Archive for June, 2016

Workplace safety in the World War II Kaiser shipyards

posted on June 28, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1944-01-14, OHS

First aid station at Kaiser shipyard, Vancouver, Washington;, from Bos’n’s Whistle, 1/14/1944.

June is National Safety Month, during which we are asked to pay particular attention to something that we usually don’t think about – our own personal safety and that of our loved ones. Yet reducing our risk for injury at work, on the roads, and in our homes and communities is as vital to our health as diet, exercise, and regular checkups.

Kaiser Permanente has a long history in working to protect its employees from harm and injury in the workplace, a commitment that goes back to the World War II home front. At precisely the same time that the conventional industrial workforce of healthy young men went off to fight, everyone else stepped up to produce the materials to arm the Arsenal of Democracy and win the war. Among these unsung heroes were the almost 200,000 people in the seven Kaiser shipyards. Most of them had never engaged in heavy industrial work before. They were housewives, farmers, the disabled, and those too old to serve in the military.

This January 14, 1944, article from the weekly Oregon Kaiser shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle does a good job of explaining the challenges:

Infographic "Causes of time loss injuries 1941-1943" Bos'n's Whistle, 1/14/1944. Click for enlargement.

Infographic “Causes of time loss injuries 1941-1943” Bos’n’s Whistle, 1/14/1944.

Safety pays dividends in shipbuilding production. That is apparent in the safety record of the three Kaiser yards during the past year. In all three yards, from superintendents to laborers, men and women showed more interest in observing safety rules. As a result, sizeable cuts were made in the two major causes of time loss injuries – handling tools or materials, and eye injuries- bring the total percentage of injuries in these two classifications down from 64 per cent to 53 per cent. National Safety Council figures show that, in terms of production, industry last year lost 380 million man days of work because of accidents. And the death rate on the war industry front is still four times higher than on the nation’s battlefronts. First Aid stations in the Vancouver and Swan Island yards treated a total of 704,435 cases during the year.

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1944-01-14, OHS

Kaiser shipyard industrial care article, 1/14/1944

While hundreds of workers manage to stay on the job after an accident, their efficiency is impaired.

That steady progress is being made in the war on injuries is shown in the drop in accident insurance cost. At the start of the program, the cost was $3.75 per $100 of payroll, and the three yard average is now down to less than $1.00 per $100 payroll.

Before the war was over, the successful health plan for Kaiser shipyard workers was opened to the public.  Today at Kaiser Permanente is a leader in occupational health as well as employee and patient safety. “Kaiser On-the-Job,” first started in the Northwest Region in 1991, incorporates prevention, case management, clinical protocols, and return to work programs with impressive results.

Safety still pays. Work safe, be safe.


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Woody Guthrie – Grand Coulee Dam troubadour

posted on June 22, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


"Roll On Columbia," music and lyrics, published by Sing Out, 1991.

“Roll On Columbia” music and lyrics, published by Sing Out, 1991.

The completion of Grand Coulee Dam on the mighty Columbia River in Washington was a major accomplishment for Henry J. Kaiser. It was there that he hired Sidney Garfield, MD, to run the industrial care program, and it was also where he proved himself to be an industrialist who treated labor as a partner.

After the dam was finished in 1941, and Henry J. Kaiser had moved on to the pressing task of building ships for World War II, there was still work to be done. The Bonneville Power Administration had been created in 1937 as a federal agency to manage, sell, and promote the huge amount of electric power produced by the Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams. As part of its campaign for public support, the BPA produced two documentary films —Hydro (released 1940), and The Columbia, which began production in early 1941.

At the suggestion of Smithsonian folklorist Alan Lomax, the BPA commissioned famed folk singer Woody Guthrie to write several songs.

Columbia - credits 1

Film credits for “The Columbia”

In 1941 Woody recorded a set of 26 songs as the “Columbia River Ballads,” (later called “The Columbia River Collection”) many of which were used in the second film. World War II had stalled the project, and it wasn’t released until 1949 as The Columbia: America’s Greatest Power Stream.

Anna Canoni, Guthrie’s granddaughter and a director at the Woody Guthrie Foundation, remarked: “I think that was probably the only time he was paid. And they may have just said, ‘Write about this project,’ and then he took that to mean whatever he wanted it to mean for himself. I think some of his most powerful work came from that time period, from those 30 days that he spent on the Columbia River.”

"Grand Coulee Dam," painting by Jack Galliano, 1976. [2118 Bayside, Ordway building, Ray Baxter's office]

“Grand Coulee Dam,” painting by Jack Galliano, 1976.Kaiser Permanente collection.

Among the songs Guthrie recorded for BPA were:
“Roll Columbia, Roll”
“Roll On, Columbia, Roll On”
(adopted as the official folk song of the State of Washington in 1987)

“The Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done”
“Pastures of Plenty”
“Grand Coulee Dam”
“The Song of the Grand Coulee Dam”


Years later, the destinies of Henry J. Kaiser and Woody Guthrie would cross again. During World War II, Henry was the most prolific merchant ship builder in the world, and Guthrie served in the U.S. Merchant Marine – although never aboard a Kaiser-built vessel. (Kaiser was also an avid supporter of merchant mariners). Guthrie’s first tour was aboard the Liberty ship SS William B. Travis, followed by the Liberty ship SS William Floyd. His last ship was the C3-S-A2 cargo ship SS Sea Porpoise; Guthrie was aboard when a German submarine torpedoed (but did not sink) her off the coast of Normandy while engaged in the invasion of Europe on July 5, 1944.

One of the lyrics from “The Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done” (listen to it here) is:

There was a man across the ocean, I guess you knew him well,
His name was Adolf Hitler, goddam his soul to hell;
We kicked him in the Panzers and put him on the run,
And that was about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

Which is followed by:

The people are building a peaceful world, and when the job is done
That’ll be the biggest thing that man has ever done.

 Woody Guthrie and Henry J. Kaiser – each building a peaceful world, in their own way.


Special thanks to David Keller for supplying the “Roll On Columbia” cover

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Fathers and sons – 1945

posted on June 16, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Edgar Kaiser, Henry J. Kaiser, Henry Kaiser Jr. at New York City debut of Frazer-Manhattan convertible, 1951-10-15; R1-13

Edgar Kaiser, Henry J. Kaiser, Henry Kaiser Jr. at New York City debut of Frazer Manhattan convertible, 10/15/1951.

On a rainy and snowy night in November 1945, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Emory Land dropped his famously brusque manner to confess that he was “overwhelmed with sentiment.”

While sentiment is not an emotion often associated with World War II, Land was referring to some deep bonds that bubbled to the surface as he surveyed the shipyard and oversaw the last wartime contract ship to be launched, the S.S. Scott E. Land.  

She had been built in the Kaiser Vancouver, Wash., shipyards, which produced 20 of these C4 cargo carriers and troopships.

“I’m sentimental about my father for whom it [the ship] is named. I’m sentimental about this magnificent shipyard. I’m sentimental about this young industrialist (Edgar Kaiser). I’m sentimental about these thousands of workers who came here from all parts of the nation to make the shipbuilding records possible.”

The war had been over more than three months, and the massive Home Front campaign was switching gears to a peacetime economy. The mighty Kaiser shipyards were finishing up war contracts, and everyone was uncertain as to what the future would hold.

An account in the shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle gives us this touching account of that last launch on November 24th:

Both Land and Kaiser spoke of the strong father-son ties that influenced them so greatly. Kaiser pointed out that both their fathers were imbued with the spirit of the west and its potentialities. Land’s father, Scott E. Land, was a pioneer in the field of developing the west, and he raised his family in the early days of the West in Colorado. He was instrumental in starting its development as a recreational and scenic center, and envisioned its later development a generation ahead of Henry Kaiser, who has so materially carried forward the dream of western development.


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More Kaiser Permanente hospitals by architect Clarence Mayhew

posted on June 15, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Part one of this article covers the early Kaiser Permanente hospitals designed by Clarence Mayhew (1906-1994). Here, we conclude with the California facilities he designed and built in the latter half of his professional career before he succumbed to Parkinson’s disease.


SC Planning for Health, 1955-fall

Sketch of Harbor City Hospital

Harbor City Hospital (Wilmington/Harbor City), 1957
Bids have been requested from a selected group of contractors for the construction of the new 66-bed Kaiser Foundation Harbor City Hospital.

It was designed by architect Clarence Mayhew as a contemporary California, one-story, “T”-shaped building to harmonize with the surrounding countryside, and will bring to the Harbor Area the newest of the Foundation’s “hospitals of the future.” The one-story building, of steel construction utilizing vast amounts of glass, is another of the Foundation’s concept of the ideal single-story hospital.

The revolutionary aspects of the hospital include the interior central corridors for hospital personnel, decentralized nurses’ stations, separate corridors for visitors, push-button controls for the self sufficiency of patients, maternity rooms with adjoining private nurseries and home-like color schemes and interior decorations.

Planning for Health (Southern California), Fall, 1955

Napa Medical Office Building, 1959
The new facility will be located on a one and one-half acre site on Jefferson Street, south of Trancas Road in north Napa. The new clinic building will be a one-story, contemporary structure with approximately 5,800 square feet. This will double the size of the present clinic which was opened in 1951 in Napa.

The new offices will have space for six physicians, numerous outpatient treatment rooms, a pharmacy, X-ray and laboratory facilities and a business office and medical record areas. Designed by architect Clarence Mayhew of San Francisco, these new offices are so arranged to permit an orderly expansion when and if required.

KaiPerm Kapsul, October, 1958; [The Ontario, Calif., medical offices were a prototype for this design.]

Oakland Hospital addition, 1960
Mayhew was the architect for the 50-bed addition to the ever-growing original Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland. The Howe Street expansion enlarged the in-patient pediatric department, X-ray department, pharmacy, and clinical laboratory.

South San Francisco expansion, 1961
Work is underway on the major expansion of our South San Francisco facility. It will create a two-and-one-half-story ultra-modern building housing an optical laboratory, pharmacy, and injection clinic. The 10,000-square-foot glass-and-concrete building is designed to accommodate twelve doctors.

Architects Mayhew and Associates of San Francisco planned the facility with future expansion on either or both sides possible in the future. The “half” story will be the low-ceiling basement to be used as a storage area and for medical records. The new building at Grand and Spruce avenues replaces the annex on Miller Avenue.

KP Reporter, August, 1960

Panorama Opening Day

Opening day, Panorama City Hospital

Panorama City Hospital, 1962
(with partner Hal “H.L.” Thiederman, Inc., and Dr. Sidney R. Garfield as medical consultant)

Unlike any of the other hospitals, Panorama City Hospital at 13652 Cantara Street was part of Henry J. Kaiser’s broader community development visions – he had built the Kaiser Community Homes development in 1948, where he’d considered adding the health plan to the home ownership package.

Panorama City was perhaps the most unusual-looking Kaiser Permanente hospital ever built. Within the seven story round towers – universally described as “binoculars”- on top of a standard three-story rectangular base, the floor plan is a manifestation of Dr. Garfield’s “circles of service” concept.

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

It was featured as The Modern Hospital’s “modern hospital of the month” in November 1962. In the seven-page article “Good Nursing is Core of Panorama Plan,” Dr. Sidney Garfield explained the pros and cons of a circular floor plan:

“We try to achieve a functional flow that will satisfy first of all the patient and, second, the staff. We want to get the best possible quality and economy. When we start to work on a new hospital, we proceed from what we’ve learned before. “Panorama City Hospital, for example, is “Honolulu [Hospital] put in circles.”… It saves steps for the nurses [in this case patients are within 20 feet of the nursing station]; it reduces the number of special duty nurses; it keeps the nurses to a central area outside the patients’ door, and it is particularly useful for keeping patients under observation at night with a reduced nursing staff.

The downsides?

“When you divide a circle,” he points out, “you have to divide it in wedges, and that can waste a lot of space.” The wedge shape of the patient rooms, he added, also poses problems in design. The problem is lack of flexibility: “You can’t design a room just the way you want it.”

Because the only economical way to expand a circle is up, he continued, it was necessary to build the three top floors, which are not needed now, against the day they will be needed.

Panorama City, circa 1972, nurses' station

Nurses’ station, Panorama City, circa 1972

The hospital design was brought before a popular audience when TIME magazine wrote about it on September 14, 1962:

Just 17 miles from downtown Los Angeles, the brand-new Kaiser Foundation Hospital at Panorama City looms above the summer-dried landscape like a pair of upended binoculars. But the rush of patients to the twin seven-story towers this week was far more than a response to architectural novelty. It was a testament to the success of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, a repetition of the warm response that greeted the opening of Kaiser’s new Medical Office Building at Hayward, near Oakland, a fortnight ago.

The hospital was severely damaged when the 1994 Northridge earthquake struck the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley area. In 2008 it was replaced with a new facility at 13651 Willard St.

Architecural drawing of planned Hayward Hosplital, KP Reporter 1965-01

Architectural drawing of planned Hayward Hospital, KP Reporter 1965-01

Hayward Hospital, 1965
(with H.L. Thiederman, Inc.)

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals has awarded a contract to Cahill Construction Co. for major construction of its 96-bed community hospital to adjoin the present Kaiser Foundation medical offices in Hayward, California. The hospital will have a total of 61,200 square feet of floor space for about 250 personnel.
KP Reporter, January, 1965

San Rafael Medical Center, 1973
(with H.L. Thiederman, Inc.)

The first shovel of earth has been turned in San Rafael, for a new $5.5 million Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. The plans include construction of a new hospital and medical offices directly behind the present facility on Montecillo Road, and renovation of the existing hospital. Plans of the new construction include new medical offices, operating rooms, delivery suite, and eight intensive care coronary care beds. It will also provide enlarged laboratory, X-ray and emergency services. The existing hospital will be remodeled to provide 10 pediatric, 10 maternity, and 72 medical/surgical beds. –Planning for Health, December, 1971



So, what have we done lately? Kaiser Permanente’s facilities continue to evolve with the times. John Kouletsis, Vice President of Facilities Planning and Design for Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Services, expresses it this way:

“The rich history of clinical design at Kaiser Permanente continues to be written today. We are designing and delivering cutting edge, innovative medical facilities that support exciting new models of care delivery, including an innovative focus on behavioral health to better serve our members and communities.”

Or, as Architectural Forum put it so succinctly describing Mayhew’s designs in 1954, Kaiser Permanente’s “architecture is part of the cure.”


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Henry J. Kaiser – 1950s poolside fun in Lafayette

posted on June 8, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Ale Kaiser with KFSN nurse students at poolside party at Lafayette residence, circa 1954. Left to right: Laura Gall, Ale Kaiser, Rosie Gutierrez, Jerri Barmore. [KFSN - adds 2013]

Ale Kaiser with KFSN students at poolside party at Lafayette residence, circa 1953. Left to right: Laura Gall, Ale Kaiser, Rosie Gutierrez, Jerri Barmore.


Time for socializing with pool parties and beach volleyball. Henry J. Kaiser and his new bride Alyce “Ale” Kaiser built a “Hawaiian-type” home in Lafayette, Calif., in 1951 at the intersection of Timothy Drive and Pine Lane. In 1954 the Kaisers moved to 525 Portlock Road, East Oahu, Hawaii.

The residence was used for many merry events, including this party for students at the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing. Alyce was a trained nurse, and had worked as an administrative assistant at the Kaiser Oakland hospital.

We don’t know how aware they were about safe sun exposure – these days, Kaiser Permanente encourages more covering up and sunscreen – but having outdoor fun this summer is definitely on the “thriving” list.

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Henry J. Kaiser playing volleyball with KFSN students at his Lafayette home, 1954 [circa]. [KFSN - adds 2013]

Henry J. Kaiser serving a volleyball with KFSN students at his Lafayette home, circa 1953.

Henry J. Kaiser playing volleyball with KFSN nurse students at his Lafayette home, 1954 [circa]. [KFSN - adds 2013]

Henry J. Kaiser playing volleyball with KFSN students at his Lafayette home, circa 1953.

Poolside party for KFSN nurse students at Henry J. Kaiser residence in Lafayette, circa 1954. [KFSN- adds 2013]

Poolside party for KFSN students at Kaiser residence in Lafayette, circa 1953.

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