Chapter 02: Recollections of the Baker Estate

Title

Chapter 02: Recollections of the Baker Estate

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Description

In this chapter, Balzer offers her many recollections was her time in the old Baker Estate when MD Anderson had only seven patients, her interactions with several prominent physicians, and the amount of cigarette smoking that went on in the hospital at this time.

Identifier

Balzer_OH_01_20030904_S02

Publication Date

9-4-2003

Publisher

The Historical Resources Center, The Research Medical Library, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Overview; Devices; Drugs; Procedures; Personal Reflections; Memories of MD Anderson; MD Anderson Past; Portraits

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Nursing | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Lesley Williams Brunet:

I want to talk more about radiotherapy, but I’d like to hear more about what it was like at the old Baker Estate. Do you remember your first day that you started working there?

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes. See, Anderson Hospital wasn’t even built yet. They had moved a bunch of army barracks on the Baker Estate. They used to have a picture of me pushing a wheelchair up a ramp there. That’s where I worked at that time. We had a census of seven patients. That was it. You couldn’t have more than seven.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

This is in like a ward or a—

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes, it was just a regular army barrack, I guess.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

So there were only seven in-patients?

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes, and then they had little divisions there, and you only had room for seven patients. That was it. I think they had a hallway, and there were offices, the doctors’ offices. Dr. Trunell [?] and Dr. Brayer [?] had an office there. Then there may have been one or two patient rooms, just one room there. Then we had our kitchen was across the hallway from the nurses’ station, which was about halfway down this army barrack. Then there were rooms down to the . . . as you walked in, the nurses’ station was to the left, and then there were rooms for seven patients from there on to the end.

It had a long porch across the back, a screened-in porch. One day, Dr. [Charles C.] Shullenberger came to visit his patient, and he said, “Miss Balzer, where is so-and-so?” I’ve forgotten what the name was.

I said, “He’s out on the back porch, cutting a rug.”

He said, “What?”

I said, “He’s out on the back porch, cutting a rug.” You know, the Eastern Star would come over there and give the patients some work to do, handwork or something to keep them occupied. Then it was this latch hook, and then they had to cut those loops. When I said, “He’s out on the back porch cutting a rug,” he said, “What?” [laughs] Then I told him, and he said, “Oh, okay.”

Yes, Dr. Shullenberger, and I knew Dr. [Clifford D.] Howe.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Tell me a little more about Dr. Howe, your impressions of Dr. Clifford Howe.

Ornell H. Balzer:

Dr. Howe was a very quiet man. He was very professional, but he didn’t explode like Dr. Shullenberger did. Dr. Shullenberger, if something . . . I can still see him, Dr. Howe, and Dr. Shullenberger sitting at the nurses’ desk there, and they’d be discussing a patient. Dr. Howe would be saying something, and Dr. Shullenberger, “No, no, Cliff, that’s not right!” But he was a quiet man. I liked him. He was considerate, but not like Dr. Shullenberger. Dr. Shullenberger was an altogether different personality.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Did you see much of Dr. [R. Lee] Clark?

Ornell H. Balzer:

No. Dr. Clark, because when I worked for Anderson, you know, we had those army barracks moved out on that estate there, and Dr. Clark’s office was up in the—

Lesley Williams Brunet:

The house? The house itself?

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes, that big two-story house there.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Mansion.

Ornell H. Balzer:

That’s where Dr. Clark’s office was. Now, I did have one of those books, the history of Anderson.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

The first twenty years.

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes. And I wanted Dr. Clark to sign that for me because I wanted his signature in there. Well, he did something and wrote it in there, and then after he had written all of this, he found out he had had the book upside down, and he wouldn’t give it to me. [laughs] He said, “Miss Balzer, I’m not going to do that. People will think I’m a doodly-squat.” So he wouldn’t give it to me.

Then when I had to resign, you know, at that time sixty-five and you’re out, I went back to Dr. Clark’s office and I asked him for the book. He scrounged around and scrounged around, and finally, gosh, I think his secretary knew where it was, and she gave it to me.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Was that Marion [Wall] Lowery? Marion Wall, I guess her name was then.

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes, yes. She couldn’t find it either, and she said, “I’ll tell you what, Miss Balzer, I’ll find it and then I’ll bring it to you,” because I had a couple of more days there, because, at that time we had to quit at sixty-five and you’re out. That 31st of January happened to be on a Monday, and Mary Walker made sure, she said when I left there, she gave me my party Friday afternoon, “But I want to see you here Monday morning.” She didn’t make me do anything; I just had to report there. [laughs]

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Bureaucracy, I guess.

Ornell H. Balzer:

She was a tough one.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

In what way was she tough?

Ornell H. Balzer:

Well, I mean, she didn’t mince any words, you know. When she told you to do something, she said . . . I hate to repeat her.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Please do.

Ornell H. Balzer:

“Goddamn, I want you to do that and do it right.” Because I never did curse like that, but Mary Walker did. Didn’t make any difference to her. See, she worked as a therapist before she got this position in the new hospital. She was a therapist on the old Betatron, I believe, machine. But she and I never worked together per se when she was a therapist. I was in the hospital part, and she was in the therapy division, which was all army barracks, and they were a good distance apart there. But she was a toughie.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

So did you see Dr. [Gilbert H.] Fletcher?

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes, I used to work with Dr. Fletcher.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Tell me a lot about Dr. Fletcher.

Ornell H. Balzer:

The funniest part that I can remember about Dr. Fletcher, especially in this old unit, see, there were army barracks that had been moved out on this estate. You’ve seen a picture of me pushing a patient up a ramp there?

Lesley Williams Brunet:

I thought the caption said that was you moving patients into the new hospital.

Ornell H. Balzer:

Yes.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Into the new hospital, into the medical center.

Ornell H. Balzer:

No, that was in that old hospital. And his office was straight down, and our hospital department was down this way. He had his office over in this area, and he would come down to the kitchen there for a cup of coffee most anytime he wanted a cup of coffee. Finally, they told him he couldn’t have any more coffee unless he paid for it. And, boy, you should have heard his language around there when they told . . . Now, I don’t know this black lady that was at the head of the kitchen area there. She told him that, you know, he had to pay for his coffee, and all hell broke loose.

Lesley Williams Brunet:

Hold on just a second. I need to flip this tape.

Chapter 02: Recollections of the Baker Estate

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