Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard / Meadville Trip / Conneaut Lake Park

AMeadville Trip with Peter September 2018

After living in D.C. for the past 5 years, our son Peter has moved home for a bit to take some classes and do GRE prep.  It is nice to have him around.  Soon after he returned to Massachusetts we planned a quick trip to Meadville and Pittsburgh to catch a Pirates game.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The Willard employee reunion dish-to-pass event was happening on the Saturday that we drove out, so he and I stopped to say hi to old friends.  We had time afterwards to go to the cemetery which is always a very moving experience.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The sign at the Jewish part of the cemetery is looking a bit run down and could use some help.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The little stone marker is still there.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Here is one of the numbered graves in that part of the cemetery.  It makes me so sad that #43 has no name.  The state of New York could remedy this if they cared enough to publish the names of the patients who are buried here.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Before Peter and I continued on to Meadville, we stopped by the Romulus Historical Society building to see the recent exhibit updates.  It was nice to see Craig Williams and Debbie Nichols who had been a nursing student and then a nurse at Willard.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Here is Debbie sitting next to her actual uniform.  It is a great little museum and well worth a visit.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

I’ve been stopping at the Angola Rest Area on the New York Thruway for as long as I can remember.  It is so nice to walk over the highway to get to the main building.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The first stop was a visit to Eddie’s Footlongs on the lake road outside of Meadville.  I had 2 with the works.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Next stop Hank’s Frozen Custard.  I had 2 here as well.  Chocolate.

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On Sunday morning we got word that the Pirate’s game was cancelled due to rain, so we checked out of the motel and drove to Allegheny College to see the tree we planted in honor of my Dad.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

My sister Karen chose a lovely Winter King, and it is thriving.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

It was a rainy Sunday morning and after breakfast at the Meadville Market House Grill, we drove out  for a last Hank’s and then around Conneaut Lake.  The amusement park was not surprisingly deserted, but it was strange that country music was playing through the loudspeakers.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

There was no one there to yell at us to stay off the rides, so we wandered and took some pictures.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Ugh, clowns.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

On the left above is the Blue Streak roller coaster.  I was never keen on riding it, but once Judy Jacoby who was my girlfriend for a short time convinced me to go on it.  It was fine.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

It is difficult to know for sure, but I think the park is still open.  But it was a bit eerie to walk around with the music blaring and nobody else there.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The coaster car is pretty classic.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

A Century Flyer made in Dayton, Ohio.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Here’s the entry into the first tunnel.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The master controls. ↑

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Peter and I actually rode the Devil’s Den many years ago.  The “Infamous Gum Wall!! is just that.  People started sticking chewing gum on the wall when the ride slowed down and it became….well infamous.

Cristine and I are off to Nepal on Friday.  I hope to post regularly from Kathmandu.

Cheers everyone and thanks for following.

 

 

 

Willard Suitcases / Madeline C

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

I have posted about Madeline before and her possessions represent a very interesting life before she came to Willard.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Throughout this project I have consciously tried to avoid obvious links between the objects in the collection and any sort of connection to being institutionalized, but  I found it interesting that this was the only recording among Madeline’s things.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

She came to Willard with a fairly complete record of her life in New York City, including her time studying at Columbia University and Hunter College.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

She seemed to be interested in philosophy.  There were quite a few references to Bergson in her papers.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Her handwriting was really lovely.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

Her diaries were especially complete.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

I searched online for this poem thinking that she might have copied it as an exercise in writing in English (her first language was French), but nothing turned up.

Willard Suitcases
Madeline C

In any event, it is an incredible piece of writing.

Willard Suitcases 
Madeline C

It is especially interesting how well her life was documented in photographs, and that most of the images also had their original negatives.  Looking at the dates in her diaries, many of these were taken in the 1920s.

Willard Suitcases 
Madeline C

The fox stole around her neck in the picture on the right is something that one doesn’t see anymore.

Willard Suitcases 
Madeline C

I have stayed in the Prince George Hotel on W. 27th Street twice in my life.  Once in high school with my friends Jay, Jeff, and Dennis.  That was an interesting trip!  And once sometime in the 80s shortly before it became an SRO.  Quite interesting as well.

You can check out the photos of Madeline’s cases at the Willard Suitcases site.  Click on “The Cases”, scroll to the bottom and click on Madeline C.  Be sure to click “view all” as there are many more than 25 images.  The site was hacked into recently and everything seems to be sorted now.  Huge thanks to Steve Fox at Born Digital Web Design for getting it fixed.  He’s the man if you need a photo site set up.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 14 April 2015

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am working my way through Margaret’s cases and her collection never ceases to amaze me.  You can see the latest here. (Don’t forget to click “view all” as there are now close to 500 images in her collection.)

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

Margaret brought quite a number of sewing items with her when she came to Willard, including the above stencil with Masonic designs.

Willard Suitcases 
Margaret D.
©2015 Jon Crispin

I am currently editing a shoot that was mostly delicate items like the above undergarment, as well as some of her nursing uniforms.  I’ll have a post up sometime in the next few days with those photos.

I would also mention that Margaret was one of the 10 folks originally featured in the State Museum’s 2004 exhibit.  The made-up surname they used for her was Dunleavy and if you do a search for her name and Willard you should come across very detailed information about her life.  The “Lives They Left Behind” book has a surprisingly complete history of her life before Willard.

I am often asked about how much I know about the patient’s lives before and during their time at the institution.  It is way too complex for me to elaborate here, but needless to say, I have very strong feelings about my need to separate the patient’s clinical lives from what we can learn about them through their possessions.  I tend to talk about it when I present the project to various groups, so maybe one day we will get the chance to meet up and chat.  Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Chapin House / NAMI Waco

Willard Hallway

I took this photo in the early 1980s at the very beginning of my connection with Willard.  It is still one of my favorites from the “Silent Voices” project.

Here are a few shots from my recent uploads to the suitcases site.

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I’m not exactly sure what the white fabric object is in Kenneth Q’s case, but it is interesting.  The orange toothbursh is kind of nice.

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Elizabeth C’s dress is so beautiful.

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The cotton fabric is soft and wonderful.

Willard Suitcases

There are 3 different places on the above photograph where I had to obscure Amelia’s surname, and it still makes me sad every time I have to do so.  The Office of Mental Health pr guy told me a few years ago that it was necessary due to the stigma of mental illness.  It is precisely that attitude that prolongs that stigma; the Willard patients deserve to be recognized as being more than just patients at a New York State asylum.

On Wednesday, I fly to Texas to present the suitcases project at a dinner sponsored by NAMI Waco.  Here is a link to the event.  If you are in the area, it would be great to see you and make a connection.

Thanks for following.

Willard Patient Dress / Part 1

The Willard Suitcase Project

There are quite a few items in the Willard collection at the New York State Museum that are not part of my suitcases documentation.  These “institutional” pieces were too numerous to photograph, but this embroidered dress just had to be documented.  The work was done by a patient who is not identified, but I am in touch with some folks who worked at Willard who might know who created this.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This will be a photo heavy post with less text than in my usual posts, but the details in the dress are amazing and I wanted to share as many as I could.

The Willard Suitcase Project

It wasn’t just the amazing designs; the precision of the embroidery knocked us out.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

There were a good number of cats on the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This one seems to be hovering over a plant.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Not sure what is going oh above, but the orange is such a beautiful color.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This looks to me like a cat but what is it doing?  Any thoughts?

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

I love how this person’s hair is rendered.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The orange flower in her hair is lovely.

The Willard Suitcase Project

These little flowers are so delicate.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The watch and ring on this figure are such a nice touch.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Thanks so much to Peg Ross for helping me set the dress up in order to photograph it.  I am terrible at stuff like this, and as usual, she really made it happen.  And if I remember correctly, Connie Houde from the museum was also there to assist.

I hope to post the back of the dress (I want to keep calling it a shift; is that correct?) sometime soon.  I leave Atlanta later today but will head out to the Botanical Garden before my flight.  Thanks for following.

Ovid / Willard Cemetery / NAMI Waco

I had a great meeting at the Edith B. Ford Library in Ovid, NY to talk about the possibility of working on an oral history project with former Willard employees.  Peter Carroll and I drove up from Ithaca this morning and met with Shannon O’Connor and Monica Kelly who both are doing amazing things at the library.  Monica is building an archive of Willard materials, and if anyone who reads this has any records or photographs related to the asylum, you should really contact her.

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Afterwards Pete and I drove to the Holy Cross Cemetery on Gilbert Road.

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Recently, a local group raised funds and erected a monument to Willard folks who died at the institution and are buried at Holy Cross.  I am not exactly sure what the problem is, but some people have objected to it, and so the monument has been covered up since just after it was unveiled.  The issue of naming former patients and staff continues to come up, and is still a problem on many levels.  I’ll be eager to find out what really happened here.

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After leaving Holy Cross, we drove over to the Willard Cemetery which is down the road and across the street from the asylum.  This is such an indescribably moving place for me. It was a really beautiful late Winter day and the idea that 5,776 former patients are buried here in unmarked graves always touches me deeply.

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The site is very well looked after, and the area around some of the few remaining numbered cast iron markers has recently been cleared of brush.

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And it is always nice to see the monument to Lawrence Mocha, who as a patient, dug by hand over 1500 of the graves.

I found out today that I have been invited to Waco, Texas to be the keynote speaker at the annual NAMI Waco dinner and gala.  The event is the evening of Thursday, 18th May and if you live anywhere nearby, I would love to meet you.

Willard Suitcases / Names

Posted in Asylums, History, institutionalization, Mental Health, patient's names, psych centers by joncrispin on 05/10/2015

 I am especially taken by the labels that we find in the suitcases.  These small bits of paper and string give us quite a bit of information about the patient as they were brought to Willard.  In this case, W (we only have an initial) S (not allowed to use her surname) came to the institution on 16 November 1938.  This is a rare case where the label is ripped, but even so, I have had to obscure part of her name.

I am aware that there is an active debate about this, but I come down firmly on the side that would have me able to include the patient’s full names with their possessions.  The reason I am forbidden from naming patients has to do with specific New York State law about the privacy of people who were wards of the state.  This law supersedes even the Federal HIIPA regulations, which state that 50 years after death, records are available to the public. In fact, many other states use full names in talking about former patients at asylums and psychiatric centers.  I won’t go into all the reasons why I feel it is respectful to name the suitcase owners, as I am not so good at putting this kind of argument in writing.  But someone contacted me last week who is really good at it.

Here is a link to a post on her site.  I am grateful for all the nice things she said about me, but I am especially pleased that she was able to put into words something that I think about often; which is how to show respect to people who at one time in their lives were patients at Willard.  So Nelly, thank you so much for your openness about your own situation and the clarity with which you expressed your feelings.  I really appreciate it.

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