Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A voice from Warrendale

Last year I wrote a review of Warrendale, the 1967 documentary by Allan King about the home for troubled children of the same name. In it I wondered out loud what became of the children of Warrendale.

Did the children of Warrendale grow up to be well-adjusted adults with kids of their own? They would be retirement age now. Possibly spending winters in Florida like thousands of other Canadian snowbirds. Hard to believe, but possible.

Well, turns out, some of them did. Sincere thanks to Sharon Turple Gataiance -- a resident of Warrendale when the film was made -- who posted this reminiscence. Her memories shed light on some of the questions the film raises.

As a resident of House One at Warrendale,at the time that this film was made, I too have wondered how some of the other children have fared.
You question why these children were there. At the time that this film was made, the powers that were had decided that all childhood mental and emotional problems stemmed from their home environment.
In my case,at 14, I was bored at school, started skipping it and got caught shoplifting. Instead of sending me to reform school, the court sent me to Warrendale. I'm sure that they thought that they had my best interested at heart. But, personally, when I was put in the same environment as children with autism, schizophrenia and those that had grown up in foster care, and was told that we're all alike, well, yes, there was some anger and acting out. Even at 14 I knew that there was a big difference.
As far as I could see, holding and bottle feeding were not right. I guess that some of the children needed the attention but was this the way?
And the poor parents, being brought in for regular meetings and told that the reason that their children were autistic or schizophrenic was because they hadn't raised them properly. "These children didn't need drugs, no, they just needed someone to hold them and love them."
This was the alternative to electric shock treatments at that time so I guess that I was lucky to miss that.
At the time, I didn't know why the practices at Warrendale weren't good, just that they weren't. In my own simple way I quietly put as many sticks in the spokes as I could.
At the age of 16, I was discharged from 'John Brown's' care. Not because I had been 'cured', but that I was "untreatable and was disrupting the other children's treatment".
Imagine, thrown out as "untreatable". I repeat that with a sense of pride. This might sound silly to those that didn't go through it, but, it was a hell of an accomplishment to have survived relatively unscathed.
I have worried about the one's that I left behind. I hope that they're alright. I haven't forgotten them, they were one of the most important parts of my life.
I'm a grandmother now, worked at McMaster University for 30 years and yes I do vacation in Florida every year.
Thank you for giving me a forum on which to voice this. It's the first time that I've been able to write about it.
Sharon Turple Gataiance


Barbara said...

I, too, was a child of Warrendale - not of your Warrendale, but of the first Warrendale that John Brown directed. It was located in Newmarket ON and was for girls only.
Ours was different from yours ~ we were called "Emotionally Disturbed" back then. A collection of girls from parents that didn't care about them, or abused them or just couldn't afford to raise them.
I lived in Warrendale from 1954 - 1960 and I'm pleased to say they were very happy years, full of fond memories for me ~ memories of the girls I grew up with and the loving staff that looked after us.I think of them now and then, wonder where they might be, and hope they all went on to live a happy and productive life.
I enjoyed reading your story and pleased to know that another child from John Brown's 'Warrendale' is alive and well and happy!

Michael O'Sullivan said...

Interesting. I worked for what was then called Brown's Camps at a residential center in Scarborough in about 1968 or '69, when I was about 20, as a kind of program assistant in one of the residential houses -- four kids and about three or four staff members, with several other houses within a few blocks. It was the successor to Warrendale, and to Browndale Treatment Center, if my memory serves me, and I recall having known a couple of the kids who were in the film, although a year or two after it was made. Although I enjoyed the kids I worked with and some of the staff -- others were a bit prickly, arrogant and caught up in the ethos and jargon of the organization -- but I thought the atmosphere was supportive overall for the kids. But I never really bought into the so-called innovative techniques, the use of "anchor points" to provoke kids into emotional explosions, which I found distressing, which struck me as bizarre and almost abusive. I never saw the baby bottle used, but remember seeing three adults, including the regional director who was a former pro football player, holding down a young girl and shouting in her face that it was OK to express herself. Her eyes were rolling and she was frothing at the mouth, as I probably would have been in her situation. I was also somewhat distressed that kids who were severely disturbed were put together with kids who had normal childhood or adolescent problems, although maybe at the more serious end of the spectrum, all termed "emotionally disturbed." I too wonder how most of the kids turned out, and am glad to hear that things went well for both of you.
Mike (now a journalist in California)

Michael Crowe said...

Hi Sharon, remember you and Eddie like yesterday. Dont recall seeing you again after I ran and stayed out. I am a grand dad too . Luckily I get to see the grand kids daily and run them about on my motor wheelchair. MY memories of Browndale are pretty good. I wonder about Linda thomas Jerry Boxer Judy Fontana Heather Grey Lisa Haber Vali Trudel Annette Daken and especially Laura Lucier. You were one tough nut Sharon, tough as a boiled owl. I still remember arriving at Browns Camp Muskoka and being taken to the mess hall by Nina. I Had expected to be incarcerated in some horrible juvenile place like Jarvis Street with nothing but males. A place to torment your soul. You cant believe how glad I was to see all the girls.I have no bad words for browns Camp. I could haver ended up in way worsed places. What they call now the wrapp around theory of child care originated there . It is probably bang on. Thanks to all concerned Mike Crowe

Michael Crowe said...

It was a little bit funny arriving in Muskoka and looking out over the h mess hall. I had kept me e my ears open and knew from listening to staff conversations after I arrived that staff were expected that day and i heard one was named Ritchard Bloom. I noticed that the lady who brought me up had never actually introduced me to anyone so after she imminently left I introduced myself successfully as Rit6chard Bloom the new staff and was introduced to the whole camp in my fake persona. I was an old looking fifteen I guess. I am still pretty proud of this. government [homes/kiddy jails] , homes like Jarvis st. destroyers. Browns Camp wasnt and Warrendale hadnt destroyed the souls of any of my compatriots who were locked up there. I remember all of the Warrendale kids fondly. Ronnie Brandenburg with toy gun and fluff constantly kept blown in the air and kept there every waking hour. and harley greenberg the autistic red hair kid, both autistic. Maaatthew Greenberg who weighed three hundred ppounds playeed the Brandenberg Concerto on a tiny broken organ he kept fixed with tape. I was the room mate [until I kicked him out] of a true idiot savante. I loved all these folks. Eddie Deans who kind of basked in my thug nature.

Michael Crowe said...

Irene Reader was such a beautiful Person. She married Steve Hall 9 a staff] after Browns there were other warrendale kids although I am not sure I can sort them all out from the other fifty or so kids. Thanks to Earl Heiber who didnt ship me off to somewhere horrible after I punched acouple of staff. [sorry Robin] Thanks to Ritchard who Sharon described as a very scary staff in another post she left elsewhere. He was my staff and it was because everyon e thought he was so tough that they gave him to me as my staff. Having him be so tough was actually rather good for me as if they hadnt had somebody with more thug nature than I had to deal with me I probably would have got shipped off somewhere nasty. No complaints from me . Not even about the holding sessions. I always fought because I felt like it, but one time I invited them to give me one just tosee if it would work and straighten me out. One of my best moments in Browns Camp was when my super bad ex us army korean vet [sea air land special forces] staff Ritchared Acetta had a little mental glitch and gave my female staff a holding session. Scared a lot of little kids maybe, but it struck my funny bone so0 badly. It still brings a smile to my lips.

Michael Crowe said...

I am not sure you will publish all these comments but I will risk wasting my time on one more of them. I always kind of regretted having had to bugger off, but my senses told me things were about to change and unlike Sharon I wouldnt have been just let out as untreatable. I was waiting to turn sixteen to be charged for heinous crimes. Well not actually so very heinous. All in one year I had been caught naked under a tree in a field one evening with several bottles of wine, and a girl also nude[cant forget that part]. I had also been shook down on Young Street and busted for d several nickel bags of grass readied up for sale. had the feeling Browns was sending me on downriver toward jails pretty soon. I had broke lots of their rules. In that place even the staff werent allowed to sleep together without permission and I had managed to fix the screen on a few girls windows so they could sneak out and see me at night. But mostly I ran because I was born to be bad and didnt know how to shake it. I regretted leaving the place lots of times.

Michael Crowe said...

Nobody else out there? Oh well I could brag some more. I had another grand kid born today. Tae Anna Lee Crowe to my son Silas. I have something else which I desperately need to brag about . A rabbi I know walked up to me at the beach a few days ago. He said''Do you remember talking to me at the laundromat a few years ago and making a comment to me about the talmud?'' I told him I did. He said to me me""I still think about what you said. I think that you are right. and I have never read that opinion expressed elsewhere.'' Perhaps I should add and I am a gentile not a Jew. I am very proud of my scholarship, for a kid who went to three months of grade nine I have studied a great deal and am very proud of it. If our moderator allows this to be printed perhaps I will go ahead and explain the insight which the younger Pliny gave me on the schools of Hillel and Shmai in the Talmud. Bye for Now, Perhaps I should mention that I am dieing and would love to hear from Just about any of you. Mike Crowe

derek mason said...

Hi Michael...I was at BrownCamps/ browndale 68 - 70 name is Derek I remember Matthew greenberg but actually his name Matthew Swags...what house were you In?

XXX said...

I was one of the little kids scared by Richard Acetta putting one of the female staff in a holding. I was so scared I ran but Lynn Pollard followed my footsteps in the snow to where I was hiding under one of the cabins out by the Barn. I ended up on hand holding AGAIN lol I know Richard's Browndale days came to an end when he attempted to put two kids in a holding at the same time. Another kid (Jerry Logher) ran up to The Dining Room and got Henny VerHoek and John Younger who ran down to control the situation. It was Richard's last day. About 2 years ago I heard he had won a big kite flying contest in Toronto. The scariest thing for me about Richard was his size and his loud booming voice. I also remember his "winter survival" talks and taught a bunch of us to walk in snowshoes.

XXX said...

@Michael Crowe - Michael I can help put you in touch with several people who remained at Muskoka that you are sure to remember. I don't think you would remember me as 9 year old I was considered a little kid. My name at the time was June, I had white hair at the time. One of the twins had poured blue paint powder on my head after another kid talked me in calling her Chubby Checkers. I refused to wash my hair or let staff do it, I got away with it for a few days. lol. I was moved to Peel County in the fall of 67. I loved Peel County but there has always been a special place in my heart for Muskoka. Go to You will find many pictures from The Lodge and Mary Lake in the Gallery. We are currently working on updating the site. You will find names you recognize on the message boards. E mail me at if you would like more detailed info.

XXX said...

I was in the dining room when Harley Greenberg stood up and yelled F**K OFF at the top of his lungs. I remember his bright red hair and how everyone staff and kids included kept a look out for Harley and Mathew but I don't think Mathews last name was Greenberg as well. You must remember Maureen Gallagher, deaf girl. When me moved to Peel County the other kids in my group were Judy Fontana, Debbie Jordan(both Warrendale) and Rick Wolkowski.

XXX said...

Hi Derek, I hope you are well I haven't heard from you in awhile.

Hey Michael I was just wondering if you were still there when we all got up at midnight and went smelt fishing. Then the next day everyone got to help cleaning them. Someone put fish eyes in all the milk jugs. Another big dining room event was the big egg fight. lol lol lol

ps. I don't know why this says my name is XXX my name is Jenny (June) Dennis.

Ann Diamond said...

re: bottle feeding, Carol Rutz says this method was used on her in the early 50s. Warrendale's directors may have borrowed the method a few years later:

"[A} document from MKULTRA Subproject 43 which was a combination of drugs, hypnosis and sensory deprivation says,
"Experiments involving altered personality function as a result of environmental manipulation (chiefly sensory isolation) have yielded promising leads in terms of suggestibility and the production of trance-like states. There is reason to believe that environmental manipulations can affect the tendencies for dissociative phenomena."
Sensory Deprivation wasn't used on me till later in my training, the first few days they used truth serum as well as electric shock ... I believe Sidney Gottlieb used hypnosis, and electric shock to open my mind and find my baby part. He then bonded me to him, saying "I am your mammer and your papper. You love only me, and I am the only one who loves you. I feed you and hold you, and you are mine alone."
Our Baby part grew to love and depend on "Daddy Sid" as her only source of love and nourishment. He even bottle fed me to reinforce this. From that day forward, a deep bonding took place with Dr Sidney Gottlieb, Directorate of Operations of the Technical Services Staff (TSS) of CIA in charge of their behavioral program through MKULTRA."

It's interesting to note that John Brown studied at the University of Chicago, and began working with children in Toronto in 1953, the year the MKULTRA program was signed into existence.

Worth noting: that same year (1953) in Quebec, thousands of "Duplessis orphans" were placed in mental hospitals run by the Catholic Church, where they were used in secret medical and psychiatric experiments.

There are some obvious parallels between Quebec orphans, and some Ontario children who were taken from their families and placed in care facilities like Warrendale.

Jennyy said...

What is your agenda?

Ann Diamond said...

My agenda is to find out the truth. Has anyone documented the period between 1953 and 1965 when John Brown developed Warrendale with help from Dr. Fischer who at the time was also working at Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital?

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I find it interesting that this decade about which not much has been written, coincides with the period 1953-64 when the MKULTRA program operated around North America.

It seems more than coincidental that John Brown borrowed techniques used in ultra-classified, top secret, CIA-funded experiments on children during those same years.

Jean Mercer said...

Can anyone tell me anything about a possible connection between Brown and the U.S. holding therapist Robert M. Zaslow? If you have any information about this, you can either put it here or contact me at I am trying to figure out the relationships between holding therapy proponents in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and currently in Germany and the Czech Republic.

DocSam said...

Thank God these "methods " are passé

Sean Jackson said...

went from Warrendale in Toronto to Browndale in Barrie, roughly 75-77.

Holdings were better than beatings andother forms of abuse I had suffered. Sean Jackson if any of you remember me

Sherry Keane said...

I was very young 6 yrs old when I was in Warrendale, then I was sent to Thisseltown till I was 12.
My name was Sherry Campbell I don't remember much but I remember having a counselor that would pull my hair and pinch me whe I acted out.
I have never trusted psychologists or institutions since!
I have 2 amazing fully grown children and 3 going on 4 grandchildren.

Rod Mickleburgh said...

Warrendale was still in Newmarket when i went to public school, and we had several residents from there in our Grade 7 and Grade 8 classes…..i enjoyed having them in our class, even though i remember we were mean to one of them, and often wondered what happened to them…..

Rod Mickleburgh said...

Warrendale used to be in Newmarket and several girls from there were in our Grade 7 and Grade 8 classes….i remember them well and often wondered what happened to them….i liked them….they were so different from us…..even tho we were mean to one of them….but basically just accepted them, as kids do….