Ella Craig was interviewed by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on November 13, 2008 at the Mental Health Trust Authority office in Anchorage, Alaska. She discusses arriving in Kodiak in 1953 from Atlanta, Georgia and her many years as a social worker for Kodiak, the Aleutian Islands, and in Anchorage. Ella assisted patients coming to and from Morningside Hospital in Oregon, and reflects on the quality of services provided to the mentally ill both at Morningside and in rural Alaska. She also discusses the changes she has seen in the delivery of mental health services over her long career, and what it was like working with the Native community. At age 89, Ella continues to serve the community. She helped start the National Association of Social Workers chapter in Alaska, she advocates for the elderly and was on the Alaska Commission on Aging, and volunteers with the Geriatric Education Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Ella was also interviewed by Karen Brewster and Bill Schneider with videography by Deborah Lawton and Aaron Elterman of KUAC radio/tv, Fairbanks on June 10, 2009 at the Marriot Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Alaska Mental Health Trust History
Date of Interview: Nov 13, 2008
Narrator(s): Ella Craig
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: Her personal history and educational background.
Section 2: Working at military hospitals during World War II.
Section 3: Working for the Red Cross Disaster Service, and learning about a job opportunity in Alaska with new federal social services programs.
Section 4: Traveling from Georgia to Alaska to begin her new social work job in Kodiak.
Section 5: Arriving in Kodiak from Atlanta, Georgia not being properly prepared for the weather and living conditions.
Section 6: Use of blue tickets to remove nuisance people from a community, her first housing in Kodiak, and visiting communities on Kodiak and along the chain of Aleutian Islands.
Section 7: Social and mental health issues a social worker faced in the villages, and the difficult task of having to remove children from their family homes.
Section 8: Lack of understanding of mental health issues in Alaska, Morningside Hospital being the only available treatment option, and her experiences escorting patients to Morningside.
Section 9: Effects of removing the mentally ill, especially children, from communities and placing them at the Alaska Native Hospital in Anchorage and Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
Section 10: The low return rate of Morningside patients back to their communities, and a story from Kodiak about a woman using her discharge papers to prove she was cured.
Section 11: Lack of programs for patients returning from Morningside Hospital, and her involvement with escorting and visiting patients there.
Section 12: Dropping children off at Morningside and the transition from home to the hospital.
Section 13: Abuse of power when selecting people to be sent out to Morningside Hospital, and how patient releases were handled.
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Today is November 13th, 2008, and I'm Bill Schneider. Karen Brewster is here, too. We have the pleasure of doing an interview this morning ‑‑ or this afternoon with Ella H. Craig. And so thank you, Ella, for taking the time to do this. What I'd like to do is start with your early history. Tell us about your parents and where you grew up, and a little bit about your background.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I grew up in Gates County in North Carolina, which is just below the Virginia border and over to the east about 100 miles from the coast. And our farm, it was on a ‑‑ raised on a farm, and it bordered on the Great Dismal Swamp.
So my early childhood was fantastic. I had two brothers and two sisters, one of each older and one of each younger, so I'm the middle child. And I stayed on the farm through high school and was graduated from high school at 15.
And entered college the next year at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, and received my bachelors degree there. And immediately went into graduate school at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. And by this time, it was ‑‑ let me see. I graduated in '39, and so 1941.
So I began work at the Department of Public Welfare in Durham, North Carolina. And I went into social work because at that particular time, the options were pretty limited.
And in our county, we had a county welfare director, but she was getting along in age, and so I was encouraged from a community standpoint and from my family's standpoint to go into social work so that I could be the county welfare director. You know, one person. So...
But it ‑‑ it was an interesting experience because I really liked the field, too, because I knew I didn't want to be a school teacher, and I didn't want to be a secretary or a nurse, and those were the only options that were open to women at that particular era.
Section 2: But then the war years came along, and so people started thinking about what they were going to do during that period of time. Well, I had been trained as a ‑‑ I had done my field placement at Duke University Hospital, so I had had a semester in medical social work and also a semester in psychiatric social work.
So the ‑‑ with the war years coming, the American Red Cross recruited me to work in military hospitals. So ‑‑ and I'm sure it was because of my background, field in medical and psychiatric social work. So, of course, I was delighted to go from public welfare to that exciting field at that time, and at my age, I thought that would be great.
So I was assigned to Camp Blanding Hospital at Camp Blanding, Florida. And this was a large military base, Army base. And I was there for, oh, I don't know exactly how long, maybe a couple, three years, and then I was transferred to the Boca Raton Air Force Hospital. And I was there for a bit.
And I kept trying to receive an appointment overseas, but they had an age limit, and I wasn't quite old enough yet to go. But I finally convinced them to let me go anyway because I had had a great deal of experience by then, comparatively speaking, in the military hospitals.
So they transferred me out to Camp Roberts, California, and I was there for a bit. And then I was transferred to the Philippines and I was there for, oh, a little over a year, I guess, before the war ended.
And just before it ended, we started ‑‑ they started transferring me again, and you know, did the Okinawa thing, and then on up, and went into Japan with the occupation troops. So one of the few females permitted to do this. So...
And then, once I got into Japan, since war was over at that time, I was sent down to Sasebo, Japan, which is on the southern tip of the island. And I was there with ‑‑ attached to the Second Marine Division, and worked in a Navy field hospital for, oh, a little over a year, I guess.
And then we were kind of ‑‑ everybody was coming home and it was time to come home and everything was over, so I came back to ‑‑ and technically, we kind of wrote our own orders. Another friend of mine who was with me on my staff, and we went down to Yokohama and joined up with the Navy and kind of hitchhiked back to Hawaii, stopping at every single little island. Johnson Island, you know, all those little tiny spots.
And since we were the ‑‑ this was a military craft, of course, and Red Cross workers were ‑‑ you know, we were the bottom of the hierarchy, so we didn't get the good seats on the military planes, so I have ridden on just about every kind you can think of.
Section 3: Then when I went ‑‑ came back to the states, I went to work at Camp Lejeune Military Naval Hospital and worked there for a bit, and decided I'd better go finish my master’s degree. I had all my caseload ‑‑ course work and had done the thesis, but my thesis had never been approved because I took off.
And at that time, you had to be in residence at the university for two years ‑‑ I mean, two months, I'm sorry, before you received your masters. But I was working and I couldn't take two months off, so it took me awhile to get my two months that I could do that. And in the meantime, I left the naval hospital and accepted a position with Disaster Service with the Red Cross.
And I was on their national disaster staff for ‑‑ until I came to Alaska. And I worked just about every disaster that you can think of in terms of hurricanes and tornadoes and fires and plane wrecks, train wrecks, and that sort of thing, all over the United States, although I had responsibility for the eight southeastern states and was stationed in Atlanta at that time.
And that was when I got a call from my friend who had worked with me in Disaster Service and had come to Alaska a year before I had ‑‑ I did. And she called and asked me if I would like to come up, that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was setting up a social services program to be run by social workers.
They had had a program previously, but it was administered by school teachers primarily, and they were the people throughout the state who were taking care of the social services needs of the Native people. And this was during ‑‑ this ‑‑ 19 ‑‑ early 1953, and that was during the tuberculosis epidemic.
And that was the reason they were expanding the services and trying to provide more care for ‑‑ because the territory at that time did not provide social services to Native people. That was a federal ‑‑ I mean, a ‑‑ it was a whole different department's responsibility. And the Interior Department had responsibility for that. So we had to set up a dual social services department.
Section 4: BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, we're back on, and you were telling us about coming to Kodiak. ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Well, it ‑‑ when my friend asked if I would come, I told her that I would be able to come as quickly as I finished the assignment that I was on. I was on a flood disaster in Columbia ‑‑ Columbus, Georgia, so I closed that job out, and she had sent me a Government Transportation Request. GTR. BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh‑hum.
ELLA CRAIG: I'd never made an application, just a telephone call to her, but I got this GTR to take a train from Atlanta to Seattle. And as I recall, this took seven days because the trains at that time were really crowded because a lot of service people were going back and forth and being discharged and this sort of thing. And it was ‑‑ I began to wonder what I was getting into and whether I had made the right decision. And whether I should have listened to my parents and stayed home.
But I ‑‑ I did get to Seattle, and then I was met there by a representative of the Bureau , and he took me to the airport in Seattle and I got on another plane and went to Juneau. And the airports and the planes, of course, in those days were not anywhere near what they are today.
And so I got to Juneau and I stayed there about, oh, it must have been six weeks or maybe a little more, just for training orientation, getting to know the people, and sort of discussing what I was going to be doing, this kind of thing.
Section 5: Then they sent me off to Kodiak. And as I mentioned earlier, when she had called me, she just assumed I had a lot more information about Alaska than I did. I knew it was cold and I knew it rained, and particularly rained a lot in Juneau and a lot in Kodiak. Those two things I knew.
But for a person who had, at that time, never had a pair of slacks, never had a pair of jeans ‑‑ I'll take it back. I did have slacks when I was with the Army ‑‑ I mean, the Air Force and the Army, but they were part of my uniform. They were not my clothes, so to speak. So I arrived in Kodiak.
But before I went to Kodiak, I went to my favorite department stores in Atlanta and I got myself outfitted in what I thought would be appropriate dress for a businesswoman in a small town. And I remember so well that I got a beautiful raincoat, and it was black on the outside and bright yellow on the inside.
Not reversible, but you know, you could see all this bright yellow. And I had an umbrella that matched. Little did I know at that time that no one in Kodiak uses an umbrella. So anyway, I learned the hard way.
And I was staying with the Public Health nurse in Kodiak, they had one at that particular time. And we had to walk ‑‑ and I had a little room in her office, the Public Health building, and we had to walk about seven and a half blocks to get to her office.
So one morning it was raining, and so I wandered down these seven and a half blocks in my raincoat and my umbrella, and it was ‑‑ the wind was such that, you know, first of all, the umbrella just goes scoop, you know, and so I have no umbrella. Then I go, scrunch up and trying to get... And then I found out years and years later that people in town thought this was just absolutely hilarious that anybody, number one, would have an umbrella in Kodiak.
And so people would ‑‑ the bars stayed open all night back then, and there was 17 bars that you had to pass on those seven blocks to get to the office. So it was a small enough town that everybody knew anybody who was new in town, you know, so nobody mentioned anything to me to change my behavior and activities, because they had board streets, you know.
And in Atlanta, we wore very high heels. And so my heels would get stuck in the ‑‑ in the cracks. And so by this I knew that we were being observed by a lot of people. And I would try to get my, you know, heel from the sidewalk, but that didn't work very well. So I had some interesting experiences.
Of course, I met my husband in Kodiak, so I learned a lot of the feelings from the community from him afterwards. So that's why I mention that. But Kodiak was a really unique experience because they had, first of all, had never had a social worker there.
So they weren't quite sure what we were supposed to do. And they have a lot of need for a social worker because the alcoholism was such a great factor, and of course, hand in hand, a lot of mental health problems also.
Section 6: But the city had a mayor and they had a marshal, the U.S. Marshal was the police force, so to speak. They had one ‑‑ I think one policeman, but the U.S. Marshal had the authority because it was still a territory back in those days. And he absolutely loved picking people up. And whether anybody admits it a lot up in Alaska now, we used a lot of blue tickets.
KAREN BREWSTER: What are blue tickets? ELLA CRAIG: Blue tickets, if a person is a nuisance in the community and you don't want them to stay, you give them a ticket, a one‑way ticket out of town. So there was a lot of that in Alaska. I've heard a lot of people say they don't remember anything about this and don't know about it, but they didn't live around the U.S. Marshal that I knew because there was a lot of that.
And they just ‑‑ from community to community. And then, of course, they would make trouble there and they would give them a ticket back. So they weren't always out. But the community had found me ‑‑ the mayor had found me a place to live. And I moved into that place maybe about a month after I was in Kodiak.
And it was a one‑room board and batten, unpainted facility, with a wood block, a stump for the doorstep in. Which was very difficult to maneuver with my high heels. But anyway, it had a light bulb on top and a window box for the refrigerator. And you kept all of your cold things out in the window box. And then it had an oil stove for heat and cooking.
And the shower had been built onto the house out of tin. It was just a little box that they had kind of built on and had a spigot up top and that was the shower. BILL SCHNEIDER: Outside? ELLA CRAIG: Outside. But they had cut a hole in the wall and you could go into it from the inside.
But that was where I lived for about a year. Well, maybe not quite a year, maybe nine months. But it was very expensive, comparatively speaking, because housing was absolutely very difficult to find. And until they built some housing projects there, it was very difficult for anyone to find a place to live. So...
BILL SCHNEIDER: And how about the work? How about the work? ELLA CRAIG: The work? Well, as soon as people found out I was there, of course, and I was a social worker, first of all, there was a curiosity, so you had an opportunity to explain to people what you did. And then the Public Health nurse, and there was one other nurse in town who was retired and just kind of did everything for everybody, a wonderful person, and the nurses at the hospital.
So they had a little understanding of what a nurse ‑‑ I mean, a social worker did. And we worked very closely with the Public Health nurses and they would refer people to us that needed that. And the Public Health nurses made home visits and village visits and that sort of thing.
And of course, I not only had the Village of Kodiak as my assignment, I had all of the islands and the Aleutian Chain. So ‑‑ and I had to visit a certain number of times per year. And that was by float plane or by mail boat or the little planes. So I did a lot of flying.
BILL SCHNEIDER: In difficult weather? ELLA CRAIG: In very difficult weather. And made several trips up and down the Chain on the mail boat, which was another whole experience. I mean, they also had a health boat and I used that some, but it was a health boat for the whole area, so that didn't come into Kodiak that often, but when it did, I would sometimes catch a ride up to some of the villages.
But it took awhile for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, apparently, to figure out that to get to the Aleutian Chain on a regularly scheduled flight of Reeve Airlines, I had to come from Kodiak to Anchorage and then go. Well, that was pretty expensive as well as time consuming.
So they decided that I needed to be stationed in Anchorage and we could well combine the two areas. So that was why I left Kodiak because the ‑‑ they combined the two offices then. But –
Section 7: BILL SCHNEIDER: What were some of the issues you addressed? ELLA CRAIG: The issues primarily at that time were family problems, primarily, but the main problem that initially took most of my time was the ‑‑ everybody had tuberculosis, and they needed to be hospitalized.
And this was not just the Native population, the non‑Native population was also afflicted. And when they were ‑‑ when the parents were hospitalized, all of the adults and the relatives who could care for all of the children were also hospitalized. So we had to find homes and places for the children to go, the ones who were still not needing hospitalization.
So much of my time was spent in child welfare issues trying to find homes for kids, picking kids up and placing them, taking care of the things in the village; when you took kids from the village, explaining why.
And sometimes ‑‑ there was one kid, sometimes ‑‑ I think the largest family I ever placed, the mother and father both had tuberculosis, grandparents had tuberculosis, and all the relatives in the village had tuberculosis. There were 14 children, one had tuberculosis, so there were 13 children that we had to find homes for.
Now, there were a lot of missions and institutions for children, but I had some problems with a lot of those because I was a federal employee, and religion was a part of their program. And if you're paying for their care in a facility, you can't force people to pray or to participate or to become a part of your denomination.
And this was a very difficult thing because while we had a number of those in Alaska, they were all religiously associated. So we tried to depend first on relatives, which you always do, but then to find Native foster homes, which was practically impossible because the high incidence of tuberculosis. So then we had to reach out and place some in non‑Native homes.
But when there was a child, say, on the Aleutian Chain, you couldn't have a youngster fly by themselves, so either I had to find an escort for them or I had to get them myself. So I spent a lot of time escorting kids. And which was not always easy, particularly in some of the weather conditions we had.
BILL SCHNEIDER: It must have been very hard on the kids, too. ELLA CRAIG: Oh, it was terrible on the kids. It was very, very difficult for the kids. BILL SCHNEIDER: A tragic period. ELLA CRAIG: Because I think a lot of people have criticized the agencies a great deal for, quotes, taking the children out of the village, but you have to have been there and you have to know what the circumstances were at that time, and to know that was the absolute last choice, and it wasn't done that way, but so many people remember it as that.
And sometimes it's real difficult to listen to some of the conversations of some of the people who are now maybe 40 and 50 and what have you, and even some of their remembrances as a child. Because communication was very difficult. They didn't have telephones, maybe they had one telephone in the villages. And you had to go through so many people to get a message to people.
But it ‑‑ it wasn't like you go in and sweep up the kids and take them out. It didn't happen that way. But most people think it does. But it was ‑‑ it was a difficult time for not only the children but for the families because in the process of all of this, the first Public Health Service Hospital was being built in Anchorage over on Third Street. And this was before we had a Public Health Service in Alaska.
We had nurses but we didn't have the administrative hierarchy. And that hospital was built by the Bureau of Indian Affairs initially, the Public Health Service Hospital as we know it. So after I came to Kodiak ‑‑ I mean, to Anchorage from Kodiak, I spent a fair amount of time working there, as well as with the Bureau because we were all working with the same patients, the same cliental.
Section 8: BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Well, then, let's ‑‑ let's move to some of the mental health issues that you faced. ELLA CRAIG: Well, first of all, I think the majority of officials didn't recognize mental health problems, or mental health as an issue in any way, because we had very little in the way of organizations who were concerned with mental health.
All this, of course, was before we had the first psychiatrist in Alaska. And then he was a man of vision, and very smart, and he had two social workers on his staff from almost the beginning, which was very helpful to those of us who were in the helping field.
And as you found a person that you knew was a danger to themselves or to someone else, the only place they could receive any treatment, of course, was Morningside. And that was a judicial procedure. And the person had to appear before a judge who declared them incompetent to manage their own affairs, regardless of their age or what have you.
And sometimes these ‑‑ I can remember one procedure that was held in jail, and the judge went down to jail and talked to the young man and said, yeah, he needs to go to Morningside. I think he was 14. And we just ‑‑ you knew what was going to happen. And they did have a beautiful facility and they had good care, but they were in Oregon.
They weren't near any of their parents or any other people except some people that might come down from Alaska. So it was ‑‑ it was difficult until we got a few people, a few agency people and then a few community people who were concerned about mental health issues, primarily I think because they had family members who needed care and weren't getting the kind of care that they knew they needed. So...
BILL SCHNEIDER: I think you had mentioned that you escorted some people to Morningside? ELLA CRAIG: Oh, yes. Uh‑huh. Frequently. I went down with them, and it was always an interesting experience. BILL SCHNEIDER: Why is that? ELLA CRAIG: Well, I had one young man that he really didn't need to be in Morningside, he could have done very well in a small facility, in a group home or what have you, but there was no alternative for him.
So we go down, and he was very loud talking and very ‑‑ just loved to visit with you and things. So we were sitting there, and so I said to him, I said, "Now, you ‑‑ you stay right here, I am going to go back to the back for a minute." And he said, "Well, can I go with you?" And I said, "No, you have to stay here." And finally I said to him, "I am going to the bathroom."
And so in this loud voice on this plane full of people, he says, "Mrs. Craig, you've got to go pee?" So there was just dead silence on the plane as you can well imagine. And I mean, that was just kind of the funnier side, but it was one of the kinds of things that you would put up with as you ‑‑ and then you never knew exactly what was going to happen, regardless of where you might be.
Section 9: BILL SCHNEIDER: How did this ‑‑ how did this play out in terms of the patients? Can you describe how they dealt with leaving their community and how the communities dealt with it. ELLA CRAIG: The communities were very protective of their own until they absolutely got to the point that the teachers in the schools felt that they couldn't stay there any longer.
I honestly believe the parents would have cared for them to the best of their ability regardless, but the teachers were concerned about it primarily. And they would convince ‑‑ be the first people to convince the parents or the community that they needed to seek help somewhere else.
But there was sort of a double thing there because first of all, they wanted them away from the community because they were concerned about the danger to other people. But ‑‑ and they were truly seeking help for them also. But parents, it was very difficult for the parents to understand. I mean, hospital they understood. And they didn't understand why they had to leave Alaska, particularly once they got the Native Hospital. Why can't they stay there? Or why can't they go there.
It was very difficult. And you had to spend ‑‑ you couldn't just go in on a plane and pick them up and leave, that kind of thing, you had to spend a lot of time talking with them and having them understand what was going to happen.
And the worst part about it was sometimes the kids were brought into the hospital and the person who would bring them in would not ‑‑ they would know them by a different name, and they would sometimes be admitted to the hospital without an appropriate name or their real name. And this was particularly true of Eskimos because they had a different way of ‑‑ they sometimes used the first name, last name, reverse it.
And so you would call ‑‑ the parents might contact the hospital, or ask somebody to contact the hospital to see how the kid was doing, and the hospital administration would say, there's nobody here by that name. So the parent would not know what had ever happened to their kid.
And I can remember only one instant, but this is a true story and did happen. A child was in the hospital for years and years and years under a different name than her own and was told that she was no longer there. Nobody knew where she was. And this was not just a few years, this was a lot of years.
And they finally discovered that ‑‑ what her real name was, and what have you. And then it was when this happened, and we found out about it, we tried to ‑‑ "we" being the Bureau of Indian Affairs social workers, we tried to reunite this youngster with their family, and it couldn't happen. I mean, she didn't know who they were and they didn't know who she was.
And this was a really, really tragic situation. And the only way we found out about it and what her name was because someone decided they wanted to adopt this child. BILL SCHNEIDER: From Morningside? ELLA CRAIG: No, this one was at ‑‑ just at the hospital. BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh, I see. ELLA CRAIG: She hadn't been sent to Morningside. And they wanted to adopt her. And they tried to adopt her and couldn't find a birth certificate.
And then we did some checking with the priest and various and sundry people, and the memories came back as to who she really was and why she was in the hospital, and her poor parents had been just like every time they had a chance inquiring about how she was, and they were told she wasn't there. And it was a very ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: How did that ‑‑ how did parents handle, though, their children going to Morningside? ELLA CRAIG: They were accepting of it, not emotionally, I'm sure, but they gave lip service to accepting it because they were convinced by the authorities that this was the appropriate procedure for them.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And how often did they have any contact at all with them? ELLA CRAIG: They didn't until they were ready to come home. BILL SCHNEIDER: And how often did they come home? ELLA CRAIG: They didn't come home for visits at all, only when they were discharged. As being well, able to come home.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And ‑‑ and what was the record of healing and coming home? ELLA CRAIG: Not that great because the adjustment after a period of time was not good. BILL SCHNEIDER: Adjustment to Oregon? ELLA CRAIG: To the ‑‑ to the ‑‑ from Oregon back to the village.
And without any supervision or continued treatment or follow‑up, maybe once a year that the Public Health nurse could provide, even medication management or anything of that sort couldn't be done that well. So the adjustment was really not that good.
Section 10: BILL SCHNEIDER: One of the themes that we've heard before was that when people went to Morningside, that most never came back. ELLA CRAIG: Very few came back. Very few. And if they did, they were labeled so ‑‑ because this was one of the things they loved to do was to label people, give them a diagnosis and that was it for the rest of their life, kind of thing.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And when people came back, then they had to justify that they were healed. ELLA CRAIG: Well, uh‑hum. BILL SCHNEIDER: Do you have some cases of that? ELLA CRAIG: I had ‑‑ I think I mentioned to Karen the one down in Kodiak, the lady that was sent to Morningside primarily because ‑‑ I mean, she had a problem with alcohol and that was it.
And of course, the treatment for alcoholism was unheard of at that particular time, and so we didn't talk about it or think about it. But she was kind of a nuisance in the community, and the marshal didn't care for her. So he decided she was going to Morningside. And it was difficult to get a judge, commissioner, what have you, to declare her incompetent and send her to Morningside.
So I ‑‑ she had really neat kids and I really liked her very much. I spent a lot of time with her. So we went in the grocery store one night down in Kodiak, and she had been home maybe a week or so, and was greeting people and was doing fine. And she was standing in the grocery line waiting to be checked out and she started talking loudly.
Well, you would because everybody's chattering at the same time, and you know, grocery store and what have you. And so the owner of the store was managing the cash register, and so he yelled at her to be quiet. And she says, "What do you mean, be quiet?" She said, "I'm just talking." And so then he started talking to her, and said, "Oh, well, you're crazy anyway, you know, so what can I expect."
And she really reacted and she says, "I'm not crazy." She said, "I have papers to prove it. Do you?" And she pulled out her discharge letter from the hospital and read it to him. And in the letter there was something about being cured and ready to return home, I've forgotten how it was worded at the moment, but it very distinctly said what she thought it said.
And he was absolutely livid. He was furious with her. So from a community standpoint, he didn't do well. BILL SCHNEIDER: From a community standpoint? ELLA CRAIG: He didn't do very well. She got the sympathy, from the community's standpoint. BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh, that's good.
Section 11: What sort of programs were in place when people came back? ELLA CRAIG: Back in those days, none. Just whatever follow‑up the Public Health nurse for the area or social worker could serve.
We usually were notified that they were returning, and we would make an effort to contact them and offer services if they needed to come in and talk with us and that sort of thing, but that was a limited number of people, really. Because the majority, as you say, didn't come back.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Were there cases where members of the community went down to visit there? ELLA CRAIG: I think some of their parents did. The Native people, of course, most didn't. I can't remember any of the people that I knew who were there having anyone visit them, except me.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And you would visit them when you would be doing ‑‑ ELLA CRAIG: When I was ‑‑ when I would bring someone else down, I would always visit everybody from Alaska. And then when I was in the area for any other reason, some of my people that I had known, youngsters, teenagers primarily, I would go by and see them because I thought that was important. Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And they remembered you and ‑‑ ELLA CRAIG: I beg your pardon? BILL SCHNEIDER: Did they remember you? ELLA CRAIG: Oh, yeah. Uh‑hum. Well, I think primarily because I was a constant in their life. Most of your professional workers would come and stay a year or stay two years and then they were gone, but I came and stayed. And so that made a difference to people.
And the other thing is that I had a short name, and they could remember Ella Craig. I mean, it was one word, as far as they were concerned. And the adults would call me Ella Craig. The children, of course, were all ‑‑ it was always Mrs. Craig, and until we got to the point that everybody called everybody, you know, by their first name. But it was some interesting times.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What can you tell us based on your observations of those trips about the care at Morningside? ELLA CRAIG: I had visited and worked in some facilities in the states during some of my disaster experience and otherwise, so I was somewhat familiar with the kind of services that were offered in institutional settings.
And I would say that Morningside was easily comparable to anything I had seen previously, so I would have to assume that the care was good at that particular time. And that ‑‑ and certainly I never talked with anyone who was there, of the youngsters particularly, the younger group, that wasn't perfectly okay with being there. And I mean, you know, the usual things, the food, the people, and what have you, but they would rather be in Alaska. Those were the kinds of comments that you would get.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What sort of social service support did those youngsters have from Morningside? ELLA CRAIG: They had support staff. I don't know if they called them aides or if they actually had ‑‑ I know in later years they had social workers, but I don't recall when I took my first youngster down whether they had a social worker or not. But I know they had support staff and aides and this sort of bit.
Section 12: BILL SCHNEIDER: And then just a very basic question. Were there certain steps that you made with a youngster when you dropped them off? Did you stay with them for a day or two or how did you make that transition as a social worker? ELLA CRAIG: No. I would be met by ‑‑ if they had a social worker, by a social worker usually, or a member of the staff, a nurse in whose unit it was going to be, or sometimes the doctors.
And we would spend time with the patient and myself, or I would spend time with the employee, usually both. But it wasn't a long period of time. And I didn't spend as much time as one would hope that a family member or someone who is making a transition as we know it today would spend. No. It was very hurried.
KAREN BREWSTER: So was it a few hours? Was it a day? ELLA CRAIG: I'd say a couple of hours. Uh‑hum. Yeah. BILL SCHNEIDER: Before we go on to the rest of your career, Karen, do you want to ask any more questions about this period? KAREN BREWSTER: Well, we've been talking about a lot about the children and taking the children to Morningside. Did you have experience with adults at Morningside? ELLA CRAIG: Well, I took my favorite person in Kodiak there in town.
And I was involved in placement of several of the adults, but I don't recall ‑‑ I think she was the only adult that I actually escorted down. I can't recall others. KAREN BREWSTER: That leads to my follow‑up, which is about the placement. So you were involved with recommending adults and children to be taken to Morningside?
ELLA CRAIG: I was a part of a group that would do that. Uh‑hum. Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: If you could talk a little bit about what that process was. ELLA CRAIG: It was ‑‑ usually they were referred by ‑‑ if they had been hospitalized, it would be the doctor or staff at the hospital. And otherwise, it would be Public Health nurse in the field or the school teachers or a minister or a nun, or just the recognized leaders in the community.
Once in awhile we would get information from the administration of the villages. I mean, the council presidents and this sort of thing, but not very often. And a lot of the time we were able to resolve that without moving anybody from the village. Because just going out and talking with them and assessing the whole situation, you would know that it wasn't a person from ‑‑ that needed to go to Morningside.
But we had an awful lot of missionaries that were in the various areas, and they would make a lot of recommendations, of course, that had to be evaluated. You did a regular assessment and then asked for a psychiatric evaluation once we got a psychiatrist. BILL SCHNEIDER: But that was a while coming? ELLA CRAIG: That was quite awhile coming. Yes.
Section 13: BILL SCHNEIDER: What about abuse of power in the community? As with respect to Morningside and sending people out. ELLA CRAIG: I think probably, without question, there was abuse of power because I think people like our marshal did down in Kodiak, I think people used Morningside as a place to send ‑‑ send an undesirable person, and an undesirable person doesn't necessarily have to be mentally ill to a lot of people. And that was what I saw happening a lot in Kodiak.
KAREN BREWSTER: Was there any way ‑‑ for that case, somebody who was labeled undesirable or maybe was not in need of actually being in Morningside, was there a way for them to get themselves out and returning? ELLA CRAIG: They didn't ‑‑ I mean Morningside, in my opinion, in what experience I had, was reasonably good about moving them through the system and not keeping them unnecessarily long periods of time.
But those were just the ones that I knew about. And I know there have been others that just kind of stayed and, you know. And maybe they didn't have a place to come back to or maybe they didn't have contacts that could be made to plan for them to come back. Because, you see, you were involved in the whole bit of transportation and where they are going to stay and when they are traveling.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So how would that be handled in the early years? If somebody ‑‑ if Morningside determined that somebody was healthy enough to return home, where would the money come for their travel and how would that be initiated? ELLA CRAIG: If there were people that we had been involved with sending, they first, of course, contacted the health authorities, which was the Public Health nurse.
If they were Native, they would usually contact me and say they needed to come back and ‑‑ or were ready to come back, and we would authorize the transportation for them. BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh. ELLA CRAIG: This was for Native people. And I assume the Territory did the same for the non‑Natives who were there. BILL SCHNEIDER: We're going to stop for a minute and change the tape and then we'll get on to the rest of your career.