CPS Unit No. 72, a Mental Hospital unit at Hawthornden State Hospital in Macedonia, Ohio operated by Mennonite Central Committee, opened in December 1942 and closed in September 1946. At least half of the men served as ward attendants, and several wives worked in the women’s ward.
Hawthornden State Hospital was located about halfway between Cleveland and Akron in the Sagamore Hills, and five miles from the nearest town of Macedonia. A new hospital with buildings arranged on the cottage plan, the institution served one thousand patients.
The unit began with ten men and grew to twenty-nine assignees in October, 1945. Half of the men in the unit were married.
About half of the men worked as ward attendants in nineteen- hour days with one day off duty each week. At one point all but four of the men served as ward attendants. When not in that role, the men held a variety of jobs at the hospital.
Training for work in the mental hospitals was uneven, and frequently “on-the-job.” Harry van Dyck reported spending his first day at Hawthornden “observing Jim and Dole, the CO attendants who worked the day shift on Cottage Four, go through the morning routine. This brief apprenticeship was the extent of my training. I soaked up what I could about hospital policies plus some do’s and don’ts of ward work." (Taylor p. 200)
Living conditions were reported to be satisfactory and the food adequate.
Some of the wives worked at the hospital for a time, however conditions proved to be unsatisfactory, and they discontinued. With high staff shortage in the women’s buildings, the superintendent had hired a group from the state prison for women at Marysville, OH.
During the summer, the men met with those assigned to CPS Unit No. 69 at the Cleveland State Hospital for softball games and social events.
For more information on this unit and other mental health 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.
For more information on women COs see Rachel Waltner Goossen, Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-47. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
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.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, CPS camp periodicals database.
For more in depth treatment of the 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.