Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesdays with Dorothy: Visits from Dignitaries and News from the Outside

(This is part of a series. For Table of Contents go here)
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During my visits with Dorothy, I knew that since she had been at Partlow State School from 1941 to 1975 many significant events had occurred during her institutionalization. I wondered how much she had been aware of, and how she had experienced those events while living in an institution. I was able to get her to talk a little bit about World War II. In the course of our discussions she also mentioned one change that demonstrated how the  Civil Rights movement had impacted life Partlow.  As she had described the layout of the Partlow campus, Dorothy  told me about the "C Building" which was where all of the "colored" residents were placed. She also mentioned  that later on, the "C Building" was done away with and everyone, black and white, was housed within the same buildings, indicating that that was quite a change for everyone involved. Here are some of her verbatim recollections:

"I remember George Wallace and Lurleen Wallace coming out, and I met them for the first time. I was down on Ward 1 and 2 then. I had been there quite a good while when I met them."

*     *     *

"I was at Partlow when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I remember it was Sunday, December 7, 1941. We heard about it on the radio. Back then we used to lay in our beds and talk at night and we didn’t even realize there was any danger. We didn’t know about planes that could fly over and drop bombs. Later on, I grew up and then I knew what danger was. Back during WWII I kept thinking, “We’ll win the war, they won’t outwit us.” Some of them said, how do you know, I said, “I just know we will.” Finally we went on and on and we did win. I remember when we heard the war was over, we were all in the sitting room and we were all jumping up and down and cheering. They said, “The war is over, the Japs and Germans have surrendered.”  I remember President Roosevelt sent a big ol’ cake to Partlow after we learned the war was over."

*    *    *

"I had to have somebody to teach me about danger. I learned, it took me a long time to learn, but I had a teacher who would tell me. I really learned more about danger when I moved out from Partlow."

As we would talk during future visits, Dorothy would share some of her experiences living on her own in the community that were probably some of the events in which she "learned more about danger." Those stories will be shared later, all in good time, as we hear more from Dorothy about how her life unfolds after institutionalization. 

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