“I first went to live in the Story County Home the summer I finished the 6th grade. My parents, Irwin and Alma Grindem, became Steward and Matron of the County Home in April or May because the former couple had a car accident and the man was killed. See page 78.
“My brother, John, was just 4 years old and I was twelve. My parents, John, and I lived on the central part of the first floor. The patients lived on both ends of the building which was “U” shaped. “The men were on one side and the women were on the other. The top floor housed the patients that were diagnosed as “insane” or mentally ill, and the lower level had the paupers and indigent.
“We had several employees that were residents there and lived on the 2nd floor above us. We had a ward woman, ward man, night man and outside farm worker. We all ate together in the basement dining hall off the kitchen.
“When we went there the building was in very poor condition. The roof leaked onto the second floor where the men slept. My parents went to work immediately with repairs and decorating improvements. The patients were engaged in the improvements and given more self esteem. Several of the men were able to do the painting. The concrete floors were finished with vinyl tiles that were immaculately polished and buffed by the patients. Relatives were encouraged to buy new chairs or loungers for their family member so they couldn't have to sit on the wooden benches. When the decorating was finished the central living rooms on each floor looked like “Home” and was much more inviting and comfortable. The doors between the first and second floors were unlocked during the daylight hours and seldom did anyone stray from “home“. Before my parents arrival the patients were always trying, and succeeding, to break away from the “place”.
“The male patients worked the farm. We had cows, cattle, pigs, chickens, a garden and an orchard with apple trees. The home was self sufficient in furnishing beef, pork, chicken and eggs for all who lived and ate there. The patients ate as well or better than most people. The main cook was a woman from the mentally ill ward who baked the best pies(!!), cooked the best roasts, etc. We ate the very same food the patients got and nothing more!!! We had big ovens and had fresh baked bread 2-3 times a week!!! The women patients worked the kitchen and we had no outside help for that. We had homemade grape jelly, fresh apple and rhubarb pies and great cream pies with meringue. And that Iowa corn on the cob was to die for. Oh, what memories!
“My Dad once told that they reimbursed the county $20,000 with profits from the farm. This was done after caring and feeding approx 100 patients! This family of people of unfortunate circumstances worked very well together taking care of one another and taking pride in maintaining their `home'.
“The patients did the laundry every Mon, Wed, & Fri. The best ironer was a woman patient from the mentally ill floor. She ironed those cotton dresses for the women to perfection. Everyone always looked their best.
“Every Thursday they could order what they wanted from the drug store in town. A list was made and the money was taken from their little accounts that they had locked up in the office. I would often do the shopping, Looking for horehound candy, snuff, stationery, etc. The list was endless with little extras that meant so much to the patients.
“My Mother was always at the bedside of any dying patient. She would stay up all night by their bedside if she thought their time was coming. She was a Saint to many of the patients and the Mongoloid patients called her “Mom”. The doctor would come out once a week and see the patients needing attention and prescribe for them. Mother scheduled for church services at least once a month from whoever she could get to come out from town and provide the program. It was held in our living room/dining room. Folding chairs were set up for whoever wanted to attend.
“At Christmas time she found organizations that wanted to give gifts to the patients. She made out lists of things that each patient might enjoy getting. They would come out and give Christmas programs to the patients.
“We would get patients from the state institutions that they considered safe but were now just on maintenance programs, and not receiving any special therapy and they could do no more for them.
“I had a Halloween party in the upstairs attic one year. I thought that was very unique.
“I left the home after graduating from Milford Twp School in 1952. My brother lived there until he graduated in 1961. My parents retired in 1966.
“When I went back to see the place several years ago it was no longer in existence. The weeds and trees had overgrown it and the windows were broken. It was a ghost to my memories of the love and caring that went into that place when my parents were there.“