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Henry J. Kaiser’s dream of personal aircraft

posted on January 10, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

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Artwork from draft “Fly with Fleetwings: Kaiser-Craft” promotional brochure (never produced), circa 1950.

“Flying is a pleasure, even if it is for business!” For a man whose professional passions blurred with enjoying the fruits of one’s labor, this was Henry J. Kaiser’s dream of transportation in America as we entered peacetime after World War II.

During the war, Henry J. Kaiser was involved in a several military aviation manufacturing projects, and was briefly put in charge of the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation. Most of those projects went well, with the notable exception of the infamous “Spruce Goose.”

Aerial photo of Spruce Goose (H-4, Hercules Flying Boat), Long Beach, 1947.

Aerial photo of Spruce Goose (H-4, Hercules Flying Boat), Long Beach, 1947. Note shadow of dirigible from which photo was taken.

As early as 1942, Henry J. Kaiser proposed a massive fleet of giant cargo planes, figuring that they could have a better survival record than the Atlantic ship convoys were experiencing. Kaiser began a partnership with Howard Hughes and snagged a government contract. However, by early 1944 Kaiser withdrew from the project when nothing viable had been produced. Kaiser and Hughes parted ways, but Hughes doggedly persisted with his “Spruce Goose” monster airplane (it was actually made of birch plywood because of wartime restrictions on aluminum). It flew only once, on November 2, 1947, but was seen by the U.S. Senate as a boondoggle.

Henry J. Kaiser purchased a controlling interest in the aircraft manufacturer Fleetwings of Bristol, Penn., on March 29, 1943, as a division of Kaiser Cargo, Inc. During World War II, they developed the Model 23 Tandem and Model 33 trainers. They also designed the limited edition XBTK-1 torpedo bomber as a technical response to the need for smaller aircraft that could work well on compact aircraft carriers such as Kaiser’s CVE escort carriers.

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Hiller-copter in Modern Mechanix, December 1944

Fleetwings also produced a prototype XH-10 “Twirleybird” helicopter in 1945. Kaiser’s attraction to helicopters had been sparked earlier when he heard of Berkeley boy genius Stanley Hiller’s easy-to-fly gyrocopter; after Kaiser saw the young Hiller’s demonstrations, Hiller Aircraft became the Hiller-copter Division of Kaiser Cargo in 1944.  However, the next year Hiller and Kaiser’s partnership collapsed, at least partly because Kaiser refused to increase the Hiller-copter Division’s funding to levels required for full scale production.

But soon it was postwar civil, not military, aviation that fermented in Kaiser’s brain, and Henry J. Kaiser had grand plans.

An opening salvo came from an article titled “Still pioneering” in the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft August 10, 1945, five days before the war’s end:

As concerns air travel, people who supposedly know say we are still in the pioneering stage. They agree it may be some time before every manjack of us has his own private plane, but ‘”the age of the air,” as Kaiser says, “has already begun…”  Kaiser foresees mass production of airplanes – and most of it in the west – with sales running up to 100,000 a year.

Clay Bedford [Kaiser Richmond shipyard manager] declared in 1944: “Think of a string of airports dotting the state every 15 miles in two great networks, connecting with air highways across the nation—each field equipped with inns and motels, restaurants, service and repair stations, hangars and clubrooms.

“Fantastic? Henry Kaiser doesn’t think so. He’s proposed to build a nation-wide network of 5,000 air terminals.”

Henry J. Kaiser at first test flight of experimental pusher "family" plane; designer Dean B. Hammond on left, H.V. Lindbergh on right, likely Oakland airport, 1946-02.

Henry J. Kaiser at first test flight of experimental pusher “family” plane; designer Dean B. Hammond on left, H.V. Lindbergh on right, likely at Oakland airport, February, 1946.

No long afterwards, the Associated Press wrote a story on February 7, 1946:

Henry Kaiser disclosed today he is well on the way to becoming an airplane manufacturer. He saw his first model plane given its test flight at the Oakland airport. The plane, tentatively called the Kaiser-Hammond, is a twin-tail, pusher type, single-engine craft, with a 40-foot wingspread. It will carry 1200 pounds.

The plane had been originally designed and developed by Emeryville, Calif., aeronautical engineer Dean Hammond in the mid-1930s. In 1936, Hammond partnered with noted aircraft designer Lloyd Stearman and formed the Stearman-Hammond Aircraft Corporation to build the Stearman-Hammond Y-1. High costs hampered sales, and production was interrupted by World War II. One design oddity was that the aircraft had no rudder; the tailplane fins were adjustable but not during flight. Turning was achieved by differential operation of the aileron and elevator.

In another article on the Kaiser-Hammond, Henry J. Kaiser was quoted as saying: “This is an automobile. Not a plane – it steers like a car and rides like one.”

But in the mid-to late 1940s, Henry J. Kaiser was heavily involved in many other projects, including his Kaiser-Frazer automobile company. His aviation ventures began to lose altitude, but he wasn’t quite done yet.

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Artwork from draft “Fly with Fleetwings: Kaiser-Craft”

A Fleetwings 51 airplane proposed around 1950 was his last stab at populating the skies. The all-metal plane would be powered by a 200-horsepower General Motors Model GM-250 radial engine.

By 1948, Fleetwings had been renamed Kaiser Metal Products, manufacturing a range of consumer products, including cabinets and dishwashers. However, Kaiser had kept the Fleetwings brand name alive for his civil aircraft projects.

A prototype brochure, “Fly with Fleetwings in a Kaiser-Craft,” sold the basic concept:

A preview or your personal plane, the Fleetwings 51… designed and built to serve your requirements for speed, comfort, safety, and economy, plus an entirely new concept in aviation–four passengers side-by-side.

Artwork from draft “Fly with Fleetwings: Kaiser-Craft”

Artwork from draft “Fly with Fleetwings: Kaiser-Craft”

Flying no longer requires the superman that it took to pilot the tricky craft of a few years ago. Aerodynamic advances have brought it within the reach of the average person. The Fleetwings 51 is a plane that any physically and mentally normal person can learn to fly.

In classic 1950s advertising prose that would humble Don Draper, the section “Flying is a pleasure, even if it is for business!” sold the dream:

Your personal plane will take you to the seashore or the mountains for weekends, quickly, without using up most of the time going and coming; pleasantly, without tiring hours of stopping and going, weaving in and out of traffic in a haze of exhaust smoke.

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Artwork from draft “Fly with Fleetwings: Kaiser-Craft”

It will take you to the far-away places where the best fishing and hunting a replaces too far away to reach often by other means in the time most people have available. Equipped with pontoons, it will take you to Canadian lakes seldom or never fished before. It will take you over more of the United States than you have ever been able to tour. It will enable you to visit friends and relatives so far away that you would otherwise never see them.

It will enable you to enjoy a summer change of scene when you can’t get away from the office, by providing quick commutation.

Alas, the Fleetwings 51 never took off, and there’s no evidence that Kaiser sought to further develop civil aviation. During that period Henry J. Kaiser’s beloved wife Bess was suffering from poor health, and she passed away March 14, 1951. Henry soon married Bess’ nurse Alyce, and Henry became much more involved in the operations of the rapidly-expanding Kaiser Permanente health care program.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2igBriQ

 

 

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Kaiser and Disney – Spreading Fun and Health since World War II

posted on January 3, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

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“Visitors from Aulani brought smiles to 4-month-old Moses Love and his family.” 2016, photo by Lance Agena.

At the end of last year, pediatric patients being treated at Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Medical Center in Hawaii received a special holiday visit from Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Pluto. Aulani, a Disney resort on Oahu, sent these cartoon characters to spread cheer to children during the holiday season.

But few know that Minnie has been greeting children at Kaiser facilities for more than 70 years. The historic connections between Kaiser (Kaiser Industries and Kaiser Permanente) and Disney (Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland) are longer than the bobsled ride down the iconic Matterhorn.

During World War II, when Henry J. Kaiser was building hundreds of ships for the war effort, Walt Disney Studios was producing posters for the War Manpower Commission encouraging home front workers to be productive.

"Don't be a job hopper" poster for War Manpower Commission, Walt Disney Studios, 1944. [Source: National Archives]

“Don’t be a job hopper,”  Walt Disney Studios, 1944. [National Archives]

Safety graphic, back cover of Bos'n's Whistle by former Disney artist Bob Davidson, OSC, 1942-04-09, OHS

The Bos’n’s Whistle, 4/9/1942

The weekly Kaiser Oregon shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle included several mentions of former Disney workers – one 1942 back cover safety graphic had been drawn by Bob Davidson, a field aide and draftsman in the shipyards who’d worked in Walt Disney’s publicity department illustrating children’s books and posters for theater advertising. An article on the Hull Detail department boasted that “One of the most interesting types of work handled in the department is production illustration … which includes some ex-Disney men from Hollywood.”

Another article from June 29, 1945, titled “Artist Prefers Hull Drawing to Comics” interviewed one of those illustrators:

Sketching pink elephants and giddy fauns is a far cry from the businesslike lines of a ship’s hull for Charles Shaw, Oregon Ship Company production illustration supervisor, who was formerly an artist-animator connected with the famed Walt Disney studio. “Dumbo and Bambi were fun to sketch, but I’d much rather be doing just what I am – production illustration,” Shaw declared.

Oregonship photos, Disney images painted on wall, Box 3; Child Care Center, PA-665

Disney character art in Permanente Hospital pediatric waiting room, circa 1944

The waiting room of a pediatric ward at one of the wartime Kaiser shipyard hospitals featured a mural of Pluto and Minnie Mouse with two unidentified young mouse characters. A recumbent Bambi graces the floor.

After the war both Kaiser Industries and Walt Disney greatly expanded their operations.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened to the public in Anaheim, Calif. – and one of the featured displays in Tomorrowland was the Kaiser Aluminum Hall of Fame. The display ran until July, 1960.

Interestingly, one of the theme parks that inspired Disneyland was Children’s Fairyland, which had opened five years earlier on the shores of Oakland’s Lake Merritt near the headquarters of Kaiser Industries – just across the lake from the current Kaiser Permanente’s national headquarters at 1 Kaiser Plaza.

Postcard - Kaiser Aluminum exhibition, Tomorrowland at Disneyland, 1955-1960. [Jon Geary discrete collection]

Postcard – Kaiser Aluminum exhibition, Tomorrowland at Disneyland, 1955-1960. [Jon Geary discrete collection]

Kaiser Permanente historian emeritus Tom Debley described the Kaiser Aluminum Hall of Fame:

A giant aluminum sphere sat in the center of the exhibit, onto which was projected a knight who would bemoan the fact that his armor was not made of aluminum. The knight would fade away and be replaced with a firefighter and then a spaceman.  On the outside walls of the exhibit were smaller displays extolling the benefits of the “miracle substance” called aluminum.  After you signed your name in the registration book, with an aluminum pen, you got to meet the Kaiser Aluminum mascot pig, KAP (“Kaiser Aluminum Pig”). KAP was 3 feet tall, wore aluminum overalls, and carried a wrench.  According to lore, he was the first non-Disney character at Disneyland.

KP 7th Annual Family Fun Party at Disneyland, 1974-10-06. [Jon Geary discrete collection]

Kaiser Permanente 7th Annual Family Fun Party at Disneyland, 1974. [Jon Geary discrete collection]

Disneyland Park would serve as a venue for many Kaiser Industries and Kaiser Permanente events. Beginning in 1967 and onward for several years, Kaiser Permanente hosted “family fun parties” at Disneyland.

A 2006 Kaiser Permanente media release enthused that “Disneyland Resort Welcomes Kaiser Permanente as Presenting Sponsor for the Inaugural Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend,” which included more than 8,000 runners.

“The Disneyland Half Marathon is the perfect setting for our message about the importance of good health,” said Ed Ellison, MD, Medical Director for Kaiser Permanente in Orange County [Dr. Ellison is currently Executive Medical Director and Chairman of the Board of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group]. “This will be a beautiful weekend event filled with fun and physical activity for the participants and spectators alike. We hope that everyone involved will be inspired to live well and thrive.”

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1998 Innoventions video still, click to see on YouTube

As far as Kaiser Permanente’s presence at Disneyland is concerned, undoubtedly the biggest moment was at the “Innoventions” pavilion that was installed when Tomorrowland was redesigned in 1998. Kaiser Permanente was featured in a huge interactive educational display about health and health care. A story in KP Perspectives, the internal news medium in videocassette format, explained how it all came to be. These quotes from that video told our story:

“We were approached by Disney. They were going to redesign Tomorrowland, and the centerpiece of Tomorrowland was going to be the Innoventions exhibit.” -Kathy Swenson, senior VP, Communications, Marketing & Sales.

“They needed a health care organization that met their standards, and Kaiser Permanente came to mind.” -Kenneth E. Bell, MD, medical director, Kaiser Permanente, Orange County.

 “I saw it as a terrific opportunity for us to partner with a wonderful organization that knows how to bring critical messages to the American public.” -David Lawrence, MD, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals.

“It was important to us that the people pictured in these exhibits were real Kaiser Permanente staff and real Permanente physicians. We are not in the fantasy business, what we do is very real.”
-Sharon Levine, MD, associate executive director, The Permanente Medical Group [currently director and senior advisor, The Permanente Medical Group].

Kaiser and Disney – spreading fun and health since World War II.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2iN5fSf

Ale Kaiser’s Pink Christmas truck

posted on December 19, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

FC-170 Jeep truck - Xmas gift for Ale Kaiser, 1958

FC-170 Jeep truck – Henry’s Christmas gift for Ale Kaiser, 1958

Henry J. Kaiser may have been a bold man of action and an international industrialist leader, but he was also a devoted husband. So it should come as no surprise that he was perfectly happy to break with 1950s gender-stereotyped gift giving by buying his wife a pink truck for Christmas.

Kaiser and his second wife Alyce “Ale” moved to Hawaii in 1954, where they enjoyed the island life until Henry died on August 24, 1967 at the age of 85. Alyce’s favorite color was pink, which was the reason why some of the Kaiser facilities in Hawaii are pink. Not just any pink, “Kaiser Pink.”

It had all started when ordering custom-dyed leather for furniture in his Hawaiian Village Hotel. What was supposed to be a mild coral pink showed up a far deeper hue. Too late to change for the opening, the color proved to be a popular hit.

Henry declared that “Pink is a happy color,” and he and Ale proceeded to use it for everything, from building trim, to cement trucks, to catamarans. It was even rumored that Ale once dyed her poodles. And oh, by the way, since it turned out that Ale also liked trucks…

This Christmas story from 1958, written by a Kaiser Industries public affairs person, is a window into their personal life.

Mrs. Henry J. Kaiser started a while back letting the word get back to her industrialist husband that what she wanted most for Christmas this year was – a truck.

At first, Mr. Kaiser couldn’t believe it. One night he exclaimed at dinner table, “I guess I’m being kidded … Everyone in the house seems to think your heart’s desire for Christmas is a powerful truck.”

“But it is – really!” Mrs. Kaiser declared.

Henry J. Kaiser and Ale Kaiser, wedding photo, 1951-04-10. [C10-Oakland Trib - Box 22]

Henry J. Kaiser and Ale Kaiser, wedding photo, 4/10/1951.

“Now what on earth would you do with a truck?” asked Mr. Kaiser, who manufactures Willys Jeep trucks in the United States, Argentina, and Brazil. [The year before moving to Hawaii, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation had purchased Jeep manufacturer Willys-Overland for approximately $60 million. It would remain under Kaiser Industries control until 1970.]

“It would be great,” Mrs. Kaiser explained, “if I had a truck to haul landscaping plants and gardening supplies when we build our new Portlock Road house. Think of all the uses.”

“Now wouldn’t that be a sight when the family gathers at the Christmas tree and opens packages,” Mr. Kaiser remonstrated, “and I’d say – ‘now come out to the garage, Ale, and see your present’ – and there’d be a pink truck wrapped in cellophane.”

“Just the same,” Mrs. Kaiser replied, “that’s what I want for Christmas.”

So that’s the story-behind-the-story of the Kaiser Pink truck that created something of a sensation among Honolulu people who saw it lowered from the S.S. Leilani, or rolling over to the Von-Hamm-Young Company Jeep distributorship and then out to the Kaiser Kahala avenue house.

FC-170 Jeep truck - Xmas gift for Ale Kaiser, 1958

FC-170 Jeep truck for Ale Kaiser, 1958

The Kaiser gift to his wife is the new Forward Control Jeep FC-170 that can carry 3,500 pounds of cargo on its nine-foot truck body. Mr. Kaiser explained that the 1,700-pound heavy-duty vehicle has nine forward and three reverse power combinations.

Mrs. Kaiser forthwith took the powerful Jeep out for a rigorous drive. She came back beaming.

“It’s a living doll,” she exclaimed. “It’s the most useful Christmas present you could have – simply terrific.”

P.S. – Mr. Kaiser, who thought he was going along with a gag, had another present wrapped and under the Christmas tree for his wife, but decided she wasn’t joking – she obviously was so overjoyed over getting her wish – the pink truck.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2i8xYzJ

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Modern hospital groundbreaking brings out Los Angeles heavy hitters

posted on December 14, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

"Cement-pouring ceremonies Wednesday, November 7, at the Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. site in Los Angeles were participated in by (left to right) realtor Lawrence Block; Permanente Health Plan Manager Brian M, Kelly; Retail Clerks Union Local 770, President Lee Barbone; Local 770 Benefit Fund Administrator."

“Cement-pouring ceremonies Wednesday, November 7, at the Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. site in Los Angeles were participated in by (left to right) realtor Lawrence Block; Permanente Health Plan Manager Brian M, Kelly; Retail Clerks Union Local 770, President Lee Barbone; Local 770 Benefit Fund Administrator.”

It wasn’t a movie premiere, but a modern, gleaming building with the latest in medical capabilities that brought out the who’s who of Los Angeles – real estate developers, hospital administrators, labor leaders, and politicians – in late 1951.

When the new Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard opened its doors on June 17, 1953, it was national news. It had numerous modern features, and was a milestone in the health plan’s expansion in Southern California. Years before he became a famous TV news anchor, Chet Huntley’s radio broadcast about the opening gushed “The use of labor-saving devices, the use of light (both natural and artificial), the furnishings, the gadgets, the décor, and the personnel are all combined to make the new Kaiser Foundation Hospital something special.”

"Another construction view of the $2,500.000 Permanente Foundation Hospital reveals the wide are to be covered on Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. by the seven-story, 210-bed hospital, which will have complete surgical, obstetrical, laboratory, x-ray, pharmaceutical, and emergency facilities to serve the people of Los Angeles."

“Another construction view of the $2,500.000 Permanente Foundation Hospital reveals the wide area to be covered on Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. by the seven-story, 210-bed hospital, which will have complete surgical, obstetrical, laboratory, x-ray, pharmaceutical, and emergency facilities to serve the people of Los Angeles.”

A recently processed trove of photographs of the hospital’s 1951 groundbreaking, with extended captions and a press release, shows us more about the political and urban environmental climate of Los Angeles at that time.

The corner of Sunset Boulevard and Edgemont Street certainly looks different now. Back then, it was surrounded by small two-story buildings and adjacent to the forested Barnsdall Park on Olive Hill. The Park was the former estate of Aline Barnsdall, who donated it to the city of Los Angeles and hired noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1917 to design an extensive complex of structures. It was never completed, but the site still exists as a cultural and arts center.

The commitment to building a new hospital was a major event that included the participation of Los Angeles heavy hitters – real estate developers, hospital administrators, labor leaders, and politicians.

"Designed by the Portland architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips, and now under construction by general contractor C.L. Peck of Los Angeles, the Permanente Foundation Hospital at Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. in Los Angeles is a non-profit, charitable trust of the Henry J. Kaiser family. The 210-bed hospital is being built to help alleviate the critical need for hospital beds and service in the Los Angeles area."

“Designed by the Portland architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips, and now under construction by general contractor C.L. Peck of Los Angeles, the Permanente Foundation Hospital at Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St. in Los Angeles is a non-profit, charitable trust of the Henry J. Kaiser family. The 210-bed hospital is being built to help alleviate the critical need for hospital beds and service in the Los Angeles area.”

The press release accompanying captioned photos of the ceremonial groundbreaking November 7, 1951, told us the key facts:

City officials and heads of other hospitals in Los Angeles extended their welcome to the Permanente Foundation’s new $2,500,000 hospital at ground-breaking ceremonies Wednesday afternoon, November 7, on the northeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and Edgemont Street.

Adjacent to Barnsdall Park, historic landmark of the city, the new hospital will consist of a seven-story building with 210 beds and complete surgical, obstetrical, laboratory, x-ray, pharmaceutical and emergency facilities.

The hospital, which is being built by the Foundation to help alleviate the critical need for additional hospital beds and service in the Los Angeles area, was welcomed at the ceremonies by City Councilman Ernest Debs, Methodist Hospital Administrator Walter Hoefflin, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital Administrator Paul C. Elliot, and Cedars of Lebanon Hospital Administrator Emanuel Weisberger.

Others participating in the ceremonies were realtor Lawrence Block, who negotiated the Foundation purchase of the hospital property; Permanente Foundation Controller Paul J. Steil, and Brian M. Kelly, Permanente Health Plan Manager.

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Map of hospital site, circa 1955.

Representing employment groups, whose participating membership in the Permanente Health Plan now totals approximately 50,000, were Joseph T. DeSilva, secretary, and Lee Barbone, president, Retail Clerks Union, Local 770, Los Angeles; A. A. Carpenter, United Steel Workers of America, Local 1845, Maywood, and W. L. Emblen, Permanente Health Plan Representative at Kaiser Steel in Fontana.

Employers’ representatives attending the ground-breaking included O. G. Lawton, president of the Food Employers’ Council.

The Permanente Foundation Hospital, designed by the Portland architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips, is slated for completion by Fall of 1952. C. L. Peck of Los Angeles is the general contractor.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2hxpinC

 

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Kaiser Permanente’s self-help handbook

posted on November 28, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

healthwise1-medIn the 1970s, people sought to take back control of their communities and their bodies from a medical establishment they considered racist, sexist, and generally not helpful to a multitude of Americans.

A seminal tract in this emerging “self-help” movement, Women and Their Bodies, was published in 1970, followed by a revised version called Our Bodies, Our Selves in 1971. By 1973, it was so popular that Simon & Schuster published the first commercial, expanded edition. It has since been translated into 30 languages, with millions of copies in print.

It was in that context that Healthwise, an Idaho nonprofit, was founded in 1975 by Don Kemper, MPH (who retired this year), with a simple mission: “Help people make better health decisions.” The next year it published the first Healthwise Handbook.

Kaiser Permanente worked with Healthwise to publish its own version of the Healthwise Handbook: A Self-Care Guide For You And Your Family, in 1994. It was a cornerstone of Kaiser Permanente’s Self-Care Program, designed to give people the skills and information necessary to safely identify and treat minor health problems at home.

healthwise2-medThe format for all maladies, from asthma to tick bites to depression, includes a description of what to look for, how to prevent it, home treatment options, and when to call Kaiser Permanente.

In 2000, the Kaiser Permanente Healthwise Handbook was honored with a silver award from the National Health Information Awards program for the publication’s consumer health information. The Spanish version of the handbook, La Salud En Casa: Guia Practica de Healthwise y Kaiser Permanente, received a bronze award. The handbooks were chosen for having the best consumer health information in the Health Promotion/Disease and Injury Prevention Information class.

The Healthwise Knowledgebase self-help medical encyclopedia was an early health resource featured on Kaiser Permanente Online, and later print editions offered a broad range of links to key self-care resources, such as the Kaiser Permanente Healthphone, KP Online, and other recommended health websites. In Northern California, primary care physicians and staff were issued two copies along with tips on how to encourage members to use the Handbook. And in 2001, in partnership with the California State Library, Kaiser Permanente donated a collection of Healthwise Handbooks to every public library in the state.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2fKeIu1

Special thanks to Kaiser Permanente physician Dr. Stephen Tarzynski for donating this title to the Kaiser Permanente archives, and to librarian Thomas Shreves for facilitating that transfer.

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Rosie the Riveter Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin receives lifetime achievement award

posted on November 16, 2016

 

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

img_3306At a deeply moving event held on October 9, 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin was honored as someone whose “artistic vision, moral force and intellectual clarity gives voice to the people of California, their needs and desires, sufferings, struggles and triumphs.”

Soskin is a political activist raised in Oakland and Berkeley, and currently America’s oldest park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif. Her participation and activism in the creation of the park itself was instrumental in the ways Rosie the Riveter incorporates and memorializes the African-American history of Richmond and the greater Bay Area region.

Ever since 2002, the California Studies Association has presented the Carey McWilliams Award to a writer, scholar or artist who lives up to the best tradition of McWilliams’ work. McWilliams (1905-1980) was a vibrant, controversial, and influential intellectual, lawyer, and journalist who, among his other accomplishments, served as editor of The Nation for 20 years.

In choosing Soskin as this year’s Carey McWilliams awardee, CSA recognized her creative and political work in contributing to historical knowledge of California, and especially the experiences of African Americans during and after World War II.

The history of Kaiser Permanente is rooted in the World War II home front, and the national park where Ms. Soskin works shares that pioneering message with the world. Accompanying Ms. Reid at the award was Tom Leatherman, superintendent of four National Park Service historic sites in the East Bay.

Follows are excerpts from Ms. Reid’s acceptance speech. The full text can be found here:

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“The National Park Service [celebrating its centennial] only has five years on me!

In 1942 I came into Richmond as a clerk in a Jim Crow segregated union hall… that would be decades before the racial integration of the labor movement. So, in order to comply with [Henry J.] Kaiser’s wishes, labor created what was called “auxiliaries” – a fancy name for Jim Crow, One in Sausalito, one in West Oakland, the other at Richmond – Boilermaker’s Auxiliary #36, which is where I went every day.

If you’d asked me at the time, I would have told you all the shipyard workers were black. They were the only people I saw every day. The people who came up to my window to have their addresses changed, which is what I was doing on 3×5” file cards to save the world for democracy. And, as we all know, it worked…

There were lots of steps in that process. But only Henry Kaiser would dare to bring in a workforce of 98,000 black and white southerners into a city with a population of 23,000. He did that not only because he knew he could revolutionize shipbuilding by introducing the mass production techniques Henry Ford used in the auto industry, but he knew where the greatest pool of available workers lay in the country – in five southern states: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana.

He brought people into a city who would not be sharing drinking fountains, schools, hospitals, housing, even cemeteries – any kind of public accommodations – for another 20 years back in their places of origin. That’s would not be happening until the 1960s. This was 1942. With no chance for diversity training or focus groups! … That social change, set up in those days, has significance for all our lives. Social change continues to radiate out from where we are into the rest of the country. We have been leading since 1942. And that’s the story I get to tell.

We are all ready to have these conversations now, we are ready at our park. And across the country, that’s beginning to happen. It’s possible now because, as Tom [Leatherman] says, it’s not just the environmental movement, or protecting the wildlife, or the protection of historic wildlands. What we are dealing with now, ever since about 1970, is the history and culture of this country. It’s now possible to revisit almost any era in this nation – the heroic places, the contemplative places, the scenic wonders, the shameful places, and the painful places, in order to own that history so that we may process it in order to forgive ourselves in order that we may all be able to move into a more compassionate future. And the National Park Service is leading that fight.”

 

A film project sponsored by the Rosie the Riveter Trust to capture Betty Reid Soskin’s irreplaceable Home Front insights is in process, for which Kaiser Permanente has provided crucial seed funding.  A preview of this documentary-in-progress can be seen here. Donations can be made here; gifts made between now and December 15th will be doubled up by another generous donor.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2giocOH

[Thanks to Lisbet Tellefsen for the recording from which this transcript was made. Photos are by Bryan Gibel]

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Race, gender, and infection – the case for private hospital rooms

posted on November 4, 2016

 

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

The Southern Permanente Hospital (Fontana), 1944-08-25

Two-bed ward, The Southern Permanente Hospital (Fontana), 1944-08-25

When Kaiser Permanente opened its showcase modern Oakland hospital in 2014, news releases boasted that it had “all private rooms.” Which caused me to wonder – what is the history of private rooms in our facilities?

The first facilities expansion built for our flagship hospital in Oakland in 1943, which served the Kaiser Richmond shipyard workers, included single, double, and quadruple bedrooms. Similarly, the 1943 hospital at the Fontana, Calif., steel mill had rooms for one, two, and four patients.

It’s a logical assumption that the main reason for single rooms is medical.

“To isolate: to separate; to protect; to prevent.” This has long been the industry rationale given for single-patient rooms to reduce “nosocomial infections,” those acquired within a hospital by patients and personnel because of contamination or infection.

But there are other, non-medical reasons as well.

Fontana hospital architectural drawings, 1943-02-26; The Southern Permanente Hospital

Detail of floor plan, Southern Permanente hospital at Fontana, February 1943

When the original Fontana steel mill hospital became inadequate for the increased volume of patients, a 1952 prospectus for moving the Kaiser hospital to the city of Fontana specifically called out for private rooms:

Rationale for plans to build all 25 “general beds” as private rooms:

With 2 bedrooms, beds are wasted because some people need single occupancy.

1. Demand (executives, private rich, etc.)

2. Very ill and dying patients need privacy.

3. Wrong sex in one of the beds, so can’t admit other sex.

4. Racial problems — some colored and white people refuse to share rooms.

In an oral history, staff pediatrician Alice Friedman, MD, described the brand-new 1953 Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek hospital, and revealed yet another reason:

oakland-1943

Detail of floor plan, Oakland Permanente Foundation hospital expansion, April 1943

The rooms were designed for one person only, one bed in other words. There were a few two-bed rooms and otherwise, it was all one. The only reason for the two-bed rooms was because of Blue Cross coverage [for non-Kaiser Permanente patients] at that time. It covered two beds in a room and not a private room.

Adrienne Alcantara, principal media architect planner for Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Services organization, explains some of the issues that confronted hospital design during that period:

rwc-redwood-city-tower-medical-offices-07-seventh-floor-det

Detail, floorplan of Redwood City, 1968

Dr. Sidney Garfield’s main contribution in hospital design was the creation of separate corridors for visitors and staff. Visitors could enter a patient room from an outside walkway, staying out of the way of busy medical staff moving along the interior corridor.

But not all of the rooms in the new hospitals were private. A “mini-pod” served by a nursing station would be based on a 4-room cluster, with two private rooms and two semi-private rooms. The Kaiser Permanente hospital design template from the 1960s tried to achieve this ratio of 50 percent private room space.

ssc-south-sacramento-hospital-04-fourth-floor-det

Detail, floorplan of South Sacramento, 1985

As needs changed, so did designs:

In the 1970s more configurations were chosen based on local needs. For example, South Sacramento was built with a 30/70 private to semiprivate ratio, while nearby Roseville was 80/20. This was known as the “gateways hospital.”

In the late 1990s some nursing units – such as Perinatal and ICU – found that they needed more private rooms.

One factor in the room design equation was the cost and inconvenience of having to move patients in shared rooms
when situations changed (such as one patient became more ill). Sometimes a shared room was untenable because of patient behavior – the most common complaint in shared rooms is snoring. Also, health care competitors were moving toward more single rooms.

ros-roseville-hospital-03-third-floor-det

Detail, floorplan of Roseville, 1995

In 2002, the “template hospital” model was initiated, with similar plans serving several new facilities. The first three hospitals included Modesto, Antioch, and Irvine, which were designed with 100 percent private rooms. This became the standard ratio for all new hospitals or nursing unit remodels to follow. Some facilities have had to incorporate a few semiprivate rooms to compensate for variable peak bed capacity demands.

From gender privacy to nonmember insurance to snoring – so many reasons that private rooms make sense.

drv-antioch-medical-center-03-third-floor-det

Detail, floorplan of Antioch, 2007.

 

 

All modern floorplans courtesy Adrienne Alcantara.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2fLLsEs

 

 

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Movember in the wartime Kaiser shipyards – no launch, no shave

posted on October 27, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-11-26, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 11/26/1942.

Movember (the “mo” is for moustache) is an international charity campaign to raise awareness about men’s health during the month of November. Started in 2003 by two Australians, it has been a huge success. But a hairy face has been a sign of healthy competition long before that.

An article in the Portland, Ore., Kaiser shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle on November 5, 1942, was boldly titled “Toil and sweat, steel and whiskers.” The curious headline was not explained until the last sentence:

The launching of the Schenectady was given a pioneer days atmosphere through another idea of Swan Island workmen, who vowed that they wouldn’t shave until the second tanker is launched from their yard. Many a crop of facial foliage is blooming on the old island airport.

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-12-10, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 12/10/1942.

A follow up article November 26, 1942, was “Whiskers measure tanker progress.”

Some shipyards get the boys to make bigger and better records with pep talks. But at Swan Island they go native – no launch, no shave. You ought to see it! Thousands of Rip Van Winkles on their island, toiling into the night surrounded by whiskers. Brunettes with red beards, blondes with black beards, goatees, Van Dykes, sheriff’s mustaches, and stubble. The ban on shaving is ruthlessly enforced. In two different kangaroo court sessions fines were levied for failure to comply.

At [a] trial on November 9, Edgar Kaiser [shipyard manager and son of Henry J. Kaiser] was fined a total of $37.10 for failure to comply with the ordinance. His heavy fine included $10 for filing a motion in bad faith, 10c for contempt of court, $20 for failure to grow a beard, and $7 court costs.

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-12-10, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 12/10/1942.

The campaign’s end December 10, 1942 was headlined “Swan Island Shaves!”

At Swan Island they literally “work up a lather” over a tanker-launching. When work began on the Quebec the Islanders resolved not to shave until the ship was launched. The Quebec and her Swan Island sisters are the biggest ships ever built in these parts.

Wartime shipbuilding in the 1940s and men’s health today – noble causes that benefit from healthy (and furry) competition.

 

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-11-26, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 11/26/1942.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2eVUV7D

 

 

 

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Kaiser Motors in Oakland – “We sell to make friends.”

posted on October 17, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Ad for Kaiser motors showroom, Oakland [newspaper archive] 1946-10-15

Ad for Kaiser motors showroom, Oakland, 10/15/1946

Just a few blocks from Kaiser Permanente’s current offices in Oakland (and Kaiser’s main headquarters during the 1950s at 1924 Broadway) at 23rd and Broadway is a new beer garden. It’s a nice place to relax after work, and part of its charm is the faux vintage signage honoring its earlier incarnation as a Dodge dealership. But drink deeper, and lo – back in the day, it was the site of Henry J. Kaiser’s first auto dealership.

The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was Henry J. Kaiser’s venture into the post-World War II automobile industry, stagnant because civilian vehicles were not produced during the war. Pent up demand encouraged Mr. Kaiser to partner with automotive veteran Joseph Frazer and tackle a new field. K-F was founded on July 25, 1945, and its main manufacturing plant was Ford’s former Willow Run bomber plant in Michigan.

A 1945 promotional article in the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper gushed:

1946-capwells

1946 ad

“The Kaiser and Frazer will be the first new name cars to be introduced by a new company to the American public in more than a decade.”

A news item on June 21, 1946, announced that Henry J. Kaiser Motors had purchased half a square block at 23rd and Broadway in downtown Oakland for $150,000 to distribute Kaiser and Frazer automobiles and Graham Paige farm equipment. That portion of the block had been an auto dealership since at least the late 1920s. H.O. Harrison Co. sold Chryslers and Plymouths from 2321 Broadway in 1928. Later, the Remmer Brothers (1930-1931) and James F. Waters (1932) sold Desotos.

But even before the car lot was opened, the 1947 line of Kaiser and Frazer cars was premiered in the windows of the H.C. Capwell’s department store on Broadway from July through October, 1946. Banker A.P. Giannini, president of the Bank of America, was the proud first Pacific Coast owner of a Kaiser model. Small wonder – it was Giannini who introduced Kaiser and Fraser to stimulate a partnership.

Promo about Kaiser Frazer cars, Fore 'n' Aft, 1945-12-28, RMH

Promo about Kaiser Frazer cars, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 12/28/1945

At last, Henry J. Kaiser Motors, distributors of Kaiser and Frazer cars, was formally opened to the public October 20, 1946.

By 1947 a second lot was opened a block away at 2230 Broadway, where it intersects with MacArthur Boulevard. By 1950 a third lot appeared, at 2600 Broadway – and Henry J. Kaiser and his two sons held a grand showing in the lobby of San Francisco’s elegant Fairmont Hotel.

The dealership’s slogan? “We sell to make friends.”

Kaiser was very proud of his 1950 affordable compact car, the “Henry J.” By 1952, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was renamed Kaiser Motors Corporation and continued building passenger cars, and in 1953 introduced a stylish sports car called the Darrin.  But it wasn’t enough, and the company ground to a halt in 1955. It was one of the very few failures in Kaiser’s career. In 1953 Henry J. Kaiser had bought the famous but ailing Jeep manufacturer Willys-Overland, which he ran much more successfully until it was sold off in 1970 after his death.

 

Article on new Kaiser Frazer cars, Fore 'n' Aft, 1946-08-00, RMH

Article on new Kaiser-Frazer cars, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 8/1946.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2dntS3W

 

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Kaiser’s geodesic dome clinic

posted on October 12, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Copy of plans for "Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome" by Clarence Mayhew, with Sidney Garfield as consultant.1957-12-18. [TPMG P1283]

Plans for “Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome.”

There are hospital rounds, and there are round hospitals.

While researching an earlier article on the Kaiser Permanente hospital designs created by founding physician Sidney Garfield and the architect Clarence Mayhew, I was looking through folders of drawings for the amazing 1962 Panorama City hospital.

Panorama City featured seven double circular floors, the best example of Dr. Garfield’s “circles of service” concept. But one set of plans didn’t quite look right.

We know that Henry J. Kaiser was a geodesic dome pioneer. Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation built two of the first civilian domes in 1957, one in Virginia and one in Hawaii. Geodesic domes are self-supported spherical structures composed of rigid triangles, which became very popular during the 1960s and 1970s as modernists and the counterculture embraced their (literally) “out of the box” features of openness and strength.

Fourth floor plan of tower, Kaiser Foundation Hospital at Panorama City. 1961 [circa]. [TPMG P1283]

Fourth floor plan of tower, Kaiser Foundation Hospital at Panorama City, circa 1961.

We also know that in the 1960s Dr. Garfield was intrigued by (but never followed through on) an innovative project called the Atomedic Hospital, based on a dome structure.

But this 1957 plan, by Mayhew (with Dr. Garfield as “medical consultant”) clearly says “Medical office building for the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome.” It was to be 18,500 square feet, with 20 physicians on two floors.

As a round design, it had been misfiled with Panorama City. We don’t know why it was never built, but at least we now know that in the infancy of geodesic dome innovation Henry J. Kaiser and Dr. Sidney Garfield were creatively thinking outside the box.

Copy of plans for "Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome" by Clarence Mayhew, with Sidney Garfield as consultant.1957-12-18. [TPMG P1283]

Plan credits, “Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome,” by Clarence Mayhew, with Dr. Sidney Garfield as consultant. 12/18/1957.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2dwzOc5

 

 

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