Do You Want To Participate? Just Answer The Questions

Anyone who falls into one of the four categories below and who wants to participate by answering the interview questions can do so. Just email me your answers to marathon.room@gmail.com

Your responses will be included in Chapter Thirty Seven - The Interviews, Other Voices Heard for everyone to read. When I post what you've written, it will only be associated with a number and not your name. Remember we all have our own story to tell and perhaps now is the time to tell it. Thank you!


Resident Interview Questions

1. What were the circumstances surrounding your placement into Kinsman Hall?
2. What were your first impressions of Kinsman Hall?
3. What was the most serious rule you ever broke while being a resident? Did you get caught and if so,  what was your punishment?
4. Were you ever put on a ban with anyone and if so, why?
5. If you could have changed anything about the program, what would it have been?
6. How did Kinsman Hall impact your life after leaving the program?
7. Any additional comments and/or stories about your time at Kinsman Hall?

Staff Interview Questions

1. How did you get involved with the Heppers and Kinsman Hall?
2. Why did you leave?
3. Why do you think the townspeople had such a negative view of Kinsman Hall?
4. How did Dean get people from various state institutions probated to Kinsman Hall?
5. Here's a hard one...how did you really feel about the Heppers? Be honest!
6. Do you have any opinion about the Hepper children having to grow up sharing their parents with all the residents or how befriending a Hepper for a resident carried with it freedom from the regular routine of Kinsman Hall?
7. Additional comments?

Family Members/Friends of Residents or Staff Members Interview Questions

1. How long was your family member/friend at Kinsman Hall?
2. Would you consider their treatment at Kinsman Hall a success? Why or why not?
3. Were you ever able to visit your family member/friend while they were in treatment?
4. What was your impression of Kinsman Hall?
5. What was your impression of The Heppers?
6. Did you ever have any concerns about Kinsman Hall? If so, what were they?
7. What kind of support system did Kinsman Hall provide your family member/friend after they left Kinsman Hall?
8. Additional comments?

Community Interview Questions (for people living in the Jackman and Hillsdale areas)

1. How do you think having Kinsman Hall in your community impacted it?
2. Did you know any of the residents or staff members personally? (No names please unless you want them used)
3. What was your general impression of Kinsman Hall?
4. Did you ever witness any type of abuse or misconduct towards the residents?
5. How did the Heppers attempt to improve community relations? Was it effective?
6. Did you ever witness any misconduct of any sort by anyone associated with Kinsman Hall?
7. Additional comments?

Dedication

This book is dedicated to all the survivors of Kinsman Hall, but more importantly to all those who live on in memory only. They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten! A special thanks goes to my daughter, Christina for making me keep my promise to her and to all the people who have kept nagging me along the way to finish writing this book.  You know who you are!  Without their love and support, this book would never have been written.

Author's Note

The people and the events mentioned in this book are not fictitious. Some names have been changed because I simply could not remember the person’s actual name. In those cases, I substituted a fictitious name for the person’s real name. Nonetheless, my story is an actual depiction of my life as I remember it from 1971 until 1973 while being a resident at Kinsman Hall and the months leading up to it.

Preface

As we stumble through life, we meet many people, we go many places and we do many things. Each person, place and event helps mold us into the people we are today. As with anything in life the initial impact these three things have on our lives depends greatly upon the circumstances and our ability to absorb, learn and grow from our experiences. I feel fortunate to have lived a multi-dimensional life with exposure to people from all walks of life. I’m even grateful for the pain I’ve experienced along the way because without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

While I've never been particularly influenced or impressed by material objects or by people in positions of power, I have been in total awe of people who have the ability to reach out and touch people with honesty, compassion and reality.  I've learned while honesty and reality rarely paint life as a pretty picture; honesty and reality hold an immense power to alter the course of a person's life. One might argue that lies and fantasy have the same potential and hold an added appeal of deceptively convincing people life is, but a pleasant stroll down a flower-scented garden path filled with a plethora of earthy delights. All the diehard hedonists rally around the entrance of the garden path chanting, "if it feels good, do it" while the realists know in life there is no true escape from the humdrums of life and all the pain its caveats hold. There are only momentary lapses in judgment which give life a different flavor at times. It’s those momentary lapses that eventually allow us to see the person we really are. The story you are about to read involves my journey through some of my momentary lapses in judgment and their consequences. 

What appeared first in my journey at Kinsman Hall was a clear division in the status between all staff members vs. the "non-status" of the residents which gradually revealed all other divisions within the hierarchy: older residents vs. younger residents, the have's and the have not’s. The real McCoys and the wannabes! Senior staff vs. acting staff.  All the stories of trips to town, parties with staff members, going to movies, etc. almost made Kinsman Hall seem like two entirely different places. For many, that “other” place just didn’t exist! For many, their whole life centered around the work they did during the day and the free time they enjoyed in the dining room during the evening before being herded off to the dorms for their nightly ritual of sleep. For many, life was only what happened within the confines of Kinsman Hall while others lived and experienced a totally different story.  One might not think so, but there even existed a divide amongst crews in the house and within a crew lived a whole divide in itself.  Trust me on this, but people on the Construction Crew were regarded and treated differently then people who worked on the Kitchen Crew especially those low-ranking individuals who found the dishpan to be their "niche." People who ran the crews and people who worked on the crews were on opposite ends of the same stick 

I never openly questioned the unfairness of the obvious caste system at "the Hall" or how the “divide” was so nicely incorporated into the whole Kinsman Hall concept. Who were we, the younger residents to question anything? For the most part, I only observed, but went about my business doing things the Kinsman Hall way. And for the most part, I didn’t really care that a select few seemed privy to preferential treatment by staff nor did I care why those select few were the chosen ones while others weren’t. For the most part, I didn’t care that I was never taken into the “inner circle” and allowed to flourish amongst the staff members and older residents. Yes, I saw the "divide” and I saw the hypocrisy in it, but I simply knew my place and knew my place would never be on the other side of that great divide. I just wanted to "do my time" and finish their program. I started the program as a younger resident and finished it the same way, but how can that be possible after being there for two years?

My place along with my peers was a place void of anything familiar from the outside world. Tucked safely away and forgotten about or so I felt, I spent my time at Kinsman Hall the product of seeing, doing, but never quite swallowing the proverbial Kool-Aid after swishing it around in my mouth first and spitting it out. That Kool-Aid left a putrid aftertaste in my mind. Being "straight" seemed to have some perverse affect on me.  Instead of my senses becoming alive again, they seemed to dull into a world of complacency.  I went through the motions of staying alive, but I never seemed to feel that spontaneous high others got from therapy. Was something terribly wrong with me or was everyone else just faking it? In the face of true adversity, when one has no other recourse than to drink the Kool-Aid and resistance seems futile, I learned if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it doesn’t always mean it is a duck! I could still appear to drink the Kool-Aid and still maintain a certain sense of never giving in.  That little piece of  me I constantly struggled to tightly hold onto as if it were a matter of life and death.  And for all I knew, it very well may have been a matter of life and death. At least this Kool-Aid didn’t come laced with cyanide and we all know, what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger! Someday this too, would pass and I'd be free again! I could ride it out! I can ride anything out...

As I embarked upon the journey of writing this story I was faced with the greatest divide of all...a story that changes from day to day because of my changing feelings towards it. This dilemma is one that kept this story from being told for such a long time. The great divide – it was everywhere! Kinsman Hall vs. the townspeople.  Kinsman Hall vs. the rest of the world.  The old vs. the new.  Hillsdale vs. Jackman.  Males vs. females. Workers vs. authority figures (ramrods, department heads, expeditors and staff members). And yes, the greatest divide of them all: older residents vs. younger residents.  It was that divide that kept the wheels of progress and envy well greased. They always say that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but in the case of Kinsman Hall, I don't know if that's true.  So many fences at Kinsman Hall just weren't worth jumping over to get to the other side. 

Younger residents eventually became the older residents, but by the time I became an older resident the whole structure of the program had begun to change. By that time, the rise and fall of Kinsman Hall was well on its way. Even when I did reach older resident status that younger resident feeling remained with me. At 2 years in, I still hadn’t had any of those trips to town or experienced any “fun” that seemed legendary and only spoken of in whispers. In the two years I lived at Kinsman Hall, I was never placed in any type of position of authority or responsibility.  At 2 years in, my biggest infraction of bending the rules came in the form of staying downstairs after the rest of the house had gone to bed and a few incidences of physical contact here and there. No, I never had wild sex or got high while I was a resident. It wasn't because I didn't want wild sex or didn't want to get high.  It was because it was never offered to me. I simply stayed downstairs and tried to feel normal by being rebellious in my own little way and the other times were shortly before I left the program. Being in a relationship, even an unrecognized relationship with a staff member had its advantages. People seemed to look the other way when rules were broken if a staff member was the one breaking them. 

One might ask why such a divide was tolerated or how the people, the have’s could function effectively within the system. All I can say looking back is that when you take someone who is clearly unbalanced and remove them from everything familiar to that person, you create in essence a blank slate. If you hammer on that person enough you may be able to bend their will and in some cases, break their will. We all came into Kinsman Hall as equals, but soon thereafter the equality ceased. The groups were formed. The friendships were made and the negative contracts were formed. The rest seems to be history!

The great divide formed: the way things really were vs. the way things were supposed to be or intended to be! Dean Hepper, himself always would say “the road to Hell was paved with good intentions!” The way things were presented to families, potential donors, the community at large vs. the way things really were as the truth surfaced were all part of this abysmal divide. For many families, their hopes of reuniting with a drug-free loved one were short lived. The community of Jackman, the sleepy, little hamlet in which Kinsman Hall became rooted watched its initial skepticism come to fruition each time Kinsman Hall openly and arrogantly displayed how it really operated. There are still people in Jackman who remember how the split teams would hunt down its escapees. Their allegations of witnessing physical abuse still remain vividly with them 40 plus years later. There are former business owners who were lied to and duped out of goods and services with the promise of payment. "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" seemed to be the Kinsman Hall motto. For many of those businesses, Tuesday never came! The community saw how some staff members acted as if they existed in a protective bubble that allowed them to do anything whenever and wherever they wanted. Rude, arrogant and even illegal behavior was what had become expected from the inhabitants of Kinsman Hall. The medical staff at the local hospital had ethical/legal concerns regarding Kinsman Hall and with each resident that was treated there came more concerns.

The great divide: (or maybe it was a subsection of the great divide) Residents who had completed a marathon (therapy) vs. residents who hadn’t had the magic wand waved over them yet. Until a person participated in a marathon, a huge mystery surrounded marathons. No one who had been through one would talk about their experience with someone who was "untherapied" thus they were unworthy of any knowledge. Until the clouds parted and the great hand of Dean Hepper and Jack Palmer swooped down and gathered up the flock of needy wannabes, the mystery remained intact. What reappeared days or weeks and once months later were smiling, good little ducks all in a row with out-stretched arms wanting unconditional acceptance from the entire house.

I often wondered if the children of affluent families were treated with more favor than the less fortunate, but I saw clear examples of Kinsman Hall being an equal opportunity abuser. Some equality existed after all! I often wondered if the staff members stayed up at night thinking up ways they could fuck with us as if we were part of some demented psychological experiment or rats in a lab experiment gone awry. I often wondered if anyone was actually qualified to run a place like Kinsman Hall. I often wondered if my viewpoint was merely slanted by the road I had walked down and I don't mean Attean Lake Road! I wondered if drugs had jaded me so I was incapable of seeing the positives in the great divide.  But were there any positives?

The nagging question that seems to still remain with me almost 50 year later: was there any good that came from Kinsman Hall? To answer that question one would have to ask each person who resided there. Maybe to answer that question best, the families and friends of former residents should be the ones who are asked. I think one might safely assume that each person walked away from Kinsman Hall with something positive. Even those who walked away only to succumb to their addiction/inner demons once again initially walked away with something positive.  What doesn't kill us, only makes us stronger! Unfortunately, not all of us were strong and not all of us survived the assimilation process.  In all honesty, I believe everyone who experienced Kinsman Hall ranks it among one of their most bittersweet memories for a multitude of reasons. For me, it gave me a much needed time out. It gave me a chance to live past a period in my life where I surely would have perished if left to my own devices. Did it magically take away all my self-destructive tendencies? Did it take away the pain and replace it with optimism? Did it heal the wounds or did it just create darker, more colorful scars? Perhaps the answers lie within... 

My biggest obstacle I tackled while writing this book, was deciding how truthful I should be, What I ultimately decided was to simply tell my story as I lived it.  In doing that, I cannot and will not apologize for the truths contained within this story.