Memorial Day 2016

posted on May 25, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer



Oregonship album #1, 1942; PA-102

Workers in solemn moment, 1942, Kaiser Oregon Shipbuilding Company

The health plan we now know as Kaiser Permanente got its start at the end of World War II, during which industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and founding physician Sidney Garfield, MD, took care of the industrial and nonindustrial health care needs of almost 200,000 workers in seven West Coast shipyards and a steel mill. Almost 400,000 men and women in the U.S. armed services, not to mention the 9,000 serving in the Merchant Marine, perished during this terrible struggle.

On the Home Front, civilians in war industries paid the highest price as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that each year between 1942 and 1945 there were some 2 million disabling or deadly industrial accidents, a total of more than 6 million. More than 75,000 Americans died or became permanently and totally disabled in industry during the war. Additionally, some 378,000 industrial workers suffered a permanent partial disability.

This powerful 1942 photo from Kaiser’s Oregon Shipbuilding Company shows two workers with heads bowed. We don’t know the details of this scene, but we can be certain they were mindful of the wartime casualties that mounted every single day. The observance for military casualties we now call Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” three years after the Civil War to honor those casualties. It became known as Memorial Day after World War II, and was established as a federal holiday in 1971.


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Bicycle Safety – Thriving on two wheels

posted on May 18, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


automobile, safety, Kaiser Manhattan, World's First Safety First Car

Print ad for 1953 Kaiser Manhattan, “the world’s first ‘safety first’ car”

Prevention has always been fundamental to Kaiser Permanente’s mission. That includes both the prevention of illness through healthy behaviors and the prevention of injury by taking safety precautions. Even outside the health care field, Henry J. Kaiser’s Kaiser-Frazer automobile company strove to build safer cars and educate drivers, especially newly licensed teenagers, about safe driving.  The 1953 Kaiser Manhattan was dubbed the “World’s First Safety-First Car!”

A current Kaiser Permanente campaign to encourage the wearing of helmets when riding a bicycle (“Making Bicycle Helmets the New Safety ‘Seatbelt,” May 3) may be our newest effort in this arena, but it’s certainly not our first. Here are just two notable bike safety efforts from our archives:

Maryland’s bicycle helmet law, which became effective in October 1995, covered children under the age of 16. The legislation was spearheaded by Maryland Governor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (now called the Governor’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee). Kaiser Permanente was among Maryland’s bicycle helmet legislation partner organizations, providing testimony, incentives, and education.

Planning For Health 1993-Summer

Planning For Health; summer,1993

Oregon’s law was even earlier. It passed in July 1993 and took effect in July 1994. The year’s delay was built in to educate the public about the law and because of concerns about the ability of low-income children to afford bicycle helmets. The legislation was pushed by the Oregon Bicycle Helmet Coalition, which included a wide range of people and groups, including Kaiser Permanente.

As soon as the law was implemented, Kaiser Permanente distributed 1,500 free bike helmets to students at schools in Portland in hopes of reducing bicycle-related injuries and deaths. Ellen Hall, MD, from the Beaverton, Ore., Medical Office, was quoted as saying, “We’re concerned about how few children in our communities have helmets.”

In addition, Kaiser Permanente worked with officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s Bicycle Safety Unit and the Community Cycling Center in northeast Portland to teach traffic safety classes at north Portland schools. Kaiser Permanente also sold bike helmets at cost at three ‘cash-and-carry’ sales. By the end of 1995 Kaiser Permanente had donated nearly 2,000 bicycle helmets to low-income and at-risk children.

Bike helmet giveaway to 200 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at James John elementary school in North Portland, Pulse 1997-08

Bike helmet giveaway to 200 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at James John elementary school in North Portland, Pulse; August, 1997

“Even though Oregon law requires everyone under age 16 to wear a hike helmet when riding, many families can’t afford one,” said Adrianne Felustein, MD, co-chair of Kaiser Permanente’s Trauma Committee. “At Whitman school, just over half of all students qualify for free or reduced lunches—and the majority don’t have bike helmets.”

In 1995, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission selected Kaiser Permanente’s “Evel the Weevel” (a parodic reference to the motorcycle daredevil Evil Knievel) bilingual bike helmet safety brochures in Oregon to be distributed nationwide. The brochures were praised as an “example of a best practice in preventing childhood injuries.”


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The unsinkable SS Robert E. Peary

posted on May 11, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Launching of the SS Peary, 1942-11-12. [Photographs, numbered series, #646]

Launching of the Robert E. Peary, Kaiser Richmond shipyard, November 12, 1942

One of the most famous cargo vessels built during World War II in the Kaiser shipyards was the SS Robert E. Peary, assembled in 4 days, 15 hours and 29 minutes. Her keel was laid at 12:01 a.m. on November 8, 1942, and she was launched in Richmond, Calif., November 12 to considerable fanfare. She was a testament to the “we can do it!” spirit of the civilian workforce and the efficient assembly processes developed in the wartime shipyards.

But what happened to her after the festivities and before she was scrapped in Baltimore on June, 1963? The article, “Liberty Ship, Built in Week, to be Honored” in the Oakland Tribune, September 15, 1944, tells us much of her wartime performance:

When the Merchant Marine of World War II is honored on Victory Fleet Day September 27, high on the list of celebrated ships will be the Robert E. Peary, the Liberty ship built in the world’s record time of one week to establish a high record for sailing the seas of war.

She sailed out of San Francisco Bay that November on her maiden voyage of more than 19,000 miles, carrying war cargoes to the South Pacific and followed this with trips to Casablanca and the British Isles.

Once a Lyle gun [a short-barreled cannon firing a projectile attached to a rope to a boat or victim in distress] on her deck shot a line to American soldiers marooned on an island by Japs and the Americans were thus supplied with ammunition and food until they could defeat the attackers. Even while undergoing repairs at Halifax, Nova Scotia, following a collision, her record for speed was unbroken, for loading of war supplies proceeded at the same time.

Operated by the Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company for the War Shipping Administration, she is commanded by Captain Dael P. Baird, of 3617 22nd Street, San Francisco.*

However, behind every story there’s another story.

Stock photo of the Foundation Franklin, 1930 [circa]

Stock photo of the Foundation Franklin, 1930 [circa]

The above article briefly mentions a collision and repairs – and that fuller account episode can be found in the 1958 book The Gray Seas Under by acclaimed Canadian maritime and naturalist author Farley Mowat (1921-2014). Mowat’s brisk prose about the rugged sea tug SS Foundation Franklin immerses you in the salty waves and bitter Atlantic cold:

On Christmas Day of 1943, Franklin was setting a precedent. This was the first Christmas in four years that she had been in a port. Her people were celebrating, but warily, and none of them was surprised when at 1:30 P.M. the long wail of Franklin’s whistle rang out over Halifax and Dartmouth. Resignedly her people put down their glasses, their after-dinner cigars, or their lady friends from off their laps, and made hurriedly for the docks.

A distress message from a vessel called the Robert Peary had just been passed to the Foundation Maritime Company from the Canadian Navy, together with instructions that Franklin was to sail at once. The information was meager, consisting of a dubious location and the fact that a naval vessel was reported to be standing by the casualty [salvage term for stricken ship].

… It was not until dusk on December 28 that Franklin finally [located] the crippled ship. The Peary was in the trough and far down by the stern as a result of the collision damage she had sustained. She was being swept by every heavy sea that passed and, seen through the curtain of blowing snow, she was a spectral shape. By 8:40 P.M. the tow was under way for Halifax, which then bore one hundred and eighty miles to the west-north-west.

At dawn Peary’s master signaled to [Franklin’s Captain Harry] Brushett that his after bulkhead, which alone was keeping the ship afloat, was being badly strained and had begun to leak seriously. He was afraid that it might let go at any instant.

Franklin gave of her best. A hundred and sixty miles of head sea and head wind still lay before her, and the ship astern was sheering from side to side with depraved abandon. At dusk on the following night the cripple took a violent sheer until she rode out almost abeam of Franklin and then, with pure brute ugliness, she turned hard away, bringing such a strain on the tow-line that it rose out of the water for five hundred yards.

USPS Liberty Ship stamp, 1991; Lisa Killen collection.

USPS Liberty Ship stamp, 1991

Things then proceeded to go from bad to worse.

The wire itself withstood that savage lunge, but the strain of it was too much for Franklin’s steering gear and the rudder chain was ripped from the quadrant, leaving her as helpless as her charge.

…The Peary was hauling Franklin’s stern so far down that every sea was breaking on the after deck. Nor was this the worst of it. The constant jerking on the wire was sending the rudder crazy, and the quadrant arm was banging back and forth with a violence that could have decapitated a man with ease.

Brushett had two courses open to him. Either he could cast off the wire in order to ease the strain so that his men would have a chance to repair the steering gear; or he could remain fast to the Peary, and hope for some moderation in the weather before the casualty was overwhelmed. He deliberately chose the latter course; for he was aware that if he cast off he might not find her again in time to save her or her crew.

The two ships lay at the mercy of the storm for six hours. [Eventually] the [Franklin’s] arresting tackle was set up taut; the rudder was firmly held, and two men crawled aft under the grating to struggle with the chain amidst the freezing slush.

The Franklin’s rudder got fixed, and by midnight the Peary was headed for the safety of Bedford Basin in Halifax, the Franklins massive pumps keeping her afloat. They docked on December 31, the Peary was repaired, and she continued to make history. While in the Atlantic starting in April, 1943, she ran convoy routes to Europe, ferried prisoners of war from North Africa, and served off Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Tough men aboard tough ships during tough times.


* According to a September 29, 1944 article in the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft, the first ship’s master was Captain Harold E. Widmeyer, of San Pedro, Calif.

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Male nursing pioneers

posted on May 5, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

May 6-16, 2016, is National Nurses Week.


"Larry [Rowe] Gerry [Beideck] and Ricky [Mosqueda]: a first for Kaiser" 1970 KFSN yearbook. First male enrolled students.

“Larry [Rowe] Gerry [Beideck] and Ricky [Mosqueda]: a first for Kaiser” 1970 KFSN yearbook. First male enrolled students.

Caption in the 1970 Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing yearbook: “Larry, Gerry and Ricky: a first for Kaiser.”

Larry Rowe, Gerry Beideck, and Ricky (Ricardo Pangilinan) Mosqueda were groundbreakers in the 1970 class of the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing, which operated between 1947 and 1976. As the first enrolled male students, they were pioneers in a traditionally female nursing profession.

After World War II, a national shortage of nurses prompted Kaiser Permanente founding physician Sidney Garfield, MD, to create a school in 1947.

Frances P. Bolton (1885-1977) was the first Ohio woman elected to Congress and an advocate for gender and racial desegregation of military nursing units. She introduced the 1949 Bolton Act (H.R. 9398) which provided for the appointment of male citizens as nurses in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Six years later, Lieutenant Edward T. Lyon was commissioned into the Army Nurse Corps in 1955.

A December, 1959, article in The Modern Hospital titled “Mr. R.N. Is Wanted on the Nursing Team” repeated the need for more and diverse nurses. “Hospital authorities are wondering how long a nation with a critical shortage of nurses can afford such an outworn notion as thinking of nursing as ‘woman’s work’,” stating that 97.6 percent of the nursing workforce was female and that only 225 male students a year were graduating from nursing schools.

KFSN class of 1972 yearbook photo Ricardo "Ricky" Mosqueda, senior

KFSN class of 1972 yearbook photo Ricardo “Ricky” Mosqueda, senior

Sadly, not all pioneers made it from the classroom to the hospital room. By 1972, KFSN students Larry and Gerry had dropped out, but Ricky graduated. For reasons unknown, he didn’t complete his California state board examinations, and we don’t know which career path he chose after that.

The growth in numbers of male nurses is a welcome diversification in staffing. A 2011 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation article pointed out that “Patients are much more receptive to health care providers of similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and that may well translate to gender as well.” And to support those professionals, the American Association for Men in Nursing offers trainings, scholarships and resources.

One example of supporting exceptional efforts is Kaiser Permanente’s Extraordinary Nurse Award Program, which complements existing regional recognition programs and honors nurses that demonstrate all six of the Kaiser Permanente nursing values: professionalism, patient and family centric, compassion, teamwork, excellence and integrity. This year, there are two male winners out of 11 total – Victor Falle, RN, of the Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center in Honolulu, and John Kirk Phillips, RN, of the Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco Medical Center.

As of 2015, 17.3 percent of Kaiser Permanente’s nurses are men. And we are proud to have male nursing leaders throughout regional and national level positions, including Gregory A. Adams, who was recently appointed Group President to lead all Kaiser Permanente regions.


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