A Visit to Willowbrook


These are a couple of pictures from early visits to see Mike at Willowbrook[1] by my parents, my younger brother and me.  I think the picture with my father was at Al Deppe’s, a combination food stand and arcade. It was a cool place for my younger brother and me. It had a violin-piano machine. It was a combination player piano and player violin that would play a duet when you would put in a quarter. The mechanical fingers came down on the violin string at the right place and time, in total coordination with the piano. It even had a vibrato. That was the only thing that was coordinated at our visits. A lot depended on Mike and his mood.  Since Mike never spoke, he would tell us what he wanted by doing what he wanted, including grabbing food, yelling and so on.

It was easier for everyone at the park. This is where Mom and Mike are pictured. Mike liked to walk. There were easy trails there. We could always go back to the car when Mike got tired.

I wish I remembered more.

[1] Willowbrook was a state mental institution on Staten Island, NY.

One thought on “A Visit to Willowbrook

  1. It’s nice to know that some families, like yours, visited your brother frequently. I have no idea how often my mother visited my brother. I doubt my father ever visited at all. My father was a good man and was a good father to me but he was also a strict and conservative man. He had little patience for the usual childhood antics of me and my other siblings so I doubt he had much tolerance of a child with special needs. We lived in Queens so getting to Staten Island via public transportation wasn’t easy (my mother didn’t drive). I realize that some families probably never visited so this is something else I’ve always been curious about. If you remember, can you tell me if you saw a good amount of family members when you visited or was it always a sparse group?

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