The Crazy Part of Happy Valley

Here’s a report describing the tour I took of the Utah State Mental Hospital Museum/home where Grandpa Joe lived with his family as a teenager.  In attendance were Grandpa Nathan, my two boys, and Cameron & Natalie’s family.

Grandpa Garland Pace became a psychiatrist during an era when psychiatry was still developing a reputation among the medical practices.  The Freudian revolution and a modern, scientific approach to mental illness were waxing during Garland’s formative years, and inspired him to pursue the discipline.

His career as a psychiatrist was not an easy one.  Psychiatrists were often viewed by other physicians as something other than “real doctors”, and Grandpa was something of a pioneer of the discipline out here in Utah.  The Great Depression began while Grandpa was still trying to establish his practice, and the family endured some lean years.  That all changed in 1933, when Garland was appointed to be Superintendent of the Utah State (Mental) Hospital, in Provo, Utah.

In Utah today only college presidents and governors live for free in state-provided housing, but at the time the Superintendent had a place to live on the hospital campus.  A year after they arrived a home was finished at the other end of the facility’s main road for the family to occupy.  Until then the family lived in the hospital itself.  Here’s what it looked like.  A dank and overwhelming gothic monstrosity, perched up on the hill above Provo.


Home sweet home.  In 1933 Grandpa Joe was sixteen; I’ve wondered how this unusual home address affected his social standing at high school.  “Hey, who wants to come over for Uno and ‘smores at the INSANE ASYLUM?”

In 1934 the family moved into the home provided for them.  Utah_state_hospital_museum

They lived here for seven years, the rest of Great Grandpa’s tenure.  Today the home is a museum dedicated to the history of the mental hospital and the different ways that society has cared for the mentally unstable over the generations.

The museum is only open a handful of hours a week, however the museum’s official historian, Janina Chilton, agreed to open it up for us on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  She gave us a tour of the home, and opened up all the “behind the scenes” stuff because of the family history interest.


Here is where tours start.  Janina is at the left and everyone is listening with varying degrees of attention.  Guess whose kids attended closely and asked incisive questions, and whose ran around and played tag?

Janina explained that this room is the most original in the whole house.  The kitchen and some other first floor rooms have been re-done, and most other rooms are used as offices or storage, and don’t have much of the original flavor.  The front room, however, looked more or less like this, the walls, the fixtures, even the floors are eighty years old.  The home was “WPA built” which meant it was part of the works program instituted during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt for out-of-work Americans.  When the Governor or some potentate came to visit the hospital, Great Grandma Luella would entertain in this room and the adjoining dining room visible in the background.

The room has a bookshelf with photos of some of the Superintendents.


Look at the one on the middle shelf.  Where they got a photo of my dad from 40 years ago I don’t know.  That’s not Garland though, it’s some other guy.  Grandpa Garland is on the shelf below that.  Notice it’s a grainy scan from a newspaper or yearbook.  He was Superintendent of the hospital for eight years, and has a whole chapter about him in a history of the hospital published more recently, but they didn’t have any original photos of the guy.  There’s a wall in the hospital itself that shows photos of all the superintendents, and it has a very one-of-these-kids-is-not-like-the-others feel.  We committed to Janina to find a better shot than that.  Anyone have a high-quality image?

After a brief description of the hospital and Grandpa Garland’s administration, we toured the home.  It’s pleasing to walk where you know your ancestors did eighty years ago, particularly people like Garland and Luella, who died two or three decades before most of us were born.  Unfortunately, we had to look at things with our imaginations.  Here’s the master bedroom:


Yeah.  That’s something at least – the room is original.  You can look at the walls and fixtures and get a feel for it.  The kitchen and breakfast nook have been redone completely and leave the ghosts nothing to haunt.


Two and one half rooms of the home were given up for museum displays.



Some of the artifacts were not from the Utah Hospital, but were included to contrast the more enlightened efforts of 20th century psychiatrists like Grandpa Garland.009

This was a “Utica Crib”, named after where it was invented.  The water bowl is an excellent touch, only I think it may have been for bowel relief &c.  Wikipedia tells me that this device was “extensively used” in the 19th century with the belief that “enforced sleep” had a restorative effect on the unsound of mind.  Here’s a shot from 2008 with a local TV news reporter locked inside.  That’s some hard-hitting journalism, Ed Yeates.



This restraint, which was used to torture people, was meant to restrain a patient and reduce external stimulation.  They call it a “tranquility chair”, which I find to be an excellent marketing term.

Grandpa Garland presided over the hospital during an era where mentally ill were treated with increasing compassion, and also more scientific rigor was applied to their treatment.  In contrast, previous generations had merely warehoused those who could not function in society.  Garland had the hospital building redone extensively, taking out most of the iron bars and providing more privacy for the patients.  He also had the gothic spires torn down, which made it less scary but way less awesome.

Lundberg Nancy Utah State Hospital Provo Utah 1936

The rest of this building was torn down in 2004.

Garland was also a strong proponent of health through labor.  He understood that constructive, goal oriented labor could energize their bodies and minds, and give patients satisfaction in accomplishments.  (A sad irony was Garland’s own sedentary life ruined his heart and killed him at a comparatively young age.)  In some cases the WPA would pay them for their labors, too.  So they tended the orchards you see by the home above, helped (I think) build a large rock-work complex above the hospital called “The Castle”, manufactured their own clothes, and managed different farming enterprises.  A testament to the enterprising and comfortable conditions patients encountered is described in a history of the hospital:

Because the patients helped raise the food, they knew their work was productive and took pride in their jobs. Dr. Sevy related an illustrative anecdote concerning a male patient who had taken care of the pigs for many years. Because he had been doing well, the staff discharged him. He immediately went down town to the middle of Main Street and took off all his clothes. The next day, he was back taking care of the pigs. Another patient, a wealthy rancher, ran his ranch in the summer and checked into the Hospital every winter. For such patients, the hospital was home, family and job.

Patients also worked in the home with the family.  There’s the famous family story about one woman who helped in the home, presumably around the Pace kids, who had been locked up for poisoning five of her children.

The family spent a lot of time with the hospital’s patients.  They would work side by side, and sometimes travel with them, escorting them back to their homes in faraway cities.  Garland’s oldest boy, Uncle Bill, even became a psychiatrist, no doubt because of his close experience with the lives and struggles of the mentally ill.

In “The Life History of Garland Pace and Luella Udall Pace”, Grandpa Joe remembered the kindness with which his mother treated the patients who spent time in her home.

Luella was no psychiatrist but she helped many unfortunate ill people by having them work in the home.  She showed them great kindness and consideration.  She had a great respect for the problems of others…

Grandpa Garland’s administration lasted eight years, and did not end well.  While he was recognized for upgrading and expanding staff & operations, making considerable advances in patient treatment and hospital administration, there was also a negative side.  After five or so years in his role, he started to have a good deal of trouble with political and labor relations.  His ouster involved politics at the state government level, and is too tedious for this kind of essay.

After being required to resign, Grandpa Garland wrote a long and trenchant letter to the state Public Welfare Commission.  It went like this:

…it is necessary to use devious and circuitous methods of rewarding petty political parasites, irrespective of its damaging influence upon public welfare institutions…Every person who has been appointed. to a position at the Hospital since the reorganization program went into effect has been required to have the endorsement of the Democratic Party…I have carefully noted the contents of Mr. Smart’s letter to the Commission. I have never seen more words used to convey less thought…

Many of my relatives will be gratified to see that their antagonism towards the Democratic Party bridges several generations.  I haven’t seen the whole letter but apparently it went on like this at great length.  The history book where I got the excerpt tartly observed, “People who remember Dr. Pace have said that he was a good psychiatrist, but a poor politician.”

This controversy attracted attention and commentary in the newspapers of the time, particularly after Grandpa was officially fired from the hospital at the start of 1942.  A few months later, at the age of 54, he went into the US Army – again – and worked with servicemen suffering from the mental traumas of military service and combat.  He kept a journal during his military career, and referred to “his” hospital many times.

By then he was already in the last decade of his life, and would die less than five years after the war was over.

Grandpa may have left in disgrace, but he still casts a long shadow over the institution, its past and future.  We may think of the advances made possible by science and technology as merely automatic, that they would have happened no matter who was at the helm.  There were surely others who could have done what he did, but nonetheless, someone had to do it.  It didn’t just happen, and he was the motor that drove it.  It was the labor of the prime of his professional life.

Here’s a suitable epitaph on Grandpa’s professional service, provided by a dissenting member on the committee that ousted him.

I know from my own observations that when Dr. Pace took charge of the institution, it was nothing more than a place of detention. At the present time, through the Doctor’s own untiring efforts, it is one of the most outstanding mental hospitals in the United States.


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