they said, some of them would say, "That's demonic." And then someone would say, "It may be demonic, but that's what the people we are ministering to are listening to. So we ought to understand it." And then later on, someone started-- really started talking, and said, "I'm a pastor but I don't know what I believe." And then another one, as it went on, he said, "My God, I am a Pharisee." And it was fascinating, but the conclusion was beautiful, because these people were Christians; they understood. So it really was, the Eucharist was a really beautiful event. So we only did that once.

All right, so just some things I had written down. I mentioned-- when I was at the hospital, the psychiatric ward, the Red-Os, Vietnam kids, and I was talking with the captain's wife, and she said, "Yeah, we've got a problem. These guys in wheelchairs, they get very angry and they smash the Coke machine. So we've solved it now. We court-martial them and give them a fine." And it was so incredible, so insensitive, what was going on. Another thing, when I was in Spain, I visited the Cadiz prison. If anyone who's seen-- it's about the person in Turkey-- "Midnight Express"; you ever seen that?

Zarbock: No.

Harris: Well, it's a jungle. They're all-- no differentiation between teenage drug kids and murderers. And I tried to get-- this is a good story-- I tried to get in to see them.

Zarbock: Why?

Harris: Why?

Zarbock: You're a Navy chaplain.

Harris: Well there's some sailors there. It was, "When I was in prison you visited me." And it's interesting, the senior chaplain at the time I understand, was wondering whether I was running drugs, as a man in the crowd. That's hearsay. So anyway, I tried to get in, and Franco was in power, and of course Protestant or Anglican was out. So I arrived one Thanksgiving with food for the-- all the prisoners there. And they said, "Well we can't accept this food because it might be poisoned." And they said, "You have to have a letter from the commanding officer certifying that this is safe and that he takes responsibility for it." So I left the food, and I'm sure they ate it, the guards, and I think they ate it; then they went up to Madrid. At Christmastime I came with food again, with a letter from the commanding officer, and was allowed in. But the interesting thing, the prison knew all about this, of course, the prisoners, and I was a hero because I was fighting the system. And so I then, either that time or later on, was allowed in. And here I was in whites, in this filthy prison which was built at the time of Columbus or before, and they said I could come in there, but I could not have a church service in the chapel, because I was, I guess, a heretic or whatever. And so I was told I could have the service in the locker room with all the pails and mops and so on and so forth. Well they didn't realize-- they loved it. We had all kinds of people show up, because I was, again, resisting the system. And we had a very, very moving-- as you might imagine-- service there. And then another time, I went to the prison in Juarez de la Fronteira because there was an Air Force guy there, and we had to-- we played-- I got to play some of these songs and then we'd have Communion. And one of the-- .

Zarbock: Sir, people would show up other than the American-- .

Harris: Oh yeah, oh, absolutely.

Zarbock: Again, how did you handle the language difficulty or barriers? There must've been a wide variety.

Harris: A wide variety. I spoke English and a little bit of Spanish. But it's universal, right?

Zarbock: Yes.

Harris: So yes, and funny you ask, because one of the guys who kept coming was Muslim. And he said, "Do you mind if I take Communion?" And I said, "Sure." I'm sure I'm horrifying many people in the church. And he did, and then the next time, he did. And I used to get letters from him; he was from Libya. So it was really an amazing situation. And then the final thing in that story, is when we had to find a retreat site in Spain-- because after Al and all this, we decided to start CREDO again, and this time we called it CREDO Esperanza, which means hope, and we had backings from the Spaniards. And I went to the Spanish Roman Catholic Bishop of Juarez, and he welcomed me; he was no problem at all. He said, "I welcome you, because you're reaching people that we can't." He said, "Our church is too rich right now and so it's a barrier, but you can come in at another level." So then we out to a town called-- not San Lucart-- Chipiona. And there was a church which had been renovated by Ponce de Leon, and we heard from a monk there that there was a man down the street who had a retreat house called Villa Ballena, the House of the Whale. And we went there-- and he was, he had the flu, he was very ill-- and knocked on the door, and this woman, dressed in black-- all the women were dressed in black because it's Civil War-- a fisherwoman, a fisherman's wife. And brought him in and said, "We'd like to-- could we use this- rent this place from you?" And he said he was so honored to have the U.S. Navy there, and how Americans had brought food to them when they had none. And so he rented it to us at first for a dollar a person, for the weekend, including food. And that's another whole story, and it's in my book.

But, and it's also-- if you look on-- later on-- I'm now involved in something called LaTienta dot com, w-w-w, which is a Spanish food site. And in this Spanish food site, if you look along the top, it will say "Tips and Articles," and if you click on that, then you click on my face, which is in the upper right-hand corner, there are a whole bunch of essays that are written every month about Spain and art, culture and so on. And one of them, last Christmas, the December one, is the story of Don Ignacio. He was really a beautiful, he was a saintly man, who-- we'd go up and visit the old people; he had an old folk's home he was funding, too, and he was older than they were, most of them. Anyway, so that's that.

A very funny thing when I was on destroyers-- a couple of things, sorry. One thing, we had no place to have services, other than the mess deck, but the mess deck was arranged in such a way that some guys had to come from here and floss and go down to the shower. So sometimes I'd be distributing communion-- and this is no kidding-- and some naked guys would walk by between me and the communicat, which I thought was kind of great. And we'd have Communion on the-- use the gun mouth as the altar. So, along the-- . Well one thing, on a more conventional sense, eventually, I ended up-- my last duty station was on the USS Saipan, which was an LHA, which means it's a helicopter carrier with a hospital onboard and the rear opens and there's a whole Marine detachment which can go out on that. So the ship is two-thirds Marines and one-third sailor.

Zarbock: And big.

Harris: Big, yeah, a fascinating ship. And I had with me the Marine chaplain, who also you interviewed, that was-- no, you didn't...Don Valinis. Anyway, I decided, legal or illegal, I was-- this was my last time, I was the only-- I was the senior chaplain.

Zarbock: What was your rank?

Harris: I was a captain-- was I, or commander? Might've been captain-- very senior. And so, as the troops are coming on, there was a short cruise which started the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and ended on Easter Sunday. I must've been captain; no not necessarily, probably; if so, just. And so I said, "I'm going--" and they had a movie and TV channel-- so I got "Jesus of Nazareth" by Zeffirelli-- do you know that? It's on a six-part thing.

Zarbock: Yes.

Harris: Certainly it's beautifully done. And competing against the cops and robbers, I put on "Jesus of Nazareth." Well, a lot of them liked it. And so, Ash Wednesday we had a service, and all kinds of people showed up; I'd say 40, 50. And I find-- and this is an aside-- I find that administering ashes is one of the most intimate, powerful things, because you put your hands on their heads and you're blessing them. And I found this in particular when I was at Coast Guard Alameda, which was after Saipan, that the chapel was owned by Trinity Wall Street, the one on the base, Saint Cecilia-- Saint-- who was the centurion? Cornelius.

Zarbock: Cornelius, yes.

Harris: And I helped out one noon a week, I would celebrate it at Trinity Wall Street. But on Ash Wednesday-- it's right by Wall Street. Do you know where it is?

Zarbock: Yes.

Harris: Right there. We were to administer ashes to 35,000 people, just swarms. And obviously, they're not all Episcopalians, Catholics, not even Christians, probably. But it was-- they loved it. Well, love isn't quite-- they found meaning to it.

Zarbock: Yes.

Harris: Just like if the church I'm at now, once a month if you go up for Communion, you can stay there and have a laying on of hands, and people love it. It's really-- well, it's intimate, right? It's a human being touching a human being. So, with this one-- . Are we running out of time? 10 minutes, okay.

[Crew talk]

Harris: This time we decided to have Easter vigil we were going into, and we had gotten some incense from the Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, England, and we used-- what do you call it?-- buckets as thuribles-- you know what a thurible is? Incense thuribles. We had a baptism. We had people reading-- one guy who read one of the lessons, was an Independent Fundamental Baptist. We had Catholic-- everybody together. And it was wonderful. And of course, we had all the time in the world. And the interesting thing, the chaplain with me, who was Reformed, I said, "How are we going to handle this service?" And he said, "Easter service"-- which would follow-- he said, "I don't care what we do so long as I can preach." Very Reformed, right? And I said, "Fine, because I don't care what you do, as long as I can celebrate." So after this two or three hour-long service, we went up on the flight deck, or the ball deck-- it's shaped like this-- and some sailors had made a huge cross out of I-beams, and it was strung across. And we were going due west, and the sun was rising right behind the cross-- fabulous, fabulous. And of course, that's what they remember, and not the sermon of the-- . Have to get that in. Are we running out of time?

[Crew talk]

Zarbock:We've got five minutes. I do want to get in the last question about-- .

Harris: Sure.

Zarbock: Let's handle that first, and then.

Harris: All right.

Zarbock: Given all of your life experiences-- I've asked all of the chaplains whom I've interviewed-- for the purpose of the recording, to describe and define your credo. How have you put together Chaplain Harris's belief; what is Chaplain Harris's belief?

Harris: Well, as you've heard by now, I've had all kinds of things happen to me in my life, and I was very moved seeing families, and so on. I think, ultimately, now it's the relationship of love of one to another, real commitment, which is the way that God can channel his presence to you-- not the only way, but largely. And so, what I've done in all this time, is really looking for-- it's a terrible word-- lost souls; but in effect, people who are really damaged who have never known any love, and was able to extend that to them. But at one point, as I mentioned when I discovered my own, what had happened to me, then I had to construct myself. And what this was, was no more CREDO, no more dwelling on pain. Instead I had to start doing something which was simple, constructive and straightforward. The problem with abused people; they're never better, they're never really better. So you can't say, "Good, I've done something." So, and that's when I got together with my brothers, my sons.

My wife, who's been dear, and we've been married for 40-odd years and fairly close, she had-- was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my oldest son was off in California having fun in the warm California sun, and the other two were in Williamsburg. And Jonathan, the middle one, said, "Well, I should be back home," of course. And so he came back home. And it turned out that the cancer is in remission for right now, 14 years. But it was suddenly we're all together. And we said, "What can we do to keep this?" And again-- I explained how important family was, is, to me. So we set up a Spanish food site, and at first, it was tiny. We thought it was going to be Mom and Pop and the kids. Beginning of the Internet, 1996. Amazon is 1995. And so we all worked together, and now it's a very successful-- it's the largest selection of Spanish food in the U.S. We're all still together. From here, I'll go to the office and there'll be Jonathan and Tim in the same room. Ruth will come in; she's the treasurer. Tim's wife is the accounts payable. Jonathan's wife is the human resources. So it still is true, and-- 10 years, 12, 11 years, now-- how does that happen? I think back to being your brother's keeper and taking care of one another, and being, "therefore let your light so shine before men."

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