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Transcript: H. Rommel Hildreth, 1981

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This is an oral history interview with Dr. Rommel Hildreth dated April 8, 1981.  Dr. Hildreth is a graduate of Washington University in the class of [19]28.  According to the information I have, he started out as a radio operator in the Pacific and for awhile after he was in school he considered the possibility of becoming a basic scientist in physiology.  Dr. [Joseph] Hinsey said he was against [the idea] and [Dr. Hildreth] became an ophthalmologist and went into private practice.  What particularly interested us in the material which we got from Dr. Hinsey, through the Chancellor, Dr. [William] Danforth, was your influence on Mr. Queeny and your work in keeping the Dempsey/Queeny fight from becoming more invasive than it actually was.  According to Dr. Hinsey you suggested him to the Provost, Mr. [George] Pake, who was there in absence of Chancellor Eliot.  Could you start by telling us how you go into the whole question and then what you did there?

Well, I will try to follow through.  I had been interested all along through my acquaintance with Mr. [Edgar M.] Queeny and I had been a guest in their home.  Well, I didn’t know him intimately, and he never once said anything about the hospital.

Was he a patient of yours?

He was a patient of mine, and Mrs. Queeny was a patient of mine.  She was the main patient.  He didn’t need a doctor except for routine checks and she had some trouble.  I might say there that they spent a whole afternoon with me one time on the way back from San Francisco, on her case.  I wasn’t operating that afternoon so I just took the afternoon with him.  That is the first time we had had a man-to-man talk.  He was a delightful person, and I only saw the good side.  I have heard of other sides, but I must say he was a gentleman throughout.  She told me often about the evening before and his coming home, she was waiting up for him and she put him to bed.  And the next morning he was just all tears and couldn’t be nice enough.  So their home life was perfectly lovely.  I throw that in because you may not get it somewhere else.

That’s right.

So again, I emphasize that I never found a more devoted couple.  Then, in 1968 he died, in July I believe, and she became rather dependent upon Mrs. Hildreth and myself.  We were out there innumerable times.  Then, she developed a cancer of the lung and when she died, at her request, we were the guests of her home until it was sold.  We were there for eight months.  We got busy on the phone and got the bank to get going because—

You wanted to get back to our own home.

Right.  It was delightful and the four servants were there all the time, but there is no place like home.  (That’s off to the side a little bit, and how much you want to use of that is beside the point.)  Going back to the beginning where my part really fitted in was August of ’62.  We had just returned from up north, in August, and it was a long Labor Day.  I said to Mrs. Hildreth one day – I had a few days that I wasn’t going to the office – and I said, “I am going out to see the Chancellor to see what I can do.”  I did not know the Chancellor, but I did not feel that should stop me.

What was the problem that made you go out to see the Chancellor?

Well, the problem was there was a lack of get-together – that is about the best I can see.

Between whom and whom?

Between [Edward W.] Dempsey and the Board and Mr. Queeny.

Dr. Dempsey, for the record, was the Dean of the Medical School at that time.

So, they were just simply at cross purposes.  I am told that Dempsey was walking down the hall and Edgar, Mr. Queeny, came down the hall in the opposite direction.  Dempsey would get just as far to the side as he could to pass him without saying a thing.

What did Mr. Queeny want to do that Dr. Dempsey objected to or vice-versa?

I can’t answer that because I wasn’t in on the thing.  Well, it was at that stage, and I was troubled all during the vacation, so I went out on the Hill [the Washington University Hilltop campus] and George Pake was there in the place of the Chancellor.  We became friends at once.  I spent three or more hours going over the whole thing and it was largely selling him Joe Hinsey.  He didn’t know Joe.

How did you know Joe?

Joe was a classmate of mine.  I came here in ’24 and was under Joe and Dr. [Mildred] Trotter and one other fellow (I forget his name).  We were split up into three groups and so Joe Hinsey, his name being H-I-N, and mine H-I-L, when we got to chemistry we found ourselves side by side, so he asked me to be a partner of his in physiology.  And we became fond, very fond of one another and we did all our work in his laboratory in the building at night.

Hinsey was also a student in your class?

He was taking classes in my group, but he was working towards a Ph.D., and graduated at the same time, but in neuroanatomy and I graduated as a M.D.  So we were intimate friends, more than just in the classroom.  As an aside: we had been acquainted for a couple years, at least, and he announced that he was to be married.  Well, we didn’t even know he had a girl.  This was the way he worked – his social life was his own.  She lived in a town twelve miles from my mother’s home town, so that brought us a little closer together.  He asked me about my aunt one time who was in Seattle, my hometown, and it turned out that they were still corresponding.  So he had any number of girlfriends and I guess boyfriends along the line.  Well, I guess that gives enough background about Joe.

In the laboratory team in physiology he [Hinsey] says [the group] included Robert McNatton of Lincoln, Illinois and Paul Rollins of Seattle.  That sounds like a very distinguished team.

Bob McNatton is dead and Paul – I will let it go at that.  He is blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other and I guess I better not say anymore.

What made you decide against becoming a basic scientist in physiology and [going] into clinical work instead?

Well, actually, when I finished high school, I had the love for the sea.  My home was in Seattle.  I had no thought of giving up medicine.  I had decided at ten years of age that I was going to be an eye doctor.  If I could make a living in eye, I wouldn’t do the nose and throat.  Since then I have found that is very easy.  Now in the eye we have branches, of course.  Full-time, part-time and the retinal service, and so on.  So that was in the beginning, then I got in with Joe and I was fascinated by physiology because of Dr. [Joseph] Erlanger.  We became very close friends and he [Dr. Erlanger] was my patient until he died.  I took him up and showed him my radio one time.  Do you want all this?

Yes indeed, did you make that radio yourself?

No I didn’t make it – it was the finest radio you could buy.  I bought it.  I could get any place in the world.

In the twenties there weren’t very many stations that were broadcasting.

Well, these were stations of communication, ship stations.  When I went into amateur radio, then I was in communication with amateur radio stations all over the world, but not with ships and not with broadcast stations.  We were signaling entirely by dots and dashes.  Now to this day, I have the same set and I listen to my dots and dashes, but it is just plain English.  Somebody out west asked me about my wife – and I am not exchanging ideas other than in English, but they are transmitted by dots and dashes.  I have had [the set] so long that I don’t stop to think.  One time a man asked me, this was when I was at sea, a question in which the answer was yes or no, and I answered by my mouth, “Yes” and then I laughed to myself and I tapped off the Y-E-S.  So that shows you how realistic it is.

You were at sea, actually on the ships, when you were a radio operator?

That is right.

For how long did this happen?

My license was signed over a four year period, but I got two years of medicine in between.  I stayed out of school two years to get the license and had to go to school to get it, then (excuse my language I have had a partial stroke) when 1922 came along, I was going back to school – I had my two years, but then I had my summers and I was off.  I made my last trip to the Orient on a ship that I had been on before.  They needed an operator and I got on just in time, and during that time the Japanese earthquake of 1923 took place.  The communication of that day [was], and still is, such that you could work better from twelve o’clock midnight till four [a.m.], that was my watch, from twelve to four, at noon and at midnight.  But, it took me three nights – I talked direct to San Francisco.  I’d call him, and then it was just as though the shade came down, and you couldn’t hear it, and then I’d call him the next night at midnight.  That was the first uncensored news of the earthquake.  The earthquake was all censored and we got nothing at all, so that was a long story.

How did you get uncensored news, I understood the Japanese—

The three mile limit.  The three mile limit was maintained then and once we were outside the three mile limit then—

But how did you get the information?  Did the Japanese give it to you?

No.  A press man, an American, came aboard and filed one stack after another – yards and yards of messages.

I understand the Japanese were very suspicious of anybody who was carrying that out.

It was perfectly legal.  So, I sent that message.

Well, that must have been very exciting.  We have gotten off the story of Queeny and Dempsey.  You went to see Provost George Pake because Chancellor Eliot was not there and you suggested to him that he get an outside consultant.  Was that what it was?

I told my wife that I thought something could be done and should be done through the Chancellor’s office.  This was terribly important.  I foresaw what we all know now, but I foresaw it at the time.  I didn’t say anything to anybody except Mrs. Hildreth, and went out there and got to see George Pake.  He took his long yellow pad and he scribbled as fast as he could all the time I was talking.  It was over three hours.  But this was all in regard to, he may have thrown some questions in, but it was in regard to the life of Joe Hinsey and what he meant to the School.  He didn’t graduate from here, but—

He went to Northwestern.

He had a love for this school.  His first two years were here and so on.  So that was the beginning and end.  I said to George, “Don’t let this thing throw you, I am out of it.  I just wanted to pass this along and just forget it.”  I didn’t hear from him until March, I believe it was.  Over the winter, anyway.  He sent a message, “I think our afternoon paid off.”

Was Hinsey then at Cornell?


Did you also know [John H.] Knowles, who was involved in this?

Knowles surprised me.  He was a student here, but the teaching I did was then in the operating room, and he didn’t show up there as a student.  He wasn’t going to be an eye doctor.  So I missed the pleasure of getting to know him.  So the Committee was around Joe and Knowles.

Knowles was at the Massachusetts General Hospital?


But you did not suggest him.

No, I didn’t suggest him, my heart was stringing along on Joe.  He was the main one, of course.

Do you think that Hinsey could have done it all by himself?

I think so.

Why then do you think they asked Knowles?

Again, these are my own private ideas.  I think it was a good idea to ask Knowles – he was a graduate of this School, he was younger than Joe, and it meant one more man to the Committee.

Did Hinsey and Knowles know each other before they came here?

I just don’t know, but I am sure he did.

When they came here, what did they do?  Did they have any lists of things which the University wanted them to look into, or how were they briefed as to what their job here was?  Do you know?

I cannot answer any of those [questions] because I wasn’t supposed to be in on it.  I had no official capacity in going out there.  I think if anybody thought I was interested, they may have pulled me in, but I saw no reason for giving my name.

It seems to me that Judge [Robert W.] Otto is mentioned somewhere in here as being part of this group.  Who was Judge Otto?  Did you know him?

Yes, I met him.  Judge Otto was the light behind Edgar.  Edgar was a very, very strong man.  He had to have somebody to speak up for him if he were out of town.  But Judge Otto took a very, very lesser light and was not the same character as Queeny.  I think he merely acted as a second man.

Dr. Hinsey says that during the time that Queeny and Mrs. Queeny were associated with Hildreths, the Hildreths played an important role in helping in some of the problems which arose.  What problems arose?  Do you remember?

Well, again, there is nothing that Edgar said to me about the hospital that I remember.  I don’t mean to say the hospital, I mean the whole situation.  I don’t remember anything.  Mrs. Queeny told me everything.  (Laughter)  I was a friend and I was her doctor and I saw her often in the office.  Her condition was controlled – it required only medication, but it was just endless medication and had to be changed from time to time.  I saw her regularly and she took a liking to me and she told me everything – she just bared her soul.

According to Hinsey, he came in the early spring of ‘63.  Barnes Hospital and Washington University asked if he would agree to join Dr. Knowles in this study and survey to make recommendations.  He came the Thursday before Easter and he did his interviews through Tuesday after Easter.  That is a very short period, only about five days.  How did he get all the information he needed in five days?  Do you have any idea?

A lot of it would go back to the fact he had gone to school here.  So he knew the workings very well.

That was twenty years earlier.

Well that wasn’t very long.  I am remembering this and it seems like a million years ago.  But Joe is a very intense character and he would remember every bit of the things that he did and he could speak from the heart.

He apparently made a report which bothered the Executive Faculty very much.  He said that Dr. Dempsey characterized it as a scurrilous report, critical of everything in it.

This is one thing I do remember.  I was in my office – I was busy in those days and about eleven o’clock in the morning, Joe came in.  Now Joe is a gentleman throughout.  But he came “busting in,” I can’t think of any other word.  He is a great big fellow, enormous man, and the crowd just had to get to the waiting room, anybody that was in there.  He sat down, and he just didn’t see them – they just didn’t exist.  For one half hour I had to sit and listen to him.  It was mainly, “the matter of that man, Dempsey.  I have never been talked to by a man like Dempsey before,” said he.  He repeated that.  So I presume that was his response to this other.  He knew me so well that he could blow off like that.

He said they were really drawn over the coals for the recommendations [they] had made and the one that was the most severely criticized was that there should be a Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs.  He apparently was very unhappy at the conduct of that meeting.  You say he came in and talked to you.

He was anything but a gentleman that morning in relation to what had been said.

It is too bad that we don’t have the other side to find out what was said.  Do you know who was on Dempsey’s side, who agreed with Dempsey’s point of view?  Was it Dr. [Paul E.] Lacy or Dr. [Oliver] Lowry or Carl Moore, Dr. [Carl] Moyer, Dr. [Willard M.] Allen, or Dr. [Carl] Cori?  They’re all mentioned in the letter.

No.  Moore I remember, is he alive now?


I just don’t know the other men, but the other men weren’t strong characters.

These were all department heads from the Executive Faculty – Lacy in Pathology, Lowry in Pharmacology—

Lowry I knew, a little.  They were not ones to speak their mind.  Again, I am just talking.  He is alive is he not?

Yes, Lowry is alive and so is Lacy.  All the others – some of them are alive, but they are not here at the Medical School anymore.

Lowry, I think, would speak his mind, but I think he would be led to take the side of the Executive Faculty.

Well, he was a member of the Executive Faculty.

Yes, he was a member so he would speak for it.  I am not so sure it would be completely clear, do you know what I mean?

What did Dr. Hinsey say to you was the main thrust of the things that he objected to?  What did Dempsey say that made him so mad?

He didn’t say, other than he had never been talked to by a man, regardless of who it was, in the tone that that man had talked to him.

He says in his letter that Dr. Dempsey implied the incompetency of the two consultants.

That may be true – I just don’t remember all of that.  The main thing that I got was that they treated him badly.

He says that he and Dr. Knowles met that evening and he told Dr. Knowles he wasn’t going to stand for this and he wasn’t going to appear before the faculty the next day, and then he was talked out of that.

Well, he came to me directly from the meeting and he probably told me a lot of things.  I was trying to get him—

To get him calm so you could see your patients.

Yes.  So I was in a squeeze.  I was going to operate that afternoon, and trying to satisfy forty people in the waiting room.  I just don’t remember, although I was taking it all in.

Apparently Dr. Knowles convinced him that he should go to the meeting.

Knowles was a very, very fine person, but I just didn’t know him directly.

He must have had a sense of humor, because Hinsey says he came in to that meeting with a briefcase and a family Revolutionary [War] sword as if he were going to war.  I guess it was a war between the two factions.

That was a bitter, bitter debate.  I got that much out of it.  I had never seen Joe anything like that – he was always lots of fun when we were students together.  We always had something to talk about.  This is some period in between, heaven knows from ’28 to—

Some forty years.

He seemed the same to me, I seemed the same to him.

One of the interesting things I remember, Dr. Dempsey was here when I first came.  He felt very aggrieved on this matter because he thought that he was representing the Executive Faculty, and when it came to the showdown the Executive Faculty, he said, did not back him up, instead agreeing that the Hinsey/Knowles suggestion was the one to be accepted.  He felt he had been arguing, thinking he was arguing for a group that then turned around against him.

Well, I hadn’t heard this, but I have seen the results since that day and things began to iron out that hitherto been piling up and piling up.  I felt very good.  This is the first time I have ever spoken of George Pake.  I feel that was the beginning of the straightening out period.  So, I didn’t play a big part, but I played a little part.

I think you played a very good part – they were just tearing their hair trying to decide what to do.  It had another effect, of course Dr. Hildreth, it brought the Medical School and the University closer together, where before they were going on parallel but separate paths.  Do you think that is a good idea to have the University more closely allied to the Medical School?

Yes.  A large part of the faculty is the same.  One person can’t be torn between two places, I feel.

You say a large part of the Medical School faculty are from the main campus?

No, the main part of the faculty at Barnes are the faculty here [the Medical School].  For instance, I interned at Barnes but I didn’t realize any change.  I just went right on with my education.

The people appointed to Barnes must have the approval of the Medical School.  What I was talking about was the main campus where Pake and Eliot were, as opposed to the medical campus.  This brought the University to be involved in the problems of the Medical School where they had not been so involved in the past.

Undoubtedly they are closer, I couldn’t speak with so much feeling, but the proof of the pudding is what they did – this came about and they have been closer together.

What else about the relationship between Queeny and Dempsey and that fight could you tell us?

The only thing, and this is of no consequence, I knew of a meeting that was taking place on a given day.  I think it was before Joe Hinsey and that Committee was out here.  I was on vacation in Arizona for three or four days, to get away from the telephone, and I called Edgar at dinner and was told that he couldn’t answer the phone.  I said, “This is long distance and it is very important.”  (I’ve since lived in the home and I know why.)  Edgar got up and answered the phone and I didn’t have anything to tell him, I said, “Just keep on talking.”  I knew him well enough to know what he might say, [and] thought he wouldn’t say anything.  I said, “Just keep talking, keep it going,” and then hung up.

You wanted him to keep on talking to the other group?

Yes, hoping some good would come out of it.  He was very quiet at the meetings.

What did Queeny want that Dempsey did not like?

I just can’t tell you.  I haven’t heard anybody put that in words.  I just don’t know.  I am not holding back, I just don’t know.

I am trying to remember what Dr. Dempsey told me.  He was just about as mad about that as Dr. Hinsey.  He and I liked martinis.  Occasionally we would go out and have a martini together.  At one point he was telling me about it.  I think one of the things he felt was that Queeny was going to make a business out of Barnes Hospital like Monsanto, rather than a research institute in which the Medical School was interested.  Did you have any feeling like that?

Well, I have heard some of that afterwards.  That does bring something to mind.  Again, this is very vague.  I do recall hearing something like that.  That Queeny did finally decide that was not for the School.  Dempsey must have won his point there.

At one point Barnes Hospital was threatening to pull out of the Medical Center, which would have been a terrible thing in many, many respects.  Do you know anything about that?

No, other than I just heard it.  I was very, very busy in those days and that doesn’t mean I didn’t have time for this, but I just didn’t know my own soul and I was trying to keep a lot of souls.  I was operating every afternoon and mornings were busy, so I just didn’t hear as much as I should have.

Apparently whatever the recommendations were they seem to have worked because the Barnes Hospital and the Medical School seem to have gotten together pretty well.  Do you know what other recommendations they made besides the Vice-Chancellor for Medical Affairs?

That is the one thing I heard.  Of course it is very obvious and it was a royal choice because the man [ed. note: William H. Danforth] went on and headed up the University.

That was the second one.  Carl Moore was the first one.

Oh, yes.  Carl didn’t live very long afterwards and I had forgotten about that.  Anyway, we have a good Chancellor [Danforth] and he is a graduate of Washington University Medical School.

And a good cardiologist, too.

I think he is too good a man to be a doctor, I mean not to be a doctor.  Few, few [people] could take his place.

He is an all around Renaissance man.  One of the reasons that this whole question between Queeny and Dempsey came to the fore was that they had to renew the contract that kept Barnes Hospital and the Medical School together.  The Medical Center here, as you know better than I, is in a very peculiar situation in that each hospital is a separate legal entity and they make an agreement with each other and with the School about what they are going to do and who will pay for what.  That is a very unusual situation.  Since the report of Hinsey and Knowles, they have appointed an overall medical center board.  Do you know if that was one of their recommendations?

I didn’t know that, no.

The reason I think that might have been in their report is that is what they have at Cornell.  When they built the present Medical Center at Cornell, my father was on the faculty and my brother was on the faculty later.  When they moved it to where it is now, with the New York Hospital and Payne Whitney [Clinic] and all the other hospitals, they arranged for a board which was over all of the institutions and it seems to have worked out well there and I wondered if Dr. Hinsey may have suggested the same thing here.

Well, if it’s a good thing, I’d say that Dr. Hinsey did it.  But I do not know at all.  Sounds like him, anyway.

It seems to have worked out and it’s been taken over by other places.  Is there anything else that you know about this incident or about any other part of the history of the Medical Center that we should have for posterity.

Well, I don’t know, I just feel it was a lucky day for me when they took me in.  I came here with an academic deficiency of one point in French.  I really worried all summer about that.  So I came on back and the registrar then was [Dr.] Milo Heideman’s wife.  She was a lovely, lovely person.  She wrote a letter by hand admitting me with that deficiency, and I have never forgotten her.  I never had a chance to tell her – I don’t even know if she is alive.  I came here imagining that some professor on the Hill would flunk me right off, and yet I thought I could read French pretty well.  The dean of 1924—

[Philip] Shaffer?

No.  It was before him.

[George] Dock?

No.  It was after Dock.  A very large fellow, he was a pediatrician.

[W. McKim] Marriott?

Yes, Dean Marriott.  This very nice woman took me to meet Dr. Marriott.  [He] said, “Well, can you read French?”  I said, “Yes.”  He said, “Sit down here, here is a French book.”  It was Pediatrics and then there was another one in Chemistry and here was a dictionary – you had to have a dictionary.  My vocabulary didn’t fit any one of those.  I proceeded to look up words.  So he came back in about  half an hour – and he had stopped in now and then.  He said, “That is too much work, sit down and I will fill in the words.”  Well in about five minutes he said, “You can read French and that’s all there is to it.  So I think that’s enough.”

Well that is very nice.  Well when you were here, some of the great faculty members were here.  You mentioned Erlanger and you mentioned Marriott.

I almost went full-time into Dr. Erlanger’s field, because of him.  I loved anatomy, I just ate it up.  (And I got 100.)  He had my section and would come around at the end of the hour and show me the red book.  I had heard about the red book.  He had 100 every time until just before Christmas, then he had [marked] a 95.  I was just crushed to the bone.  I didn’t expect to make it, just to pass I would have been glad, but the fact that he had 100 down, that was my mark and so, anatomy.  A specimen that I made has been on permanent display there for all these years.

Dr. [Robert J.] Terry was then the Chairman of the Department, did he teach you or was it Dr. [Mildred] Trotter?

She was just here.

She had just come.

A lot of good guys came then.

Yes, that is what I am trying to get at.  How was Dr. [Evarts A.] Graham, what kind of teacher was he?

I didn’t get into his work very much until the third year.  He was a fine, fine teacher and then I interned under him.  Do you want to take all this down?

Yes, we have all his material.  They left it to the Library.

In my third year, Dr. [David] Barr called in three of us.

Dr. Barr was in the Department of Internal Medicine.

He was head of the Department of Medicine.  And there were two other students and myself – [we] were called in, individually.  He offered me a job, as a student – a chance to do some research.  That always led to the internship in medicine.  Just then the phone rang and he was called – he stepped aside in the other room.  While he was there I thought, “Well, I am going to stick to my guns.”  I had applied to Dr. Graham and I found that over half the class had applied for that job.  (I had never spent such a miserable—)  I told Dr. Barr that I had applied to Dr. Graham and didn’t feel that I could turn it down (although I had not heard from him).  And Dr. Barr was never very nice to me after that.  This was early spring of our final year.  But that would assure that I could go on to school.  I just didn’t know where I could get the tuition for the final year.  So I went on home, still not hearing from Dr. Graham.  I guess everybody wondered why I was so quiet.  But that was the reason.  I was determined – I was well enough along and had done well in school and all – so it was proper that I would be a doctor.  But I hadn’t heard [about] that application.  I would have found the money somehow or other, but I hated to ask a doctor that was sort of a good friend of mine, so about a week later a letter came from Dr. Graham and there was the appointment.  So I was alright all summer then.

How was he as the Head of the Department?  The interns, some of them, had pretty difficult times with him.

I hit it off with him very well.  One thing that happened to me that year, this is the senior year now, but early that fall there was a Doctor I. Y. Olch that was in his department.

Oh yes, he came back last year for a visit with us.

He was a fine man.  [He’s out in California.  My wife and I visit him there.  Always sends us a letter.)  He was working – I could see him upstairs in the lab – he had a projector made out of a microscope.  You can buy them now, but he didn’t have it.  He had it on its side and it would project a slide – a tissue slide or of cells – but he got a poor picture.  He said, “I’ve been working on this thing [for] two weeks.”  So he said, “Excuse me just a second, I am going out.”  So I unplugged it and turned it over and put it back.  I said, “It works.”  I didn’t try it and all.  But he had polarity.  It was direct current – and the polarity was wrong.  I just took a chance because I knew electricity.  This was born in me.  I was doing this around a Seattle reflector when I was ten years old.  So he came back and it worked.  And he told Dr. Graham that.  So that was all of that.  About ten years later I was in practice and Dr. Graham became a patient of mine.  He was talking and visiting along and so on.  I saw him here rather than down to my office.  He recalled that incident and he said, “You may not remember it,” – well, I did.  He explained it all to me, and I did not let on.

I think people like Dr. [Paul] Anderson, who are so young who didn’t have anything to do with direct current don’t understand this problem, but that is one we had very often when I was growing up.

So he told me about it.  So that was very impressive to Dr. Graham and to Dr. Olch.  They’d been working for two weeks and get the double image on there.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t have a lot to do with my internship in Surgery, although I already had it then, but that was one more thing.

Who was in charge of ophthalmology?

Dr. [Harvey J.] Howard.  He was a very tall man who had spent some time in China.  He wrote a book, Ten Weeks with a Bandit.  Does that remind you?

Well, that of course was all the _____(?) of the time and so on.

Well, it tells all about Dr. Howard.  You don’t need to believe him, then.

Was Dr. [E. V.] Cowdry here at the time, talking about China?  He was at Peking Union Medical College before he came to the Anatomy Department here.

It rings a bell.  Was there another department of which he was chief of at the time?

Well, they divided the Anatomy Department into two parts and Terry took one and Cowdry took histology and embryology.

I knew Cowdry through school, I knew him, yes.

Was Dr. Marriott in charge in Pediatrics?

Yes, he was Dean for awhile, but he was Head of the Department [of Pediatrics] over there.

Was [George] Dock here at that time or had he gone?


Who else do you remember?

Well, I have told about Barr, and that was about the only contact I had with him and I was off his list from then on.  I didn’t care as long as I had heard from Dr. Graham.  There were only two of us who that got the position and I got the surgical internship.

Did you know Dr. Helen Graham?

Yes, she was a classmate of mine.  We asked her why she had her freshmen year and then she had her children and then she had her sophomore year, and she came back then with our class and we were with her a great deal.  She was a lovely, lovely person – I knew Helen very well.  You just weren’t associated with Dr. Graham.

They were very different people.

Mrs. Hildreth – I was married five minutes after I got through school and then they told the family.  Her mother knew all about it – her mother was going to have a baby – and it was the thing to do and she blessed us (and I call her every night), but the father would never have approved.  So Helen was very much there, a warmer person.  Dr. Graham was going to operate on a boy.  My wife was in the Social Service Department and had been the social worker on this student.  He had his heart growing through his chest wall, so Dr. Graham was going to crack the ribs free so that he would have a free heart to move.  And it was a glamorous thing to see.  I don’t know whether the old amphitheater is there – but it comes down to pretty small and goes way, way up.  It is not used for this purpose now.  But it was hot up there – it was a hot day, it was the summer time.  I was on the [surgical] team.  I looked up and I saw my wife and she waved and I looked back and I had to hang on.  I looked back a few moments later, when I had a chance, and she was gone.  Now the steps that were in the back were almost like a ladder, and it was straight down, and I had visions of my bride falling head first all the way down.  I wanted to say, “Dr. Graham, may I go out and see if my wife is alright,” but I didn’t do that.  It wasn’t done, at least.  She came through it alright, but she had had enough.  She went out, of course, and fainted.

Is there anything else?

Those were the common men.  Dr. [Leo] Loeb (spells L-o-e-b) was Head of Pathology and did a very, very good job, but he is not a colorful character, at least in the everyday work.  There is nobody in physiology that again could do what Dr. Erlanger did again.

Did you know Dr. [Herbert S.] Gasser, too?

Yes.  He was in charge of Pharmacology my second year – it was a separate department.

I did not realize that Gasser was not in the Physiology Department.

It was a separate department, the Pharmacology Department, and I believe it is now.

Yes.  But I did not know Gasser was in it.  I thought he was with Erlanger all the time.

I almost think that my earlier years, my first two years, the names stood out better than the later years except for Dr. Graham.

You mean the pre-clinical faculty was better than the clinical facility?

I can’t think of any incidences—  Dr. [Ernest] Sachs, in neurosurgery – he was head of [neuro-] surgery – that was a separate department, but it was under Dr. Graham.  He was a strong personality.  One day he would call — The week before we had a visiting man – his surgery was on the bone – and so Sachs asked three or four of the fellows and brought them down into the pit and gave them thunder and sent them back.  He asked each one [of them] what was the main thing they got out of it.  There was one thing that would make the diagnosis.  And nobody said anything, so I put up my hand and I said, “X-ray” and he said, “You’re right.”  So I got in with Sachs.  So we were thrown together quite a little.

Was Dr. [Otto Henry] Schwarz here when you were here?

Yes, in obstetrics.  I took obstetrics, the class, but I wasn’t interested in going on, that wasn’t my field.

If you wanted to specialize in those days, were there any special courses and intensive work that you could take or did you all have to take exactly the same courses?

We all went through almost the same thing – fundamentals were the same.  In our third year, there was a little chance to branch off.  There wasn’t time for all of them and so you take certain ones.  I took a little _____(?)

Did you have anything to do with City Hospital?

No, I wasn’t down there at all.  I lived entirely out here at Barnes.

Well I say a very good experience indeed.  We are grateful to you for taking the time and for telling us all of this and we will put it in with all the other oral histories we have so that scholars in the future will be able to get all sides of the discussion.

It has been lots of fun, but you had better take some of it out.

Well, we would like to have all of it in.  Thank you very much.

I’m afraid it wasn’t all together with what you wanted.

Well it gave us another point of view on the problems which we have heard about.


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