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Transcript: Andrew B. Jones, 1980

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This is Oral History Interview number 46. I’m speaking today with Dr. Andrew B. Jones, retired neurologist, who is on the staff of Barnes Hospital. Dr. Jones, to begin, where were you born?

ABJ:  East Tennessee.

Did you grow up in East Tennessee?

ABJ:  Yes, sir.

Where did you first go to college?

ABJ:  A little one-room school out in the woods.

That was your school, but where did you attend college?

ABJ:  Vanderbilt University.

Why did you go to Vanderbilt?

ABJ:  Because that was the only one I knew of.

Was Vanderbilt a new school at the time?

ABJ:  Oh, no sir.

About when was Vanderbilt founded?

ABJ:  About eighteen hundred and eighty-six, I think.

Well, it wasn’t all that old then, maybe a quarter of a century, 25 years?

ABJ:  What?

It was about 25 years old when you went to school.

ABJ:  Yes.

So you went directly to medical school from college?

ABJ:  No. We didn’t have any colleges then to go to medical school. If we finished high school and what they called the academies, that was a little slabber on top of the cake, why you could get into medical school.

What made you want to study medicine?

ABJ:  Damned if I know.

Was it an occupation that offered a lot of prestige and money then?

ABJ:  I guess it offered prestige; I don’t think it ever offered money.

Did you have any family that were doctors?

ABJ:  Doctors? No.

So you were the first member of your family to be a doctor?

ABJ:  Yes, sir.

Very interesting. What did your father do?

ABJ:  He was a farmer and stock-raiser and horse trader and the usual things that people did back there in the East Tennessee hills.

What was Nashville like in those days?

ABJ:  Nashville? Oh, just a little village compared to it at the present.

Now it’s a big city and the capital of country music.

ABJ:  Sir?

Now it’s called the capital of country music.

ABJ:  Oh, yes, yes, yes. It has all the heifer dust in the country.

Well, tell me about your days as a medical student. How did they differ from the way medical students are trained today?

ABJ:  Oh, well, entirely. If we had enough money to buy three meals a day, we were well off. Most of the fellows who were in school with me lived on two meals a day. Now some of them, the families had enough money to buy three meals. And we lived in boarding houses, [and] paid so much a month for board and room. And the other difference is we were not spoon-fed. We had to dig in and get what we got in the way of learning from the books and from the teachers.

How did the studies differ? How did the kind of things that you studied differ?

ABJ:  Well, much. All this x-ray business and all this nuclear medicine and all that sort of stuff is new. We started out with the basics, anatomy. I had to learn every bone and every muscle, [the] intestine, every hinge joint and every other sort of joint in the body.

Did you have other kinds of courses? You had physiology, pharmacology, [and] all the basics?

ABJ:  We had physiology and medicine and osteology and OB and GYN, and GU, just the same as they have now.

Was Vanderbilt reorganized around 1910 in connection with the Carnegie Report? Was there any big change in Vanderbilt?

ABJ:  Yes.

Did they shake up a lot of the professors like they did here?

ABJ:  You see, up until around 1910 or 1911 or 1912, Vanderbilt belonged to the church. The Carnegie Fund offered the medical school a seven million dollar endowment, if they became a non-sectarian school. So the court took the school away from the church, and the medical school got around seven million dollars. And then it began to reorganize itself; it never had the shake up or reorganization that Washington University did under Flexner.

I see. So there was not such a dramatic change of the faculty?

ABJ:  No.

Where did you do your internship?

ABJ:  In [19]16 and [19]17, I was the intern in pathology and bacteriology at Vanderbilt. The next year I came up here to the City Hospital, because that was the most desired medical training in the country at that time. Mr. Woodrow Wilson decided he couldn’t win the war without my services so he put me in the army and when I came back, I came to the Barnes Hospital in 1919.

Tell me about army medicine. What was it like to be a doctor in the army during World War I?

ABJ:  What was it like?


ABJ:  Oh, well. You were just tolerated even then by the line men. The line officers looked down their nose at you.

Well, how was that? Weren’t you saving lives?

ABJ:  What?

Weren’t you saving lives? Weren’t you making the difference between life and death for soldiers?

ABJ:  It didn’t make any difference to them. See, the doctors were scum as far as the line officers were concerned.

Did you go to France?

ABJ:  Yes.

What were your experiences like in France?

ABJ:  Well, they varied. See, I went over as a – I was a casual. I was the serologist and bacteriologist for the division. I went over with the sanitary train, which was a horse-drawn ambulance company. When we got to France, I was assigned to an infantry regiment as an ordinary company doctor. Then one day they said, “You go to Dijon and get yourself trained so you can do what you’ve done ever since you’ve gotten out of school.” So they sent me up to Dijon to do Wassermanns and look at stools, and urines, and so forth.

Did you work exclusively with American troops – only with American troops – or did you have contact with British and French troops as well?

ABJ:  When they came through that center.

Did you have any contact with the Wash. U. [ed. note: Washington University] medical detachment that was sent?

ABJ:  The who?

The Base Hospital 21?

ABJ:  Oh, no, no. No contact.

So why did you come back to Wash. U. in 1919?

ABJ:  Because Dr. George Dock was here. He was the only good medical doctor/teacher in the United States. I married into a family of Methodists and they got me an internship in the Barnes Hospital before I got back here.

The Methodist Church was a powerful part of the Barnes Hospital administration then, was it not?

ABJ:  What’s that?

The Methodist Church South sponsored Barnes Hospital and they were very important.

ABJ:  The church had much more influence than they have now. Fortunately, one of the bishops, one of the “so-and-sos,” is always on the board of the church [ed. note: Jones probably means “hospital”].

How did you get along with Dr. Dock when you came?

ABJ:  How did I get along with him?


ABJ:  The old man just rode the hell out of me.

What do you mean by that?

ABJ:  “You do this, you do that, you do this.” I got along with him fine.

Would you say you got along better with him than other people?

ABJ:  I don’t know that I did.

I know he had a powerful temper, some people say.

ABJ:  I know it.

I understand you met Dr. Vilray Blair about this time. Can you tell me about that?

ABJ:  Yes. I don’t know when I first met Dr. Blair, because I think I was here when he came back from France. I’m almost sure about that – it makes no difference. I met him early in my experience here under Dr. Dock.

What sort of person was he like – Dr. Blair?

ABJ:  Dr. Blair? A very fine old gentleman.

Did you work under him at all?

ABJ:  No sir. He was a surgeon.

Yet I understand he influenced your career in some degree.

ABJ:  Yes.

How was that?

ABJ:  Well, he met me in the hall one day. I guess he liked the way that I walked [because] he said, “How would you like to be pathologist for [St. Louis] Mullanphy [Hospital]?” [I said] “Certainly.” [He said] “You’re it.”

Now Mullanphy was the old hospital in downtown St. Louis, is that right?

ABJ:  It was over here on Montgomery at that time. It had been one of the original hospitals. I think it was the original hospital, but it wasn’t that name then. It was always owned by the Sisters [ed. note: the Sisters of Charity].

What did it specialize in? What kind of hospital was it?

ABJ:  General. Medical and surgical. Of course, it had an affiliation with the insane hospital out there – what am I trying to think of?

GJ:  City Sanitarium.

ABJ:  What?

GJ:  The City Sanitarium. The one on Arsenal Street?

Mrs. Jones said—

ABJ:  What?

GJ:  On Arsenal Street? Are you talking about Arsenal Street?

ABJ:  No.

GJ:  Alexian Brothers?

ABJ:  No. Out there now, right close to where the present DePaul Hospital is.

GJ:  [unintelligible]

ABJ:  The mental hospital where many people sent patients, mental patients, if they wanted to go to a Catholic hospital.

GJ:  I wasn’t even here in those days.

Well, we’ll pick up that name later.

GJ:  I don’t know what—

Dr. Blair was becoming already a specialist in plastic surgery at that time, wasn’t he?

ABJ:  He was.

He was. Already in World War I-time he was famous.

ABJ:  He was known throughout the world at the time I knew him.

Did that make a difference in the kind of practice he had at the hospital?

ABJ:  The kind of practice he had at the hospital? Well, I wouldn’t know that. I had no contact with his practice whatever.

I see. It was just a casual contact that led to your appointment to Mullanphy, then?

ABJ:  No. See, Dr. Blair wanted a neurologist. The old neurologist he had – he thought was worn out, so he [said], “You’re it.”

I understand you had substantial contact with Dr. Francis Rhodes Fry.

GJ:  Oh, boy. He was wonderful.

ABJ:  Oh, yes.

What kind of doctor was Fry? Can you tell me about him?

ABJ:  He did neurology and psychiatry. They called themselves “nervous mental doctors.”

He was one of the pioneers in St. Louis, wasn’t he?

ABJ:  He was one of the pioneers, yes sir.

What kind of practice, what kind of research, what was the state of neurology in St. Louis then? The state-of-the-art?

ABJ:  In reference to research?

Yes. What kind of things did they do?

ABJ:  Well, they just practiced medicine. They didn’t run any experimental things like [William M.] Landau. They didn’t have any experimental places like [Samuel B.] Guze’s. They were doctors.

But they did do brain surgery, did they not?

ABJ:  These boys didn’t, no sir.

When did brain surgery come?

ABJ:  Blair did some brain surgery. [He] would inject the— When [patients] had this pain in the face—

GJ:  Tic douloureaux.

ABJ:  Yes. He would inject this ganglion – but that’s the only brain surgery Blair did. Now, the brain surgeon came along later. The brain surgeon was here when I came to the Barnes Hospital in nineteen hundred nineteen – that was Ernie Sachs.

Well you can see I’m a bit confused. Could you distinguish between a neurologist and a neurosurgeon?

ABJ:  Well, a neurologist is a man that uses his fingers and his hands and his eyes and his ears. The neurological surgeon uses a knife.

I see. Now how do they differ from psychiatrists?

ABJ:  Psychiatrists? Well, if you wanted to make a living in neurology, you had to be a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists treated those individuals that got a little bit off the usual path.

Was Freud, in his teachings, an important part of the psychiatry that was practiced in St. Louis?

ABJ:  I don’t think so. You ask somebody else and they’ll say “Yes.” I think Freud was a “poop,” neither here nor there.

Well, who were the dominant influences in neurology, if not Freud?

ABJ:  Wait a minute now, you’re getting back to neurology again.

GJ:  [unintelligible]

All right, psychiatry.

ABJ:  Well, Freud was a psychoanalytically-oriented individual. He got you on the table and asked you about your “poops” and that sort of crap. That’s a different story altogether.

Well, then, back to neurology. Who were the leading names?

ABJ:  Neurologists we had then?


ABJ:  Well, Dr. [Francis Rhodes] Fry and Dr. [Malcolm] Bliss, old William Washington Graves, and there was an older boy – I can’t think of his name now – here at that time.

GJ:  Was that before Dr. Schwab?

ABJ:  Yes. When I came here in 1919, Dr. Schwab, Sidney Schwab, was the one who headed the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Washington University – I mean at the Medical School.

Tell me about Dr. Schwab. What sort of man was he?

ABJ:  What sort of man? He was a tall, awkward, gawky, Ichabod Crane-individual that always wore tweeds and he’d come to the hospital with soap – shaving soap – behind his ears.

GJ:  [unintelligible]

ABJ:  What’s that? (Laughter) Otherwise, he was just like anybody else.

GJ:  Nice man.

Nice man, easy to get along with?

ABJ:  What?

Nice man, easy to get along with?

ABJ:  I got along with him for many years.

For a time he went into clinical practice, did he not? He left the faculty proper and then became head of the—

ABJ:  No, he never left the faculty. He always had the clinical practice.

I see.

ABJ:  There were no full-time men here when I came here other than the neurological— No. We’ll say that Sachs was full-time, but he wasn’t except in that he was full-time in the [sense] that he got his own endowment. There were no endowed places except the Busch Professor of Medicine and the Bixby Professor of Surgery. Those were the only two full-time men that I know of. Across the street [at the medical school] it was a different proposition in— What was the physiologist? [ed. note: Dr. Joseph Erlanger].


ABJ:  He was full time. And Dr. [Robert J.] Terry became full-time. By the way, I worked for him, too.

What contact did you have with Dr. Terry?

ABJ:  Very pleasant. I sometimes was an assistant in the Department of Anatomy and for him I dissected the sympathetics in the neck.

GJ:  You should see that.

ABJ:  And I kept in contact with the old man until he died. He was a very brilliant old peckerwood. He wrote the osteology in one of the anatomy [texts].

He was very interested in physical anthropology and collected—

ABJ:  Bones.

Bones and skulls in particular, didn’t he? Do you remember seeing that collection?

ABJ:  Oh, yes. It used to be over there. I don’t know what they did with it.

I think they took it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

ABJ:  I don’t know what they did with it.

GJ:  Is that where you got that skull you have?

ABJ:  Oh, no. No, I swiped that skull.

What was the purpose of collecting those bones?

ABJ:  A hobby.

Hobby? It wasn’t a scientific—

ABJ:  Oh, yes. It was scientific in that there are variations. You know, you have a scapula, you have a shoulder blade bone. Well, they have different shapes. Your shoulder blade bone may be entirely different in shape from this fellow’s over here. This [Dr. Jones points to area] is called your biceps. You may have two biceps bones, and Dr. Terry was much interested in collecting all these anomalies.

What was he trying to prove by all that?

ABJ:  He was writing a textbook. He wrote the Osteology. He wrote the Bone Pathology.

GJ:  Dr. [William Washington] Graves did all that work on the scapula – would that have something to do with it?

ABJ:  That was something else.

GJ:  [Or was that] just a side interest of his.

ABJ:  That was later on. Dr. Graves had the Chair of Neurology and Psychiatry at St. Louis University.

While we’re talking about anatomy, did you ever meet Dr. Mildred Trotter?

ABJ:  Oh sure.

What contact did you have with her?

ABJ:  Oh, just saw her in passing and [said] “How do you do.”

She was Terry’s assistant, was she not?

ABJ:  Well, I think everybody around there had been Terry’s assistant. What she was principally noted for was growing hair.

GJ:  On bald people?

ABJ:  But now she’s become very prominent otherwise.

GJ:  She was a beauty.

Well, we’ve talked about neurology. I want to ask about Dr. Erlanger and some of his experiments.

ABJ:  Well, Erlanger was not a neurologist.

He was a physiologist, but he affected neurology a great deal, didn’t he in his work?

ABJ:  Not that I know of.

Well, what about his cathode ray oscillograph?

ABJ:  What?

The cathode ray oscilloscope? Did you come to make use of this machine at all?

ABJ:  Never saw it.

Well, it would strike me now – correct me if I’m wrong – that the ability to record nerve impulses—

ABJ:  That’s a different thing.

How different? Wasn’t that what he was trying to do?

ABJ:  Well, I don’t know. He did so many things.

The evidence I have is that he connected a cathode ray tube, which is related to the modern TV sets, and was able to record how nerve impulses [worked].

ABJ:  Do what?

He was able to record how nerve impulses worked and, of course, this would inevitably affect work in neurology. For example, Dr. Bishop, do you remember Dr. George Bishop?

ABJ:  Very well.

He worked with Erlanger.

ABJ:  Yes. I think Bishop had more sense. Go ahead.

Well, you tell me. You say he had more sense?

ABJ:  Yes, I think he did.

What do you mean by that?

ABJ:  Generally.

I see. Do you recall any of his experiments? Bishop’s?

ABJ:  Bishop’s? He’s the daddy of the electroencephalogram.

There was, I understand, an important circle of scientists that were connected with Erlanger and [Herbert S.] Gasser, the so-called axonologists.

ABJ:  Yes.

Do you recall anything about them?

ABJ:  No, not at all. That didn’t have anything to do with neurologists.

Well, I’m still a little bit in the dark. How would you describe your work in the twenties?

ABJ:  Me?


ABJ:  Well, I could tell whether you had any reflexes, whether your eyes, your pupils, reacted, whether you could feel the cotton [swab] or pinprick or test your sensation, your strength, and pricking you here to see if you felt it in some other place. [If we] had the skull open, to touch that part of the brain to see if it made a finger move or a thumb move. That’s a neurologist.

I see. How did the science change in the twenties? What new developments came along in the twenties?

ABJ:  In reference to what?

In reference to your work?

ABJ:  I don’t know of anything new except this fellow in Canada did all this experimental work in opening the skull and touching certain places here and there.

Do you know who that was?

ABJ:  Yes, but I can’t think of his name now. [ed. note: Dr. Jones is referring to Dr. Wilder Penfield]

Did you get into experimental work at this period?

ABJ:  No, I was a doctor.

I see. Well, tell me about your practice then. How far did you go, if you traveled at all, or did the patients come to you?

ABJ:  Patients came to me or they came to the Barnes Hospital.

What sort of ailments did they have in the main?

ABJ:  Well, do you hear them talk about multiple sclerosis?


ABJ:  That was one of the curses then. The Britishers called it disseminated sclerosis. The various syphilitic diseases, GPI, all these familial things like the cerebellar ataxias, this Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and the Erb’s abiotrophy.

GJ:  Abiotrophy.

ABJ:  Yes.

Explain what you mean by that.

ABJ:  Abiotrophy?


ABJ:  That’s a disease that develops because – Dr. [Wilhelm H.] Erb felt – it developed because it was a wearing-out manifestation. For example, this individual who had been a strong, healthy, bullish man and he gets weaker, thinner, and he develops atrophy of certain parts of the body.

How did Barnes Hospital change in the twenties?

ABJ:  In the twenties? Well, we just moved along this way.

It grew, right?

ABJ:  Yes.

It took on more patients?

ABJ:  More patients.

They added new wards?

ABJ:  What?

They added new wards?

ABJ:  Barnes didn’t add much space, no.

Well, they built the McMillan [Hospital] and—

ABJ:  Oh, well, that wasn’t in the twenties though.

That came along when, in the thirties? [ed. note: McMillan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital was completed in 1931]

ABJ:  Now let’s see.

GJ:  Twenty-nine.

ABJ:  I had the first patient when they opened the psychiatric division in the McMillan.

GJ:  But it was—

ABJ:  That was up in the thirty-five or forties. No, that was after the war.

GJ:  No.

ABJ:  But before Roosevelt’s Slaughter.

GJ:  Yes. Let’s see—

ABJ:  Old lady Amos was the head nurse.

GJ:  That’s right.

ABJ:  I had the first patient in the old – the locked department of the McMillan.

GJ:  What was that – that had been built in twenty-nine.

ABJ:  It was the same – that Renard [Hospital] now is comparable.

This new facility – what did it mean to your practice when they opened a building like that?

ABJ:  Well, it gave me a place to keep patients, mental patients.

GJ:  Previous to that you kept them in a sanitarium.

ABJ:  At that time, to keep mental patients. We could keep our neurological patients anywhere in the hospital, but mental patients you couldn’t keep anywhere in the hospital.

Did it give you any new equipment?

ABJ:  I didn’t need any new equipment for mental patients. I used my fingers and my hands and my eyes.

GJ:  For treatment of them, he means.

ABJ:  What?

GJ:  For treatment of them. You didn’t treat them with your fingers.

ABJ:  New equipment, what do you mean by that?

Well, I just wanted you to tell me. Tell me about the Depression – how did that affect—

ABJ:  What?

The Depression in 1929 and the years that followed. How did that [affect your work]?

ABJ:  I’m this side of the Depression. The McMillan Hospital did not open for patients until after the Depression. Harvey [J.] Howard built the McMillan Hospital, and during the Depression it stood vacant. Just like Cornell in New York.

What other problems did the Depression cause?

ABJ:  What?

What other problems did the Depression cause?

ABJ:  Well, I don’t think it caused them any problems. It made people get out and work and think and use their fingers and hands and their eyes to make a living.

How about the finances of the hospital’s day-to-day operations? Did that affect it?

ABJ:  Oh, yes. Dr. [Louis H.] Burlingham had a hard time.

Getting people to pay?

ABJ:  No, people didn’t have the money to pay and he couldn’t charge. I mean, when I first came here and the first years I [was] here, the best room in the hospital was over here in the old private pavilion where I had these people from down here in Missouri, the husband in this room and the wife in this room. What’d they pay, ten dollars a room?

GJ:  Ten dollars apiece. Each had a room and that was unheard of then. They gave them the best rooms in the private pavilion. He was a patient; she was jealous of the nursing, so she had to have a room too.

ABJ:  I can remember it was ten dollars a day.

GJ:  That’s right. And it was the talk of the whole hospital that those people were so rich, they could pay twenty dollars a day, and that was just unheard of. It had three rooms adjoining.

Well, of course, the Barnes Hospital has always accommodated, in some degree, the needs of special patients and people also who had more money than others, right?

ABJ:  What?

Barnes Hospital has always accommodated the wealthy patient. Is that not the case as opposed to a public hospital?

ABJ:  As opposed to a public hospital?


GJ:  If they had the room they would.

ABJ:  That all depends. I don’t know what you’re talking about. When I first came to St. Louis in 1917, before Mr. Woodrow Wilson decided that he needed my services, the best treatment – the best service – that could be had in St. Louis was had at the City Hospital, but that changed of course as time went on.

Why did that change?

ABJ:  Why? Well, it’s just the natural trend of things. I came to St. Louis in 1917 because all Vanderbilt boys who could read and write tried to get an internship in the City Hospital in St. Louis because they had the best service, the best training for the interns as well as [care] for the patients. Then, when I came back here after the war and came to the Barnes Hospital in 1919, we had a free service in the Barnes that the charities paid for. [They] had a clinic down there that I worked in the clinic for many years. The admission fee in the clinic was fifteen cents if you had it, and if you didn’t have the fifteen cents you got in anyway. Now you can’t get in for less than five or six or seven or eight dollars.

What development in the thirties happened in your discipline? How did neurology change in the thirties, the kind of practice that you had? Did it change very much?

ABJ:  Well, I grew and I took on more patients as they came along and I learned more, and that’s the only way that I know it changed.

Do you remember any different kinds of equipment, different kinds of techniques that you took on at that time?

ABJ:  Oh, sure. Lots of foolish things. When Dr. Schwab was head of the department and I carried toilet paper for him, he had me treat these luetics by giving them [unintelligible]. That you’d draw blood, let it set overnight and the serum would separate out. Then you’d shoot that into the subarachnoid space – do a spinal puncture, shoot it in the—

GJ:  How did you treat with malaria?

ABJ:  What?

GJ:  How did you treat with malaria? Treat syphilis with malaria?

ABJ:  [You] treat malaria with quinine.

GJ:  No, no. When you had malaria—

ABJ:  Treat syphilis – now, that’s different. I guess that was back in the thirties. You see, if it’s central nervous system syphilis – I didn’t treat ordinary syphilis, these had to be neurological syphilis. If you would give these people malaria and let them have chills and fever over a period of maybe a month – if it was every other day fever, or malaria – and then cure your malaria. As a rule your syphilitic patient would be much improved.

How did they get rid of their malaria then?

ABJ:  Oh, quinine.

Quinine. Same treatment as though they’d been bitten by a mosquito and came down with malaria.

ABJ:  What’s that?

The same way as though they had come down with malaria outside?

ABJ:  Sure. Anyplace.

GJ:  But would they transfuse with this blood?

ABJ:  What?

GJ:  Would they transfuse with the malaria blood?

ABJ:  Well, I don’t know whether you’d call it transfusion. Go to a malaria patient and draw out some blood and bring it back and shoot it into the veins of the syphilitic.

What difference did World War II make?

ABJ:  You mean Mr. Roosevelt’s Slaughter?

That’s right, yes, Mr. Roosevelt’s Slaughter. How did that affect you?

ABJ:  Well, it changed me in many ways because Dr. Schwab was the head of the department and he didn’t like to work. One day he came along and said, “You’re going to have to take psychiatry.” So, his word was law so I’d be at the library to learn a little about psychiatry. [I] kept going to the library and reading and kept trained with psychiatric patients and I developed into a psychiatrist. So sufficiently until I’m a board member of the American Board of Psychiatry.

The library must have been pretty good if it was able to give you the literature that you needed. Was it a good library in your opinion?

ABJ:  Over here?


ABJ:  Yes, the best one that I’d ever seen at that time.

They had the kind of facilities that were able to take care of [you]. When you went over to read, you got what you needed in other words?

ABJ:  Yes.

They had all the journals?

ABJ:  Oh, well, I didn’t bother much with the journals. I read textbooks and things like that.

Looking back, what kind of things would you have liked to have known in these times? In view of what you learned after World War II, what kinds of things would you have liked to have known for your practice?

ABJ:  Well, I don’t think that I can think of anything like that. What I did was to try to increase my knowledge so I could teach psychiatry and neurology.

So you did teach?

ABJ:  Ever since I came back here from the University of Michigan in 1923, I’ve been teaching neurology and psychiatry.

What were the classes – what were the students like over the years?

ABJ:  Did you see the Chancellor here?


ABJ:  Well, he pushed me into the room a while ago. He was one of my house men there.

You’re referring to William Danforth?

ABJ:  Yes.

Was he typical of the students that you [taught]? [ed. note: William H. Danforth, Vice-Chancellor for Medical Affairs and later Chancellor, was a graduate of Harvard Medical School. He was on the housestaff at Barnes.]

ABJ:  No. He had a silver spoon in his mouth always. The typical student was just a poor devil; wasn’t like him.

I see. How do they differ from students today, do you think?

ABJ:  Well, I don’t know. See, I haven’t seen students in fifteen years. I’ve been away from that. I don’t know what the students are like now. They tell me that they’re sissies.

What do you mean by that?

ABJ:  I don’t know.

They don’t work as hard, do you think?

ABJ:  I don’t know.

I understand you did research on progressive central nervous system disease.

ABJ:  What?

I understand you did research on progressive central nervous system disease.

ABJ:  Sure. Anything that had to do with syphilis, anything that had to do with any of these heredofamilial diseases, and so on.

Can you tell me about some of the things you found?

ABJ:  No.


ABJ:  No. I don’t think so.

What interests you most?

ABJ:  Well, learning more and more about the neurological disturbances, what they’re called, how they progress, what happens to them ultimately.

GJ:  I remember one time we were sort of looking over the records. The most common neurological disease was epilepsy, and the next was Parkinson’s, as I remember.

ABJ:  What?

GJ:  I was just thinking of the most [common diseases].

ABJ:  Oh, epilepsy.

GJ:  Epilepsy came first as far as the number, you know, percentage of people.

ABJ:  And – I don’t know – syphilis was at top of the list, but that was then.

GJ:  That was years ago.

ABJ:  See, the mayor of the City of St. Louis had central nervous system syphilis. I had him for a patient; had him locked up and gave him malaria.

Who was this? What was his name?

ABJ:  Miller. What was Miller’s name?

GJ:  Victor.

ABJ:  Victor Miller. [ed. note: Victor J. Miller was mayor of St. Louis from 1925 to 1933]

Was venereal disease more serious in those days? Was VD more serious in St. Louis then than it is now?

ABJ:  Oh, yes. I mean, [William] Landau told me he hadn’t seen a syphilitic in fifteen years.

GJ:  You didn’t see any syphilitics for the last ten years of your practice, did you? At least ten or fifteen years.

ABJ:  Very little.

To what do you attribute that change?

ABJ:  Improved medicine and the preventatives. Use of drugs – I mean penicillin.

Did you work with Dr. [Harry] Alexander?

ABJ:  No sir.

No, you didn’t?

ABJ:  Alexander was in internal medicine.

I see. Well, I didn’t mean work in the same department, but you did some of your research in connection with him, didn’t you?

ABJ:  No.

GJ:  They were contemporaries. Here at the same time.

ABJ:  You’re talking about Harry Alexander?

That’s right.

ABJ:  No.

How about Dr. Elliott?

GJ:  Elliott?

Yes. G.V. [Gladden V.] Elliott?

ABJ:  That Elliott family, the partner of the emergency surgery boy.

GJ:  No. He was younger. I don’t think he had – I don’t know if had any relatives who were doctors. Bob Elliott was much younger, though, than your age group. Bob Elliott – the one who practices over in Alton with Dr. Wedig – that’s the [unintelligible]. That’s the only Dr. Elliott he knows.

ABJ:  No, no, no. Bob is just a boy.

Well, I must have been misinformed. I was referring to a Dr. G.V. Elliott.

GJ:  Never heard him mention him.

ABJ:  Maybe so.

What year did you retire?

ABJ:  [Nineteen] sixty-five.

Sixty-five? In 1955, you were promoted to associate professor of Clinical Neurology.

ABJ:  I don’t know what year it was.

What changes did the post-World War II portion of your career bring?

ABJ:  What?

What changes did the post-World War II part of your career – 1940s, 1950s – [bring]?

ABJ:  Well, in the 1940s and 1950s, I had all of the neurology and all the psychiatry in the medical school. I taught it.

I see. What did this involve if you can be more specific?

ABJ:  If you go to school and take your primer, you learn the ABCs. You learn from the ground up about psychiatry and neurology.

I see. So these were general lectures in these subjects that you gave?

ABJ:  Right, and clinics. Mostly clinics.

Do you recall any changes that were introduced into neurological science at this time?

ABJ:  Well, all this EEG, Bishop stuff, came along and Penfield’s work up there in Canada came along, that’s where he opened the skull and stimulated the brain and made the fingers move and the toes wiggle.

GJ:  Electric shock, when did they start doing that?

ABJ:  Well, that was for psychiatric patients.

Over the years, there have been occasional differences between the medical school and Barnes Hospital. Can you tell me about any of these?

ABJ:  Well, I was not intimately involved except on one occasion, but I knew about them.

What was that one occasion?

ABJ:  Well, now, across the street over there, those were full-time men, those were Washington University full-time men. Over here in the Barnes Hospital – until [Evarts A.] Graham came along – (of course, Ernie [Sachs] got his own endowment, Dr. Sachs) we were part-time. We taught the medical students and we had our own practice. We made our own living, we made the money. Those fellows over there were jealous; they didn’t make enough to eat. The University paid them fifteen cents – we were making a quarter – and there was much disagreement. But the fellows across the street, they all belonged to the Executive Faculty. They could kick you out if they wanted to, but they didn’t want to because if they kicked you out they didn’t have any source of income anymore. Now the thing that I remember most clearly is there was a damn Yankee whose name was [Philip A.] Shaffer who got to be the dean, and Barnes Hospital over here was making money. Sachs and D.K. Rose and Lawrence Post and many of us got together and decided we’d give so much, a certain percentage of what we collected from patients, into the school. Well that caused much animosity. Didn’t go over, of course.

You mean they wanted more?

ABJ:  No, they didn’t want anything to do with it because if we gave that money, we demanded some say as to how things go.

About what time was this development?

GJ:  Wouldn’t you say the early fifties?

ABJ:  I don’t know.

But it was after World War II?

ABJ:  After Roosevelt’s Slaughter, yes.

During World War II, was life at the hospital much different, while the war was on?

ABJ:  What?

While the war was on, was there much difference in hospital life, or was it pretty much the same?

ABJ:  Oh, no.

GJ:  They were rushed to death, the men who were here.

ABJ:  What?

GJ:  I said you men who were here were rushed to death.

ABJ:  Well, I know.

GJ:  They worked from seven in the morning till eleven at night.

ABJ:  Well, we worked a greater number of hours and we had more duties.

GJ:  And McMillan was started in those years.

ABJ:  But during this “slaughter period,” people like Henry G. Schwartz – those people were in the service, and the [local] neurological surgeon – this one – had the work for four or five surgeons who were in the army, drafted or otherwise. Or they got in some unit to keep from being drafted. Things were changed that way.

How has retirement been for you?

ABJ:  What?

What has retired life meant for you?

ABJ:  Most miserable time in my life.


ABJ:  Hell – sitting around and not doing anything.

GJ:  It’s a mistake to retire and get away from your old interests, contemporaries.

What would you have done had you had to do it over?

ABJ:  I’d stick right here till I fell over dead.

There was no chance to practice in East Tennessee?

ABJ:  Oh, [there] might have been, might have been. I never did try.

In recent years, you’ve been living near Chattanooga. Is that right?

ABJ:  What?

You’ve been living near Chattanooga?

ABJ:  Yes, sir.

Do you have family there?

ABJ:  What?

Do you have family there, besides your wife?

ABJ:  This is the only family I have.

I see.

GJ:  Live there in the summertime and down—

ABJ:  I have children by my first wife. None lives in East Tennessee. One lives out here in Cape Girardeau, one lives in—

GJ:  Adams, Tennessee. One lives in Houston, Texas – he’s a doctor down in Houston, Texas, And one lives down in—

ABJ:  Marathon.

GJ:  Marathon, Florida.

You say you spend your winters—?

GJ:  In Florida. And the summers in Tennessee, on the lake.

Well, Dr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, I thank you very much.

ABJ:  I didn’t tell you a damn thing about Vilray Blair now.

Is there anything else you can recall?

ABJ:  Hell, I haven’t told you anything about it. Vilray Blair always afforded much amusement.

Tell me about that.

ABJ:  He always walked this way, like he was going to fall on his face.

Any other vignettes?

GJ:  Tell him about what he said when Dr. [George] Gellhorn was—

ABJ:  This Dr. Gellhorn belonged to the Ethical Society, one of these Yankee societies, and they were having a memorial service.

GJ:  Dr. Fry told this when he came down for the funeral.

ABJ:  [It was] about a year after the man died, see, and they were having it down here on Washington at the Ethical Society. Old Vilray walked in that day like that. They were talking about [how] Gellhorn and he’d been dead and rotting for a year, and he got tired of it. He [Dr. Blair] started out like this and he passed “my son Otto” – Otto Schwarz, not Schwartz, Schwarz – at that time head of OB/GYN. He said. “It’s the god damndest thing I ever saw – a Godless church and a corpse-less funeral.”

GJ:  A church without a God and a funeral without a corpse.

This was Blair’s opinion?

GJ:  That’s what he plunked out saying.

He was a strict Catholic, wasn’t he?

ABJ:  I don’t how strict he was; he was Catholic.

GJ:  Yes he was.

ABJ:  But that one gets your funny bone: Now, Dr. Sidney Schwab was head of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry. Dr. Harry Crossen was head of OB/GYN – that was before “my son Otto.” No – Crossen was just GYN. And Ernie Sachs was the first neurological surgeon of any consequence in St. Louis. One day, after Roosevelt’s Slaughter, we had a habit of – that would be Sachs, and Schwab, sometimes Crossen, and Charlie Stone (he was Orthopedics) – we’d be down at the University Club having lunch. And old Vilray walked in one day like that and said, “Hi, Sid. Hi so-and-so,” and he got around to me, “Hi, Andy.” And he said to Dr. Sachs, “Ernie is the luckiest goddamn man in the world.” Of course, Ernie straightened up like that, Dr. Sachs did, and he didn’t say a word. He [Vilray] says, “You’re a Jew. You married an Episcopalian and your son married a Catholic. You can’t miss. Luckiest goddamn man in the world.”

Yes, old Vilray was somebody. He could take a face that was all cut up and slaughtered and work it over and make it into a decent looking face.

Yes, I’ve seen some of the pictures of his work. Well, once again I thank you. It’s been an interesting conversation.

ABJ:  Old Vilray was quite somebody.


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