CPS Unit Number 142-01
Unit ID: 1
Operating agency: MCC
Opened: 1 1945
Closed: 7 1946
CPS Unit No. 142, a Training School unit located at Woodbine Colony for the Feeble Minded in Woodbine, New Jersey operated by Mennonite Central Committee, opened in January 1945 and closed in July 1946. Men performed a variety of roles at the school.
Woodbine, New Jersey, was located sixty-five miles from Philadelphia.
Twenty men selected for Woodbine came from base camps at Grottoes, Virginia (CPS Camp No. 4) and Luray, Virginia (CPS Camp No. 45).
Men in Mennonite camps and units, when entering CPS tended to report religious affiliation with various Mennonite denominational groups.
On average they 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. Fifty-nine percent reported their occupations on entry into CPS as farming or other agriculture work. Twenty-three percent of men, when entering CPS, reported occupations in technical and professional work or business management, sales and public administration. (Sibley and Jacob p. 171-72)
One of fourteen of the CPS training school units, Woodbine Colony accommodated seven hundred children with intellectual disabilities. The hospital sought assistance from Selective Service due to staff shortage. The men worked with the patients and performed other duties at the Colony.
The chief difference between mental health units and training schools lay in the type of patient admitted. Training schools were devoted to 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.
Dr. Edward L. Johnstone conducted an orientation course on the institutional care of patients with developmental disabilities in order to prepare the men for their work.
Unit members contributed narratives from their experience at Woodbine Colony for Out of Sight, Out of Mind, which described conditions of treatment for children with developmental disabilities. Conditions at state training schools did not attract the attention of the public, however, until the 1960s and 1970s, after the construct of mental retardation had been redefined.
Assignees found the living quarters to be excellent.
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.
See also 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.