Communes in Sunland, CA and the Past Lives of New Yorker Art Critics

Avante Garde Magazine, Issue 5

Before Peter Schjeldahl was writing reviews of old masters for the New Yorker he was a groovy sweaty features editor for Avant-Garde magazine. Avant-Garde was something like a counter culture arts review.

In this ’68 issue an unbuttoned Schjeldahl co-authored (with Neal White) an expose of a So Cal commune (in Sunland-Tujunga!) called The Hog Farm.

Pigasus was Prime Minister of this, then two year old, commune. From here, his humble sty in Sunland, one can assume that he was the very same pig that went on to seek the presidency as the 1968 nominee of the Yippie Party.

In the late 60’s Sunland-Tujunga was a wild place. The article chronicles the tussles between the commune and its neighbors. According to Schjeldahl the Valley Ranchers Association had set up an armed roadblock. Additionally “local toughs, many of them Vietnam Veterans”, known as the “Androids” would occasionally “pillage the farm.” Much of this, according to Schjeldahl, was set off by a picture published in the Voice of the Verduga Hills of Pigasus with a flag “flapping above his sty”.

Administration of the commune is on a daily rotation basis with everyone, kids included, taking a turn as “Dance Master” or “Dance Mistress.” “When you have this many people living together,” Romney (Hugh Romney the founder of the commune, aka Wavy Gravy- ed.) observes “you’ve got to dance or you step on somebody’s hand.” The Dance Master sees that things get done by someone who wants to do them.

The farm, as Romney suggests, is more than a summer camp for misfits. It is a thriving spiritual community, an experiment in utopian living. You get the idea when you attend the highpoint (literally) of the Hog Farm day, just before bedtime in the cantonment’s biggest dome. Shrouded in parachute silk and brightly lighted, the dome can be seen for miles on a smogless night. You can only guess at what the citizens of Sunland-Tujunga imagine is possibly going on inside. What is going on is this:

Inside the dome 30-odd men, women and children_lotus-squating, clad in an assortment of strange clothes. Eyes closed, hands clasped in two concentric circles, they are humming in unison_”Om.” “Om” is a loud resonant, brain-buzzing sound made by vibrating air in the sinuses. The choral hum is punctuated by improvisatory moans, pants, and clucks, it dissolves into an athletic chant: “HOG-HOG-HOG-HOG-HOG-HOG-HOG!” Then someone in a Donald Duck jersey stands and gently raises everyone, like a a circle of dominoes in reverse. Climax! All fall down. “The Circle Joke” is over, and the Hog Farmers, spent and blissful, break the circle and retire to their sleeping bags for the night.

I like the New Yorker, but I can’t help but imagine how it would be if they or Schjeldahl had such a groovy editorial position on art and culture today.

All photos by Jillian Wasser.

21 thoughts on “Communes in Sunland, CA and the Past Lives of New Yorker Art Critics

  1. I live in Sunland and have lived here since the early 60’s. I wish I had know about the pig
    farm and had a chance to visit. Is it still located in Sunland? I would love to be able go go up and look at it. Sounds like fun.

  2. i lived in sunland tujunga, commonanly known as “the rock”. those who lived there then know exactly what i’m talkin about. yes i went to the hog farm several times got high and partied alot. those were the days. as far as a lot of the people around that did not except the hog farm they were far outnumbered by the people who did. contrary to what has been written. those were the days-hippies to be exact. guess what? i’m 56yrs old and still the young hippie that went there so many years ago. my mother still own’s a house in tj. and i still have friends who live there. those days will live forever! good times!

  3. I’d like to know too where it was. I’m just doing a bit of history digging about Sunland. Was it up on the end of Oro Vista or on another street?

  4. I would also like to know if the house still exists and if any old hippies are still around? Moved to Tujunga 4 years ago and was watching a woodstock documentary and noticed that the hog farm was located here. Im 55 and still an old hippie at heart.

  5. I grew-up in Sunland by the park. I remember the love-ins happening then. My mom told me to stay away from the park but I would still walk over and watch all the hippies. Kinda of wish I was old enough to participate. I watched the Woodstock documentary last night. I remembered the name Wavy Gravy and heard of the Hog Farm but had no idea it was in Sunland. I was surprised to see that on the documentary. I loved growing up in the area. I remember rumors that the Manson family was up there at one point also. I graudated from Verdugo ’76.

  6. There were a couple of ways to get there. 1) you’d drive up into Riverwood Ranch on the other side of the wash at the base of Oro Vista before you drive into Big Tujunga. Anyhow, you continue on Oro Vista into Riverwood Ranch,turn L on Doane Cyn Rd., L again on Eby Cyn Rd, R on Doane Eby, and then a fairly quick left onto Dody Rd., heading into the foothills. You’ll come upon a house standing by itself. Doesn’t look to be the original house necessarily, but I’m sure that old house was incorporated into the footprint.
    The other way to reach it was to go out Foothill Bl, heading towards Lake View Terrace . . . , cross over the second bridge, and turn right at the first opportunity, W.Connover St. which spills you onto a dirt road and within a couple of minutes you are on fire roads heading up into the hills. I wouldn’t know if the roads are still open . . . they were open or closed over the years based on the whims of the County. It wouldn’t be surprising if the place were still being used . . . As a matter of fact, I looked at google maps, and I see the house there.
    The hillside has been terraced around it. I fished for an address and google offer up 9401 Tujunga Valley St. 91342. Since I know Tujunga Valley St is a little dead end street at the edge of the wash . . .I’m assuming the house address is linked to a mail box at the bottom of the road. The house is actually on Dody Rd. Go on Zillow.com to get a fairly decent picture of it.
    Jeff Warrender . . .S/T born and bred.

  7. So, here is the story. My sister is standing in the picture, blond hair standing back left center, the house still stands today , easy to spot from the sunland area, look north at 30 degrees and i stands alone today, with a small addition on the west side. My parents took over the place after the HOG FARM dissolved and lived there for 16yrs to follow, surviving 2 forest fires, and 2 major floods to follow, we got power to the place in 76, and is feed from a natural spring 2 miles into the mountain. The Korean church has the title to the 33 acre parcel on the mountain. Awesome spot to grow up and admire the town, and SFV area. If your up to the hike, park your car and hike up the 1 mile driveway from either side of the wash, as no one resides there, and one finds peace and tranquility atop the mountain. I visit
    oftern, and take my kids up there too. This was my home, and will be forever. Long live the hog farm!!!!!!

    • I lived at the house from 2000-2001. What a great experience. The view was unbelievable. When it rained getting up that dirt road was next to impossible. We footed many times to get to and from work. And the way the wind blew up there was incredible. What a great spot. I really wished I could have owned this land. The back yard was acres and acres of National Forest. Some time the fire road gates would be open and you could drive for miles way back into the hills. Im surprised to hear that a Korean church owns it now. I guess the guy I knew sold it a few years back. Anyway, great memories of that place in only a year living there.

    • Hi Noah,
      I wrote this original post for Arthur Mag.
      Today I am writing with KCET here in LA.
      I’d love to talk with you a bit more about the place.
      Anyway way get in touch with you?

      Best,
      Robby Herbst

  8. I grew up in Tujunga…we had a house up near the Cross from about 1969 til my mom died in 1992. I never heard of the Hog Farm, but I was into riding horses and being with my friends and roller skating through the town.
    If I had been into drugs, I’m sure I would have known about it. Thankfully I wasn’t.

  9. Noah…….I had no idea that was your parents place. That’s great stuff. I love Riverwood too! S/T was a great place to grow up.

  10. I moved to Sunland in 94 and stayed until 04 when I moved back to VA. I was singing in a band with Athena from Ex Wives of Rock. I had asked her where in CA would be a good place to live for me and she recommended Sunland. I’m kind of a hippie at heart and after finding out about the Hog Farm,now I know why she suggested there. Its a great place to live. Its off the beaten path,but still close enough to the city. I used to love going up in the mountains and hanging out by the river to get away from everything. Would have loved to have been there back in the day.

  11. Not surprised about this. I knew a hippie or two I guess. I was too young and not exposed to it, but was close enough it seems. My back yard was the Big Tujunga Wash on Westcott, 3 houses up from the end. Lots of hiking, and bicycle riding in the wash. Lots of snakes, horny toads, lizards, and even a lost iguana once. The big flood wiped out our business in the garage and nearly washed it away. Luckily the house didn’t get damaged. The houses below us were either missing, or badly damaged. No back fence for a while after that. The Sylmar earthquake was another fun event. And of course the hillside cemetary spread boxes and bones all the way down to the wash too. Lots of good memories. I loved the Helms doughnuts, and Penny The Ice Cream Lady and her trained monkey. She had everything and kept frozen candy bars for me. No doubt the health dept. eventually shut her down. Hang gliders later on of the local hills. Hiking camelsback and nearly losing a brother on a slide area. Oh, the memories!

    • That cemetary ended up in my dads living room. The city had to clear my dads house of body parts, tombstones etc … before we could dig out his house. Nasty business… I also remember the flood. I can’t believe they ended up building houses and a golf course in the wash. Just goes to show that progress cannot be stopped. Peace, Susan

  12. I grew up right down the hill from the Hog Farm. I rode my horse all over those hills but was forbidden by my parents not to go up “there” but being a normal kid, I did. I became an honorary member. I gave the kids rides on my horse and would help babysit the kids. I was always welcome. Homebaked cookies (non-medicated) and fresh milk straight from their cows were always provided. I never saw any drugs but I guess they kept that private. The Hog Farm was a peaceful place full of wonderfully kind people. Wavy Gravy would tell us great stories. Yes… I remember the Hog Farm as a warm place for comfort in my heart… and I always will.

  13. That cemetary ended up in my dads living room. The city had to clear my dads house of body parts, tombstones etc … before we could dig out his house. Nasty business… I also remember the flood. I can’t believe they ended up building houses and a golf course in the wash. Just goes to show that progress cannot be stopped. Peace, Susan

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