Exhibition on the changing face of media in the WWII Kaiser Richmond shipyards

posted on August 27, 2015

Emmy Lou Packard: Drawing New Conclusions in the Kaiser Shipyards
Exhibit Opening and Lecture at the Visitor Center September 5th
Exhibition will remain through the end of 2015

For many, the shipyards was the first experience in working alongside people of different races; here, black-white cooperation is graphically reinforced by the positive and negative shadowing of the ship they have built together behind them. 2/22/1945

For many, the shipyards was the first experience in working alongside people of different races; here, black-white cooperation is graphically reinforced by the positive and negative shadowing of the ship they have built together behind them. 2/22/1945

On Saturday, September 5th at 11 AM, Lincoln Cushing from Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources will host an opening for an exhibition about the graphic art of Emmy Lou Packard who was employed by the Kaiser Shipyards during World War II in Richmond, California.

The World War II Home Front was truly a setting where “ordinary people did extraordinary things.” One of the best records of that dynamic period was the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft, with news and stories of a war industry in which new workers were doing new jobs in new ways.

California artist Emmy Lou Packard (1914-1998) was on the Fore ‘n’ Aft staff and contributed approximately 100 illustrations. Packard’s work was patriotic without resorting to racist jabs or stereotypes; she portrayed workers with dignity and character. She drew women’s experiences from a woman’s point of view – numerous vignettes are of children (one of her regular subjects later in life), home life, and the challenges of survival and adjustment in a tempestuous time.

This exhibition features large reproductions of exemplary graphic art Packard made between 1944 and 1945, filling in a significant void in Home Front history, art history, and even of Packard’s own documented career.

The exhibition is curated by Kaiser Permanente historian and archivist Lincoln Cushing, and is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente in partnership with the National Park Service. Many of the images are from the Richmond Museum of History.

The wartime Kaiser shipyards offered extensive child care facilities and family health care. 1/26/1945

The wartime Kaiser shipyards offered extensive child care facilities and family health care. 1/26/1945

The exhibition is displayed in the lower level of the Visitor Center and will be available to the public through January of 2016.

Space is limited and reservations are required for this program. Please call 510-232-5050 x0 and leave a message with your name and phone number, and specify the date of the program you would like to attend.

The Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center is open seven days a week from 10 AM to 5 PM and is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, suite 3000, Richmond, CA 94804. For more information and directions to the Visitor Education Center, please call (510) 232-5050 x0 or visit their website. Admission to the Visitor Center and all park sites and programs is free.

If you would like to receive information about upcoming park events, visit www.rosietheriveter.org and sign up for the email newsletter. The Rosie the Riveter Trust is the nonprofit association that is building a community of support for this national park.


Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1EmQ9vN


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Kaiser Permanente – encouraging healthy school lunches since the FDR administration

posted on August 19, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

The Bo's'n's Whistle 1943-11-25

Children’s snack at Kaiser child care center, The Bo’s’n’s Whistle 11/25/1943.

As parents ramp up to send their children to school after a long, thriving summer, tips for guiding them to eat the right food is a popular topic. Kaiser Permanente recently produced a great article about healthy school lunches, but many people don’t know that the original Permanente Health Plan for World War II shipyard workers promoted healthy lunches for kids as well.

Among Henry J. Kaiser’s social benefit programs for his shipyard workers were the Child Service Centers. At the time these innovative facilities were the largest in the world, and took care of children of working parents from 18 months to six years. It cost 75 cents a day for one child and $1.25 for two. The Maritime Nursery for the Richmond (Calif.) yards opened June 1, 1943, and the centers in the Northwest yards in Oregon and Washington opened in late 1943.

The centers were under the direction of Dr. Lois Meek Stolz, former director of the Child Development Institute at Columbia University and a well-known authority on child care and training. Assisting her was James L. Hymes, Jr., former assistant state supervisor of nursery schools in New York. The importance of food and nutrition were seen as a key component in the program’s success. Hymes wrote:

Food influences behavior. Small children…have pounded into us in unforgettable ways that hungry people are irritable; that they fight more; that they cry easily; that they become destructive…Some children we have seen, hungrier still, have told us that hunger can make people placid, inactive, lethargic…

The Bo's'n's Whistle 1944-02-11

Parent picking up prepared meal at Kaiser child care center, The Bo’s’n’s Whistle 2/11/1944.

An article in The Bos’n’s Whistle (the weekly magazine for the Northwest shipyards) published November 5, 1943, mentioned their food program:

Mid-morning lunch consists of graham crackers and fruit juice, a regular part of the daily schedule for all children at 9:30 every morning. Meals are supervised by expert dietitians.

Time is always tight for working parents, so the Kaiser shipyards helped out. An article from The Bos’n’s Whistle from February 11, 1944, announced a program of ready-cooked meals for all day-shift workers at the Oregon and Swan Island shipyards. The meals were planned by an expert nutritionist. Upon ordering two days in advance, the meals could be picked up at the Child Care Centers.

Mrs. Eva Ball, Oregon Ship tool checker, arrives at the Child Care Center, collects her two children and her already-prepared main course for the family evening meal. Mrs. Margaret Tipton, assistant food supervisor, passes the ready-packed meal over the counter. Miss Sheldon, assistant nutritionist is at the window.

Good food. Part of Kaiser’s broad view of health since 1943.


Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1MxZdyR

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Courting Health at Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical

posted on August 5, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Barry Wills, Katharine Baird, Kaiser Aluminum - Trentwood basketball team (men's and women's), Spokane Valley, WA, 1979-1980; scanned from photo lent by Barry Wills

Barry Wills, Kathy Baird, Kaiser Aluminum – Trentwood basketball team (men’s and women’s), Spokane Valley, Wash., 1979-1980.

The American economy at the end of World War II faced a huge challenge. We’d won the war, but now returning GI’s needed everything from jobs and housing to cars and refrigerators. The postwar demobilization was monumental, with over 10 million servicemen returning to civilian life by 1947. Sensing an opportunity and an obligation, Henry J. Kaiser turned his shipbuilding skills to domestic production.

That included making aluminum.

In March, 1946, the Board of Directors of Permanente Metals – originally formed to produce ships and magnesium – voted to go into the aluminum business. Leases were signed for war surplus plants in eastern Washington State at Mead and Trentwood. Mead was an aluminum reduction plant (where the mineral alumina is refined into metallic aluminum) and Trentwood was a sheet and plate-rolling mill.

The business was very successful. In 1949 the company was renamed Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation and the next year it purchased those two plants as well as others. KACC became the nation’s third largest aluminum producer. But during the 1980s the aluminum market tanked, and by the end of that decade the Kaiser family had divested itself of KACC. The new corporation continues under the Kaiser Aluminum Corporation name.

Kaiser Aluminum men's basketball team, Trentwood, WA, "Spokane County champs AA division" 1978; coach Barry Wills #19; image from photo loaned by Barry Wills

Kaiser Aluminum men’s basketball team, Trentwood, Wash., “Spokane County champs AA division” 1978; coach Barry Wills #19.

Just as the Kaiser shipyards encouraged “healthy competition” through sports and wellness programs, so did KACC.

Barry Wills and his future wife Kathy Baird worked at the Trentwood plant. Barry started in 1976, was briefly transferred to the Kaiser Refractories plant in Plymouth Meeting, Penn., and then continued working at Trentwood until 1981. Kathy worked there from 1972 to 1981. They played on Kaiser Aluminum sponsored softball and basketball teams (where they met) as well as participating in the popular “wellness” programs that encouraged healthy activities between 1975 and 1981. They loved it. In a recent interview, Barry recalled some of the highlights:

Kaiser Aluminum - Mead Ingots Men’s softball team, Spokane, WA, 1975. Scanned from color xerox provided by Barry Wills.

Kaiser Aluminum – Mead Ingots Men’s softball team, Spokane, Wash., 1975.

We played in the Spokane County Parks and Recreation Adult Recreation League. I believe we played at the AA level (AAA was the highest level). Typically, all the players on a AAA team played college ball at some level (NCAA or NAIA, Division II). We had one player that played basketball at a Junior College.

We were very competitive and won most of our games. Some of our opponents were Bob’s Barber Shop, Whitworth Alums, E & J Meats, Kaiser – Mead, and the Freeman Thrills.

First Kaiser Aluminum women's basketball team, Trentwood, WA, 1977; coach Harold Vigue; scan from photo loaned by Barry Wills

First Kaiser Aluminum women’s basketball team, Trentwood, Wash., 1977; coach Harold Vigue.

Our biggest thrill was an invitation to play in a pre-game [exhibition] at the “Kennel” at Gonzaga University. Gonzaga played Oregon. We were excited to have a full house of Gonzaga fans halfway through our game.

The women’s basketball team enjoyed success in Regional and State tournaments.

This was healthy competition and thriving, one of the hallmarks of Henry J. Kaiser’s many former industries. It remains a hallmark at Kaiser Permanente.


All images courtesy Barry Wills.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1hjId3R

T-shirt given to Kaiser – Trentwood employees if they participated in the Wellness Program, owned by  Katharine Baird, 1980. Shot from Barry Wills collection.

T-shirt given to Kaiser-Trentwood employees for participating in the Wellness Program, owned by Kathy Baird, 1980.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Medicare

posted on July 29, 2015

Jennifer Downey

Healthgram 1965-Winter

Kaiser Permanente member newsletter, 1965

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare Bill into law, immediately granting 35 million older and disadvantaged Americans access to the medical care they needed. He praised the country’s aging World War II veterans as the nation’s “prideful responsibility [who] are entitled … to the best medical protection available,” and thanked former President Harry S. Truman, one of the program’s original architects, for “plant[ing] the seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick, and serenity for the fearful.”

Although “medical care as a right” was a boon to those who would receive coverage, the question of exactly how a national health insurance system would function in terms of administration, organization and approach of care delivery quickly enmeshed government and private sector, industry and commerce, in a heated debate that continues today. And Kaiser Permanente, as one of a number of private health plans established prior to Medicare’s inception, was swept up into a national health care tornado.

An aging population

Following 16 years of depression and war, 1946 was a turning point as America’s peacetime economy boomed. The workforce filled jobs and factories, and most workers received health coverage through their employers or unions. The aging and disadvantaged segment of the population, however, was falling behind. Accessibility and affordability of health care had quickly become out of their reach, yet their numbers continued to grow: A health care crisis was looming.

No one argued that there wasn’t an urgent need for large-scale care; however, the debate over how to structure and administer it was just ramping up, and would intensify over the next decade.

The Medicare proposal

The Medicare program was characterized by 1) government administration of the program and funding through payroll taxes, and 2) a continuation of the prevailing fee-for-service model of health care. This second characteristic directly conflicted with Kaiser Permanente’s model of prepaid health care. The organization saw the fee-for-service system not only as a challenge for its own structure to integrate, but maybe more importantly, as a faulty approach to delivering health care.

“Under the prevailing fee-for-service system, income of doctors and hospitals is directly related to the volume and price of the services they provide. Illness produces income,” read Kaiser Permanente’s 1965 annual report.

Scott Fleming, Kaiser Permanente attorney and executive, echoed that sentiment: “[T]he industry’s purpose is wrongly conceived; the industry should develop the capability of delivering comprehensive health care for people rather than merely providing episodic treatment for patients.”

Kaiser Permanente’s approach of total health — health care versus sick care — influenced the national debate early on. Other private and voluntary health plans also joined the fray, as they braced for the impact Medicare would bring.


Visitors at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Hospital open house, 1965

Medicare enacted July 30, 1965

While key Kaiser Permanente personnel remained active in policy dialogue around Medicare’s structuring, the organization had been intensely preparing for the program’s integration into its own (very different) system. Its priority was to maintain its standard of excellent care for all members through the coming transition — a shift that would bring an influx of new Medicare beneficiaries and see the conversion of a portion of its existing members to Medicare covered. Kaiser Permanente’s health plan reached out to members, encouraging those who were eligible to enroll in Medicare, and adapted benefits and coverage to maintain best care for beneficiaries.

It also undertook a massive training effort in its facilities to ensure that staff was prepared and the integration was smooth. The effort paid off — implementation was a huge success. Life magazine’s Sept. 3, 1965, issue reported how catastrophic Medicare implementation was for most medical facilities, but spotlighted Kaiser Permanente as a success story.

An evolving program

Medicare has evolved greatly in the five decades since its enactment. It has seen major reforms, amendments, new legislative acts and bills, and has been the subject of ongoing scrutiny around budgetary, administrative and quality issues. The heated debate continues — how best to administer it, fund it, and ensure that it’s efficient yet effective.

That the argument continues isn’t surprising, given the mammoth, complex system that it is.

Today’s seniors benefit from early visionaries

In 1958, Kaiser Permanente consultant and health care economist Avram Yedidia voiced the imperative to “face the responsibility of providing health care or protection for [those] which we presumably show the most concern — the sick, the unemployed, the retired, and the aged.”

Despite Medicare’s growing pains over the last 50 years, older and disadvantaged Americans continue to benefit from accessible, affordable health care through the program. They receive resources and coverage, guaranteed, just as the program’s early architects envisioned.

As a participant in Medicare since the program’s inception, Kaiser Permanente has been influential in improving the program’s service model to deliver better coverage and care to seniors. For example, it pushed for a capitation model — resulting in Medicare Advantage — which serves as a substitute for fee-for-service, and it helped develop the Medicare Star Quality Ratings, which rewards health plans for excellent service and care.

Over the past five decades, Kaiser Permanente has delivered high-quality health care to millions of Medicare members throughout their lifetimes. As a recognized frontrunner of leadership and innovation in Medicare, Kaiser Permanente has and continues to build initiatives, programs and institutes for the improvement of health care and coverage for seniors. Its Medicare plans in California consistently receive top national ratings for excellence in care and service from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and its health screening rates are among the best in the nation, according to the 2014 National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Quality Compass® data set.

The bold call for compassion by Medicare’s early visionaries fundamentally changed the shape of health care for older Americans today and beyond — and at 50, Medicare continues to serve those who need it most.


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