The Villas – Part Two

I have recently posted a short non fiction story ‘ The Villas – Part One’ which is about me working at a Psychopaedic Hospital when I was 17, it  mentioned about the terrible fright I got one night.

Several people had read the story and have asked me for more information about working at the hospital.

I was born in New Zealand.  There were four us kids, a sister who was three years older than me and two younger brothers.

I left school the day I turned 15 because my father said I had to get out and work.   My father was an abusive man, we all suffered physically and emotionally and were terrified of him. I don’t think he  hit mum but he definitely mentally abused her.

A few months after starting work in retail my father physically abused me badly one day.   I left home and found a bed-sitter close to  the city where I  worked.

Mum wanted me to come back home  which I did only to get another bashing.  I was not a bad girl and did not provoke my father. This pattern of leave and then come home happened several times.  I then found a live-in  job working at a residential children’s home. The children stayed there  short-term for several different reasons such as family breakdowns and physical illness  with one or both parents.  The matron and her deputy both recommended that I go and do my nursing training. The problem was I had left school without completing the necessary training required  to enrol in nursing.

I always had an interest in psychiatry. I applied at the one and only psychiatric hospital in Christchurch.  I was not accepted because my sister had been a regular recurring patient there.

I then applied at Templeton Pyschopaedic  Hospital and Training School.  They knew I hadn’t completed my schooling but were willing to take on because I seemed genuine about what I wanted to do.  I should say that the Matron was on leave the day I was interviewed and accepted.

Just to remind you  Pysch = mind  and Paedic =  child.

Back in those days most children who were born with abnormalities  and were deemed  not suitable to fit into the norm of society were placed in psychopaedic hospitals. There were thirteen of these hospitals in New Zealand.

In 1930 – 1940’s and even later than that parents were discouraged by doctors never to see their disabled baby,  let them be put in care and forget about them.  Institutionalised for life.  If parents did take their baby home there was no support until that late 1960’s . parents who did have their child at home could apply for respite care and there child would spent a few days at the hospital where I worked.   I should mention that some families did forget about there child, it was very sad.

Children born with Down syndrome , physical or intellectual disabilities  were  put into care.  If a child was taken home and was later deemed mentally defective they also were also  placed in care.

These institutions were like factories. Even though some of the staff were kind clothing, housing and routines were communal and individual identities denied.

In the villas where I mainly worked  the bedrooms were cold crowded dorms with about eight  to ten beds in each one.   During the day the majority of residents would sit in a Day Room.  Some of the less physically or mentally disabled would be taken to the training school or workshop.  Meal times was like a production line, taken into a dining room in their villa, restrained in chairs and force-fed.

The residents that were less disabled would sometimes go on a bus trip.  Every year the hospital would put on a musical,  residents that were capable would sing and dance – they loved music.

When it was my turn  to care for residents in the day room  I would take my portable record player to work with me. I would be there with about 30 residents and one other nurse. The music was a God send, they loved it.

One day while in the Day Room with the music going I was approached by the Matron. I had never met her and didn’t know who she was.  She said ‘turn off that racket off’  and then said ‘you have an apology to make to me’. Apparently I had to apologize to applying for the job at the Psychiatric Hospital and how dare I do that.

I didn’t manage the academic class training but passed my practical work with flying colours at the end of my first year.  I could stay on and work as an assistance, get myself educated  and then start training again.  During my 12 months while I worked there I had been receiving english tuition on my days off  from an elderly retired english teacher, sadly he died.

There were lots of incidences that I saw happening at the hospital that I didn’t like so I decided to give in my notice. In my mid 30’s I did train and qualify as a Registered Nurse which entitled me to work in General, Psychiatry and Pyschopaedic’s .

That hospital was a toxic horrible place. There were reports of physical, emotional, sexual, medical, spiritual, cultural abuse and  neglect.  I personally saw some shocking abuse especially physical and mental happening, I reported it and nothing was done about it.

In the late 1960’s there was a national enquiry about these hospitals. I am happy to say by 1973 residents were being placed in foster homes or into houses in the community. Some of the adult residents were transferred into the local Psychiatric Hospitals.  Many of the patients in  those hospitals  were also later housed out in the community.

I am not sorry that I worked out for there for 12 months. I was able to escape from my abusive father and learn to cope with life.

I will post Part Three tomorrow.





20 thoughts on “The Villas – Part Two

  1. It’s heartbreaking to read that quite often the parents forgot their disable children and I was cringing as I was reading the part where you were explaining the physical,mental, sexual abuse… The caretakers didn’t really do their job… I’m sure your presence around must have been a blessing for many patients there. I am sorry to read about the tough life you have had growing up and as you said it has taught you several things. I’m glad that the times have changed for the better although lot more change is needed in this world we live…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some of the nurses were angels while others were demons. I may have been through tough times and even into my adulthood but thats life and I have survived it. Part Three is now complete for reading if you wish. Cheers .


  2. You have experienced much in your life, but you overcame immense challenges. Growing up in America during the 1960s, I recall a girl with Down’s who lived near my home. I will always remember Mary Ann.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My parents had friends that chose to keep their boy who was born with Down’s. They are generally loving happy beautiful souls. Years ago theory life expectancy was 30-40 and now its 60- 70 years of age. Some of them get married and have children.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so sorry you had such an upbringing with an abusive father. My heart hurts to read it. I can see why a live-in job was appealing to get away from the situation on a more stable basis, and it was in line with your psychiatry interests.
    It’s appalling how ‘mentally defected’ people were treated. Heartbreaking.
    It was a lovely thing you did to take music in with you, and I’m glad you at least reported what you could, you did all you could. Thank you for sharing this, I can’t imagine they’re pleasant to recall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you reading and sharing comments, much appreciated. These days when I think about the past I almost need to pinch myself that it really happened. I am now working on my autobiography. If I never get it published the family might find it in my belongings, read it and think holy heck.

      Liked by 1 person

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