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Note, The Book Was Never Written

RIP "Mike Farnam"

 My name is Ron Larson and I have a story to tell. The story is unique to me but yet common to many other children that I have met in my years. A story that we want to forget, but is unforgettable. A time and place that existed for so many. But for many others, they never knew of our existence.
In 197_, when I was eighteen years old, I started doing drugs such as LSD, pot and MDA with a needle. I was once told that I was like "a snowball rolling downhill heading for hell". In 1972, as a last resort for my confusing life, I joined the Army. They were taking people like me back then. People like me that would stand up and salute the flag and have the nerve to ring the bell for liberty and freedom.
In the Army, I was "bullet proof." Being young and naive, I thought I was invincible. I continued drugs more heavily during my stint and was introduced to cocaine at Fort Clayton in the Canal Zone of Panama. It was a high like no other. I snorted it, injected it and found ways to conceal it. Yes I had many overdoes. But it stopped the bad dreams of my life if only for a while.
In 1980, I stopped drinking and using the so-called "hard drugs." I continued to use pot. Pot always takes me to a nice place worth living and dulls the pain of an earlier life. With the help of some Pink Floyd music and a joint, I seem to just drift away from life as I know it. Years later, I saw a psychiatrist that I refer to as Dr. "Nut Cracker", and was put on Prozac. Despite the grand efforts of the manufacturers of Prozac, it still seems like "bad dreams are made of these", my life.
Having a passion for music, evident by my twenty thousand MP3 song collection, I started a music company with the illusion of being something that I could never be. As for love, well it just could not happen. I have this big wall around me that cannot be torn down. Whenever I let someone get emotionally near, I run like my inner child. The wall was built from within, with no doors or windows. Life is just a bed to relax in and my old guitar. In my life, sleeping comes at a premium. The slightest noise or a fly buzzing near me, and I am on my feet out of bed. When I do sleep, the nightmare continues. I dream of going back. Going back to a place that I want to forget but cannot. The place is still operational and is knocking on my door and asking me to come home. Though the dreams have subsided somewhat, my mind won't let me forget them.
I could never find God. Everything that I had faith in let me down. I can only find faith in what I know. Since I found a few others who are like me, I took the time to write this all down. I believe the past is all behind me now, out in the open, and that all the bad times are really over for good. I will make it a point for the rest of my life, never turn away, and to cherish my few old friends and never let them slip away again. For I am one of the "Forgotten Children" of hall-7 and hall-18. Like the others, though we want to forget, we still remember.


"Where Buffalo Roam"


One Day:
 It was a cold snowy day in mid January 1965, I was 12 when  I started out just before daylight, the ride was very quiet and long, at times I was in a complete white out due to a strong lake effect storm pounding the west coast of Michigan. The Air Way compass on the dash board indicated I was traveling north. The heater was on high but it was still cold in the back seat. As I was gazing out the window looking to my left , I saw a lone Buffalo, standing in the field, covered with snow. I realized than I was not going to be returning this way anytime soon. This is the first day of my distorted memories, where Buffalo roam.


  A short distance down the 2 lane highway we came to a road to my left, and I saw the big sign 10' high, anchored in concrete, and made of stone,  State Hospital.

  Throughout my 12 years of life, I recalled all the horror stories from the 1950's movies, twilight zone, the outer limits, and the other stories, even those of the insane asylum in Traverse City, the place where real crazy people went.  Am I Crazy? Am I Insane? This is all that was going through my mind. 

 We turned into the road and than I saw the sight of the old scary looking multi story buildings, and eventually turned into a parking lot to a modern looking building. This was receiving. I and my brown paper shopping bag of clothes were taken to a side door and we waited for a man in a white uniform to unlock the heavy steel door. Inside the door locked and I was placed into a room, all by myself, with a big odd looking dark mirror on the wall. Many things raced through my head and my heart was beating real hard. After about an hour another man in a white uniform and black shoes with a chain around his waste and a bundle of keys attached to it, took me through a maze of locked doors and on the way I went by a big fish tank with what looked like a giant brain placed into it, than on to the elevators. Inside the elevators were normal doors but at the back was freight doors. We went to the top floor and upon exiting to my right I could see the dinning room, to my left was 2 big heavy steel doors, on the left door was a sign C-4 and on the right door was a sign D-4.

 The attendant unlocked the door to D-4 and in I went. I knew nothing about stress levels at this time but when the door slammed shut and was locked, I knew. I was escorted down this hallway with many rooms on each side, the ones on the left had no windows and all had steel doors with a little window in them and all these rooms were tiled. I was brought to the office where I was seen by a nurse and several attendants and all were asking me questions, and more questions all at the same time. 

  After an hour or so of questions 2 attendants took me down the hallway to the shower room and made me strip naked. I was prodded and turned and every scratch was placed in my records, than many more questions. I was than forced to the floor and 1 attendant held me down as the other stuck a tube into my butt, this was an enema. This made my stomach hurt and the attendant would not let me up and the other kept poring more liquid into me, I felt like I was about to burst, than I was let up to sit on the toilet to get this stuff out of my body. I must have sat there for 15 minutes.

  All my possessions were taken away as well as my few clothes. I was dressed in old large clothes from another time and were too big.  I was escorted to the day room at the end of the hall. It was a big large room with 1 pillar in the center. All around the walls were chairs and all the old people were sitting and being very quiet. In the middle of the room was a table setup for putting puzzles together. I once tried to do this but could not finish it due to missing pieces, but this did not stop those who sat there.  I did notice that many people were always looking down, some with slobber hanging from their mouths. Some spoke in a language I could not understand, gibberish.  One person had a transistor radio, and he let me play with it, and I found 1 station and at 4 PM until 5 PM it played the top 10. 

  At 5 PM we all lined up at the only door to outside of the hall for supper. I was real hungry as I did not eat this day. The attendant unlocked the door and stood guard in front of the 2 elevator doors while we all marched into the dinning room. We stood in line and walked down the cafeteria style metal food severing  area. I got my metal tray and held it out like the rest of the other people, I noticed it was staffed with female patients from C-4 and 2 cooks. Everyone looked at me, I was only about 5 feet tall and all of 90 pounds. When I got to the end of the line I was stopped and the nice lady got me some milk, not the coffee the other patients got. I than went to a table and ate my meal. After we were all done eating we were marched back into D-4 and on to the day room. The TV was turned on and we watched one on the 2 channels until 10 PM.

  At 10 PM I was brought to my room, across from the office. I than noticed my room had an outside light switch, well sort of. It was a metal plate with a slot cut into it, than an attendant stuck this flat key into it and it turned on my light. My room had no window the walls were tiled it was about 8 feet by 8 feet, and the bed had a rubber coated matrices that stunk. After getting into bed my heavy steel door with a little window was locked and they left the little 4 inch by 6 inch window opened and the light was turned off. It was very quiet and I was scared, it must have taken a 3 hours before I fell into a restless sleep.


The Morning After:

  Clank, jingle, the loud noise those Yale locks made, and the door swung open and an attendant came into my room and said "its time to get up". I got up and ran to the rest room, next to the day room. This is when I noticed old men always watched me pee. It is an eyrir feeling when praying eyes are upon you. I also noticed most everyone lining up at the office and were taking pills. At 7:30 we all lined up for breakfast. After breakfast I went to the day room, this is the most un-exciding thing in the world, there is nothing to do but sit or put puzzles together. No-one really talked to each other just sitting there quietly or talking to them selves.  Later that morning I was called to the office and I met a Psychiatrist , I was than ask many more questions. When he spoke it was not to me but at me , he called me Ronny, very directly and to the point. I ask him questions and all I received was a blunt "we will see what happens".

  For the rest of the day and for several days my life was real boring, I had nothing to do except for them dam flawed puzzles. Than on Friday morning a nice woman came to D-4 and everyone woke up from their drug induced stare. She was the occupational therapist, and we all lined up to go down to D-1 for fun stuff. D-1 was the area/floor where it was set up as a place to expand your mind. She set me up making a wallet, leather, a hole punch, leather strips to hold it together and a pair of scissors to cut it out after using the performed piece of wood and outlining it out on the leather. We were there until lunch time. Funny I never seen that wallet again.

 After lunch that Friday I was returned to D-4 and later that afternoon  I was looking out the window and than I seem them. Kids, all boys, lined up 2 by 2 walking in a long line heading away from my building.  I did not know where they were going nor where they came from, but it made me feel good just seeing KIDs. Every day I kept looking out this window, than on Monday morning I seen them again, than the girls marching behind them 2 by 2. That afternoon I seen the all again. I figured out that they must be going and coming from some sort of school. I could not wait until I would be joining them. When I ask an attendant, I was told "wait and see".

  D-4 had a peculiar smell, I later found this smell to be hospital wide, the bathrooms really smelled and them elevators smelled like something died in them. All the food was made in the master kitchen 4 floors below and were sent to the dinning rooms via the elevators.

 After a few weeks I seen another Dr. who made me take these tests and more questions. She even placed wires onto my head EEG?  I recall her getting angry at me because the ink blobs did not make sense to me, and I could see nothing but a messy person spilling their ink on cardboard than folding it. I ask her what should I see, she replied "maybe clouds, horses, food, anger" I told her it still looks like spilled ink. I think maybe my reaction to the ink blobs, determined my future at the state hospital.


The Moving:

  The song "Winchester Cathedral" was a popular song I heard on the radio everyday. The song "110 Trombones In The Big Parade" was also popular. On about the 30th day, I met Mr. Curtis. He came to D-4 and told me he was taking me to Hall-18 and that I would be happy there.  He took me down the elevator and through a hallway than down a stairway to a tunnel.  It took a long time in this darkened hot steamy place all uphill, than we came upon a locked door, onward we went, than I seen the inside of the canteen as we walked by, than on to another locked door. Now were in the basement of building 50, that's what the sign on the wall said. We walked and turned corners and came upon other locked doors with cage type walls than onto a stairway. We went up 3 floors to Hall-18 the sign said. On ward we walked to the office.


First, The Explanation:


The Tunnel:

  The tunnel was a big tunnel which ran from the Canteen, Building 50 in the center to the administration building, than on to the theater. Their were side tunnels too which ran off of them, these were always locked. All the steam pipes and electrical was run through it. It was always hot in there. During the winter all the snow would be melted from it, and a sidewalk was placed on top of it. I always enjoyed my 1000 trips through it. There were tunnels which ran to the cottages and other buildings, these were not really walkways, like the big tunnel.



The Office:
 A desk several chairs and a 2 seater lounge. The office on Hall-18 was located across from the day room and cage area.
Here you can see the doorway. The door was a split door, meaning it was cut in half and both pieces opened/closed, the bottom was most always closed. Thou the room looked small, it could hold a lot of attendants. Every day at shift change all staff met in there. If you were called into it and the (complete/both halves) door shut, well you most likely went into seclusion when you went out the door. The 3 seclusion rooms were just left of the office. There was an open doorway in there to the drug room. On Tuesday or Thursday or both, in the morning Dr. Thill would come and this was his favorite place. The desk was an old time wood roll up desk and the lower right hand drawer was where your hand written records were kept. The wood chair was on rollers and had big arm rests and was capable of leaning back. The desk and chair were most likely original equipment.

The Drug Room:
 The drug room was to the right of the office, (see picture right of the doorway) The door from hallway was always locked and opened at drug time. This too had a split door but the bottom piece had a flat tray area on it to hold the drug tray. The metal drug tray had many holes in it for the little paper cups and a slit for your name card to go. I would stand in line and when I got to the door I said my name and the pill would be issued and I had to open my mouth and prove I really did not have it under my tongue and than I would turn right to the water fountain and get a drink of water.
When it was discovered late 1967 that some were not taking their meds, the staff turned to liquid drugs mixed with Orange Juice. This was awful tasting stuff. The drug room had a little fridge a soft metal chair with a vinyl cushion, A locked cabinet for the drugs and another locked cabinet for all the other medical supplies. It had a sink too and cabinets below it.


60 Beds:
 I can only speak on Hall-18 on this but there were 60 beds on Hall 18, plus the "3" seclusion rooms, all of which were always full. I remember once in 1968 we had a crisis, Full To Capacity, anywhere a bed could go it was placed.


 Every morning 7 days a week I was awakened at,
7 AM, and I had to make my beds army style with the corners tucked in, if it wasn't done correctly it would be torn apart and I had to do it again and gain.
7:30 AM, I lined up for breakfast and was taken to the mess hall. In the mess hall I was handed a metal trays and silverware and proceeded down the line and had to hold out my tray so food was placed on it and move down further etc, and at the end I was given desert and a plastic glass so I could get my milk. Sometimes they had chocolate milk to pick from.
8AM, I took my trays to the station which scraped them of leftovers and the silver was counted. Note while we were in the mess hall we had to be extra quiet. than I would go back to my hall and do the cleaning of my room and get meds.
8:30 AM, I lined up for school and went to school in a straight line 2 by 2, kind of like the video of "the Wall" by Pink Floyd.
4 PM, I returned from school and had fun until dinner time.
5 PM, I went to dinner, same process.
5:30 -7:30 got meds and in the winter I played in the halls, in the summer and if I was good I would be taken outside to the bandstand 2 by 2, lol. Once in a while I went to the mandatory gym. On Wed nights I went to the movie. We always had a dance on Friday. In summer the Friday night dance was held outside at the bandstand in the winter at the theater.
7:30 PM, I lined up for a shower and this was until 8 PM.
8 PM, I watch all the good TV on the 2 stations, real life stuff, like the Monsters, Adams family, the Monkeys, Green Acres, lost In Space, Batman, lol. We also had card games going. Some kids put together them dam puzzles with missing pieces, not me I was already burned by this once.
10 PM I went to bed, lights off and no talking!

 All was the same as above except for no school, in the morning we played, I played the guitar, than from, 10-11 all Catholics were forced to catechism, and after lunch we would go outside till dinner weather permitting.


 Still the same, except we were forced to go to church and after lunch we sat/played quietly in our rooms and had to be very quiet, as this was visiting day.


 Everything was a privilege, They were given and taken away for little or nothing. When you had nothing to take away, you got seclusion.  I you were a bad kid, school was a privilege, and they would keep you on the hall and work you like a dog, Scrubbing the floors buffing the floors washing walls, I still cannot stand the smell of paste wax. This was what we had to put on the floor with our socks and use the big Clark buffing/scrubbing machines to a bright shine. Laying down on your bed was prohibited during the day. You better not get caught on your bed or any other bed, or you would be in big trouble.



 The seclusion rooms, there were 3 of them with 1 extra which was sometimes used. You would be in there for an average of 7 to 14 days depending on your behavior. If you were real bad in there they would hold you down and give you a hypo. 2 of these rooms and if you were real smart you could climb the hinges and grab a hold of the conduit pipe and watch TV through the screened in open window above the door. The staff was wise to this and you did this only when they were not watching. These rooms were about 10 foot by 10 foot and hard plaster walls. You were there with nothing, you slept on the floor, ate on the floor, sometime went to the bathroom on the floor. You were let out 4 times a day to go to the bathroom. The only window was high off the floor, about head high with this heavy wire mesh covering it. The windows were never opened. The door had 3/4 inch plywood bolted to the inside of it.


The Staff Closet:
 The staff closet was located down the hall just left of the office and left of the stairway, down by pool table. It had this big wide heavy steal door and it was very big. In there were their starch pressed white uniforms and their other personal belongings.


 A simple act of loving, a forbidden act, never any hugs. I do remember a sickness came over Hall-18 one winter and getting sick, this and being in bed running a high fever, and Mr. Curtis tending to me, I remember him treating me like his very own son, he was the nicest man I can remember. I never seen him mad, he was very caring and use to take me on one on one long walks. Mr. Martin from our school was like him too, very caring, but no hugs was ever issued.

 I always was sad, and remember when your best friends went away and you never seen or heard from them again. All my friends were taken away. I remember the rules and strict policies, made me sad, I never could find the words to describe this feeling.



 Some kids were deeply depressed, some had eating disorders, others were abused both sexually and physical, epileptics, others had visions, some had problems that there were no names for back than like Dyslexic, Attention Deficit Disorder, and some were just brats. I met the first truly gay kid than, he was only about 8 years old but he was convinced he was a girl and always wanted to be called Beverly or Bev. 2 kids were giants, 6'6" 300 pounds at 12 years old, I remember the size of their hands compared to my hands. Than there were those who could change at a moments notice from a normal kid to someone else. I also remember real small kids too, age 4 and 5 years old, and the retarded kids and 1 with downs. It was a real mixed breed on Hall-18.






The Arrival To Hall-18:

When I first walked onto Hall-18 I noticed this Shinny Floor, it was the shiniest  floor I have ever seen. I also saw the faded light green walls, a sickening green I must say. I was escorted to the office where I met the staff and all the rules were laid out, most of which were not fully understood as I would later find out.  There were these 4 older men on hall-18 and I never could figure this out, I also noticed kids working hard, but there were only a few of them.  I found my was to the porch "The Cage" as we all called it, and a few older kids were smoking, at this time 1965 it was legal for anyone to smoke. I than heard all the bad stories of Hall-18 and who was who. At 4 PM, the other kids arrived from school, this was really fun playing with someone my own age. After shower time, 7:30 PM we all played Hearts and watched TV. When 10 PM came I was showed my bed in the big dorm area, I was 2 beds from the dinning room door. I sat up for hours listening to the noise of a state  hospital. I could hear screams coming from the other side of the walls, I than saw rats/mice coming to Hall-18 from under the dinning room door, this was creepy.  Crack, snap, pop, this noise kept me awake most all night, the sound of mouse traps going off.  7:00 AM we were all woke up by the morning crew and the new day begun.

 Today I found out what it was like on forced labor.  The mop bucket came out and this big electric Clark buffer/scrubber was introduced to me. First we had to put a lot of soapy water on the floor and a handful of steel wool was given to us and I was showed by placing it on the floor and under my foot, I could remove all the black skid marks on the tiles, and I mean all of them removed. Than an older kid ran this machine, he pulled up on the handles to make it go to the right and down on the handles to make it go left, after he went a ways we had to take clear water and mop up all of the soapy water, and to go over this a few times until all was removed and clean. This took about 2 hours to complete the entire Hall-18 hallways. When we got to the end we went back to the beginning and a 5 gallon pail of paste wax came out. We took off our shoes and my using our socks we applied this wax to the entire floor in a thin coat. By now my little legs were really tired of all of this leg motion.  When all the wax was applied we went to the beginning and the scrubber brush was removed from the Clark machine and a buffer pad was installed. The older kid ran this machine back and forth all afternoon until the floor was like a mirror. He even gave me my first lesson on controlling this machine, and I kept hitting the walls hard, hehehe. This was not an easy job. Every Tuesday and Friday we did this job on the floor.

 Before the other children came back from school, I was introduced to the "pool table". I never played it before and did not even know how to hold the pool cue. I was showed the beginners way to hold it. Next the game of 8-ball was taught to me. I never used angles before and thought that I was never going to grasp the fine art of playing pool. After thousands of games I finally figured this out.  






Feb 25th, 2010,

The Book Re-Start

This was what it was like for a 12 year old boy in 1965


I met a younger boy the first day on hall-18, Mike ..............We are still friends 45 years later.............


The first day on hall-18 was cold and quiet, the kids were at school and I was called to the office and met Dr. Thill, I was scared to my wits end as the rules were read out to me. I was reminded of the 3 seclusion rooms. I was than let out of the office and next to the office 3 older kids were sitting in a chair with their feet soaking in a purple liquid, I ask why and they showed me their feet, the heels and toe area was black all ate up with athletes feet. I never seen this before and was told this was the cause of going bare footed in the hall. 

At noonish we were called to lunch as there were only a few of us here I went to the dinning room, it had a peculiar smell and I wasn't sure if I wanted to eat the food, but they force me to eat it all. Later that afternoon I got tired and laid down on a bed in the dormitory but was soon awakened by an attendant and forced to sit in a chair, (these were made from maple and had hard arm rests and were made for adults and my feet never touched the floor),  in the main hall until the other kids came back from school. I was so happy to see other kids and this is when my life started to change.


Making friends:
When the kids came from school many of them came up to me to figure me out but some were distant as if I had a disease. I remember the 2 brothers 1 year apart and my age, I was surprised to find brothers were here. I than met Mike, He showed me to my bed in the big dorm next to the dinning room. After an hour we all lined up for dinner and marched into the dining room. I got yelled at by the staff for talking. After dinner I followed Mike to the porch area and kids were smoking cigarettes, in 1965 smoking was allowed for anybody who could afford them. It wasn't till 1966?? when this law changed.
Around 7 PM we lined up for a shower, we had to strip and go into a stall for 4 and shower and we had to go around the corner to get a towel and underclothes handed out, and most were too big as I recall. I was given PJ's too. Once a week we got clean PJ's and clean sheets.
After shower time meds were handed out through the 1/2 door next to the staff room. At this point the meds were in pill form. This was the first time I was given Thorasine and recall in an hour I was out in a daze. I think Mike brought me to my bed.
In the night I woke to the sound of tiny feet, and noticed the floor moving. The next thing I heard was a crack, crack.
The next morning I found out what the cracking was all about, it was rat traps and the toilets were full of dead mice and rats. The toilet room was a dirty disgusting place 5 or 6 toilets. The smell in there with no ventilation was something else. Some of the retarded kids use to wipe their butts with their fingers and rub it on the walls. This was not the place to hang out in. I remember the TV and at 8PM we use to watch 1 of the 2 channels we use to get, the staff would let us watch what we wanted and sometimes a vote of hands were used to determine the channel. 2 card tables were setup in front of the office for card games at night and 1 table was in day room area for puzzles.  There was a small table next to office door underneath the electrical outlet for a record player. I remember the Beach Boys album and how I liked the sound. I spent many hours listening to albums at that table. I recall the card games, hearts, Spades and cribish. This was in the late winter 1965 and I remember being cold and alone.


Because of the school year almost over I did not go to school that first winter, I was kept on hall-18. Every morning we always had work to do mostly cleaning the walls and floors. Mr Curtice started taking me on walks around the halls and tunnels when ever he could. I always liked these walks. I use to pick up the mail and other paperwork when we would go to the admin building. I always liked the big fish tank in there with what looked like a giant brain in it, It was corral. We always took the tunnel to the admin building and this was hot and steamy. I hated it when we went through the other halls, real crazy people lived there and use to reach out and try and touch me, sometimes Mr. Curtice would laugh. I never thought it was funny. I recall once he took me to hall-6 2 floors below hall-18 this is where the real nut cases were kept and the whole floor was a seclusion hall. I was always told me if I did not behave this is where I would wind up at.

On Saturdays in the winter we would go sledding in the afternoon out in the hills past cottage 36, This was fun but cold. In 1965 the girls were not allowed to go sledding with us, I do not know why. On weekdays in the afternoon it was real boring and I use to look out the window down the hall by the pool table and watch the smoke come out of the power house, sometimes this black smoke use to come down to the ground and make the snow black. The pool table was off limits until the kids came back to the hall after school.

In the first few months I always had ideals of ways to escape, I was on watch all the time as I let everyone know of my plans, this was before I found out never trust anybody.

At night the attendants would turn on the lights, the switched were a slot in the wall which they would place a key in, I watch some kids figure this out by using the buckles from their rubber boots to turn on turn off the lights, so I got me one of these keys. The simple pleasure of turning off your lights was cool. At 10 PM the lights were turned off by the attendants and we went to bed and they were strict on the no noise or you would have to sit in a chair in the main hall until you got tired. I had to do this a few times and found out around midnight was when the roaches and rats came out. I would watch them come from under the door to the dining room and the holes in the floor from the steam pipes to the radiators. Getting a good nights sleep was another story.









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