by Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer
Team USA’s hard-fought battle to retain the America’s Cup title has put catamarans in the spotlight. Almost forgotten, however, after more than 60 years, is Kaiser Permanente’s co-founder Henry J. Kaiser’s historical connection with these graceful and exotic racing crafts.
Kaiser, who founded the Health Plan with Sidney Garfield, MD, had a love affair with boats — and not just speedboats. He also enjoyed sailing.
Kaiser’s 18-acre Hawaiian Village resort in Honolulu had a fleet of six massive touring catamarans for his guests to enjoy.
These 100-foot, 150-passenger pink behemoths were all named after his wife Alyce “Ale” Kaiser — “Ale Kai” and numbered one through six, using Roman numerals I-VI.
Kaiser designed his resort using the “village plan,” which called for various sections to represent specific types of cultural motifs that surrounded the grounds. Kaiser’s venture was the largest Waikiki resort built in the mid-1950s.
Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village, completed in 1957, is now called the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa.
Who built the catamarans for Kaiser? The historical record is fuzzy. Credit goes to either Fred Loy Fat Chang of Nu’uanu, or Japanese-born Hawaiian resident Hisao Murakami.
All six of the Kaiser Ale Kai fleet are still in use today.
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Thirty-three years ago, local and national dignitaries celebrated Kaiser Permanente for its launch of an onsite solar thermal project at its Santa Clara Medical Center in the middle of Silicon Valley.
That Solar Day celebration in July 1980 resonates today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2013 Green Power Leadership Award given to Kaiser Permanente for its onsite generation of 17 million kilowatt-hours of solar power in 2012.
Solar thermal technology of the 1980s spawned projects like Santa Clara Medical Center’s; today the science has advanced to facilitate cost-effective generation of electrical power.
The solar power generated at six Kaiser Permanente medical centers, five medical offices, and a distribution center represents 7 percent of the electricity used at these facilities. Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, built in August 2007, is one of the medical centers that put up an array of new solar panels in 2011.
The solar installations are helping Kaiser Permanente achieve its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 (from 2008 levels). Over the decades, Kaiser Permanente has been in the forefront of trends toward conservation and the use of renewable resources.
Elected officials touted early solar installation
In 1980, then-Congressman Norman Mineta of the 13th Congressional District, Santa Clara Mayor William Gissler, and other elected officials joined Kaiser Permanente representatives on the roof of the Santa Clara Medical Center to dedicate the solar thermal installation.
During the ceremony, Mayor Gissler presented a proclamation of the city’s support to Santa Clara Medical Center Administrator Tom Seifert.
At the time, Assistant Regional Medical Centers Administrator Bill Schneider noted that the project was one of the largest solar installations at a health care facility in the United States. He said the panels heated 30 percent of the hot water used at the medical center.
The 1980 Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara project cost $250,000 and was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that two other organizations who won the EPA’s 2013 Leadership Awards are also in Santa Clara County: Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, and the County of Santa Clara.
Permanente Creek flows out of the hills above Cupertino, California, through the property of the Hansen Permanente Cement limestone quarry and cement plant, formerly Kaiser Cement, which Henry J. Kaiser started in 1939 to provide cement for Shasta Dam. Kaiser and his wife, Bess, had a lodge on Permanente Creek.
Bess Kaiser so loved the creek that she asked Henry to adopt the name for the medical care program that Sidney R. Garfield, MD created for the Kaiser Shipyard workers at Richmond during World War II. The creek was first named Permanente by early Spanish settlers because it flows year-round and thus was a permanent source of water for the Spaniards’ ranches. In 1948 Sidney Garfield and Associates became The Permanente Medical Group, and Permanente from that point on referred to the independent medical groups which, in partnership with Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, constitute the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program.
For more on the Permanente Creek in Kaiser Permanente history, read “search-for-the-source-of-the-permanente-pj,” by Steve Gilford with photographs by Stu Levy, MD, from The Permanente Journal, Summer 1998.
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Model neighborhoods close to jobs and laid out with meandering lanes and few busy cross streets
Henry J. Kaiser and home builder Fritz Burns had a brilliant idea in the mid-1940s for encouraging people to use their feet for transportation. Kaiser and Burns were known at the time for their “model suburbs,” new neighborhoods that were laid out with winding lanes, rolling curbs, a minimum of busy intersections and space for schools, churches and stores.
Neither speed bumps nor other traffic-calming schemes were necessary on meandering streets where children rode their one-speed bikes and played football and kick-the-can without fear of a fast car running them over.
To meet a severe housing shortage at the end of World War II, Henry Kaiser, who had pioneered streamlined production methods to turn out cargo ships in record time, saw another opportunity to innovate and mass produce. Home construction had slowed way down during the war, and the population was beginning to soar.
Housing boom fed by GI Bill and FHA
Returning servicemen and women were settling and contributing to the baby boom, and financing provided by the GI Bill and the Federal Housing Administration fueled the surge in demand for new, affordable houses.
Kaiser hooked up with Burns and launched Kaiser Community Homes. The company embraced the Federal Housing Administration standards to develop thousands of low-priced homes for the common man. They built minimal tract residences of about 1,000 square feet on the periphery of urban areas in close proximity to industries that employed many workers.
Burns and his Northern California counterpart David Bohannan argued for streamlined transit:
“Transportation to business areas should be rapid and direct, and when possible, jobs should be within walking distance,” Burns and Bohannan wrote in “Postwar Housing,” a state of California booklet published in 1945.
Panorama City, Kaiser Community Homes’ largest development, incorporated these principles, and Los Angeles regional planning professionals touted the development of the Panorama Dairy Ranch in the city’s “Accomplishments 1945.”
Kaiser-Burns plan Panorama City in San Fernando Valley
With 3,000 homes built between 1947 and 1952, Panorama City was the first large postwar community in the San Fernando Valley. In making up the blueprint for the community, Kaiser engineers also designated space for a Kaiser Permanente clinic and hospital, which was completed in 1962.
A General Motors plant completed in 1947 was situated one quarter mile south of Roscoe Boulevard, the southern boundary of Panorama City. A Schlitz Brewery sat immediately to the east, and Lockheed and Vega Aircraft, and Precision Tool, were all within seven miles of the Kaiser development.
Kaiser and Burns sought land that was adjacent to manufacturing to fulfill their aim of building “a city where a city belongs,” wrote Greg Hise in his book titled “Magnetic Los Angeles,” published in 1997 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Their intent was to create a regional city just outside of Los Angeles that would be self-contained and buffered from urban life. Farm lands, still flourishing with dairy cows and chickens, were to provide a buffer for the happily hemmed-in microcosm.
General Motors plant to catch up with demand
The new Van Nuys GM plant near Panorama City (closed in 1992) initially employed 1,500 workers to turn out 100,000 new Chevrolet models to catch up with Southern Californians’ demands.
Kaiser Community Homes, David Bohannon and others also built “ideal” suburbs in the Northern California communities of San Leandro, San Lorenzo and San Jose where Chrysler, Ford and GM were expanding their manufacturing capacity.
Ironically, the industry that drove the creation and growth of Panorama City and other auto manufacturing areas was the eventual undoing of the pedestrian-friendly landscape. With auto ownership on the rise, transit ridership declined steadily.
“The geographical spread and low population densities of the postwar suburbs . . . made transit impractical for most people living outside the older and denser urban areas,” a 2011 California Department of Transportation report stated.
Automobile use surpasses other transit modes
By 1956, more than 54 million Americans were driving automobiles. By the end of the 1950s, 95 percent of all trips in Los Angeles were by private vehicle.
As a consequence, regional planners seemed to lose control of suburban sprawl in the 1950s and subsequent decades. Hise writes: “Regardless of how well (communities) were planned internally . . . they overwhelmed the (San Fernando) valley, as well as outer zones of other American cities.”
The erosion of suburban Americans’ opportunities to reach daily destinations on foot and the consequent decline in fitness has spawned such programs as Kaiser Permanente’s “Every Body Walk!” The campaign encourages people to walk whenever possible – leave the car in the garage for short trips to the market or elsewhere, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and walk for fun and fresh air every day.
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by Bryan Culp, Director
The seed planted in Dragerton, Utah, would eventually grow into a tree in Colorado.
In 1942 a 35-bed hospital was built and operated under the auspices of the War Production Board in Dragerton, Utah, about 150 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The small hospital in Carbon County provided care for miners who were extracting coal for wartime steel production.
At the end of the war, a local physician purchased the Dragerton hospital as war surplus and contracted with the United Mine Workers to provide medical services. Unfortunately, the care was not to the miners’ satisfaction. Complaints grew. The physician’s billing practices were suspect, and he refused to refer major surgeries to Salt Lake City though he himself had no training in surgery.
The situation became so bad that in the winter of 1952 the miners went on strike to force reforms at the hospital. William Dorsey, MD, the regional director for the United Mine Workers Welfare and Retirement Fund in Denver, represented the interests of the UMW.
To break the impasse, U.S. Steel, the major mining operator in the area, appealed to Henry J. Kaiser – Kaiser Steel operated mines in Carbon County – with the request for the Permanente Foundation to buy out the physician. Kaiser agreed and the articles of incorporation of the Utah Permanente Hospital were signed on February 26, 1952.
A refurbished hospital and a long-standing partnership with Kaiser Rehabilitation Hospital in Vallejo, Calif., to provide rehabilitation medicine to injured miners restored good relations with the UMW and in the greater mining community.
The health care program would exist in that Utah microcosm until 1966, when the Foundation sold the hospital.
Now the story comes back to Dr. Dorsey, who had made numerous overtures, to Kaiser Permanente’s leaders, starting in 1952, to establish the health care program in the Rocky Mountain region. He was convinced that after the success at Dragerton, Kaiser Permanente was the right health plan for UMW members in the Denver and Rocky Mountain areas.
In 1967 Dorsey presented to CEO Clifford Keene and the Kaiser Permanente Committee a University of Colorado study indicating that there was a strong market for a prepaid group practice in Denver.
After a year of study, a plan to expand to Colorado won the approval of the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Board of Trustees. The Region began operations in Denver on July 1, 1969.
Today Kaiser Permanente Colorado serves 540,000 members in three large service areas – the Denver/Boulder area; in Southern Colorado stretching from Colorado Springs to Pueblo; and in Northern Colorado, the Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley areas. The region boasts over a thousand Colorado Permanente Physicians and 6000 employees serving in 26 – soon to be 28 – medical offices.
So it was, in the words of Dr. John Smillie, a physician with The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California, “the seed planted in Dragerton, Utah, would eventually grow into a tree in Colorado.”
By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Cecil and Millie Cutting, a couple that looms large in Kaiser Permanente’s early history, met in Northern California at Stanford University in the early 1930s. He was training to become a physician; she was a registered nurse with a degree from Stanford. They met on the tennis courts and married in 1935.
During her husband’s nonpaid internship, Millie Cutting worked two jobs – for a pediatrician during the day and an ophthalmologist in the evenings – to pay the bills. He was making $300 a month as a resident when Sidney Garfield, MD, contacted him about joining the medical care program for Henry Kaiser’s workers on the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State.
At Grand Coulee, Millie Cutting exhibited her strength as a staff nurse and as a community volunteer. Probably her most significant contribution was the development of a well-baby clinic in a community church.
Well-baby clinic supported by madams
As a volunteer, she organized the clinic and went door to door soliciting funds for its operation. She had no qualms about knocking on the portals of the town’s brothels.
“The madams were very friendly,” Cecil Cutting told fellow physician John Smillie, author of a history of The Permanente Medical Group. “The community church provided the space and the houses of ill repute the money – a very compatible community.”
The Grand Coulee Dam was completed in 1940, and the medical staff and their families scattered. The Cuttings settled briefly in Seattle where Dr. Cutting set up a surgery practice.
But it wasn’t very long before World War II broke out and Dr. Garfield was called upon again to assemble the medical troops for a program at the Richmond, Calif., Kaiser Shipyards. Cecil Cutting was enlisted as the chief surgeon.
Garfield’s right hand ‘man’ at wartime shipyards
Millie Cutting volunteered to work side by side with Sidney Garfield to get the medical care program up and running and to take charge of any job that needed to be done.
She recruited, interviewed and hired nurses, receptionists, clerks, and even an occasional doctor, to staff the health care program that was set up in a hurry in 1942. She smoothed the way for newcomers and helped them find homes in the impossible wartime housing market.
Thoroughly adaptable Millie drove a supply truck between the Oakland and Richmond hospitals and the first aid stations and served as the purchasing agent for a time.
As she had done at Grand Coulee, Millie set up a well-baby clinic for shipyard workers’ families, and she opened her home in Oakland as a social center for the medical care staff.
By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer
In early 2014, Kaiser Permanente will open its rebuilt and expanded Oakland Medical Center in Oakland, Calif. One of the many features of the flagship facility will be high-tech displays highlighting Kaiser Permanente’s history, including the contributions of the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing.
The nursing school display case will include a nurse uniform and cap, photographs, a yearbook, and other memorabilia. More nursing school history will be shown virtually in an adjacent interactive digital screen.
It’s particularly fitting to commemorate the school and its graduates at the Oakland site because the new facility campus encompasses the site of the old hotel that served as the school for nearly 30 years.
At the end of World War II when the health plan opened to the public, qualified nurses were in short supply. Kaiser Foundation established the nursing school in 1947 to train more nurses and help alleviate the shortage.
With approval from the California Board of Nurse Examiners, Henry J. Kaiser and founding physician Sidney Garfield, MD, purchased the Piedmont Hotel at 3451 Piedmont, a block away from the hospital.
The site was across the street from the Albert Brown Mortuary, and by the mid-1960s the school nested in the shadow of bustling elevated Interstate 580.
The accredited Permanente School of Nursing graduated its first class in 1950 and offered tuition-free education and training for its first seven years. In 1953 the name of the school was changed to Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing and it became an independent institution. The last class graduated in 1976.
During its existence the school produced 1,065 nurses and boasted numerous accomplishments. It trained a diverse pool of highly skilled nurses, and student scores in State Board Examinations consistently ranked in the top three of all California programs, including university schools.
For a more complete history see Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing history.
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Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer
As we recently described in two previous posts, Henry J. Kaiser and his construction companies participated in several significant aspects of building the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge: securing government funding for the project, building piers on the East Bay side, providing concrete for the other bridge components, and initial painting of the bridge. We provided details and published photographs.
But nothing quite tells a story like a vintage movie does.
The Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources archives contain hundreds of original films, and we recently digitized an 11-minute silent documentary showing the early stages of the bridge project, including the assembly of resources for pile driving and caisson building.
You’ll see workmen in felt hats scrambling over derricks, and a woman in a fur stole smashing a bottle of something nonalcoholic (prohibition didn’t end until December) to launch a mighty barge.
This footage includes numerous vehicles, including the sprightly custom-built tugboat Bridgit, two special barges – the Edward H. Connor (Chairman of the Engineering Committee) and the Henry J. Kaiser (President of Bridge Builders, Inc.), and even a dirigible. How cool is that?
We share this gift from 1933.
Short link to this story: http://ow.ly/oKLEs
by Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
African-American women and men honored for their work on liberty ships at Richmond yards during World War II
On May 7, 1943, just over seven decades ago, beloved singer and actress Lena Horne visited Richmond, Calif., to break the champagne over the bow of the SS George Washington Carver, the first Richmond-built ship to be named after an African-American.
Miss Horne, sponsor of the ship, was joined by matron of honor Beatrice Turner in the launching ceremony. Turner was the first African-American woman to be hired as a welder in the Kaiser Shipyards.
The Liberty Ship, named after the famous black scientist George Washington Carver, was constructed by the workforce at the Richmond Shipyard No. 1, which included many African-Americans.
Bonaparte Louis, Jr., (at right) one of the best chippers in the yard, was among the skilled workers who rushed the Carver to completion. The keel was first laid for the ship on April 12, 1943 and launched less than a month later.
Odie Mae Embry, pictured below right at work on the SS Carver,was among the 1,000 black women who made up the 7,000 workers of African ancestry in the Richmond shipyards.
George Washington Carver, scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor, had died only four months before the launch. Lena Horne, singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer, died on May 9, 2010, at the age of 92.
Photos by E. F. Joseph, Office of War Information.
By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer
Part 2 of 2: NEW! silent film of bridge construction
As described in our previous blog, Henry J. Kaiser and his construction companies participated in several significant aspects of building the original San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge: helping secure funding for the project and handling the piers on the East Bay side. Perhaps less glamorous but certainly no less important were two additional projects – providing concrete for the other bridge components beyond the East Bay piers and painting the bridge. In addition to the role of Bridge Builders, Inc. (the consortium assembled with Henry Kaiser and partners in 1931-1932 to bid on work on the Golden Gate Bridge) several other Kaiser-related entities were part of the Bay Bridge.
Providing concrete for the bridge in addition to East Bay footings
Subcontracts were awarded to Kaiser Construction (AKA Henry J. Kaiser Company) for barge rentals and mixing concrete for pouring – a significant “subcontract” involving some 1,250,000 barrels of Portland cement and a substantially larger amount of aggregate. This was accomplished through a complex web of interlocking companies.
Henry J. Kaiser Company — formed June 22, 1933, to subcontract for work on the Bay Bridge. HJK Co. was never directly a contractor on this project, but they did build a “central batching plant” on Yerba Buena Island that distributed concrete needed throughout the project. It was a success – a summary report by Eugene Trefethen to the Director of Highways, Southern Pacific Mole Bay Bridge Unit, boasted:[i]
“The best evidence of the soundness of their decision is to be found in the unprecedented speed with which the Substructure has been completed, low cost…and the unparalleled results obtained by the State of California in the strength and consistency of all concrete batched and mixed by the method finally adopted by the Henry J. Kaiser Company.”
Trans-Bay Construction Company – Contract #2, West Bay substructureTrans-Bay was a consortium composed of General Construction Company, Seattle; Morrison-Knudsen Company, Boise; McDonald and Kahn, San Francisco; Pacific Bridge Company, Portland; and J. F. Shea Company, Portland. In addition to these contractors, an undated contract between TBCC and HJK Co. outlines the details of their relationship regarding the provision of mixed concrete for the bridge.
Concrete Products Sales Company; formed in Oakland May 22, 1930. Documents between CPSC and Henry J. Kaiser Company affirmed that HJK Co. had been carrying on Bay Bridge concrete operations in its own name but was actually as agent for CPSC. CPSC employed HJK Co. to continue as its agent,[ii] and on November 22, 1933, a formal agreement was signed between CPSC and HJK Co. Henry J. Kaiser himself would be listed as president of CPSC and A.B. Ordway his second in command. After the bridge was finished, CPSC sold its business to W.A. Bechtel Co., Henry J. Kaiser Co., and the Southern California Roads Company.
Clinton Construction Company– Contract #5, Yerba Buena Island tunnel and anchorage; Contract #8, Oakland approaches. Clinton Construction was founded around 1916, and among their many regional projects were California Memorial Stadium at U.C. Berkeley (opened 1923) and the Richmond Civic Auditorium and Arts Center (Richmond Memorial Convention Center) in 1949. CCC subcontracted much of the work on these two large bridge contracts, far more than was the case with the major contractors. On November 30, 1933, a contract was signed between CPSC and CCC detailing the sale of mixed concrete between the two companies. Some of the provisions of that contract included:[iii]
Article 7. Transbay to pay $4.59 per cubic yard for all concrete of normal cement content of 1.5 bbls. per cubic yard of concrete. Variation of 1% either way is permitted.
Article 12. Transbay to use every effort to unload concrete promptly as soon as Kaiser’s barges are tied to anchorages to prevent delay to Kaiser’s barges.
Davis Brothers and Sheik; an agreement dated November 20, 1933, between CPSC and DB&S outlined subcontracting details of the barges, towing arrangements, and mixing plant.
Painting the bridge
Bridge Builders, Inc. also won “Painting contract #9” for part of priming the fresh metal of the bridge. This used 143,000 tons of paint; the last two coats on the West Bay Towers and “cable pasting” plus 4 coats on cables and accessories. This was completed January 11, 1934.
By July 1934 Kaiser’s role was done and they were selling off equipment. The Bay Bridge opened to the public on November 12, 1936, and Henry J. Kaiser would continue to make history in the Bay Area and beyond.
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[i] Documents about the Henry J. Kaiser Company and the Oakland Bay Bridge, 2/17/1935; BANC83-42c-4-9-2.pdf
[ii] “Essential dates involved in Bender v. Clinton Construction Company, et. al,” circa 1933. BANC83-42c-3-13.pdf
[iii] “Agreement between Transbay Construction Co. and Henry J. Kaiser Co. regarding Bay Bridge construction,” circa 1933. BANC83-42c-3-13.pdf