CPS Unit No. 127, a Training School unit at the Utah Training School in American Fork, Utah operated by Mennonite Central Committee, opened on January 1944 and closed in February 1946. While a few of the men served as ward attendants, the majority worked in maintenance, on the grounds and in plant operations.
The Utah Training School was located on a six hundred acre farm at American Fork, Utah. The school cared for six hundred and fifty children.
Director: Arlo Sonnenberg
The majority of men in Mennonite camps and units, when entering CPS reported religious affiliation with various Mennonite denominational groups. At the Utah State Training School, of the twenty men who served there, fourteen reported affiliation with Mennonite denominational groupings (Brethren in Christ Mennonite, General Conference Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, Old Mennonite). Of the remaining six men, one reported no religious affiliation, one each reported Baptist, Evangelical, Friend and two reported Russian Molokan.
On average men in Mennonite camps and units had completed 10.45 years of education when entering CPS, with fifteen percent having completed 1-3 years of college. Another seven percent had either graduated from college or completed some graduate education. (Sibley and Jacob p. 171)
Fifty-nine percent reported their occupations on entry into CPS as farming or other agriculture work. Twenty-three percent of the men, when entering CPS reported occupations in technical and professional work or business management, sales and public administration. (Sibley and Jacob p. 172) At American Fork, eleven men upon entry into CPS reported their occupation as farming with one other identifying as a poultry retailer, three as student, and one each as moudler’s helper, painter, teacher, social worker, and truck driver.
The chief difference between mental health units and training schools lay in the type of patient admitted. Training schools devoted care of those whose mental conditions derived from hereditary factors, or for whom there was little or no hope for cure. The work in training schools was very similar to that in mental hospitals.
At the Utah school, unit men worked mainly on the farm in a variety of roles including maintenance of the grounds and plant. A few of the men served as patient attendants.
Apparently the men preferred individual studies to formal classes during off hours at the camp. The unit offered no classes from spring 1944 on. Some men took a General Science correspondence course.
In the final report of educational activities at the camp (June 1945), activities included “tinkering with the car”, planning the farm, and reading in the library. The same report also noted a number of recreational and cultural activities in which the men participated.
The men played archery, croquet, baseball, swimming and golf. When the camp closed in 1946, reports indicate that a croquet set, two baseball bats, a baseball, and a baseball glove from American Fork were transferred to a camp in Oregon. (Notes from archivist Colleen McFarland, March 29, 2011)
A number of the men participated in the choir at the Community Presbyterian Church in American Fork. “This has resulted in worthwhile practice in singing and has kept up our church interest and attendance.” (Educational Report, June, 1945)
For more information on Mennonite mental hospital and training school units, see Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee printed by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 1949, Chapter XVI pp. 213-251.
Gingerich, Melvin. "Civilian Public Service Unit (American Fork, Utah)," in Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 08 November 2010. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C52_127.html.
Notes from “CPS Unit No. 127 Educational Reports”, 1944-45 compiled by Colleen McFarland, Archivist. Mennonite Church USA Archives, Goshen, Indiana, Mennonite Central Committee: Civilian Public Service Field Records, 1941-47, Series IX-13-1, Box 15.
See Alex Sareyan, The Turning Point: How Persons of Conscience Brought About Major Change in the Care of America’s Mentally Ill. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1994.
See also Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-47. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Camp periodicals database.
For more in depth treatment of mental health and training school units, see Steven J. Taylor, Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009.