A look at Bill Golunski's life and photo album (March 2010).
Knowing Bill as a nurse manager, a neighbour, as an artist and from church I appreciated that within this quietly spoken gentleman lurked not only a nice man but a gifted and talented person.
It was some time ago when I first approached him to let me have an account of his life. Initially he was a little reluctant but I pursued him, especially after Mass on a Sunday morning, until he finally gave in! Joan, his wonderful wife, soon realised my tactics and could be guaranteed to get away before I finally succeeded with Bill!
Having won him over, Bill then presented me with seven neatly organised plastic folders containing various documents, photos, drawings, original artwork and a copy of the personal write up of his life story which he had prepared for his family and which he is happy to share with me and you.
Sadly, I cannot do proper justice to all of this material but I hope to dip into it at important points so that you can all enjoy it and, let me assure you - it is a very enjoyable and important historical story. The FOSF would hope to publish a book of essays with contributions from a selected number of staff with the goal of providing an insight into the changing times at our hospital alma mater.
Born Kazimierz Golunski in Northern Poland in 1924 he is known to us all as Bill. During initial primary school he made only reasonable progress and was told he was useless at art. Following on to higher grade primary school he then achieved higher grades and was told that he had good potential at art! Engineering became his aim but the war halted his studies. Whilst training with the signals with engineering still being his ambition, his interest in art surfaced. Having illustrated his army notes , his commandant noted this and asked him to design a certificate to be awarded to those passing the signals course. Then came the designing of stage scenery and other artistic projects. Having gained a scholarship to the College of Art in Scotland his commandant had meantime arranged a specialised course with the British Army in Catterick. Bill deliberately failed that entrance exam with the hope of being able to go to Scotland. But someone else was given the Scotland place and soon after the Polish army was disbanded. During the period of preparation for civilian life which followed Bill had the chance to go on a course in Inverary in Scotland to study commercial art which he accepted. He passed this with top marks and was asked to stay on as an instructor for the next course which was relocated in 1947 to Bordehill Camp at Cuckfield. At the end of the course he took up employment with a commercial art firm in London but this proved to be an unlucky choice and he left there being owed money.
The only job which Bill could find then was in the building trade as a labourer in Eltham. Promotion to ganger followed and soon after Bill got married to his beautiful wife Joan - see photo.
Then began a difficult search for a flat in the area. This was not easy and with Joan having to give her new surname to any potential landlord there was clearly prejudice in the air. They did obtain a flatlet but the landlady was not a good sort , overcharging whilst providing less than the minimum and their stay there ended with Bill having to take her to a rent tribunal in order to win a rent reduction and security of tenure. The landlady then promised retaliation so Bill and Joan moved to Joan's parents - at their invitation - in Glebe Road. Because of a lack of any other employment Bill turned to St Francis Hospital for a porter's job on 24.1.1950 purely as a temporary measure!!
Bill continues :
'On my way for an interview at the hospital I asked an elderly man in Franklynn Road for directions. He did not know of one in the area but after a pause he said, 'I think you are looking for the asylum'. The appearance of the building fitted his description. This was in January 1950. All doors in this long building were locked, with very few exceptions . One end of the building was female and the other was the male side. The division was absolute and at all times. Matron and Chief Male Nurse were in charge of their respective areas. The wards were known by their number and their designation was mirrored identically on both sides. The bulk of the patients had their meals in their respective dining halls. and the rest ate on their wards. Many patients slept in large dormitories . All clothing was hospital issue, not always fitting properly. A number of trusted patients worked in the utility departments and groups of other patients worked under nurse supervision on the farm , in the gardens, clearing the roads and paths, rolling the sports field and cutting and chopping logs for firewood. This wood was stored in the wood shed for Winter when it would be burned in the ward's fireplaces. Nurses were responsible for this. Other patients who were not involved in any of the employments were allowed to go out on the courts - these these being outside areas surrounded by high railings. The doors going to the courts were normally locked and patients going out or coming back from the courts were counted.
In a few of the wards were padded cells which were used when necessary. In such situations there were strict rules to be observed. One sideroom without the padding had only a mattress on the floor, a very strong sheet covering it and and a cover with a criss-cross stitching like a quilt but of indestructable material. The use of restricting clothing was discontinued sometime before I joined.
Some of the practices underwent a change when John Barry became Chief Male Nurse in 1950. Gradually several doors were unlocked to the unease of some of the older staff. Changing of the drab colours of the wards and coridoors was made with the staff choosing the colours for their wards. It helped to dispel the gloomy feeling. Cutains were hung where they did not exist before. Patients were allowed to wear their own clothing . Electric shavers were issued to the wards for shaving the patients.
The advent of a variety of medicines made patients more capable of being occupied on more complex tasks than before. The mixing of male and female patients began cautiously but soon became the norm. Hitherto patients mixed only for a dance and then went back to sit at their own side of the recreation hall. More departments adopted the mixing trend. The nursing staff were also interchanged, starting with one male charge nurse on a women's ward and then sisters on male wards. This created a more realistic reflection of a community as it was outside the hospital. The patients reacted to these changes very well and absconding was rare.
Tobacco and cigarettes became less of a currency than before. One particular patient continued to make a profit from his dealings however. He would buy a packet of tobacco, open it carefully and remove some of the tobacco and make a few rolled cigarettes. He would then tease the rest of the tobacco to make the packet look fairly full and then close the packet neatly. He managed to sell the packet at almost full price whilst selling the cigarettes at a fairly high price. Other entrepreneurial types sold coffee made from the hospital's very hot tap water, another would shop for staff and be given a tip whilst another obtained fruit from a source within the hospital grounds and sell it.
At that time, 1950/1951, some of the patients who had no relatives were buried in the hospital cemetery. Nursing staff were given the duty to attend the service in the mortuary chapel, transport the coffin to the cemetery and lower it into the grave. Fortunately, I recall only two such funerals.
There were violent episodes at the hospital but there was much skill used on the part of staff in coping with this. Acquiring a practical knowledge was my aim and I was able to apply it on several occasions. Though we were issued with police type whistles for emergencies, I had never used one for it. Apart from occasionally seeing some inappropriate handling I have never seen the use of violence against any patient. In fact, St Francis, despite being an old building, became one of the leaders in the care of patients, through the enthusiastic, caring and professional efforts of the nurses and doctors under progressive leadership.
The annual staff ball was a big social occasion at the hospital. It continued for a few years into the '50's but was later discontinued. It was a very popular event and in order to get an admission ticket some of the local hairdressers would do a perm for a nurse in exchange for a ticket! Naturally the hospital had other recreational facilities such as cricket, football, badminton, bowling and the last to be formed was hockey. With the introduction of the cadet nursing scheme and the mandatory requirement for them to be given Physical Education for a few hours every week, hockey became an obvious answer. The appeal of this game spread to other staff and the formation of a committee became necessary. Mr Barry and Dr Wheeler, both with previous experience of hockey, and the coach became members of the committee. A young receptionist from Hurstwood Park Hospital and I became joint secretaries. Our task was to aim beyond 'knocking about' on the top green. Formation of a possible team, soon followed. Our first match was with Burgess Hill on their green. This match exposed our terrible weakness - being rough! Many members of our team were Irish and kept forgetting that this was not hurling (rising the sticks too high!). With a few years of experience the team achieved both a good reputation and standard of play. A hockey field was provided for the club, I think, in the late '50's. The hockey section became a club with St Francis Social and Sports Club.
The building that houses the club was originally a power station generating electricity up to 1952/53. It stayed unused for about 2/3 years. At that time the medical superintendant did not want any alcohol on the hospital premises. I think that it was towards the end of his service at St Francis that on special occasions a temporary bar was allowed with a licence obtained on each occasion. We had to watch that on these occasions nobody got drunk in order not to give strength to the arguments against the bar. After his departure the occasions of the bar being available became more frequent. The functions were mainly held in the female dining hall. The drinks were stored before and after these occasions in the catering manager's office. This meant that everything had to be carried there and back and to do this there were three of us - all volunteers. One was the catering manager, another member of nursing staff and myself. It was hard and time consuming work. Having the bar was proving very popular and caused no problems. In this favourable climate a decision was made to convert the power station into a social club with a permanent bar. There was much excitement when the plan was realised.The three of us with another nurse manned the bar during limited hours. We were all volunteers. We carried on this way, I think, for about a year till a bar steward was employed. The conversion was very basic. The upgrading of the club to its present form took place many years later.
The closure of the power station and subsequent upgrading was one of several structural changes taking place. The boilerhouse was also demolished and replaced by a new one located near the sanatorium - later Martlett Lodge. The gardeners shed and greenhouses were demolished as part of that development also.The recreation hall which was very much used became structurally dangerous and had to be demolished. The roof was lined with very interesting boards and beams. Additional living accomodation for male nurses was badly needed Some had rooms in the sleeping gallery for lack of a better place until a male nurses home was built. The Norman Hay hall was built as a replacement for the old recreation hall but the lodge had to be demolished to make way for the hall - see photo. Another casualty was the wood shed which, like the lodge, was a very interesting building. A district garage was built in this place and that in turn was demolished to make way for a private hospital. The railings surrounding the courts were also removed and several beautiful views suffered as a result of these developments.
There were many occasions during the three years of my training when my artwork was called upon. Decorating the recreation hall for Christmas became a regular task for many years. I first undertook this in 1950. I managed to achieve an effect never seen at the hospital before and the Mid Sussex Times eventually included me in its flattering account of it at the time !
I was still in my third year of training when Mr Barry became the new Chief Male Nurse. He brought with him some new ideas and many of the older staff viewed these with sceptcism. One day he asked me select a small group of patients and start art therapy for about two sessions each week. For this I was given plenty of brown wrapping paper from general stores, pencils, erasers and some white paper from the general office. To my surprise I was also given £5 to buy some wax crayons and anything else which I thought might be useful. A room at the top of the tower above the centre of the main building was prepared for this purpose - the studio - and was named the Art Class!
In March 1953 my involvement in art at the hospital substantially increased when Mr Barry and others decidecd to stage a pageant on the top lawn. The theme was to be 'Queen Elizabeth 1' and would be staged during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11. My final examination was scheduled for the same week! The planned comprehensive revision before the exam was reduced to almost nothing. The preparation for the pageant consumed all of my spare time because the art side of it was my responsibility. I was aware that the entire future shape of my career in nursing hung, not only on the examination, but equally on the quality of my contribution to the pageant. The show was a tremendous success which meant that I was half way there. I was delighted when I received the news that I passed the final examination. Mr Barry called me the next day and asked me to proceed with establishing a full time art therapy and the name for it was the Art Class. To add to the joy on 23.7.1953 I was promoted to Deputry Charge Nurse. A year later I was further promoted to Charge Nurse. This made me the youngest Charge Nurse by over one decade. Soon after establishing the department I introduced women patients to the group. This was the first ever group of men and women patients working together at St Francis Hospital. Their reaction was positive. The joy of painting was evident in all the patients. The atmosphere, most of the time, was relaxed. Many of the paintings were exhibited in Brighton during their Mental Health week and caused much interest from the public.
To improve my own art skills I enrolled at Brighton College of Art in the mid 1950's for about three years. The studies were in the evenings and in my own time. I also joined an art club in Burgess Hill and took part in their exhibition. The owner of Ditchling art gallery at the time invited me to exhibit some of my paintings and it was there that I had my first sale.
A vacancy arose in Male Occupational Therapy in the late 50's for a change of the department. I was asked to take up the post and the change needed posed me with quite a challenge. The Art Class, in effect, ceased to exist with female occupational therapy filling the gap. On the 5.12.1961, I achieved further promotion to Assistant Chief Male Nurse. This pleased me very much as I did not expect any further promotion.
Mr Barry was always looking for new ideas in the care of patients. One day he asked me to go with him to a factory in Crawley and meet the owner. On the way he explained what he had in mind. The purpose of the meeting was to find out if suitable outwork could be found there for some of our patients and brought into the hospital. The subjects of contracts, standards and remuneration were discussed and a primitive type of industrial work was given to us as a trial run. After a shaky start we progressed to more complex tasks with more patients occupied this way and as many as 200 at one point. The Industrial Therapy, as it became known, replaced completely the male occupational therapy. The patients were paid for the work they did. For about a year the method of remuneration of patients was imposed upon me by Mr Barry and Mr Hay although I regarded it as non-therapeutic. So I revised this myself and brought in the use of therapeutic earnings criteria by which the individual patients were assessed by the staff and, in the face of some opposition, this was eventually accepted as the appropriate method. Other hospitals within the region copied or modified our system.
Some of my art work at St Francis includes the design of the hospital badge and certificate, the design and production of a hospital Christmas card, the design and production of the Christmas decorations for the recreation hall and the making of decorations and stage and pageantry materials for the Queen Elizabeth 1 pageant in 1953.
Having to work set daytime working hours during the week deprived me of unsocial hours earnings and with reorganisation of the nursing administration I took on Colwood and Larchwood as my area of responsibility. Two years later I took up a night post and then my desire to return to painting prompted me to apply for early retirement. I retired as Nursing Officer 7 on 31.7.1983 and I have enjoyed all of the challenges which I have had to face over almost 34 years of service.' Bill Golunski
Back in September 2009 Bill and Joan celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. At the time the couple said that their 60 years together hardly seemed so long and they still suffered from shortage of time with their children and grand-children very much a part of their lives. It was a display of flowers outside a wartime Nissan hut that was the spark that lit a lifelong love affair between Bill and his beautiful wife Joan. Impressed by a display of flowers that Bill had arranged outside one of the Nissan huts, Joan's father took him home where he met the 19 year old Joan who then worked as a receptionist at the exchange in Cuckfield. Bill and Joan celebrated their anniversary with a party at the Farmers pub in Scaynes Hill with 36 family members and friends.
With many thanks to Bill and also the Mid Sussex Times.