View from the TurretHere is just a sampling of the 'View from the Turret' column written by Betty Laird that appears in our newsletter Connections.
What is the purpose of a museum?
"Asylum Lawn Bowling Club"
Official opening of the then called 'asylum'
Turn of the Century Nursing
What is the purpose of a museum?A museum is an asset to mental health researchers, students, the community, individual visitors, and of interest to visiting health care professionals. Just recently we entertained such health care professionals from Scotland, who were here to take part in a conference held at West 5th Campus in May to announce partial findings for a major study ("Therapeutic Relationships: from Hospital to Community"). They enjoyed the experience so much that the hour allotted for the tour took over two hours. It was very interesting to discover how much we had in common in our mental health systems.
It was timely that I watched "Behind Closed Doors" with host, Joan Lunden, on television recently. She toured the Smithsonian Warehouse (not the museum but their storage facility). Artifacts from all over the world are stored in buildings called pods. One such pod contained only mammal bones. The general public is not allowed in the warehouse - only researchers looking for causes of diseases. The way artifacts are stored in bins and on shelves, one on top of another, led Joan to call it the "Home Depot of History."
Other facilities manage to get community-relations mileage out of their museum investment. As a research-oriented teaching hospital, we can only benefit from positive publicity generated by the museum. By welcoming the community into our facility, St. Joseph's West 5th Campus takes another step in heightening awareness of mental health.
Remember, "our past is our present and future."
"Asylum Lawn Bowling Club"In view of the recent Commonwealth Games and the hope that Hamilton might host them in 2010, I thought I would take the opportunity to point out a very significant historical landmark on the hospital grounds. I am referring to the Mount Hamilton Lawn Bowling Club, adjacent to the A and B parking lot at St. Joseph's West 5th Campus. You may have seen the bowlers strutting their stuff as it is still a very active club.
It was established as the "Asylum Lawn Bowling Club" in 1905 by hospital staff for use by both staff and patients. In 1945 the name was changed to the "Ontario Hospital Lawn Bowling Club" and was opened to the public. After further extensive renovations in 1977, the club became a public entity called the "Mount Hamilton Lawn Bowling Club."
It is a private member-run club, under lease from the province with help from the City of Hamilton. The club pays clients to cut the grass around the property through Beckfield Enterprises (a training facility of the mental health program which allows clients to maintain or develop vocational or work skills) and hires professional landscapers for the greens upkeep.
The next time you are in Copps Coliseum, look at the Walk of Fame. Outside section 123, picture number 50 is called "Great on Grass." It depicts John Blackwood and William "Scotty" Laing when they won the provincial doubles in 1948-49 and the caption states, "the lawn bowling greens on Fennell Avenue are believed to be one of the oldest playing sites in Canada. Over the years bowlers from the Mount Hamilton Lawn Bowling Club have been regarded as some of the finest in the country." Both these men were attendants at the hospital. Scotty was also an accomplished magician who delighted patients, staff and their families with his performances on special occasions.
As well as regular bowling games, the members of the club instruct the blind, high school students, and other people of all ages. If Hamilton is successful in their bid for the 2010 games, wouldn't it be nice to feature Canada's oldest greens in its original location?
This is just one example of the richness of history associated with St. Joseph's West 5th Campus since it originally opened its doors to the mentally ill in March of 1876.
"Our past is our present and future."
Official opening of the then-called "asylum"March 17th may be remembered for many different events and celebrations but in 1876 it was a day that brought hope for the future of Hamilton and district's mentally ill. Yes, it was the official opening of the then-called "asylum." The newest addition to the St. Joseph's Healthcare family is 127 years old.
Dr. R.M. Bucke, the first medical superintendent, was a man who promoted the modern-day treatment of the mentally ill, a philosopher, a firm believer in cosmic consciousness, and author and a friend of author, Walt Whitman. He led the treatment of the mentally ill out of the dark ages.
He graduated from McGill University as a gold medalist and settled down to practice medicine. His first patient was Alexander McKenzie who later became Prime Minister of Canada. He dedicated the majority of his life to exploring new fields and ideas in the treatment of the mentally disturbed. On February 19, 1902, Dr. Bucke died suddenly in London, Ontario as the result of a fall.
At the age of 65, he left the world as a legend and as one of the great minds of our time.
The only areas on hospital grounds still in existence from this era are the root house near the powerhouse, Gate House and the Arnie pub at Mohawk College. The Arnie is a distinctive, long one-storey stone building on Fennell Avenue West and dates back to 1891 when it was constructed as a root cellar for the asylum. Only a few institutional root cellars are left in Ontario, and this one may be the only one with a vaulted ceiling.
Next time I will tell you a bit about staff duties and regulations of the time.
Remember, our past is our present and future.
Turn of the Century NursingLet's take a look at the past and where nurses have been to see just how far we've come…
At the turn of the century, hallways and common areas were lit by gaslights. Patient rooms did not have lights so nurses carried lamps or lanterns to attend to patient needs. Gaslight fixtures were still evident when the nurses residence was torn down in the early sixties.
Nurses and attendants had rooms on the wards leading up into the early part of this century. Dr. W.M. English, medical superintendent from 1907 to 1927 stated in an annual report that better quarters were needed to provide staff with privacy following 12 hours on duty (not the 12-hour shift we know today but 12 hours daily for at least six days a week). Before the twenties, straw ticks (mattresses) were used. The first step in daily bed-making was to reach into the tick to fluff the straw - often finding mice nesting there!
Nurses were also responsible for ward cleaning. Wooden floors were swept, waxed and polished with heavy block brushes pushed by patients. On Sundays, brass door plates, handles, and doorknobs were polished. Nurses also washed windows and took out garbage daily. Patients and nurses worked together on these tasks.
Meals were served from large aluminum pots, and nurses were also responsible for counting cutlery after meals to account for each piece - no one left the dining room until this was done and this practice remained in place until the sixties.
As a government employee, nurses were subject to the Province of Ontario's official rules and regulations. One interesting rule was that whenever a physician entered a ward, "all nurses and attendants shall rise, and the senior nurse or attendant shall accompany him through the ward and be prepared to give all necessary information concerning patients in his or her charge." This too was done well into the seventies!
Remember, our past is our present and future.