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Charles Kantan Peters chapter 1


Chapter 1: Background and Early Career (you are here)
Chapter 2: Early Involvement with the ARC, War on Poverty, MH/MR Act
Chapter 3: Allegheny County ARC, Parent Protests, Right to Education
Chapter 4: Polk State School and Hospital, Controversial Treatments, Firing of Superintendant
Chapter 5: Peters Becomes PA Commissioner for Mental Retardation, Opens Marcy Center, Moves People to Community
Chapter 6: Peters Becomes Director of Allegheny County MH/MR and Drug and Alcohol and Homelessness
Chapter 7: Refelctions on Career, Intellectual Disability Rights Movement

transcript - entire interview

Charles Kantan Peters Interview (Word)

transcript - current chapter

Chapter 1: Background and Early Career

09:47:13:13 - 09:47:30:22

Lisa: My names is Lisa Sonneborn, I'm interviewing Chuck Peters at the Double Tree Hotel in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania on Thursday, July 25, 2013.And also present is our videographer, Ginger Jolly. And Chuck, do I have your permission to begin our interview?

Chuck: Certainly.

Lisa: Thank you. I'm wondering if you can tell me what is your name and your current occupation?

09:47:31:15 - 09:47:56:00

Chuck: Ah, my name is Charles Kantan Peters, I'm retired, probably the only official position I hold is Tuisech of the south side Celtic Society, which is a minor king with little authority in the Gaelic language.

09:47:57:25 - 09:48:16:25

Lisa: Can you tell me Chuck when and where you were born?

Chuck: I was born in Wellsburg, Ohio, which is about an hour from here, in those days it was about a one and a half from here. Pittsburg was always the hometown, major hometown; I was [born] in 1933, August 23rd.

09:48:18:10 - 09:49:05:25

Lisa: Growing up did you have any personal experience with disabilities either in your family or your community?

Chuck: Yeah, I do, but it had nothing to do with me getting into the field.

I had my mother's sister, Aunt Helen, had what I now know, cerebral palsy, and was my playmate, she was much older than me, but she was my playmate.

On one occasion I accidentally tripped her, and ever after when I got in the field and things were going badly I would say, "God, cut me some slack I'm doing good work now!" And, I had a cousin who was mentally retarded, but had nothing with me getting into the field.

09:49:06:02 - 09:49:51:03

Lisa: So, if it wasn't a family experience that directed you to the field, what did direct you to the field?

Chuck: After I got out of the Marine Corp in 1958, I was hired as a peddler for Kentucky and southern two-thirds of Indiana and...along with a lot of other new guys...and make a long story short, we all got fired.

Except one who had enough sense to marry the president of the company's daughter; I was already married so that wasn't an option. And I had been trained as a history teacher and was looking for a job and the only thing that was available was Special Ed.

09:49:54:18 - 09:50:49:15

Lisa: You said that the only career for you as a teacher at that point, or the only positions that were available were in Special Ed...

Chuck: True.

Lisa: But, apart from your experience with your aunt you really hadn't had any exposure to people with disabilities.

Chuck: That's absolutely true and that was pretty typical in those days because Special Ed was just getting started and expanding.

I started out in a town called West Aliquippa, which was a mule town, it was the low rent district of Aliquippa and the joke at that time was could hold a mirror up and if you clouded it up it proved you were alive and wanted to do the job you got hired.

A...fact that the salary was $200 more than the $4,000 teachers were making made it very attractive, but I had no option - that was the job.

09:50:49:27 - 09:51:08:13

Lisa: Did they train you to support children in the classroom?

Chuck: Ah...we spent a lot of time observing and working with teacher that had been in the business a while and yeah, that was the training; later on went back to school and took courses.

09:51:09:03 - 09:51:45:15

Lisa: What was your classroom like, what kind of resources did it have to offer students?

Chuck: Ah...the cliche at that time was that all Special Ed classrooms were in the basement and that was...mine was in the basement, but it was a very nice classroom. It was more like a garden apartment. Resources for me in that place, which was Beaver County, were unlimited; I got more things than I really knew how to use effectively, and that was not necessarily the case in Pittsburg city schools for example.

09:51:58:01 - 09:52:40:13

Lisa: Did you have the opportunity to pursue more education in terms of Special Ed?

Chuck: I did and one of the ways I did that, the Beaver County Association for Retarded Children gave me several scholarships and one of the most significant ones from my point of view was two weeks at Penn State where we worked six and a half days a week, we worked 10 hours a day learning to do parental counseling, particularly group counseling; that was probably the most significant thing.

Probably the most useless thing was the statistic courses I had to take.

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