Kings View Hospital: A Little History & Whole Lot of Memories

Mar 19, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Hometown History, Jim Bulls, Reedley News

by Jim Bulls

Kings View Hospital opened its doors on February 11, 1951. Located on 43 acres of farmland along the banks of the Kings River near Reedley, this was the second of three hospitals built by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Arthur Jost was appointed as administrator.

history

Arthur Jost, hospital administrator

Originally created in 1920, the MCC began operating as a relief agency and by the 1940s, the field of Civilian Public Service operations began. This included the field of mental health. According to the online Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia (GAME), the idea for an inpatient mental health facility grew out of the experiences of Mennonite young people who worked in mental hospitals during World War II. In addition to Kings View, MCC built Brook Lane Farm near Hagerstown, MD, and Prairie View Hospital at Newton, KS. The hospitals accepted patients with all types of mental illnesses.

The original 8500 sq. ft. hospital building is believed to be the first building west of the Mississippi River to use “tilt up” construction. The foundation and floors were framed and surrounded by the forms for the walls, and the cement for all was poured at one time. After the cement was cured, the walls were tilted up and into place.

There was some controversy over the location of the hospital by neighbors and some townsfolk who were unhappy about having a mental hospital nearby. They wanted to halt construction, and went about with petitions until they gathered enough signatures to have a cease and desist order served. However construction on the buildings continued. A group of the concerned petition signers accompanied the county sheriff to the building site in order to see justice served. There, they were met by Arthur Jost, and when questioned as to why Jost was defying the court order, he asked if the order was from Fresno County. The sheriff replied that it was, and Jost simply pointed to the county line marker a few hundred feet away, that clearly indicated that the construction was well within Tulare County boundaries and not those of Fresno County. Construction continued and Kings View Hospital opened for business.

In addition to the main building, an 1800 sq. ft. activity building was erected. By 1955 there were three psychiatrists, one psychiatric social worker, one psychologist and four nurses with a support staff of 30 and many volunteers from the local community. Again, according to GAME, services included full psychiatric care, medical workups in conjunction with local general medical facilities, outpatient care, and foster home care. A number of patients were placed in foster homes in the community. The ultimate program was to include facilities for 100 patients.

history


Wood block print of patient activities at Kings View Hospital

In November 1950, when the flooding washed out the Olson Avenue bridge, half of it ended up in the channel between the east bank of the river and the island belonging to Kings View Hospital. With a little ingenuity, some elementary geometry and a bulldozer, the broken bridge ended up forming the first bridge over to the island and opening up additional recreation space.

Other than being a part of the annual Christmas caroling group from the First United Methodist Church, my introduction to Kings View Hospital was through Diana. She was the secretary for the Activity Therapy Department. In fact, when we were married, the chaplain at Kings View Hospital, Rev. Ron Evans, officiated. A personal note here, we got married in the touchy-feely 1970s—lots of therapeutic hugs. After observing Chaplain Ron hugging several ladies, my father pulled me aside and asked “Are you sure he is an ordained minister?”

I became acquainted with Herman Dueck, director of plant and grounds at Kings View, through Diana and many of the staff socials. When a building maintenance job was advertised, I felt it was a good job opportunity for me to apply for. I was hired and started working in building maintenance along with Herman, Bob Jones and Lee Heinrichs. I found out later that my interview was the only one that Herman sat in on.

There are two types of employees at Kings View. Those who chart on patients, such as doctors, therapists, nurses and aides, and those who don’t like office personnel, dietary, grounds, housekeeping and maintenance. Sometimes the people who are in contact with patients the most, have the least knowledge of their illnesses. Since there are no fences, you can easily be lured into thinking you are working at a country club until something happens that reminds you this is a hospital and we do have failures that shock you back into reality. As a “no-charter” I was friendly to all and treated everyone the same and with respect.

In plant maintenance we were proficient in all aspects of maintenance from H-VAC, plumbing, electrical, fire alarm, emergency generating system, appliance repair, automotive maintenance, carpentry, and lock smithing. Most importantly, we learned to clean up after ourselves. You’ll find out why later.

history

Building Maintenance crew with new generator: Jim Bulls, Bob Jones, Herman Dueck, Lee Heinrichs

One of the perks of the job was the after lunch games of eight ball in the multi-purpose room. I was busy writing my first book, Jim’s Jokes and Famous Quotes, and I tried out a lot of my materials—sometimes in questionable taste—on the rest of the crew. Herman would laugh with the best of them and he never said Jim you shouldn’t say that. However, sometime in the near future Herman would be talking about something not even remotely related to my joke, but something that made me reflect on what I had said and made me reconsider saying it again. Herman’s wit was guided by the Lord, and consequently I forgot so many jokes, that my book dropped off into oblivion.

Another perk was our department’s annual pilgrimage to the Tulare County Ag Expo. Herman was in hopes of purchasing a new emergency generator for the hospital. The current generator was a WWII Army surplus item, that was pretty well maxed out as far as upgrades went. After checking out the various options at the expo, Herman decided that Caterpillar was the way to go. The deal was made and when we returned to work, we started preparations for the new equipment. The footings were steel reinforced concrete and I built a 6 in channel iron skid for the generator frame to rest on. When it arrived, we rolled it into place, bolted it down and plumbed in the wiring. The final task was building guards around the rotating parts in order to be in compliance with OSHA guidelines.

In my 16 years or so as a psychiatric hospital maintenance man, I made the acquaintance of many patients. I have a lot of memories, good and bad, to share.

The Popper

Popper loved to set off fire alarms. Admitted to the hospital while I was out on sick leave with the flu, this patient would activate the fire alarm around 7:00 in the every evening. When I returned to work (maybe a day or two early because I still felt lousy), the day shift gave me a heads up on what to expect. I collected my tools, a new alarm sensor and the ladder in preparation. Sure enough, the Popper set off the alarm near the expected time. I headed over to the ward, while the staff and patients headed outside into the cold and foggy night. I made my rounds in search of a fire, and finding none, replaced the sensor, reset the alarm and gave the all clear for everyone to return inside. I asked the charge nurse to come with me to the Popper’s room. In my best drill sergeant voice, I said that if I had to stand outside in the wet and cold because of a false alarm, me and couple of other guys would haul you in for a G.I. shower (a scrub down with a bar of soap inside an Army issue wool sock), while everyone else short-sheeted your bed. It’s time for you to grow up and take responsibility for your actions, and then I walked out.

The next day, after some reflection on my part, I was a little apprehensive about going back to work. I had probably over-stepped the boundaries and interfered with therapeutic protocol, but no one said a thing about it. That evening, I gathered my tools so I would be ready for the inevitable. Around 7:00, a knock came on the office door. It was the Popper and the charge nurse; my tools and the new fire alarm sensor were sitting in plain sight on the desk. Popper came to apologize and I apologized too. I had probably been heavy-handed due to residual flu effects.

After that, Popper would always greet me out on the grounds or in the dining hall and I never had to change another sensor that Popper was responsible for setting off. Several months later, I got a call from the nurse’s station on Central Ward. Popper wanted to say goodbye before discharge the next day and to thank me for the “advice” about taking responsibility. I was so moved by this memory that I eventually named one of my cats after this patient.

The Cutter

Cleaning up after a maintenance job is extremely important in a psychiatric setting, and you had to be particularly careful when cleaning up broken windows. I was diligently working at doing just that when I realized that Cutter was carefully watching me from a short distance away. Cutter stated “Jim, you do good work.” I replied that the both of us made a good team. Puzzled, Cutter asked why that was. I said “You are in charge of quality control. I would be devastated if I left a piece of glass big enough for someone to cut themselves with.” Cutter thought about it for a minute, then smiled and walked away, saying “See Ya.”

The Breaker

Just like Popper, Breaker’s routine was to break a window pane nearly every day until there was only a 12×12 section left. Now the view from the room looked out over the vineyard, where you could see fox and coyotes in the evening and hawks in the early morning. When all the glass was cleaned up and I was finishing up inserting the window board, Breaker was allowed back in the room. I commented that it might not be a good idea to break the final section of the window. When asked why, I said check out the entertainment nature provides every day just outside your room. I didn’t have to board up what was left of the window and eventually glass was reinstalled in the entire window.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Kings Views’ services were expanded to include drug and alcohol treatment program in several communities throughout the central valley. The corporate offices were located on the north end of the property, and later a day treatment facility was built. An activity therapy building was added to the grounds, with the former space being used for an on grounds classroom with teachers provided by Kings Canyon Unified. A few years later, a large addition with two new patient wards, offices, and meeting rooms was built. The vision for housing 100 patients had been met, and then some.

history

Ariel view of Kings View Hospital in 1988

Sadly, due to changes in insurance coverage for mental health and some administrative issues, Kings View Hospital was forced to close. Kings View Corporation is still a viable organization providing mental health services of varying kinds in ten counties.

Today, the existing hospital buildings are being leased by Teen Challenge, a Christian based drug rehab program. The organization has been very successful in northern and southern California. This is believed to be their first venture into the San Joaquin Valley.

There is also a new role for the former hospital grounds. Thanks to current property owner Michael Jackson, Immanuel Schools has the opportunity to turn the grounds into a sports complex. It will feature state of the art tennis courts, baseball and softball playing fields, an all weather track and football field, with the possibility of a future stadium.

I’d like to dedicate this article to the memory of Herman Dueck, 16 April 1932 to 28 October 1982. I think he would be proud of what has risen out of the old Kings View Hospital.

For more local and California history articles, including more Reedley history articles by Jim, be sure and check out our Hometown History section.

Jim Bulls is a contributor to our Hometown History section, being a charter member of the Reedley Historical Society; he also restores vintage cars.

31 Comments

  1. I had no idea of the role the MCC played in Kings View Hospital. Great article!

    Reply
  2. This article is so timely. I wanted to share Kings View’s history with a Vietnam Vet. Mennonite COs saw The Inhumane and degrading treatment of soldiers in mental hospitals during WW2. This influenced MCC to branch into building mental hospitals. Part of what made Kings View so unusual was the number of Mennonite volunteers who kept the cost of running the hospital low. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Reply
  3. My husband, John Nikkel, began serving his CO time at Kings View Hospital in 1954. He was Purchasing Agent. I also joined the staff under MCC and spent my first year in food services. Wayne Zimmerman was our dietitian. The second year I spent in the activities department. After my husband completed his 2 years and returned to the farm I continued working as Activities Director. The closeness of the unit life and activities under the supervision of Arthur Jost was a great experience for the volunteer staff. Teen Challenge has been very dear to my families heart for many years. I now have a grandson benefiting from the Reedley Teen Challenge Ministry. I am actively involved in prayer and personal support. My husband is now in heaven. I live in Shafter. I make many trips to visit my grandson as well as a sister who is a resident at Palm Village. Wonderful memories of the past and so awed by how God is now using the old Kings View Property. God bless you an thank you for this article.

    Reply
    • Do perhaps remember another CO from Lancaster, PA Gerald Moyer? I believe he was discharged before his two years was completed. Thank you!

      Reply
  4. Hi, I was a patient at Kingsview hospital. My memory is poor but I think it was in 1989 or 90. From reading your article it sounds as though the hospital had closed by then? Is that correct? I am trying to reach Kingsview corporate with no results as of yet. I need information from my medical records from back then and wondered if you had any idea who I can contact to get that information? I remember the name of my doctor it was Dr. Delolas(sp?) i’m sorry I don’t remember you but it was difficult time in my life. Thanks for the ride up it brought back memories. Sincerely, Lori

    Reply
    • Yep that is who my doctor was! Thanks for taking the time to figure it out. Very helpful to me to see what years he worked at Kings to view!

      Reply
  5. I know this is probably a long shot but here goes. I was a patient at age 17 in 1966. My mother decided I needed to be locked up. Shes the one that needed such a place. She had a friend Barny Corwin, he was there for an alcohoal addiction at that time. She invited me to go with her to visit her friend. So I did. while i was talking with him in the day room, she was secretly signing me in. She walked over to us and told me that I was going to stay. she left. I was there I believe 6 months, or more. My doctor had her come back to talk to her about me. She did come and he told her I just needed to go home. I was a typical teenager. She stood up, grabbed her purse and said, I’m paying you to keep her here and shes staying (I will never forgot it, like a movie) My question is: Is there paperwork on me, about me and how can I get that information. I just need closure. Also have you ever seen the movie on dvd now, Girl Interrupted, Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder? when I saw that movie the first time I was blown away because that WAS our story. I was Winona and my two wonderful friends, Lynn (whos brother and father drowned on a boating trip in the lake, the brother was drowning, the dad jumped in to save the son and died also. Of course she was very troubled, she blamed herself. And then Leslie, she was just very very promiscuous like Angelina Jolie. WEIRD Thank you. I am going to try and find them.

    Reply
  6. I am looking for paperwork on my stay at Kingsburg hospital. My mother actually tricked me to going to the hospital to see her friend Barney Corwin an alcoholic at the time, he was treated for it. I was there about 6 months. Name was Lynda Lee Akins (birth name) or Andrew my step fathers name. Also I had drawn the entire front of the building of the hospital. All brick, and I drew everyone. I gave it to the hospital, any chance to get it. That would be wonderful and a big closure piece. Thanks

    Reply
    • Lynda, you might trying contacting the corporate offices to see where the medical records are stored and how to go about getting a copy of yours. Here is the contact list website: http://www.kingsview.org/contact. I might start with Administrative Support Services first, but whatever you do, don’t give up–keep calling until you get your answer. Good luck.

      Reply
  7. I was a patient at Kingsview for several years as a youth. I am the cutter, and also the breaker referred to in this article. I have scars to prove the cutter was a real person with a lot of issues. I broke the windows to provide a means for escaping. When the glass man came and replaced the window I would dig out the putty when it was wet, remove the glass at night and run away. This place used medications and mind control to rehabilitate kids. Parents just dropped us off and signed forms that allowed the facility to use drugs such as haldol. They implemented thorazine and even locked us in a seclusion room for as long as they felt needed. I’m glad they shut down.

    Reply
    • I was a patient at Kings View in 86-87. Started in Tiagoa then spent a year as a YOSE’mite.
      Diagnosed with Sphysofrania. Haldol pills and injections.
      To this day I hate grape vines. Scared of shots. I hated that room, 2 doors. mattress on the floor screen over the open window. Locked in there for days.

      Reply
  8. My dad was a Mennonite CO here during the Korean War. I’m not sure how long he was there for before returning to PA. Is there anyone who worked there in the 50s who might remember a good looking farm boy from PA? He never told us much about his time as a CO, and he is passed away now. I would like to find out more.

    Reply
  9. My name is Gary. I was a patient there from 1966to1970. My therapist was Charlie Parman and my Dr was Dr Interline who had a daughter at the hospital named sue. After Dr Interline passed in 1966 I was assigned to Dr Ainsley. I remember Dr Davis and Dr Kleist. I also remember a therapist by the name of Steiner. The activity director at the time was Guen Nikkel a bet nice lady. Don’t think I spelled her name correctly. Would love t here from anyone who might remember me.

    Reply
    • Hi Gary, I wish I could say I remember you. That is about the time I was in the process of moving with my husband and children to Wasco, CA. I wrote some comments regarding my time working at Kings View in 1916. Each new year brings us new opportunities to know Him more, to walk in faith, and grow by His grace. May your year be blessed in the Lord.
      Sincerely, Gwen Nikkel

      Reply
  10. Hi my name is Kelly
    I was a Mental Health Woket at Kings View from about 1976 to 1979. I worked on Central ward predominantly. This may sound strange but I have a lot of good memories from working there. Most of the staff and my bosses were great people. It was a great learning experience for me.

    Reply
    • Hello Kelly,
      Both my husband and I worked at Kingsview from 1975 – 1979 on Central Ward evenings…did you work days or night? Would love to hear about your memories because I also had a good experience almost better than college. Greg was the evening supervisor during that time. Best, Kathy

      Reply
      • I remember you Kathy but your husband I am unsure who it was. Your Latina with black hair and who was the tall inactive American or Mexican nurse. You once told me your relative was a postman

        Reply
        • Native American I hate my iPhone

          Reply
  11. Yes, all, please keep telling the story!! Did the patients have worship services? Was the population youth and adults? Gwen, do you realize that your activities work was what paved the way for Recreation Therapists like me? I’d love to have coffee with any of the care staff… Especially Activities. Time has changed delivery of care, some good, some bad.I’ve been watching Kings View for a couple of years now and just applied. I’m researching all things Kings View and love the history. I grew up in Wichita and attended a few Mennonite services in the late 70s. Thank you for the article and comments. Thank you Lord, for this beautiful organization!

    Reply
  12. Was weekend area supervisor during final year of hospital’s last days. Have many wonderful memories of staff and residents! Hope any of you who read this and we’re involved with KingsView are well! God bless you all!

    Reply
    • I remember you Gary, weren’t you there when George died. There was Dr. Becker, Rev Ratmeyer, Cliora, Loyd, there was the Asian nurse who quit in the 80’s and lived where I’m from Willow Glen. Gerald and Debbie who was very anti gay and Ben Green who died too

      Reply
  13. Jim if you’re reading this you still owe me lunch! Just kidding, but I will always remember my time at Kings View and all the guys that helped me grow to be a better person. One of my all time favorite jobs. So many great memories.

    Reply
  14. I was a patient for about 9 months back in 1989. I was first in the older teen unit that was part of the newly built wings. I don’t quite remember, but i think it was called the Sequoia unit. That unit was closed down and the few of us that were left went over to the younger teen unit. I think that unit was called Yosemite. After some time I finished out my stay at Kings View down by the river at the residential treatment center. I don’t remember what that unit was called. During my time at Kings View I learned lot about myself, I met a lot of staff and patients. I think about the people I met there from time to time. I hope life has treated them well.

    Reply
  15. I too was a patient back in the mid-’80s. Dr. Biala, Dr. Seymor, wherever you are, thank God for you both. Thank you, MCC and to Arthur Jost, though we never met. Thank you, staff members, counselors, and nurses. My time with you absolutely saved my life and provided for the existence of four children I have been blessed to birth. I had no voice before Kings View and did not even know how desperately I needed to be saved. Those therapy rooms and couch counseling sessions were the first time in my whole life, I ever felt I mattered. Yes, there were medications, but I came in so damaged, that is what it took to make space for help to come. There was also a gracious multi-choice cafeteria that was amazing! There was an awesome gym. I got in the best shape of my youth. There were group sports on a regular basis that were confidence-building and empowering, There were pottery and art classes that inspired where I am in life today 34 years later. Nothing was immediate, my transformation took so very much time, but this place was the beginning of my phoenix and I will be forever grateful. I looked back recently in thankfulness and found only this page. Thank you for putting it out there. Thank you for being a part of something God-inspired. I needed every last one of you.

    Reply
  16. I was there during the early 80s at age 13. I remember the phone booth, watching 6p minutes for getting good behavior and my roommate Blair. I was diagnosed with arthritis while I was there & hospitalized then brought back. Lotsa’ memories. I wont judge them as good or bad they are just a part of the past. I remember so many things including our trips into town on the bus. Near to find a site where they talk about the hospital.
    Take care everyone. Love & Light

    Reply
  17. Hi folks
    I worked as an RN there from 79 to the end.
    Worked nights days, every single unit during my stay.
    I was gonna retire there or so I thought.
    Great people worked there some are still my friends today.
    Quietly retired and living nearby.

    Reply
  18. I joined the Kings View staff as a counselor in 1995 on the Sequoia Unit…the focus at that time was drug and alcohol treatment for Indigenous girls who were involved in the juvenile justice system. There they were able to complete their sentence getting treatment. Sadly by 1997, when I left, that program was dismantled. I did get the pleasure of working on many of the other units during my short time. I have very strong memories of so many of the kiddos I worked with and humbly hold their many traumatic stories hoping they found the peace and safety they were seeking.

    Reply
  19. i lived there for bout 8-9 months when kings view was a group home for minors before transitioning it back into a psychiatric facility. i remember having staff from loma unit work with us on the all girls unit. i remember it being scary to sight. i remember working with mr kister a teacher who taught me how to make homemade mulch & why it was so important to life. i remember working with ms linda a teacher who taught me about animals. i remember mr dennis was a supervisor who worked on my unit. i remember helping a staff named gary s clean up after having breakfast. id love to hear from people whose worked there when it was a group home.

    Reply
  20. I was a patient at Kings View in the 1973-1974 time frame — I don’t remember the exact dates. I was 25 and had already spent 2 months in a mental health facility near me in the SF Bay Area. They released me and I got worse — depression, anxiety, anorexia and ultimately a suicide by overdose attempt. My psychiatrist wanted nothing more to do with me so the staff at the prior hospital suggested to my parents that I go to Kings View. They told me it was for a 3-week evaluation, but they told my parents I would be there for 6-9 months. So, the first month I kept asking, “When do I get out of here?” and they kept saying “Let us help you.”
    My first thought on arrival — which was on a weekend in November — was the dense fog. At one point they walked a few of us down to the Kings River. It looked dark and was shrouded in fog — it seemed to mirror my inner environment at the time.
    Although I thought my life was over at 25, I’m 73 now and have had a very fortunate life. I believe Kings View rescued me, or perhaps more accurately, helped me rescue myself. I was able to move out of Kings View after 6 or 8 months, find an apartment in Fresno, get a job, go back and finish college and ultimately to have a career, current long-term marriage snd 2 great children. None of this seemed possible options to me at 25. Throughout my life, I’ve sought therapy for difficult times and though I have relied on antidepressants on and off — I’ve been off them now for 15 years at least and am doing well. My doctor at KV was Neil Kornzweig who passed away in 2O14. I remember some wonderful staff there — John, Mitch and Rodney. Also there was a head nurse — tall blonde named Kathy. I think I was on North ward(?) — the one nearest the tennis court but memories are somewhat dim. I know it was a kind of open environment— no locked rooms — a sunroom with a tv and games. This was an adult ward of course. I also remember activities that kept us busy: pottery, leather craft, tennis and golf — instructors were all such good people who seemed to understand that I was frightened and miserable to be there. In retrospect, I’m very grateful for that interval in my life that helped me have a life. I had a close friend who was a patient when I was there — she passed away in 2017 but we stayed friends all those years. I like reading people’s stories from Kings View. I don’t want to sound to Pollyannaish about my time there — it took me many years to appreciate it and it was a bumpy road for a long time after I left. It just showed me I could build my own life without dependence on my parents — particularly my abusive, narcissistic mother. She did the best she could, but needed help herself.

    Reply
  21. I worked as an art therapist at Kings view private hospital from
    1974-1976. The picture shown above was created by one of my group I believe it was a drawing rather than a woodcut but it does look like a woodcut. I hosted an Art Therapy conference while there with celebrated leaders in the field. One din Uhlin who paved the way for my next job as the First Visual Arts Director at the Alan Short Center in Stockton. Many fond memories of activities staff comradrea… playing tennis at lunch
    And seeing the art created by patients!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

SUBSCRIBE NOW!

podcast

powered by TinyLetter

Handsome 6 month old Keystone is the very loved big brother among his cutiepie brothers and sisters. But this super happy, friendly guy gets along with absolutely everyone and anyone! What a delight such a happy, playful, affectionate boy he will be in a great forever home that will love and enjoy him! Super affable and adorable Keystone hopes he’s the one for you! Check him out on the Cat House website to learn more.