Chapter 07: A Fun Job, But Choosing to Focus on Family

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Chapter 07: A Fun Job, But Choosing to Focus on Family

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Mrs. McGready acknowledges that she didn't realize how special her position was at the time, working for a brand new cancer institute. She saw the job as really fun, and she worked with people she liked. She shares stories of their pleasant interactions. She next talks about attitudes toward cancer at the time and reflects on advances that have been made. She expresses satisfaction with her choice to marry and have a family. She sketches what her children are doing now. At the end of the interview, Mrs. McGready says, "I've just always been very proud of the fact that I did see the nucleus of it. And then when I went back and saw the Virchows all in this air-conditioned room, that was impressive. I positioned them. Well, I felt very, very lucky to have been in it at that stage."

Publication Date

10-7-2016

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Personal Background; Personal Background; MD Anderson History

Disciplines

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

Transcript

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So when you look back on those years when you were in that job -- I mean, that was kind of a special job to have. Did you know that at the time?

Mary Catherine McGready

No, I just knew it was fun.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What were you ha-- why was it so much fun?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, I’d never had a paycheck before. And I think it might have been $100. It probably was about $100 or $110 or something like that.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Was that a month? A week? A...

Mary Catherine McGready

(laughs) A month! (laughter) But that was those times, before inflation.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So what was fun about the job, in addition to getting the paycheck?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, I liked the people. And we were all friendly. It was -- and Dr. Coogle was very -- all business. [Redacted]

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

+ What were people’s attitudes about cancer at this time?

Mary Catherine McGready

Pretty frightening. Didn’t know many people (inaudible).

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. So you didn’t know anyone who’d ever had cancer?

Mary Catherine McGready

Mm-mm [negative].

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What did you think about cancer at the time?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, I just knew it was going to be a good job. (laughter) It didn’t frighten me, because they said, “It’s not contagious.” Well, they found that it could be from the cadavers. And so a lot of changes were made using cadavers at that time.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

The whole idea of cancer’s really changed a lot since those days. I mean, it was pretty much really a death sentence at the time.

Mary Catherine McGready

Oh, absolutely it was.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Did your parents worry about you working at a cancer hospital?

Mary Catherine McGready

No, my brother was a medical student [in Galveston at UTMB]. I have three brothers that are doctors. Grandparents. You know, it was a medical family.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. So what do you think about all the advances that have been made with cancer?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, I think it’s fantastic, what they know now, and what they (inaudible), and how many patients they can save now that they couldn’t. As far as I was concerned, it was not as prevalent at that time. But I lived in a small town in east Texas, and I was in a small group of people in Houston. So I did not have world knowledge of it.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

But, you know, talking about you coming from a -- your background, you didn’t know anyone -- I didn’t know anyone who had cancer either.

Mary Catherine McGready

Oh, no?

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

You know? It was -- it’s very different. I mean, now I know a lot of people who have had cancer.

Mary Catherine McGready

Oh, yes.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. It is more pre--

Mary Catherine McGready

But you know more people, too.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. That’s true too. Yup. It’s more prevalent. You know, when you came back to Houston, what did you think when you compared what MD Anderson was then with what MD Anderson had been when you started your job?

Mary Catherine McGready

It did change a lot. But I was not gone that long, and I was not interested in that part; I was just part of the library [staff].

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Going back to when you were the librarian at MD Anderson, when you left that job, did you have a sense of having accomplished something there?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, they kept telling me that I could stay and be a really bigwig. And that was so unimportant to me. I said, “No. This is just a stepping-stone.”

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So you seem like you’re pretty happy with your choices that you made.

Mary Catherine McGready

I have never regretted it. But that produced five children.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

There you go. So are there other favorite stories you have about your time at MD Anderson? Any other things that (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)...

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, occasionally we would go to this smorgasbord. And I couldn’t afford that. They knew they had to pay. I would carry my peanut-butter sandwich with me. But they never mentioned it, they just picked up my check. But there was probably about $1.50, you know. (laughs)

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What did you think of Dr. Bertner?

Mary Catherine McGready

Oh, I was impressed by him. He would come with his wife and with his chauffeur. That was really impressive to me. And she was beautiful, beautiful girl. And I don't even know if they had children. She would come with him sometimes. And that was impressive, to see his chauffeur. I think it all boiled down to about nine months. And when my fiancé finished medical school, he went for his first internship. And that’s when I -- we married. My first post was in St. Louis. And I never looked back. Oh, I might mention that I had a baby, nine months to the day after I was married. To the day.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

It sounds like your children are really important to you.

Mary Catherine McGready

I’ve been very blessed.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I’ve met two of your daughters, and they’re both lovely: Peggy and Cathy.

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, the oldest is Betsy, [who] lives in Seattle. And she’s a very accomplished artist. [Redacted] [Added by the Interview Subject: She got her college degree at age 39 after raising her children by her first marriage.]

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So tell me -- can you tell me something that not very many people know about you? Something you really love, or something you’re proud of? Or are you just an open book? (laughs)

Mary Catherine McGready

Yes, I am an open book. No, I think the thing that’s given me the greatest pleasure is my five children. And I was not a hovering mother, because my daddy taught us to be independent.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So tell me what your other children are doing. So your oldest daughter’s an artist.

Mary Catherine McGready

She is. And...

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

How about the other children?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, my oldest son was a patent attorney in Atlanta.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What’s his name?

Mary Catherine McGready

William Henry. Nickname is Huck, because he was the second child. Betsy -- we would [ ] take her to the field where the soldiers were practicing, and they’d say, “Hup, two, three, four. Hup, hup.” And so she told everybody we were going to get her baby Huck, a boy.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, that’s funny.

Mary Catherine McGready

So she thought it was H-U-C-K. Huck. So he remained Huck all of his life. He finally got to be Bill when he (laughter) got away from home.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

(laughs) So what’s the next child, in birth order?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, Betsy was the oldest. Then Huck was next. Then Peggy was next. And...

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And Peggy does what?

Mary Catherine McGready

Peggy was very small, very delicate, and a little frail. I think we just kind of babied her. And then next was Cathy. And Cathy was a strong personality from the get-go.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So what does Peggy do now?

Mary Catherine McGready

Works for [Harris County] Judge Emmett. And don’t ask me what she does [Health Policy Advisor], but it must be good.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What about...

Mary Catherine McGready

She was with United Way and retired from them after 27 years. And then went to work for Judge Emmett.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What does Cathy do?

Mary Catherine McGready

She’s been a homemaker, married to an attorney. And she did [volunteer] work and [raised two children] and church work. [She worked in a law office for several years before she quit to have children.]

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Not that she wasn’t working.

Mary Catherine McGready

No. No. (laughter) She was working.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So --

Mary Catherine McGready

And she still does.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So there’s one more child.

Mary Catherine McGready

We’re down to Jim.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Jim. OK.

Mary Catherine McGready

And Jim was the fifth child. And I said, “Jim, that’s when I stopped having babies, because you was so perfect, I just didn’t want any more.” Well, Jim was born with a cleft palate and a harelip. And we all adored him. And he would -- was -- had therapy from the time he could talk. And when he said he in college [ ] he was going to be an attorney, I said, “Jim, you can be anything you want to. But it might be hard for people to understand you.” He says, “They’ll have to listen better, won’t they?” And I said, “You’re right.” And he now [has his own law firm]. He’s a patent attorney. [ ] He lives in Austin [ ].

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So is there anything else you’d like to tell me today about your experiences at MD Anderson or your family?

Mary Catherine McGready

Well, I’ve just always been very proud of the fact that I did see the nucleus of it. And then when I went back and saw the Virchows all in this air-conditioned room, that was impressive. I positioned them. Well, I felt very, very lucky to have been in it at that stage. And I went back later and worked for Baylor. And then I worked for the ob-gyn department. And I loved that. I can tell you about that.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, let me turn off the recorder, and then we’ll do that. OK. So I am turning off the recorder at about 1:56, with many thanks.

Mary Catherine McGready

Thank you.

Chapter 07: A Fun Job, But Choosing to Focus on Family

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