[jp] The most important real person missing from the film would be Pauline's younger sister, Rosemary Parker. She did not live at the Rieper home during the time period of "Heavenly Creatures" but she would have been a significant and important part of Pauline's life; Pauline was reported to have been very fond of her.
[jp,lw,maw] Rosemary Parker was born in March 1949 with Downs' Syndrome or, as she was described by Dr Medlicott during trial testimony, Rosemary was born a "Mongolian imbecile." Honora Parker was 40, Herbert Rieper was 54, Wendy was 12 and Pauline was almost 11 when Rosemary was born. There was a small school for children with cerebral palsy across the street from the Riepers' home, so they may have benefitted from that close proximity in some way. When Rosemary was two [1951, G?] or three [1952, Medlicott] she was institutionalized in Templeton Farm, a facility for the mentally ill or disabled (but not the criminally insane) outside Christchurch, about 15 km west of the city centre. There was a bus, the #25, which went all the way out to Templeton from Cathedral Square.
Glamuzina & Laurie comment on the public perception of the mentally ill and handicapped at the time, and paint a rather hostile and negative picture. There seemed to be an inordinate emphasis on health, fitness and the participation in sport, and team sports especially, as being indicative of 'normal' child development at the time, in NZ. By inference from trial accounts and G?'s discussion, at the time she was born, Rosemary would have been a financial, emotional and social burden and a handicap to all the Riepers, in many ways. During trial testimony, Dr Medlicott referred to Rosemary Parker and to Pauline's older brother who had died at birth (see 7.1) and commented: "These things raise a query as to the stock from which she comes." He was a professional; no doubt the common folk thought the same.
Herbert Rieper testified that Rosemary was visited regularly at Templeton Farm and was taken home occasionally, and G? comment that there is evidence for visits and home visits in Pauline's diaries (only one entry is quoted by them), but G? don't give numbers, which is very unfortunate. It is quite possible, of course, that Herbert Rieper may have given testimony about Rosemary which was either ill-informed or deliberately 'rosy,' putting the family in as positive a light as he could. That would only be human nature. Naturally, Herbert Rieper was not aggressively cross-examined over any of his statements made during the trial. Most went completely unchallenged.
Apart from the impact of Rosemary on the day-to-day life of the Rieper home, she is very, crucially, important for another reason: In real life, the Riepers collected Pauline from Ilam on Sunday, June 20, 1954, at the conclusion of Pauline's last visit before Juliet's scheduled departure. From Ilam they proceded to Templeton Farm, to visit Rosemary.
How should this visit be seen, especially given its timing? As an object lesson to Pauline about her responsibilities to her family? Or, perhaps, as a treat and a kindness because seeing Rosemary would take Pauline's mind off Juliet and her leaving? How would Pauline have been affected by a trip to Templeton Farm? Was visiting Rosemary really a welcomed, happy, regular event, to be looked forward to? Or, was it a painful, maybe depressing, once-in-a-blue-moon thing? What was it like, going to Templeton Farm, and how would Pauline have seen such a trip, coming straight from Ilam? [jp]
Templeton Farm is attached to the Templeton Hospital and is near Paparua Women's Prison. Templeton Hospital is a residential institution for mental patients who cannot live in the community, such as the mentally retarded and brain-damaged, not the psychotic. There is a sort of a farm attached to give the inmates something to do, and some work training for those who might someday be able to be released. [lw]
Templeton Farm is a reasonable drive outside Christchurch; I would guess about 1/2 hour. It is about 5 miles down the road from Paparua Prison. Putting Rosemary Parker into Templeton Farm would have been a financial relief to her family because this was something the state actually paid for. If they were a typical family, I suspect the visits would have been once-in-a-blue-moon.
I have a sister who contracted meningitis as a baby, and she is still in Templeton Farm. When I was young, people would be pretty gross to families with handicapped kids, if they knew. My sister didn't go into Templeton Farm until her early teens and I remember with sorrow how some others treated us because of our sister. I remember someone hitting both my sister and me with an umbrella at the bus stop because I couldn't keep her either still or quiet. We loved my sister, but you certainly would not have told strangers you had a handicapped sibling in those days. One would have thought it was catching.
The bus still runs past Templeton. It takes my mother about 1 1/2 hours to travel into town from the suburbs then out to Templeton Farm by bus.
We used to take my sister out regularly for drives etc, as did most families who remembered their handicapped kids. However, lots of people just dumped their handicapped kids and forgot them, probably the majority. It was very rare to see other visitors at Templeton. Visits there were never pleasant and I was always glad to get out of the place. I doubt whether anyone would have enjoyed them. The place looked awful and smelt awful and the staff were VERY brusque.
Paparua Prison, just down the road, was not particularly secure; my sister used to run away to the prison, as she was fed lollies by the prisoners. She was a fantastic runner but this ultimately led to her being drugged on a regular basis so she would not cause trouble. She was so heavily drugged for several years, until my father complained, that she became epileptic, which is really sad, to add another burden to one already so burdened--totally deaf and severely mentally retarded.
Some families made a special effort for their child. The girl in the bed next to my sister's was such a case. Her family would take her camping fairly regularly. One tragic weekend they took her to Castle Hill, which lies between Porters Pass and Cass on the way to Arthurs Pass. She ran away and couldn't be found by nightfall, inspite of searching for several hours. They found her the next day--she had frozen to death in the frost overnight. She had done exactly what they had managed to teach her in the home; she had taken off all her clothes and neatly folded them, and laid down to sleep. They built a little stone gate, from nowhere to nowhere, at the spot where she died. [maw]
[jp] The second volume of Janet Frame's Autobiography, "An Angel At My Table," has anecdotal information about the New Zealand mental health system in the period after WW II. There are other references in section 7.7.
[jp,maw] As will be clear after reading the background material in section 7, the prosecution contended that PYP and JMH harboured fantasies and schemes about being committed together in a mental institution, after the murder. The prosecution argued that the two girls supposedly thought conditions there would be 'softer' than prison, and they would be released sooner than they would be released from prison, once they were declared 'cured.' These speculations were used to strengthen the portrait of the girls as callous, scheming and coldly calculating. One prosecution psychiarist from Sunnyside Hospital testified he tried to convince the girls that the opposite was more likely to be true.
Because PYP had intimate, personal knowledge of the mental health system, through her sister Rosemary, this scenario seems quite unlikely, to me. [jp]
I very much doubt this story. Every kid growing up at the time in Christchurch was afraid of the "loonybin" and being taken there was a threat used against kids to keep them in line. This was the Christchurch equivalent of the ghoulie getting you. It was "known" by kids that they would electrocute you there if they caught you. I lived in Hoon Hay, a Christchurch suburb near the Cashemere Hills, and Sunnyside Hospital was just down the road. When I biked past it I went extra fast. My sister was eventually put into Templeton because the family doctor presented my father with an ultimatum: either commit his daughter to Templeton, or his wife to Sunnyside. If you ever saw some of the poor, sad patients wandering in the grounds, you certainly did not get the impression that they were particularly well looked-after, or particularly well cared-for, or that it was a place that might be at all desirable. [maw]