Sobering, Haunting
Science Classes At BY High

Sobering, Haunting Eugenics Classes at BYH

By Iris Ramey Seyfried
Brigham Young University High School
Class of 1943

While attending school at BY High, one of our science classes -- which I think was called Good Origins/Fitter Families -- made a field trip to the Utah State Training School in American Fork. I think in the past it had been called Home for the Mentally Retarded, but that name was not in use by then. I believe the patients/residents are now called mentally challenged.

The purpose of this trip was to teach us to look ahead and try to chose our eventual mates of good family stock -- good genes. It was basically a Eugenics class.

We packed sandwiches for lunch and climbed on board the bus to go to the institution. On the way up the driveway to the building, we passed a young looking man, who was using a stick to pick up papers on the driveway and lawn. It was explained to us that his mental capacity was in the 2 - 4 year-old age group. He had been trained to do that work and apparently couldn't do much of anything else.

As we walked down the hallways and stopped in various rooms, it was so sad to see grown adults with the minds of babies lying in over-sized cribs. Other "children" were taught to do housekeeping and other minor chores, which kept them busy and out of difficulty.

The patients were so pleased to see visitors. Some were very attractive, neat and clean. The ones we saw seemed quite happy to be doing their share.

Of course, back in 1943, we didn't have TV in the average home or computers or electronic games. For recreation, playing catch was a good game to them. Some jumped rope or tried their hands at drawing.

We had a very enlightening trip. We agreed with our teachers about being careful how you go about choosing your mates.

On another Eugenics field trip we saw some insane people at the Utah State Hospital in Provo. There was one person behind glass panels that the doctors showed to us. He was able to move around the room, but they said he had syphilis and was in the latter stages of that disease. The doctors said the disease had practically made a sponge of his brain and he wouldn't last much longer.

Along with Good Origins/Fitter Families, they were trying to help us understand the necessity of avoiding venereal diseases.

These were excellent educational field trips. They were sobering and over the years, haunting. They were so unlike our other more light-hearted school field trips.

History of Eugenics

Fitter Families movement

Iris Helen Ramey

Iris Helen Ramey, BYH Class of 1943
Iris Ramey '43
Iris Helen Ramey was born on March 23, 1926 in Orofino, Idaho. Her family moved around the country, and she attended high school in New York and Idaho before transferring to BYH for her senior year.

She turned 17 just before her graduation from BYH.

She says she didn't do a lot of dating, because she had the goal in mind to become a nurse. High grades were necessary for college entrance.

Iris married Edward Lee Seyfried in 1944, and together they had nine children, and raised seven: three boys and four girls.
Although it was a church school, Iris says the education provided at Brigham Young High School was not significantly different than that offered by the public schools -- even the one-room schools she sometimes attended -- it was as good as she had seen in the public schools.

"Somebody must have done something right, because I passed the Civil Service exam with 96 out of a possible 100," she says.

"I never taught school, but did teach in Sunday School and Primary at all age levels, sang and taught singing, and taught my own children at home to believe in God, which is where we should start."

Iris is an active genealogist, and she has held many other Church positions in a small branch at Riggins, Idaho, and in Ogden, Utah. She loves using her computer.

BYH Class of '43

A Broken Necklace