By Ginny McPartland
The stomp of little feet can again be heard in the halls of the former Maritime Child Development Center in the World War II Home Front city of Richmond, California. After a $9 million restoration project, the hammers have stopped and the children again populate the school whose walls housed a progressive child care program for the pint-sized offspring of Kaiser Shipyard workers.
A neighborhood charter school program designed to radically improve educational success of low-income minority kids opened a new site this month in the renovated Maritime structure. Richmond College Prep Schools, chartered for kindergarten through Grade 6, welcomed two classes of first graders and two classes of kindergarteners on August 11.
The two-story, 1943-built school is located at Florida Street and Harbour Way, a short distance from the former shipyard sites. Richmond College Prep Schools serve families in the Santa Fe and Coronado neighborhoods in the Iron Triangle, an area including Central Richmond known for its high rate of crime.
As a joint venture among Richmond Community Foundation, the Rosie the Riveter national park, and the fundraising Rosie the Riveter Trust, the center also features a museum memorializing the original character of the center. The National Park Service staff has gathered and preserved child-sized tables and chairs, art easels, wooden toys and other artifacts from the World War II Richmond child care centers to re-create an authentic classroom environment.
The interpretive exhibits honor the female shipyard worker – the iconic Rosie the Riveter – and her male counterparts whose efforts contributed vastly to the war effort. The exhibits will also address California’s role in World War II and its impact on civil rights, health care, child care and labor. The park service will offer public tours of the museum beginning this fall.
Renovation project not that smooth
The $9 million restoration of the historic Maritime Child Development Center was funded with federal grants and donations through the Rosie the Riveter Trust and with contributions from the city of Richmond and the West Contra Costa County school district. Rehabilitation, including the use of green techniques to preserve the building’s historic designation, began in the spring of 2010 and was expected to be completed in the spring of 2011.
Unfortunately, the almost 70-year-old building offered unexpected problems. The 17,000-square-foot center was described in 2004 as: “Threatened and endangered, vacant and abandoned, with water damage, not seismically safe, with mold, asbestos and lead-based paint to remove, and not compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.” Add to these problems rain delays and utilities issues and it is no wonder the completion was delayed.
Child development center a historic treasure
At stake was one of the first federally built child service centers to be funded by the U.S. Maritime Commission. The center was established at the behest of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser who ran the four Richmond Shipyards. The workers in Kaiser’s West Coast shipyards in Richmond, California, and Portland, Oregon, set records for building war ships faster than any other yards. Richmond workers completed 747 Liberty and Victory ships during the wartime emergency.
To keep up the pace, Kaiser needed every worker he could get, including women and men of all ages and abilities. For the first time in history, women were performing industrial jobs formerly only done by men. That meant someone needed to take care of the children of the workers, many who had migrated away from their extended families in other regions of the U.S.
Henry Kaiser was not happy with mediocre care for the children. So he hired child care experts from UC Berkeley and elsewhere to develop an educational program and nurturing care program, including medical care, for the children. He funded the centers with federal Lanham Act money allocated for community services for war industry boom towns, such as Richmond, which had grown from a sleepy town of 23,000 people to more than 100,000.
The centers were designed with the advice of Catherine Landreth, a child development expert at UC Berkeley. Landreth recommended indoor and outdoor space for children to get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Music and art were incorporated into the educational program. Children who attended preschool at the Kaiser centers enjoyed warm meals, warm beds and plenty of attention throughout the day. Parents could leave their children while they worked any shift at the shipyards, and hot meals could be purchased at the center and taken home for the family.
Maritime center stayed open for six decades
When the war ended in 1945, federal funds were withdrawn for child care, and most centers across the country closed. In Richmond, however, the parents pleaded with the school district to keep the about 30 Richmond centers open. In the end, the state of California and the local school district funded the centers for many years after the war. The Maritime center and the Ruth Powers Child Development Center nearby on Cutting Boulevard are the only two remaining World War II child care facilities in Richmond. They continued to operate until 2004 with funding from the state of California Department of Education.
Richmond College Prep Schools, run by a private corporation called Richmond Elementary Schools, Inc., continues the tradition of progressive early childhood education at the site. “(Our) educational philosophy is centered on preparing students, beginning at four years of age, to succeed academically and emotionally in a college educational environment. This philosophy requires nurturing the expectations of academic success in families as well as students,” according to the school’s web site.
The Maritime center renovation is part of the Nystrom Urban Re Vitalization Effort (NURVE) that includes the Nystrom School modernization and a new athletic field for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Both projects are around the corner from the Maritime building on Harbour Way.
By Edward J. Derbes
If Dr. Paul E. Stange had not attended medical school, he probably would have been a football coach, said his son, Paul V. Stange, who works as a policy analyst for the Centers for Disease Control.
Instead of coaching, though, Dr. Stange served as the physician-in-chief (PIC) at Kaiser Permanente’s Vallejo Medical Center for 22 years, one of the longest-term PICs in Kaiser Permanente history. But, his son added, those two career paths were not far off. That’s basically what he became: a head coach. He was a great leader (to the doctors). Firm, but fair.”
Dr. Stange passed away earlier this year on April 28. He was 90 years old.
At his retirement in 1991, his portrait was displayed in the lobby of the original Vallejo Medical Center, which was replaced with a new facility in 2010. His portrait remains near his former office in the old facility, which still houses administrative offices.
“That looks like an intelligent man and a superb leader,” Dr. Donald Nix recalls saying when he first saw the portrait. Dr. Nix was Dr. Stange’s best friend, colleague and long-time golf buddy. “I think those are the qualities that best describe Paul,” he added recently.
Career starts in left-over World War II barracks
Dr. Nix said that although Dr. Stange was their boss, the Vallejo doctors loved him. His two executive secretaries dubbed him “Mr. Wonderful.” When Dr. Stange began his tenure as PIC in 1965, the Vallejo Medical Center was housed in barracks-type buildings originally constructed for the Mare Island Shipyard war workers. His son, Paul, described them as rickety, green-finished wood buildings that Kaiser Permanente took over from the government when they opened a makeshift medical center in Vallejo right after World War II. Dr. Stange served through the construction of the $12 million, seven-story medical center, w hich was dedicated in 1973.
After stepping down as PIC, Dr. Stange continued his medical practice until 1991. He continued to lend his medical expertise by returning to the facility to give follow-up readings of radiology reports and mammograms. Maribel Guerrero, the breast care coordinator for Kaiser Permanente’s Napa-Solano Service Area, writes in gratitude to Dr. Stange in a 2006 letter: “The Kaiser Permanente organization should be proud to have you in its midst. . . . My job as breast care coordinator would not have been possible without your gracious help.”
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1921, Dr. Stange attended the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine during the mid-1940s. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1947 to 1951. After initially failing to get a residency in obstetrics, he completed a residency in pathology in Washington, D.C., in 1950. Three years later, he finished a residency in his preferred field, obstetrics, at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. Dr. Stange joined the Vallejo Medical Center’s OB/GYN department later in 1953.
Dr. Stange also had an active community life. He served on the board of directors for both the Vallejo Housing Authority and the Solano County Medical Society, which honored him with a lifetime achievement award in 1997.
Stange inspires two generations of medical professionals
Perhaps his greatest legacy to the medical community, though, is his family. Three of his daughters are registered nurses – Joan Pottenger, Gail Stange and Cynthia Stange-Zier. Another daughter, Susan Stange, works in patient care in Santa Rosa, California. And two of his grandsons are well on their way to becoming doctors; one of whom, Lucas Zier, recently received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, where he is in his third year of residency for Internal Medicine. Brent says that Lucas plans to complete a cardiology fellowship next to finish up his training.
Brent C. Pottenger, another of Dr. Stange’s grandsons, will attend the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the fall. He wrote the following essay about Paul E. Stange’s legacy, and how his grandfather influenced his decision to pursue a career in medicine.
Carrying on the tradition of physician leadership
By Brent C. Pottenger, MHA
From a hospital bed at Kaiser Permanente’s Vallejo Medical Center, where he served as a physician and leader for five decades, my grandfather, Dr. Paul E. Stange, first heard that I had been admitted to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, often ranked the top medical school in the nation.
“Number one!” he proudly exclaimed when my mom, his daughter Joan Pottenger, herself a registered nurse for over thirty years, shared the news.
Upon hearing this story, I felt a responsibility to build upon his legacy of physician leadership; a legacy that, thankfully, my mom fostered in me by connecting her own experiences as a health care leader with memorable stories about my grandfather’s career.
My grandfather passed away at 90 years old on April 28, 2011. I decided to write this memorial essay for him not only because he inspired me to pursue a career in medicine, but also because of his dedication to managing the quality and cost of health care as a physician leader – a passion that ties in deeply with the legacy of Kaiser Permanente.
While I pursued a master of health administration degree at the University of Southern California, there was a primary question that drove my research: “Can physicians manage the quality and costs of health care?” The question is derived from Dr. John G. Smillie’s book, “Can Physicians Manage the Quality and Costs of Health Care: The Story of The Permanente Medical Group,” which traces the history of Kaiser Permanente. (The book also features a photo of my grandfather with fellow physician executives of The Permanente Medical Group sitting around a table during the early 1950s.)
In many ways, my grandfather has shown that, yes, physicians can help manage the quality and costs of health care. Throughout his career as PIC, for example, he constantly balanced budget constraints with optimal medical care delivery to provide the most effective health care services to Kaiser (Permanente) patients. After retiring, he also spent about five years leading the creation of a partnership program in Solano County that established a much-needed safety net for patients from underserved communities.
Building bridges defined my grandfather’s legacy – he constantly thought broadly about how to create partnerships that could benefit wider communities. Genuine efforts like those mentioned above capture his interest in health policy and administration considerations: Dr. Stange was passionate about Kaiser Permanente because he believed deeply in the tremendous value that its integrated health care system provides to patients. From prevention to efficiency, my grandfather’s personal values magnificently matched those of Kaiser Permanente.
At Johns Hopkins, I hope to build on my grandfather’s legacy to improve our health care systems. In an effort to combine lessons learned from both my grandfather and my mom, for example, I hope to found the Doctors-Nurses Alliance (DNA) at Hopkins to better integrate the medical training of our future clinicians. The DNA program at Hopkins would facilitate increased interaction between the medical students and the nursing students. I believe that Doctor-Nurse-Aligned teamwork forms the double-helix DNA of medical care delivery, so hopefully I can contribute to this cause during my medical training.
With projects like DNA, I plan on carrying with me throughout my career those inspirations that led to my grandfather’s steadfast dedication to Kaiser Permanente – his legacy inspires me to learn, serve, and lead.
*Edward J. Derbes is a 2010 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), earning a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric with High Distinction (Magna Cum Laude). He co-founded and was senior editor of Divergence Magazine of Cypress, California, and formerly served on the editorial staff of the College of Environmental Design e-News at UCB. Derbes grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana.
By Laura Thomas
Throughout its history, Kaiser Permanente has relied on the “can-do spirit” of its dedicated workers and on the support of organized labor to keep the prepaid health plan strong.
Coming out of World War II, the medical plan had proven its viability in caring for a large shipyard workforce, but with the end of shipbuilding contracts, Henry Kaiser and Permanente founder and medical director Dr. Sidney Garfield had a big problem. Where were the large numbers of new members going to come from?
Kaiser, a friend of labor, attracted workers’ unions whose leaders understood the power of prepaid health care and wanted it for the welfare of their workers. Bay Area workers – from Oakland city employees, who were the first to sign up, to union typographers, street car drivers and carpenters – embraced the Permanente Health Plan with its emphasis on preventive medicine.
In 1950, Harry Bridges brought the 6,000-member International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union (ILWU) into Kaiser Permanente, bringing the total West Coast membership, including Los Angeles, to almost 160,000. In 1951, the Retail Clerks union added 30,000 to the membership rolls in Los Angeles.
Opposition tries to squelch KP
Despite this success, Kaiser and Garfield often faced rear guard actions from private practice doctors who felt threatened by group practice medicine. In 1953 when KP opened a new hospital in Walnut Creek and sought the health plan contract with workers in the U.S. Steel plant in Pittsburg, California, all hell broke loose in that small town along the Carquinez Strait.
Before Kaiser Permanente came along, the steelworkers union had both a national hospitalization plan and a local supplementary health plan with local private practice doctors. The workers were not satisfied with the current health plan and were complaining that providers charged too much and were lackadaisical about responding to emergencies and requests for house calls.
For their part, the Pittsburg area doctors argued that inflation required rates to rise and disputed the idea that service to members was lax.
Kaiser Permanente already provided care to steelworkers at the South San Francisco Bethlehem Steel plant and was prepared to expand services to the Pittsburg area. The beginning of KP’s negotiations with the Steelworkers Local 1440 in Pittsburg raised the hackles of the 41 private practice doctors already established in the area.
These doctors, all members of the East Contra Costa branch of the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association, quickly devised a new and better plan to offer the union, including 24-hour emergency service and a cap on fees.
Offer steelworkers couldn’t refuse
Joseph Garbarino, in his 1960 study of the Pittsburg conflict for the University of California, reported that the union bargainers welcomed Kaiser Permanente because of its offer to provide comprehensive care for a specific price for a specified period of time. This arrangement was attractive to the local union whose leadership had never before been able to negotiate such a favorable deal with their private practice providers.
The Pittsburg area doctors were furious and immediately mounted a campaign to discredit the Kaiser Permanente agreement. The doctors appealed to the steelworkers to reject the decision of their insurance committee and place the KP plan and the private doctors’ revised offer side by side for a vote of the full membership.
Fred Pellegrin, a Kaiser Permanente physician in the new Walnut Creek facility, remembers a rally where the local doctors “begged us not to go to Pittsburg … People stood up, yelling at us, called us Communists. It was a real shouting match.”
Using full-page newspaper ads, handbills and direct mail, the fee-for-service doctors bombarded the community with arguments supporting their plan and implied that the national Steelworker union officials were investigating the local’s decision.
The union answered the doctors’ charges in its newsletter and then agreed to a Sept. 3 (1953) election. Both sides agreed to a break in hostilities for the month of August. The agreement called for the doctors to stop their campaign and for the union leaders to remain neutral on the election.
The truce ended just days before the election when the union distributed voting packets with both health plan proposals, and included a leaflet encouraging members to favor the Kaiser Permanente plan. Enraged private practice doctors took to the battlements again, issuing a more detailed plan explanation and blasting the union in a full-page newspaper ad.
The doctors hired a truck with a loud speaker that cruised through workers’ neighborhoods broadcasting their opposition to Kaiser Permanente. They enlisted supporters, including Pittsburg doctors’ wives, to distribute literature in the steel company parking lot. Plan B was to drop leaflets from the air if solicitors were barred from the plant. According to news reports, tensions rose and the sheriff’s department was called, but no clashes occurred.
Victory of KP health plan
The Pittsburg medical establishment’s effort failed as steelworkers voted 2,182 to 440 to retain the Kaiser Permanente plan. For KP, this was a victory, but more struggles related to organized labor were yet to come.
Financial troubles in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in labor issues that threatened to stunt the health plan’s progress. Happily, those years of turmoil spawned Kaiser Permanente’s landmark Labor Management Partnership (LMP), which forged a cooperative relationship between KP’s 26 unions and the health plan leadership. The partnership fosters a respectful collaboration to improve health care for members and to create a positive work environment.
Kaiser Permanente unions had a big role in bringing about that partnership. In the midst of hostile bargaining in 1995, union leaders realized the labor disputes could damage the future of the health plan. Kathy Schmidt, a member of the bargaining team from Oregon, recalled, “We realized: here is the most unionized system in the country. Why don’t we try to help them? We learned more about trying to have a Partnership.”
Then-Kaiser Permanente CEO David Lawrence reached back across the abyss and agreed. “What I remember thinking about at that meeting was: We’ve got nothing to lose by being forthcoming about what I believed needed to happen …about the kind of collaboration that I think is required to deliver modern medical care in all of its complexity,” he told Harvard University researchers in 2002.
Today, scholars at both Harvard’s School of Government and Stanford University’s School of Business are following the progress of the LMP and consider it a prime example of labor and management cooperation. Its continued success will contribute to the realization of KP’s goal of being the model for health care delivery in the United States.
Read more about the Labor Management Partnership.
By Ginny McPartland
When Henry J. Kaiser went into the car manufacturing business in the late 40s, he had big ideas, as he did in all his ventures. Unlike his many successful start-ups – the most notable legacy being Kaiser Permanente – his foray into the automotive business seemed a failure at the time. He went on to make a success in producing Jeeps, but the economy sedans (the Henry J), luxury and family cars (Manhattan and Special), and the sporty, two-seater Kaiser-Darrin were no longer manufactured after 1954. The small Kaiser Motors Corporation had lost out to the big three: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.
The happy part of this story is about the Kaiser-Darrin, which is living a charmed life today in the hands of avid collectors. Earlier this year, a “supercharged,” red Kaiser-Darrin garnered a handsome $220,000 in a classic-car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Other Darrins have sold in recent years for $100,000 to $176,000 at the same auction.
One of the first American sports cars, the Darrin has a fiberglass body, sliding doors that disappear into the fenders, a three-position soft top, bucket seats, and a low center of gravity good for cornering. Only manufactured in 1954, the Kaiser-Darrin came in four classy colors –yellow satin, cream, red and light green. To date, only 80 or so widely scattered examples of the Darrin have escaped the junk heap.
Famed automobile designer-to-the-stars Howard “Dutch” Darrin, an on-and-off Henry Kaiser collaborator, developed the prototype of the fiberglass-body beauty on his own and unveiled it to Henry Kaiser as a fait compli. Henry Kaiser was not pleased. He is reputed to have told Darrin the idea was scatter-brained. But Kaiser warmed up to the idea when his second wife, Alyce “Ale,” piped up: “Oh Henry, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Kaiser agreed to produce 435 of the stunning vehicle that turned out to vie with the 1954-released Ford Thunderbird and the 1953 and later Chevrolet Corvettes. These sports cars were America’s answer to British models, such as the Jaguar produced as early as 1948. The Kaiser-Darrin and the Chevy Corvette compete for bragging rights for the first fiberglass body – the Darrin prototype was developed in 1952, and the Chevy Corvette was first shown and produced in 1953.
Fifty to 100 unsold Darrins, touted in the sales brochure as the “the sports car America has been waiting for,” were reportedly left in a forgotten snowy lot in Willow Run, Michigan, during the winter of 1954-1955. Darrin, whose heart was in the Kaiser-Darrin, later bought the abandoned roadsters from Kaiser. He put them in saleable condition and souped up many of them with Cadillac V-8 engines. A Willys Jeep 6-cyclinder engine was standard in the Darrins produced by Kaiser.
Permanente physicians drive Kaiser cars
The story of the Kaiser automobile intersects early on with the Kaiser Permanente saga. As a perk of the job, Permanente physicians were given a Kaiser car to drive to work and for their personal use. In the days before 1952, doctors used the company car to make house calls ($5 per visit). The physicians had a choice of vehicles; most chose one of the sedans. But Ed Schoen, MD, a pediatrician who joined KP in 1954, saw the Darrin as an apt ride for a bachelor relocating from Boston to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Schoen had followed fellow resident and friend Cliff Uyeda to San Francisco where Uyeda was a KP pediatrician. Schoen joined KP in Oakland where he worked for 49 years, the longest tenure of any KP doctor. He became chief of pediatrics at the Oakland Medical Center in 1966 and regional director of newborn screening in 1990 before retiring in 2003.
When the auto manufacturing venture ended in 1955, Kaiser offered to sell the cars to the doctors at bargain prices. The Darrin had originally retailed for $3,600. Schoen got his with 6,000 miles on it for $900. He would drive the unusual sports car exclusively for the next eight years, and he got a lot of attention driving around town. “People used to follow me home from work and ask me, ‘what is it?’” Schoen related. And as a bachelor, Schoen found that girls fancied a ride in the Darrin.
After meeting his wife, Fritzi, who came to the U.S. from Austria in 1958, Schoen took her many places in his cream-colored convertible. “I courted her in that car. . . She liked it,” he said. Ed and Fritzi married in 1960, and it wasn’t long before the Darrin was no longer practical. A daughter, Melissa, was born in 1963, and son Eric came along in 1968.
But Schoen kept the car and drove it to work for many years. In recent years, he had it restored and preserved it in his garage. He entered it in car shows and won a couple of prizes competing with Ford T-birds and Chevy Corvettes. He also loaned the car for the 50th anniversary of Kaiser Permanente Vallejo and for display during another KP event in Oakland at Mosswood Park. The Darrin was never neglected: Schoen took it out for a spin almost every weekend.
Rarity has its rewards
After owning the car for almost 50 years, Schoen donated his Darrin to the Oakland Museum in 2004 for the Henry J. Kaiser “Think Big” exhibit. The Darrin was shown along with a 1953 Henry J Corsair Sedan in the ambitious exhibit that covered Kaiser’s amazing life as a 20th century industrialist and co-founder with Sidney R. Garfield, MD, of the Kaiser Permanente health plan. Today, Schoen’s Darrin is in storage awaiting a new venue.
Schoen was interested to learn about the high bids cast for the $220,000 Darrin in the 2010 Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale. “When I donated mine in 2004 to the museum, it was appraised at $60,000 to $75,000,” he related. He also noted the differences between his car and the one on the auction block. “The original Darrins did not have supercharged engines. Mine just had the 6-cylinder Willys Jeep engine . . . it was not a high performance car.”
To see a Kaiser-Darrin in action, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBtuXBVBPMY