Elaine Ritschard was interviewed by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on April 20, 2010 at Summerset Lodge retirement community in Gladstone, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, where she currently lives. Elaine worked as a nurse at Morningside Hospital in the 1960s, first on the emergency unit and later she was head nurse of the children's ward where she established a kids activity center. In this interview, Elaine talks about becoming a nurse, balancing her work and home life, and conditions, patient treatment, and staff relations at Morningside Hospital. Her son, Brad, a recently retired police officer, joined in on part of the interview, but mostly he just listened.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Alaska Mental Health Trust History
Date of Interview: Apr 20, 2010
Narrator(s): Elaine Ritschard
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: Personal background, childhood, education, marriage and family life.
Section 2: Her early employment history working as a nurse.
Section 3: Working at Morningside Hospital in the emergency section, and the early years of giving patients medication.
Section 4: Description of the physical layout of Morningside Hospital and the patient care and work program, and working in the emergency section of the hospital where police would bring acute cases from the community.
Section 5: Observations about the patients and the type of care provided at Morningside Hospital, and long-term situation with Alaskan patients.
Section 6: Observations about why patients lost contact and did not return to Alaska.
Section 7: Stories about some of the patients, types of ailments patients had and the causes for these, and the type of care provided to the children at Morningside Hospital.
Section 8: Treatment of severe cases in children and her intervention in one particular case.
Section 9: Changes she implemented in treatment of children and use of discipline when she took over the children’s unit at Morningside Hospital.
Section 10: Working in the geriatric unit at Morningside Hospital, and the types of activities she initiated for the children.
Section 11: Working with the children to prepare them for integration into the community and bringing in outside programs and music.
Section 12: Relationships between patients at Morningside Hospital, types of activities provided, and observations about the condition of patients.
Section 13: Administration of Morningside Hospital during its last years.
Section 14: Work environment at Morningside Hospital in its later years, and the focus on providing patients the skills for transition to other facilities or into the community.
Section 15: Death and burials at Morningside Hospital, patients records, and status of patients after the hospital’s closure.
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's April 20th, 2010, Karen Brewster's here and I'm Bill Schneider, and we have the pleasure today of talking to Elaine Ritschard. And we're here just south of Portland at the place where she's staying. And what's the name of this place?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Summerset Lodge.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Summerset Lodge. Yes. A nice retirement home. So thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
I'd like to start by having you talk a little bit about your background, where you grew up, and your parents and some of your early schooling.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: All right. I grew up in Gresham, Oregon. I went to Gresham High School, grade school.
I married the young man I met in high school, we were married 58 years. His family is from Switzerland, my family's from Norka, Russia. I'm a German ‑‑ Volga German. I attended Emmanuel Hospital School of Nursing, got my degree in nursing from University of Oregon and Emmanuel Hospital, Bachelor of Science. I worked 45 years in my profession.
I have five children. I adopted two, so I raised seven. I think I was chosen for the position at Morningside because I was a mother of five. And my husband was a outdoorsman. He was a policeman for the City of Portland, lieutenant.
I have 20 grandchildren and seven great‑grandchildren. And they are teachers, social workers, counselors, registered nurses, businessmen, and they are all around me, within 15 to 20 minutes away. We're a very close family.
And my elder son was a Vietnam War veteran and passed away two months after my husband. He was injured and he lived with us for 30 years, and he took the death of my husband very seriously.
We had a ranch in Central Oregon and we had that ranch because of my profession and my husband's profession and my children's profession, they needed a place to go to have an R and R, so we bought 200 acres of land and built a ranch. And they came constantly to relax, ride horses, catch the cows, hike, fish, hunt, whatever.
And when we came back to Portland, it was because my husband got too old to lift those bales of hay. And we came back and he passed away six years after we came back, and I'm here now. And I'm enjoying it.
Section 2: What else would you like to know?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, when did you have your first nursing job?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: My first nursing job was in California. My husband was in the Marines from the Second World War, and we ‑‑ I graduated from nurses training on the 1st of August and we got married on the 8th.
Believe it or not, I was in the Army and didn't know it. When I signed up to go into nurses training, the recruiters came as supervisors of nurses from the different hospitals, in 1944. And recruited nurses to fill the hospitals that were emptying out because of the war. And I signed all these papers, I didn't see the small print.
And I ended up being in the Army but fortunately, the Army did not take married women or women with children, so when I married and had all these children, I was exempt. But my husband was in California to finish his service, and I took my state boards in California, in Los Angeles, and it was the first national state boards that were given to nurses.
This gave us reciprocity to work in any state without having to take the individual state tests. So that was very fortunate.
So I worked my first year Santa Ana, California. Then I came back to Oregon, and I worked for the Red Cross.
And the first place I worked was in the Contagious Diseases Hospital here, and it was polio epidemics. And I worked in iron lungs and Sister Kenny hot packs, and that lasted about a year before the polio sugar cubes came in.
And so then I worked there about two years and I worked for the Red Cross and traveled around Oregon, Washington, Idaho for the blood drives, drawing blood. And my husband decided that wasn't a good idea, to have me driving around all over, so here I am back in Oregon.
And I started ‑‑ we lived close to Morningside Hospital, that's why I chose Morningside. I was within a couple miles, one mile of Morningside Hospital, our first home that we bought. My husband went to college, and entered Portland University, and he became ‑‑ he has a masters in education. And he did some teaching.
My husband's had three retirements. He was a very active man. But I just kept working to pay for all of this. So all these kids, too, went to college. And so mom just kept working, in between children. I stopped a year every time I'd have one, and then I'd go back.
Section 3: And I went to Morningside Hospital with the idea that it was close at hand, and it was the job that I took after the infectious diseases and the Red Cross jobs. And I worked in ‑‑ I didn't start in the pediatric department at Morningside, I started in the emergency section.
Now, the emergency section was the intake ward for the people in the community that needed acute care, emergency care, the police would bring them in off the street out of the hos ‑‑ out of the homes that were in a mental health crisis. That was the emergency. That's your big building that you see right in the front there.
And those were always brought in as an emergency or a short term. And they had cells, locked cells. And that was also the treatment unit.
Now, remember this.
My time at Morningside was less than ten years since the beginning of medication treatment for mental health. All of my background came from on hands, like your electric shock, your insulin shock, your water therapy.
All these things that I was trained for in nurses training was not medication, but coming to Morning ‑‑ Morningside, they had already had the medications, but they were not stabilized yet. They were still ‑‑ medications were limited what you use, what they ‑‑ what was available, and limited to what the people, the doctors even knew, how they would respond to the medication.
And some of the mental health medications gave some of our patients Parkinson symptoms. Parkinson Disease. So they had to be careful with the dosage, the length of time. They were still learning on medication.
So when people came in, in an emergency type of situation, we gave them Thorazine right away because that was the one that was available first. And ‑‑ and more stable for us to use. But this was the short term.
Now, the Alaskan patients were already there when I arrived. They had been there for quite a few years. And by the way, Morningside Hospital was built by Henry Coe, Dr. Henry Coe from England. And the first ‑‑ first hospital was on Military Butte just west of I‑205 here in Portland.
And then he moved out here to Morningside, and it was a farm. It was a ‑‑ they grew vegetables, they had orchards, and they had beautiful park‑like environment around them to walk.
And something interesting was by the time I got there, most of the patients were residential.
They had been treated with medicine, they were stable enough to be out on their own outdoors during the day, if they were interested.
But a lot of the patients were sitting because they had to be motivated at this point.
The ones that were outside were workers. They worked in the gardens, they worked in the farm. They did a lot of landscaping. They did the picking of the fruit. They did the harvesting of the vegetables. And our kitchens used all of those vegetables.
So the Alaskan patients were outside doing that sort of thing at their own speed. And some of them got taken to shopping centers. They always got escorted to doctors. The young people that I saw, the Alaskan ones, were just strolling through the park and walking and visiting with each other during the day. At night, we locked all complexes.
So my first experience at Morningside was the emergency section. And that was pretty traumatic. But something interesting happened. If a policeman would come in and that patient was under ‑‑ was immobilized maybe by handcuffs or whatever, even a straitjacket, he'd come in and he'd take everything off; and us nurses, now, we had white uniforms, white hats, and all we had to say is, we'd like to help you.
Would you come with us, please. And they came very willingly. They were fighting with the police, there were traumatic incidents on the streets, that's why they were brought in, but when we met them at the door and said, come with us, we want to help you, they came without a ‑‑ I never had any problem with any of them. And that was interesting. Well, one I did. But we won't go there.
But anyway, that ‑‑ that was an interesting thing. They came in and they knew they needed help. So ‑‑ now, that was community at Multnomah County, had that system with Morningside. And it was the Multnomah County people that brought their emergencies in.
This was in 19 ‑‑ well, I ‑‑ I came in 1960, so it was from 1960 until it closed its doors, they were using the emergency section for the cases on the street or in the homes.
Section 5: Now, the Alaskan patients were limited when I got there. Many had already been taken to Alaska, or they were in our system.
I remember four wards outside the main hospital. There was a ward of young adults, male and female. There were two different ones. One male, one female.
And the age bracket probably was some 16 ‑‑ I would say 16 to 50. And they were different levels of abilities.
Some could ‑‑ some had ‑‑ by the way, we had a school on the grounds. It was a little red schoolhouse.
Portland Number 1 provided the teacher, she was full time. And there she had about 10 students at a time. Most of the students were only educable to the third grade.
By the time I got there, the people that had been educated before I came were at a different level, but I didn't know them; and I didn't work at those two units, so I didn't have a lot of experience with them.
But they were the ones that worked in the gardens, worked in the lawns, worked in the landscaping. And were free to come and go. But you know, they never left the grounds unless they were escorted. They never wandered away, they were content.
Some worked in the kitchens. Some helped with children. Some young girls worked with the kitchen and worked with us with the children. Very nice, very easy to get along with. It was low key. They seemed content.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So you ‑‑ just a bit of clarification. You were saying that they entered our system. Do you mean the Oregon Welfare System?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Yes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Would you explain how that worked.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Well, I don't know. I just know that in the following years that I was working in other areas, I ran into some of the patients in the nursing homes from ‑‑ the Alaskan patients that I recognized that were young adults or teenagers. And they were in nursing homes.
But you have to remember that the people that were left at Morningside when I arrived were really very limited in their ability to function without some kind of help. This is the children's area I'm speaking of.
The two wards I told you about where they were men and women wards, they were more active, but not able to cope with society without some kind of a structured environment.
They would need to be ‑‑ those would go into group homes, into foster homes. No, not foster homes because they were too old. Some kind of supervision.
So if they got into apartments without supervision, that's where we lost them.
But they were hired by different places, like I say, Goodwill. And they did find them jobs, like washing dishes or some kind of job that would give them an income, but the welfare was supporting them and giving them an income because they were now belonging to Oregon instead of Alaska, they belonged to Oregon because they had been residents in Oregon a long time.
Section 6: So they ‑‑ they established residency in Oregon by being here so long. And if they chose not to go back to Alaska and there were not family members or somewhere for them to go in Alaska, they stayed here. It was their choice to.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Were they given that choice? They were asked if they ‑‑
ELAINE RITSCHARD: If they were to make that choice.
You've got to remember, this is ‑‑ this is ‑‑ it varied, wide vari ‑‑ variation of the type of patient they were or the type of resident they were.
The ones that could stay and have responsibility, they put them in the places where they could function. If they didn't, they'd also have to be in a place where they could be taken care of; but when Oregon closed all the institutions, they had no place to go. And if some tried to live on their own, they would fall by the wayside.
The ones that chose to go back to Alaska had someplace to go in Alaska.
I will be very honest with you, I was there seven to eight years, and I don't remember any patient being visited by relatives, receiving letters from relatives, Christmas cards from relatives.
When they came here, they were alone. These patients did not have continued connection with Alaska except by financial means and what Morningside gave them as a home.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Why do you think that was?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Well, it was a type of patient that I saw. Now, remember, I was the tail end. So that they were left here to be cared for. So they were in Morningside because there was no one in Alaska that connected with them where they could go back to.
And I'll be ‑‑ I will tell you why. The children ‑‑ I'm only speaking of the children, I didn't work with the adults, but I think there were some of them ‑‑ they were birth defects, alcohol syndrome children, illness, injuries.
They were very limited in what they could do without structured care, the children needed to have care.
I believe that the young people in those other two units were the same way, but they had ‑‑ they were taught how to take care of themselves, brush their teeth, dress themselves, eat well.
They had good manners. Socialize with the people within their units. They were considerate, they ‑‑ they took care of each other.
That's one thing I did see. The ‑‑ the ones in the two units would come over and love to play with the children and take care of them.
They stuck together. There was a cohesiveness about the Alaskan Natives. Now, I'm speaking of the Natives. I had very few Alaskans that were not Natives that didn't go back.
So the children that I saw and the patients that I saw were people with limited resources within themselves that could function by themselves.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But I'm wondering about the people back in Alaska; you said that there were very few visitors.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: I believe that those families were already fragmented. I believe that those families already had problems of their own. I believe they came from families that didn't have structures that could support them anyway, or they wouldn't be down there.
If they were Natives, they always took care of their own. They took care of their own in ways that they could do it. If they ‑‑ if these children got away from them and got down into Morningside, it's because they didn't have anybody. Or nobody that was interested.
Because in all the background, a lot of these children had grandmothers that took them in. Aunts and uncles, they were ‑‑ they ‑‑ just like they showed up here taking care of the children in the units where I worked, they would love to take care of the children ‑‑ they stuck together.
But it's because these children had no one. Or they didn't have anyone that was able to take care of them, they had problems of their own in Alaska. They were ‑‑ just didn't have the facilities or the family life‑style that could take care of that kind of a child.
So the families didn't show up, didn't keep letters. They probably were thankful they were safe and were taken care of, too. And they didn't have the means to get down here and visit them. They didn't have the education.
They didn't have the background that said, oh, let's write them a nice letter or go out and buy some cards and send it to them. They didn't have that. We didn't ‑‑ we had limited connection with the families in Alaska.
Section 7: There were some patients that were very remarkable. I remember one woman that was a princess Inupiat. I‑N‑U ‑‑ is it ‑‑ from Barrow, up in the North. She was a princess. And she went out hunting with her husband, and her husband disappeared on the ice floes, and she had to walk through the ice and cold and snow back to her village or where she came from.
And by the time she got back to her village, her feet were frozen.
And when we got her ‑‑ now, remember, this is long before I came, but she was there, her feet were gone, but they had prostheses and shoes. And she never complained. She was dignified. She was very quiet.
But she actually worked in the kitchen. And her story was such a ‑‑ to me, I ‑‑ I felt very ‑‑ she was heroic. I just ‑‑ I felt good about that.
There was a lot of abuse in some children. Children locked in closets, children starving, this is histories that we read on their charts.
The diagnosis for these children was varied. There was some schizophrenic, some birth defects, some autistic. Our job was just to make them ready to function as much as they could in the environment they were going to live in.
So I don't think I'll go into a lot of the patient histories. That's too ‑‑ that's too hard to talk about. But some of it was very traumatic because of the violence of the environment that they lived in. Dark nights, cold. What, no sun for 87 days or something, and darkness.
By the way, they ‑‑ the doctors did say that this contributed to a lot to the patient's depression and alcoholism. I don't know what ‑‑ you'd want to go with that, but that was something that the doctors did assume that the environment and the darkness and the wilderness and ‑‑ was contributing to the alcoholism and the depression.
BILL SCHNEIDER: How did you treat those conditions?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Now, I'm only going to speak to ‑‑ about the ‑‑ the children. Because it was such a wide variety of children, each one was treated individually.
When I first arrived there, in 1963, they had a house mother and a house dad. And it was set up like a home. They were taught to get up, brush their teeth, get dressed. And they didn't treat them as individual mental health patients. They treated them as family. Children in the family.
And the older children were assigned to the younger children to help them. Just like an older sister would help a younger sister.
They would also have them go to the dining ‑‑ we always went to the dining rooms. We walked to the dining room. All patients did, by the way.
Even the outlying wards, they walked to the dining room. It was through the ‑‑ through the park‑like setting. The ones that could not, if they were disabled, they had trays delivered to them. But I would say that was limited to maybe only two or three, and sometimes only periodically.
So the children would be gotten up, bathed, dressed, toothbrushes, teach ‑‑ oh, by the way, potty trained. A lot had to be potty trained. A lot of them were in diapers.
Section 8: There was one unit that we had was for severely damaged children, it was a padded room. The bed was on the floor, and I remember walking into the unit the first week I was there and seeing this young man, young boy, about 12 to 13, all alone in that padded room sleeping on the pad. That was his bed. There was not another thing in the room.
Well, I didn't like the looks of that. So I investigated what that was. And it was a disciplinary area when he was harming other children or himself, because the room had to be padded, the floor and everything. And he was ‑‑ he couldn't even be given a bed because he would hurt himself in the bed springs or whatever.
So after I was there about a week or two, I decided to go in and sit with him. I ‑‑ I kind of observed how he would behave. He didn't like to eat, he threw things, the food ‑‑ you had to give him food on paper cups and paper dishes because he would harm himself or harm somebody else.
And I took a radio from my home and found music that was music of nature, like waterfalls, birds singing, whatever. And I found the station that this was on, and I'd go in and sit with this young man. And not for very long. I started, what, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, whatever.
And he responded to the music. And I don't have to say anything, we'd just sit there quietly, let him respond.
He started eating. He started ‑‑ not ‑‑ he never did communicate, but at least he was quiet. He could sleep. He could eat. He was soothing.
And I did that for about two weeks, and then I assigned my helpers.
I had a lot of help. Morningside gave me a lot of help. I had at least eight caregivers, a male and female, young man, young women, and they were wonderful. They ‑‑ they took care of these children beautifully.
Section 9: By the way, I replaced the mother and father image. They were stronger in discipline. They got their work done, but they were doing some things that I had the choice to change.
One of them was they used food as discipline. Like if the child wouldn't do something, they held back their lunch, or held back their treat, or held back ‑‑ they didn't get to go to the dining room to eat.
Well, I didn't like that. I thought, huh‑um, I'm stuck with how I took care of my own kids. You can sit them on a chair. You can sit them in the corner.
One of my sons complained that he wondered if his nose would ever grow because he was in the ‑‑ in the corner, standing in the corner in the kitchen so much, that was Christopher.
It wasn't you, dear. It was Christopher.
But I started using the same techniques on my ‑‑ as I used on my children as I did on these children. And I felt it was much more ‑‑ well, it satisfied me.
I just didn't like the looks of that young man in that room. I didn't like the looks of the kids not going to the ‑‑ to the cafeteria to eat and ‑‑ or holding their food back. That didn't sound good to me. So those things I liked. And they responded.
And believe it or not, 20 years later I heard on the radio about this new treatment for children using music. And I thought, ha. I did that 20 years earlier.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What was the reaction amongst other staff to what you were doing?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Very, very good. Now, the staff in my unit.
By the way, Lynette McCoy and Helen Nigh were the superintendent of nurses, and superintendent at Morningside Hospital, all nurses were under them. All nurses aides, all caregivers of all kinds. Orderlies, were under Lynette McCoy and Helen Nigh. And they went to Valdez and worked the first year in Valdez until that earthquake. That was 1964, wasn't it?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh‑hum.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: So the earthquake, I don't know what happened because I didn't keep a connection there, but they came back, I think in 1965. Was your hospital rebuilt in another section?
BILL SCHNEIDER: I'm not sure what ‑‑ what happened with Harborview, but it was in operation after that.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Okay. I think they moved it after the earthquake.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. It was in operation.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: But anyway, they were ‑‑ my superintendent of nurses went to Valdez and worked as supervising nurses there. It was the supervisor and the assistant. It was Lynette McCoy and Helen Nigh.
Section 10: BILL SCHNEIDER: But I was wondering what the impact was of your, what looks to me like, very progressive treatment.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Well ‑‑ well, I wasn't ‑‑ I'll start with the children's unit now. I'll start telling you about the children's unit. First I worked in the emergency section where the ‑‑ and then I worked in the geriatric section. Now, those were Alaskans.
They weren't all Natives, but they were Alaskans. When I say geriatric, I mean my age today. And they were pretty well regressed. They had had electric shock, they had been in an institution for a long time.
Our role at that point was to motivate them. Get them moving.
And to do that, we gave parties, like New Year's Eve, I made them hats, made them march with kettles and bongs and horns. And get them up on their feet and move them around. They were content to sit, just sit. But they walked over to the cafeteria and they ate, and they walked back. That was their exercise. And you can see that the buildings are far enough apart so that it was a nice walk. That was their exercise.
So then I worked from the emergency room to the geriatric. Then there was an intake ward where community people started coming in for short term. That's where Dr. Bowerman and Dr. Moss worked. Dr. Stewart was the head of all of them. And there were a couple other doctors, but I don't remember their names at this time.
Then the superintendent of nurses, Lynette McCoy, asked me, she said, we have to prepare these children to live in the community. And she said, I'd like you to take over the unit and start getting them ready to move out into the community because these children will be taken care of in homes, foster homes, back in the community, maybe even enter the school system, which you know they did eventually.
So she gave me two Volkswagon buses, it held eight people. She gave me a young man and two other nurses aides. And we started planning activities, not only on ‑‑ on campus, but out in the community.
And I used the same system that I use for my kids. For instance, I would try out a lot of things at home that Brad may remember. Clay, play dough.
There was another system that was really neat.
It was whipped Ivory flakes. I don't know if you still get Ivory flakes in the grocery stores, but you can take an Ivory flake with water and it whips up like a whipped cream, but you can make it thicker so the kids can work it with their hands. And you add food coloring to it so you have all kinds of colors, you have a bowl of yellow, bowl of red, bowl of green, whatever.
And I tried this out at home. My kids had to experiment with this so I'd know how to do it. And then we'd put them on poster boards or just wooden things.
And Lynette gave me a whole building that used to be a patient care building for the kids to have activities in.
Because in Oregon, it rains a lot. So we kept the kids inside, and we started all of these hands‑on activities. We had a ‑‑ we set up a make‑believe grocery store, got all kinds of little cans of things so they could learn how to work in a grocery store.
We set up work tables and they made beautiful pictures with ‑‑ you could make a mountain out of this Ivory flakes.
You can make skies and stars. And then with their ‑‑ and then with their play dough, I've still got the recipe for the play dough because it was made with a lot of salt, flour, powdered alum, and of course, always food coloring. And these kids could make all kinds of things with the play dough.
Then there was another thing that I made, it was a ‑‑ we called it Jansen Beach. And it was boxes and boards and tires and the kids could walk across bridges and crawl through tunnels. And I just did all kinds of play things that these kids could do.
Then they allowed us to go out into the community. We visited schools. We went to shopping centers. We went to grocery stores. We went on picnics up the Columbia River. Rooster Rock, Benson State Park, all the places that I had taken my own family.
And we could take 8 at a time with two buses, there were 16.
There was one thing wrong with those buses, those Volkswagon buses. They couldn't go up a hill. They would just chug along. But these kids learned to be out in the community. And that was my role.
Section 11: Now, how they responded to the music and the treatment, they responded to everything. Limited, of course. You've got to remember, these were educable kids, to the age, what were they, in the third grade, 9, 8 or 9. A lot of supervision. Had to hold hands. They'd take off. Had to hold hands.
And we always had a system of two hands and the attendants out on the ends.
They had to learn to be quiet. And we learned to do that just by hand, like this. (Indicating finger to the lips.) Or no. (Indicating shaking head.) They responded beautifully.
They did have good care, before I was put in the unit. They ‑‑ people taught them how to dress. They were potty trained. They ate well. They cleaned up after themselves. They picked up their toys. Morningside provided toys. Morningside provided everything. Everything that other kids got, these kids got.
We had people come in from the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts. Now, this is where my kids got involved. I brought them over for programs. My kids played ‑‑ Heidi played the accordion, and I brought my kids over to interact with them. They had other community services come in. I'd call them and make dates with them, they'd come in just like they bring us music here. We had programs for them.
I would say that Morningside did very well for them. For all of the patients. In the beginning, there was limited because we didn't have the medication to give them the ability to function like they were when I arrived. When I arrived, they had had medications for, what, 10 years.
What can I ‑‑ what can I ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: So that's an interesting point. You ‑‑ your ‑‑ if I hear what you're saying correctly is that the medications had a big impact on being able to give the residents a greater degree of freedom in terms of adapting to society.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Correct. Correct.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And before that, they were very limited methods, and ‑‑
ELAINE RITSCHARD: And they had their environment had to be very well lock and key; hurt themselves, hurt others. Not after the medication. That took care of a lot of that. However, to keep them on the medication, that was the difficulty that you're seeing now, they still needed a structured environment where those medications could be given so they could take care of themselves. That's where the loss is today.
Section 12: BILL SCHNEIDER: What about interactions between the residents? You mentioned the helping that occurred of older residents with the younger children.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: I don't understand what you're saying.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What were the ‑‑ obviously friendships developed between groups.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Yes, but these were young children. But I mentioned that the older ones came over. They were free to come and go, though. There wasn't a regular structured hour that they were there, but they come over and played with the children or join them in their activities, or just sit and read them a book, or just visit with them and play with them.
There weren't a lot of them, but by the time I got there, we were limited in ‑‑ in how many were left at Morningside.
BILL SCHNEIDER: That's right. That was the ‑‑
ELAINE RITSCHARD: The young children got along with each other. If they didn't, they were disciplined.
And when I say, for instance, if one child would start hitting the other one, you would treat them just like you would your own child, you don't do that, you sit in that chair or you say your sorry or you ‑‑ whatever the ‑‑ the behavior was, you took care of it immediately.
And the discipline that was given by the couple before I came was very strict. I don't know if they got spankings or not. I don't know that. But I know it was very strict. And I know that these children, by the time I arrived, were well behaved. And if they weren't, we took care of it just like you would your own child.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Amongst the older residents, were there cases where romantic relationships developed between the residents?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: We had to watch that. We had to watch when they were out on the grounds that they didn't get into the bushes. And that was supervision. Just plain supervision.
They ‑‑ we had a ballpark out back where the gardens were. They could play ball. They could play kick ball. The little kids did, too, like soccer, but it wasn't soccer but just kick ball.
Some of them had bicycles, now that I remember, rode bicycles around on the grounds. A lot of it was work.
Kept them pretty busy working, the ones that could. The ones that were sedentary, we had to keep them moving. It was hard to ‑‑ but the thing that surprised me is they didn't wander away. They were content.
I ‑‑ I think I picked up something else. They were content to sit a lot. It was harder to get them to move a good percent of them. It was like they were in a dream world. And I don't think it was all medication. I think it was their former environment. I think they came from a place where they did a lot of sitting and thinking. Or living within their own thoughts.
I just feel that they came from a ‑‑ I know that they were different in the way they responded to people that were not Natives. They kept things to themselves. They did not open themselves up to share a lot of themselves. They shared with each other.
You can see them giggling or laughing or punching each other, you know, or making believe of somebody, look at them, you know, sort of thing. They were ‑‑ yes, there was a connection with them. They connected with each other. And they helped each other. And I didn't see a lot of non‑Natives by the time I got there.
Section 13: BILL SCHNEIDER: How ‑‑ how were the Coes to work with?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: The only one I knew was Henry Coe, Jr.
And I tried not to have too much to do with the administration because I didn't always respect the administration for the fact that I saw some discrepancies in what was needed and what was allowed and what was given, and he was having a lot of trouble with financial stability because the hospital was closing.
So we had a lot of trouble deciding what to keep and what to let go.
And there was an apartment above the administration buildings where he would stay periodically. And the superintendent of nurses and the assistant took care of all of that.
And I didn't have any kind of decision. I didn't ‑‑ I stayed away from all the administrative type things. I wasn't interested in that.
But as far as what the hospital was set up to do in the beginning by Mr. Henry Coe, the father, was very good. By the time I got there, it was changing in its environment and its hands, but it was still a ‑‑ the patients still got good care. They got excellent food because they were using the gardens. The kitchen was done as a cafeteria. It was ‑‑ they ate very well. I ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: Why ‑‑ why did you mention the apartment above the administration?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Because he would come and stay periodically for periods at a time.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And why was that?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: I don't know.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. When ‑‑ were you there during the congressional investigation in the mid '50s, I guess that would have been before you?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Well, what year was it?
BILL SCHNEIDER: 1950s, in the '50s years.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: What were the exact years you worked at Morningside?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Well, about ‑‑ well, 1960 to 1968, but I was off with my youngest daughter, so I was gone for about a year and a half in that period.
When I first started was around 1960, but then I was gone for a while, then I came back. It was after I came back that I worked with the children. That was 1963. That's when I came back. But I was gone for a little while there. But I didn't know of any problems. And I made a point not to be interested.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Right.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: My job was taking care of the patient or the children. I didn't ‑‑ I didn't bother myself with any of that other stuff.
Section 14: BILL SCHNEIDER: Did you know a Dr. Keller?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: No.
BILL SCHNEIDER: That may have been earlier. But you knew Helen Nigh, you mentioned, and she was influential in endorsing the type of programs that you were trying to ‑‑
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Well, actually, Lynette McCoy was. She's the superintendent.
Helen Nigh was the person that was the assistant, and she was more in seeing that we got supplies, got the things that were needed to take care of whatever we needed to take care of. She was ‑‑ she took orders from Lynette McCoy.
We didn't answer to Helen Nigh, we answered to Lynette McCoy. At least I didn't. I don't know ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: And from what you're saying, she was pretty supportive of what you were doing?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Yes. Both of them were. Well, they assigned me there. They came to me and asked me to do it. It was something that they had to set up because it was ‑‑ it was getting ready to close, and it was getting ready to move the kids out into the community, and the Alaskan hospital, I believe, was built.
And when I was there, they were already flying some of them back, but not as ‑‑ I just didn't see that many going back. The ones that I did see go back were maybe 8, and maybe one or two attendants would fly back. I had the opportunity to escort them back, and I ‑‑ I ‑‑ I didn't because I had my own family and I didn't want to leave my family, so I never escorted any groups back.
I don't remember ever being involved in any administrative decision. I just wasn't interested.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But it would be interesting for us to talk to Helen Nigh and Lynette.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: I don't believe they are alive. They were already older than I was by maybe five to ten years.
Lynette McCoy's family, however ‑‑ I did check the phone book to see if I could find either name in the phone book. Their ‑‑ when they came back from Alaska, they had a home in ‑‑ on the mountain near Welches. And I was invited to an outdoor gathering when they came back from Alaska, and my husband and I did attend.
All the old superintendents and nurses and people that worked for them were invited. And my husband and I did go. We did drive out to Welches. That's the last I saw of them or had connection with them.
But Helen Nigh was from the South of Florida, and Lynette McCoy's family were right here in Portland. She went to Reed College. So ‑‑ but I didn't find them in the phone book. I didn't find that name at all. So I couldn't check on that.
Section 15: BILL SCHNEIDER: Do you know where the people were buried who passed away at Morningside?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: No. No.
BILL SCHNEIDER: How were burials handled?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: I didn't see anybody die. I never knew anybody passed away.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Do you have any information on the patient records? You mentioned they entered the Oregon Welfare System, many of the people at the time, when ‑‑
ELAINE RITSCHARD: No. Once they got into the welfare system, I only ran into them because I was in nursing.
And I did hear that someone adopted some children in Vancouver, and then in Onalaska, in Washington, there's a town called Onalaska in Washington.
And I know one family adopted five Alaskan Native children. And I only heard that as a passing remark, but I told them I used to work at Morningside, and I never followed up on it or paid any attention.
But I did run into the patients in the nursing homes when I was working for a friend of mine that had a nursing home.
I ran into a couple of them there. But I never followed up on any welfare. I was too busy with my own family. And I had other jobs.
I went from there into Providence Hospital and so I didn't follow up on ‑‑ when I left Morningside, I didn't ‑‑ I didn't follow up on anything.
That was ‑‑ Morningside was ‑‑ was still going when I left because they were taking community patients. They were taking private patients when I was there in that children's department, I had private patients from Multnomah County, children. And then the police were bringing in from Multnomah County, too, in the emergency section. That all happened after the children and the Alaskans went home.
But as far as anybody ‑‑ I don't remember anybody ever passing away. But then I ‑‑ you've got to remember when I was there. It was at the tail end of Morningside. And it was sold to a ‑‑ it's a ‑‑ it's a shopping center, mall 205 is a shopping center.
I did see one shed or building in the back when I drove down through ‑‑ let's see, Seventh Day Adventist Hospital meets the back end of the property, I saw an old shed still standing on the property that was there. But it had a school on it, it had barns, it had ‑‑ it was a ‑‑ it was a farm. And I know that they all worked there, I know that the Alaskan patients.
But we called them residents by the time I got there; they weren't even patients, they were residents.
BILL SCHNEIDER: I just keep thing about the older people, not in the children's ward, but the ‑‑
ELAINE RITSCHARD: The geriatric unit?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, that, yeah, and ‑‑ and where they might have ended up.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: In nursing homes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: That geriatric unit went into ‑‑ if there was no one in Alaska that took them back, or called for them, they went into nursing homes. And I don't remember any of them ever passing away while I was there. They went into nursing homes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So in terms of families tracing those people, it would be very hard, wouldn't it? But nursing homes ‑‑
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Yes. I would suggest they go ‑‑ I don't know what kind of a system the welfare system has, if they keep records or not. Does Alaska keep good records in their welfare system?
BILL SCHNEIDER: I don't know how good their records are.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: Well, I don't know what Portland ‑‑ or Oregon does, or the ‑‑ or even the county, but you'd have to go there, look at their records, and ‑‑ I don't know how you'd do it.
I guess by the year. It would be 19 ‑‑ it would be 1963, the era would be '60 to '63, the years that they would be going into the nursing homes. Children would be foster homes. Adoptions.
I'll be very honest with you, I don't remember many going back to Alaska. They were lost in our system, in our welfare system.
BILL SCHNEIDER: I think that's probably true.
ELAINE RITSCHARD: And I don't know how the families would find them except trying to find records from the ‑‑ from the state welfare system.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh‑hum. Are there any parts of your experiences at Morningside that I haven't touched on or we haven't touched on that ‑‑ that you think are important for the record? Are there any memorable experiences that we ought to know?
ELAINE RITSCHARD: I don't think any that would be helpful to the families or to you.
I was ‑‑ I was surprised at the type of children that were kept in ‑‑ in a hospital setting that were micro-cephalic, hydro-cephalic, limited, so limited that they were only kept alive with tube feeding.
They were picked up out of those cribs and rocked. They were dressed. They had zero response to their environment. Zero. And they were kept alive with IVs, with tube feeding. There were about eight of them. I couldn't believe that type of patient was there in that environment.
There was about eight.
And we had special duty nurses that would care for them night and day. The ones that did respond were still going to respond only to limited amount of activity and education.
Even the people that adopted them, but they are in our school system today, because my daughter‑in‑law takes care of them in the schools today. Brad's wife. So they are in our system.
BILL SCHNEIDER: I want to change the tape and I have a couple more questions.