Moonbeam reflects on origins of People’s Food Store

by on January 22, 2010 · 10 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Labor, Ocean Beach

peoples food storefront 72

The Voltaire Street storefront of People's Food Store, circa 1972.

by Sunshine


Questing, contrary, willful, inventive, questioning women. We are women who name ourselves and announce ourselves as the oracles we are. Breaking the mirror of deceit that kept us tamed, framed, within the mirror, the cage. Unbound in this world, free to achieve our hearts desires.

I am reminded of such women by Laughing Womyn’s (Whispers of Our Knowings by Laughing Womyn Ashonosheni) words on First Woman.

“Return, return, sisters, with me to the time of our origins. Remember First Woman…she whose body was made from this Earth, molded and shaped to carry and birth the coming generations of children, of ideas, of human ways of being. Remember, sisters, when we gave birth to words, and writing, and counting. Remember our healing ways, our artwork, our ways of expressing ourselves, our strong muscles and bones, our minds that fly with our souls.”

Women like this have lived in OB for generations. Women who embrace the wisdom of all sage women who came before them. Women who perceive needs beyond their own and begin their compassionate dance flush with the excitement of new discovery. Women who freely pass along what they’ve learned to new generations. “Spin beyond the compass and reclaim your sense of direction.”

How many of these women can you honestly remember meeting in your lifetime? How many such women do you know now in OB? I have the good fortune of knowing one such woman personally. Come along with me to visit with her as she shines her light on her experiences in OB in the late 60’s/early 70’s.

Moonbeam’s (her real name is Jeanne, but in the true spirit of the late 60’s, and taking a creative liberty here, she suggests we use Moonbeam throughout the article ) warm hospitality is only surpassed by her illumination of her multi-generational history in OB. She offers me a freshly made cup of coffee (damn good one at that!) and we settle into her warm, welcoming kitchen for what would turn out to be a rich and enjoyable conversation.

Her family ~ from grandparents to grandchildren ~ has lived in Southern California for five generations now. Her beginnings in OB started in 1968. As a legalized adult teenager, she married and rented a small house on Brighton (a steep $60 bucks a month back then) to begin her new family’s life. Humble beginnings for three in this one bedroom house to be certain, yet one significant enough to have changed OB forever.

Peoples Food store under const and old

People’s Food Store (left) next to construction of OB People’s Co-op (right). Sept 2002.

As her words begin to flow, each one full of zest and sparkle that only women like her possess, she comes alive and reveals her memories in living color. For her, life isn’t about embracing or amassing riches. Her cares and passions are those of family and community. OB provided her a community where her “children could safely walk to school and the beach. Everything was in walking distance; department stores, a theater, two major grocery chains (Mayfair and Safeway).” She had no real need for a car. “When I moved to OB it was aging old people with good beach attitudes who got along with young people and hippies. We respected each other. We talked to each other. We were a community.”

“OB was the Center of Dissidence in San Diego [then]. [To us living in OB] it was mellow. When a community need arose, people came together and did something about it. In speaking with other members of the community, the need for healthy, cheap food came up.”

Moonbeam heard her inner call to action and did something about it.

Through word-of-mouth research she found sources of “healthy foods at real cheap prices.” She would drive out to local San Diego farms, pick up fresh dairy, grains, beans, flours, nuts, and honey, and bring it back to OB in her old VW Bus (complete with antler horns bolted the front of it). A handful of volunteers would bag and distribute it to those in need from her house in the 4900 block of Brighton.

Once again, a community need was uncovered through caring conversation amongst friendly neighbors; a need as basic as healthy, affordable food. Enter a strong, capable, caring OB woman. One who freely stepped up to the plate, rallied others to help, rolled up her sleeves, and got to work, never for a moment thinking of making a profit. Moonbeams eyes grow wide, her voice strong and more assured than it was a moment ago, and she passionately roars “It was never, ever, ever supposed to be about profit! NEVER!”

A new choice for all was born. OBceans now had a choice to keep shopping at either of the corporately-owned supermarkets in town or obtain fresh, healthy, organic, affordable food at another venue.

“We called it the People’s Food Store and it worked. No membership was required. Heck, money wasn’t even necessary all the time. Those who shopped there began bartering homemade baked good for baking supplies. Eventually, fresh picked, homegrown produce [from OBcean’s gardens] began making its way into the store via bartering. Everyone was benefiting.”

It was a peaceful solution to real people’s needs.

Even after Moonbeam moved to a farm where she raised vegetables, goats, chickens, geese, and rabbits for a few years, she continued to bring fresh homegrown vegetables to the People’s Food for trade. I can just imagine this strong, empowered, 70’s, now single mom with 2 year old daughter-in-tow, loading up her pieced together 1960 Volvo with fresh farm goods and a plethora of homegrown produce, driving three times a week on her own dime from Campo to OB, all while attending SDSU. Sounds like a strong, center woman who lives and breathes compassion in action in its highest form!

In Moonbeam’s years on the farm, more and more people shopped and bartered at People’s. A second generation of volunteers rose up to keep People’s Food Store alive and well. Under this second wave of volunteers a new location, a house on Voltaire, was rented to provide additional space. Rent and utilities were paid by the monies collected at the non-profit store. Not one single volunteer collected a paycheck. Profit from food was still considered “corporate greed attaching itself to a basic human need.” Natural, harmonious progression during these years saw the birth of order sheets, classified ads regarding food pick-up dates/times in the OB Rag (OBRag archives: Vol 1, No 17, July 71; Vol 2, No 8, March 72), free membership, even a free box where people could exchange clothes.

Once again, women, remember the wisdom of those who came before you. Women like Moonbeam who have stood up and bucked the status quo throughout history to provide for their families and community. Moonbeam enhanced the lives of all OBceans with her willingness and ability to help her community. Her significant, donated efforts revolutionized the way things were. Because of her gifts of time and energy, along with others who volunteered in the beginning, OBceans had access to healthy, affordable, organic foods outside the corporate establishment.

As a third generation of volunteers took over, People’s Food Store turned into what is now known as the OB’s People’s Food Co-op. Yep, the very one standing at Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs today. But, that’s another story in itself and I mustn’t digress.

Moonbeam wraps up our conversation with this …

“At the end of your life what will you cherish above all else? Greed? Profit? Or what you did that changed people’s lives for the better? What will comfort you as you take your last breath?”

That’s heavy, man. Her questions make me wonder about my own life in OB. What community need(s) do I see or hear about? Am I doing anything to help? I must continue to ask myself these types of questions, less I turn a blind eye to my fellows and this caring, community spirit vanishes forever due to my inability to take action.

Thank you, Moonbeam, for reminding me why I chose OB as my home in the first place. Family, community, self, those who came before us, those who to follow: we are all connected. Thank you, Laughing Womyn and Moonbeam, for helping us remember who and what we truly are and what we are fully able to do.

“Willful women turn the stones; question the questions as well as the answers.”

I believe that collectively we can continue to make revolutionary differences in OB. Moonbeam and others did it in the 60’s/70’s. Countless sage women before them have done it in their respective communities. Willing to join me, fellow OBceans, in keeping our community one where those in need are still offered a hand up, not a hand out? My eyes are open and my fingers ready on the keys. Tell the OBRag what needs you are aware of in OB (and to our readers outside OB…what needs do you see in your community?).

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Karen Kelly January 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Excellent! It seems to often these days that the generation coming up has forgotten the hard won battles we fought for equality. Remembering those women is a good reminder of what we did and continue to do for people everywhere.
Thanks Sunshine for showing us the way.



avatar Ernie McCray January 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Great piece filled with sunshine that lights up a hopeful past wherein women shine as they always have. Having been raised by a strong loving free thinking community minded single mom and then living with and raising children with one who possessed the same attributes, I appreciate stories that highlight just what women contribute to our world.


avatar Patty Jones January 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Right on Sisters!


avatar lane tobias January 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

that is certainly a perfect way to convey the intersection of love and action that led to what is now the co-op. Amazing and well written.


avatar Robert Burns January 23, 2010 at 9:44 am

Thank you Moonbeam then, now, and always
Your moonbeam lights up all of our days!

Was that place on the 4900 block of Brighton what used to be known as “Veggie House”?


avatar Margaret January 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

Thank you.


avatar Larry OB January 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Didn’t the Sandalmaker and his family also live on the 4900 block of Brighton?

As for OB needs…I think we need a better way to pool, buy, sell, or barter used books. Amazon has made it easy to buy used books, but that book has a new carbon footprint and needs new cardboard every time there’s an ownersip change.


avatar Danny Morales January 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Another Hymn to The Godess! Thank you, Sunshine for enlightening us to the spiritual/character element of our common history. We definitely need that spirit of compassion and generosity that the Moonbeams of Ocean Beach have brought to our community and the world. Would that it were possible to inject moonbeams into the blood of every real estate developer, merchant, gangsta wannabe and land rover liberal in OB. Well I can dream can’t I? |:>{p


avatar Suzanne Kammerer March 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Great article. I grew up in your area and so appreciate the insights, movement, and freedom of powerful women. We are everywhere!
You might check out Laughing Womyn’s Radiant Wisdom Tarot and newly published other books via Amazon etc. Whispers of Our Knowings was and is a treasure.
Peace and heart hugs, Suzanne


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