Updated 5/30/2017 – Added .pdf of the newsletter.
1982-06 Straight Talk Newsletter.
A Peek Inside a Cult-Like Business
How to start a cult-like treatment center for adolescents.
- Tell (already concerned) parents that their adolescent kids are experiencing difficulties and will end up dead, insane or in jail if they don’t buy into the treatment your business provides.
- Tell the parents that they should lie or otherwise deceive their kids into entering the business/treatment program.
- Keep the kids in fear of their lives as well as sleep-deprived and cut off from the larger society, unaware of anything going on in the real world.
- Tell the kids that if they even try to tell anyone what goes on inside the windowless warehouse that no one will believe them.
- Remind the kids that they have now been labeled ‘lying druggies’ and the adults involved in the program are now labeled ‘experts’ and ask the kids,”Who do YOU think outsiders will believe?”
- Keep parents sleep deprived and extremely busy. Yes, parents have to have jobs to pay for the program, but if they want to ‘save their child’s life,’ they will adhere to the requirements of
- Attending open meetings on Monday and Friday evenings (which can last until the wee hours of the morning).
- Showing their gratitude to the program by volunteering to support the program by giving all of their money and free time to the operations of the program.
- Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting other parents into the program to help “spread awareness of the drug program” (not to mention bring in more money and support)
- Taking care of their own kids and other people’s kids at night when they are not in the building by driving the kids back and forth to the building every day, providing food for the kids, and altering your house in a way that secures it like a prison, so the kids don’t escape overnight.
- Fundraising, fundraising, fundraising – Ask everyone and anyone you come in contact with to donate money or their kid to the program.
- Provide services for the community, to get them on board and supporting the program.
- Get parents and kids to ‘voluntarily’ give speaking engagements singing the praises of the program to school communities, court systems, religious communities, law enforcement and more to continue to “spread the awareness.”
Straight, Inc., as well as many other adolescent programs (for so-called ‘troubled teens”), operate in this way.
Below are excerpts from the first Straight, Inc. newsletter my parents received when they first entered the program.
In this series of newsletters, a picture of how coercion and brainwashing occurs will emerge. Brainwashing doesn’t occur like it is portrayed in Hollywood, rather it occurs in a much more subtle manner.
And anyone, even you, are susceptible to subtle manipulation that occurs in places like this. Some of the greatest minds have been fooled by con games like Straight, Scientology and many other cult-like businesses that promise to help you improve your life.
STRAIGHT TALK Newsletters for ‘Straight, Inc. Members.’
There were “Straight Talk” Newsletters published for the parents from at least the time I was enrolled in Straight, Inc. forward. The names of the newsletters varied between the Straight, Inc. locations and time periods, but in St. Petersburg, Florida beginning in May of 1982 – The STRAIGHT TALK newsletters were a small 7″ x 8.5″ printed paper documents.
PURPOSE OF THE NEWSLETTER:
At the end of the newsletter there is a little blurb offering an explanation of its purpose:
STRAIGHT TALK exists to offer communication between one parent and another, and to offer an outlet for Straightlings to express their new awareness in one literary form or another. New parents can benefit from oldcomer parents’ experiences. Wouldn’t you like to express your feelings as a Straight parent and submit your reflections! Please do!!
A Straightling’s expression of “their new awareness in literary form”:
MY LIFE IS . . . .
My life is like being a butterfly.
When breaking out of its cocoon,
Or when just flying by.
My life is like being a child again.
I have so many questions,
I’m just tuning in.
My life is like riding a wave.
If I don’t ride that wave,
That wave will ride me.
My life is like being a tree.
I start out small,
Then I grow tall.
My life is like being a butterfly.
I live life to the fullest,
And then I die.
A Straight Young Man
Volunteers – So much of the program was run by volunteers that I can’t imagine the program itself had much in the way of expenses.
- Grandma Jean Adams
There is a full page SPECIAL TRIBUTE to Grandma Jean Adams, and a list of her contributions. The article makes a special emphasis on the fact that she was not required to attend Open Meetings and contribute her many hours to Straight, but got committed when she came to Straight to support her grandchild. Her list of contributions:
- Attending Open Meetings
- Run kids to doctors’ appointments many times
- Driven a school carpool
- Support Bingo (for the community)
- Contributed at Booster Club meetings
- Help at Open Meeting Concession Stand (who knew there was a “concession stand” at open meetings? weird!)
- Very Active as Assistant Chairperson of the Craft Club
- MOST OF ALL: Grandma Jean has contributed many hours and raised many dollars for Straight as Manager of the Second Phase Thrift Shop.
The ‘Special Tribute” states that “since October 1, the Thrift Shop has raised over $11,000. Grandma Jean gets much credit for such conspicuous success. Each parent owes her gratitude for the immense contribution she has made to keep the costs of Straight affordable.” This tribute was read in an Open Meeting in May.
- Craft Club (for parents to make things to sell)
Evidently, this craft club was formed to make things to sell for the benefit of Straight Inc. The Craft Club news section includes a thank you to parents for fulfilling their requests for supplies, then goes on to say what supplies they no longer need and which supplies they need more of, up to and including a sewing machine. They also mention that even if a parent can’t come to their craft making sessions, to let the head of the craft club know because they can still arrange to have you make the things they sell.
- Newsletter Creation (by parents for parents)
There is a small ad space that reads, “Thank you special volunteer parents, for the typesetting, layout and printing of this newsletter as a contribution to Straight, Inc.”
Yes, Straight got money from the variety of ads shown in this tiny newsletter too. Many of the ads mention that if you buy from them a partial donation from the proceeds goes to Straight.
- Dinner Theater Shows
You have plenty of options to give to Straight. Your choices are: Buy $20 tickets to the show, don’t go to the show, but make a donation, or offer you spare time to help Straight Inc. (See the options at the bottom –>)
- Parking Lot Volunteer Dads
PARKING LOT NEWS . . . Yes, we know there is a limited amount of space for parking on open meeting nights. There are on duty, however, attendant volunteers for your convenience. They ask that you please follow their instruction as you park. And please remember the following:
- One way only–counter clockwise around building.
- Back into all outside spaces.
- Vans park on West side of building, back row.
- Compact cars park in the two small north lots, and back in, please
- No noise in the parking lot — horns, yelling, etc.
- Lock all doors and close windows and check lights.
- Back into street parking.
- Please watch small children in parking lot so they will not get hurt.
- Most of all, please follow attendants’ directions.
- 5 miles per hour speed limit.
- No running in parking lot, adults or children.
- Bingo Volunteers
About 150-200 people attend Bingo every Sunday night. They really enjoy Bingo and many are very supportive of Straight.
We need your support to keep this project going. At least 16 volunteer workers are needed each Sunday night. Each volunteer is assigned to a team and scheduled to work every 4th Sunday.
Whether your child is on first, second or later phases does not matter. Just because your child is on first phase does not mean that you do not have a supportive responsibility to the program. Fortunately, we have at present some 7th Stepper parents who continue to volunteer for Bingo. Without them, we would not have enough workers at times. But the parents presently in the program are the ones that should be sharing the companionships and the fun of working Bingo on Sunday nights. Please volunteer.
- Booster Club Volunteers
There is a president, vice president, secretary and more. This is the Booster Club Success Story written up in this June 1982 newsletter.
The Booster Club does not just meet and talk and plan. It also acts to provide support for the program of Straight, Inc. Since last October 1, the beginning of the Straight fiscal year, Booster Club activities have raised well over $17,000 for Straight. Over $1,150 was raised by the Craft Club alone. The Thrift Shop has raised over $11,000. Other Booster Cub activities, such as raffles and dinner theaters account for over $14,700. This newsletter has raised over $1,100.
The Booster Club and its many willing parents took just seven months to raise over $17,000, not counting Bingo. By the end of the fiscal year, next October 1, a goal of $40,000 has been declared.
What can you do to help reach this goal?
The only thing this article doesn’t address is how these funds are used, either in the past, present or future. And everybody’s is too exhausted or involved or both to ask any questions. It’s just accepted that this is how things worked.
At this time the Administrative Staff of Straight, Inc. was as follows:
Executive Director: Jim Hartz
Administrative Assistant: Laura Morgan
Director of Development: Wayne Kayser
Executive Secretary: Sara Kane
Comptroller: Jesse Anderson
Accounting Assistant: Drew Scheff
Education & Information: Maryellen Alexander
And the ADULT portion of the Chain of Command in St. Petersburg included:
Program Director: Dr. Miller Newton
Assistant Director: Ruth Ann Newton
After-Care Coordinator: Christ Yarnold
Executive Staff Trainees: Beverly Hardy, Melissa Motz, Ed Stach
Staff Supervisor: David McAdams
Following the Staff Supervisor were “Kid Staff”: Four (4) Senior Staff Members; Ten (10) Junior Staff Members; Seven (7) Staff Trainees.
Followed by Adult Business Staff:
Intake Coordinator: Cynthia Nilson
Insurance/Reception: Harriet Markle
Bookkeeper: Barbara Seidel
Program Secretary: Linda Evans
Dietary Staff: Anne Shepard and Supervisor: Shirley Rutta
Staff Liaison: Mr. Ed
Maintenance: Charlie Walker
If you are familiar with Straight Inc or any other type of ‘cult-like’ business, does this look familiar to you?
How do we alert people without similar experiences to the crazy schemes like this that still exist out there today?
Please leave a comment in the comments section below.