Mary Manning Rauton
Mary Manning was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1929 and moved to Atlanta, Georgia when she was a child. She grew up in a prosperous home, attended school at Christ the King Cathedral School and entered the University of Georgia in 1947. In 1951 she married a building contractor and moved to Houston briefly before returning to Atlanta. By 1961 she had six children ranging in age from one to ten years including two sets of twins. In 1961 she attended retreats at a new Jesuit retreat center near Atlanta and then volunteered there for the next two years. She became aware of and concerned about the plight of her Negro neighbors. Her husband shared her concern and helped enroll his largely Negro work force in a credit union.
In 1965 she and her husband, Randy Rauton Sr., became involved in Civil Rights demonstrations in Atlanta. She joined a “floating parish” led by Father Conald Faust, the Rector of Christ the King Cathedral. The parish met in various locations in black neighborhoods, doing social work on Saturday and celebrating Mass on Sunday. The Bishop did not wholly approve of Father Conald’s activities. Conald Faust left the rectory and moved into an apartment in a black ghetto called Mechanicsville. Eventually the Bishop became scandalized by the work Father Conald was doing and ordered Father Conald to disband the floating parish. The priest came to Mary’s house to explain that the parish was about to be excommunicated. At the time of the visit, Mary’s husband was at work and could not leave to attend the meeting. Mary and Father Conald locked themselves into a bedroom while they discussed the situation. Mary was seated in a rocking chair, slowly rocking back and forth. The household maid, Sally, heard what sounded like a bed rocking and assumed the worst. Sally also worked at Mary’s sisters’ homes and she actively spread gossip about the happenings at Mary’s house and at the floating parish.
Prior to this Mary had met a hippy from New England by the name of Steve Blossom. She was impressed by his sincerity and asked him to help her make sandals for herself and her children. Steve Blossom subsequently moved into the basement of the Rauton home where he built a leather shop. The children of the house loved Steve but Mary’s mother and sisters became increasingly concerned about his influence on them.
After Father Conald’s visit, Mary’s mother convinced Randy that the family’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement could damage his construction business. Mary’s mother and siblings were not involved in the floating parish and opposed Mary and Randy’s involvement with the black community. Randy asked Mary to disassociate herself from Steve Blossom and Conald Faust. Mary didn’t pay much attention to him but two days later, after having learned of the bedroom incident from the maid, he became insanely jealous. He asked for a divorce and gave Mary five minutes to get out of the house. She packed up Steve Blossom and carried him to Conald Faust’s apartment. When she returned to her home, her mother, Nadine, was there. Nadine examined Mary’s eyes and arms. The maid, Sally, had concluded that a melted candy Easter egg in the refrigerator was really LSD and Mary’s mother, Nadine, believed that Mary was shooting heroin. Mary could not believe what was happening and, in a state of disbelief, turned and continued to wash the dishes. Randy continued to demand that she leave the house but she stayed the rest of the summer. She was forbidden to contact her old friends and she and Randy began to see a family counselor. Mary said, “Randy had become hysterically jealous and nothing could convince him of his mistake.” He recruited neighbors and family members to spy on Mary. In late summer Steve Blossom came for a brief visit to see Mary and the children. Within five minutes Randy arrived home from work, having been advised of Steve’s visit to the house by one of his spies.
On Labor Day 1968 Mary was painting one of the children’s bedroom when Randy gave her seventy dollars and an airplane ticket to New York City. He wanted her to leave immediately, in the middle of the night. She called friends in New York City and arranged to stay at their house for two weeks. After her arrival in New York City, her husband and the parish priest in Atlanta telephoned often to urge her to return home. While in New York she visited some Catholic “house churches” and was directed to the War Resister’s League office on Beeker Street. Because the WRL office was thought to be “bugged” by some government agency, she and the WRL staffer climbed out onto the roof where he advised Mary to go to Toronto and help the draft dodgers. Mary called Brenda Matthias, a family friend from Atlanta and a student at the National School of Ballet in Toronto, and took a bus to Toronto. Brenda met her at the bus station. She and Brenda went to Yorkville Avenue looking for draft dodgers and were directed to 224 McCaul Street where they met Jimmy Wilson.
That night, her oldest son, Randy Junior, called to report that his father had forced him to move back home, had cut his long hair and was urging him to join the military. Mary flew back to Atlanta. Her husband met her at the airport and made her promise not to tell the children why she had left home. She had been gone two weeks. There was a happy reunion with the children. She stayed in Atlanta a week. During that time, Mary and her husband filed for a separation. Little Randy wanted to go to Canada with his mother. Her husband offered her the two girls and little Randy. Mary decided to take Randy with her and get settled before taking the girls to Canada for the duration of the two or three months of separation. The children cried as they helped their mother pack and she told her second-oldest son, Tim, to stay with his father and take care of the twins.
Mary and her son Randy arrived at Toronto on a Saturday night. She did not have enough points to immigrate so they were housed in the Valhalla Inn at the Toronto Airport and flown to Buffalo, New York, the next day. In Buffalo Mary visited a nun with whom she was acquainted who encouraged her to continue on her journey to Toronto. Mary and Randy took the bus to Toronto only to find that her friend Brenda Matthias had checked into a hospital and could not be reached. She called Jimmy Wilson and he offered her the living room of the house at 224 McCaul Street. After a few days camped out in the living room the two of them moved into the house’s dining room that was separated from the living room by a pair of glass doors. She and little Randy fit easily into the crowd of expatriate Americans living in the house.
Philip Mullins loaned Mary $100 and she was driven to Fort Erie where she was landed on September 31, 1968. She quickly found a job as a secretary at the Separate School Board on Laird Drive at a salary of $200 per month. She budgeted $10 a week for food for her and Randy and $15 a week for rent. Two weeks later her husband and divorce papers arrived at the house at the same time. Randy Rauton Sr. arrived at 224 McCaul Street and was greeted by Colleen Anderson who also lived at the house. As Mary stepped outside to speak to her husband, Greg Sperry, Don Holman and the postman all arrived at once. The postman delivered a large envelope containing the divorce papers. Big Randy and Mary went to the Royal York Hotel for lunch and to talk. Randy explained that all this was a technicality required by Georgia law but Mary knew that he had breached his promise that the separation would only last three months. She could not understand why he was rushing towards divorce and she was angry with him.
After his visit he and Mary continued to talk on the telephone frequently and Mary wrote her children every Friday. Mr. Rauton wanted little Randy to enroll in Jarvis Collegiate but little Randy refused. Finally little Randy enrolled in school, attended class one day and then quit. In January 1969 Mr. Rauton stopped calling. He did not continue to table the divorce and it became final. One day Mary had a vision. In the vision she saw her ex-husband getting married again with her daughters in attendance. The next day someone called and told Mary that her ex-husband had indeed remarried. After the marriage, the children’s stepmother cut off all contact between the children and Mary and Mary stopped communicating with her family in Atlanta.
In November 1968 Mary moved to a room at 39 Henry Street. She lived there until February 1969 when the house at 218 McCaul was rented by some of the people living at 224 McCaul Street. Randy stayed at 224 McCaul with Steve Blossom. While living at his parent’s home in Boston Steve Blossom learned that Mary was somewhere in Toronto and flew from Boston to find her. He had no idea of where she was in Toronto but while riding in a cab from the airport he saw Randy walking down the street. Randy invited Steve move into the house at 224 McCaul Street. After Jimmy Wilson moved the Yellow Ford Truck clothing store to 11 Baldwin Street, Mary and Philip Mullins both contributed $25 a month to purchase stock for the store. That fall Mary and Philip began working together making silk-screened bags and flags with the “peace” symbol for sale in the Yellow Ford Truck. Steve Blossom and Randy built a small workshop in the basement of 224 McCaul Street and began making leather goods that they sold in the Yellow Ford Truck.
On April 15, 1969, the Yellow Ford Truck moved to a larger storefront at 25 Baldwin Street and the Ragnarokr leather shop opened in the storefront at 11 Baldwin Street with Steve Blossom, Randy Rauton, Frank Tettermer and Marita DeGive as staff. In July the Ragnarokr commune rented the entire building and moved into the upstairs as well. By then the shop employed Randy, Steve Spring, Philip and Mary. Tom Bonanno, Helen Gilbert, Wayne Myers, Simone Bulger and Sonya Cunningham soon joined them. Margaret Thurlow, who rented a room at 11 Baldwin, donated the first pair of heavy shears owned by the commune. Colleen Anderson donated $50 and Lee Welch was impressed enough by Randy’s belts to loan him $400 to purchase supplies.
By April 1969 Philip Mullins and Mary were living as man and wife. Philip and Mary, along with Steve Spring and Randy Rauton, formed the backbone of the Ragnarokr enterprise during its first two years. In August 1970 George Mullins and Madelyn Averitte arrived to take charge of the group’s back-to-the-land project. Steve Spring and Simone Bulger left the shop after their marriage in December 1971 but Steve maintained working relations with the shop and returned in 1979 to manage the leather shop after Mary and Philip both left.
Mary and Philip shared many adventures together between 1969 and 1979. They were important to both the Ragnarokr leather shop and the settlement at the Frostpocket. Mary served on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Craft Foundation and helped the Pic-50 Heron Bay Band of Ojibwa Indians prepare for their role as managers and workers at Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior. In 1979 she and Philip split up and Mary left Toronto and went to the Catholic Worker House in New York City. She returned to Toronto and to the Ragnarokr leather shop in September 1984 after having spent five years with the Catholic Worker movement in New York City. She, Bie Engelen, her son Randy and Steve Spring continued to work in the leather shop until it was closed in December 1996. Mary is retired now and lives in an apartment close to Queen Street West in Toronto. She continues to uses her considerable communications skills to help poor people in her neighborhood in the Catholic Worker tradition.
Mary Rauton’s story is told in much greater detail elsewhere and some of her recollections are included in the Appendix of this work. (insert a link to “Mary Recollects”, file