Gill Harris - Senior Storekeeper 1963 - 1995
In 1949 my family moved from North Carolina to Kings
Park and my Father got a job in the storehouse and my Mother began working in
building A with female patients. Their salary at that time was $54.00 per month.
Following my discharged from the Navy in 1963 I got a
job as a butcher in the Storehouse. I was paid $97.00 every two weeks and they
gave me a free room over the fire department.
The storehouse had the bakery, ice house, butcher shop, ice cream making room and the receiving area made up the first floor. The second floor had the dry goods food area, clothing room and the print shop. The basement consisted of the freezer space, dry storage, and an area for the coal for the bakery.
They moved the print shop from
building 59 to the upstairs storehouse in the late 60's.
When we moved the print shop downstairs in the storehouse, they got more modern
printing machines and no more type setting. We moved the shop down to the old
bakery. We printed all the forms for the hospital, and there were quite a lot of
different ones, even a form to order forms !!!!
Patients could get off the wards if they if they took part in the work programs
for which they received a $1 card good at the community store. Working in the
storehouse patients got the extra benefit regular showers and clean clothes
everyday. We had 12 employees and 40 patients working for us.
Just off the ice cream room was the machine room that housed all the compressors and ice making equipment. A plumber from the maintenance department maintained the room. They called him Gunner. He came from Sweden and I never knew his real name. The machine room was always kept neat and clean. Gunner would also make the 150-pound blocks of ice that was used for the hospital food service. They were delivered to the kitchens by the farm truck from the storehouse until about 1968 or about. Guess they stopped making it when ice machines were installed in each building.
John was a patient who would keep the offices clean. He also would wash the employee's cars for $1.00 a payday. Sometimes John would go on a drinking binge and get himself locked up for a couple of weeks. We would miss him and his cleaning chores. The last time I saw John he was in the Medical Surgical building in a wheelchair. His eyes stared in to space. It upset me to see him hunched over in the chair and I cried. We had many laughs about the old days and I told him I love him very much.
Basil, was a patient who worked in the ice cream room and would stand outside my office door and make motor sounds with his lips. After a while I would have to tell him if he didn't stop I would rip his lips off! After a few minuets he would start again and I would have to live with it. One of Basil's jobs also was taking care of the patients coffee
Butter came in 70-pound tubs, cheese was USDA surplus and in 40 - 50 pound blocks. State inspectors inspected the fresh vegetables and meat. If it did not meet state requirements, it was rejected and purchased from another vendor. Every 2 months or so 20,000 pounds of sugar was delivered. In the fall, apples were delivered from the various prisons upstate. Milk was delivered everyday. They used the 35quart metal milk cans until the mid 60's after that it was delivered in 10 gallon containers. By the 70's milk was delivered in half-pint containers.
Eddie did all our paper work and ledgers each day. He had beautiful hand writing and the knack to do receipts. Also he kept our inventory cards up to date.
Bill Connick supervised the operations of the main floor. There were 2 or 3
stores clerks and several patients that unloaded the trucks and weighed the
goods as they arrived.
The bakery was in the same building as much of the other
food supplies and we had a routine worked out which provided us with a very
tasty meal. While one person would slip into the area of the walk in coolers and
swipe a pound of butter, another would sneak up to the bakery where there were
always racks containing hundreds of loaves of bread cooling off after just
coming out of the ovens. After absconding with a couple of the still hot loaves
we would meet nearby at a secure and hidden location. Tearing the hot loaves in
half we would scoop the insides out and put the butter in. With a crisp crust
surrounding a warm butter soaked interior, the feasting was glorious. I suppose
that this meal might have been a bit high in cholesterol and fat content, but
back then we had never heard of such things. While the stolen bread routine
could be worked all through the year, a large strawberry field also provided
tasty treats during spring and summer.
At the end of the building was the bakery. Here they made bread every day. Pies were made once a week as was the cakes. I never knew what the figures were, but it must have been quite large. The bakery had about 6 employees and 8 to 10 patients.
At the end of the building was the Grounds Department. They kept their tools and equipment there. Also there was a room in the grounds dept that kept patients that had died over the weekend. On Monday they would bury them in the potters field.
Tommy was born in the hospital. He was blind, but he was our runner for the maintenance department. I often wondered how he managed.
The men's clothing was made in the State Prison system, as was were the shoes for both men and women. The hospital received a lot from the state prisons. Bath soap, tobacco, laundry soap, and most of the furniture.
You never wanted to loose a patient, one day I had to
escort one of the patient to work in the storehouse, he decided that he wanted
to leave, he was a big fellow, so I just followed him all morning, he eventually
went to sunken meadow, then decided he wanted to go back, just got tired I
guess, then I walked him back.
The storehouse had 4 delivery trucks assigned to make deliveries. Food, both
frozen and fresh was delivered Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Freight was on Tuesday
Every Wednesday was fruit and vegetable day. Every other Tuesday 20,000 potatoes were delivered and stored in the dairy barn.
On Wednesday the cook from Group 2 would come to the storehouse to make ice cream. The ice cream room had only one patient, Basil, who would make the preparations for John. The ice cream room consisted of two ice cream machines, and steam heated kettle, large sink, and small walk in freezer.
When I first started in the storehouse, the Supervisor was Mr. Bardwell. Under him were Charlie Fitzgerald and Eddie Zetz. I started as a butcher and the head butcher was Alfie Hemmings. They called him "Limy" as he came from England. Also there was Art Premis and Dick Byrme. There were about 6-8 patients that worked there. They didn't do the actual butchering as they weren't allowed to us the knives or saws. The patients would go in the walk-ins and get the supplies for the day. In the afternoon before we shut down for the day, the shop was swept and all the machines were washed, as was the floor. After the floor dried it would get about 1 to 2 inches of fresh sawdust. Every Friday all the walk-ins were swept and new sawdust put down.
Once a month we had chicken. The Butcher shop would have to cut 2500 chickens for just one meal. Once a month there was meat loaf, again the butchers would grind 3000 pounds of beef. Meat was delivered to the storehouse by train. Orders were in excess of 10,000 pounds.
Another patient was John C, they called him Genius. Genius worked with the exterminator. After the title was abolished he worked for the butcher shop. Sometimes he would go on a rampage and scream and yell very loudly. Once we had a knew employee that went to lunch and never came back.
In the late 60's and early 70's they made changes in the laws and patients were
not allowed to work in the institution. The State hired extra store clerks to
fill the void.
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