Medina County Youth Services – Part 8

Once it became obvious that I wasn’t just visiting Northeastern Ohio, it was time to find a job. I honestly don¿t remember just how it was that I came to apply for employment with Medina County’s Youth Services, but I did and got a job.

I was hired to work at Brunswick’s Alternative High School in the summer of 1979. My job was a combination of public relations and fund development.

The fund development consisted of researching available public and private grants. I was looking for whatever money could be found to pay for whatever it was we were doing in Brunswick.

The public relations part was to it as much favorable publicity I could for whatever it was we were doing in Brunswick.

So, what was whatever it was we were doing in Brunswick?

Actually, I’m proud of what we were trying to do. The Alternative High School was created in the late 70’s to offer an alternative for the kids on the verge of being tossed away by Brunswick High School. They were the stoners and proto-slackers that couldn¿t or wouldn¿t deal with the rules of high school. The Alternative High was staffed by young teachers and counselors that definitely didn¿t look like those working at BHS. We were the “hippie school”, run by hippies for hippies. The teachers taught all the required courses, but with different methods and different materials. The whole idea was to show the students that they COULD learn. The idea was to show them that learning wasn¿t just some old dude lecturing them. To pull out the old cliché, we wanted to teach them learning could be fun.

The PR part of my job was to send out press releases to the local newspapers about whatever events we held, whatever accomplishments we made. I was there to generate good press.

If I remember this correctly, one ¿public service¿ the school provided prior to my arrival was cleaning out people garages, collecting and disposing of trash and whatever else had ended up taking up space. From that, the school ended up with an amazing collection of house paints. This asset sparked a very creative idea from Carl, the art teacher. Carl decided we could offer a mural program to the city. Carl and his students would paint a mural on any wall visible to the public for free. He would paint sides of barns, garages, stores, any wall that could be seen easily. Carl would meet with the owner and discuss what sort of mural they wanted. He’d come back with drawings for their approval. Then Carl and the students would paint it.

I pushed this as much as I could through the local papers and radio stations.

And then the call came. Clayton Crook was the chief of police in Brunswick at the time. The chief had a great idea. He wanted us to paint a mural in Brunswick Police Station, in holding area most commonly known as the Drunk Tank. The Chief wanted pink elephants.

Carl and his students painted a wonderful mural, a bar scene populated by pink elephant barmaids, pink elephant bartenders, and pink elephant customers.

Unfortunately, the main office of Medina County Youth Services didn¿t want me to publicize this without their review and approval. To make it worse, the director who was to personally approve my press releases took a week¿s vacation just as the project was completed.

Funny thing about working in public relations, you end up working with the same set of reporter. You form relationships with them. And I made things really easy for them. Most press releases are dull things. The stand press release is basically a list of facts. The reporter gets these and has to write a story from them. I wrote the stories for them. They just had to add their byline.

So, I had this great story and no official approval to release it. So, I leaked it to the local reporters. And to the Associated Press. And the United Press International.

There were articles in German newspapers. The Chief was getting calls from the BBC. Canadian reports came down to see the drunk tank. All three Cleveland TV stations did stories.

Some of you may remember a show on NBC called “That’s Incredible”. We almost made it on the show. I talked to a number of people in Burbank. Things were set. Carl and I even lined up interviews with folks in a local bar. They were willing to go on national TV to say what it was like to wake up in the middle of a pink elephant barroom.

BUT… the day the crew arrived from LA, Chief Crook chickened out. He decided the show would portray him as a joke. His name may have played into that worry.

Oh, well.

I did manage to get the program one more year of funding though before I quit to go work at the Cleveland Clinic.

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