Outliving Life’s Landmarks

March 23, 2011


I was on the Philadelphia Mainline again last Tuesday March 22, 2011 watching Cape Henlopen play and lose a girl’s lacrosse game to Episcopal Academy 12 to 6. Anna, my 15 year old grand daughter, is on the Cape team. I taught and coached at the nearby Mitchell School back in 1974 when Anna’s father and my son Dave was 4 years old and was nicknamed Helium by my teaching friends because of his high voice.

The Mitchell school-combination college prep private and state funded for emotionally disturbed school- was located on Darby Road in Haverford Township and it is gone now and so is the adjacent Haverford State Mental Hospital. In fact, the Episcopal parents I burdened with an actual question do not remember either existing at all, soothing me with statements like, “things just change so quickly nowadays” and I responded “especially for the old guy.”

Haverford State Hospital was full blown state of the art mental hospital and closed down in 1998. And so, do you know what the power elite did with the valuable and pristine real estate? How about “Haunted Hay Rides” in the month of October? There is nothing quite as spooky as an abandoned mental hospital except perhaps an abandoned convent and if you listen closely you can hear their departed souls howling at the Harvest Moon.

Actually I was football coach for four years for the Mitchell School Lions. The motto of our team was “small-slow-and emotionally unbalanced”. The practice field was perpendicular to the level four wing of the hospital and when the setting sun waved hello to the rising full moon, the blood curdling screams rode the winds into the helmet ear holes of the players. My guys were at first afraid, until I told them it was all one big goof, that those patients were looking through the glass and bars just to see how we would react?

And I kid you not; sometimes the electro-shock guys would come over and run in and out quarter mile sprints until the guys in actual white coats came over and got them

The Hospital has been torn down; all the patients are now at Norristown State Hospital. Mitchell School is also gone but we know what happened to their football coach and Helium and the rest of the Coach Fred clan.