Richard’s father, Phil Register, was an architect, and his mother, Jean, an enthusiastic supporter of the arts, sciences, and the garden. Many of his earliest memories are of tagging along with his father as he surveyed the bunch grass, choya, piñon and juniper-dappled New Mexico sites of future buildings that, sure enough, were there one or two years later.
When Richard was 21 he left Occidental College in Los Angeles to concentrate on his artwork, moved to Venice, California, started an organization called No War Toys, discovered that there was no art form for the sense of touch and began making tactile sculpture, and chanced upon the ideas and the person — Paolo Soleri – that launched his into ecocity issues.
No War Toys was his idea of what to do to contribute to the peace movement, as the Vietnam War was heating up. It was his activist training grounds for ecocity work too. The basic idea: war toys lie (war is decidedly not fun) to children at a very impressionable and important time in their lives and waste time diverting children from learning the arts of creativity and peace.
During the No War Toys years Richard was invited to public debates, recorded and live. He met Bob Dylan, got Joan Baez to help, and organized a fund raising party with The Doors two weeks before they opened on Sunset strip.
Looking for a logo for the organization, he wanted to come up with a universal symbol based on the human body, rather than something geometric. He noticed children frequently drew “happy faces”. After sixty or seventy tries he finally settled on one with a wry, off-balance smile, which became their most utilized version. “You should have copyrighted the thing,” said his friends, “You’d be a millionaire by now.” But the smiling No War Toys buttons and bumper stickers did in fact bring in one or two hundred dollars a night for the cause, lots of money in those days.