“Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate,” by Mona Field

8 Jun

Mona Field began her career in education at Evans Adult School in Los Angeles teaching English as a Second Language,  then transitioned to what became a quarter century of teaching sociology and political science at Glendale Community College. She has been active in her union, the American Federation of Teachers, and is currently serving in her fourth term as an elected member of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, representing over four million people. She hopes she has remained faithful to the values of her youth, and she treasures the lifelong friendships that came from her early activism. (Mona is the daughter of Helen Colton, whose blog post was run earlier on this site.)

In 1962 I was only nine. I remember walking precincts with my mother to support Pat Brown for governor of California. A year later someone came into my elementary school class and said, “They shot the president.” It was Thanksgiving vacation—I watched TV for days. I remember Oswald, the funeral procession, Jackie and her hat.

I was a bit of a pink diaper baby on my father’s side. I say “a bit” because my father was only briefly in the Communist Party. Before they divorced in the mid-60s, my mom used to say that he was “too lazy to sell party newspapers,” as if that’s why he left the party. I still remember every May Day my Dad would say, “Drop tools, comrades! All out for May Day!”

Dad was a screenwriter and supported the Hollywood 10. He had a contract with Columbia pictures and was active in the founding of the Writers Guild. He lost his job; I’m guessing he was blacklisted. Later he free-lanced, and when he couldn’t sell any more scripts, he left the industry and became a small businessman selling precious metals.

Mom was an individualist, too much so to join the CP or any other group. She wrote articles on sexuality and women’s issues for the New York Times and for women’s magazines like Redbook and McCall’s, most of which are no longer published. Mom was ahead of her time. She gave up a career for her children but continued to free-lance. Two of her books are The Joy of Touch and Sex After the Sexual Revolution. [Editor’s note: See a prior post on this site by Mona’s mom, Helen Colton.]

Dad took us to “Love-Ins” at Griffith Park in the mid-60s. On June 23, 1967 he and my step-mom took me to an anti-war rally in Century City at the Century Plaza Hotel where President Johnson was speaking. There I witnessed for the first time the use of tear gas and batons against demonstrators. I was 13.

In Hollywood High School from 1967 to 1968  I went on the bus to San Francisco peace marches. I was 15 or 16 by then. Once someone from the Grateful Dead sat next to me on the bus. I also participated in a women’s group on campus. A woman named Lisa recruited me to many other activities as well. Her parents were Maoists. To this day she’s still a friend.

I had two circles of friends—political and social. I was student body secretary, on the Honor Society, and editor of the school paper. But I was also in a Marxist study group.  I led a sit-in on campus in the principal’s office; we demanded that a Black Panther be permitted to speak at an assembly. My political friends and I wore buttons, and lots of us carried around the Little Red Book and quoted from it. About the time of Kent State (Spring 1970) we had a rally where we sat in again at the principal’s office.  I remember reporters asking me: Who put you up to this? Years later we realized that informers and police had probably infiltrated our groups.

I graduated from high school at 16. During  my senior year I had to choose a college. At the University of California in Berkeley, the radicals had a slogan: Don’t fold, spindle, or mutilate 1. It was a critique of the UC bureaucracy and became a slogan of the Free Speech Movement. So I didn’t apply to Berkeley because its image was of bureaucracy and lack of concern about the individual.

I applied to Stanford instead. In addition, I needed a backup college, according to my counselor. I wasn’t sure why she insisted on this because at the time people weren’t listing backups as they do today. But I chose a backup—Immaculate Heart College here in Los Angeles, which I visited and liked. Stanford rejected me so I ended up at Immaculate Heart. Years later that same counselor told me that I’d been blackballed at Stanford; the principal of  my high school was a Stanford alumnus.

I had mixed feelings about attending Immaculate Heart but was later grateful that I did because it offered small, seminar-style, personal classes. In addition, the classes focused on process and not content; in the future many of my life skills came from that approach to learning. Finally, a friend lived on Vendome Street in Silverlake (Los Angeles), and through her I met the Food Conspiracy2 people.


  1. “Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate”  is a phrase adopted by the counter-culture of the 1960s.  It referred to a punch card but became a symbol of alienation and more generally of anxiety about technology.  Punch cards were developed to tabulate the 1890 U.S. Census and later served in the development of computer technology.  Through them, data was inputted into a mainframe computer in the 1950s and 1960s. Punching a set of these cards (called IBM cards) was  tedious and time-consuming.]
  2. The Echo Park/Silverlake Food Conspiracy was an impromptu food coop run by mostly activists from the 60s. It offered weekly political discussion groups as well as cheap groceries from 1969 through about 1980.

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