When a convention was to be held in your City and it was believed there weren't enough hotel rooms available or at least affordable ones, the Witnesses living in that city were asked to go out into the territory and ask people if they had a room or rooms someone attending the convention could use. You could report your time doing this as part of your ministry. I could never bring myself (14 or 15) to do this....it just seemed too weird for a kid to go to a house and ask the householder for a room but many kids in the hall did this. I was always suprised when I'd hear how many "worldly" people did offer rooms for free . After all we were told that Satan had blinded their minds to the truth and that they were being manipulated to thwart our beliefs yet we were willing to risk it and stay in their hoses when it suited us. I was always impressed when so many offered to have complete strangers into their home so they could attend the convention.
During the big recession of the late 70's my Dad, who wasn't a Witness but did study and attend meetings occasionally, had been laid of from his regular job. The P.O. of our hall asked him to fill in doing janitor work for Some of the Bros. who would be at the assembly. My mom was angry because he was going to attend the convention until this opportunity came along. He had 4 kids to support and was very worried about making ends meet. We took advantage of one of these free rooms as we didn't have any extra to money to spend on a hotel room. My mother didn't drive so we got a ride to the convention city with someone from our hall. By the time we were dropped off at the free room it was at about 9PM. A very old lady answered the door and seemed unclear about why we were there but she let us in anyway. The house smelled of cigarette smoke and was pretty cluttered. I couldn't tell if the old lady was nutty or just old. It didn't matter now because we were stuck there for the night as the people we came with had driven away and headed for their hotel. It turned out the only place to sleep on the nasty old couches in her living room where she had been sitting smoking and watching TV. We had sleeping bags which so at least we didn't have to come in contact with the couches too much. We waited politely for her to go to bed which but it was getting on toward midnight and it appeared she wasn't going anywhere. As time went on it became more obvious that she was bonkers. She was talking to the TV and mentioned to us kids that she would show us the possum that she kept in her basement. My 2 younger sisters 8 and 3) who were wearing a dresses realized that their bare legs were being bitten by fleas and one sister being somewhat asthmatic was having a hard time breathing because of the smoke and pet dander.(cats....of course)
Long story short. My mom called every hotel in town hoping to find someone from our hall to come rescue us. Finally someone from a local congregation got wind of our plight and brought us to their house where we spent the night sleeping on lawn chairs in their back yard. The next day I remember being embarrased at waking up and seeing that these Witnesses had kids and a girl my age . Being in this situation was embarrasing enough but now we had to crowd in with their family in order to get washed and dressed for the assembly. That day was pure hell. It was in the 80's and my brother and I had to sit in our jackets and ties on bleachers in the hot sun from 9am to 9pm. listening to scarey talk after talk about the "End of the System" and Armegeddon. Looking back I realize that I had developed a way to tune out of my surroundings as a way of coping. I could go to far away places in my mind while still hearing enough of the talk to be able to answer the pop quizzes we'd get later.