63 The State Village - Part 2

Dr. Dan Pullen Remembers the State Village

Print Post

In Part 1 of this four-blog series, we shared the story of how the State Village for Epileptics began, its transformation into other institutions, and its transition to become Skillman Park.

In Part 2, we learn from Dr. Dan Pullen what it was like to grow up at the State Village in the 1930s and 40s. He shared some of his memories of his early years in a recent conversation. All quotes in this blog are attributed to him.

This story begins in Blawenburg. Dan’s father, Dr. Clifford Pullen, grew up in Blawenburg on a farm on Mountain View Road and went to Blawenburg School in his early years. “He graduated from dental school in 1933 and took a job working for the State as a dentist at the New Jersey State Village for Epileptics.” His father married Dorothy Calver, and Dan was born in 1936. Like most of the professional staff, Dr. Pullen was required to live on the grounds of the sprawling facility, and they lived in an apartment in the Bergen building. The professional jobs came with many amenities, so the Pullens had access to housing, food, laundry, and more.

The Pullens moved from the Bergen building to Elm Lodge and lived there until 1949.

Young Dan and his mother are on the right side of the picture.

The Formal Village

Dan remembers that the Village was very formal at the time. “There were formal dining rooms where you were waited on and a beautiful conference room where they met all the time to discuss patients. There were 1500 patients and 500 employees.”

One of the original requirements of the State Village was that it would be self-sustaining. “Self-contained grounds were mandatory, but they were maintained by the patients. Not everybody in New Jersey was allowed out in society, so they (epileptics) were confined in a place like this. The ones that had trade skills worked at their trades as shoemakers, blacksmiths, farmers, and others. They all worked with their trades.”

The original intent was to have the State Village be a farming community. “They wanted a village in a rural setting that was close to transportation, so the patients could live and function in a community.” Dan recalled that there was a large dairy farm, a piggery, and a poultry farm. “There were tremendous orchards of apples and peaches and many crops like tomatoes.”