Chapter 01: A Modest Middle Class Upbringing that Stressed Education

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Chapter 01: A Modest Middle Class Upbringing that Stressed Education

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In this chapter, Dr. Baile talks about growing up in a white middle class neighborhood as one of five sons. He talks about his father (Franklin), a factory worker, the origin of the name Baile, and his amazement that his father was able to provide such a comfortable life on one income. He talks about his respect for unions and his father’s view that education offered a pathway to success. Next, he talks about his mother (Marie), raised by a very devoutly Catholic older sister. He talks about what his daughter, Danielle, is currently doing in college. He briefly discusses his own interest in photography and his plans to pursue photography once retired.

Identifier

BaileW_01_20160823_C01

Publication Date

8-23-2016

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Personal Background; Post Retirement Activities; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Personal Background

Transcript

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I’m Tacey Ann Rosolowski. Today I’m interviewing Dr. Walter F. Baile for the Making Cancer History Voices Oral History Project, run by the Historical Resources Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Here I’m going to give some details, so if I do have anything wrong, do let me know. Dr. Baile was recruited to MD Anderson in 1994 as a professor in the Department of Neuro-Oncology, where he also served as chief of the Psychiatry section. Today, Dr. Baile is professor in the Department of Behavioral Science. He is a practicing psychiatrist and serves as director of the Interpersonal Communication and Relationship Enhancement Program, and the acronym for that is ICARE—in the Department of Faculty Development within the Division of Academic Affairs. He has a dual appointment in the Department of Psychiatry. So far so good?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

It’s actually changed to the Department of Faculty and Academic Affairs.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Faculty and Academic Affairs, OK. OK—

Walter F. Baile, MD:

That’s the—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

OK, yeah, thank you. Yeah. Let me just make a note of that. This session is being held in a conference room in the mid-campus building, and this is the first interview session. Today is August 23rd, 2016, and it is about twenty minutes of one. So thanks a lot for making time.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

My pleasure.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Appreciate it. I was just going to start in kind of the normal oral history place, if that’s OK with you.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Sure. Any way you want to do. 0:01: 34.6  

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I’m going to ask you, tell me where you were born and when, and tell me a little bit about your family background.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

OK. I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Margaret Haigh Medical Center, which was part, I guess, at that time of the New Jersey Medical School. It was actually, I think, Seton Hall at the time. But anyway—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What year?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Nineteen forty-four.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And the date?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

June 2nd.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

June 2nd? OK.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

And I am the oldest of five boys.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Did that have a—did that mean something, that birth order?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Well, I think it did, because I was the prince for a while. Then I was sort of dethroned a bit after that. And then after that, and then after that.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

After that.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

So it was an interesting kind of competition between my brothers.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So you were a competitive family. You were practically—

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, we were pretty competitive. None of us were stupendous athletes, but we all competed in the street basketball, and things of that sort.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, and there are plenty of ways for any siblings to compete in life, that’s for sure.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, yeah. My father was a factory worker. And—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

His name?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Pardon me?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What was his name?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

It was Walter F., Senior. So I’m a junior.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What does the “F” stand for?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Franklin.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Franklin, OK.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

So I’m not sure whom he was named after, where his middle name came from. And my mother was a stay at home mom. We lived in a white middle-class neighborhood in Jersey City where most of the people on the block were bus drivers, or professionals, but not really a ritzy neighborhood. It was an inner city—not inner city—it was a city street. And we rented a house for a long, long time. With five boys, we only had—we had kind of two bedrooms and one bathroom. So we weren’t rich, but—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What was your mom’s name? I’m sorry to interrupt you there.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Marie.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Marie. OK. And I will ask you to tell me what your brothers’ names are, too, if you want to do that now.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah. My second brother is Kenneth, and then the middle child is Donald and then the fourth is Robert, and the last is Gerard.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s “G”?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

With a “G”?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

With a “J”?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

“G.”

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

OK. All right.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

And just—information. So we rented for a long time. And when I went to live in Europe, my parents moved to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, where they lived until both of my parents died. My brother still lives in the same house, my youngest brother, in Point Pleasant.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Now, what was the year that you went to Europe?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Nineteen sixty-seven.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

OK. OK, so we’ll get there.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Yeah, because I saw that in your background, and I thought that was really interesting.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah. It was a very transformative experience for me.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, yeah. Living overseas, yeah.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

So—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What were you—I mean, were other of your siblings interested in the sciences or medicine, or anything like that?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

So my second brother is a physicist and worked for the federal government for a long time at the Navy Surface Weapons facility in Dahlgren, Virginia. My third brother was a cop. He didn’t finish—didn’t go to college. Had a middle child syndrome, probably. [ ] Then the fourth one was, like, three credits short of getting his degree in chemistry, but didn’t, for some reason, finish that.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Then the last one had two years of college and has his own landscaping business.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So you’re the one who really powered through all of it.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, I powered through with the influence of some very important people in my life. But when—so my father didn’t go to college. My mother—my father didn’t finish high school. My mother finished high school, but became a home keeper. And—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Were they immigrants? I mean, what was the—

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Mm-hmm.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

No? OK. What is the origin of your name?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Well, it’s controversial. So it either derives—actually, one of the English teachers did a search on it in college, and so Baile could either be from the Spanish “baile,” to dance, or it could be the English word “bailiff,” which means we were wardens of prisons.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, interesting.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

So I’m not sure which one. I like the Spanish one a little bit better.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

But, so—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

(Laughs) Sorry, I’m trying to get my head around dancing prison wardens.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah. So that’s what the bailiffs were called. So the bailiff of a court is the one who brings the prisoners in.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Sort of takes care of the administrative duties of the court.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting. OK. Well, I’m sorry I derailed you, but...

Walter F. Baile, MD:

That’s OK. But in reflecting back, what amazes me is how on one family income at that time, we were able to afford an automobile, a television set and feeding five mouths. We never, ever went hungry. It was pretty amazing how at that time one income could provide for a family. It’s really influenced me in the kind of way that I saw how unions were able to lobby for living wages in workers. My father was a beneficiary of a living wage, which allowed him to raise five kids and send them to—or send me to—a prestigious prep school; prestigious in the sense it was easy to get into, a Jesuit school. We worked during the summer, we all worked during the summertime to earn money for college, but high school he footed the bill, at least for me. My brother went to a Catholic high school that was very low tuition, but...

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What was the Jesuit school you went to?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

St. Peters Preparatory School in Jersey City, New Jersey.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Hmm. Did you want to go there?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah. No, I wanted to go there. It was a very, very focused, very highly focused on education.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So why did your parents want to send you there? Did you ask? Or that was their idea? How did that happen?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

My father understood that good education was the gateway to success. He always—even though he wasn’t a very educated man, he always understood that. And I had an uncle, I had some uncles who were successful, and I think that was a big influence. One uncle, my father’s brother, my father had, let’s see, three brothers and two sisters, five also. Two of the brothers were making a good living. One was a bank vice president and the other one was in insurance. But he was a very smart man. So we had the influence of those people. Then my mother’s brother was an engineer. Let’s see, I’m trying to remember. Her other brother was a university teacher. So my mother’s story is quite interesting, that she was the baby of her family. And her mother died when she was five or six years old, from what, I don’t know, because in those days, you didn’t really talk much about family history, and things of that sort. So she was raised by an older sister who never got married, and took on the job of raising her. She became a secretary to the president of Metro Glass Company in Jersey City at that time, which was bought by Kraft, eventually. So it was very funny, because the—and the boss loved her. The chauffeur used to bring her to lunch at my house every day. So she would come, it was about a 10-minute drive. The chauffeur would drop her off, or she would take the bus. But it was funny; sometimes a chauffeur brought her in. My mother would make sandwiches, and we all came home for lunch because we went to Catholic school nearby. But she was raised by this sister, who was a very devout Catholic, and who was a rock of the family for having done that. As I said, she had a brother who was an engineer, and another brother who was a college professor, and he eventually came to teach at the college I went to in Jersey City. So it’s really a mix of things, generational-wise, that my father, who wasn’t educated, had some brothers who were very educated, who were very successful, put it that way, and talented. Then my mother also had some brothers who were very educated, but she wasn’t. So there was this mix. In my generation, I have two brothers who didn’t really finish college, but then another three who went and got degrees. And my daughter, because I have one daughter who’s 26, who’s getting her master’s in film at California School of the Arts, and has gotten a scholarship there, and is just working half-time for an organization called Woman in Animation.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What’s your daughter’s name?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Danielle. And Danielle, you know, she’s just an incredible kid. She does have a network like crazy. So she’s hanging out at all the Disney studios, and sort of getting to know the animators. She wanted to be an animator, or direct an animator, or publish comic books. Has that artsy kind of side. By the way, she gets that from me. See my photos, here?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, really? Well, I noticed that you are a photographer. There’s one of your exhibitions that had a PDF of your photos online.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, that was just local.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So I wanted to—that’s very cool. So these are some of your photos?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, these were taken in Morocco.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s so neat!

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Where I visited Jan and her husband.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah!

Walter F. Baile, MD:

With my wife. I’m just really learning the trade. But that’s a little bit—I’ll do it when I retire.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So you have that visual dimension to you as well.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, so I was traveling once through the Museum of Art at the University of South Florida, with the curator, who was a friend of a friend, who said, “You have a good eye.” So I guess I do have a good eye. That’s something that I’ll enjoy when I retire.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Nice thing to look forward to.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

The challenge is finding ways to exhibit your stuff.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, that’s very true.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, so I have a lot of stuff in the house, to decorate.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

But anyway, getting back to the families—

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Chapter 01: A Modest Middle Class Upbringing that Stressed Education

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