Fairview Survivors

A Film by Geri Newton about the Fairview, Oregon institution.

Voiceover: Kozer's Cottage, first stop in the journey of a mentally retarded child. Mental retardation is often detected early in life. It usually begins during pregnancy, at birth, or soon thereafter. There are about a dozen different main reasons for it to happen and many other rarer causes.

Shirley Neuman: They put him in the back, where they had a back room, and it had bars on it, and they had them all in there. Just put them all in there and shut the door.

Voiceover: As many as 500 have been on the waiting list, waiting for a place in one of Fairview's many cottages, waiting sometimes as long as two years until there is room.

Shirley Neuman: He had two arms broken, because of the way they tied him down real tight. Yeah, they had them like this, way back like that.

Voiceover: A typical schedule for the more active patients includes several hours, both in the morning and the afternoon, on the play porch.

Ken Neuman: I was stuck on the punishment block. A punishment block is a great big huge block. And it's a great big huge square like this and there's a stem that's coming this way and there's a little round circle where you could put a padlock and you could fasten stuff, you know, shackles. And all the other kids I remember was in bed and they didn't get me off the punishment block. I was in, I was pushing the block while they was all in bed. I remember that. They wouldn't let me off until I got tired and I couldn't push it no more.

Voiceover: Keeping an unusually deformed patient comfortable may require extra attention and ingenuity. In certain cases of brain damage, there is marked muscle underdevelopment.

Kristy: I was scared.


Kristy: They don't even know how to treat people.

Voiceover: Care and more care. The attendants require an infinite amount of patience. Some of the more deformed find it almost impossible to swallow, [and it can take] two hours or more to feed each of them.

Ken Neuman: Then a lot of people come and feed these kids. They say, "Damn it, you eat," and then they get a spoonful and try to put in their mouth. Some kids will clam up where they can't get the spoon into your mouth. They'll twist your arm and try to get their mouth open. They twist it so hard where they get a busted arm.

Voiceover: Patterson Cottage. Patterson [missing audio]. You can leave [missing audio] Fairview Home, has a capacity of 170 patients and six wards.

Shirley Neuman: Well, I took care of the little kids. I'd feed them and we'd bathe them and make sure they had something to eat.


Kristy: I was stuck in the toilet. I was screaming. I couldn't get anyone. Please get me out of the toilet so I can go eat. They couldn't do it because my bottom was stuck in the toilet.

Voiceover: Bathing is a [missing audio] routine. Because of their weight and limpness and being carried, especially designed waist-high level bathtubs [missing audio] to make care for the staff [missing audio] job.

Shirley Neuman: The nurses were mean because, because the kids they were little and they didn't know better. It's because they don't mind, you know – don't do this don't do that. They couldn't help it because they were little and they didn't know what was going on. They would holler and scream and the attendant says, you know, "shut your damn mouth," you know, and stuff like that and everything.

Voiceover: Those able to stand, get a shower at least once daily.

Ken Neuman: The head supervisor was caught in the act.

Shirley Neuman: The doctor sexually molested her really bad.

Voiceover: Much of the wards in Patterson, in so far as possible, house a similar type of patient. The more disturbed girls are kept together in ward 5.

Ken Neuman: They have a little room, it's like a little cell, and you go in there and they lock the door and there's no bathroom or no nothing and it you got to go to the bathroom, you got to yell for the employees, and two thirds of time, the employees don't come. [missing audio] these kids to potty all over theirselves, and that's not good.


Voiceover: [missing audio] to protect themselves, as well as the other patients.

Ken Neuman: You've seen what you've seen, and we've seen what we've seen, and the staff says, "Hey, no one will believe you but they'll believe us." OK, then from there you say what you say to the parents when you see something and you tell them nothing but the truth what happened out there, and soon as the parents leave, then they'll put you in lockup.

Shirley Neuman: They treated us like dirt and they didn't treat us right. And we were scared and we didn't know what to do, and we just ran away and they caught us and we came back and we were locked up.


Bill West: It's more than diminished skills in terms of definite problem solving types of skills in relationship to people with similar disabilities who were never institutionalized.

Voiceover: Housed in separate ends of Bird Cottage. The youngest Snell Cottage patients stay in their ward at all times or on their porch or in their ward.

Shirley Neuman: It was tucked way in the back of that room, that big room with the bars on it, and the door was shut. They didn't leave it open or nothing.

Voiceover: Those who eventually leave [missing audio]. Half of those who enter Fairview will eventually leave. Half of those who leave will eventually be at least partially self-supporting.

Bill West: In the case of several of the folks that I've worked with, actually about 25 people that I've worked with, they are not diagnosed as mentally retarded, even though they were at the Fairview training center and spent many years of their life there.

Ken Neuman: I went to school but they kept me in second grade.

Voiceover: Fairview Home serves Oregon in the belief that all retarded have a right to the aid and surroundings that will help them develop their abilities to the fullest.

Kristy: I'm married and I like it…like it very much. I got a job working at a bank. My husband and I go bowling and stuff like that.

Voiceover: But there is another larger group of patients who probably will never leave Fairview who will be patients at the institution for the rest of their lives.

Robert Jenner: Apartment Job Friends. It might be sports. I don't know if there will be money for sports or not Will the parents pay for sports after that? Or do the kids have to pay? I think it might be too hard. There hasn't been any money for sports for a long time for sports… Sports will basically keep 'em out of trouble.

Bill West: And then, of course, the last thing that happens that I feel particularly not able to really do too much with except for to help them with their counseling is that many of the people that I've talked to talked extensively about the abuse they endured while they were at Fairview. Many of the stories that I've heard over the years have been absolutely hair raising.