George Mullins

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George Mullins was born and raised in the south of the United States. In the fall of 1965 he enrolled in Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida and the following year his younger brother Philip joined him. George and Philip roomed to together but had different interests. Philip was involved in the Negro civil rights movement and the New Left. George, an art student, was more interested in the Beat generation and painting. In the summer of 1967 when Philip went to New York City George went to San Francisco for the “summer of love”. After classes resumed in the fall he occasionally accompanied Philip to speeches and literature sales sponsored by the Young Liberals club at FSU. He was at Philip’s side when they were both nearly arrested for selling a banned campus humor magazine during a tumultuous confrontation at the FSU Student Center in 1967. Philip left FSU in January 1968 but George, who was in no rush to graduate from school, enrolled at Florida State University for the Spring Semester.

After George and Madelyn Averitte graduated from FSU in June, they drove to Toronto and spent a few days with Philip who was living in an apartment on Brunswick Avenue. They then made their way to New York City where they stayed with Marty Bunyan, a friend from Florida State University who lived on St. Mark’s Place on the Lower East Side. In September they moved to an inexpensive house on Staten Island where they both continued to draw or paint and George began casting lead medallions of his own design that he hoped to sell. When George graduated from FSU he lost his draft exemption and Local Board 49 in Pensacola sent him a notice to appear for a pre-induction physical in Birmingham, Alabama. In November George found a sympathetic psychologist in New York who wrote a diagnostic letter that was guaranteed to get him a 4-F classification. After seeing the letter and interviewing George the military doctors in Birmingham declared him unfit for military service.

George communicated frequently with his brother in Toronto and in January 1969 began selling his medallions through the Yellow Ford Truck. George and Madelyn were both working at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan and living on Staten Island. Two friends from Florida State University, Steve Shatz and Mike Stuckey, lived next door. They were all living the lives of starving artists.

In August 1969 George’s parents, Madelyn, George and his younger brother Jeff all traveled to Toronto to visit Philip. This was the second visit the Mullins had made to see their son in Toronto. Mary Rauton joined the Mullins family for a camping trip to Arrowhead Provincial Park north of Huntsville. After the visit, George and Madelyn returned to Staten Island where George learned that he had been accepted to graduate school in Eugene, Oregon. He and Madelyn quit their jobs at the Guggenheim and drove from New York to Oregon in their VW sedan. They stopped off at Stoney Lake, Ontario, to see Philip and Mary.

In November George and Madelyn moved from the City of Eugene to a communal farm near Brownsville, Oregon, called “the Mud Farm”. The next month George dropped out of graduate school at the University of Oregon due to poverty and incompatibility with his professors and he and Madelyn discovered the joys of rural life at the Mud Farm. His professors had urged him to begin exploring the use of computers to make art but he had no interest in the new computers. He was more interested in nature.

Meanwhile the Ragnarokr commune in Toronto had launched its back-to-the-land project. After failing to find sufficient recruits from among the American exile community in Toronto, they invited George and Madelyn to join them in the purchase of rural property in Ontario. George and Madelyn accepted the invitation and began making preparations for the long journey across the Canadian plains to Toronto. Neil Fertel, an FSU graduate who was an instructor at the University of Alberta, helped them pack their car for the trip. Madelyn was already making and selling tie-dyed clothing in Oregon and she began sending her tie-dyed clothing to Ragnarokr for sale. In August 1970 George and Madelyn arrived in Toronto in their VW beetle and joined the Ragnarokr commune.

After George’s arrival at Ragnarokr, he took charge of the rural project. In November he and Madelyn located a 100-acre lot near North Bay, Ontario and purchased the lot for the six members of the commune. The property was quickly named the Frostpocket because it lay in a valley. For the next ten years George divided his time between the leather shop in Toronto and the settlement at the Frostpocket. He built a house and made other improvements to the rural property while working part-time at the commune’s leather shop in the City of Toronto.

In the spring of 1971 George purchased an old Ford farm tractor from a gardener in Mississauga for $450. The leather shop rented a 6-ton truck to haul the recently purchased 9N Ford tractor and a load of salvaged building material from Toronto to the Frostpocket. The truck carried enough material to frame a two-story 800 square-foot house. After the truck was unloaded, Mary Rauton and Madelyn drove it back to Toronto in the middle of the night. George, Philip and Randy Rauton stayed behind and began to dig the basement for the community house with shovels. During the next few months, Jeff Mullins, Tom Bonanno and the parents of the three Mullins brothers, George Jr. and Hazel, helped with the basement.

In July Carol Huebner and Colleen Anderson came to Toronto from California for a month’s visit. Colleen stayed at Ragnarokr and she and George Mullins fell in love. George and Colleen left the leather shop and stayed for a month with the Whole Earth Store commune in north Toronto. They then went back to California where Colleen had taken a leave of absence from her newspaper job. Colleen and George arrived in Auburn, California in September and rented a small cabin in the mountains nearby. Both got jobs at the newspaper office and George began to draw plans for the house that he intended to build at the Frostpocket. By November the situation at the leather shop in Toronto had returned to normal and Philip wrote to invite George and Colleen back. George had never intended to abandon the settlement at the Frostpocket and he wrote back that he and Colleen would return in the spring. (insert link to “Letters to California”, file 2.10)

In February 1972 George, Colleen and the baby Seth returned from California by way of Texas. After his return George worked at the Ragnarokr leather shop and Colleen found a job at a publisher’s house doing layout and paste-up. They shared an apartment with Janice Spellerberg on College and Henry Streets. By April Chris Risk, Skip O’Dell and George were all cutting and peeling logs for their respective houses at the Frostpocket. George spent about ten days at a time working on his house and then ten days working at the leather shop in Toronto. He and Colleen rented a flat on St. Patrick Street. That fall, George and Hazel Mullins came from Louisiana for their fifth annual visit. They set up their tents at the Frostpocket and helped with the building.

In October George, Colleen and the baby Seth moved into their unfinished home. Only three walls were blacked-in and there is no plumbing, electricity or insulation. The road to the house was not passable by car and all supplies had to be hauled to the house in a wagon hitched to the Ford tractor. The house, still lacking exterior siding, was heated by a wood-burning stove in the living room. After Christmas Chris Risk, George, Colleen and baby Seth left for a month-long trip to Florida and Louisiana. Upon his return to the Frostpocket, George Mullins was hired by Wilfred McLaren to work in Wally Minor’s sugar bush where he learned how to manage a sugar bush. That winter he made his first maple syrup in a washtub set on a 55-gallon oil drum.

George and Colleen spent much of the summer of 1973 in Toronto making sandals and other leather goods in the leather shop. In the fall George and his family returned to the Frostpocket and he continued to work on the house. When Wilfred McLaren installed an oil-burning furnace in his farmhouse on Breed’s Hill, he sold George his old wood-burning furnace. Wilfred also hired George to help with construction at the McLaren hunt camp near Rye. That winter George and Skip O’Dell purchased a sawmill and had it installed by the end of January. George continued to develop the small sugar bush at the Frostpocket and built a house for his flock of chickens.

Seth started school in South River in 1974. The school bus could not come down the hill so Seth had to meet the bus at the top of the hill about three-quarters of a mile from his home. The Township of Machar paid George one dollar a day to take Seth to meet the school bus in the morning but in the afternoon Seth walked the three-quarters of a mile home by himself. Seth knew that it was a good idea to make the bears aware of his presence so he frequently sang as he walked home. When Philip or Mary was in the community house he would stop briefly to rest on his way home, especially when it was hot. That summer Seth’s grandparents and three of his cousins arrived by train for their first visit to Canada.

George continued to improve the property. A large workshop was built in the summer of 1974 and improvements were made to the sugar bush. The next April Colleen was pregnant with their daughter, Katie, and pulled a muscle while carrying buckets of maple sap through the deep snow. Her doctor placed her under orders to avoid heavy lifting and George recruited Greg Sperry, who lived in a cabin nearby, to help. Colleen moved to Toronto a few weeks before Katie was due and George shuttled back and forth between Toronto and the Frostpocket until his daughter was born in June.

In 1977 Andrew was born in Toronto on March 12. In late March 1977 Randy and Mary Rauton, Philip and George Mullins, Colleen and the three children traveled south to visit Randy’s father in Atlanta and George and Philip’s parents in Burkeville, Texas and to show them the new baby. During 1977 Philip and Mary alternated working in Toronto with George and Colleen, each family working for three and a half or four months at a time in Toronto. Work continued on the building at the Frostpocket and in August both George and Philip were given Ontario Home Renewal Program loans to finish their houses at the Frostpocket.

George and Colleen were married at Toronto City Hall in December 1977 with Madelyn Averitte and Mary Rauton as witnesses and Fletcher Starbuck as the photographer. When Madelyn and Fletcher moved to San Antonio, Texas in December 1977 George and Colleen made a trip to visit them and George’s parents in Burkeville, Texas. They swung by Pensacola, Florida to visit George’s brother Jeff and his wife Debbie.

That fall George enrolled in George Brown College in Toronto. His intention was to get a welder’s certificate, work for a few years as a welder in an industrial setting and then go into business manufacturing wood-burning appliances at the Frostpocket. He and Colleen spent most of the summer in Toronto working at the leather shop. In September George started school and Colleen and Bie Engelen split a job at Morningstar Trading Company ironing clothes. They also both worked at Ragnarokr. Their children Seth, Katie, Sam and Thomas were all attending school in Toronto. That December Seth flew to the Island of Guam to spend six months with his grandparents.

This was to be George and Colleen’s last year in Toronto. Mary had left for New York City in the fall and around Christmas Randy left for Atlanta. Philip went to Texas in June leaving Bie Engelen, George and Colleen Mullins to run the leather shop. That summer George, Colleen and their children were at the Frostpocket by themselves. George entered some handicrafts in the South River Agricultural Fair and repaired the shop’s wrecked Dodge van in preparation for their trip to Texas. Dave and Ruth Zimmerman visited from Toronto for a few days and in October 1980 George, Colleen and their children left Ontario. They drove to Burkeville, Texas where they lived until September 1982 in a rented house about a quarter of a mile from that of George’s parents.

George found work on a construction crew building a new gymnasium at the Burkeville School. He was the replacement for a worker who had fallen to his death the day before. That winter George, Philip and Colleen build a greenhouse to supply starter plants for the Newton Feed Store in Newton, Texas that owned by George Mullins Jr. and Robert Jackson. By 1981 George was working at the Weirgate Sawmill as the millwright’s assistant while Colleen cared for the tomato and pepper bedding plants in the greenhouse. In the fall of 1982 the family moved to Austin, Texas, where Colleen enrolled in the pre-nursing program at Austin Community College. Fletcher Starbuck and Madelyn Averitte were already living in Austin and Fletcher and George begin working together.

After a few years as carpenters, George and Fletcher began installing Corian countertops in custom kitchens. In 1983 George’s two brothers, Jeff and Philip, both moved to Austin and joined George and Fletcher in their business. About a year later Austin’s construction boom abruptly came to an end and Jeff and Philip left town. Fletcher took a job at the University and George continued to work in kitchens by himself. In the 1990s he was hired as a supervisor at Classic Marble where he worked until he retired in 2006.

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