Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Michael B

Posted in History, Jon Crispin, Mental Health, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 05/08/2015

Here is another example of a complication in one’s life that could possibly lead to time spent at Willard.  It has not been unusual to find evidence of language problems in the lives of people who were patients there.  Obviously, there must have been other factors in Michael’s situation that led him to Willard, but we have never seen such a direct link to language issues.  (Michael was born Michele B in Italy.)  The pink note should be readable, but if not, here is the text.  “Please give this man something for his ear as he can not talk much english [sic] to make you understand what he wants.”  Very sad, and I wonder what the writer meant by “something for his ear”.  My first thought upon reading this was a reference to the Babel Fish which is featured in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide series of books.

This is also the second case in which we found postcards having to do with the Lone Ranger.

Yesterday, we also photographed Lawrence Mocha’s suitcase.  I will do a longer post about him in the next few days.

Thanks for following.

2 Responses

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  1. Barbara said, on 12/08/2015 at 1:18 pm

    I have been following your work for ever so long and am always amazed at the photographs and your comments about the photographs. The suitcases are so touching and thought provoking. As I was reading this last post I kept wondering how many people ended up spending years, perhaps the rest of their lives in institutions simply because they could not speak the language or understand what was being said or required of them. Perhaps authorities or powers that be were simply unwilling to look beyond something like a hearing problem or a language problem and “off the person went”………forever. Thank you Jon for all your work, comments and effort.

    • joncrispin said, on 12/08/2015 at 1:25 pm

      Barbara, thank you so much for your encouraging words. The whole idea of institutionalization is so complex! There were clearly people at Willard whose lives were safer and improved by living there. On the other side, there were people who should never have been put into that environment. Unfortunately now, places like Willard no longer really exist, and many of the people who struggle with mental illness are either on the streets or in prison. At heart, I think the state was trying their best, and the former employees of Willard have shown me that there was a lot of care and concern given to the patients. Thanks so much for your comment. Best, Jon


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