Retiring PSH Supervisor Recalls Major Changes

17 09 2012

The following article was found in a scrapbook in the Oregon State Hospital Museum Collections.  From the text it appears that it was published in the Oregon Statesman Newspaper in 1965, although exact publication date is unknown.

Charles Robinson, whose service as a psychiatric aide and a supervisor of aides stretches to the days when the OSH was known as the state insane asylum,* will be honored by hospital employees Wednesday as he retires.

Robinson, who was 65 in January, has been a hospital employee since 1934, except for three years in the service in world War II.  Since 1945 he has been supervisor of aides.

More Pleasant today.

Services as a mental hospital aide has never been easy, but it’s a more pleasant job now than it was before the advent of drugs, Robinson recalls.

Treatment in 1934 was custodial only for the vast majority of patients; about 2100 were crowded into the old Center building and the Dome building at OSH.

“I was scared to death for the first five or six weeks,”  Robinson recalls. “In those days they just handed you the keys, sent you to a ward and you went to work.” Read the rest of this entry »

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George F. Berger

15 07 2012

In 1905, 48 people were admitted to the Oregon State Insane Asylum with a diagnosis of “alcoholism” and 16 for syphilitic symptoms.[1]  George F. Berger was one of those people.

Berger was born in Wisconsin in April of 1869 to Frank and Margaret Berger, Germans who had immigrated to the United States from what is now Baden-Württemberg.[2]  His family, including an older sister Mary, farmed in Randolph, Courtland, Columbia County, Wisconsin.[3]

Sometime between 1870 and 1880, the family moved to Oregon.  By the 1880 Federal Census, George was 12 years old and living on Olive Street in Eugene.  Father Frank is no longer in the picture and mother Margaret is going by the last name of Haney, suggesting she may have remarried.  With a two year old brother named Jacob Berger, it would further suggest that George’s father died or left sometime between 1878 and 1880, leaving George as the man of the house at a very young age.

Due to an unfortunate fire which destroyed the 1890 Federal Census, we are forced to pick up George’s trail again in Oregon City in 1896 when we find him working as a bartender for Thomas Trembrath.[4]  Four years later, he had moved back to his mother’s 5th Street home in Eugene, where he and his now 21-year-old brother both worked as bartenders.[5] Berger did not keep a low profile after his move back to Eugene.  He was arrested and fined for gambling at least twice.  As a 1903 Oregonian article reported: Read the rest of this entry »





Watchman, 1908

4 07 2012

The following is the description of duties of the watchman and watchwomen employed by the Oregon State Hospital as spelled out in the Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Oregon State Insane Asylum, Revised April 15, 1908.

WATCHMAN

1. The duties of the watchman will commence at 8 o’clock P.M., at which time he will visit the office to receive instructions for the night.

2. He must, while on duty, be faithful and vigilant; visit every part of the male wards at least every hour during the night, making as little noise as possible, never conversing in a loud tone, and opening and shutting the doors as quietly as possible.

3.  He must be kind, gentle, and soothing in his manners to the patients, and use every means in his power to tranquilize those who are excited, and to allay the fears and apprehensions of the timid; he will pay particular attention to the sick, the suicidal, and those recently admitted; will see that the patients are properly supplied with water when it is asked for, and will attend to all other reasonable wants;  will notice any unusual noise in the patients’ rooms, endeavor to ascertain the cause, and, if necessary, report the same to the attendant.  He will notice anything unusual occurring during the night, and enter the same on a a slate or book provided for the purpose [see example of book here], and he shall report any irregularities, neglect of duty or violation of rules which may come under his notice.

4.  It will be the duty of the watchman to look after the heating apparatus during the night; he must be very watchful about fire, and, in case of its occurrence must immediately give general alarm;  he shall ring the bell at the hour for rising in the morning, and he shall perform such other duties as may be required of him.

WATCHWOMAN

1.  The watchwoman shall have charge of the interior of the female department during the night.  In the management of the patients, and in the discharge of other duties, she must be governed by the rules and regulations laid down for the government of the watchman.





The Matron, 1908

20 06 2012

The following was published in By Laws of Trustees Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Oregon State Insane Asylum,revised April 15, 1908.

Article V.

MATRON

Section 1:  The matron shall, under the direction of the superintendent, have charge of the female department of the asylum.  She shall have a general supervision of the sewing department.  She shall be with the female patients in all the wards as much as possible; see that they are kindly treated; that their food is properly cooked, served and distributed; that their apartments are kept clean and in good order, and properly warmed and ventilated; that the female employees attend to their duties in all respects, and report to the superintendent any departure on their part from the rules and regulations of the institution.





R.E. Lee Steiner Serves 19 Years, 1926

30 01 2012

Dr. R.E. Lee Steiner served as superintendent of the Oregon State Hospital from 1908 (when he officially took office) through 1937.  The following article was published in the Oregon Statesman March 28, 1926.

Dr. R.E. Lee Steiner was born in 1870, at Bluffton, Ohio.  When he was 12 years old he began work as an apprentice druggist at Lima, Ohio.  He came to Salem with his parents in 1887.  He soon went to work in the drug store of Geo. E. Good, in the the Moores building that stood where the present United States National Bank building now stands.  After Mr. Good sold out to Gibson & Singleton, he continued to work for the new firm.  When he was 19, he went into business for himself, in partnership with Hon. J.C. Smith, now of Grants Pass. They had bought the drug store in which young Steiner was working.  The firm name was Smith & Steiner.  The telephone office was in their building — the first telephone office in Salem, excepting for a few phones that had been in the Western Union telegraph office.  In 1892, Dr. Steiner married Belle Golden of Salem.  After his marriage he attended the Willamette university and graduated from the medical department of that institution.

He practiced in Dallas, and then at Lakeview, and after that had charge of the reclamation service work of the United States government at Klamath Falls, the hospital for tat service being there.  He served a term in the legislature while residing at Lakeview in 1905.

In 1907 he came from the reclamation work to be superintendent of the state hospital (asylum), and has been at the head of that institution ever since — for nineteen years.  That is the longest time ever served by a superintendent there.  Dr. Calbreath served eight years, most of the other heads of the institution four years; one five years. Read the rest of this entry »





Suffrage and Sterilization: Dr. Owens-Adair

15 01 2012

One of the most vocal proponents of women’s suffrage in Oregon was also the leading proponent of Eugenics legislation which would affect the lives of hundreds of patients at the Oregon State Hospital.  Beginning in 1907, Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair lobbied the legislature for implementation of a Sterilization Bill intended to improve society by sterilizing those deemed criminals, insane or developmentally disabled.  Her bill passed in 1909, only to be vetoed by the governor. Nevertheless, similar legislation became law in 1923.  The Sterilization Law remained on the books until 1983 and caused the forced sterilization of over 2,500 people in Oregon’s prisons and mental health institutions.  In 2002, Governor Kitzhaber made a formal apology to those who had been forcefully sterilized under the law.[1]  The following is an excerpt from Dr. Owens-Adair’s Tract entitled Human Sterilization published sometime around 1910.[2]

In submitting this little publication to the public, it is with the desire, the hope and belief, that the ever watchful eye of our great commonwealth, will appreciate the immence [sic.] value of this process for preventing disease and crime through propagation.  Since 1883 when I said to the physician who was in charge of the Oregon Insane Asylum, that if the time ever came, that I might be permitted, I would then use my pen and my brain along these lines.  Since then I have used my tongue many, many times, in season and out of season, and I have received in return many rebukes and much good advice, as to modesty, being a priceless gem which every woman should wear.   But not until 1904 did the first opportunity come, when I could use my pen and I assure you I lost no time in sending off the following communication to the Oregonian, and my delight at seeing it in print was beyond expression, to say that this publication shocked my family and many of my friends would be putting it mildly, I am older now and my tears do not lie so shallow (as mother said) as in my childhood days, and there is something in getting used to unpleasant things and yet, I am not innured, but I can go right on smiling just the same.  To illustrate the trend of thought, only 7 years ago when I wrote my first communication to the Oregonian I received four letters all eulogizing and congratulating me on my bravery, etc., but the interesting part was, that those letters were all nameless, who would think of addressing me to-day on this subject without signing his or her name; not one, no not one.  The world is being educated along these lines and is seeking for the purification and betterment of humanity, which in time will be found and vertified [sic.] in the yet unborn children whose parents blood shall be free from disease and crime.  Through this publication I shall try to prove what I have been preaching for 30 years, that the Read the rest of this entry »





OSH Campus according to Engineer Garson, 1958

3 10 2011

Auditorium, Oregon State Hospital, Oregon State Archives Photo, OSH 00018

The following is an interview with Engineer J.A. Garson published in the October 1958 edition of the Lamplighter, an OSH newsletterThe article coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Oregon State Hospital, and many early staff members and patients are interviewed or profiled. 

When Mr. Garson came to the hospital in 1919, it looked much different than it does now.  For example, from 24th to 21st streets there were hospital orchards of walnut trees.  Where the treatment and surgical buildings sit were poultry and pheasant farms for OSH.  The doctor’s cottages were not in existence, and in their place were berry fields.  The machine shop was located where what is now the freezing department.  The morgue building, 1896, is what is today the paint shop.  The Tailoring Shop, Carpenter Shop were all where the Quonset hut is now located.  Mrs. Steiner, with her superintendent husband, planned the landscaping of the grounds and due to patient labor they were completed.  Read the rest of this entry »