The Morning News from Wilmington, Delaware on February 19, 1978 · Page 58
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The Morning News from Wilmington, Delaware · Page 58

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Wilmington, Delaware
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Sunday, February 19, 1978
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Page 58
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C-14 Sunday Nw$ Journal, Wilmington, Dl., Fb. 19, 1978 Du Pont machinist uses plastic in his bagpipes ft&Mit Vi;v.- Stiff photo by Rod DuMck Matthew "Mac" McConnell with a Deldren bagpipe and his cheerleader-wife, Pearl. By JENNIE PHIPPS Out there in the Glen Farms highlands, right across the Maryland line from Newark, lives a transplanted Scotsman who has found a way to beat his brethern in the homeland at their own game. He has imporved upon their national instrument, the bagpipe. Matthew "Mac" McConnell, 47, a stocky Du Pont Co. machinist with a brogue so thick he'll never be mistaken for anything other than a Scot has played drums in bagpipe bands ever since he was a small boy in a town near Glasgow. His grandfather taught him the art and he perfected it during a stint in the Scottish Regiment stationed, among other spots, at Edinboro Castle. Since immigrating to this country 22 years ago, he has been active &n bagpipe bands. He is a member of the Wilmington Pipe Band and a regular participant in the Scottish Games here and other meets all over the East Coast and theMidwest. Three years ago, McConnell's friends began to have trouble getting replacement parts from Scotland for bagpipes that were wearing out. The difficulty was that pipes have for centuries been carved from ebony or a3 Scotsmen say, blackwood from Africa. Pol&tical troubles in that part of the world had slowed exports. McConnell, while not a piper himself, was concerned, because he is a dedicated drummer and you can't play drums in a pipe band unless there are pipers. He began experimenting with making the needed parts himself on a lathe in his basement. The portion of the bagpipe most likely to wear out is the recorder-like pipe called a chanter. The piper plays his melodies by covering the holes in the chanter. Because the walls of the chanter must be very thin to produce the high, wailing sound of the bagpipe, that part of the instrument is delicate easily broken and subject to warping. Beginning pipe players learn by using a modified chanter with a mouthpiece added. That gives them a chance to master the fingering before they tackle the blow pipe, the air bag and the three long drone pips. McConnell started by making beginner chanters. He used a hard, black Du Pont plastic called Deldren that he encounters in his job at the . Chambers Works. Deldren looks a little like ebony, and it is nearly unbreakable, unaffected by weather and costs less. Using his machinist talents, McConnell started with a 14-inch length of lth-inch Deldren pipe. He rough-drilled a hole through the center, then bored finger holes along the side. The first attempt was discouragingly unmelodic, but McConnell kept at it. "I made probably 100 before I hit on the right sound," he says. "I discovered the hole in the middle of the chanter has to taper at just the right degree, or the sound will not be right." At about the 75th pipe, when he began to think he was getting close, McConnell took his finished pipes to Roddy MacDonald, a well-known Newark piper, for an evaluaion. "He would just shake his head and say 'rubbish,'" McConnell admits. e The two men worked together ironing out pitch problems.they also redesigned the placement of the holes so the instrument would be easier to finger. Now McConnell claims the bugs are gone and MacDonald agrees. "It is very, very good," according to piper MacDonald. "The sound is one-and-a-half times as loud as a pipe carved from blckwood. The tonal quality is equally good." McConnell has discovered an eager market for both his beginner chanters and his more polished and precise regular, replacement chanters. They go for $55 each. So far, about 200 beginners are using them and about 100 pipers are giving them a try. The customers McConnell was most happy to please were on Scottish soil. He says they found his pipes moretha! satisfactory. In this country, word has traveled from one Scottish Games Outing to the other and as a result, requests for chanters have come from as far as Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and all over Canada. For his next project, the inventor is tackling a complete bagpipe. He hopes to have that mastered by autumn. The blowpipe through which the piper fills the bag and three long resonating drones will be carved fro' Deldren. Only the elk-hide bag can't be replaced by artificial materials. Those will be imported from Canada . The price will be more than competitive. McConnell thinks he can make Deldren bagpipes for about $300, at least $50 less than the cheapest Scottish import. Right now making and selling bagpipes is just a hobby. It complements the McConnell family's long practice of spending many weekends at Scottish-flavored events. McConnell coaches drummers in pipe bands. The two McConnell sons, Steven and Douglas, both grown and living in Delaware, play pipes Deldren ones these days. Their daughter, Linda Vinson, dances a mean Highland Fling. Wife Pearl supervises the costumes and, as she puts it, "cheerleads." Running a bagpipe concession is just one more addition to the family repertoire. But McConnell thinks the market for things Scottish is growing, so maybe one of these days he hopes, he'll be able to sit back and rest on his bagpipes. Synanon changes Continued from Page 1 their wives, their children . . . Bombs could be thrown into odd places, into the homes of some of the clowns who occupy high places in the Time organization. That's too bad. That's too bad. I would certainly not institute anything like that, but I have no way of preventing it if it would happen " When first contacted, former residents of Synanon, including some who had left in recent months because of the marriage changes, were reluctant to talk. Many were upset by events within Synanon, but wome believed that speaking publicly wouldn't accomplish anything and said they still felt grateful for what Synanon had one done for them. Others said they didn't want to talk because they still had relatives in Synanon or were afraid they might be sued if they publicly criticized the organization. But, gradually, some decided to voice their feelings. "I am very saddened by Synanon today," said Dr. Jerry New-mark, an author and educational consultant who left Synanon in 1976, one of several former residents who decided to speak publicly. "I thought it had tremendous potential as a model for society. To me, it's now beome a caricature of a social movement. As far as I'm concerned, the Synanon I knew doesn't exist anymore." Controversy isn't new for Synanon. In the years after Dederich launched what was then primarily a rehabilitation program for drug addicts and alcoholics, it faced a constant struggle for survival. But Synanon proved that by treating heroin addiction as a character disorder, addicts could change their self-destructive behavior patterns and lead productive lives. Its pioneering approach to drug addiction remains the model for successful therapeutic communities throughout the nation. Over the years, however, Synanon began to change. Some of its members had no drug problems, but joined because they were attracted by Synanon's philosphies and communal life-style and saw it as a Utopian society. At the same time, building successful businesses and assets of more than $20 million, Synanon expanded its operations from Santa Monica, Calif., to other U.S. cities, adding large chapters in San Francisco, Tulare and Marin Counties. For some, Synanon became a complete alternative to the larger world outside. It describes itself as a religion and expects believers to remain for life. Some former Synanon residents now voice their concerns. Dede rich had never drawn a large salary until the past two years.they said, and the philosophy had been that personal wealth was something to be shared by the community. That attitude, they added, was one of the reasons they and others had been happy to contribute their funds to the tax-exempt nonprofit organization. According to reports filed with the state attorney general's office required of nonprofit organizations, Dederich's salary ranged between $422 and $2,500 a year from 1972 to 1975. However, in the past two years Dederich began receiving a salary of more than $76,-000 a year and eight other top officials also started drawing salaries of up to $50,000. In October Synanon officials also revealed to reporters that after a $600,000 settlement in 1976 in a libel suit against the San Francisco Examiner, Dederich received $300,000 and the rest was distributed to 30 long-time Synanon residents. They also disclosed that in August, Synanon's board of directors had awarded Dederich a "pre-retirement" bonus (he has talked of retiring next month) of $500,000, a move which Dederich defended with these words: "I like to be paid for what I do, like any other American. I'm not a nun or a monk. I'm an American businessman." It was the direction of Synanon's programs that most concerned former residents, however. "Chuck will say Synanon has always involved change," said one. "What they don't add is that there once were few rules. Now there are many rules and virtually no community involvement in the decision-making process." Those who objected to Dederich's lifestyle experiments were told to comply with rules or leave, they said. Dederich himself told one reporter after Synanon's residents had begun changing partners: "This is a experimental society. Another concern of former residents was that Dederich and other top Synanon leaders had started keeping guns. Nonviolence has been a major part of Synanon's philosophy, they said. However, Synanon's leaders began keeping guns about two years ago, explaining that they felt they needed them because of threats against Dederich and other residents. A few weeks ago, in a television interview, Dederich said news reports of recent changes had increased the danger to Synanon residents. He said the organization had purchased $63,000 worth of guns and ammunition, including 235 pistols, rifles and shotguns, A special security force of 150 residents, he Lot Angelei Timet Bob Deal and wife: "I'm very concerned." added, was being trained in their use. The first reports of the exchange of mates, one of the most controversial of the recent changes within Synanon, were based solely on interviews with Dederich and other Synanon residents who had gone along with the idea. Although Synanon officials lately refused to discuss the change of partners or other policies, they had expressed some of their views earlier in newspapers: "I'm a statistician. Most of these people were going to be divorced anyway, eventually," Dederich told George Nevin of the San Rafael Independent Journal. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be funny to perform some kind of emotional surgery on people who are getting along pretty well?' What happened is what I though would happen. People fell madly in love with their new partners. I'll bet you most of these people are going to stay together a lot longer than the average American couple." As Nevin described the mass divorce, it was "like a nuclear chain reaction," with a "spirit of matchmaking" moving across the Synanon empire. Husbands and wives had made lists of suitable mates for each other, he reported, describing one woman as being thrilled when she overheard her husband offering her to another man. "I liked the idea of going with someone I really didn't know," she said. "It was a feeling of the unknown." The Santa Monica Evening Outlook also talked to Synanon residents, quoting one as saying : "Nobody was made to do it. It's not a rule. No one is ordered, or forced, to do anything against their will. These things come out of the community itself. Chuck Dederich might advocate it. Yes, he's a great advocate. But he is very, very careful not to order it. People in Synanon have a great unity of purpose, and you might say. these tnings evolve." Another resident said she had been in love with her husband and didn't really want to split up with him, but had done so because "every time we had made these sacrifices it had made us bigger and stronger." She added that she regarded Synanon as being "far bigger than I am" and said she felt a "tremendous sense of excitement" that "something important is happening here." Many former Synanon residents confirmed that most of those who had changed mates said they were happy. As in the outside world, there were unhappy marriages as well as happy ones, and for some it was described by former residents as a "chance to dump their mates." Above all, they said, there was the loyalty to Synanon and the widespread belief by its members that joining Dederich's latest experiment was preferable to leaving. Those who did leave recently were reluctant to talk. Among them were Dederich's brother and his wife, Bill and Dolores Dederich, both 60 and married for 36 years. Once one of Synanon's to executives, Bill Dederich said he didn't want to be involved in any article and commented only that he and his brother remained "the best of friends." He and his wife had moved into Synanon from Toledo, Ohio, 10 years ago. They made the decision to leave in November and now live in an apartment in Hollywood. Mrs. Dederich, also reluctant to talk, admitted that "it was kind of a blow for both of us." She said they could have stayed, but added that "if you are part of a religion, the pressure to conform is very strong." Why didn't they get divorced like many others? "I love my husband and I've been with him for 36 years," she said. For Dan Ross, the decision to talk wasn't easy. He and his wife, Marian, married 32 years, had left Synanon in October after living Al Bautnan: "Synanon has changed." there for almost six years. When first contacted in early December, Ross refused any comment. Synanon found out he had been approached for an interview, he later said. His wife's mother, Molly Lappin, 81, still lived in Synanon. Ross said Synanon told the couple they could no longer visit Mrs. Lappin there. On Christmas Day, he placed his mother-in-law in a private retirement home and decided to tell his story. It was the philosophy and communal life-style of Synanon that led him and his wife to join, Ross said. Both held good jobs on the outside while they lived there. Ross, 56, is the head electrician for the Johnny Carson Show, his wife a stenographer for the Los Angeles school board. The first three years were "fun," he added, but then the mood for them began to change. One of the first policies that upset Ross was the decision in 1976 that male residents over 18 should get vasectomies in accordance with Dederich's view that both Synanon and the world had all the children they needed. Ross' 18-year-old son was one of those planning to have the operation. Ross said he told his son he was too young to make that kind of decision, but his son said he thought he had to do it because all of his friends were. To his father's relief, he later left Synanon before the operation was performed. In June, Ross added, he was involved in an incident which not only horrified him but "upset" other residents. Ross said he had contributed almost $38,000 to Synanon, $25,000 of that after the organization had taken in his mother-in-law two years earlier. In addition, he said, Mrs. Lappin was signing over her regular and supplementary Social Security checks to Synanon, totaling about $300 a month, and he was paying sometimes more than $1,000 a month for a room and board for Dan Ross: "It's not easy to leave." himself, his wife and their son. During one of the Synanon encounter sessions, known as "the game," he said, he was told to donate the rest of his savings to Synanon or leave. When he refused, he added, physical force was used to remove him from "the game." "You have to understand the importance of the game to Synanon," Ross said. "People yell and scream, but the most basic rule is that there can't be any physical violence. This was an important session because it involved most of the executive officers of Synanon. When I said I'd already given them enough money, one of the top officials in Synanon jumped up and called me a bum and told two guys to throw me out." Ross said he was physically taken from the room. But he and his wife decided not to leave Synanon at that time because they didn't want to leave under pressure. He said three officials apologized the next day under orders from Dederich. The Rosses remained for a. few more month until the pressure built on married couples to switch mates, Ross said. "A week before I left they called me into a game," he said. "Everybody was told to split up. We sat in a circle and each couple said they were going to go along (with 'changing partners'). They asked me what my position was. I said, 'Next week I'll be married 32 years. My wife and I, we raised three kids and we've gone through a hell of lot. If you think for one moment I'm going to give up my wife, you're crazy. I wouldn't exchange for her for 10 of your prettiest girls.' "When I look back at it," Ross said, "I realize I must have been crazy to have stayed as long as I did. I still like the idea of people living together and helping each other with their problems. It's not easy to leave an organization when you've put a lot into it. But it was something I had to do."

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