CPS Unit No. 77, a Mental Hospital unit at New Jersey State Hospital in Greystone Park, New Jersey operated by Mennonite Central Committee, opened in January 1943 and closed in August 1946. Most of the men served as ward attendants.
New Jersey State Hospital at Greystone Park, New Jersey, was located forty miles west of New York City. The unit operated from January 1943 through August 1946.
One hundred CPS men served in the hospital, all but six working as ward attendants. Some of the men were married.
A high majority of men in the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) camps and units reported affiliation with Mennonite denominational groups when entering CPS.
More men In MCC camps and units entered from rural than urban areas with fifty-nine percent of men stating their occupation as “farming and other agricultural work”. On average, men in the Mennonite projects, men had completed 10.45 years of education. Twenty-two percent had completed either some college, graduated from college, or taken post-graduate work. (Sibley and Jacob pp. 171-72)
The hospital, one of the largest mental hospitals in the country, housed over five thousand patients and employed one thousand staff. Most of the men in the Mennonite Central Committee CPS unit served as ward attendants.
An elected unit council provided a range of activities—religious services on Sunday and Wednesday, sports activities on Monday and Thursday, musical organizations met on Tuesday and educational events occurred on Friday. The group held one meeting and one social event each month.
The unit Community Service Committee engaged most unit members in a variety of activities benefiting the hospital and the Greystone Park community. At the hospital, assignees volunteered to reestablish library service to the wards. Unit members made games and puzzles in the hospital workshop for patient use in the wards.
In the community,
- Men regularly donated blood to help supply local civilian hospitals, averaging ten donors per month.
- Some men maintained a relationship with a local settlement house, leading a boys’ club and sending children to camp.
- They provided Christmas baskets with a good dinner and gifts to needy community families.
- Some of the CPS men led programs in community church groups.
Several unit members active in the CPS Mental Hygiene Program, met every other week to discuss problems in the movement and assist in all ways possible. One of the unit members, Frank L. Wright, Jr. authored Out of Sight—Out of Mind, which reported the results of the CPS survey of conditions in CPS staffed mental hospitals. Based on some two thousand eyewitness reports of conditions gathered by CPS men and women from forty-six mental hospitals in sixteen states, the book was published by the National Mental Health Foundation in 1947. Much of the writing was done by Wright while he served as an attendant at the New Jersey State Hospital unit, before he was assigned to the Mental Hygiene Program of the Civilian Public Service. By the time the work was published, Wright had returned to his work at the YMCA in Baltimore.
The Mental Hygiene Program and the Menninger Foundation both advocated for training men as psychiatric aids. The effort ran into objection from nursing services directors who felt that only nurses should receive psychiatric training. Mrs. Lowney from Greystone Park believed, in addition, that any attendant education needed to be under the supervision of nurses. (see Taylor Chapter 13 for a fuller discussion.)
While at Greystone Park, Wright conducted a study of reasons for reluctance of men in Mennonite camps and units to assume responsibility and leadership, or to take advantage of camp growth opportunities. While little rebellion occurred in the Mennonite camps, not all men participated in the life of the camp as hoped. Findings indicated the following:
- For some men, lack of involvement related to a view of CPS as “something to be lived through and then forgotten”.
- Others did not connect the relationship between professing peace to applications in daily programs of service to others.
- Many of the men came from churches encouraging passive participation with few opportunities to develop leadership skills.
- Still others apparently had few opportunities to meet others and therefore lacked confidence in their ability to effectively express convictions.
- Some found it difficult to assimilate the many camp experiences and remained somewhat confused and insecure about choices and options.
(Gingerich pp. 366-67)
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.
For an in depth history of conscientious objection in the United States, see Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-1947. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 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.
*Camp director Lawrence Burkholder changed to Laurence Burkhalter to reflect personnel listing in '47 and '96 directories (Stephanie Cabezas, 06/14/13).