Chapter 2: Move to Allegheny Valley School
14:20:09:20 - 14:22:03:20
Janet: Now we're going to AVS - Allegheny Valley School.
Lisa: Yes, thank you for taking us back there. You said that you left school in Philadelphia, you returned home only for about 18 hours.
Janet: Yeah. And I was wondering what was that all about cause I thought I'm gonna live with my mom and dad and probably my two sisters. Well, that never came about and it made me sad. But then I would've, I had a lot of questions too like why am I going into the school and little did I know later, about eight years later, nine years I found out why but I'll tell you later about that one. But anyway, the first couple years of AVS living it was a bunch of older kids they had just built a new wing onto the school for broken homes, children with disabilities and I guess some of the more retarded. Some was from, had a disability but didn't need to be there and I was, like, wondering: okay why am I here, to get schooling or to get therapy? Why am I here, 'cause I knew I did not belong there.
14:22:03:25 - 14:22:28:10
Lisa: Did you ask your parents that question, Janet?
Janet: When I saw them I did.
Lisa: Did you see them often?
Janet: No. Only for my birthday and maybe in the spring and my birthday's in August so that's, maybe once a season to, it all depends.
14:22:28:15 - 14:22:55:10
Lisa: And when you asked them why you were there what would they say?
Janet: Um, they couldn't take care of me. I later found out before I left that it was in my records that the courts had taken me off the parents because of what my mom did and I'm not gonna go into that.
14:22:57:10 - 14:25:08:05
Lisa: Well, tell me a little bit about AVS. Um, you had started to tell me a bit about the physical layout of the school.
Janet: Okay, the school had three floors. The original, the original name was the Home for Babies and I think when they got the funding they changed it to Alleghany Valley school because they built the west wing and the east wing, each had three floors. The west wing, no, second floor was designated, the third floor was designated for children who were highly function but had a disability or something was wrong with them. Second floor was designated as the ones that was severely disabled, okay. So when we had a chance to move either on east or west the east wing was for the guys and the west wing was for the girls. Excuse me. Each side had about 16 children on but we were all scheduled to get up at six, get dressed, well, go to the bathroom, get dressed, get breakfast and then go to classes and then go to lunch, back upstairs and maybe take a nap or go back down to school or physical therapy and then dinner time, go back ___ and then after dinner watch a little TV and then get bathed and get ready for bed.
14:25:08:15 - 14:26:30:15
Lisa: So, I wonder if I could ask you a few things about that experience. For instance did you have the freedom to choose what you wanted to wear, what you wanted to eat at dinner-time?
Janet: We had no choices in the meals that we could eat. It was either, for breakfast had the food groups, you know, the eggs for protein, um, cereal, toast, bacon, sausage. It depended on what they had for all of us and we always had juice or milk or water if we wanted but as we got older and we moved into the wings they even had coffee, tea. But I was advised by my foster grandfather, I adopted him, he said drink some coffee, he said drink it plain, that will grow, that will make you okay there's no calories. I said I don't even like coffee.
14:26:36:24 - 14:31:34:00
Janet: I'm jumping ahead because, because I gotta tell you about living on the third floor and then moving over to the west wing.
Lisa: You do, but I want to ask you one question before that, if I can?
Lisa: And that is, if you can remember your first day at AVS. What was that like?
Janet: Oh, I'll never forget it. Okay. When my parents took me over to AVS I met this nurse named Miss Fieth, I thought she was mean but she was nice after a while. Anyways, I said goodbye to my parents and I think we went in the main doors and I wasn't walking, I wasn't walking at the time, I was still, you know, I had to be carried or in a wheelchair. So Miss Fieth says , "you'll like it here." I says, "Why, what's going on?" "Well", she says, "you'll be here for a while." I said, "I don't belong here cause I'm not retarded". She says, "Well, you'll be going to school, school here." I said, "Okay" and she also said it would be with other girls. I said, "Okay". She goes, "You get three meals a day, you have your own locker, you have your own bed." I said, "Oh, okay." And she goes, "We do things by the schedule." I said, "Okay", you know, I kind of didn't like what was going down but then she said, "Oh, you'll be getting out of here in a couple days." I went, "Yeah, sure". You know, I'm not no dummy but then I didn't know what I was put in to. But anyways, I had my meal with gi-, a bunch of kids, I still call them kids even though most of them were a little younger than I was. And anyhow, there was some with, um, muscular dystrophy, broken homes, emotional as well as physical cause I wasn't the only one. Some had come from, like I said, broken home or they was placed in a home, they were all transferred to AVS and I said okay, what's 'gonna go on. And one thing I did remember, the second day that I was there I had taken a nap and when I was waking up here they were pulling out a needle out of me. And I says well, what's going on and I don't remember the answer, all I know is, uh, I had a habit of if I was in a deep sleep I didn't feel nothing except when they were pulling something out of my arm and I'm thinking what is going on. And anyways, I remember the first night, they had to undress me in the hallway, I did not like that at all. Even though the other, everybody was in their TV room, it was a big room where they all could watch TV and I didn't really care for that. And I questioned that and they said well we do this all the time. I said I see that because the bathroom was narrow and there was hardly any room and it took two people to put me in this high bathtub.
14:31:34:15 - 14:37:11:15
Lisa: So I just want to be clear, Janet, what you're saying is they were changing you in hallway in view of people who were in the TV room?
Janet: I don't remember if the door was closed or not. All I could focus on was why are they doing this, you know, and even though they did put a sheet on me I was like I don't like this, you know, why can't they undress me in the bathroom. But then again the bathroom and the sinks were too narrow. The little hallway was about the space of a wheelchair and I didn't like that, where in the big hall everything was wide open and anybody can come off the elevator and see what was going on. But I bet you the next day I was gonna say something and they did change their policy a little bit where if you went into one of the wards you can get changed, put a towel around you and then get into the shower and that I had changed. And if you started a monthly period, teach the older girls what to expect because they would help me get on and off the toilet, the big kids would. And the older girl, when they told me, "There's a drop" and I says, "Go get the nurse and give me a pad", and I showed her how to put it on me and it was a little difficult but it, you know, I didn't quite understand, but one of the male aides, he was kind enough, 'cause I was really nervous about it and he says, "Will you calm down." He goes, "My wife has a period so I know how you feel and we'll do it this way, when I work with you we'll get a shower and we'll get all cleaned up and you don't have to worry about it." And he was nice about it. I liked him over a lot of the other aides because he knew what I was going through and, um, we [took] care of that over the months. And so, basically, I learned that we had gym first 'cause we had to rotate. All the bigger kids had gym in the morning and we had classes in the afternoon and I didn't like that at all because they had substitute teachers that only taught so much and I ended up help, helping the kids who were mentally retarded and you had to teach them over and over things and then I got the idea, could this be one thing that was the matter with my brother. Was he mentally retarded? But I had to wait years before that that I could ask someone. Anyways, as the years started progressing all the kids started liking me cause I was the number one instigator and the staff did not know this because I would tell them to fill up water jugs, put them on the porch, hold on, I'm getting ahead of myself. Get water bottles or water balloons and throw it at the aides on the gym, on the gym and I says when you playing dodge ball once in a while ___ but don't hit them hard. I was an instigator. But at least the staff, they played music on ___ or I was listening, I used, I was used to listening to WJAS or classical music and, like I said, I put on skates and I rolled, had someone push me in the wheelchair. Yeah, we formed a basketball team. I kept score.
More Interview Chapters
- Childhood and Family
- YOU ARE HERE: Move to Allegheny Valley School
- Janet's Fight to Further Her Education
- Move to Community, Marriage to Harry
- Reflections on Life, Career
About Janet Evans
AVS School, Boards, Cerebral palsy, HMS School, Institutions, Marriage, Mental retardation, Self-advocacy