The Rautons and the Mullins take a leave of absence, 1978-1984
Philip did well in school and competed with his classmate, Luis Rodriguez, for top academic honors in his class. Philip had always been interested in industrial practices and by the summer of 1979 realized that he could earn ten to fifteen times his customary annual salary working as a technician in the air-conditioning and refrigeration trades rather than as a leather worker at Ragnarokr. He suggested to Mary that they take a leave of absence from the shop after he had finished school and move to Houston where the demand for HVAC technicians was high and the salaries were paid in US dollars. (At the time the Canadian dollar was to a 45-year low against the U.S. dollar.) His intention was to save enough money to build the facility that would be needed for the next phase of the firewood project. Mary refused to consider a move the United States. She had lived in Houston in 1951 when she was a newly wed and had no intention of returning there now. She was also strongly opposed to leaving the leather shop and finding a “normal” job even on a temporary basis.
She and Philip could not resolve the issue and tensions between them increased as the summer dragged on. Philip was also attempting to solve a problem with the community house at Frostpocket that he had previously been unable to fix. When he designed the community house he forgot about making provision for a chimney. For the first two years he ran a metal single-wall stovepipe into the upstairs bedroom and then out a window. This proved to be dangerous and unsatisfactory. He then built a chimney of the same material that penetrated the basement wall and ran along the side of the house. That chimney caught fire. Philip managed to detach it from the house before it set the whole building on fire but the failure was embarrassing and could have been fatal. The problem with the chimney became a metaphor for his relationship with Mary. The problems with the heating system in the house he had built forced him to learn more about the heating and air-conditioning trades and influenced his decision to enroll in the heating program at George Brown College. Unresolved issues with the house and between Philip and Mary contributed the break with Mary and the abandonment of the settlement at the Frostpocket.
In the summer of 1979 Philip constructed a double-flue masonry chimney that began on the basement floor and extended 35 feet to the peak of the house. The lumberyard in South River, where he purchased the masonry material, changed its supplier in the middle of the project. That, combined with his poor masonry skills, resulted in an extremely ugly although useable chimney. In the meantime Mary hosted a steady flow of visitors from Toronto, mostly her women friends. Philip and Mary argued all summer without resolving anything.
In the fall Philip and Mary returned to Toronto. Philip returned to school and Mary left to spend some time at the Catholic Worker house in New York City. Within weeks Philip had a brief affair with an old girlfriend and a friend of the leather shop, Janice Spellerberg. In October Philip and Janice announced their intention to get married and move to the United States but the decision was short-lived and Janice quickly backed out of the arrangement. Philip moved out of 33 Baldwin Street and continued to attend school five days a week while working in the leather shop ten hours a week. For the next nine months, he spent most of his time revising the constitution of the student government at the Casa Loma Campus of George Brown College and campaigning for the New Democratic Party in a federal election. In November Randy and Bie also broke-up and Randy left to visit his father in Atlanta, Georgia. Randy and Mary both returned to Toronto to attend the confirmation of Mary, Alice and Brendan Burdick in December but Philip and Mary made no attempt at reconciliation and Mary returned to New York City.
During 1979 the co-op had consisted of Philip and Mary, Bill and Randy Rauton, George and Colleen Mullins, Steve Spring and Bie Engelen. Consignment workers were Louis Emond, Ken Davidson, Ruth Lyons and Steve Spring. When Mary left, the shop became unglued. Mary was the vortex around which the leather shop revolved. Everyone except Bie and Steve were talking about leaving the shop. With Mary Rauton and the Starbucks already gone and George, Colleen and Philip all planning to leave for Texas within the next year, the consensus of the group was to give the leather shop to Steve Spring and/or Randy Rauton. However Randy was also undecided about whether to continue working in the shop or to learn another trade. In February 1980 he accepted a job offer from his father and left Toronto for six weeks to supervise a construction site near Atlanta. The responsibilities of running the house and the shop fell on George and Colleen and, to a lesser extent, on Bie. Both Bie and Colleen were working part-time at John Anderson’s clothing store on Yonge Street while running the leather shop and caring for their children. Little by little Steve Spring began to play a larger role in the day-to-day operation of the leather shop.
Bie Engelen and George and Colleen Mullins were running the leather shop in April while Randy Rauton was in Tampa, Florida renovating a cottage for his father's construction company. Philip was living in the neighborhood but was keeping his distance from the leather shop. He was not available to help at the shop. Philip and Janice’s son, Martin Spellerberg, was born in Toronto in late April and Philip visited the baby and his mother in the hospital almost daily until the baby was discharged from the hospital in early May. In late May Philip graduated from George Brown College and left for Texas in a Toyota that he and Dave Zimmerman purchased from a scrap yard.
George finished his program at George Brown College in May 1980 and he and his family returned to the Frostpocket farm. During the summer of 1980 George and Colleen were in the Frostpocket by themselves. Chris Risk and the other settlers had left. George entered some handicrafts in the South River Agricultural Fair and began repairing the wrecked Dodge van for their trip to Texas. In September George, Colleen, the three children and their cat left for Texas, leaving the settlement at Frostpocket abandoned.
The narrative continues at Steve Spring takes charge, September 1979-1984