Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
The Powell Building named for third administrator of Central State Hospital, Dr. Thophilus O. Powell, commands a central position in the hospital complex. Here the stately columned building is decorated for Christmas.
Some of the mayors present on a
in Middle Georgia may have driven through mountain mists to arrive at
Called “Mayor’s Christmas Parade”
because the mayors of towns and cities throughout
The auditorium is always well appointed with beautiful Christmas decorations. Although the day was cold for Middle Georgia and standing to see the parade was chilly, inside the large auditorium a warmth lifted the spirits and the chilled bodies.
Chief Executive Officer Marvin Bailey
gave opening remarks summarizing the history of the institution. Approved in 1837 by the Georgia Legislature
when the capital was Milledgeville, it took from then until 1842 for
four-story dormitory building to be open for clients.
Then called the Georgia Lunatic Asylum, it at
first admitted paupers with mental disabilities, but services were soon
expanded to include any citizens who needed institutional care. Tomlinson Fort and William A. White were the
legislators who introduced the bill to begin the institution. The first allocation was $20,000 for the
four-story building which contained clients’ rooms, treatment rooms and
area for office space. The hospital
facilities grew on the 1,700 acres set aside for the institution. At
in the 1960s, almost 13,000 clients occupied the various buildings of
massive complex. At that time, it was the largest mental hospital in
Mr. Bailey told us that current client
population is slightly above 600. One
for this low number, compared to the thousands that once occupied the
dormitories, is new psychotropic and other treatment medications that
assist patients with mental disabilities.
Then about two decades ago, it was deemed better to place those
with supervision, in group homes to live more like ordinary citizens. The group homes are not on the Central
Georgia Complex. Also, the regional
hospitals care for those with mental or other disabilities, thus
First, we heard “Somewhere” from the movie “West Side Story” performed as a solo by Robb Weiss with Lisa Vaughn accompanying on piano.
Then the curtains opened to “The Magic
of Christmas” setting, appropriate choreography and lighting to enhance
performances. Milledgeville ballet
studios provided dancers, especially the children, who performed
Nick” and “Frosty the Snowman” interspersed with the musical and dance
Tears always come to my eyes when the march of the wheel chair patients, each decked out in Christmas finery, followed by aides who roll the wheelchairs, come down the aisles and perform a wheel-chair dance in front of the stage. Even though the music was cheerful and peppy, “Mister Santa,” many in the audience smiled while wiping tears. This group appeared again in the finale when together with all the others made one great crowd of performers. We were inspired by the final number, “O Holy Night” performed by soloist Angela Ingram, a staff member with a magnificent voice.
A standing ovation and much applause filled the large auditorium. Then came brief remarks by selected mayors and Mrs. Nita Cagle, wife of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. And what the clients will enjoy at Christmas, the gifts from towns throughout Georgia were presented, stacked in abundance before the large stage. The staff will give them to the clients and make them happy again by their gifts received on Christmas Eve.
We sometimes think of “lunatic” asylums (we don’t call them that any more) or mental hospitals being dismal places with no prospects of enjoyable times. This Christmas extravaganza is a wonderful event that brings “The Magic of Christmas” to many people—cheer enough to last the New Year through.
Jones; published Dec. 10, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.