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“To the Editor in 1983” by John T. Bird, 1958

John T. Bird, Jr.

John T. Bird (b. 1919) received his D.D.S. degree from the Washington University School of Dentistry in December 1943.  After serving three years as an Army of the United States Air Force Dental Officer, Bird joined the faculty of his alma mater in January 1947.  Bird served as dean of the School from 1967 until 1976.  He served as editor of the Washington University Dental Journal from 1954 to 1959; this editorial from the November 1958 issue is addressed to the editor of the Journal twenty-five years in the future.

John T. Bird, Jr.

by John T. Bird

You may be thinking of some sort of a review of the past fifty years for your golden anniversary in volume, and since I just finished scanning the first 25 (plus 2-1/2) volumes it may save you time if I told you of what I’ve learned at this, our Silver Anniversary year.  Probably all you will have to do is press a button on a microfilm machine that talks and not have to thumb the pages as I did.  Here I am tempted to digress and imagine some of the things that you will have been doing and seeing, but 1958 isn’t exactly a slow and leisurely time itself, and there are many things to be done besides write – the most pressing of which is meeting a deadline.

I’ve enjoyed looking back through the pages and can see what people mean when they say it is important to record the thinking of the times as revealed in speeches, articles, editorials and news.  I’ve seen two new pictures – the one painted by the 25 volumes and the blank one created by what wasn’t written.  I’ll describe the tangible one as I viewed it, based on what is in print.  If it weren’t for that deadline I would give more specific references, but you will have to take my word for it that this material is of record or dig it out for yourself.

Drs. Benno E. Lischer (’00) and Otto W. Brandhorst (’15) deserve the credit for this part of dental journalism called the Washington University Dental Journal, for they requested E. F. Schewe (’02) to assume the first editorship in 1922.  This he did and did well for those first two volumes (1922 and 1923) and one issue in 1924.  Then he decided that California’s climate would be more soothing to something that “ailed” him, and he left St. Louis and a “discontinued journal.”  Whatever “ailed” him must have responded well, for he contributed much to future issues of the Journal until his death in Huntington Park, California, on November 19, 1951.  In 1922 he was called the “silver-tongued member of the Alumni Association” by Edgar H. Keys (’07).

During Schewe’s term, Otto Brandhorst was president of the Alumni Association and assisted the Journal as managing editor, as did William B. Spotts (’12) for a short time.

In the first issue of Volume 3 (1924), Thomas L. Gilmer (’82) put a little paint on the canvas in his “Reminiscences of the Missouri Dental College.”  He was speaking of the school days of George McCowan (’71) and said, “His duties were to keep the chairs and cuspidors clean and to sweep and mop the floors.  He slept in the Infirmary and did his cooking there too.”  (Even now, Mr. Golden Editor, many students have to work hard at jobs while they are in school to meet the needs of their families and pay for their education.)

The two and one-half volumes edited by Schewe are the “plus” ones referred to at the opening, as it is not from 1922 that we are marking our Silver Anniversary but from 1934, when publication was resumed as Volume 1, Number 1 with our friends Benno Lischer and Otto Brandhorst back in the picture.

The Washington University Dental Alumni Association at its February 21, 1934 meeting had noted the need for a regular “bulletin,” and in August they had one, with Lischer as “Faculty Representative and Chairman of the Board” and Brandhorst as “Alumni Representative” of the staff.  Doctor Lischer was the new dean of the school and had strong professional ideals, not the least of which concerned dental journalism; and Doctor Brandhorst was a pioneer in this raging battle to keep dentistry’s literature professional.  It is not strange that these men received a strong arm of support from a man who pushed his thoughts with action and of whom it was said was interested “in clean, ethical dental journalism in conformity with professional standards.”  This man was Charles E. Knepp (’05) who has been called “The Father of the Washington University Dental Journal” (May, 1946 issue).  “His interest and financial support were the ‘stork,’ so to speak, which delivered this infant of dental journalism. . . . Knepp financed it the first year (1934); Lischer redeemed it from the red the second year, and since that time the University has appropriated a sum toward its support, which though small and inadequate, helped to keep its body and soul together, sometimes.”

Doctor Knepp now lives at Melbourne, Florida (Box 594) and continues to give the Journal shots in the arm.  While on the subject of “whereabouts,” Lischer has retired and lives at 313 North Rock Hill Road, Webster Groves 19, Missouri.  Doctor Brandhorst later became dean of the school, has since retired from that position and is now the Secretary of the American College of Dentists with offices at 4236 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis 8, Missouri.

You will understand the pride that comes with having articles by all the editors of the Silver 25 Volumes in this issue.

Back to the early years of the “1934 beginning” – those were pretty rough times in many ways, dear electronic-aided Mr. Editor.  Money was (still is) scarce for the Journal, and in the November (1934) issue, Walter L. Eckardt (’34) was “making with wisdom” on the subject of dental economics and listed expenses of conducting a practice as: “rent, $25.00 per month; to appear immaculate and have clean office laundry, $4.00 per month; society dues, $13.00 per year and other factors to give an overhead cost of $2.96 per hour.”

The Journal was well-received by the Alumni Association.  E. H. Matkin (’00) in his presidential address to the Alumni Association (May, 1935 number), praised the newly established Journal and strongly recommended “that the Alumni Association adopt the Journal as our official organ, and that we undertake to devise satisfactory ways and means of continuing its publication.”  Doctor Brandhorst at the same time reported that a committee, which had been appointed to look deeply into the possibility of the Association’s assuming responsibility for the Journal, had found the organization unable to finance it and had asked the School of Dentistry to assume the responsibility.  He said that the committee “cherishes the hope that the Alumni Association may find it possible to support it as funds are available.”  Several generous alumni had made possible the publication of Volume 1 but could not be expected to continue such aid indefinitely, he said.

In the November, 1935 number, Max Kornfeld (’24), president of the Association was gratified “to note that we still have our Journal, and for this we must express our thanks to Dean Lischer . . . it is without doubt the most outstanding journal of its kind published.”  The Alumni Association had made “a donation from the general fund.”

You can see (on film) Mr. Editor friend, that money was a big problem.  There was a lot of it in our time, but it was never where we wanted it – in our pockets.  (We males wore a covering over the lower halves of our bodies called pants, and there were two pockets on the dorsal and two on the ventral.)

Already this resume is getting too lengthy, and I had wanted to give some detail of the types of articles carried.  I’ll just touch them gently and ask those people and trends which should be mentioned and aren’t to find forgiveness.

R. G. Fobes (’21) covered the first seventy years’ history of the school in his very valuable “Historical Resume of the Washington University School of Dentistry” in the August, 1936 number.

Record is made of the creation of the Wolzendorf Museum of dental history in tribute to the past, as the curriculum of the school appeared to be struggling through real labor pains in producing the modern respect for research and science that was being demanded by an expectant profession.  Preventive dentistry and dentistry for children were being heard from too.

And if you want to read some good biographies, take a close look at your film, for many are there of our deans, teachers, university chancellors and alumni.  The news sections will show that our faculty and alumni were always featured speakers at dental meetings throughout the country – practically every issue since 1934 shows W. E. Koch, Jr. (’34) out on some circuit (we use that word as somewhat synonymous with tour).

In November 1938, Dr. Hamilton B. G. Robinson, our professor of oral pathology, joined the staff of the Journal and enriched its pages in his own distinctive way.  He went on to Ohio State University to become associate dean of the School of Dentistry and very recently has been appointed dean of the School of Dentistry of The University of Kansas City.

A nationally known leader in the development of dental pediatrics, Ruth E. Martin (’23) kept us ahead in that field.  In 1939 she announced the expansion of her program here to include dental teaching in the St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Changes and their causes are evident in those old pages.  In the ’30s, dental education and journalism were fighting to rise and stand on their own two feet.  The 1940s were to be full too.  Under the chairmanship of Otto Brandhorst, the school and alumni association began early and thorough plans for their 75th Anniversary Celebration in 1941.  It must have been an outstanding event, not yet forgotten, as those who were there comment, “It was the best meeting of its kind I’ve ever seen;” and then, always, “but it was expensive.”  Its plan ushered in a concept that is now universal – postgraduate education for the dentist.  Some of the subjects presented which give a good idea of the “talk of the times” were: Public Health Dentistry, Sulfonamides, Anesthetic Solutions, Dental Anomalies and Health, Acrylics in Operative Dentistry, National Defense, The Accelerated Course in Dentistry, Diet and Dental Health and Practice Building and Management.

Then came Pearl Harbor and our involvement in another world war.  Several of the faculty left for military service, and the record of a farewell party for them as they departed with the 21st Army General Hospital Unit (sponsored by Washington University) shows that they left with the pride and best wishes of all who waved goodbye.  Earl E. Shepard (’31) recorded their goings, comings and accomplishments in “The Odyssey of the Dental Service at the 21st General Hospital,” a good example of details and facts well blended with the items that spelled action.

Bland N. Pippin (’00) really had something-influence, money, ability – probably all, for with an article of his (and he had several long ones) are Colored Pictures, the only ones in our book.

W. E. Koch, Jr. (’34), George C. Mark (’36), T. R. Moore (’32) and E. S. Khalifah, joined the staff of the Journal as faculty representatives, and Doctor Lischer continued as “chief” with Doctor Brandhorst remaining as alumni representative.

Then a big shift took place.  E. S. Kahlifah became Editor of the Journal, Lischer retired as dean of the school in about a year and Doctor Brandhorst became the new dean.  Dean Brandhorst embarked on a very busy administration, saying at the alumni banquet in 1946, “I shall serve you to the best of my ability.”  He said more than that, but not much more – he’s a man of action.

As editor Khalifah says in his “Ten Years of It,” he was given a free hand in his responsibility of producing the Journal.  He used that free hand too, and the Journal was read.  Some disagreed with some of the things he said in it; but he enjoyed his job, worked tirelessly at it, was always fair-minded, and he was so respected.  By the way, it was during his time that the only Special Issue was done.  It contained the elements of a joint Testimonial Program for Benno E. Lischer and Bland N. Pippin.

Your correspondent teamed with Khalifah to give a little help in February, 1948 and found much enjoyment and education in the association.  Dean Brandhorst came to his retirement (the busiest retirement you’ll ever hear about, boy) Khalifah had had “Ten Years of It,” and he withdrew as editor with somewhat of a weak agreement from me that I would take his job if it were offered.  “Khal’s” next editorship was to be of the Journal of the Missouri State Dental Association, which position he now holds.

Our new dean, Leroy R. Boling asked me to assume the position of editor, and here I am.  I have enjoyed what I have done since and hope that there has been more than just “more pages.”  I leave it to you to write about me, but don’t make it too harsh, for I fully intend to be around to read it.

— I have just recovered from a faint as the thought struck me that I might be re-reading this myself at the golden anniversary.  There is anguish, in that “relief is not in sight.”

Surely there will still be a Journal in your time, for there is strong support for it.  Support not as strong as would be best, for we need more money to allow improvement and modernization of the book’s format, and there should be more material of a scientific nature presented by the faculty.  Of course, friend Khalifah, whose strong and invaluable presence continues to nourish these pages and encourage the editor, says it’s the editor’s job to “get the material.”  Sure.

Of course there are our hidden enemies, but there are many more forthright friends.  First, the University stands behind us to provide the difference that we need to make income equal expense each year.  Thanks to the magnificent response of alumni during the past few years (increasing in number and amount each year), our deficit is the smallest in some time.  Last, but not least, is the regular contribution from the Alumni Association.

It might interest you to know that even with the economies we apply (quality of paper and scant use of photographs), the last six issues have averaged $476 each in cost, which ruins a thousand-dollar bill each year with our two numbers.

In addition to the financial help from Charles Knepp mentioned earlier, the University backing, the Alumni Association’s contribution and the regularly dependable individual alumni who support us now, the following names appeared repeatedly throughout those pages as being real helpers, and hoping for pardon if someone was overlooked, here they are: 0. F. Steber (’08), J. Floyd Alcorn (’06), E. E. Haverstick (’01), George H. Herbert (’18), T. R. Haddock (’37), E. F. Schewe (’02), W. J. Lierman (’94) and Harry M. Fisher (’96).  And here’s one – in 1945 the Student Council gave $100.

My right and left arms are the two associate editors who do all the work and without whom the Journal simply wouldn’t get “out” – John E. Gilster (’44) and Richard D. Morrison (’54).  “Jack” is very busy, as acting head of the department of pediatrics, in private practice, editing the Bulletin of the St. Louis Dental Society and serving as News Editor for the Journal of the Missouri State Dental Association.  “Dick” is NEVER idle.  This year, in addition to conducting a comprehensive course here in Pharmacology, he is doing extensive advanced study in the Department of Pharmacology of the Medical School.  Prior to this immediate experience, he was teaching the pharmacology course, instructing in radiodontics, engaged in research, in private practice (and directing amateur theatricals).

Now all you have to do is turn off your electronic aids, ship your tapes (or discs) marked “Golden Anniversary” and be on your way.  I hope this has been of some help.

The printer is here.


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