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Transcript: Benjamin Milder, 1982

Please note:  The Becker Medical Library presents this oral history interview as part of the record of the past. This primary historical resource may reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times and of the interviewee. The Becker Medical Library does not endorse the views expressed in this interview, which may contain materials offensive to some users.

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This is the Washington University [School of Medicine] Oral History Program, [a] series of interviews recorded for the Becker Medical Library. Today is November 9, 2006.  I’m Paul Anderson.  My interview today is with Benjamin Milder, M.D. of St. Louis, long associated with the Department of Ophthalmology and we’ll be hearing more information about his career in Ophthalmology.  First of all, welcome Dr. Milder and thank you for agreeing to participate in our program.  Tell me to begin with where and when you were born.

Thank you.  I was born in St. Louis in 1915, September 17th.  Actually I was born in north St. Louis, only a few blocks from the old Sportman’s Park.  At age five moved from there to the West End of St. Louis.  During the early first five years I lived in a segregated neighborhood on the 4200 block of Maffitt Avenue, the 4300 block was all blacks, African Americans.  So we were right on the dividing line when segregation was shamefully in existence.  After age five I lived in the West End and attended Hempstead Grammar School.  I graduated from there and attended Soldan High School.

What was your street when you moved to the West End?

I lived on Goodfellow Avenue very near Page and was only two blocks from the Hempstead Grade School.  I walked from Goodfellow Avenue to Soldan High which was on Union near Delmar, about two miles.  That was not unusual, we all walked there and back.  I walked past Principia which was located on Page at that time.  Soldan High, would you want to hear any more about that?


While at Hempstead it was not unusual in those days to skip a grade.  So if the teachers thought you belonged somewhere else the result was that several of us entered high school at age 12 and I, developmentally was still a lot younger than 12.  I was a very small boy, one of the smallest at Soldan High when I entered there in a school of 2,000, one of the smallest.  At Soldan High I was interested in science.  We had certain courses to take.  You were put in a certain program.  Mine was a scientific program.  All students began the day in an advisory room and there was an advisor who helped the students with any questions.  I was in a football advisory although I was in the science program.  I was the smallest boy in the room.  And, I was their mascot, as a matter of fact.  High school was relatively uneventful.  Being the smallest I was chosen for one or two theatrical events when they needed a small boy.  That was apparently not a great problem for me.  I just didn’t fit in with the people there and I walked back home from school the two miles afterward and studied.

Well, did you suffer from your small size, were there any bullies?

No, the only time I suffered was when I tried playing sandlot football.  I was knocked unconscious early on in the game and that was the end of football for me – no more football.  What else is of interest?  Things that I remember at Soldan – there were some dramatic things in 1929 when I was in school, the school put on a grand pageant and masque – a large theatrical performance in honor of Frank Louis Soldan.  It was the 20th anniversary of the school.  That was performed on the stage at the Municipal Theater.  Several of the people in that production went on to theatrical careers.  I didn’t, of course.  My job was to move with the curtains, be a pageboy.  Again, some of us took a few extra courses and as a result we finished high school in mid year.  They had mid year graduations then – not the ceremony but you we’re out at mid year and then you returned for the ceremony in June.  We pursued different avenues.  Because of my young age and my size, my folks wouldn’t let me start college, to go to the university.  So, I, along with several others, enrolled at Hadley Vocational School which was then located directly across from the Symphony Hall on Grand Avenue.  There I studied for three months, shorthand and typing, probably the most useful thing I ever did in my life.  There are shorthand notes here in the notes of our conversation.  Others went to get college credits.  They went to Harris Teachers’ College which was on the South Side.  Then those of us who did these two things actually gathered again when we started on the campus at Washington U . in 1932.  Some of the information I have for this interview I got from a very close friend from my high school days who went to Harris Teachers’ College.  We were in classes together on the campus.  Again these were the Depression days and it was a great sacrifice for my father to send me to school.  So, if I was able to get in sooner, I did.  So, I applied for the Medical School after three years and I was accepted.  So, I entered Medical School without a college degree.

Well, we’re galloping ahead… I didn’t want to interrupt you.  But before we forget, tell me about your father and what kind of work he did. 

My father emigrated from Hungary at age fourteen.  He must have been kind of a wild kid because his father was happy to ship him off to the United States.  He was a music lover and the story is - it may be apocryphal - he used to run away from home to hear the Emperor’s Band [it was] the Austrian Hungarian Empire at the time.  And he was shipped off to a relative, a cousin of my father, when I was fourteen. 

When he was fourteen?

When [he] was fourteen. [Editor’s note: Here in the recording, Dr. Milder misuses a reflexive pronoun to refer to his father. The transcript text has been corrected to convey the proper objective pronoun.]

Oh, ok, when [your father was] fourteen.

 They had the tag on [him] and on the ship [he] went.  The ships in those days didn’t cross the Atlantic in six days they did it in twenty-four days, especially the kind of ship [he] was on.  When [he] arrived in the states during those twenty-four days, the uncle who sponsored [him] had died.  When [he] arrived some distant member of the family picked [him] up and took [him] to Yonkers, New York.  After a time [he] was shipped to relatives [Editor’s note: Here in the recording Dr. Milder corrects his misuse of the reflexive pronoun and continues using the proper objective pronoun referring to his father.] – no - he was shipped to relatives in Nashville, Tennessee and that’s where he grew up through his teens and he lived in Nashville and he worked at a job and he played a coronet in a band there, so I was told.  In fact, I had the coronet as a relic for years.  As I say, he had “itchy feet” and when he read about the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 that was “Goodbye Nashville.”  You know in those days you didn’t stay at rooming houses, you didn’t stay at hotels, people took you in and, of course, he had a letter from someone in Nashville to a Hungarian family in St. Louis because my father was fussing and he would only eat Hungarian food.  He arrived in St. Louis, came to the house and rang the bell and the family there was happy to greet him and said they couldn’t take him in because it was World’s Fair time and they had relatives in every corner of the house.  They said but “here” and they wrote down a name and that family, by the way, were the Kranzberg family who had been active in the community and at the University, in generations past.  [Editor’s note: The misuse reoccurs for the next two references to his father. Again, the transcript text has been corrected to convey the proper objective pronoun.] So, [he] went down to the next block where he said there was a Hungarian family.  [My father] knocked on the door and a really gorgeous sixteen year old young lady answered the door and he took a look at her and he married her.  That’s how he met my mother, because of the World’s Fair.  He had to get a job at the World’s Fair and he got one in an industry that no longer exists.  It was a large, one of the country’s largest type casting foundries, the Olin Type Foundry in North St. Louis.  Well, that’s not a healthy environment, in there with these big furnaces and no ventilation and the heat and the lead and not surprisingly he developed tuberculosis.  At that time I hadn’t been born.  I had two sisters, one older one and one younger.  My older sister had been born and his doctor said you have to go out to Colorado, to Denver.  The altitude and the air there may cure you.  There was nothing like antibiotics or treatment for tuberculosis.  My father said he didn’t have the money to go to Belleville, let alone Colorado.  And so he took a cot in our flat in North St. Louis on Maffitt, put it out on the back porch and he lived out there for a couple of years, Winter and Summer.  He slept outside there and amazingly, miraculously he got better and his doctor said now you have to get an outdoor job.  He finally got an outdoor job.  He must have been pretty persuasive.  Coming to America as a young man, of course, you learn English without an accent.  Most people do.  He got a job with the Prudential Insurance Company selling insurance.  This was the olden days, industrial insurance where the premiums were weekly and you went from house to house collecting the half dollar, quarter or whatever it was per week.  And that’s how Prudential Insurance Company grew great and that’s what he did.  And walking…he had a debit [Editor’s note: a route.] in North St. Louis and walking house to house up and down the steps he became very strong.  He was a very healthy man until he died at age 85.


That’s the story of my father.  As I say, I had two siblings, my older sister who was married to the Professor of Biochemistry at St. Louis U. She’s passed on.

What was her name?

Her name was Lillian and her married name Lillian Katzman.  She was married to Professor Philip Katzman at St. Louis U.  Incidentally, I think it’s pertinent she died because of smoking.  She developed emphysema.  My youngest sister, who was nine years younger than I, was born after we were in the West End of St. Louis on Goodfellow.  She and my older sister were musically inclined.  They both went to Washington U.  My older sister actually wrote the music for the Washington U. Quadrangle Show.  In those days they had a regular performance.  She wrote it with Robert Crutcher who was a classmate whose mother was the secretary of the Municipal Theater, Mona Crutcher.  He went on to Hollywood after he graduated and he lived there and had a very successful writing career.  My younger sister graduated, she married a Washington U. graduate and she became Roma Broida. 

Her first name was Roma and her last name was Broida?

Yes, married name, yes.  She lived an adventurous life with Dan.  Dan graduated as a physical chemist.  So I have one brother-in-law who was a biochemist and the other was a physical chemist.  He very quickly got into developing various products and formed a company and his company ultimately became a very large company, Sigma Chemical.


Yes and he ran that company from his dining room table for years.  He was an unusual person, to say the least.  With his big company became relatively prosperous and Roma became very active at Washington U.  She was on the Board of Directors.  Ultimately Dan died.  Roma after about five years remarried to someone else who was on the Board, Raymond Wittcoff.  So Roma became Roma Wittcoff.  They now live in Santa Fe.

So they both, she and Dan, are still living?

Dan died years ago.

Oh, I’m sorry, Ray Wittcoff.

Yes. So that’s my family’s story.  My father continued on with the Prudential.  That was his lifetime work until he retired.  He was always musically inclined and an important thing about my family is that they had very close friends, a family that they were with all the time.  Sunday at Forest Park, the picnic suppers, we lived with that family.  That family had two sons and one middle daughter.  The name was Scheiber and I married the daughter.  So my wife Jeanne is someone I knew since she was an infant. 

I see.

The boys, one of them was a surgeon on the staff here, Bill Scheiber and the other one became an aeronautical engineer and headed the team that devised the landing modules on the moon. 


Yes, he was working out in California.  So that is the story of my growing up in the family.  My father was very musical.  When Jeanne was nine or ten years old he would take her to symphony concerts by herself, not me, not my sisters, because he knew she was musically inclined and she was a pianist.  She started very young.  Then she taught on the campus in the Music Department for many years and then when the Junior College Program started and the Forest Park Community College was built she was Chairman of the Music Department there for many years until she retired.  That’s a different story about why she retired, unless you want to hear it briefly.  No, it will get in the way.

I wanted to talk about you and music.  Obviously you enjoy music you just don’t identify yourself as a musician.

Actually, yes there’s a story about that.  The family loved music.  The girls took lessons and, of course, when I was young I had to take piano lessons.  And a rare event – my piano teacher asked to be relieved.  [laughter]  I was so bad that I quit taking lessons.  I missed playing with the kids outdoors, out in the streets.  I’m talking about back in days when there were not so many cars and we played in the street.  So, I am a very important figure in music – a listener.  You need those.  But, Jeanne was in music professionally and she concertized all these years.  And she’s 85 now and just gave a concert performance at Life Long Learning last week.  So, that’s about the story.  I was not musically inclined. 

Well, you’ve mentioned the Symphony Hall already and I know you’ve written about going to the concert.

Yeah, we’ll go to the symphony.

In those days was the symphony playing at Kiel or was it even before that.

No, when I was very small the concerts were at Kiel but Powell Hall came about pretty early on.

Well it was in the 1970s.  I think it was developed from a movie theater.  The Old Missouri Theater or St. Louis Theater?

No, the Missouri Theater was the building next to it – it has City offices now.  Before that it was medical and before that it was the Missouri Theater, I think.

The St. Louis Theater became Powell Hall.

Yes, that’s right it was the St. Louis Theater.  Yes, we went there from our early married years, Jeanne and I, as soon as it opened. 

You mentioned also Sportmen’s Park.  Did you go to ballgames?

Oh, I was in the Knothole Gang when I was a kid.  Do you know what that is?

Yeah, I can guess.

Kids up to twelve or thirteen could go free.  They parked them out in the right field in the bleachers, off in the corner and it was fun.

So you actually got in.  You weren’t looking through the fence?

Oh no, no.  We got to sit out there.

The knot-holes were on the bleachers?  Is that where they were?

There really weren’t any knot-holes, it was just the name of the thing and I don’t know how long that went on, of course, I outgrew it pretty soon.  I don’t like to get ahead of myself but through a series of events, I became a Cardinal Team physician for many years.  I was the team ophthalmologist.  There’s a story about how that came about.

Well, while we’re on the subject, tell it. 

Well, I had a patient whose name was Ben Kerner.  He came to St. Louis from Milwaukee.  He was a young man and he was a sports promoter.  That’s what he wanted to be.  He said that was his life’s work and when a professional basketball team was formed in St. Louis he was the guy who formed it.  He brought with him one of his players from Milwaukee, Bob Pettit, who became a very famous basketball player with the St. Louis team and ended up as a bank president in Louisiana.

Were they the Hawks?

Yes, and those were the days when there was still segregation and they had one black on their team right away.  It was pretty good.  Anyway, then Kerner was a buddy, oddly enough of Auggie Busch, the old man.  They used to play cards together and somehow that’s how I met Jack Buck and Jack Buck became a patient of mine.  And through that I was pretty soon the Cardinals’ consultant in ophthalmology.  I didn’t have much work because if you didn’t have good eyes you weren’t in the major leagues – but it was fun.  Well about once a year – well the team physician was Stan London who had been a prominent baseball player on the campus at Washington U., a pitcher.  Stan became the team physician.  Once a year, Busch would turn over his box upstairs to all the doctors.  So we had an annual party there. It was interesting being tied into that thing. 

So what span of years would that have been?  Was it the Busch Stadium that was just demolished, the one that was built in the 1960s? 

Oh yeah.

Yeah, the big donut. 

It was a great piece of architecture.  It’s a tragedy they demolished it.  I would say that was between 1965 – and this is where I may be very wrong – 1965 to 1985.  That would be 20 years ago.  That’s about right, maybe a little longer.  I think my son Barry did it, took it over for a while longer.  Then Stan London who had been with the team a long time was replaced.  The baseball team was now in the hands of August, Jr. [Editor’s note: August A. Busch III.]  They decided to tie their medical thing to Washington U.  So they dropped all the people they were using and the Washington U. faculty has taken care of the team ever since.  But it was a great experience. 

You mentioned some of the problems of the Depression and one of the things that’s always prominent in history books is how polluted the air was from the soft coal that was burned in much of the homes.  Do you recall that?

Yes, I do.  We had a coal furnace like everybody else and I still remember the coal truck would drive up in the street – not in the alley behind but in the street.  He would lay boards across the steps and a wheelbarrow and fill the wheelbarrow full of coal, up the boards and empty it into a metal door and it emptied right into the basement into the coal bin.  My job was to feed coal to the furnace.  It was a business keeping the house clean but my mother was a good cleaner and the house was always clean.  Mostly I remember the buildings downtown getting grayer and blacker and soot covered and I don’t remember the name of the company but there was a big company that went around cleaning those buildings.  I don’t remember the name of it – I should.  But yes, it was fun to see those buildings turn white and of course the whole smoke and dirt business really was taken care of when Raymond Tucker became Mayor. 

He was a Washington University Professor of Engineering.

Yes, and then became Mayor of St. Louis.  He was instrumental in getting things taken care of.

You’ve written on religious themes a bit and you have a son who is a rabbi.  Was your family early on or always religiously observant? 

That’s an interesting story.  Since my father came from Europe, everybody over there was orthodox in their views.  They were to the far right just like the Catholic Church.  When he came to the United States and landed in Nashville his family had a step-sister and a sister living with them and they were very seriously Jews.  So he continued, followed all the customs and rituals regularly.  He took care of the Sabbath, he didn’t work.  When I was small my father did something rather unusual, being a very orthodox Jew.  First he sent me to a Hebrew school after school.  So from Hempstead four days a week, not on Friday because that was preparation for the Sabbath – four days a week I walked from Hempstead to this little Hebrew school.  Actually, it was called Acater or chater where I learned nothing because the teacher was teaching all in Hebrew and I didn’t know a word of it.  And so I couldn’t translate what he was doing.  It was just a formality.  I had a friend who lived a half a block from me and we walked there together and back.  It was a very valuable experience because I was a very naïve little kid.  My friend, he was orphaned.  He was very bright and he knew a lot about life and I learned all about life walking to and from this Hebrew school with him.  So it was an education.

So it was an education but when you got there the teacher couldn’t relate to you.

No, and I couldn’t relate to him.  All he required was absolute obedience and quiet and no talking in class and if you did he’d come around with his ruler and rap you on the wrist.  But I said something unusual about my father.  He did send me to Hebrew school but his philosophy was this is America and Judaism apparently comes in a variety of brands.  And early on he took me on Sundays to a reform Jewish congregation down on Lindell and Vandeventer.  It was the Shaare Emeth congregation which is now out on Ballas and he took me to Sunday school there.  He didn’t join.  He continued to be very observant but he wanted me to get an exposure to what goes on in Judaism.  Of course, that exposure did the job.  At thirteen as is customary I was bar mitzvahed.  That’s a big ceremony and it brought the family – everybody from Nashville came driving up in their touring cars – these old four and six passenger touring cars.  They were baking and cooking went on for two weeks before and it was a big “to do.”  Theoretically, as a Jew if you’re thirteen, you’re a man.  I was a little kid and didn’t know anything but I was thirteen.  I decided that probably reformed Judaism looked more attractive to me and I became more interested then and I continued on at Shaare Emeth and became very active after a time.  I was Vice President for a time and I found that more attractive and an opportunity to understand what the Bible said.  I didn’t read the Bible until I got to Shaare Emeth.  Then I didn’t read it a lot until many years later.  So, my father continued to follow traditions and observances, which was fine with us.  Then I married and, of course, we had four boys and we sent them to Shaare Emeth.  One of the four, my wife always says we don’t know what went wrong with him but he decided to become a rabbi.  All I told the boys was “Do whatever you want, but give it your best shot.”  People ask me what my boys do and I tell them I have two doctors and two actors, because one of them did go into the theater.  He’s in New York and the other became a rabbi, which really is a form of acting.  In fact, in reform rabbinical school they do have theatrical coaching so you can deliver a reasonable sermon.  So that’s about the family history.

So he’s a practicing rabbi in Massachusetts?

Yes, he’s in Westborough, Massachusetts, has his own reform congregation and it’s a very interesting job.  They love him there but I wouldn’t be a rabbi if it was the last thing on earth or any minister.  It’s a 7/24 job.  You’re never off.  There are always births and deaths and family problems and you’re a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an advisor, and then there’s the business of running a congregation.  I wouldn’t want it.  But he loves it.  He decided very early on when he was going to U. City High that’s what he would be – not because he was religiously committed but because of the social interaction.  At Shaare Emeth he mingled with all the other children and they had sort of a junior congregation and that’s where he got involved.  And so that stuck with him.

Well, what motivated you to study medicine? 

I knew you were going to ask that questions and I don’t remember.  I think if I’m not configuring this – first of all when the family would come to visit because my mother had no siblings in St. Louis – she was one of thirteen children, seven of whom died in the great 1919 plague.

The Influenza pandemic.

Yes.  The ones who survived didn’t live in St. Louis but they would come to visit and I was very important.  I was the only Milder.  There were no other Milders in the country and I didn’t know that there were any others till later on and I had sisters and one of my uncles who married had no children.  Another one was a bachelor and I was the only Milder in my generation.  So I was kind of babied and spoiled.  So one of them said, “I’d be happy to put you through school.”  “Do you want to become a rabbi?”  “I’ll take care of it.”  My father had no money.  I was not interested in that.  In high school I was interested in science but that really didn’t mean anything.  I was impressed by our family doctor.  Even as a kid I looked at medicine as a calling like the ministry, that you were there to serve, to do something and I saw this family doctor as an icon.  He was an image.  He had white hair and he was a big impressive man. 

Who was this doctor?

His name was Frank Hinchey [Editor’s note: Hinchey was a graduate of the Missouri Medical College, 1894].  He was a wonderful Irishman and a great family doctor.  He took care of us for everything.  It was impressive.  And that kind of gave me a bit of a clue.  In high school I had to be in this science division and I got to thinking, you know it’s an idea.  When I enrolled at Washington U. that was not a commitment at that point.  But then I got into chemistry class and that was interesting and then we got into biology and it sounded more and more like that was a good idea and maybe I should consider applying to medical school.  It just sort of evolved like that.  Not that I was greatly impressed with all of the teachers or anything.  Some were more [memorable.]  The head of the Department of Chemistry on the campus was named McMaster. 

[Editor’s note: LeRoy McMaster.]  He was a very interesting man and incidentally the building where chemistry was taught was Busch Hall.  So, the Anheuser- Busches were great contributors.  McMaster came from Busch.  He had been a chemist at Anheuser-Busch during Prohibition.  In fact, he devised and designed a soft drink called Grape …, I forget what it was but it didn’t last after…   But when Prohibition ended McMaster came to Washington U. and he was a professor there. 

Didn’t they do yeast as well as production of…

Yes, actually Anheuser-Busch kept going very well during the Depression.  They did a lot of things.  At any rate I was very impressed with Marion Bunch my psychology teacher and that also interested me very much.  So, I was going through college taking courses which were leaning toward medicine.  I was taking German which in the early 1930s was a scientific language and so I took a couple of years of German.  That was a routine you might call it, pre-medical set of courses and then as I say it was a good idea to try to get into medical school after three years for economic reasons and I applied just there and got in.  I was incredibly naïve.  It didn’t occur to me to apply anywhere else but Washington U. Medical School because I had matriculated from Soldan High to Washington U.  There was no problem.  I simply assumed I would matriculate from the campus to the Medical School.  I figured no problem.  I didn’t realize that there was a Jewish quota at time and it was well known to everybody but me and I simply applied here only and I was accepted, I don’t know, I was not Phi Beta Kappa.  I still don’t know why I was accepted.  I was not a great all A student.  I was an A and B.  I had no relatives pulling strings.  It’s a matter of actual fact before the first year starting here I had an interview with the Registrar, William Parker and he was very candid.  He said, “You know you’re very lucky to get in Benjamin.”  “You know we have a religious quota.”  He told me and we did, we had about eight or nine Jewish freshman in that class.  It was a very interesting freshman class.  I’ll tell you about it if you want to hear about it.  But that’s how I got interested in medicine.  I simply applied and I must tell you as an aside.  The very close friend I said I was in high school with and college and Medical School, his name is Leo Sachar, Dr. Sachar.  I don’t know if you know him.

I’ve heard of him. 

Leo was as bright as I was average and he influenced me along the way in various ways.  He was bright.  He was Sigma Phi, he was Phi Beta Kappa.  In Medical School he was ranked number one.  He didn’t go into Medical School with me although we were together up to that point.  He stayed for a fourth year on the campus.  So he was going through Medical School a year after me.  He ranked number one in his class all four years.  He was a remarkable man who still, off the record, never had an internship or residency. 

How did he avoid that?

Well he applied – he wanted to go to Mass General for his internship and they didn’t make their selections until very late and he didn’t get in.  Maybe they had a quota there, who knows?  So, he came back here and it was too late, they had filled their slots at Barnes; they had filled their slots at Jewish; at City Hospital.  So he got a fellowship working with Ellman.

Robert Ellman?

Yes, Robert Ellman.  He was working on a book of surgery and he was doing research and Leo got a fellowship and worked with him.  Later on they were doing some of their research that involved surgery on animals and that’s where he learned his surgical skills, his technique.  He passed his boards and he’s a great surgeon. 

Just briefly before we leave your childhood.  Did you live at home all during the time you were an undergraduate? 

Yes.  Of course in high school I walked my two miles to Soldan.  On the campus I took the City Limits Streetcar which wound it’s way along Skinker and I could catch the City Limits Streetcar in Wellston, ride it and get off right at the University and walk up to Ridgely, to Brookings and that’s how I…  Well part of the time I used to get a ride from a friend.  I had a neighbor who lived a block away who had a car in those days and he would take me sometimes.  We were in one class together.  I never understood how he got through college.  He was funny.  He was one of the funniest men I ever knew.

What was his name? 

You’ll be surprised.  His name was Noble Sanford and he became President of the Sanford Brown Business College.  His father had started the business college and Noble ended up running it and running it well.  So it proves that grades aren’t everything.  He was very successful in what he did.  That’s how I got to the campus and back.  I did not belong to a fraternity there and there was a reason for that.  A) I didn’t have any money but, B) My father was opposed to such organizations.  He was anti war.  He wouldn’t even let me join a fraternity.  He wouldn’t even let me join the Boy Scouts.  He said it was militaristic. 

The uniforms and marching and all that sort of stuff?


You told the Post-Dispatch said your nickname was Buddy. 

Oh yeah, one of my uncles stuck that on me when they were visiting from Denver and I was very small.  I was five or so then on Goodfellow and he said, “Hi Buddy.”  And that stuck and that was it.  A lot of people don’t know even now that my name is Benjamin.  They would call me Bud, not Buddy but Bud.  My books are signed “Friends of Bud Milder”.  That’s how it came to be, somebody stuck it on me. 

So it’s a live nickname to this day.  Ok, you get into Medical School.  What do you recall of those fabulous pre-clinical faculty of the time and let me just give you some names.  Robert Terry and Mildred Trotter taught Gross Anatomy.

Ok that brings to mind what I should not have omitted.  Well, when I talk about my classmates I had a good friend that we shared a cadaver.  Terry we saw very little of.  He delivered lectures and I didn’t have any contact at all with him.  But with Mildred Trotter, she was wonderful.  She walked through the Dissecting Lab.  She looked at what was going on.  She talked to us. We got to know her.  Everybody was favorably impressed with her. 

Did you see any of the old Osteological Collections that Terry and Trotter assembled?  You know they had these huge human bone skeletal…

The answer to your question is probably yes, but I don’t remember.  Probably. 

They eventually gave those to the Smithsonian and they still exist and they probably took up far more space than could have been sustained for very long, so that’s why it’s no longer here.

I might add parenthetically and off the record you are helping me very well.  Thanks.  Go ahead.

My pleasure.  There was a famous Professor of Physiology, Joseph Erlanger.  Do you recall him?

Again, of course, he was very impressive but we didn’t get many lectures from him.  The Chairs of the Departments had their faculty doing a lot of the lecturing.  Erlanger, yes, I remember that he did give us some lectures.  Of course, I can’t tell you what he lectured on. 

Well, he was probably talking about the physiology of nerve that you know won him the Nobel Prize.

It’s a blank for me. 

The Professor of Biochemistry was Philip Shaffer.

That’s different.  He was also Dean of the Medical School.  So he was a busy guy so we didn’t get a lot of lectures from him but the lectures he gave were impressive.  I can’t say that I can recall subject matter just that he delivered good lectures that apparently stuck with us at that time.  But most of the lectures were by other people in the department.  I remember much more than P.A. Shaffer, I remember Frank Urban who was an excellent teacher and gave us a lot of lectures and was with us in the laboratory.  I remember Hubert Prunier.  Does that name ring a bell?

Well it doesn’t right off the top of my head. 

He was in biochemistry.  I remember him because after my freshman year I spent part of the summer working in the biochem lab on some research with Frank Urban and Prunier was involved too.  He had an M.D. and later on, some years after I was out of school and when I came back for my residency he wasn’t in the department, he was practicing ear, nose and throat with Ben Senturia.  But at any rate those are my impressions of biochem.  An impressive lecturer, Shaffer, I don’t know what he was talking about and Frank Urban who was a good researcher and very close and Prunier.

There was a pathologist by the name of Leo Loeb.

I don’t remember anything about Leo Loeb.

He had labs at the Barnard Free Skin & Cancer Hospital which was located in mid-town.

Yes, it was not on the medical campus here.  I don’t know anything about him.  I know something about his grandchildren.  Bud Loeb was very active…

That was a different Loeb.

That was different?  Leo Loeb I knew nothing about. 

I don’t think he had children.  How about U.V. Chaudhry?  He was an Anatomist but he taught psychology?

And again, I’m so blank on that.  He was a very famous man in his field in psychology.

And he had people who developed the first electron microscope used in…

That’s all a blank.  That’s what I was saying, if you want to trash this whole thing, I can’t remember all these things.

We’re having a good time in just bringing these names out.  How about Jacques Bronfenbrenner?  He was a bacteriologist.

Him I remember very well because he had this tremendous accent and he was an impressive guy, a little short – did you know him?


Short with a mustache and this horrible accent and because he was a good lecturer and let me get off the subject a little bit.  In those days, I’m talking Medical School from 1935 to 1939; it was customary for one reason or another to write a term paper.  Maybe it was coincidence, I really don’t know, but every one of the four years we had to write a paper on something.  That, by the way, is how I got into ophthalmology.  That’s another story.  I’ll tell you that.  Bronfenbrenner, it was the second year I was in his course and I had to write something and I decided to write something about eyes.  So he was teaching in public health.  I wrote a paper on the relationships of visual deficits to automobile accidents.  I figured that was a public health subject.  Bronfenbrenner had to check it over for me.  So, I had contact with him.  That brings me back to my freshman paper.  I had to write one in Biochemistry and that’s important in my career.  I wasn’t very good in Biochemistry.  I didn’t know what my grade was but it couldn’t have been all As.  I had to write a paper and I didn’t know what to write on – I had no idea.  So I’m talking to my friend Leo Sachar who’s out on the campus.  Leo said, “We have to do a term paper and Otto Schmitt gave us a list of possible topics.” “I’ll read them off to you and pick one out Buddy.  Write on it.”  So he goes down the list and he hits one that sounded very sexy -- visual purple.  I didn’t know what that was but I said that sounds good.  And so that’s what I wrote on then I had to start into the study – what it was.  I got to studying for the paper.  George Wald who won a Nobel Prize in retinal chemistry and visual purple was of course part of his chemistry research.  So I was looking up George Wald and learning about the retina and learning about retinal chemistry and doing a little work on that and I wrote a paper on visual purple.  That was a clue to an interest in ophthalmology.  It wasn’t all because I had pretty well decided I was going to go into obstetrics and gynecology when I went.  There was a reason for that.  I was going with a girl whose uncle was Sam Soule who was very active in teaching and practicing OB/GYN.  And during my first year at the Medical School I was working in the night clinic.  Do you know about the night clinic?


Back in those days for venereal disease they isolated the patients.  The patients came to a separate clinic.  So I worked in the OB/GYN night clinic and was getting some really good grounding in OB/GYN.  At the same time I’m writing a paper on visual purple in biochemistry.  There was a conflict there and that conflict stayed for several years.  It hung on one way or another gradually leaning toward ophthalmology.  The second year and then the third year I had to write, I don’t know what course it was in but maybe it was in third year OB/GYN, I don’t know, but I wrote a paper on the eye findings in toxemias of pregnancy – still tending to two directions.  At the end of the third year I was still looking in that direction so I got an externship in OB/GYN at Maternity and really what I was doing was substituting for the residents on vacation.  They got two weeks vacation and I stood in for them.  So I did that for part of the summer.  By the time I finished that and started my fourth year somebody talked to me about ophthalmology who was not an ophthalmologist.  He was also on the faculty, Arthur Strauss who was an internist.  He had a very good friend in Chicago who was Vice Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Chicago and he said, “You know, being Jewish you may have a problem getting the kind of residency in OB that you want.”  “Why don’t you contact this man and see if there’s a possibility for a residency in ophthalmology?”  To make a long story short I did contact him and he said why don’t you come up to Chicago and meet and be interviewed by the Chair of the Department.  I went, I was interviewed and I got the job.  So I never did get anything in OB/GYN. 

Who were these contacts in Chicago?

The contact’s name was Louis Boughman and he was Editor of the Eye, Ear, Nose, & Throat Journal at that time.  That was how I gravitated from OB/GYN slowly into ophthalmology.  I never had an ophthalmology rotation while I was in medical school cause when it came time for my ophthalmology elective I got sick.  I was placed in Barnes Hospital.  I was in Barnes Hospital for two or three weeks so I missed that whole thing. 

What was your illness?

I had something undiagnosed, a virus.  In those days they didn’t know what to do with them. 

While we’re still talking about your medical school before you got to be a resident, let’s talk about – oh, one other name I wanted to mention is Carl Cori.  He was professor of pharmacology at the time.  Do you recall him?

Yes I do and we had some lectures from him – not many.  I don’t remember what they were about either.

But he was a good instructor?  He too spoke with an accent.

Yes, he had an accent.  I just don’t remember him. 

Bronfenbrenner’s accent by the way – he was originally Russian and then he was in Paris so it was a mixture of Russian and French.

I’ve always had difficulty with accents.  Let me get off this for a second and tell you that we rented a movie to watch last night at home --Capote.  It was the story of how Truman Capote went to bat for these two condemned men and the man who did the part of Capote, whose name I don’t remember…

Phillip Seymour Hoffmann…

Phillip Seymour Hoffmann – he did Capote so realistically with such a horrible accent I could hardly follow the movie.  Anyway, Cori had an accent.

Did you ever meet his wife, Gerty Cori?

I’m sure I did but not as a teacher.

She was working mainly in the lab and in those days they looked askance at husband/wife teams. 

I’m sure I did because I have this picture in my mind of her.

For a long while she didn’t get her due as the genius that she was.  Well eventually then you got into your clinical years and you mentioned Sam Soule whom I remember.  Recently we just acquired a manuscript when he used to write about the history of medicine and he was always poking around in the Archives looking for data about the history of medicine so I remember him…

Oh, you skipped by my freshman class in medical school.  Are you going back to it? 

No, let’s do that before we get on anything…

For some reason another project – accidentally I had asked the alumni office to send me some material.  Oh, it was about the surviving members of my class.  How many people were still alive?  I think there are nine.

So you have the mug shots from the class.  We probably were the source of that because our colleague has the master pictures.  But show me, yeah.  Alright, this is the class of 1939 when they were freshmen.  The freshmen mug shots. 

And you asked one of your questions, “What about Vilray Blair, Jr.?”

Of course, Vilray was a classmate and his father was an outstanding plastic surgeon.  He was a great innovator in terms of the equipment – microtomes and all that.  Yeah, I see him there.

I’ll tell you about a few of these.

I’m looking for you.  Where are you?

Well, it’s alphabetical and I don’t look like me in that picture.  Where are the “Ms”?  Jones, Malick, Milder...

Well, times change but you were a good looking man.  You were no longer the little runt kid.

  Oh, I forgot to mention that.  I finished high school in mid-year.

You mentioned that.  OK, alright.

When I enrolled at Washington U. on the campus I had grown 5 inches in less than one year and none of my clothes fit.  I grew 5 inches and I continued afterward so I was 6’1” instead of 5’5”.  [laughter]

You were a real heart-break, weren’t you in the haberdashery department, weren’t you. [laughter]

There’s a story about that too.  Somebody who was an assistant buyer at Famous used to help me out with clothes because, well, in this group a few names stand out.  They were the top of the class, they were bright, and they were good.  Ed Reinhard was tops.  Bob Shank.  Do you know Bob?

Yes, I remember him.  I interviewed him for an oral history.

And, Charlie Eckert, Chair of the Department of Surgery at, was it NYU – it was one of the eastern universities. 

He went to Albany.


My wife’s family – we actually knew him personally.

That’s interesting.  Those three people always jump out at me.  We weren’t competitors exactly, we were colleagues, but you know I don’t remember it as a competition and I look back and I realize they ranked the whole class.  You were number 21 or number 2 or number 68 so there was some kind of competition because who was going to get into AOA, the top 8 or 10 or something?  So, there was competition and these three were always at the top and let’s see, people I remember well – Vilray, Howard Bierman.  He had the name “Soupy” all through medical school.  He doesn’t like being called “Soupy”.  He’s one of the few living people from this class.  “Soupy” was a good student, poor as a church mouse.  He had to work while in medical school.  He waited on tables, I think in the cafeteria and that’s where the name “Soupy” came from. 

I see.

And…one thing I remember about “Soupy” he had one razor blade and he kept honing it and sharpening it.  It had to last him a whole year.  I mean we’re talking about poor.


By the way, he ended up in California as the medical head of the City of Hope.  He was a very successful internist.  At any rate, Bierman – I remember Louis Beasley because he had been on the football team.

What did Beasley wind up doing?  What specialty did he chose?

He was a surgeon.

Blair was a surgeon like his father?

I think so, yes.  Well, I don’t want to bother with all these.  Oh, we’ve come to one - there’s Charlie Eckert - Leslie Epstein was in my class.  Does that name ring a bell?

No, I’m afraid I don’t know it.

I wanted to tell you about him.  He was so bright.  He was right up or on top of Reinhard and Bob Shank.  I don’t know what happened to him.  I sat down last night and got onto Google and tracked him down.  I found out what happened to him.  I had made a big mistake.  I knew what happened to him for years.  I’d go to the library and there were six or seven books – he was a novelist and wrote – but I found out later that wasn’t the Leslie Epstein.  The one who went to medical school left in the second year.  He was a Rhodes Scholar and after he finished in England he finished his medical schooling at Hopkins.  He didn’t come back here.  Then I don’t know what he did professionally, whether he stayed in academia or not but I remember his brother because he lived in one of the apartments on Lindell.  I remember being over at their house.  He had a brother who made some money.  His brother changed his name to Lee Falk.  Does that name ring a bell? 


He wrote comic strips – Mandrake the Magician.


And…The Phantom.  This guy, he had a readership of 100 million at his peak.  So that was Leslie’s brother.  Those are two bright people. 

Yes, that’s amazing.  Yeah.

That’s what happened to Leslie and down the road Kenny Koerner [WUSM 1941] played on the football team.  I don’t remember what his specialty was but he practiced in south St. Louis and I think he’s still alive but retired, but I’m not sure.  Of course, at 91 or 92 – most of the class was older than me by the way.  So, if I’m 91 now, these are 92, 93 and a couple of them, two particularly were father figures.  They had been accepted in the class and they were really much older than us.  One of them was Johnston, Rich Johnston.  This man, you can see he doesn’t look like he’s 21. 

That’s right he looks older than the rest of the class. 

He was a rancher in Wyoming.  He always wanted to be a doctor and he made a lot of money in the big ranches and he sold all his holdings and applied to medical school and they took him and he did a good job, went back to Wyoming and practiced in general practice.  It was something he wanted to do.


That’s wonderful, very impressive.  The other one was Arnold Welch.  I know Arnold Welch graduated but never practiced medicine.  He was into chemistry and he wound up – and I don’t want to get this wrong.  He was a medical director or chemistry head of one of the huge drug companies.  Which one it was I don’t know but he had a big career and he was at the top of one of those companies.  He never practiced as a doctor but this was his background.  Who else?  There was G. O’Neil Proud.  He was kind of a cut-up.  He ended up as Chairman of the ENT Department at the University of Kansas.  He was not an AOA.  So, people really rise.  They rise.  It was really very impressive.  Those are people I remember.  Oh, I almost skipped by a very close friend of mine through life, Bart Passanante.  I’ll tell you a little bit off the record about Bart.  Bart and I were really close friends.  We studied together in medical school, shared a cadaver.  Bart was an athlete.  He was not big he was on the school swimming team at Wash. U. and he married a Jewish girl, by the way and was disowned by his family.  Bart lived with an uncle here in St. Louis.  His family lived down in southern Illinois, but he lived here, went to school here and lived with his uncle.  His father and his uncle were in the products distribution business – let me put it that way during Prohibition, they were “bootleggers.”  Bart had a car his uncle gave him a car which was armored.  He had a coupe which was armored and so Bart and I were very close and he lived a tragic life because he was not an AOA student but he was smart enough and bright and he became a very good surgeon and along the course of his surgery he turned deaf, stone deaf, completely and he had to drop out of surgery, he had to drop out of medicine.  It was just sad.  He was at home there.  I would go to visit him at their home and it was just sad to see a man.  He had four daughters, wonderful girls, writers by the way – one is a Professor of English at one of the western universities and another one writes soap operas in the east, one of the big soap operas.  The girls are all writers.  He was a pianist.  That was his hobby.  Part of his hobby was when he lived with his uncle, the Italians just loved opera, they loved music and his uncle said, “You study the piano, then you study your medicine.”  The story was they had an upright and he would put a clock on one side of the upright and a pistol on the other side and Bart would practice.  [laughter]   We were in very close touch.  I was not overseas in the Army.  Bart was, in Italy of all places.  I said, “Bart, I’m trying to pull strings to get overseas.”  You know World War II – it’s hard to believe.  I don’t know if you can remember this, people would beg, steal, cheat, borrow to get in the Army, to get at the Axis, to get at Hitler.  I mean we had eye patients coming in trying to fake it to get in.  So, I wrote to Bart and said I’m trying to get there and Bart said, “You’re crazy.  Stay home.”  That’s the freshmen class.

You mentioned Reinhart.  Return to him briefly.  What kind of a practice did he have?  He was one of the great physicians and Barnes Hospital.

He was an internist but I don’t remember what his sub-specialty was.  He was a great teacher by the way, too.  I knew Ed from early on because Ed lived just about across the street from Soldan High.  I knew him well then.  That’s about the class.  How many are there now?  How many do I keep in touch with?  Really, two people, one “Soupy” Bierman, who doesn’t like to be called that.  I’ve seen him a couple of times when he’s come into town for a med school reunion.  The other is Irving Berger who is still living.  He lives in Florida and whenever Washington U. has some university event they have them in Florida, always almost every year.  I would see him there but the rest of them… I don’t see any of them.

What kind of practice did Irving Berger have?

He was practicing in Cleveland and he was in psychiatry, I think, yeah.  So much for the class.

While you were still being interested in OB/GYN you surely remember Otto Schwarz?

Very well. 

Will you tell about him?

Well, there’s not much to say except I don’t remember him smiling very often.  He was a big guy – massive and big and actually I guess I was pretty lucky, I didn’t have much contact with him.  I was in the residence quarters all the time and when I had OB as a rotation in Medical School we used to deliver babies at home.  In fact, the medical fraternity had an OB car, an old beaten-up Chevrolet that was a 100 years old and the seniors every year would sell it to the next class for $15.00.  Every year that OB car was in existence.  At any rate, I remember Hobbs, much better than Schwarz because he taught more of our courses.

John Hobbs?

  Johnny Hobbs.  He was from East St. Louis.  He was a good teacher and you could get close to him and ask him questions and discuss things.  I remember him very well.

You mentioned being a resident here and surely at a maternity hospital there were some babies delivered.  Who would come to deliver babies?  If most births took place at home who…

A lot of them were in the hospital.  You know, Sam Soule, [A. Norman] Arneson; Johnny Hobbs.  That’s who I remember.

Melvin Roblee?

Yes, but I don’t remember him at all.  I didn’t assist with him. 

Back to the patients?  What was their patient base if there were so many births at home?  Who would want to come to the hospital?

I don’t know, let me guess.  Either those who could afford it, or those who had complications or potential complications that should be taken care of in-house.

I’ve just got some questions and we’ll address this matter later when we talk about McMillan, but Maternity also probably was segregated and somebody asked me where the black patients would have been in Maternity.

I have no idea.  I have no idea.

There was no basement where they…

Medicine had the basement.  I was in 1418 down in the basement.  I don’t remember.

Where black patients particularly…Somebody is interested in, as many people always are, about William Masters and they had heard about segregation in Maternity Hospital in that context. 

I don’t remember.

What do you remember about Evarts Graham the great thoracic surgeon? 

I just remember him down in the pit in the large lecture hall which was in…

Beneath Barnes Hospital? 

Yeah.  And it was big.  You know, large groups of students were amassed in the circle.  Evarts would have a patient there and he would stress the patient and sometimes he’d have somebody come down and answer a question or poke something and that’s what I remember.  I didn’t have the opportunity to watch him operate.  I got to see some, you know.  I remember J. Albert Key in the operating room.

He was an orthopedic surgeon? 

He was a wild man.

Why was he wild?

I don’t know. He just would lose his temper.

Well tempers were big when those doctors of big ego…

Well, J. Albert had it, Ernie Sachs had it.

Do you recall anything of Sachs? 

No, just that he was very impressive in the pit.  He really was a good teacher.

How about David Barr?  He was head of Internal Medicine.

Again, I remember seeing him in the pit.  I had no closer contact with him in teaching internal medicine. 

Talking about the Maternity building.  When did it stop being a facility where babies … was it about the same time that they converted McMillan?  You know they built the pavilions here and you can look out, we’re in 703A, and we can look right out, at least I can, maybe you can’t but I can see the pavilions and I can see the façade of the old Material Hospital.  Do you think it was when they built these big new high rise pavilions that they…

I think Maternity existed before McMillan.

Yes it did.  It was built in the 1920s and then they converted it eventually when they stopped having in-patient beds in…

Yes, that’s where we come back to me being more of an outsider because my interests were on studying.  I mean we’re in the Depression years, just coming out of the Depression years and we wanted to do good, to do well.

Of course.

You know, classes and then into the streetcar and home.  So, I really wasn’t part of the picture.

Well, how did the hospital administration think of medical students?  Did they regard them with suspicion, or did they regard them as helpers or do you recall any of that kind of interplay of medical students with the hospital proper?

For the most part, in the earlier years, the pre-clinical years it was we listen and they talk.  The most impressive, in a certain way, teacher that I had in my pre-clinical years was Howard Rusk.  He taught, I guess you would call it physical diagnosis but he was really teaching us how to be a doctor.  This is rare and he was so good at it, he was so good.  I’ve never forgotten him.  I ran into him once, many decades later.  He came to give a talk in Palm Beach and I attended it and I spoke to him, of course he didn’t know who I was or remember me.  But I pointed out that I remembered him.  By this time he was the creator and head of the Rehabilitation Institute of New York.  But no, for the most part in pre-clinic years we sat through lectures and demonstrations, you know.  And as I say, we got to go around sometimes on rounds.  We didn’t get to report the history.   That was done by a junior or senior or an intern but by in large we were observers.  Then in the clinical years, of course, we got some “hands on” work.

I think it’s time we cite the history of the Ophthalmology Department and I just want to read the title into the record here.  On the Shoulders of Giants, the Story of the Washington University Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, which you wrote and published in 1997 and it’s very thoroughly written and beautifully written and I just want to say that we don’t want to, in our discussions from this point on, repeat the data here but we want to make reference to it so we can kind of get you off the hook for all the details that are in this book.  You begin it by talking about the late 19th century people who were ophthalmologists and we remember the name of John Green.  Back from the back room I brought out a few artifacts.  They have this big heavy bronze plaque that was on the wall someplace and it’s a bas relief with John Green’s profile.  He lived from 1835-1914 and taught at the St. Louis Medical College which became part of Washington University.  So, you remember him, or at least remember the stories about him because you’ve included them in your book.  We also have a fun artifact that is attributed to him and I thought it was an ophthalmoscope, it’s a brass instrument, but you tell me you don’t think it is.  It’s about 6 inches long. 

It’s a cylinder with a 3mm aperture at one end which was rotatable and an angled eye piece which suggests to me that this was part of some sort of a stereoscope.  But that’s a guess.  It does not look like a device to be used for studying the inside of the eye, for studying the retina and the optic nerve. 

Which is the definition of an ophthalmoscope?


So, what would a stereoscope, how would that be used? 

It would be a…actually at that time a teaching device but a widely used device ever since the World’s Fair in 1904 which consisted of a device you held to your eye and it had an eye piece for each eye and it had prisms which enabled you to fuse two pictures which were on the end of an adjustable rod.  And you put two pictures – each taken from a slightly different angle so that when you looked through the stereoscope the pictures appeared to be three dimensional.

Well, did it have any diagnostic purpose, the stereoscope? 

Oh yes, we used it in a testing stereoscopy, to see if people had three dimensional vision. 

I see.  By the 1930s was ophthalmology a true specialty?  Did it have all the earmarks of a specialty, like board certification and that or was that still under development, those hallmarks of…

Well, there are two answers to that.   Board certification in specialties was started by ophthalmology in 1919, they had the first boards.  However, that said, sometime later there were boards in everything else, OB/GYN including boards in Ear, Nose and Throat.  So, there were separate boards in Ophthalmology and Ear, Nose and Throat but until the 1950s, maybe the late 1950s, I don’t recall the exact year Eye and Ear, Nose and Throat were joined and people practiced Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat.  That became obviously unwieldy and impractical after World War II and somewhere in the 1950s they quietly agreed that there would be an American Association of Ophthalmology and American Academy of Ophthalmology and an American Academy of Ear, Nose and Throat, Otolaryngology.  Yes the boards existed from 1919 on in ophthalmology and ophthalmology was an independent, how shall we put it, an entity well before that because one of the early people – now here’s where my memory is shot.  I want to call to your attention the person who started the American Journal of Ophthalmology.  He was at Washington U. but I would have to go to my book to get that.  The fact is that ophthalmology existed as a specialty and there were people practicing ophthalmology in St. Louis in the early decades of the 20th Century and one of them I think I mentioned in the book was Adolph Alt.  

Well, I’m going to just list some names that you’ve told us how you eventually chose ophthalmology but here are some more names.  First of all, Lawrence Post, Sr. -- was he head of the department already in the 1930s?  In the time when you were…

Yes, he became head of the department around 1933, if I remember.  I think 1932 or 1933.  Yes, I would like to tell you about Lawrence Post.  Because regrettably there had been some things circulated that Lawrence Post was anti-semantic.  Far from it, anything but.  It’s possible that some people got that impression just because of his image in the community.  He was, shall we shall, part of the upper levels socially, medically and he was not a back-slapping kind of person, exactly.  So, there were a lot of people he may not have met or mingled with but in his department on the attending staff there were all kinds of people.  There was Meyer Wiener, there was Max Jacobs there were all kinds of people who were important cogs in the department.  But my personal experience with Lawrence Post was that I have never forgotten it.  It stays with me well.  I was in my residency at the University of Chicago – the last year, the second year.  In those days it was a two year residency and about four months or so or five I received a frantic phone call from Mrs. Max Jacobs.  Dr. Jacobs had been a widely known and widely respected ophthalmologist.  Mrs. Jacobs called and said, “You got to come home.  Max Jacobs died.”  “You’ve got to come home and take his practice or it will go away, it will disappear.”  Of course, he had among other things, a large Jewish practice and she knew that I was Jewish and I should come home and take the practice.   Well, when I was a kid I was rather naïve, as you have probably gathered.  I still was in medical school and I still am.  But I was naïve and not totally stupid.  I said, “I’m very impressed Mrs. Jacobs.  I will come home immediately and I want to talk to Dr. Post.”  My goal was to be on the faculty here.  I came home and I met with him.  He was cordial.  He said, “Ben, don’t you have a contract at the University of Chicago?”  I said, “Yes.”  He said, “Shouldn’t you go back and complete your contract.”  “When you come back there will be a space for you here in this department.”  I never forgot it.  It was one of the most critical moments to realize what kind of man I was dealing with and his brother Hayward.  They were the top of the heap in ethics, in honesty.  There were no people who really exceeded their way of life.  I never forgot it.  Let me tell you another story which is slightly off what you asked.  It’s about Hayward Post.  When I got into practice, after the war, Lawrence Post had a spot and I came into the department full time.  Later on after the war I went into practice and I still looked like I was 14 years old.  I really didn’t look like a doctor.  I couldn’t even grow a mustache.  I had a patient who needed a cataract operation and I hospitalized her and in those days they were put in the hospital a day early and stayed a week for a cataract.  And I visited her in the hospital, she was my patient and I explained what I was going to do the next day and she looked at me and she said, “Would you mind if I had a consultation?”  I said, “Not at all, who would you like to have?”  She said, “I’d like to have Dr. Hayward Post.”  She had heard of him.  He had a big name in the community.  I said, “Fine.”  I called Hayward and he didn’t know me real well because I knew Lawrence Post better but Hayward knew me because I had scrubbed with him.  He examined the patient and he said, “The diagnosis is correct.”  “Yes, you do need your cataract operation.”  She said, “Dr. Post, would you do it?”  He said, “of course I can’t do that.”  “I’m called here as a consultant and I’m consulting and I concur with Dr. Milder and you can have confidence in him as a surgeon or you can have another consultant, but I can’t do it.”  This was the image of the Posts and this is what they tried to drive into their residents and he assumed that the faculty all behaved that way.  Once someone on the faculty didn’t – on the attending faculty but I won’t mention his name because his family is very prominent in this community, but somehow he got his name in the papers, the Post, about a patient.  That was not really ethical in those days. You won’t believe this.   In those days a doctor did not dare subtly advertise by getting his name in the paper.  He was dropped from the staff.  He was no more on the faculty.  So that’s the image of the Posts.

You mentioned Meyer Wiener, what can you recall of him?

Only that he also had a pretty good ego.  He was already in the top class.

There are a couple of other names, William Hardy.  Now was he really early? 

William F. Hardy.  Yes, Hardy was on the attending faculty but he was an Associate Professor, I think was his title.  He was very respected.  He was an excellent, excellent ophthalmologist.  How did this come about?  After the War when I came back I couldn’t go back into full-time.  Salaries were then negligible and I was married and had one son and I had to go into practice and somebody told me of a doctor in the Humbolt Building, now the Fox Theater Building, who might want somebody and the doctor’s name was Fleury, John Fleury.  So I went down and I talked to him.  No that’s wrong, I’m sorry, my memory is failing me.  I heard about Fleury and I went down and Fleury was not there.  He was not well.  He was out in Colorado recovering but I don’t know from what.  But, he shared an office with William F. Hardy and Hardy’s son Guertin.  I’ll tell you more about him.  Guertin, by the way, had his boards in Eye and in Ear, Nose and Throat, both.  William F. was an ophthalmologist.  So, I talked to William F. Hardy and he said, “Well, I have to talk to Dr. Fleury because we share an office.”  They shared a suite and he had one practice and Fleury had another.  He said, “I have to get in touch with him.”  He got in touch with Fleury, I don’t know what he said to him but Fleury said, “Grab that man.”  “Don’t let him get away.”  “You’ve got a real winner.”  “He is top-notch.”  I learned later that Fleury thought Hardy was talking about Dick Scoby who fulfilled everything that Fleury said.  Scoby who died very young was a great man in our field.  So, that’s how I got in the office and when Fleury came back he asked me to take his patients and they weren’t going to pay me very much but between the two suites of offices there was a common room.  The common room had something very special; this was back in the 1940s.  They had a slit lamp.  They took me on because I would do slit lamp examinations for both of them.  Neither one of them could use a slit lamp.  They were both good clinicians. 

But you knew how…

Yeah, because I had been trained.  So I started working and very shortly after I started I was doing a little work for Hardy but mostly doing Fleury’s practice which was interesting.  In those days it was a cash practice.  You came to the doctor, you went to the receptionist and paid your $3.00 and you went home.  But Hardy took sick and he died and, of course, they asked me to take over his practice.  So I joined Guertin and Guertin and I had the Hardy practice.  Guertin didn’t like ophthalmology.  He didn’t like refracting and here he had me so very quickly we separated.  We kept the same office but he did ear, nose and throat and I did ophthalmology.  Later on he moved to another office.  So that’s how I got into William F. Hardy’s practice and it was a very excellent, solid practice.  He was a good general practitioner and that was it.  We had a few interesting experiences.  He had a patient who was, I don’t remember the name, the “Betting Commissioner”.  He was known nationally for bets on the races, bets on games and he lived in St. Louis and he was Hardy’s patient.  He wanted to come in for an exam and he would only come in when the office was empty.  He didn’t want to see anybody.  So, I examined him on Sunday morning.  I mean this was some of the little things that went on with Hardy’s practice.  Oh, there’s something very important.  Adolph Alt, was an important figure in ophthalmology at the turn of the century back at the very beginning.  Well, Adolph’s practice, there were several practices that ran the city.  There was the Alt office, there was the Post office.  Well, Alt’s office descended to John Henderson and from John Henderson it descended to Dr. William Hardy.  And from Hardy it descended to me and from me to my son Barry.  So, our practice goes back to Adolph Alt. 

I see.

It’s interesting and of course Post’s practice has done some of the same things. 

There was a William Shayan?

William Shayan.  I met him.  He was an important figure in the department.  He devised instruments.  He devised something which was used for decades.  It was something called a thermophore.  It was a heating device where you could control the temperature precisely and in the days before there were antibiotics they treated corneal ulcers and corneal diseases with heat.  We’d put the Shayan Thermophore right on the ulcerated area and treated it that way.  That was one of the things that Shayan did.  He was excellent and his son, Phil, bright man, one of the brightest guys in the department.

Last on the list that I met 25 years ago was A. Trummel Hildreth.  Can you describe him?

The ultimate great eye surgeon, really.  He was the best and a good teacher, really.  He had the residents up there scrubbing with him and they were learning on the job.  He was wonderful.  As a teacher I don’t remember him.  He didn’t do that much lecturing, he did, but mostly he’s remembered in the operating room.  He was an icon there.

Did the Ophthalmology Service do any work in the old Clinics Building you know the one that is now the Pathology Building down on Euclid just a few doors…

Not that I know about. 

Because they all came to McMillan?  Way back probably before McMillan in the basement of the old Dispensary Building they had some big clinics, you know huge where people would stand in the corridors and then come in.  But, you don’t recall that?

No, because my first contacts with the eye clinic were back when I was still a medical student. 

So that was back when…

I had no knowledge of that.

McMillan was opened in 1931 but it wasn’t finished yet.   

No.  As a matter of fact, when I came to Medical School there were only two floors, I think, down below and up at the top.  Harvey Howard had wanted the top to be a private apartment and of course he was gone when I came and Post’s office was up on the twelfth floor and the Eye Library was up there.  And the squash court that Harvey Howard had installed and the residents quarters and that was on the 12th.

Did you ever meet Howard personally when he was still in town?

I’m trying to remember if I did but I don’t think so.  I wouldn’t have because when he left the Eye Department he opened an office in the Park Plaza and of course I have no contact and he was not on the faculty, he didn’t come to rounds or anything and he had other irons in the fire.  He was a business man too so no I don’t think that I ever saw him.

Your book is the first one that outright says that the architectural detail on the façade that looks like Hs are really his initials.  Do you have any idea how he engineered that?

No, I don’t know anything about that.  I don’t know if somebody cooked the idea up or if Harvey Howard did or if I did.  I don’t think so.  I attribute it to Harvey Howard.

Well there was an ophthalmologist, Arthur Keeney who practiced in Louisville but he had ties here.

Art Keeney whom I knew very well.  I remember he gave a talk at the Ophthalmic Society here on Harvey Howard.  He had studied Howard.  I don’t know how or why but he…

And he wrote a little publication about him so his would be the definitive word on Howard.  So you say there really were only three floors and there was a squash court.  Did you ever play squash on the court? 

As a matter of fact, no, we played handball.  There’s a story about that.  In my third year of medical school, fourth year, one of my electives… I don’t know how I got around to it.  (That’s my problem, I told you.)  Bone and joint disease – what word do I want? 

Orthopedic medicine?

Well, whatever, bone and joint disease and had demonstrations of things and one that I remember very well or a series of one was manipulative surgery but, of course, you know osteopaths and chiropractors were a “no-no”  they were like criminals.  But the department had one man, Fred Jostes.  I don’t know if that name rings a bell, who was an orthopedic surgeon.  Now I got the word.   It takes me five minutes.  He was interested in and practiced manipulative surgery, doing the same things that the osteopaths were doing and he was doing them at Barnes.  I was very impressed how he really twisted these people here and there and they got up and felt better and were walking around. Well I never forgot that and I never forgot Jostes.  If you would have known him, he’s very special.  He was probably the handsomest man in Washington University.  He made Clark Gabel look like a bum.  He was just unbelievably handsome and he dressed to kill, to fit.  Everybody said, “oooh and aaaah” when he went by.  Well, I had the chance to scrub with him once or twice.  Then I had an internship and I had a roommate and we went over to McMillan to play handball and my roommate threw his back out and boy, I almost had to carry him back to Jewish.  I figured, look, I know exactly how to do this because I had remembered in detail how Jostes did it.  So, I told my roommate, and he got down on the floor and I manipulated him.  And he was in bed for two weeks after.  I practically ruined him.  That was the end of my manipulative surgery.

You say there were only limited floors -- there was an auditorium in the building that was called the Eliot Auditorium.  We have portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Eliot somewhere that were hung in that room and I think that they were Mallinckrodt related relatives, or some big donors who gave this auditorium.  Do you recall that auditorium in the McMillan Building called Eliot Auditorium? 

No, I don’t.  As I say all I remember is the 2nd floor auditorium at McMillan. 

Maybe that’s what that was.  There was an auditorium? 

Yes.  I wonder if that had the name Eliot? 

That’s all gone.  Right?  They’ve torn that out but there was one?  Can you describe that auditorium? 

It was not a large auditorium but it was larger than a classroom, in fact several times the St. Louis Ophthalmological Society held their meetings there so I would assume it had 60-75-80 chairs and a stage and a mic.  I’m trying to remember a particular event.  Bernard Becker had invited – oh, maybe it was Hans Goldman from Switzerland.  He had invited a very special figure to come give a talk and at the appointed time the room was two-thirds empty and, of course, Bernie hadn’t brought in his guest yet from the his office and he ran around Barnes scouting and grabbing residents and interns, didn’t have to be from Ophthalmology, and brought them in to fill that auditorium at least half way.  That was a weird thing.  Various things happened actually.  I was I don’t know how to say this, not wanting to blow my horn.  I was very successful as an ophthalmologist after about 1960-1965.  I’ll tell you it came about from that room, the auditorium. [Editor’s note: Dr. Milder has made an additional statement on his experiences with Jay Enoch. This statement has been appended at the end of the transcript. See Appendix A.] I’ll tell you how it came about.  They have visiting professors and one time…oh, one of the things I did in teaching which apparently has been abandoned, but for many years my research interest was in lacrimal disease, tearing problems.  But my teaching interest was in refraction and I started along with Jay Enoch.  I don’t know if that name rings a bell.  He was an optometrist, not an M.D. who was hired by Bernie Becker because he was a visual scientist.  He knew and had done a lot of research about refraction, about vision, about lenses and Bernie hired him and he was doing research and teaching the residents.  He was a bright guy.  He ended up as Dean of the School of Optometry, University of California.  He’s still around.  He I keep in contact with.  Well we started refraction rounds.  Whoever had that – general rounds in surgery – refraction rounds.  And the way we did it was I had, I don’t know why this is “Kismet”, but early on in my office when I had a patient who complained I wrote it down.  I kept a book on patients who complained what they were and what they did about them.  I had this notebook that was all alphabetized and everything and we started refraction rounds and all I had to do was go through the book and pick up a patient with anisometropia and who ever got a lecture, have rounds on that.  And we did clinical teaching, not just lectures.  We’d present the case; let the class decide how they would handle it then Jay Enoch who knew thirty times what I knew about optics would get up and explain the optics of it.  Then I would get up and translate into English what Jay said because he was so far above the head of me and all the residents that it was a good combination and it worked perfectly.  It was good and we had that once a week as I remember in the auditorium and the residents came.  A visiting professor came and he arrived and lo and behold through some snafu in Becker’s office he was scheduled to speak to the residents at the time we were scheduled to do refraction rounds.  He was very, very pleasant about it, very engaging.  He said, “Look, Ben (I had never seen him before in my life and he’s calling me by my first name) why don’t you go do your refraction rounds.  I’ll sit in the back of the room and I’ll give my talk after because I have to be here today and Saturday and maybe a little bit Sunday.  So, why don’t you do it?”  So we did rounds.  He came up to me afterwards.  His name was Mel Rubin and he had written several books on optics.  He had graduated as an optometrist and then went to medical school and he was from the University of Florida and he came up to me afterwards and said, “You know I’ve never seen refraction taught like that – clinical refraction from rounds, case oriented.”  I said, “Thanks for the compliment.”  Not surprisingly a year later I was invited to the University of Florida as a visiting professor to do refraction rounds.  After it was over he was my host of course.  He was Chair of the Department and after took me to dinner, I think it was and he said, “You know, (by then he was calling me Bud) you ought to write a book on that.”  “There’s no real good book on refraction and there hasn’t been one for forty years by Sir Stewart Duke Elder and that book isn’t in print and nobody pays attention to it and why don’t you write a book on it.”  I said, “I never wrote a book in my life.”  “I wouldn’t know where to begin or where to end.”  To make a long story short we chatted about it finally said “You’re a book writer.”  “You’ve written several.”  “If you will write it with me I’ll do it.”  And that’s how that book came about – The Fine Art of Prescribing Glasses Without Making a Spectacle of Yourself.”  We were aware that refraction is a deadly facet of ophthalmology.  Residents, they were all experts after one or two years of residency.  They didn’t need to learn anything about it.  It was boring and we agreed quickly that we would write a book and no one would even look at it, let alone buy it.  Somehow, and of course he was a smart guy.  I still see him.  He said, “You’ve got to get their attention.”  So we kicked around a title for the book.  There was going to be either a title or a picture on the front.  We kicked around a title and we ended up with this title and that book changed my life.  I suddenly was a public figure.  Nobody knew who I was, you know, even though I had been teaching here and I had friends.  All of a sudden, what happened was the publisher submitted this for a prize to the American Medical Writers Association.  It won the prize as the medical book of the year.  Can you imagine a refraction book, an eye book being the medical book of the year?  No one had ever won that prize at the medical school. 

This is the AME award?

Yeah.  In fact I don’t think anyone has yet.  I’m not sure you would have to look that up.  That prize, it was a kick-off.  I was in the Post-Dispatch.  I was getting invited to talk in Denmark and here and there and I taught maybe in 20 different states.  This was a whole different me.  I changed my life.  I changed my family life because Jeanne was head of the department over at Forest Park and I got an invitation to be the principal speaker at the Finnish Ophthalmologic their annual meeting.  Jeanne said, “Wait a minute.”  “You’ve been going and doing all these and I want to go, I want to visit Finland.  We’ll never have another chance.”  And so, she retired.  We changed our lives completely.  She retired from her job so we could take a trip to Finland.  That was a whole different story in itself but that’s how that book changed me.  The book oddly enough, I think the shelf life, you could tell me more about this – the shelf life of most medical books is two or three years.  After all things change things progress.  Techniques change.  But the eyeball is still the same eyeball and how you handle it, whether it’s glasses, contact lenses, surgery, you know, Lasik, you know, still it’s the same eyeball.  So this book is still alive 30 years later.  We did a complete rewrite in 1991 and another complete rewrite in 2003, only about three or four years ago.  Did you know?  Is this an old one?

This is the 2004 one. 

It’s the brand new one.  So it’s still going and has really changed our lives.  Now that I’m finished blowing my own horn let’s get back to…

Well we were talking about again the hospital and I don’t want to belabor this point but it was intended to serve more than just eye patients.  So you had ENT…

ENT – McMillan Eye, Ears and Throat Hospital.

Then you had some neurology patients there?

Oh yeah, some psychiatry.  Psychiatry was wonderful.  Not me but one of the other fellows on the staff had a patient who lost it – just went “bonkers.”  All we had to do was wheel him down two flights and deposit him in psychiatry and they took care of him. 

We have in the archives an old patient register and it’s a big thick book with a kind of corduroy and leather binding.  It’s a wonderful thing.  So I gather that all the patients just sort of signed in when they came in.  They must have, they must have had a front desk.  You must have walked in.

If it was my patient when I walked in it was when they were in their room in the hospital, but “yes” there was something on the main floor of McMillan which was near the side entrance.  Not up front but you came up the steps and there was a desk there.  I don’t know what they all did there.  I wasn’t paying attention, but apparently they were registering patients in because the elevator was right opposite there.

Well, they’ve changed things around quite a bit and they have the Eye Clinic there.

The Eye Clinic was on the other side.  When you came in up the stairs on the side entrance there’s a main corridor going right through the whole complex.  Well, this was on the left, the desk and everything and on the right was the whole Eye Clinic.

I see.  So the old Eye Clinic is still there and that’s roughly in the…

Well, that’s changed around and you wouldn’t know.  Back in those days you were talking a big open room with a line up of patients and a whole bunch of patients sitting on chairs all around.  That was the clinic.  Then they had…do you want to hear any more about it? 


Then they had some examination lanes and you called the patient in and they sat down and you did your examination, checked their vision and did your whole exam, you’re ophthalmoscopic and so forth.  Then when Bernie came, well there were certain other parts of the clinic.  That was the main area but there was also a room with low vision devices.  Actually I was in charge of that for about 25 years – low vision.  That was an interest of mine.  We examined patients.  Did their complete exam and also could test them out on various devices, magnifying glasses, projectors and things.  Then there was another room which was the minor surgery room right in the clinic for little things like a stye, puncturing it.  Then there was also an Aniseikonia Room.

Can you define that for me?

Yes.  Aniseikonia is how would I define it?  Imaged sized discrepancy…

Oh, between the two eyes?  They don’t coordinate.

Yes.  They would see things a different size.  And if they saw them a different size and if it wasn’t too great a difference they would fuse them but that would have some side effects too.  Well there was an instrument invented that kicked off and had a great going, great excitement because it was in Reader’s Digest and everything.  It was started off at the Dartmouth Eye Institute and they invented a machine, an Eikonometer which could measure the size difference of the two eyes.  Well, we had to be in that.  Lawrence Post was not going to be left in the dust.  So, before the 2nd floor of McMillan was operating rooms. He set up a huge – it was almost as big as two operating rooms – a huge Aniseikonia Room.  In those days, Guertin Hardy and our office was doing eye, ear, nose and throat and he sent Guertin to Dartmouth to learn all about Aniseikonia.  There were a couple of famous people there. That’s another story.

Well this would have been in the 1940s?  It would have been before Becker.

Wait a minute, I’ll tell you.  Wait a minute.  Oh, yes.  I think, I would have to look at my book but I think what he did was he tapped Guertin Hardy to go to Dartmouth and learn all about it and he came home – it had to be, darn I can’t remember if it was before or after the War.  I have to look at this and find out.

Some time in the 1940s.

Guertin came home and of course that became a big referral center for Aniseikonia testing.  Later on it drifted because people didn’t know how to use the information clinically.  What if you find someone who could see things in two different sizes – 20/20 in each eye?  How do you fix it?  How do you design eyeglasses which will see things in a different size?  Well we spent a lot of time on that and it gradually died.  The flood of patients which were carefully catalogued began to die so they closed the place up when it was time to turn it into operating rooms and set up a room in the clinic.  So we had an Eikonometer Room.  They moved the Eikonometer down to that room and that too after a time died and one person was using it – someone who had been from Dartmouth Eye Institute, Paul Miles.  He was in the department full time.  Paul ran it and nobody was doing anything with it and finally Paul left the department and took the Eikonometer with him, with blessings, so that he could use it in his private practice.  So, that was the story of the clinic – Eikonometer, minor surgery, open area.  Then when Bernie came he made some changes and one of the big changes was he opened a series of refracting lanes on the south side of the Eye Department.  The clinic was still on the north but he had clinic refracting lanes on the south and there was an optical shop right there on the south side and so the residents would go in there and take patients in there.  There was even one lane that was mostly for muscle studies.  That was about the picture of the Eye Department on the 1st floor. 

I remember that optical shop.  It lasted into the 1980s.

And what was his name?  Funny little guy…

Herman Potts? 

Oh, Potts was bright.  He was a good optician.  Before him it was a little short fellow and I can’t remember his name.  I’m sure it’s in my book who ran the optical shop.  He was a curmudgeon.  He didn’t give you the time of day but knew everything and if you asked him questions he just would pour out.  He knew everything about optics and opticianry.  

So I gather you are really focusing on your own works and you wouldn’t have necessarily known who was in ENT or neurology at the time.

Well, only to the extent – no, it was all eye and of course when I came back and went into private practice I still taught and was doing lecturing to residents and I also served two half days a week in the Eye Clinic.  So, I was around there but ear, nose & throat were miles away.  It reminds me of a joke.  When I was in my residency at the University of Chicago at Billings Hospital, the Eye Department was across the hall from ear, nose and throat.  They used to always needle us.  The Ear, Nose and Throat residents would come over and say, “We’ve got a free hour.  Teach us all about eye.”  But here the Eye Department I think went to the basement back then and Ear, Nose and Throat and the Eye Department had the main floor.  No we didn’t connect up with them…I did as a matter of fact in some later years because I was asked by the Ear, Nose & Throat Department to give them some lectures on lacrimal disease.  After all that’s a hybrid.


The tear duct goes down in the nose so you have the eye and the nose, so I did have some contacts with them. 

We’ve sort of jumped over the fact that you were an intern at Jewish Hospital in 1939/1940.

Well, that was…why did I go to Jewish?  I thought that’s where I should go, I was Jewish.   And I think it was the people who were on the staff there that I got to know in the medical school, Arthur Strauss, Llewellyn Sale, Sr., oh any number of them and encouraged me to go there so I did.  I matriculated from medical school.

How did it in those days compare to Barnes Hospital as a general hospital – Jewish Hospital?

Well, I looked at it from two different directions so it isn’t fair.  When I was at Barnes I was looking at it as a medical student.  When I was at Jewish I was looking at it as an intern where I was involved in more “hands-on” work.  My impression was that the clinical care at Jewish was the very top-most, best.  That’s not surprising because most of the people there were also working at Barnes.  It was a top-flight affair.  I’m trying to remember some of the people who worked over there.  Yes, it was quality work.  The residents – in those days it was the appropriate thing to take a rotating internship rather than studying interning in a specialty.  The rotating was very valuable, especially for a specialty like ophthalmology.  So you grow up and retain the idea that the eyeball is part of a body and things are going on in the eye that are going on in the body.  So we had a chance to take a look at everything.  We had a rotation in here for – obstetrics.  We had it in orthopedics, I remembered the name.  So that was it.  There were 12 interns and I enjoyed my rotation through surgery.  The surgical resident – we had some great surgeons there – but the surgical resident was Sam Snyder who is a maniac on meticulous preparation, meticulous scrubbing.  He would look at your fingernails.  Of course, that’s good training as a surgeon.  He was a very good surgeon.  Two things about Sam – he became ill and died too young.  He died around 60 or so.  He still had a lot to give to the community.  The other thing was he was the national champion marble player.  He won the national tournament. 

That manipulative skill…

He had great manipulative skill.  He was really a great surgeon.  But, yes, I roomed with a Dr. Warble and of course our rotations didn’t coincide.  That was how I happened to lay him down for two weeks trying to manipulate him.  We kept in touch afterwards.  What else about it?  I performed a feat which made me glad I had chosen ophthalmology.  Because during the OB rotation I was scrubbing on a delivery in the delivery room with one of the obstetricians who was a curmudgeon and he would huff and he would gruff during the procedure and contaminated his sleeve. The nurse had to come and wrap a sterile towel and clamp and he handed me the clamp to clamp the towel and I proceeded to clamp his arm also.  Well you never heard…words that are unprintable came out of that room.  So, I was pretty lucky I didn’t think I was going to be an obstetrician.  I would have never made it.  But the rotation was a valuable experience.  The interns were on call 24 hours a day until they got a day off and they got a full day off or maybe two and then I went home.  I got the streetcar, took the bus over to the Delmar car and I went home. 

So you were still living with your parents at that time? 

Yeah! Well, no I lived at the hospital but when I had time off with my parents there I went home for a good meal.  The meals there were interesting because we were on call all the time we had our breakfast, lunch and dinner meals but they had a late night snack – it was nothing, it was inedible.  To my family I was still a little boy and when I came back home and told them about that my dad went right down to the hospital to talk to Florence King who was the Administrator, the head of the hospital and he told her about not feeding the interns at night when they had been working for 16 hours.


Things changed a little.

They listened to him, huh? 

The head for many, many years of the kitchen (it escapes me) but he finally left and he was with one of the restaurants downtown but he was helpful to all the residents.  I don’t remember a lot more except that I learned a lot in a short time. 

Then you went on to the University of Chicago.  What was the hospital that was attached to the University?

Billings Hospital was the university hospital and the whole university hospital complex was right there. 

That’s on the Midway campus of the University of Chicago and what was that like?   You were away from home for the first time, really away from home. 

Oh yes, I was away from home.  I had never been away from home or away from family or friends until then and I got to the hospital and I was told where my room was, I had a roommate in ophthalmology, named John Doolittle.  I remember my mother called her sister who lived in Chicago and my aunt came over to examine where I was staying so she could call back and tell my mom if it was alright – if the room was clean and the beds were correct.  That was part of my growing up but a real part of it was Johnny Doolittle.  He was grown up, he really was.  He was a ladies’ man, handsome guy, had a dozen girls all over the place while he was a resident.  I couldn’t believe it when I learned…and he taught me a lot about life, believe me.  I couldn’t believe it…we got $35.00 a month at Billings and all you could eat.  He had a charge account with a florist.  He taught me how to send flowers to a girl you wanted to impress.  He was something.  Sadly he never married.  He went back to his home which was Madison.  He had been a big man on the campus at Madison.

The University of Wisconsin?

Yeah.  You know, big fraternity man, popular guy and his mother was the house mother of his fraternity.  So he went back to Madison.  He practiced ophthalmology there and started drinking and he really just drank himself to death.  He never married.

Oh, that’s a shame!  So what do you recall about Chicago the city?  Of course, it was already War years.

Well, I had lived in Chicago for a couple years in the Army. 

Well, this was before.

Well, that was later.  I didn’t know a lot about Chicago except that we used to take vacations because I had family so we would pile into dad’s car and we would take a vacation in Chicago.  So I got to see and know the Art Museum and got to see and know downtown and it was quite wonderful.  We went to Chicago – it was a two day trip driving to Chicago then.  We’d leave here and stop – I don’t remember, we got past Springfield – I don’t know where we stopped…

Normal or Bloomington or something like that?

It was probably somewhere around there.  At any rate it was two days and then we stayed at my aunt’s and I still remember the luggage carrier clipped to the running board of the car.  It was a foldable, extendable scissors thing that clamped on the running board so everybody had to get out on the right side of the car.

They didn’t have big trunks?

They didn’t have trunks.  The trunks were there and all the food that my mother packed to take to her sister and, of course, my dad was not the greatest driver in the world -- kind of side-swiped a little bit one car.  He didn’t hurt the car but out went everything…  Well, those were the days.  So I got to see Chicago and downtown and the lakefront and so when I did get to Billings I got to know more of the south side of Chicago and some of that remained with me in some of my poetry books because it was on the Midway and at the west end of the Midway was a park.  Do you know Chicago?


WashingtonPark?  And in Washington Park is the sculpture that goes across…there’s a large reflecting lake and a sculpture called Time.  I don’t know if you remember that? 

No I don’t.

Well, it was a block long, a bas relief in concrete.  Starting it there were little babies and it went all through life to old age.  It is a masterpiece.  The sculptor, what was his name?  Laredo Taft was the name of the sculptor and at the base of this where the pool was, was engraved a little poem by a famous poet.  The poem said, “Time goes you say, ah no, time stays, we go.”  Some of that whole business is in my poetry and I got to learn the south side and the famous sculptor, the great American sculptor???

There are many, but someone who built some of the monumental sculpture of Chicago?

He built several buildings that remain behind – one of them on the University of Chicago campus.  All of that is somewhere in the book.  That name will come to me.  It bothers me because architecture is a hobby of mine and I can’t remember the guy’s name. 

Well, if it comes to you, tell us.

It will come to me.  So, I got to know Chicago, but again in the residency you spend most of your time at the hospital.  The residency program there was on a smaller scale.  The head of the program, the professor was E.V.L. Braun, a very, very British type, upright with a white moustache.  He was very impressive.  E.V.L. Braun.  He had studied with Ernst Fuchs in Europe.  He was the greatest name in ophthalmology in the 19th century at the end.  I once wrote about him too that he was the first man I ever knew who had three first names, Edward Vail Latham Braun.  He was no more English than I was.  He was born in a suburb of Chicago but because of his training with a German his approach to teaching ophthalmology to his residents was Germanic.  It was very different from Washington U.  Let me see if I can briefly say.   His concern was on meticulous technique.  You had to do everything right and perfect.  That’s how you became a good practitioner of medicine of ophthalmology.  He also was unusual.  The Eye Clinic, when it was in session – he was in it.  Very few department chiefs spent time in the Eye Clinic.  Bernie never did.  Lawrence Post never did but he would be around a good part of the time when the residents were examining patients.  And…he had a legendary big brown board, his name was Braun.  On this big brown board mounted on the wall was on one ordinate was the name of each resident.  From the beginning, from when the department started was each resident and across the other coordinate was a technique.  There were 20 of them, I think.  They were such techniques as checking the eye pressure.  You had to be able to do that so you got the right answer.  Refracting – you had to be able to use a refracting mirror and calculate the exact refractavere.  This is before we had refractometers and refracting machines.  Then he, more often one of the attendings would come around and they would do the refraction with all the tools and instruments and if their refinder fraction, if you didn’t come up within a quarter diopter of what the real end point was, back to the drawing boards and until you could do it right you didn’t get a check mark on that thing.  And until you got all the check marks you didn’t progress to the second year of your residency.  And oh, he did this.  He sat with his ulcer medicine.   He had a terrible ulcer problem.  He sat on a high stool like in a bar with a table like an architecture table and you had to examine a patient, do an ophthalmoscopy and write down everything you saw in detail – where the vessels went, optic nerve, everything in detail.  Then you finished and you marched over to the professor, sat on a chair next to Braun and he said, “Describe the retina.”  He said, “If you can’t describe it you haven’t seen it.”  “You’ve got to be able to say what you saw.”  And as I would describe he would sit and sketch what I described.  Then he would take a look at the patient and if the sketch didn’t look anything like the patient, back to the drawing board.  So that was the kind of training at Billings.  It was good, it was important but it really didn’t help you function as a thinking physician.  You want to hear about the Army?

Sure, sure it doesn’t bother me – first of all you got married, you went home and got married.  So you had been courting Jeanne all the time. 

It was a story with Billings.  I had been in the reserves when I was on the campus, no that’s wrong.  I got in the reserves when I was going to medical school.


In fact I had a summer at Fort Leavenworth learning how to shoot a gun.  I never saw a gun before in my life until I got to Fort Leavenworth. 

Did your father have misgivings about that?

Well, I didn’t ask him because at that time it was my last year in medical school, it was 1939 so the summer of 1938 already we knew war was coming and we knew Hitler was not a nice guy and I wanted to get in the Army.  I said “To hell with the residency.”  So I was in the reserves but never heard anything more, and of course the next year I applied and got my internship.  Then I was called up before the internship ever started.  So I went to Jefferson Barracks for my physical and they heard that I had an appointment as an intern.  They said, “We don’t want you.”  They really needed a lot of doctors and they needed them fast and a lot of things happened to get doctors in the army.  They said, “We don’t want you.  Do your internship, or your residency.”  They also said there’s a long line of men standing there naked except maybe for their shorts waiting to get their physical and when I got up to the sergeant’s desk he said, “What do you do?”  I said, “I’m an ophthalmologist.”  I told him about the internship.  He said, “Here” and he gave me a stethoscope and he said, “Here, start examining these people.”  He didn’t want to keep the lines…I said, “I’m just an ophthalmologist” and he came back with a phrase I’ve never forgotten.  He said, “You’re a doc, ain’t ya doc?”  He handed me the stethoscope.  So I went off to my internship and my residency.  I was at Billings in my residency when I was called up again.  They figured I had learned enough in a couple of years and the army needed people.  So I was called up and I was the first person at Billings Hospital in the medical school there called up for active duty.  I went to Fort Sheridan.  They called for my exam and they said, “We don’t want you.  You’ve got asthma.”  I had had asthma when I was younger pretty much but I thought I was free of it.  They said, “You’re out.”  That was a little embarrassing because I was the first guy called up from Billings and I had a big party.  They gave me a Going Away Party.  I still have some books that they gave me and I had to report back a week later – I felt like 2 cents, but at any rate I got back and finished my residency.  The experience at Billings was very useful – this rigid training and it made me a better refractionist and I came home from my residency and I’m starting in the department here and I’m the teacher of refraction.  That stuck with me.  That was about it.  As far as the army was concerned, to wrap that up, I wanted to get in.  Everybody wanted to get in. 

First of all, you got married.

Yes, I was married in 1943.  I came back from my residency in 1942 and about 8 or 9 months later I was married.  The girl I knew when she was three years old.

That’s right, you told me about that.

But you know she was five years younger and as she was growing up I didn’t have anything to do with her socially.  She didn’t go out with me she went out with other people.  As a social individual I didn’t know her.  But…my father’s goal in life was to see me marry Jean.  He never said it but it was so obvious.  He would take her to the symphony and he was doing everything and we were together, the two families, all the time and finally we went to the World’s Fair, the two families went together to the World’s Fair. 

This was the Chicago World’s Fair, Century of Progress?

Yes, and that’s when I discovered that Jeanne was growing up.  Later on I started to date her and we thought we had an understanding.  Our pre-married life got very complicated – we though we had an understanding, I thought.  I went off to Billings and she went off to Rochester to get a Masters at Eastman.  She was already then concertizing and she…so she was at Eastman and I was in Chicago.

She was a pianist?

Yes.  We were very adult about it.  We said, look, we’re not tied down and if you want to date somebody or if I want to date somebody, fine, then we’ll get together when we come back.  So we did.  She dated a few fellows and happily my personality is very different than hers.  I dated somebody while I was at Billings and fell madly in love with her.  I would have quit my practice for her.  She wasn’t as in love with me but I was in love with her.  So I wrote to Jeanne and said, “It’s all off.  I found someone I’m going to marry.”  The girl in Chicago didn’t know I was going to marry her in fact she never even…I was just one of the residents and she was staying at the International House which was right near Billings so we would go out and we’d go for walks and everything.  So I wrote to Jeanne and said, “Forget it.”  Well I have to tell you something.  That created a complete tornado in the families.  After all, my mother and her mother were closest friends.  So the bottom line was that the girl in Chicago let me know that she was really not interested in me.  She put it delicately she was too young to marry.  She was also too rich.  I think that got to me because I had never dated anybody that rich in my life and the Fischer Nut Company. 

I recall Fischer Nuts.

She was the Fischer Nut Company.  At any rate, I was impressed.  She was a beautiful girl and rich and everything.  So I came back to St. Louis and Jeanne was not very pleased.  My folks were not very pleased but you know after a while I began to realize she was something very, very special.  She was a brilliant girl.  Like in the Leo Sachar class, the top of the class, always top of the class, always all honors and everything.  She was a very pretty girl and bright and everybody liked her and she was talented.  I thought, “It’s not such a bad deal, I think I’ll marry her.”  So we sort of got together again.

You made amends. 

Yeah, and so we got married the next February.  But all the Chicago business and St. Louis business all got intertwined. 

Yes, there was a famous composer at Eastman named Howard Hanson. 

She did her thesis on Howard Hanson.  She went to New York to visit him and spent some time and so she’s the one who has, the definitive Howard Hanson at Eastman is hers.  Also, his music, she got a real education in his music because she was steeped in classical music, that’s all she did.  She was trained here by a person by the name of Godfrey Gallston who had been a well-known concert pianist in Europe.  It worked out fine.  We got married and we’ve managed to stay married for 62 years now.  She’s still playing the piano.

Excellent.  Yeah, yeah.  Well, alright, so then you wound up in the military in 1944.  You got rejected and now you got…

I’m back in St. Louis and I still want to get in and Jeanne thinks I’m crazy.  You know by that time she was pregnant.  I was about to have a boy, a child. 

This is Michael, your oldest?

Yeah the oldest, Mike.  And she said something but I wanted to and I knew I had asthma and that they wouldn’t accept me and I figured I have to pull some strings.  How do you get in?  And I don’t know how, and I’ve racked my brains to remember how but somehow or another Walton…

Franklin Walton…

Yes.   Somehow he is connected with getting me into the Army.  They took me on limited service.  No overseas duty.  Other than that I got into the Army.  And I don’t know how?

So, where were you stationed?

I was stationed in Chicago, Illinois – Heinz Hospital was the nation’s largest veterans’ hospital and Vaughn Hospital was a huge army and during the war Heinz became an Army hospital.  So there was a big combination Army, business and I had my papers and that’s where I was assigned.  I was a detached officer to the Sixth Service Command, which was Chicago and that area – not in the St. Louis area.  That’s what I got and I got my papers.  I went and reported.  It was the main officer at Heinz – the chief medical officer.  I went in.  I had practiced for two days, by the way, saluting.  I went in with my papers under my arm, walked over to the desk.  I didn’t exactly click my heels but I put them together and saluted and he leaned over and he said, “Sit down doctor.”  (Laughter)  It was very informal at that point.  He said, “What do you do?”  I said, “I’m an ophthalmologist.”  I had my boards then.  I was practicing.  “You’re an ophthalmologist?”  “We don’t have a slot, you’re a psychiatrist.”  He didn’t have a slot for ophthalmology so I was sent to psychiatry.  It was a very educational experience.  I was there for six months.  The first medical paper, eye paper I ever delivered before a meeting -- this was the American Academy in Chicago.  I was still in the service delivering my talk in uniform.  The talk was on the eye findings in the out of contact patient.  Because we got into psychiatry and there were a lot of people who could have been diabetic retinopathy, diabetic coma, it could have been anything.  Most of them, I have to confess, were drunks.  They were completely wiped out from drinking.  But I did get to learn a lot about psychiatry from the one fellow there who was in psychiatry.  After six months they had an opening and they switched me to ophthalmology, IEN, eye, ear, nose and throat.  I did the eye part and I did a little nose and throat too.  I was doing tonsillectomies but mostly I was in the eye department and I stayed there the whole two years while I was in the service.  Some little funny things happened that didn’t happen to other people.  I knew I was going to be out sooner or later, sometime.  I had a car, it was my brother-in-law’s, Jean’s brother’s automobile.  He went in the Air Force, not exactly and he left his car behind and he said, “You use it until I get out of the service.”  So I had it but I knew in Chicago when I came back to St. Louis I was going to have to give him back his car and I needed a car.  So I went into a car place out near Baywood and there were no automobiles then, this was 1945/1946.  The automobile industry was making tanks and everything but there was a car dealer who had opened up a Kaiser/Fraiser Dealership.  He was guaranteeing that when they made cars he was going to get the first Kaiser/Fraisers out.    Well, he said all you need to do is put down a deposit and you’ll be in line for a car -- $500 deposit.  Well this guy must have had 10,000 deposits.  He was making a mint on the interest on his money.  Lo and behold Kaiser did come out with some cars in 1946.  He got some, maybe a half a dozen at first and I read about it, of course, and I went over to see him.  I said, “Where am I in line?”  He said, “Did you say you were leaving the service?”  “You’re leaving here?”  I said, “Yes.”  “You’re very lucky,” he said.  “You were 504 in line but now you’re number three.”  (Laughter) Because he knew I was asking for my money back.  He didn’t want to give it back.  So, I wound up getting a Kaiser and I drove it home and I was discharged from the army in November, 1946.  It was cold there was no heater in the car.  In those days the heater was an extra like a radio or a cell phone.  I drove home in zero weather in the Kaiser.  I got it home and my dad almost had a fit.  He said, “What did you do?”  He said, “That company will be out of business in five years.”  And they were.  He said, “Get rid of the car somehow and I’ll see that you get a car.”  So I went over to South Kingshighway where the dealerships were and they didn’t have anything much then and I drive up in this brand new Kaiser and the dealer looked at this and he said, “How much do you want for it?”  He said, “What did you pay for it?”  I told him and he said, “I’ll give you $500 more.”  So I sold the car in one day and made $500 and got the mistaken notion I was a “wheeler/dealer” in cars.  That’s another story, though.  I went home and my dad finally got me a car. 

It must have been a used car though?

No, as a matter of fact he let me drive his car for a while and he had a very good friendly relation with the McCarthy dealership.  It think it was Chevrolets.  McCarthy got me a car.  So I had it for a while.  It was a post war car and everything didn’t work.  After about two or three years I was able to get an automobile that worked.  But that was the story of my Chicago experience.  I learned a lot, I delivered this paper at a meeting and I had the notion maybe when I got through in the Army, instead of going into practice, maybe go back full time.  I talked about going to Northwestern with one of the people who were consulting at Heinz.  I talked about going to Dartmouth, the Eye Institute.  That was still real big then.  So I went to Dartmouth to have an interview.  It was 18 degrees below 0 when I arrived and I came home and told Jeanne it was 18 degrees below 0.  She never interfered with my professional life.  That was the one time she said, “Forget it.”  She said, “I don’t want to live at Dartmouth.”  So I decided I would go to Northwestern but what they had and what they could offer really wasn’t anything so I went back home.  I went to here and I went into practice.  That was how it wrapped up. 

Well, Dr. Post welcomed you back evidently.

I told you the story.  Before that, back in 1942 he said, “When you come back we’ll have a spot for you.”  So I went back full time in research.   I was in research on retinal chemistry.  That visual purple that Leo Sach had told me about four years earlier was bearing fruit and Bill Moore was invaluable.  He constructed a colorimeter.  This guy could make anything in the department. 

This is William Moore.

Yeah, before Beck and Dickinson and all these companies were around making colorimeters.  He made one, a no point colorimeter and he was a big help to me.  I spent the time there in the department until I went into the Army. 

By this time the building had been completed and they added…

In 1942, no.

Not yet, no?

I think they had…

But by 1946, didn’t they get the money to fill in the floors by the end of the war years?

Yes, but this was in 1942 and they did have 2nd and 3rd and I think they had, no wait, I think they had…the post office was still on twelve.  I don’t know what else.  Most of the floors were not finished.  They didn’t have money for it. 

Somehow they got it maybe by the end of the late 1940s.

Yes, and the details of that.   I don’t remember it but it’s in the book.

…does remember the idea of personnel riding the dumb waiters…

Oh, the residents…I don’t remember that, I was not a resident.  When I had to go up on the floors I took the elevator and the residents took the dumb waiter from the 12th floor where their squash court…

So you never rode the dumb waiter.

  In fact outside of Ruth Friedman I didn’t know anyone who did.  I liked Ruth.  I knew her from the campus.  We were in classes together but she came on later to medical school and she was a tough gal, nice but tough.

She was the first; she was a 1942 graduate of the School of Medicine, the first female resident of the department?  Why did it take so long to admit women to ophthalmology?

Women didn’t do anything in medicine.

Well, I know but already it was long overdue by the 1920s when they started training women physicians in other specialties.  Was there any resistance in ophthalmology?

I suspect that Lawrence Post never thought it was appropriate.  As I say, he had certain ideas, ethics and everything but I don’t know the answer to that.  I do know she got her residency by accident.  Did I tell that?  Well, she, I guess…she met with B.Y. Alvis.  In fact she was with him in an operating room.  I don’t know the details of that because Ruth is dead.  It happened that Phil Shayan became ill.  He had a residency appointment.  B.Y. said I just learned that Phil Shayan…

Is it Phil Shayan as opposed to Bill?

Phil.  B.Y. said to Ruth why don’t you go over to see Lawrence Post?  He’s short a person, maybe he’ll take you.  So she went right over to his office which was in the Metropolitan Building on Grand.  That’s where his office was, across from the Fox Theater Building. 


He took her.  That was it.  After that he took others as you know.  That’s how it came about at Wash. U.   When I was at Billings there were no female residents during my period there but there were female instructors.  One of my attendings was a woman.  Oh, off the record I have to tell you about the big brown board.

At Billings?

One of the early resident’s names (names are what I block the most) was – he was a musician and in fact E.V.L. Braun knew this.  He had a band, a dance band and on weekends they played at various venues – some of them down in Indiana.  He’d be back to his residency by Monday but sometimes he was so tired that they let him skip the operating room assisting on Mondays.  Jules Stein was his name and he was one of the eye residents.

Then he became one of the wealthiest men in the country. 

But he was in music right when he was in his residency and incidentally, Bernie Becker helped persuade him to set up this Jules Stein Institute out in California.  Jules Stein was very big in helping ophthalmology with the NIH and with the university, at any rate, that was something from Billings. 

Jules Stein eventually stopped practice as a doctor and became a full-time media mogul.  Back quickly to Bill Moore, I guess he had an oscilloscope…

Had a what?

No a galvanometer and this registered streetcar variations.

Yeah, that was a different one.  Well actually the colorimeter that he invented had something to do mechanically with a galvanometer. 

Ok and that picked up the streetcar.  Because Erlanger’s, oscilloscope similarly had problems with the streetcars in doing his work and tracing the nerve…

I never thought of it and Bill didn’t think of it for a while and then he realized that’s exactly what…he was a man of many talents and he smoked himself to death, incessant cigarettes.  But when they moved the instrumentation down to the basement it worked alright. 

In the case of the south building where Erlanger had his instrument they had to post somebody to see when the streetcar was coming. 

That I didn’t know.  You know Bill did other things actually.  As I say I was interested increasingly in lacrimal disease, particularly in the diagnosis of problems radioscopically.  So I spent plenty of time in the x-ray Department, Radiology at Barnes and at Jewish and I had written a couple of papers and I wanted to do an exhibit at the American Academy meeting on dacrasacagraphy.  That was a name that we coined for x-rays of the tears sacs.   And he put together an exhibit for me.  I supplied the x-rays and the information.  He put together an exhibit that won second prize at the Academy.  He just has this talent.  He made it work.  Oh, he did an exhibit for Paul Cibis who won the first prize. 

I see. 

…for his retina work.  So, Bill was, you know, just invaluable.  He was what they used to call in the old days, a “diener.”  But he was not a “diener” really.  He was a really skilled technician. 

“Diener” literally means servant. 

As a matter of fact he wasn’t a “diener” because he wasn’t part of the faculty until later on they finally gave him an appointment of some sort – instructor.

There are other geniuses of the medical school who came up the ranks that way.  Remember a Simms, I think was another one.

Yes, Bill was great. 

Well in just jumping ahead to Becker you know, you summarized Becker’s accomplishments in I think four points.  He built the department beyond what had existed under Lawrence Post.  He was a member of the executive faculty and therefore was a leader in the medical school as a whole and he tried to bring changes about in Barnes Hospital and then he was also a community leader.

Well, I can tell you, let me put it this way about what Becker did.  The answers, that’s an unanswerable question because you could fill this whole library.  Bernie Becker was a work machine and he was so brilliant.  You know his biography, gosh; he was doing mathematics when he was four years old.  He started out tutoring people when he was at Princeton and wound up so popular.  He wound up instead of tutoring 101 he had a whole classroom.  He was earning a living while…  Anyway about Bernie what I do know that is pertinent isn’t a whole lot.  As I say I’m talking as an outsider, but number one he changed the residency program and did it quickly.  Lawrence Post had set up his residency program so that there was a sequence of residents, one every six months which was an unbelievably impossible arrangement.  Bernie knew that before he ever came.  He knew he was going to do something.  What he did, as soon as he could, he changed it over so that he got “x” number of residents each year.  So you became a first year resident with all the rest of them and with the same group you were the second year.  And then he chose one from the third year to be the senior resident to sort of overlook the program.  He delegated the work beautifully.  He did not, after a few years, have to work out what the residents did.  The senior resident did it and a few of his full-time people.  So, that was one thing he did.  That was very important.  Another thing he did, well I don’t know the dates on it – but he was the man who desegregated Washington U., not just at McMillan but at the clinics down in the basement, he was it.  He was rather insistent and persistent about it because at first it didn’t work. At McMillan - I don’t know if I have this straight?  But, the blacks were on one floor and the whites on another.  In the private rooms, it was the same thing.  It didn’t work so well and so he was the one who was responsible for desegregating the private rooms as well as the clinic and ward patients.  There was resistance.  People on the faculty were opposed to that.  They weren’t racists or anything they just felt that their patients would be uncomfortable being in the same room.  They were trying to think of their patients.  That didn’t bother Bernie.  What was what was what, you know.  He was aware of integration.  He had it at Wilmer.  So he did that and then he proceeded to get it done at Barnes. 

Was he able to make the changes in Barnes proper as opposed to McMillan? 

I don’t know the answer to that.  Yes, Barnes proper on the clinic wards.  I don’t know about the hospital beds. 

Well later on, it wasn’t until the 1960s but…

But he was on the executive faculty of things that he used muscle on.  I think because he was a doer, he comes to the department at age 33.  Erlanger and other people were not age 33 and instead of being subservient and quiet on the executive faculty, he made his presence known and they knew what he stood for and he commanded, obviously, I don’t know this I never sat in an executive faculty meeting --  only once for a minute.  But you know they respected him.  How did I sit in on it?  I came here last week looking for this room and I went into the wrong room and the lady said to me, here’s this long row of chairs and no one is in the room, the lady said to me, “Are you on the executive faculty?”  I said, “Not any more” and I walked out.  She said, “You want to be in the next room.” 

Ok, you had your brief moment of…

Another thing, Bernie put his money where his mouth was, I mean figuratively.  For example, the executive faculty sometimes held their meetings at hotels or places that didn’t accept blacks in their hotel.  He wouldn’t attend those meetings, he stayed home. 

You said that the University Club was a place that was segregated?

Yeah, the University Club.  So I think that draws a picture of Bernie, the man and what he stood for.  But ophthalmologically, world-wide he actually spread his wings everywhere and he was, as you know better than I do, he was respected and he was a god everywhere in the world.  And, of course, people came from everywhere in the world to spend time with Bernie.  He brought Hans Goldman, the inventor of the perimeter.  This is one of the most famous names…he came to spend time with Bernie, to work with him.  Goldman was wonderful.  I wasn’t there but he would go around the wards in the mornings and see what the residents were doing and give them advice and help.  Bernie tried to woo him to stay here permanently.  Goldman’s wife wouldn’t hear of it.  So, Bernie was bringing people in from all over.  So he was widely known and of course he was instrumental in raising the stature of ophthalmology in a variety of ways.  First of all, let me go back.  Another thing he did was immediately begin to build a full time faculty for research purposes but they could practice too.  They saw patients.  Bernie saw patients.  When Bernie came in 1953 he had expertise in retina work.  He could use an indirect ophthalmoscope.  He could do things that the residents weren’t learning here that no one was teaching them.  Pretty soon he was swamped with patients.  Doctors all over were sending him patients.  He was scrupulously exact about sending back a full report and sending back the patient.  You know in those days that was Lawrence Post that was Bernie Becker.  So, he did a lot to start to build that department until it became the best one in the country – bringing in the right people, setting up the teaching program for the residents.  It was wonderful and many of his residents influenced by Bernie stayed in academia and became department chiefs.  There’s a long list.  I can’t even mention the people who stayed in academia and became widely known. 

In just one mundane manner, he air conditioned the place.

Oh, and about that, again I was on the outside.  I don’t know how it came but all I know is that I think he air conditioned the clinic before he air conditioned McMillan and before the hospital was air conditioned.  He air conditioned the clinic.  It was crowded and I don’t mean patients, doctors and residents from the other place, when it was really hot and sticky came over to cool off in the clinic.  The operating rooms in McMillan – well when we started operating there they were not air conditioned.  When it got real hot, later in my career when I was doing mostly lacrimal surgery, I did most of it at Jewish, not much of it at Barnes.  Earlier on I did a lot of my surgery here.  Well I still remember being in the operating room and you’re dying from the heat and it’s so hot that you’re going to contaminate the field with perspiration and the nurse had to stand there while you were working mopping.  It’s hard to visualize it but that’s how we operated on people.  You would be standing there and you’d stand back and she’d be wiping you.  When it got insufferable and there was no air they’d open the window.  So you open a window in an operating room and invite in everything that the Lord has invented. 

Air pollution…

We got by with it.  I don’t know how many infections they had but it wasn’t a disaster.  But, yes, that was really important.  So he got the clinic going, he got the teaching program going.  He got the research program, he got the full-time faculty going and he was sure that his full-time faculty sent their patients back. So, that’s what he did and then, of course, his work on the national/international level.  He was instrumental in starting the organization (I don’t know the name of it) Professors of Ophthalmology, the chairs and starting the Journal.  He just did everything.

So he was an innovator in associations and professional publications.  You’ve already mentioned Paul Cibis, I think.  He was hired by Becker.  He was a German who came here? 

Yes, very important.  If I left him out I left out one of the most important figures.  Phil Shayan was stationed at Brookfield in Texas.  I don’t think he ever went overseas.  He was at Brookfield and he was needed there.  At the end of the war the Army picked up a number of people and shipped them to the United States whether he was a prisoner of war and had to go or what.   But Paul Cibis was a well-known researcher in Germany.  They brought him to the States because…and he had been in the army, German army…I think to put it gently you didn’t have any choice.  You did what Hitler wanted or you were out, gone.  So, I don’t know.  But he was interested in research and some of this research was the effect of the atom bomb on the eye, on vision, while he was in Europe because they were working on the atom bomb too.  We just beat them to it.  So they brought him to the States with the idea that he could work on the atom bomb here.  That’s what they brought him here for.  So he went to Brookfield where they were studying this and this was a brilliant man.  Amazingly he did not come to the States as a child he came as a post-war doctor.  His English was very good.  He had a very small accent.  It was amazing, he was a brilliant man.  He was interested in music.  Phil Shayan wrote or called or talked to Bernie.  He said there’s a guy down here that when he’s free, they let him go. You ought to grab him.  He is brilliant and he will make a good research man.  He does great work.  To make a long story short Bernie got him.  Bernie gets what he wants and he brought Paul here, not as a retina man but Paul knew how to use the ophthalmoscope, retinascope and he brought Paul here because Paul could take the clinical practice load off of Bernie.  Bernie did want it.  So as soon as Paul came here he was loaded with patients.  While he’s looking at retinas and so forth, a question comes up of doing some retinal surgery.  Paul, I think had done some, so he wasn’t a stranger to it and he was able to do some on these cases referred by Bernie so Bernie shipped him off to the East to get some training in retinal surgery.  As the story goes, that’s how it happened.  He came back, he set up a retina department and he worked himself to death.  It got so that he was there day and night and it got to the point where he couldn’t handle it so he brought in one more man.  He brought in Ed Oken and the two of them ran it for a while.  But as the story goes over the years that Department grew and now retina is a huge, huge department and it’s really not a Department, it’s a separate practice.  But all of them teach in the Department.  What happened was that Paul, when he really got going was bringing in a mint of money to the Department.  He was doing surgery, fees are high, he was operating day and night and he was full time and he was getting paid $15,000 per year.  Bernie said that won’t do so he went to the executive faculty and he wanted him to be raised to $25,000.  There was some resistance because that meant every department was going to have to raise salaries.  So, Paul quit.  He and Bernie talked about it and Paul agreed to teach half time and practice half time.  That’s when he got swamped with work and he got Ed Oken and so they actually they were in a private practice right in McMillan.  It was just like me or Ed Alvis we taught at McMillan but we had a separate practice only his practice was right in the hospital and personally I thought he was a marvelous man.  He was bright; he was exciting and his wife too.  We became close friends – Paul and his wife and Jeanne and me and Paul by the way almost routinely applied for staff membership at Jewish.  They didn’t give it to him.  The War was still too bitter; it was still too soon after the War.  You know it was ten years after the War.  Did Paul get uppity about it?  No, most of his friends here actually were Jewish.  He gravitated somehow to them and we put the War behind us and we were very good friends.  And, of course you know the story, I’m sure that he dropped dead suddenly and there was panic in the place.  Ed Oken took it over and built it up.  That’s the story of Paul, a great asset to the Department and it’s critical the way that retina service built.  It’s a big part of what makes Bernie’s Department so great. 

All the while you maintained your private practice and you moved at one point from mid-town to Clayton.  When did that happen?

I started in a new building that was being built on Euclid right diagonally across from Forest Park Hotel.  I think it was called The Doctors’ Building. 

So that was an interim step.  You moved from the building next to the Fox, then…

Oh that one, I forgot about that, yes, that’s why…I moved every thirteen years, oddly enough.  Just like that.  Yes, I was down at the Fox in the Fox Theater Building and working by myself with Burton until he moved out and I hired an optometrist who I thought was a good refractionist.  There’s quite a “to-do” about that.  I’m talking about an optometrist in 1952.  We became good friends.  He became an expert contact lens man and years later he left my practice and started his contact lens practice.  But that was a big “to-do” about me hiring an optometrist but I did and he was very helpful.  He was a bright guy.  He’d take histories and everything.  Now that’s not so unusual.  That was very unusual. 

Sure, it was like that, doctors were a class above and they didn’t associate with that.

I’m trying to remember how I got him.  Somebody told me that he was coming out of the Army and needed a place, one of the ophthalmologists.  Anyway that’s how it worked out.  We stayed there 13 years from when I started – well I started in 1946 -- to 1958 or 1959.  Then the office was pretty small and I needed more room and so we found out that this building was being built on Euclid Avenue and I investigated it and I said that’s where we’ll move, it’s close to Barnes, it’s close to Jewish.  It’s convenient.  There’s a streetcar running there, although I had a car by then.  So, I…now there’s a name I remember.  I’m still trying to think of the world’s most famous architect.  He was in Chicago at the time.

You’re not thinking of Harris Armstrong?

No, he was little compared to this man.  It will come.  At any rate and the reason that made me think of it is the person building this building, this medical building, I remember him saying later that he would never do it again.  He had to build a building for 36 prima donnas.  Every doctor wanted something different.  The builder by the way is I.E. Millstone whose been a very great influence on the campus, you know.  So, I moved there and I worked with B.Y. Alvis and we shared a suite just like I had done down in the Fox Building.  So we shared a suite, the Alvises had the rooms over there and I had the rooms over here and there was a common waiting room for both of us.  That worked out very well and all kinds of things happened there.  About four or five years after I started there I had a trusted receptionist who was a receptionist and put in the eye drops.  She was an aid – she swindled me and I would have never known about it.  You know I didn’t know much about money.  Jeanne takes care of everything in the house and it turns out she was rewriting or defacing some deposit slips and everything and this one guy at the bank got suspicious and he called me about it and that’s the only way I found out.  Well, the police said, “Did I want to put her in jail?” I said, “It’s not going to do anything.”  So we made a deal, she would not be prosecuted if she would agree to pay back what she had stolen, a little bit every month until it was paid back, which she did for two months.  I never heard of her again, she left town.  But at any rate it was an interesting experience working with the Alvises.  Anyway they were great people, both of them. 

B.Y. and Ed?

Yes, B.Y. and the son Ed.  What else can I tell you about that?  I can tell you that the optometrist worked with me there too and we stayed there 13 years.  Then I got an idea.  I didn’t get it alone.  I got talking with Ed Alvis that what we really needed to do – boy we were way ahead of our time – what we needed to do was build an eye center – practice independently but we would have common facilities – visual field rooms that everyone could use; training rooms; bookkeeping center, everything.  We talked about it and we decided that that’s what we would try to do.  We tried to get into the building with the University Club on Forsyth and Clayton.  No, that’s not it.

That wasn’t the University Club – the St. Louis Club?

It was on the corner of, right in the heart of Clayton – the tall skyscraper.

Pierre Laclede?

Pierre Laclede Building, yes. We couldn’t get in there.  The reason they wouldn’t let us in there is they said it would take too many cars.  They couldn’t use the parking.  To make a long story short we thought about that for a while and decided to build one.   So we sat down.  We got ourselves an architect who had to go through the same thing that Millstone had building.  We got a group; I think there were 11 of us, all from the department, all attendings.  They included the Alvises and their add-ons because by that time they had more people in departments; Jack Hays and others and Bob Drews and Jim Bobrow and me.  We managed to get together a group.  We picked an architect because he had designed a similar building; it wasn’t all medical on Brentwood to the south, so we hired him.  He designed a very interesting building.  It was called the Ophthalmological Center.  I don’t know if you know of it or ever saw it?

That’s where Bob Drews was practicing in 1980 because I came and did my very first interview of this series in 1980 and that must have been that building.

Yeah, that was the building.  Bob, Ed Alvis and I were the main ones in designing and getting the building.  At that time Jim Bobrow was with Drews but later on had his own office and that’s how I got there.  13 years with each one.  And while we were there we had a bigger office and I still had my optometrist and after a few years in the building he left me and opened his contact lens office in the same building, right in the Ophthalmological Building.  Then I got somebody else, Byrnes Silver came into the office and he was with me for quite a while and he had to leave me.  His wife said he wasn’t making enough money.  I have to tell you, making a lot of money out of medicine was never a primary object of mine.  I was still living back in the Lawrence Post and Hayward Post days when medicine was a calling.  So, Bernie left me and subsequently we left.  I guess it was 13 years more and we decided we should go west.  So we built a building and had both offices in Clayton. 

The we now, is this your son Barry? 

It was Silver.  My son Barry was with me then too.  So there were three of us working there and we went to a building on Ballas Road and Clayton on the northwest corner.  We thought that was pretty good because that was near hospitals and everything so we opened an office there.  Then we added Bruce Cohen who practices here in Barnes now.  He stayed with us a couple years then he opened an office down here and very quickly we realized that running back and forth between two offices didn’t help any.  So we moved out of the office in Clayton, on Meramec and moved out west and there was Barry and me and Bruce and Byrnes Silver who then left and we had just Bruce and Bruce left.  At this time our office started to shape itself a little.  Maybe one of the reasons Bruce left – Barry my son before he came back to St. Louis had training in pediatric ophthalmology.  In fact when he came before Tyson came, Barry was the stand-in.  He was the Department Chief in Pediatrics for about a year and one half while they were hunting for a replacement.  He didn’t want to be he didn’t care for full time.  So we had Barry and Barry was getting more and more pediatric practice.  So we decided we needed a bigger office.  So finally we got out of that office and we moved into another.  We tended to get into new buildings as they were being built so we could design our suite.  I loved that because as I said I was an architecture bug. 

You’re not thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright, are you?


Well alright, you kept calling him a sculptor and you said architect…

Frank Lloyd Wright.  We still revere him.  I look at one of the homes he built out here on Highway 40.  At any rate, we moved again.  We moved on Ballas near Olive Street Road.  There were two buildings being built.  They were taken over ultimately by Jewish Hospital but first they were built, I’m trying to think who the doctor was who helped finance it.  It was a private business project when they were built but later became part of Jewish Hospital.  And so I designed an office for us and that’s where our office is now, to this day.  Barry does have another office in St. Peters which is all pediatrics and the pediatric business in this office has tapered off. 

That’s where the kids are in St. Charles County. 

Exactly, it’s a young community.  So that’s the progression from the Fox Theater Building to our present offices and now Barry’s overworked.  At least he was 15 years ago. 

When did he become a doctor?  He must have followed you as a role model? 

Actually, no.  I was not really a role model.  I said do what you want to do.  The hero in the family was my brother-in-law, Katzman the biochemist and Barry decided he was going to be a biochemist and he went to MIT and that’s where he studied biochemistry.  About the third year at MIT he got to thinking about spending his life working with mice and rats and he said he wasn’t for him and he made a switch and got into medical school here and that’s how he ended up being an ophthalmologist.  He had his ophthalmology residency at the University of Florida.  I’m trying to think of when he graduated?  Let’s see?  He is 58 and he graduated medical school at the age of 26 which is standard time for graduating.  I got out of medical school when I was 23 but 26.  He interned, I don’t remember where?  He interned in Florida then he had his residency at the university and it was four years and then he took a year of pediatrics.  At any rate, those dates are in the book.  I’m embarrassed to say that after that book was done.  Are you going to ask me about that book later? 

No, I’m not going to ask you.

Well I want you to because there’s a story I want to tell you. 

Well, alright I will.  First of all while we’re on the family, your oldest son Michael, what specialty is he in? 

Oncology, hematology and he too came to that a little bit -- that was not his idea as a child.  At Princeton he wanted to be a writer.  In fact he was President of the Princeton Press Club.  He came home after his 3rd year at Princeton and I wanted to get him a job on a newspaper, an intern on a newspaper.  I had connections.  Sullivan Pepper was City Editor of the Post and a close friend.  He couldn’t get him a job.  I had a patient who was on a Granite City newspaper, a good patient.  He couldn’t get him a job.  Well, what do you do with an adult child who’s got the summer free?  I got him a job as an orderly at Jewish Hospital.  He made rounds with Mike Carl and Jerry Flantz and one or two others and in about two or three weeks he decided he was going to be a doctor and he applied to medical school and went to medical school here. 

So he is also a Washington University…

Yes, he went to Washington U. and he went out West because there was a very important oncologist out there at the University of Washington.  He went out there full-time.  So he was in the department there for a number of years and they were doing some good work.  He was getting papers out and they set up a project for a new activity and they couldn’t get it funded, which didn’t cause a catastrophe for the chief but Mike said this is no way to live, to worry about whether or not you’re going to get funding or not, so he left he went into practice.  He’s still on the faculty and he teaches there but he’s with a group of oncologists that serve the University and serve the community.  That’s the story with Mike.  The third one was Barry.

Ok the third one was Barry and Martin is the writer in theater in New York? 


And what sort of stuff does he do?  He’s apparently remained with the arts. 

Well, if this doesn’t find its way into the history.  He was the brightest and sharpest of the four boys – and they were smart, but he was the brightest.  He must have got my father’s genes.  In school he was a terror.  He didn’t study, sometimes the teacher at grade school would say, “Come take him home, he’s disrupting the class.”  That was the way he was.  He started writing in high school.  He went to U. City High.  You know, what are you going to do with this guy?  He didn’t say what he was going to do and we didn’t know and finally he decided he was going to go to junior college and learn something.  We went away for a vacation and we weren’t gone two or three weeks.  We came back and he had quit junior college.  He was driving a cab.  He said, “You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to go to Webster.”  Why and how they took him?  He didn’t have complete grades or credits from junior college but he got in.  I don’t know how.  He went into the theater program.  There he seemed to find…well, he found his niche, actually.  Right off at the beginning he got into…there’s a south side play theater group that’s been around forever.  He got job acting in one of their plays.  And that was it, he was stuck and he graduated.  He stayed with it.  When he graduated Webster, we’ll never forget the graduation.  He had his diploma, he came down off the roster and marched right up to Jeanne and said, “Here, mom, this is for you.”  He handed her the diploma.  Well, very shortly after he graduated, he took off for New York.  He’s lived there ever since.  He went there and never worked in a bar or anything.  He got a job at first selling books a little and then I don’t remember it, it’s somewhere in my records, he got a job as a stage hand or something with one of the theaters in New York.  He worked his way up and became a stage manager and one of the shows that came was a one-man show with Vincent Price, who was a St. Louisan.  Of course, he’s the stage manager and they got together as St. Louisans and it moved him on up.  Then he started trying out and getting acting jobs.  So he was doing some acting.  He was not a leading man type.  He was short but he never did grow like I did.  He’s about 5’9” and a comedian.  He started writing funny stuff and doing it in these clubs, eating clubs, where you stand up and talk and just started to meet people in the theater area and ended up some years later…oh, what am I talking about.  He was working all that time, he got jobs writing papers at the various universities for professors who, someone like you would be editing my paper – he edited their works for them.  That paid fairly well, so he was really working all along and still hanging on to the theater.  He wound up ultimately – oh, there’s much more about him, he’s a long story.  He wound up ultimately with the John Houseman Acting Company and he became their director on tour.  So he toured running the John Houseman Company for two years.  In fact, at one time they came to St. Louis.  They were traveling in busses and trailers you know their scenery and everything.  I was living then, where we’re living now, as a matter of fact, so it’s less than 35 years ago.  I live right off Conway just east of St. John’s Hospital – just between Westwood Country Club and St. John’s Hospital, and I don’t know why we have it, but we have a large lot, about 1-1/2 acres.  I don’t know why because I don’t care for the outdoors.  Jeanne likes it.  So Martin came with the acting company and they pulled up in these busses to our house and Jeanne gave them all a big meal.  They were out on the lawn shooting Frisbees.  That was my contact with the John Houseman Company.

But at any rate, he’s still in New York…

He’s still in New York.  Yes, he doesn’t act anymore but he writes.  This came about at least 15 years ago.  He got somehow into writing for the theater.  The way it has wound up is for all that time now he writes industrial theater.  He writes shows for large corporations.


I didn’t even know such a business existed.  Did you?  For example, a company like Pfizer…his specialties by the way are computers and pharmacology.  They would hire a big speaker – a famous man and spend $100,000 to bring him to their annual meeting where they have 2,000 people from the company.  That’s sort of gone away.  The speakers are gone and writing shows has become a big business.  A number of companies do this.  He freelances.  He always has work.  He’s always busy a year ahead.  That’s what he writes, so that keeps him pretty busy.  Every once in a while if he has a little break he will do some stand-up comedy at a small club in New York.  It’s fun.  Sometime I’ll have you come to the house and play one of his tapes.  That’s what he did and that’s what he does.  Sadly he never married and that’s a sore spot with Jeanne and me.  First he said he’s traveling all the time.  What he’s doing with the theater things, they put him on anywhere, wherever their convention is.  So he’s done shows in Hawaii, he’s done shows in Paris.  You know.  He said he couldn’t get married, he’s never home.  He did fall in love with one girl and they went together for some years.  She was a lawyer and her offices’ work was theater law.  That’s how they met but they broke up. 

You were about to tell me about you came to write On the Shoulders of Giants.

How I what? 

How you came to write the book?  You wanted to tell me about that.

On the Shoulders of Giants?  Yes, I will tell you.  This has nothing to do with the book, but Harry Rosenbaum who is on the attending staff here when he died I was mad at him because he left me as the oldest person in the department.  He was the oldest.  He died now I’m the oldest.  Well, Bernie Becker retires, we acquire a now-famous or infamous man, Henry Kaplan and Henry, as you probably are aware, destroyed the Department in one decade.  I won’t go into that. 

Well you’re kinder in the book.  You’re a whole lot kinder than that.  You don’t ever say anything like that.

Well, he didn’t think I was very kind to him because what happened was that Kaplan came to me and he said, you know Buddy, he said, “What the department doesn’t have and needs is a history.”  “Why don’t you write a history of the department?”  “You’ve been around here for a long time.”  “You can do it.”  I have a very low threshold for flattery.  I said “gee, I’d be glad to.”  And I did it.  That’s how it came about.  But…very simply what I did was I got together a letter.  I worked on it very carefully and sent a letter to every single person living that I knew of that had been a resident or a faculty member.  Of course, not everybody wrote to me but I got a tremendous amount of material.  That’s the book -- that plus interviewing the St. Louis people.  I interviewed Bernie about three times and I interviewed Kaplan twice and I interviewed the people in the Department.  That’s how I assembled the book.  I thought it was really a great book because I wrote not in pedantic style or formal and people have complimented me but Kaplan didn’t like it.  He thought, apparently that it didn’t treat him well enough.  Of course, he knew how the rest of the Department felt.  He was probably pretty paranoid about it and he said, “I think we better put this aside because after all, the Department is an on-going thing and you can’t write the history now.”  “It has to wait for somebody who can write it.”  That was when I came to the decision, homicide or suicide.  You know I had spent three years on this. 

Yes, I helped you.

I know.  If it wouldn’t be for you I wouldn’t have it.  You were the invaluable help.  I thought you knew that Kaplan turned it down?

Well, I knew you told me that but I wanted you to tell me.

Ok, then as soon as he departed the premises, Mike Kass, a really wonderful man, he picked it up and said, “Let’s go with it.”  He’s the one who had it published.  Of course, I’m forever grateful to him because it’s an interesting book and I still think it’s the only really complete well-crafted department history in the medical school.  Isn’t that true?

Well, it’s certainly better than others…

I know someone in OB was talking to me recently, a couple years ago and he said, “I know you did this.”  “Tell me exactly how you went about it because I was asked to do one.”  So maybe there will be his, I don’t know. 

What have you done with all the interviews and tapes?   Do you still have those?

I think, I don’t know, I may not, I don’t know.  I would have to look because I have some filing cabinets at home.  I don’t know what’s in them, really.

Why don’t we just tentatively follow up?  If there are things that you could deposit from you’re making of that book…

You’d like to have them?

Yes, they would be welcome here.

I’ll sure take a really careful look. 

I’ll write you a memo on it because you’ve got some wonderful contacts and some wonderful potential things that others might be able to use.

But you know up to when this came up I hadn’t read that book for several years.  I liked the book and people were very kind with what they said about it.  So, I did a good job, you did a good job.

Oh, thank you.  You’ve been doing some other kind of writing all along and this is in the form of light verse.  We’ve picked out a couple of things that we want to have your voice…   But first, tell me when did you start writing light verse or poetry?

Well, when I started and got interested in light verse and when I started writing are two different things.


The interest came about because as a child, I think I was 12 years old…it’s funny I used to read a great deal when I was young and in high school.  Then I quit reading when I got to Medical School and I really didn’t pick it up again.  I got away with reading medical stuff and I didn’t start reading again until about ten years ago.  But, somebody when I was 12 years old gave me a copy of a book of humorous poetry by a writer named Samuel Hoffenstein.  The book was called Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing.  I opened the book up, I laughed I thought that was funny.  Things he wrote were funny.  There was one poem he had in the book.  I have to tell you about that because I thought it was hilarious.  It went like this in the book,


Babies haven’t any hair,

Old men’s heads are twice as bare.

Between the cradle and the grave,

Lies a haircut and a shave.


I thought that was hilarious.  You know I didn’t realize until I started teaching light verse and I looked at this poem again.  I said there’s a tremendous philosophy of life encapsulated there.  It’s a philosophy of despair and everything Hoffenstein wrote, and he was a very funny and very popular writer back 80 or 90 years ago – everything was a “downer” was despair.  He telegraphed that in this little poem – “Between the cradle and the grave lies a haircut and a shave.”  What else?  So, I didn’t get rid of that book.  I put that book away and I remember picking it up and reading it, oh during the War time.  For reasons I do not understand, I wrote a letter in the Army in Chicago to a friend and I wrote it in verse and he wrote back in verse and he was good.  We played around with that a little bit and these things came in and out.  I mean it’s not unusual for a department or a hospital to have an annual show.  So with a colleague of mine we wrote a show for the Billings Hospital, what was called the Billings Boys Club.  So I got to write some lyrics in that.  How did I really get into it?   I was fooling around with it and writing it and just for fun writing little poems and putting them in a notebook.  This is before there were computers.  I’m talking about, I guess, in the 1960s and I was collecting them.  There were poems about all sorts of things.  I still have those four notebooks and I’m looking for stuff to write about.  Sometimes at the bedside I would keep a little pad of paper and a pencil and I had on the nightstand a light.  When I came up at night I’d scribble down the idea and I’d go after it and do it later – on anything.

Somebody observed you doing it at the symphony.  At the symphony you would get out a…

Oh yeah, I wrote a couple of good things at the symphony when Jeanne thought I should be listening to the music.  Then I came across one poem and I don’t know why.  As I said earlier, I feel that I’m a good Jew but I’m not what you would call an observant Jew.  To tell the truth I don’t remember having read the Bible because when I was going to that Hebrew school he was teaching in Hebrew and I didn’t understand what he was saying.  I picked up a little of the Bible on the high holidays and so forth.  But suddenly one night the idea came to me about Lots’ wife.  I said “I’ve got to write about that.”  So what I wrote was this.


The good book says regarding Lot,

His wife deserves just what she got.

Cause if the good Lord said to them tomorrow,

I’m going to burn down Sodom and Gomorrah. 


You better leave, don’t look behind,

But she was of a different mind.

And when her curiosity subsided,

Lot found her sodium chlorided.


Which tale should not be read with malice,

But possibly with cum grano salis (with a grain of salt).


I thought that was funny.  I put it in my notebook.  I was thumbing through that notebook much later, maybe six months or so later.  I came across this poem.  I said “gee” if there’s something funny about Lot there must be something else funny in the Bible.  I got my answers for that by one of the professors at Washington U.  I said, “There’s nothing funny in the Bible.”  He said, “There is.”  We talked about it.  At any rate I started looking and the next thing I know I came across the departure from Eygpt and the parting of the Red Sea and I wrote a poem on it.  Then I was hooked.  Then I started to read the Bible that I had never read and I sat down and read through it from A-Z.


Absolutely, every page.  I didn’t do it overnight, I took I don’t know how many week, months and I learned something about the Bible.  I didn’t know about it.  Then I went back and I read it a second time only this time I stopped and made notes any place I wanted to write a poem.  And then I sat down and started writing these poems and collecting them and before I knew it after a period of several years I had over a 100-120 poems on the Old Testament and that’s when I got to thinking, I’d like to see this in print.  I never saw any of this stuff in print.  By this time it was maybe the 1980s or so.  Something happened that derailed me.  You know things happen by Kismet, by chance. 


I had a very interesting job for five years.  Bernie was proud of it.  I was on the Ophthalmology Residential Committee.  There were nine people and they examined the residency programs of all the programs and we were handed something like this and studied it carefully and what they do.  We went to places and we interviewed and I was the token.  The other eight were academics.  They were heads of departments and things.  So, I was the token.  At the end of the time after I had served my time, I wrote a poem on this activity.  Oh, you never saw that poem.[6]


I’ll send it to you.  It is great.  It was a “tongue in cheek” look at the committee and what they did.  One of the people who was chairman of one of the departments in the east – he saw that poem.  I showed it to him in fact I just showed it to all the people who were on the committee and he sent it to somebody to publish it.  He sent it to the Survey of Ophthalmology.  I got a call from them and I got together with the editor of Survey and he said, “How would you like to write a column for us.”  He said, “There are no funny things in medical journals, except the New England Journal of Medicine occasionally and things like that.”  Then, having a low threshold for flattery I agreed to do it and for 22 years I wrote a page there under my own by line called Time Off – OPH for an ophthalmology journal.  It was good.  I edited the column, the page, it was a page and invited contributions from everybody.  That’s how I edited it and actually roughly I once counted but 85% of the contributions I wrote -- but there were things coming from Europe and from Asia and from around the country.  So I enjoyed that there I was deeply into writing ophthalmology light verse.  So I put aside that Bible.  Incidentally I resigned from the Ophthalmology Journal l just last year.  I did it up to one year ago. I decided I had nothing more to say so I dropped the Journal.   I had to drop the Bible.  I had collected all these poems and along about the end of the 1980s I picked it up and said, “I want to get it published.”  First thing I did was run to the library to ask somebody, “How do you write to a publisher?”  They handed me the, what is it called, the Literary Publishing DigestEvery publisher in the world is in that thing and so I started writing to publishers and getting replies.  Some of those I’ve saved – getting turned down.  Nobody was interested in it.  I was getting a little disappointed.  I thought it was a pretty good thing – it was funny and I didn’t think it was really disrespectful of religion, and it wasn’t, I was careful.  In fact, I showed the manuscript to a patient of mine who was a Baptist minister.  I showed it to a priest who was in writing at St. Louis U.  I showed it to my rabbi.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t hurting anybody’s feelings.  I wrote it to publishers.  Then I picked them out and I got rejections – one after the other.  I was told don’t write to more than two at a time because if you write to more and someone takes you, you could get into a legal problem if two of them take it.  So, I limited it to two at a time and I did that one year, two years, and three years, year after year.  I got a phone call one day from one of the publishers.  He said, we have your letter of a year ago and he gave me the date, saying that you had a book of poetry based on the Bible.  I said, “Yes.”  He said, “We’d like to talk to you about it.”  I couldn’t believe this after five years.  I had saved a lot of these rejections.  They’d make a good book.  I was really this high off the ground.  I said, “I’m very interested in talking with you.  I can cancel my office appointments tomorrow and I can be wherever you are.”  “Where are you?”  He said, “About two miles from your house.”  The Time Being Books Company which has published for 20 years now I guess only serious verse.  I’m the only person on their list who’s published light verse.  At any rate I said, “Great.”  I went over there.  Their offices were, in fact still are, you know where the Chateau is -- in that building.   I went and met them and found, maybe not by accident, but I found that the owner and publisher, who was a poet by the way – a good poet – that his father had been a patient of mine.  Whether that’s how he knew the name or not -- I don’t know.  I talked to them and they were interested.  They said well, “We’ll look at it.”  They didn’t promise anything.  To make a long story short, they accepted it and they printed the Bible book.  It was tremendously successful.  I heard a talk by Howard Nemeroff one time and he said, “Here I am the Poet Laureate of the United States.  If one of my books sells 2,500 copies it’s a best seller.”  Poetry is not a good seller and light verse even less.  But this one took off -- again coincidence, I had a patient who was a feature writer for the Post.  I was telling her about this and she said, “Let me write a story about it.”  They ended up writing I don’t know if I sent you a copy of that, they wrote a full page article in the Post Magazine Section about me and the book.  Well that book started selling like crazy.  They were in a 2nd edition, 2nd printing.

Well let’s get some citations here.  The Good Book Says is about the Old Testament. 

Yeah.  What happened is when it sold well I said, “Gee, maybe the New Testament will do that?” 

It resulted in The Good Book Also Says.  This one was 1995.

Well actually what I also did was I sat down and read the New Testament.  Even in a very liberal religious persuasion like Share Emeth, they didn’t teach us the New Testament.  There wasn’t time.  So I read the New Testament, the same procedure, cover to cover then went back and read it again marking places where there might, without offending, be material to write.  That instead of taking 20 years like the Old Testament – in three years I put together over 100 poems and they accepted it.  They thought it was a great idea but it didn’t sell as well as the Old Testament.  They published it and I was thrilled with it.  It was actually a pretty good book.  Did you see that one?

No, I didn’t see the New Testament one.

I’ll see that you get a copy. 

 Then you did other books, Love is Funny, Love is Sad.

Yes, a lot of those were published poems, some of them were serious poems.  I thought before the light verse business, back in the 1940s, 1950s I thought I’d be a poet.  My wife said, “Look, stick to life first, you’re no poet.”  So I dropped it.  But I had some poems, pensive, serious and I had a lot of stuff that was published.  These were old poems and so I asked them at the Publisher “would they be interested in that?”  He said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.”  So I put together a bunch of my funny poems and a bunch of the old more thoughtful poems and they said that’s great.  I forgot but they quoted me a very famous book that was Face to Face and did two things.    They did a cover for it.  In my Bible books the covers were great.  The Old Testament had Adam and Eve with Adam having a band-aid where the rib was.  The artist was from the Post-Dispatch and then the New Testament, you know, at any rate what they did for Love is Funny, Love is Sad, the cover was deep red and deep black, half and half – and it worked.  It’s probably the best book I’ve written.  It still continues to sell.  All of these, you know are on the internet and they get artists through the internet.  So, it’s not like the Bibles but it’s the best book.  Everybody agrees to that. 

Then you also came out with The Zoo You Never Gnu.

Well, I write on everything.  Over the years, collecting these notebooks I’ve written on animals too and birds and what made me think of that was after retiring – and I’ve been retired now for close to 15 years.

Yes, that’s the lose end I really need to tie.  When did you retire?

Well, I don’t know, 1991, 1992 or 1993.  I didn’t walk out of the office and say, “Goodbye.”  What I did was stop doing surgery.


And why did I do that?  You might be interested.

 Please tell me.

I was still doing good surgery and I was doing the lacrimal surgery.  People are still sending those things in.  One day I woke up and said to myself, “If I were a patient would I want a 75 year old doctor operate on me?”  “I absolutely wouldn’t.”  So I quit.  I quit just like that.  That’s why I quit operating.  But I still did office practice and gradually it wound down from coming everyday to three times a week and Barry said, “Look, we don’t need you, we’ve got two more people in the office.”  By that time there were three people and so I quit.

He spoke up, confronted the old man and said, “We don’t need you.” 

Well he didn’t put it that way.  He’s a very nice gentle person but that was the message. 

Ok.  So this was later on in the 1990s that you stopped seeing patients. 

Yes, I stopped seeing patients probably 1993 or 1994. 

 But you’re teaching light verse at the University?  Did I hear correctly?

Well, I kept getting more and more interested in light verse.  After having a book you get this big ego.  You’ve seen your name on the spine of a book.  This is no small stuff and so I thought I was a big deal in light verse.  I had published a couple of books.  After I decided I wasn’t going to the office any more I wanted something to do.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.  You know there’s an old rule, you should not retire from things, you should retire to something.  A person who was a rabbi at Share Emeth for a short time when he was young – when he retired he went to Hawaii and he retired there and he had a small congregation.  He came back home for some event and I met him.  It was years later.  I said, “Julius, how do you like retirement?” 

What is his last name?

Nodell.  He was an artist, by the way.  He did some beautiful artwork.  Anyway, I said, “How do you like retirement?”  He said, “I’m not retired, I’m recycled.”  I never forgot that and I felt when I retired I had to do something.  I was writing so I thought, you know, I had asked somebody in the English Department to help me with something I was writing.  It wasn’t poetry. It was something I was writing.  He said, “Why don’t you teach this light verse thing in the University C ollege?”  He is the University College – it was Robert Wittenberg. 

Robert Wittenberg, the Dean of the English Department.

Yeah, he was the English Department back then and he was helpful to me.  He still is, by the way.  So I put together a course in writing light verse.  I had no reason to assume that I could teach light verse.  I did fairly well teaching refraction but, you know, I went to Florida for the winter and I worked on it.  I taught down there at the junior college.   I put together a course in light verse to see how it’s going.  I came home and I started and I taught for a couple years at the University College on the campus.  I didn’t have big classes.  You don’t have big classes for poetry or for light verse but I was learning as they were learning – about structure, about technique, about rhyming.  I really learned a great deal and I was feeding it to them while I was learning.  They wrote and I promised them everything they wrote I would take home and critique it and give them ideas and bring it back to them the next week.  They liked that.  One of them was so enamored that he took the course again the next year.  He was a writer.  He was writing for the south side newspaper, the neighborhood newspaper.  He was good but he didn’t know poetry or light verse and he took it twice.  After that I don’t think they wanted me anymore.  You know you were drawing on the same group of people, the people who took University College courses are the same people and they take the same courses.  They felt there wasn’t a market and so I didn’t return.  But then a year later – and that goes back now what – almost ten years, they were getting started on the Life-Long Learning Program and that was at that time really mushrooming, getting big all over the country.  The University brought in somebody from the program at the University of Chicago and they put it together.  They got a little funds, the University never funded much.  They started off.  The University game them a couple rooms in the west campus, you know, the old Famous-Barr building.  Now they’ve gotten a lot more.  It’s grown.  So I decided I’d go down there and teach a course.  I enjoyed teaching.  It was really fun.  It gives you a feeling of power.  I knew better than to start it on my own.  I learned that from working down in Florida.  I want to be able to bounce things off somebody.  Sure enough, I called somebody and he was thrilled to come.  He was the one who took my course twice on the campus and he and I…

And who was this?

His name was -- I’m terrible.  I couldn’t remember Frank Lloyd Wright.  It was it’ll come to me.  As I say he was writing the south side paper and he would come to Life-Long Learning and we would teach a course.  He was a school teacher, by the way.  He was a retired English and music teacher at one of the high schools.  So, he wasn’t a novice and we started out at Life-Long Learning about then, about nine years ago or ten and we did that for about three years and he died.  That was pretty sad.  He was unusual.  I must show you one of his books.  He invented musical instruments.  He used to show them at shows, you know. 

You promised me that you would read one of these and this is the one…

I wanted to conclude the Life-Long Learning.  After he died I just dropped out and I didn’t do anything there for a year or two but I wanted to.  I wanted to do something and I came up with an idea that I would teach a course in movies, medical movies.  That’s what I did.  I put together a course where these were all Hollywood movies but on topics about doctors about some disease – some well-known movies – not necessarily well-known to the class, though.  I had to get them.  Some of them were out of print and difficult.  I don’t remember what they were.  Oh, one of them I remember, it was a great, great movie – Gigot.   What I did was I contacted somebody Hopkins who was into medical movies in the pharaohs – that’s the AOA.

AOA Journal…

…to find a movie section and I talked to those people.   I was able to get together the movies I needed.  I even bought one of them because I couldn’t get it any other way.  Then was the fun.  Instead of discussing each movie I got someone from the medical school whose expertise and work was in that field.  So instead of me discussing every one, I had someone from Washington U. discuss every movie.  I heard the fellow in charge from the deafness…

Central Institute for the Deaf.

Central Institute before they moved over here.  I got him.  He was chief of that and he discussed the movie about deafness.  That’s the way it went.  They were all wonderful.  They all were agreeable and they came out and gave good discussions of the movies.  I did that for a couple years and I ran out of movies after two years.  That’s when I started getting back to teaching light verse.  I mean now instead of teaching a course in how to write light verse, I learned from that.  I teach a course, like this year my course is comparing the Golden Age of Light Verse of the 19th Century -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edward Leer, Callvaly, Carroll and comparing that Golden Age with the Golden Age of the 20th Century, which is between the two Wars.  That included, of course, Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, Franklin Adams, all of them and Hoffenstein.  That’s what I’m doing now and it keeps me busy and when I go to Florida in a few weeks I will teach a course at Florida Atlantic University.  And I’ll use pretty much the same material.

So you have a place in Palm Beach?

West Palm Beach and they have a Life-Long Learning Institute which is quite different from this.  The focus on this is peer learning.  You’re not a teacher, you’re a facilitator.  You present the material, you get the class into a discussion, they read it and talk about it and that’s how you learn here.  In Florida, however, they use their faculty.  That’s who teaches the course Life-Long Learning and there are a jillion customers because after all, from St. Augustine on down is one “old-folks” home.  There are enough old people there.  Using their faculty, they pay them and they have to get an audience.  So if I get an audience of 25 people for my light verse here, down there they’ll get a speaker to stand up and talk to 400 people.  In fact, they now, some rich people donated a building and the campus at Jupiter has a complete building for Life-Long Learning.  They have a little classroom, a big classroom.  So, that wraps up Life-Long Learning. 

Well I want to hear your own voice read this selection.

I had this collection of medical poems of all sorts of fields.  There were a number of them published and I wanted to put it together in a book.  This one I couldn’t do with anybody else.  I had to do this on my own.   So, one of the poems that I had published earlier I decided to use for the name of the book and the name of the poem is Oops or the Science of Iatrogenics --  Iatrogenics being illnesses and problems induced by the physician and his treatment.  This is what the poem Oops said. 


If though unlikely your scalpel should slip,

Allow me to share with you one useful tip.

Although you’ve severed a vessel that’s vital,

Your first thoughts are likely to be suicidal.


All is not lost,

So be unhesitating.

Repair if you can,

All the mess you’re creating.


Disclose then with candor,

The reasons for same

And put all your worldly goods,

In your wife’s name. 


That’s what I used for the title for the book and it’s in the book. 

It’s a book coming out in 2007.

2008.  That’s the latest I got.

It’s been pushed back.  Oops and other mad medical misadventures.  Ok.  One more, this is Roundsmanship.  Can I get you to do that one?  It’s also on medical.

Ron Byrd was a full time member of the Eye Department.  When it came time to replace Bernie and they were looking for somebody and they were looking at Kaplan, Ron Byrd left.  He went to New York and I think he was Chair of the Department at Mountefiore.  But Ron was unique.  He was a Bernie Becker.  They were like twins.  He knew everything about everything and could quote it and I used to needle him about it.  I wrote a poem for him because at rounds he had the answer for everything.  The title of this poem is For Ron Byrd.  The title is Roundsmanship.  That is when the students all gather in the auditorium and the professor presents cases at rounds, grand rounds – one way of learning.  This is Roundsmanship:


Envy has me in its grip,

I’m just no good at roundsmanship.

I never enter in the fray

With brilliant quotes extempore.


Lest all those agile minds around me

Use their rebuttals to confound me.

Each week it somehow is still the same

The pundits stand forth and declaim.


They speak of obscure things like quorks

One can almost hear quotation marks.

And each one notes in his oration

The year and place of publication.


Only seldom is it noted

And the oft has been misquoted.

And apart from him who has misspoken

The silence in the room’s unbroken. 


Because the speaker is adepter

At specifying verse and chapter.

I’d love to quote and as I please,

Beginning with Hippocrates.


Passages from any text

What went before, what went next.

And pick the minutest of particles

From long forgotten obscure articles.


If only I could have my druthers

I’d scintillate before the others.

I’d quote the literature verbatim

At rounds they’d whisper, how we hate him. 


His absence would be quit idyllic

And we’d all seem less imbecilic.

But in the grip of my effacia,

I hurry back to my fantasia. 


And as the pundits comments sear me,

I look at all those seated near me.

And even though I’m not clairvoyant.

I realize why they’re not too buoyant. 


Their interest is counterfeited

Their lids becoming heavy lidded.

Though their attendance is requested,

Most of them will leave well-rested.


That’s simply a poem about what happens in Medical School.

Is there anything we haven’t covered?  I don’t want to put you on the spot here. 

Where’s that list. 

Here’s the list.

Let’s see it.  Is it 1:29? 


Let me see.   I don’t know, it’s not important.  You asked me what I was doing as a Markal Fellow – some research, some teaching, you know.  You didn’t ask me about visual training, did you?

No, I didn’t.  Remember my formula was to let the books speak and I think you’ve got…

Well, to put it briefly it was – it might be of interest – a worrisome period in my life.  What happened was this.  I’m at the Department full time early on, 1943, and 1944.  I was doing some research and what happened was, now remember this was War time.  What happened was that a lot of publicity exploded on the scene about ways of training your eyes so that you can discard glasses.  Well this was “red hot” because people wanted to get into the service.  People wanted to get into the Air Corps and of course they needed perfect vision without glasses and here were these techniques that were being promoted by the optometrists.  Optometrists were still in no favor in those days.  And, of course, one of the headquarters, one of the centers of this activity was in St. Louis – an ophthalmologist named Skeffington and her husband who was an optometrist had devised a method of visual training which enabled you to get rid of your glasses.  People were flocking there and Lawrence Post decided since something came out in the magazines he said, “We better do something about this.”  So, we talked a little bit.  At that time Johns Hopkins had done a program and they concluded that this whole business of visual training – training your eyes so you didn’t need glasses – was a sham.  And…Lawrence Post, who by the way very close friend was the head at Hopkins, Woods – Post was a little uncomfortable.  Here Woods came out with this and he decided we were going to do it.  So we set up a research project.  We enlisted two optometrists.  Again this was unusual back in 1943 – two optometrists of fine reputation in the community and got together with a team included, oh, I can’t remember who some of them were – Reinhardt; Hildreth; me; Lawrence Post of course as head although he didn’t take any part in the research.  What we did was we got volunteers.  The volunteers came in and they were subjected to a complete, thorough and meticulous eye exam.  They got a complete exam, refraction, vision without glasses, with glasses, everything.  Then we turned them over to the optometrist who subjected them to a period, I think it was about six months, of visual training.  Then they were returned to us and we did repeat the same thorough exam.  The general feeling was that not much happened.  But…by the time it was over and a paper was being put together with the results or the statistics, I was in the Army by then.  I was at Hines Hospital.  I think as more of a courtesy than anything else Dr. Post sent me the manuscript and asked me to comment on it because he was going to read it at the Academy meeting that fall which was going to be in Chicago.  There was a time that the Academy meetings were every year in Chicago.  Then they switched.  But at that time it was in Chicago.  I was in the Army.  I looked at the manuscript and it didn’t look particularly different to me.  Then I showed it to a friend there who was a Biostatistician, an almost unheard of specialty back in the 1940s.  I said, “Take a look at all these data for me.”  “Does it look good to you?”  Instead of just looking at it, he dug into Army statistics of visual acuities and glasses through the Army.  He got hundreds I think he even got in the thousands of data.  He looked at it and something popped up to him that never occurred to me.  He said, “Look.  The people whose vision was below what is normal for their refractive error, their vision was below.  They actually gained vision.  They improved.”  “The people whose vision was normal for their refractive error, they didn’t accomplish much.”  “They didn’t get much.”  For example if you were two diopters myopic, normally your vision was probably about 20/50.  That’s a little distance from 20/20.  If the subject’s vision was 20/50 the chances of his getting improvement from eye exercises was pretty poor.  That’s what the optometrist found in St. Louis.  If the vision was 20/80 and they were two diopters nearsighted, they had a pretty good chance of coming up to 20/50 or even a little more.  So I sent that all back to Dr. Post and it was going to be presented at the Academy and he was going to present it because he had the stature.  He was a famous man and Allen Woods at Hopkins was equally famous and he was going to discuss the paper.  Because I had contributed the significant amount, I hadn’t but the biostatistician did, I was going to get the privilege of closing the discussion.  Post read it and his good friend Allen Woods got up and tore it to shreds and, of course, I got up and I was very young.  I had never been before a big crowd like this in the auditorium and proceeded to tell off Dr. Woods, lose my cool a little and I don’t know if you have spoken at a big meeting but there’s a little light where they clue you that it’s time to get off.


That light was flashing like crazy so I wound up the discussion and friends told me after I came down, they said, “Well, now that you’re out of ophthalmology for good, what are you going to do?  Open a fast food place or what?”  But that was the experience of visual training.  Of course it died quickly.  That was it.  What else is there?

You didn’t ask me about Venable, which is alright.  He was in the book.

Well, Howard Venable, the first African American ophthalmologist whom I remember.  He was helpful in bringing together more prospectives on our history wall that we have all the basic history of the Medical School.  We were grateful for that.

Venable was a bright man and 100% for the African Americans and for getting their proper place in society.  He did a lot.  He contributed money.  He went around and he gave lectures.  Bernie had him in because it was time to desegregate and he was the most prominent man around.  I think there’s something in the book that I wrote that I think how Venable gave more a piece of his mind to Bernie than his peace of mind.  But at any rate, it was fine.  He was difficult in the clinics.  I mean he was not the world’s #1 clinician or surgeon either.  He would come up with weird diagnoses that the first year residents couldn’t agree with.  It was a problem.  In the operating room he was no Ron Hildreth and how do you get rid of him?  He has an appointment and he’s an African American.  Bernie had a way and I think you may remember reading it, I think it was in the book.  I don’t know.  He had nothing to do with Venable.  He decided it was important to have an oversight committee to watch the quality of surgery in older members of the staff.  You know there are a lot of attending people who are 50, 60, 70.  He chose a committee of three people to go into the operating room and watch the surgery over people over 65.  Well, Howard Venable was over 65 at that point and he was not going to let people watch him and he left the Department.  That’s how Bernie got rid of him without even aiming at him.  The funny part about it was the Committee consisted of Art Sickle, who was a great surgeon and Al Coker and me.  The funny thing about it was I was over 65 when I was appointed to that Committee.  Also who was going to go in the operating room and watch me do lacrimal surgery because none of them did it?  But that’s the story on Venable and all these questions about forecasting.  I’m not Nostradamus.  That was about it.  I think you covered everything.

Well good then.  I truly appreciate this.

So I will wind up by saying what I said at the very beginning.  If this isn’t what you want, don’t be bashful about trashing any part or all of it.  I’m too old to have an ego – it’s gone.  You know, it’s over now but it’s amazing what happens as you age.  You don’t know because you’re still a kid but in the ten years between this book and today I’m different – I don’t remember names, I’m slower.  I’m teaching because I’ve got to do something or die.  I’m teaching this light verse course and they love it.  I mean, boy!  But a lot of it is lecture, I’m telling them about the lives of people like Edward Leer and people like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and how they came to write what they wrote.  And then we get into the poems themselves and I read poems.  Last year then I had the class read them but, gee, reading a poem is like being on stage acting because it has meter, it has rhythm.  It has rhyming.  It’s not like reading free verse.  So last year I had the class read and it was a disaster.  They can’t read.  So this year what I did was each week – I did this two hours on Wednesday, that’s why my voice is gone – I assigned some of the poems to the class a week ahead of time.  I said go home, rehearse it, practice it and then come read it to us because next year we’ll be working on that poet and it’s worked out pretty well.  They read pretty well.  But, that’s what I was doing now, comparing 19th Century and the mid-20th Century.  And…I don’t write so much, I’m getting old.  I’m very anxious to get this book coming up in 2008 and be alive when it comes up. 

Well thank you very much once again!

Did I show you that book?

Well, you’ve shown me the manuscript, yes.

That’s the manuscripts, yes.

Well it’s got the drawings in it already?

Well, not many.

Well, we’ll be looking forward to seeing it coming out.

Yeah, that’s the one I’ve been wanting to do from the very first cause it’s medical.

If you’re fortunate, as you’ve planned, to be around when it comes out be sure that we…

Man proposes and God disposes.  There are a lot of funny poems in there.  There’s a poem I wrote on Ed Oken’s retirement.  What’s He Doing Leaving Town.  I thought you might get a kick out of that.  That by the way is a parody. 

This shouldn’t be on the recording you say?

It’s not about ophthalmology and it’s not about the Medical School.

Well, nonetheless we’ll make this as the concluding reading and I’ll be doing the reading.  Is that alright?  This is How Pleasant to Meet Dr. Bud  With Apologies to Edward Leer and T.S. Eliot


How pleasant to meet Dr. Bud

You’ll like him he’s one of the guys.

Some think he’s a grand gastronome,

But they are in for a surprise.


He once was obese but he’s thinner

You’ll enjoy having him as your guest.

He eats just one carrot at dinner

And politely declines all the rest.


He insists that it’s not just a habit

And it’s not just to strengthen his vision

And he doesn’t pretend he’s a rabbit

It’s a medically driven decision.


Instead he eats bulbs called fluorescent

Munches candles, perhaps just a bite.

That is all he ingests for the present

Cause his doctor said he must eat light.


How pleasant to meet Dr. Bud,

With what he is tasting, he’s rapidly wasting.

Although he is glowing,

His ribs are now showing.


And with no underpinning

As he goes on thinning

He won’t cast a shadow

Which is dreadfully sad.


So to meet Dr. Bud

While still in his prime

You’d better not waste

Any time.


Thank you very much!



Typed December 11, 2007.

Appendices added to the transcript March and May 2010.

Additional annotations and corrections made to the transcript January 2011.


Appendix A

[Additional statement made by Dr. Milder on his experiences with Jay Enoch.  Appended to the transcript May 2010.]

That auditorium played an important role in the future of my ophthalmological life.  I’ll tell you how it came about.  For many years my research interest was and continued to be in lacrimal disease, tearing problems.   But my teaching interest in refraction also played an important role, stimulated by meeting Jay Enoch., who was an optometrist, not an M.D.  Enoch was brought into the Department by Bernie Becker, who was aware of his research in the fields of refraction, vision, and lenses.  Jay found it interesting that at our regular department weekly rounds, no case presentations involved refraction problems – apparently a put-down of refraction, although important to ophthalmologists. That gave Jay an idea. We discussed the notion of conducting weekly refraction rounds.  Weekly refraction rounds?  Well, it came to pass – like this:  in my office practice, I kept a notebook on patients who, after our diagnosis and treatment, complained of their vision or their glasses.  For our weekly refraction rounds, I would select from my notebook a patient with, for example, anisometropia, and that would be the subject for rounds.  Our rounds involved clinical teaching, not just lectures.  We’d present the case; let the class discuss how they would handle it.  Then Jay, who knew thirty times as much as I about optics, would explain the optics of it.  Then I would translate into English what Jay said because he was so far above the head of his audience that it was a good combination and it worked perfectly.

Jay said: “I was always fascinated that the two of us, with our rather differing backgrounds, almost always came up with the same/almost identical approach to these patients’ problems, but from quite different vantage points!  This, I feel, enhanced the value of these discussions for the residents.”

It was a sad day when Jay Enoch left to become Dean of the University of California School of Optometry. Now, emeritus,  He’s still active.  I keep in contact with him.

Appendix B

[Poem by Dr. Milder musing on the nature of the residency review committee.

The quality monitoring of residency programs in ophthalmology is the responsibility of the Residency Review Committee.  The Committee evaluates the training programs to insure the educational components of the program meet the standards required for accreditation and, in the event the standards are not met, to recommend any modifications needed to obtain or retain certification.

At the time the poem was written, the Residency Review Committee for ophthalmology’s nine man roster included: Jonathan D. Trobe, Frederick Fraunfelder, Dan B. Jones, Thomas P. Kearns, Robert S. L. Kinder, Benjamin Milder, Richard Richards, William H. Spencer, and George W. Weinstein.

Appended to the transcript March 2010.]


The Residency Review Committee

Nine men, august and forbidding

Each an artist at hair-splitting

Each man with a monomania

For trivia and miscellanea,

Get down to the nitty-gritty --

That’s the job of the Review Committee.


Nine men, each one with a say

Regarding this or that dossier

And each one dangling as he pleases

The sword which once was Damocles's ...

Nine who exercise their talents

While a program's fate hangs in the balance.


Nine men hold their convocation

While professors, bathed in perspiration,

Wait at home with their knees shaking

To learn what course the meeting's taking

For those nine men could well confound them

While grants are drying up around them.


"Will those nine all speak in a chorus?

Will they all love us or abhor us?

Is the handwriting upon the wall?

Is our house of cards about to fall?

Though we have tenure and security,

Will our programs fade into obscurity?"


But, professors, don’t turn on the gas

Or leap from cliffs, ‘cause shall pass.

Remember, those nine men are sweating

About the treatment they’ll be getting --

When their own programs need reviewing.

What will the other eight be doing?


So professors should keep their composure

In light of the above disclosure

Because this could be a dress rehearsal

For some not-too-distant role reversal

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