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Preston Interview page 5

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John- What was it like locking those Bonner doors forever on June 24th 1992?
Preston- It was sad. It wasn’t just me who locked up the place. There were several people with me at the time. The assistant Superintendent, hospital administrators, the campus police and we went around and locked all doors. Sad, sad day.

J- Did you ever go back soon after it closed?
P- Oh yeah. I made a half-dozen or so trips after it was closed. There was stuff left in the garages and maintence department and I had to go back often and move that stuff to Tewksbury. I still had people assigned on the lower grounds in the grounds department but the top of hill was completely closed.

J- Did the DYS unit on the 6th floor of Bonner building move prior to the rest of the hospital?
P- Oh yeah they moved around 14 months or so before we did. They were long gone. It remained unoccupied. We never used it.

J- Did you have any sort of farewell party during the last days?
P- Not really because there were a lot of people that either left on their own or got laid-off before it closed. There was also a lot of staff already at Tewksbury at the time too. The move was done one unit at a time so many people left when their unit did. There were a lot of things going on over at Tewksbury at the time. New units were being built etc. The area where my people occupied had to be refurbished because it was in a building that was closed for years.

J- Who was the last Superintendent you worked for at DSH?
P- Mr. Plissen was last superintendent but he was an assistant superintendent though. They phased out the superintendent title in the early 80’s. They just never filled the position anymore. They used different administrators too. Bill Manning was an acting superintendent and other names that I forget right off hand.


Preston's certificate of service ©John Gray


J- What was the final six months like knowing the end was coming?
P- Well it was pretty surreal. I put so many years in there and knew so many people. It was odd because you still had to work and function but you knew it was gone and it was going to close. They talked about closing the place back when I first started. We’d always hear rumors about the place closing but they always managed to keep it open. But that last year was hard because we knew it was real this time. It was tough working in those conditions because our crew kept getting smaller and smaller.

J- How was the transition to Tewksbury?
P- Oh it was tough. It was very difficult. They weren’t used to all the restrictions we had. The staff thought we were coming to take their jobs. There were a lot of hard feelings and we weren’t welcomed over there at all. They were forced to take us in and they had no choice. We had to make many changes to their facility and they weren’t happy about it. It was hard for both sides. You also have to remember at that time Tewksbury had a very old school superintendent. He was very head strong and made it very clear that it was his institution.

J- Do you stay in touch with any former DSH employees?
P- I did up until around 18 months ago. I used to hear from several of them but I haven't in quite some time. I used to hear from two guys that were my employees that made the transition over to Tewksbury on a regular basis.


J- When you hear Danvers State Hospital come up in the news or when someone mentions it what's the first thing you think of?
P- The friends and the talent that was up there. Like I mentioned before, the tremendous things they could do there was simply amazing. Self-sufficient is an understatement.

J- Is there a particular experience, memory or story you'll never forget about the hospital?
P- There are way too many to list here but I'll give you a couple. As far as bad things that I saw, the kid over at Hogan really sticks out in my mind. I'll never forget that. But a lot of great things happened. I remember many many years ago, over at the power plant at the Middleton Colony there was a large pipe that ran across the top of the near a cupola. We had a nasty storm and blew the entire thing right off. It was winter and blistering cold out. We had a crew over there and in two days we had the thing completely repaired which I thought was just unbelievable.

P-If you remember the blizzard of 78, most of the state lost power but DSH kept rolling. I lived at the hospital for 5 days during that storm. I didn't go home.

P-Byron comes to mind often as well. He'd grab cereal out of the kitchen and head over to the greenhouse behind the Gables and the wild deer would come up and eat right out of his hand. I remember Byron came to me when he knew the hospital was closing and asked for his job back. It was heartbreaking. When you spend that much time with so many people and the stories are endless.

P-Another good story was when Governor Michael Dukakis came to the hospital to visit. The fear on his face when he went into a ward was unreal. You know these politicians think they know about Mental Health until they see it first hand. Anyway, we had a patient by the name of Rosie that used to hang on the front steps of the admin. Everyone knew Rosie. She greeted everyone who came in and she always asked for a cigarette. If you said no, boy would she give ya hell. She was never physical or anything but the swearing and yelling was loud. Well she asked Dukakis for a cigarette and he didn't have one and she let him have it. He was really taken back by it and didn't know what to do. We all joked about it years after.


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This interview was recorded then written for this web site. The statements Preston made were not altered or changed to dramatize his story.