Bag of Happiness

Life Lived to the Edge of Possibility

David Kinne

David Kinne
Volcano, Hawaii, USA
June 15
Founder & President
La Vida Buena Partnership
David Kinne is the possibility of people living extraordinary lives of creativity, joy and full self expression. He has led over 2,000 seminars in 6 countries. He is currently working to complete a book of his photos and text about life lived fully called "Mysteries/Answers"


AUGUST 27, 2010 11:29AM

My Own Private Abu Ghraib

Rate: 19 Flag

My Own Private Abu Ghraib

Michael Landon had the courage to publically draw back the shameful yellow curtains surrounding the misery and persecution of being a bed-wetter, and for that he will always be a hero to me.

Now I’m stepping forward myself, to unconceal an even deeper tragedy, surrounded by even more secrecy – the electroshock “therapy” administered to possibly millions of American children of my generation by the dreaded “Enuresis Device.” If you want to know why an entire generation of Baby Boomers went so far wrong, this would be a good place to start the inquiry – the unspeakable torture of innocent but damp little postwar lambs like myself.

First, a few medical facts to ground us in reality: Learning not to urinate while sleeping requires the biological development of three distinct body functions: 1) the ability to sense when the bladder is full, 2) the ability to voluntarily control the sphincter muscle governing release of the bladder, and 3) the development of the hormone that naturally inhibits diuresis of urine to the bladder after sundown. According to the American College of Pediatrics these three biological events converge by age 6 for the average girl, and by age 7 for the average boy.

But even by age 10, about 5% of the “normal” population of children has not yet developed the ability to sleep dry. Function #3 is underappreciated as a contributing factor to bed-wetting. In the wild, darkness normally triggers a reduction in urine production, but in our advanced technological culture, children are seldom exposed to darkness. Ha! Never thought of that before, did you? And you thought night lights were just for damaging immature retinal cells, didn’t you?

But to return to my own personal tragedy, my father was one of the countless WWII vets who saw the ad in the back of Popular Mechanics that promised to send details on how to cure bedwetting for “$1 plus one first class stamp” (Google “USPS” for explanation of “first class stamp”).

In return for said remittance, dad received back a purple on white copy (Google “spirit duplicator” or “Ditto” for explanation of purple on white copies) of plans for the Enuresis Device, later to be marketed commercially as the “Nite-Dry,” or the “Dri-Nite” or somesuch. A quick trip to the hardware store for parts, and a few minutes work with common tools found in every kitchen’s junk drawer, and the diabolical device was assembled.

The components (in order) were a rubber sheet, to be placed down over the mattress, a piece of copper window screen,  a sprinkling of ordinary table salt, a dry cotton sheet, a second piece of copper window screen, a large drycell battery, a loud buzzer, wire, and a couple of battery clips.

The battery was connected through the buzzer to the two copper screens, which were separated by a dry cotton sheet, which did not pass electricity. But as little as a tablespoonful of water was enough to dissolve the salt, making the water electrically conductive, which completed the circuit to set off the loud buzzer, and coincidentally delivered an electric shock to whatever tender flesh happened to be in contact with the top screen. Like my willy. Because the last line of the instructions were that “for maximum effectiveness, the child should not wear pyjama bottoms until fully cured.”

That last line should read again until comprehension is complete, and the full horror of this fiendish device is upon you. I not only had to head off to Beddy-Bye Land sans culottes, but then I had to try to go to sleep with the tenderest of my tender skin pressed against bare window screening, in full dread of what would happen next.  

I’m convinced this is when my chronic insomnia first developed, because not long after I fell asleep, just when I was getting into serious REM time, the inevitable would happen. I’d be having a lovely dream about swimming in warm tropical waters, and then a loud BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ and a sharp electrical shock would wake me and I’d leap from the bed, doing a Yowie, yowie, YOWIE! dance. Lights would go on, and Dad would fly in and drag me off to the bathroom, at which point I would become pee shy and refuse to produce.  

Eventually, however, the device, no doubt derived from a captured Nazi military weapon, did its promised magic, and I learned to get through the night without an “accident.” Dad was so proud of me when that finally happened. So proud.

That is, until he discovered that when I got myself up to pee during the night, I was using the kitchen trash can for the purpose.


Love, David


Illustration and text © 2010 by David “Dry as a Bone” Kinne   

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I had a neighbour friend that wet his bed and his parents tied him to the bed and did all sorts of horrible things to him.
My sons was one and I treated it with love. It stopped.
Rated with hugs
OMG, David ! Did you know you were using the kitchen trash can or were you doing so in your sleep? ~R
How terrible! Poor Willy...and I won't make any wet spot jokes.
FusunA - I was sleep walking. I can't tell you you how much this part of the story got replayed at family gatherings over the years. :)
David I so get this one, tho I was never in that particular prison.
RATED for brave and clear.
Oh my David, when you got to the part about the "kit" I was fearful of what was to come; please forgive me but I laughed about your willy. :)

I remember seeing those ads in magazines, but I never could have imagined anything so horrible was the cure. I am so sorry that you had to have that happen to you, poor little boy.
I often wondered how those machines worked. Fortunately, it was never needed in my immediate family, so I just kept wondering. You poor thing.
It is amazing that many of us even make to adulthood. I am glad you survived! R
Why did I think about Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?" I guess I am technically a "war baby" but our parents did some weird stuff in those days. Do you still have a night light? R for renal.
Wow, this is really horrifying. I never heard of such a device. I have a sibling who was a bed-wetter and he was spanked for something beyond his control. I thought that was cruel and unusual punishment but this...terrible. I am glad you made it!
I had no I am so sorry for your young self having gone through this, all of it.
This is terrible. As old as I am, and I've never heard of it. It just seems so barbaric. You would have stopped on your on eventually. The movie Michael Landon made was appalling. He had to run home and get his sheets out of the window where his mother had put them, before the other kids seen them. That had to be like mental torture. Michael said the running made him and an athlete and a great Javelin thrower. Great Post David!
there appears to be some hereditary connection with the night-wets, which points the accusing finger at the parents, eh? as if a child would willfully wet the bed and continue to sleep there - thanks for being so brave and for being so normal (as far as we know).
Oh how I remember these torture devices. Never had one used on me but some friends did. Popular Mechanics used to cover everything didn't it?

Now as I get older I'll probably be peeing in the trash can too.
Any port in a storm, Grif, any port in a storm.
OMG so hideously cruel! I remember having our fluids curtailed after 6pm ...but that looks pretty damned humane compared to your "treatment"...Ow, David...OW. r
PM, I can remember having an argument with my mother at our lake cottage because I wanted a Coca-Cola after dinner, and she declined, because I had already had one, and I, logical little fellow that I was, pointed to the grown ups who were playing pinochle and drinking beer after beer and asked why they could have so many beers and I could only have one Coke? And her response was "Because I said so."

If she had just honestly said "Because you'll pee the bed" I might have been able to deal with it better.
You know back when families were big and rambling with grandparents and uncles and aunts--problems were hashed around and there would always be some wise person that would say, "Relax, he'll grow out of it." This would sooth the neurotic parents minds that their son would not be some 45 year old still wetting the bed. Parents alone don't get that training. Sorry, David. How you pee in any circumstance it to your credit.
OUCH! My gosh! The things parents do with the best of intentions...but....glad you survived, David!
How crazy David..amazed you got through that..Had the problem with one son, 3 or 4 times, we changed everything and no reprimands, just put him back to bed in clean sheets and a kiss. It passed..he is 33 now and still, a very sound sleeper.Poor child, seriously.