Friday, November 30, 2012

A voice from Warrendale (updated)

In 2010 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 came across my piece and 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

On 11/30/12 Barbara, another child of Warrendale, posted this in response to Sharon's story:

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!

No comments: