Monday, 29 July 2013

Ingenuity at the Bottom of a Box

Someone in our cooperative was a fan of a series of zines/pamphlets/architectural plans produced by a fellow named Roland Prodaniuk. We found quite a few of these in our dusty archival boxes.

I googled him, and am going to share a pic or two of the zines as well as the hint of a bio I can string together from the wide and unwieldy internet. From what I can gather, he seems to be an amazing and interesting personality living in north Edmonton. I'm going to send a few emails and perhaps find out a bit more, because I'm very curious about his connection to the co-op, as well as his life and history in general.

"The Pro Consulting Scientific Research Institute ecstatically thrives on probing, researching, and solving problems as related to the paramount problem pentad: Peace, Pollution, Population, Poverty, and Power (energy)."

On this website he appears as a character in the stories of an Edmontonion looking into the history of Fort Road. Some memorable excerpts from -

There. That's where he'd be, down there in that space. That's what the cops said. And they told us to take note of the water bottles lined up along the window.
One of the cops started going on and on about Roland's habits and rituals but the other cop stopped him, "Don't tell them everything."
We went outside to get one last shot of Roland. He told us a funny story after and I don't think he heard us when we said "we have to get going."
We never had time to get to what the water bottles in the window were for. And we never learned about the history of the road. In fact, by the end of the night, I don't think we knew much more at all about anything. Maybe we'll go back for a visit.
Bye Roland. I hope you're okay with all those peanuts you eat.

Some of the pictures have audio attached, and I would strongly encourage anyone with a moment or two to listen to them. Especially "Shine the Light on It" - in which we hear about Roland's perspectives on business and non-profits.

They want to use Casinos to raise funds. That's just robbing the poor.

On a website named "Elementymology & Elements Multidict," there is a paragraph that reads:

Roland George Prodaniuk, of Edmonton, Canada, suggests that element 120 is the last element. He named the element Rolandium (Ro), "named after its theorist and originator, Rolandium sounds better than Prodaniukium and far better than if shortened to Prodanium. See Element 120 Details. Prodaniuk, who signs his messages to the Yahoo group "synergeo" as Advanced Problematist & Theorist is the owner (and only employee?) of the Pro Consulting Scientific Research Institute.

This institute has it's own website, mostly dealing with ideas about chemistry, the periodic table, and particle physics (from what an uneducated social scientist can gather):

On the topic of the social sciences, I love this phrase. "Cease burying utilities. The sole benefit of any thing humankind buried to date that is not a seed for plant growth, or soil nutrient, is the gainful employment of only a few archaeologists and fewer anthropologists, absolutely nothing else, while for posterity the tangible detriments are infinite" (found on the third page of this pamphlet):

Finally, "If They Can't Afford Houses, Give Them Castles!"

I love people and stories, and will be pursuing this one further.

House Priorities

I'm tagging this as 1990s as an educated guess - and as a current resident of the Golden Lentils Lodge I appreciated finding this in the bottom of the box, because as far as I can tell our priorities haven't changed much ten-twenty years later!

Certificate of Incorporation

One of the first manifestations of our organization.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Seven Cooperative Principles

While leafing through a recent looking edition of The NASCO Guide to Co-ops (the year of publication was nowhere to be found), I stumbled across a section called “Statement of Cooperative Identity”, and one of the things listed within was a set of 7 co-op principles.  Now, in all honesty my mind went, “Does every organization go by a set of 7 principles???” which was a gross hyperbolization on my brain’s part, but the church that I’m currently attending is also structured on 7 principles, so suddenly it felt like the ENTIRE WORLD was grouped into such a structure.  Anyways, I thought they were interesting, so I’m going to share them with you.  Here they are, word for word according to The NASCO Guide (not including all the explanations, simply to keep this short n snappy):
·      1st principle: Voluntary and open membership
·      2nd principle: Democratic member control
·      3rd principle: Member economic participation
·      4th principle: Autonomy and independence
·      5th principle: Education, Training, and Information
·      6th principle: Cooperation among cooperatives
·      7th principle: Concern for community

Pretty cool, eh?  Sounds like how I like to live…I guess that’s why I’m here! 

Stewards of the Earth

Ilara says: In celebration of Earth Day, I thought I’d do a brief review to summarize the masses of files that we found revolving around various environmental issues. 
It seems quite clear that somebody at some point must have been some sort of an environmental surveyor; there are multitudes of articles on the migration and habitation patterns of various animals of Alberta, as well as a few newspaper clippings on how to get along with the neighborhood wildlife.  Personally, even though I’m painfully undereducated on these matters, I find them fascinating and am ever willing to learn how to live side by side with nature in ways that have a more positive impact on our planet.  I think that it’s absolutely fantastic that co-op living attracts folks with the wealth of knowledge in this area that is presented within the articles we found; everything from the numbers of deer in an area from year to year to what types of trees attract specific species of beetle.  With species going extinct every minute of every day, I take some pride in knowing that the folks I associate with are working to do something to help, even in the little ways.  Personally, I’m excited to grow some of our own food this year and a few flowers from the Heritage Seeds that my housemate found tucked away in storage; it’s nice to have a way of doing my part to care for the Earth.

Faun says: As a fairly recent addition to the cooperative, I have spent the last few months explaining to everyone I know how it is organized, what its values are, and what its members are like. The most common stereotype that people hearing about a cooperative for the first time seem to fall back on is that of the tree-hugger – and to be fair, I’m pretty sure that all of us in my house love trees. Trees are up there with our other diverse loves (including neutron stars, printmaking, welding, music, and ethnographic activism). What I love about my house, the cooperative, and the archiving/discovery process that Ilara and I are going through is the variety of people that all share a commitment to thinking about our impact on our environment. Depending on the person, this may entail anything from buying locally to habitually practicing random acts of kindness. An awareness of being connected with others – socially, environmentally, politically, etc – this is what seems to characterize cooperative members. I think that the values embedded in the co-op community help build this, and have done so over many years, as reflected in the papers Ilara mentioned. In thinking about the Earth, we also think about community.

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Raggedy Anarchy's Guide to Vegan Baking and the Universe

This fantastic little recipe zine was found in a box in Golden Lentils' new office (the 2013 residents have proudly put all of our random boxes in one room! Not in the basement!) and can be purchased, we have discovered, here:

In the meantime, we have taken some photos because we feel that Raggedy Anarchy might hint at the personalities of some of those who lived here during the 90s. This decade is a guess, based on the context of the other fun papers (including "efficiency of aerial surveys of mountain goats" and "animal ingredients a-z").

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Bringing it Home: How the Experience of Digging into Past Records Helps Build Community

Hello viewers! This is the post where we, the bloggers,
introduce ourselves and our present experiences of the process
of putting together this archive.

It begins with two of us; that is, two, relatively new to Assiniboia Housing Co-op members seeking to find out and document some part of the rich history that is our new community and home. It also begins with many boxes of documents from decades passed that have been… somewhat organized. The label ‘miscellaneous’ has found its way onto many of the boxes collected in the basement of one of our houses, the Golden Lentils Lodge. Although absolutely an exciting project, this initial pile of papers and file folders (many of them empty, oddly enough) is also a tad daunting, to say the least.

Ilara: At the Board Meeting in which this project was approved last month, Faun and I discovered that we were both living in Assiniboia; we had been in high school together here in Edmonton nearly a decade ago, so right off the bat were made aware of the “small world” atmosphere that living in community often tends to foster in deep, meaningful, and often mysterious ways. I mention this because I feel it’s relevant; in creating this archive, we (and whoever decides to join in on the project in the future) are not only documenting our history, but sharing time together to connect and laugh and experience community in a very real way.

Having spent a few solid hours looking through the “miscellaneous” boxes, organizing and attempting to deem what was appropriate to set aside to upload at a later date, we encountered many interesting historical records, countless paperwork on bylaws and co-op procedure, and other various snapshots into the lives of those that came before us. I have to say, however, that I had two highlights of the evening’s event: first, discovering two handwritten cards that had been correspondences between the houses and members that had recently left (there were two from around the same time, and the names matched up between them! Realize that they weren’t neatly filed together…they were found boxes apart, so the second one felt like a diamond in a coalmine; nestled unceremoniously between bylaws and grocery lists.); and second, finding a single paragraph in an old newsletter that was a thank you note to a previous member for the use of his truck, which hit a personal chord for the simple reason that the member being thanked thirty years or so ago is a friend of mine who I know from an entirely different circle of people. I really feel it’s the little things that make life sweet.

Faun: I decided that a community archive project would be great fun after hearing a story about members of a motorcycle chapter that used to live in Golden Lentils (presumably before it was given that name). A long ago co-op member told me about finding a series of letters in the house’s archives – a conversation between the bike chapter and the City about an illegal chicken coop in the back yard. The messages end with the chapter angrily telling the government that they had gotten rid of the chickens, but that the city should be aware that it had forced them to eat their friends.

Sadly, I have not yet found these letters. Perhaps they are lost in the bottom of one of our creatively organized boxes. More likely, they were discarded years ago by someone who (understandably) valued breathing room more than dusty papers. While this particular story has not been forthcoming, we have found countless other pieces of years past. We hope to continue to record both the stories that have been hinted at on paper and those that come from the memories of former members. As a part of this project we ask that those who have tales to share from the cooperative at any point in time think about sending us their experiences. We would love to hear about some of the moments this community has accumulated over time. Our new commitment to recording and sharing these moments is, I suspect, just our excuse to spend time listening to stories.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Orientation Sheet, Golden Lentils 2002

These are selected excerpts from a member orientation sheet for the Golden Lentils Lodge from 2002.

1. Welcome

2. Expectations from Orientation
An overview of what ACHC is all about, how it all fits together and how you can play an active part. These types of gatherings I find essential, if not also a little bit boring(!) - because our coop relies so heavily on oral communication and storytelling to pass on knowledge and experience.

3. Agenda...

4. History of Assiniboia - maybe the larger picture (ie. NACHA, CHF, etc)
The history of ACHC is a little fuzzy, to say the least. My understanding is as follows. Our history begins as student housing through the UofA. In 1967, this coop began originally called Campus Cooperative Association Ltd. (We are still affiliated with the university - storing our archives in BARD and often listing vacancies through the housing registry). Originally there were roughly 20(!?) houses in the coop all in and around this area. These houses were sold over the years because the coop fiances went, and continued to stay, awry... theoretically things are under much better control now! The last house to be sold was Suite Manors (next door to Lentils) about 5-6 years ago, allowing the coop to pay off the mortgages to all the houses. Since then the coop has been putting aside $880 a month (the original mortgage payments) such that we are now in a position to purchase or build(!) another house.

5. Philosophy
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality and solidarity. Cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
- voluntary and open membership
- democratic control
- member economic participation
- cooperative autonomy and independence
- education, training and information
- cooperation among cooperatives
- community
(excerpt from the International Cooperative Alliance Statement on the Cooperative Identity, 1995)

What about Assiniboia philosophy? As we currently practice:
- sharing and communal living
- we are our own landlords, responsible for maintaining properties, membership, etc

6. Structure

There are three houses in the coop (Muse, Golden Lentils, and Usalama)
Each house selects a House Rep who ties the house to the Board. The House REp brings concerns/news from the house to the Board and vice-versa.

The Board is composed of 6 positions all of which are held by members ofthe coop. Elections are held twice a year; individuals holding positions may run for re-election.

Semi-Annual General Meetings

Committees (Current and Past)
- Membership
- Maintenance/Budget
- Bulk Purchase
- Expansion

The Light gets in from the Crack in the Wall

The most recent artistic addition to the co-op, painted in the living room at Muse House by member Ilara Stefaniuk-Gaudet and her father, Michael Gaudet, is the resulting creation of a comment made by a co-member wishing to use the crack in the wall for a good purpose; and thus, a giant tree was born!  The sun is actually coming in through the crack in the wall; perhaps a metaphor, and perhaps just a fabulous covert cover-up operation.  The mural is entitled "Dare to be Different", and was just completed in January 2013.  There was an unveiling ceremony at the Board Meeting in February at which it was very well received by the Co-op Community.

A Legendary Chalkboard

A Day in the Life of 1984

Notes in the message book of an unnamed house by unnamed residents, found in the basement of the Golden Lentils Lodge. 

"Need for house meeting to dispose of possibly hypothetical surplus in 'ambrosia'"

"The honey pot is a yet another sticky disaster - please take care - let us work shoulder to shoulder, to advance into a joyous future which is unsticky but still sweet"

"I'll say goodbye here since I won't likely see you before you leave. I hope your cups are durable, fences far away, bears few and far between, and I hope our paths cross again some time"

Miscellaneous Minutes Record, January 4th 1987

That "the name of the new house be Usalama House. This is the Swahili name for Peace".

Letter from the Campus Co-operative Association (1977)

In a letter we found from 1977, the following information was given:

The original intention of the 1967 Association (from which the Assiniboia cooperative was later born) was to provide housing for mature students. Campus Co-Op, the name of the cooperative by 1977, allowed single adults to live in the co-op as well.
In 1977, Campus Co-Op owned one house and rented 10 others, and had approximately 65 members. Each house involved single adults renting bedrooms and sharing cooking facilities and common areas.

In an section entitled 'recommendations,' the letter reads: "Initially we would like to point out that a definition of a co-operative may not be necessary and if it is to be included should not be elitist or otherwise be more restrictive to incorporation that the current legislation. People join co-ops for a variety of motives varying from strong ideological points of view to those who join for economic advantage."