Life During Wartime


Warning: Avert your eyes if you don't want to read personal history. Not even really mine, but tangentially it is.

and click a photo to embiggen

Was going through a sheaf of personal papers as a prelude to getting my US passport, and discovered a handful of papers my mother apparently had kept for a while. Looked up the address of the postcard addressed to my biological father (see below) at Ward 12 Agnews State Hospital, and Sun Microsystems purchased it a while ago. Funny. We own about 50 shares of Sun (worth next to nothing).

Agnews State Hospital was significant as the first modern mental hospital in California, and subsequently other State facilities, followed the example of Agnews. It embodied the distinctive characteristics of a progressive mental hospital in the early 20th century as it was intended to be a “cheerful” place with its decentralized specialized buildings for different treatment purposes and different types of patients. Its small, low-scale buildings were designed to bring light and air to patients. After World War II, new approaches to treatment had an effect on hospital operations and facilities. Among the most important new approaches were the establishment of community clinics, treatment outside of hospitals, and treatment of the developmentally disabled at State Hospitals formerly intended for the mentally ill. A watershed event was the passage of the 1971 Laterman Act, which resulted in closing of several State hospitals and restructuring of the State system

From what I've heard, the electroshock received there permanently altered his demeanor. My mom's divorce was finalized December 21, 1976, unofficially it happened years before.

I wonder if he was part of the Esalen Schizophrenic study?

The Upstart Spring: Esalen and the Human Potential Movement: The First Twenty Years
“The Upstart Spring: Esalen and the Human Potential Movement: The First Twenty Years” (Walter Truett Anderson)

at the Vietnam Vet Museum, South Loop. Some sort of teletype machine, apparently used to print dog-tags

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1968 Induction Notice

1968 Induction Notice
Why I was born in Toronto, part 1

Selective Service Notice 1968
Selective Service Notice 1968
Why I was born in Toronto, part 2

War Memories

War Memories
Taken at the new Vietnam Memorial on Wacker Drive. I presume this U.S. Navy Vet was looking for names of friends, but I didn't want to disturb his vigil.

Unaccounted For
Unaccounted For
Taken at the new Vietnam Memorial on Wacker Drive.

Ward 12 Bruce Anderson
no postage date, unfortunately. Somebody probably tore off the stamp for their collection.

Bruce And Seth
Says 1970 on the lower right corner. So I was less than 2.

I always get a severe dose of the melancholic with a thousand-year stare when the topic gets resurrected, and I don't know exactly why. I remember having a pretty happy childhood, and always enjoyed an excellent relationship with my step-dad. Perhaps there are still-repressed memories from the time before I learned to talk? Someone once told me an anecdote of Bruce destroying a car in an alley with a baseball bat, maybe there's more in that vein?

Oh wait, Philip has been working on a history of Ragnarokr, and writes it was a sledgehammer:

In January 1968 Bruce and Colleen Anderson were attending school and living in the mountains near Santa Cruz, California when they become involved in the anti-war movement at San Jose State. Bruce received a letter ordering him to report to Oakland to be examined prior to his induction into the US Army. In February Bruce passed his pre-induction physical despite having taken methadone to speed up his heartbeat in the hope that he could fool the doctors into declaring him unfit for military service. Unfortunately the doctors did not really check the thousands of men at the Oakland US Army Induction Center. Bruce also demanded a mental examination because of a family history of schizophrenia but his request was denied. After searching for two days, he found a small, hidden office at San Francisco State College where counselors gave him a copy of the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme's “Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada” and details of Canadian immigration procedures.

Bruce and Colleen Anderson left California in March and spent six weeks traveling to Toronto by car. In April they passed through Detroit late in the afternoon and found National Guard tanks in the streets and a 6 p.m. curfew in effect. (The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee). “We crossed the bridge to Canada but we were turned back because we had no proof of our dog’s rabies shot. We were nearly out of gas, it was almost 6 p.m. and all the gas stations were boarded up. Soldiers in helmets were everywhere and people were shouting at us to get off the streets. We finally got on the freeway and out to the suburbs where we got gas and dinner. The next day we got our dog another shot for rabies from a veterinarian who didn’t charge us. (He guessed why we wanted to get into Canada and was sympathetic to us.) That day we were allowed to cross the bridge into Canada.” Counselors at the office of the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme (TADP) directed them to the John Street Hostel.
Colleen and Bruce lived at the hostel on John Street for about six weeks. In June they joined some friends from Kansas City to rent a house on St. Paul Street in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Toronto. After a few weeks Bruce and Colleen moved to a room at the Beverly Street Steam Baths at Beverly and Dundas Streets to escape overcrowding and rising tensions at the house on St. Paul Street. Bruce searched daily for employment without success. He had brought leatherworking tools with him from California and began to do leatherwork on a custom-order basis for people he met in Yorkville Village. His parents wrote of their shock and anger at his leaving the US and he began to show symptoms of schizophrenia. In August Colleen and Bruce joined Dave Woodward, Philip Mullins and Jim and Pat Wilson to lease the house at 224 McCaul Street.

In September Colleen realized that she was pregnant. Bruce’s condition worsened and late one night he flattened the roof of their VW sedan with a sledgehammer. The car was parked in the garage behind 224 McCaul Street but no one dared to approach Bruce and take the sledgehammer from him. Bruce was placed in the care of a psychiatrist at the mental health hospital at 999 Queen Street West but his mental condition continued to worsen and eventually he and Colleen were asked to leave the house at 224 McCaul Street. They moved to an apartment on Bathurst Street hoping that the privacy and calm will help Bruce’s mental condition. However Bruce began a three-week fast, eating only strong coffee and Hershey’s chocolate. This made him even worse. He became nervous and moody. Bruce checked himself into the mental hospital at 999 Queen Street but soon left and wandered the streets as a homeless person. In November Colleen and Mary Rauton moved together to a small third-story room on Henry Street but continued to eat the evening meal with the household at 224 McCaul Street. Bruce’s parents sent him train tickets and Bruce was bundled off to California where he was placed in Agnew State Mental Hospital. By December Colleen and Mary were sharing a room at 224 McCaul Street.


This is a very sad story. I had shock treatment without sequel. My first diagnosis was schizophrenia. It was dead wrong. I am bipolar type 1.
I can imagine the pain of all family members involved in the situation. Medicine is still a long ways to a cure, and society is eve further away from acceptance of fellow humans who are wacky, crazy, lost their marbles, have flowers in the attic.

It's as if mental illness were as contagious as chicken pox.

Great post, quite daring. Thanks for sharing.

At first I was a bit hesitant, but I don't know the man, and have enough emotional distance to be fascinated as a historian. His illness could have been BiPolar actually, as it does fit the descriptions my mother has told me (sitting in the dark staring at the wall for hours, yadda yadda).

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on May 2, 2007 8:20 PM.

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