Manning The Crisis Center Hotline

Discussion in 'Other Reminiscences' started by Ken Anderson, Oct 21, 2019.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    When I was a junior in high school, I signed on to be on the staff of a crisis center hotline that was just being opened in Menominee, Michigan, no doubt funded a grant of some sort. I was reminded of it by a thread that @Lon Tanner started on transactional analysis, and I don't want to step on that one, so I'll reserve my comments on the subject of TA and the "I'm OK, You're OK" book to that thread, except to say that it was one of the books that were used to train us to staff the hotline.

    I didn't know a thing about the origins of the hotline, or about the people who were responsible for it since I never saw any of them after the first couple of weeks. Someone left me notes from time to time, however.

    I was fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen years old when I was involved in the crisis center. I think I was in the first group they recruited for it since it didn't seem to be a fully-formed idea. We began in the summer, working with some adults during the day shift, who would listen to everything we said while on the phone with someone, and I strongly suspected that some of the calls we received were made as a part of our training.

    When school started, I worked four-hour shifts after school and eight-hour shifts from midnight to 8 am on Fridays and Saturdays. During the weekend midnight shifts, there were just two of us, myself and a girl my age from Menominee named Donna. I forget her last name now. Before long. only the day shift was staffed by adults, probably because anyone who might be touring the place with respect to grants and publicity stuff would be there during the weekdays.

    All phone calls were recorded, and someone was listening to them, or at least to some of them because I would receive notes from them sometimes when I came in to work.

    The crisis center was located in an old shop in downtown Menominee, along the marina. When the mall opened, the downtown area pretty much died and was populated largely by hippies. Some of the former department stores were converted into apartments, but many of them were empty.

    We weren't supposed to allow anyone into the building at night, and we pretty much followed that rule because things could easily get out of hand, otherwise. There were exceptions, and I'll discuss them in another post later.
     
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  2. Ken Anderson

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    Of course, once friends became aware that we were working at the crisis center hotline, we began getting prank calls from people wanting to make fun of us. We were supposed to take every call at face value, and not assume that a call was a prank in the event that it wasn't. However, when I recognized someone's voice, I would sometimes violate that rule, which would result in a note from one of the increasingly anonymous adults who were responsible for the operations of the place.

    I think that it was imagined that we'd be dealing with calls from people our age but, of the serious calls that we received, most were from parents who were trying to understand their children. This was in the mid-1960s, so you might be able to appreciate that. I dealt with these calls the best I could, and I think I did reasonably okay with them. We had a few scripts that we could use for certain types of calls but mostly we were on our own with them.

    The midnight shift wasn't very busy, though. Mostly, Donna and I got to know one another, since we first met during the training sessions. Although I had friends in Menominee, we didn't have any friends in common.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

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    The center had a lobby area, where the adults presumably entertained potential donors or whatever. Then, there was a partial partition, separating the lobby from the phone desks. There were six desks, with no partitions between them. In one corner was the bathroom, which had walls that didn't quite reach the ceiling.

    One night, Donna and I brought in a few bags of balloons and spent the night blowing them up and throwing them over the top of the bathroom walls, filling the bathroom with balloons, which would only be noticed after someone opened the door. The only comment we received for that one was a note reading, "Very funny."

    A few doors down from us was an office building that housed, among other businesses, the county prosecutor's office. The Menominee County prosecutor was universally disliked by anyone under the age of thirty, I think. One night, we brought in a bunch of magazines, particularly the ones that were filled with advertisements, and spent the night placing subscription orders in the prosecutor's name, addressing them to his office and to his home. The result would be that he would receive an avalanche of what would be the equivalent of spam, but coming to him through the mail. He was subscribed to every magazine imaginable, and particularly those of a pornographic nature. Through us, he would be receiving mail from the Rosicrucians and every other crazy cult thing we could find. At that time, it was possible to order stuff through magazines, to be paid for upon arrival, so we ordered a whole bunch of stuff for him, including a lifesize inflatable doll.

    We placed an order in the Dollar Saver magazine, advertising that he had a litter of Saint Bernard puppies to give away, with papers. We even paid for that ad, and for another one. We placed a "Going out of Business Sale" ad in the local newspaper, advertising used office furniture, file cabinets, and office chairs, giving his office address. I imagined people coming in and asking him how much he wanted for his desk. That one got his attention, I know, because he was on the radio berating the newspaper for publishing it without verification, announcing that there was no sale.

    "I repeat, there is no sale."

    Eventually, I think he had a hand in putting the crisis center out of business, but we had a two year run before that. More later.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
  4. Babs Hunt

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    @Ken Anderson...sounds like you were incorrigible when you were growing up! :D
     
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