Chapter 2: Tom's Experience at Pennhurst; Buildings, Residents, Staff
20:23:46:09 - 20:23:53:15
Lisa: Tom you had mentioned that you went to Pennhurst when you were a little boy. Do you remember how old you were when you went there?
20:26:09:05 - 20:26:16:16
Lisa: Tom, can you tell me how long you lived at Pennhurst?
Tom: From 1950 to 1978.
20:26:18:05 - 20:26:26:05
Lisa: Thank you. Tom, do you remember being taken to Pennhurst?
Tom: Not that I know of.
20:26:27:18 - 20:28:44:15
Lisa: I wondered if you could describe, for me, what Pennhurst looked like. What did it look like from the outside?
Tom: Well it looked like an institution. There was units, a ward that had people that were low function, there were locked up wards, and then they had some open wards where I would go around Pennhurst and go into buildings that Pennhurst had and I went to school at Pennhurst when I was four years old and I was in second grade. First grade, kindergarten and second grade. Moved out in 1987 and moved to Allentown State, moved to Hilltop Haven; a federal ward away from Allentown State, lived on the Allentown State campus then I moved to East Broad Street when Pan Am was incorporation. And Pan Am left they had an airplane called Pan Am and they got lawsuit and lost their contract. Then I went from Broad Street, Cherokee Street, ___ Street, Wood Street and up here on Airport Road so I've been living about... I'm not too sure how many years I've been living in different areas.
20:28:45:20 - 20:30:06:26
Lisa: Okay, Tom, I'm going to ask you a little bit about Pennhurst. You were describing what it looked like on the outside but I'm wondering a little bit about what it looked like on the inside. Did you have your own room?
Tom: Yes, I did have my own room. I went from D building, from D building, K Building, Penn Hall, first D building was D 1,2 and 3 and 4 and 5 when I was little and I went from D building to K building which was K3 and then I went to M building which was M3. They got M1, M2, and M3. Two of them are locked wards downstairs but M3 was an open ward where I could go out and do what I got to do.
20:30:08:09 - 20:30:30:24
Lisa: So did everyone have their own rooms at Pennhurst?
Tom: Some of them had dormitories in some of the wards and some of them, like myself, had a room that I shared with somebody or some person.
20:30:32:10 - 20:31:17:05
Lisa: Were men and women in the same dormitories?
Tom: No, the men were all in the male section but different wards. Female were on the lower campus. The male campus was a lot more bigger than the female campus. They had like 290 people at Pennhurst. You're counting all your personnel, all the clients in the east building and stuff like that.
20:31:18:06 - 20:31:23:11
Lisa: So Tom you said that you were able to go to school at Pennhurst.
Tom: Yes. On the grounds.
20:31:23:16 - 20:31:56:13
Lisa: Did you like the school?
Tom: Yeah I went through school on the grounds. I did Christmas shows like I was on stage. I was helping the audio man out about lighting up the stage for the stuff like for movies or the shows and stuff like that.
20:31:57:13 - 20:32:06:02
Lisa: What were some of your favorite subjects at school?
Tom: Oh boy. Cooking; how to make a cake.
20:32:07:04 - 20:32:29:12
Lisa: Are you a good cook?
Tom: Most likely no. And I used to do woodworking, woodshop. I made hobby horses, made bird feeders, made wooden keys, made a bookshelf; whatever.
20:32:29:20 - 20:32:34:04
Lisa: What did you do with all those things you made?
Tom: It's still down in Pennhurst yet.
20:32:36:10 - 20:32:53:19
Lisa: Were you able to make friends at Pennhurst?
Tom: Yeah with some of the good personnel and some of the personnel put me in seclusion as a time out and stuff like that.
20:32:54:06 - 20:33:58:07
Lisa: Were you able to make friends with some of the other residents?
20:33:58:20 - 20:34:44:06
Lisa: When you were little at Pennhurst; when you were a child, what kinds of games did you and the other children play?
Tom: Well what we did when I was at Pennhurst, I was on the unit and had this guy bring a toy box. They'd bring the toys at night... I mean in the day as we sat in the big circle we played with the toys and equipment, and we had to put them back in the big box or barrel and roll the barrel on the floor and all the toys would fly out and people would play with them and stuff like that.
20:34:44:09 - 20:34:51:25
Lisa: Did you have any toys of your own, Tom?
Tom: I used to, yeah, but I don't remember what they are.
20:34:54:05 - 20:36:23:15
Lisa: What other kinds of past times did you and your friends at Pennhurst have?
Tom: When I worked in recreation I used to help with the recreation personnel to set up day camp, overnight camp at Eagle Spring also um, I um, had to wait to the time came all the way up to 1987 then that's when I came out through Pan Am. I worked at Kurtz Training Center. I worked in Allentown State Hospital being a janitor. I worked in the workshop at Allentown State. I went to Hilltop Haven and then I moved out in the community and I ended up at East Broad Street; at 419 East Broad Street.
20:36:27:05 - 20:37:05:14
Lisa: Tom, I'm wondering if you can tell me, again I know this was a long time ago, but when you were a child what was a typical day like at Pennhurst? What would happen when you would wake up?
Tom: I would wake up at 5:30 in the morning and get ready by 7 and out the door and get my breakfast but if I don't get breakfast right away I would get lab work from my blood and my meds. I mean I didn't have meds at that time. It was when I came out from Pan Am that I had meds.
20:37:06:05 - 20:37:16:13
Lisa: But at Pennhurst you didn't so you would get up early and you would have your breakfast, then what would happen?
Tom: Then I would get ready to go to school.
20:37:18:15 - 20:38:00:15
Lisa: And were you in school all day?
Tom: Yeah from 9 to 3 then I would come out of school then I would go to what they call Bible classes and that would be from 3 to 4 and I would talk about the Lord, what people do in Bible classes and help arrange rooms with the nun to do Bible classes and stuff like that.
20:38:27:02 - 20:38:39:27
Lisa: Tom did you free time after school and Bible class?
Tom: Yeah and I had to go for dinner or supper from 4:30 to 5.
20:39:03:18 - 20:39:09:16
Lisa: What was the food like at Pennhurst?
Tom: The food was good and some wasn't.
More Interview Chapters
- Tom's Childhood
- YOU ARE HERE: Tom's Experience at Pennhurst; Buildings, Residents, Staff
- Mistreatment at Pennhurst
- Working at Pennhurst
- Conditions at Pennhurst Exposed in the Media, Talk of Closure
- Tom Moves to the Community, Faces Challenges, Moves Temporarily to Allentown State Hospital
- Tom Returns to Community, Finds Employment, Becomes Active Volunteer, Presents on Pennhurst at Meetings and Conferences
- Tom Reflects on Life
About Tom Delmastro
Advocate, Newspaper Delivery, Volunteer Work
Employment, Home and Community, Institutions, Pennhurst, Volunteer