Posts Tagged ‘Edgar Kaiser’

Film of Mason City (Washington) Hospital doctors, nurses, and staff – 1938

posted on November 27, 2013

by Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Still from film of doctors, nurses, and staff at Mason City (Washington) Hospital serving the workers at Grand Coulee Dam, circa 1938. Click on photo to see film clip.

This piece is a Thanksgiving offering, a display of our deep appreciation for all the health care professionals who keep us well.

Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources recently digitized some silent film footage of the Mason City (Washington) Hospital circa 1938. It shows doctors and nurses who were proud to serve at America’s largest Depression-era construction project, living under hardship conditions in a remote town with blistering heat and freezing cold.

This facility was the birthplace of the Kaiser Permanente health plan, where Dr. Sidney Garfield was brought up to care for the workers and families at Henry J. Kaiser’s massive Grand Coulee Dam project.

The original hospital at the site had fallen into disrepair and the unions claimed it was insufficient for their members’ health care. In 1938 Kaiser Industries won the contract to finish the dam, and Henry J. Kaiser and his son Edgar (General Manager of the project) spared no expense on a remodel.  Among the many modern amenities installed was air conditioning.

In this clip Kaiser Permanente founding physician Dr. Sidney Garfield is seen exiting the recently-renovated facility to a gathering of doctors and nurses which includes Dr. Cecil Cutting (center of this frame, with a ball in his hand), Dr. Wallace Neighbor, nurse anaesthetist Geraldine “Jerry” Searcy, and RN’s Winifred Wetherill and Evie Sanger. The footage is short clip from recently digitized from Dr. Neighbor’s home movies, which also includes doctors on horseback, the local rodeo, scenes of Mason City, and dam construction.

See them thrive. Then go thrive yourself, and help build thriving communities.

MWAK Hospital 1936-37

Original hospital at Mason City, circa 1936.
(Under original construction consortium of Mason, Walsh, Atkenson-Kier, or MWAK)

File #1020 - Mason City Hospital - Grand Coulee Dam

Renovated hospital at Mason City, circa 1938.
(Kaiser Industries)

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Wartime Kaiser shipyards prefigured “Movember” facial hair campaign

posted on November 8, 2013
“Whiskers measures tanker progress!” Bos’n’s Whistle, Oregon-Washington Kaiser Shipyards, November 26, 1942.

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

Movember” is an official global charity that was created to have an impact on men’s health. Its whimsical approach gets men to line up financial commitments from friends, family, and co-workers and then grow their facial hair during the month of November.

The funds raised support men’s health programs that combat prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges. These programs, directed by the Movember Foundation, are focused on awareness and education, living with and beyond cancer, staying mentally healthy, living with and beyond mental illness, and research to achieve a lasting impact on the face of men’s health.

But as this article from Bos’n’s Whistle, the Kaiser Shipyards magazine from November 26, 1942 shows, getting furry for a good cause has deep roots. To spur the healthy competition for production and raise money for war bonds, the crews at the Swan Island Shipyards announced a ban on shaving until they finished their tanker ships.

“When No. 2 tanker is launched, judges will select the five winners, with war bond prizes as follows: $100 for the best beard, $50 for the second best, $25 for the third best, $50 for the most artistic beard, $25 for the most anemic beard. The rest of the money previously collected through kangaroo court fines will be turned over to a local war charity.”

Shipyard manager Edgar Kaiser sported a fake beard, but it didn’t save him from fines totalling $37.10. His heavy fine included “$10 for filing a motion in bad faith, 10 cents for contempt of court, $20 for failure to grow a beard, and $7 court costs.”
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Kaiser Permanente and UC enjoy common ground over decades

posted on October 3, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

Kaiser Permanente Marching Song

Jack Chapman, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region’s director of education, adapted UC’s “Big C” fight song in 1972 to apply to the Health Plan.

Kaiser Permanente and the University of California are two major California-based institutions that share a long history of partnership. The collaboration started right after World War II with UC securing Health Plan coverage for its employees beginning in 1945, the year the plan opened to the public.

From the beginning, Permanente physicians joined UC for many medical research projects, and over the decades many have taken on professorships at UC campuses in Northern and Southern California. By all accounts, the partnership has been a fruitful one.

Professor touts KP care

A 1949 feature story in the Kaiser Permanente member newsletter Planning for Health pointed out that the University of California was the Health Plan’s fourth largest group, starting in 1945 with 59 members and reaching 1,961 members by 1949.[i]

The article included an interview with electrical engineering professor Charles F. Dalziel and his wife, who were early members of the university plan.

“During much of the period the family have been members of the group, Mrs. Dalziel has had many opportunities to evaluate the Plan in action. Like so many otherwise healthy children, their charming daughter, Isabelle, aged 8, is allergic.

“Mrs. Dalziel is enthusiastic in her comments on the results Permanente doctors have achieved in determining the child’s allergies and combating them,” the interviewer wrote.

Permanente educator adapts UC fight song

In 1972, Kaiser Permanente’s Jack Chapman wrote the “Kaiser-Permanente Marching Song,” an authorized adaptation of the UC Berkeley athletic fight song “The Big C.” Chapman was the first Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek hospital administrator and later the Northern California regional director of training and management development.

Chapman’s first two lines:

“We are Kaiser-Permanente, finest plan in all the land
K-P stands for qual-i-ty and doing all we can.”

UC graduates lead Health Plan

"University of California is our Fourth Largest," Planning for Health, 1949-04Notable UC alumni include Eugene Trefethen, Jr., longtime Kaiser Industries president, James Vohs, longtime Health Plan president, Henry J. Kaiser’s son, Edgar F. Kaiser, and many others.

Edgar spent 3½ years at UC Berkeley majoring in economics. But in 1930, one semester short of graduation, he quit college and headed for Texas where he had been offered a chance to work as a pipeline construction superintendent.

His father gave him his blessing. “I talked it over with my father,” he once recalled, “and we agreed that I had learned about as much as I could in college, and that two months more of class work would not matter.”[ii]

Physicians join university faculty

Many Permanente physicians have associated with UC to teach and conduct research on various campuses. Morris Collen, MD, taught a public health course at UC Berkeley. Mark Binstock, MD, MPH, a Kaiser Permanente physician at Woodland Hills, was an assistant clinical professor at the UC Los Angeles School of Medicine in the 1990s. Monte Gregg Steadman, MD, was a lecturer at UC San Francisco.

UC Berkeley’s venerable Bancroft Library houses the Henry J. Kaiser Papers collection, a massive trove of Kaiser’s personal and business correspondence, memoranda, speeches, and papers. Kaiser’s documents from his Oakland, New York, and Hawaii businesses, principally from the period after World War II, are archived at the Bancroft.

The collection includes material on the Kaiser Industries corporation, the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, the Kaiser Shipyards at Richmond, Calif., and other Kaiser industries.

UC’s Bancroft archives Health Plan pioneers’ interviews

UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office staff has interviewed dozens of Kaiser Permanente pioneer physicians, administrators, and board members to document their roles in the development of this innovative health maintenance organization.

The initial interviews were conducted between 1984 and 1999 as the series: “History of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program—Founding Generation.” A second series of interviews started in 2005 to look at Kaiser Permanente and the transformation of health care in the U.S. from 1970 to present.


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[i] “University of California Is our Fourth Largest,” Planning for Health, April 1949[ii] Obituary, New York Times, December 13, 1981

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Traffic worries and bay dumping set stage for Earth Day 1970

posted on April 22, 2013

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

The Key System ran on the lower deck of Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco until 1958 when the train service was discontinued due to lack of demand. Image courtesy San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Eleven years before the first Earth Day in 1970, San Francisco Bay Area civic leaders were already battling over the best solution to a growing problem of traffic congestion on roads throughout the region. Commuters preferred their comfortable automobiles to trains, ferries and buses. The pressure was on to build more roads and more bridges to unclog freeways.

During World War II and in the 15 years after, Bay Area population more than doubled; and the number of automobiles more than tripled. By 1959, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge were packed with commuters. The three regional airports were congested; the ports were competing for traffic.

At the same time, ordinary citizens started to balk at the way the San Francisco Bay was being abused; cities and counties, industrial companies, developers and homeowners were dumping sewage and trash into the bay with impunity. No law was on the books to stop the dumping.

Forces to save the bay, stop freeway construction and to develop a Bay Area regional transportation plan began to emerge in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Resistance to freeways begins

In 1959, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution expressing members’ opposition to many of the freeways that had been proposed to run through city neighborhoods. “The Freeway Revolt” established San Francisco’s new focus on public transit, not on automobiles.

A ferry boat in Alameda crowded with commuters in 1958. Before the bridge was built the ferry was the primary transportation for commuters between San Francisco and Oakland. Image courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

The same year, Henry J. Kaiser’s oldest son Edgar, like his father a major industrialist and Oakland city leader, spearheaded a drive to establish the Golden Gate Authority, a regional transportation planning agency that would guide and largely control future transit development.

As president of the Bay Area Council, Edgar Kaiser unveiled the proposal that had been under study for several years.  The Golden Gate Authority, an independent public corporation, was to take over the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge districts and consolidate revenue sources to finance regional transportation.

The plan would have affected the nine Bay Area counties, including regional airports, bridges and ports, including the Port of Oakland. Counties included in the region are: San Francisco; Alameda and Contra Costa to the east, Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano to the north, and Santa Clara and San Mateo to the south.

Edgar Kaiser leads campaign for transit plan

In February 1959, Kaiser’s allies introduced a bill in the State Senate to create the Golden Gate Authority. Kaiser mustered support from Bay Area newspapers and most regional county governments, but he was opposed by the bridge districts’ officers, as well as city governments, whose officials saw it as a violation of “home rule.”

Opening day of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 1936. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the opening caused “the greatest traffic jam in the history of San Francisco”. Image courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Edgar Kaiser told members of the Senate Committee on Bay Area Problems in March 1959 that there was a “crying need” for the Golden Gate Authority. He said the authority would provide a basis for orderly development throughout the region.

Del Norte County Senator Randolph Collier, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, railed against the legislation on behalf of the bridge districts and succeeded in killing the bill.

In the Spring 2012 issue of “Access,” author and historian Louise Nelson Dyble wrote:  “The most ambitious proposal for transportation planning ever considered for the San Francisco Bay Area – the Golden Gate Authority – went down to defeat in 1962, bringing serious efforts for regional government to an end.”*

Following the Senate committee’s rejection of the Golden Gate Authority, Edgar Kaiser and ally State Senator Jack McCarthy of Marin County geared up for a new round of hearings. But in 1962, the plan was effectively dead. Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente leaders were pursuing another angle to promote environmental awareness.

Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring,” at work in 1962. Photo courtesy of Beinecke Library, Yale University.

In 1963, Kaiser Permanente brought controversial environmental author Rachel Carson to San Francisco as key note speaker for its public symposium, “Man Against Himself.”  Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” shined an early light on environmental issues well recognized today as we mark the 43rd Earth Day on April 22, 2013.


*Louise Nelson Dyble, assistant professor of history at Michigan Technological University, is author of “Paying the Toll: Local Power, Regional Politics and the Golden Gate Bridge, 2009.” The book won the Abel Wolman Award for the best new book in the field of public works history. Her article was published in the magazine of the University of California Transportation Center in Berkeley, CA.



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Typist bounces with the Kaisers to New York, Northwest and back

posted on April 11, 2013

By Steve Gilford, Senior Consulting Historian

First of two parts

Anne Ferreira went to work for Henry J. Kaiser in Oakland in 1939. Photo courtesy of Jill Suico.

Anne Ferreira, a 27-year-old native of Oakland, Calif., and a rapid typist, took a secretarial job in 1939 at the Henry J. Kaiser Co., an enterprise that was just beginning to take off.

Little did she imagine that 52 years later she would be looking back on a career with the Kaiser Companies that took her to New York City in 1941, to wartime shipyards in St, Johns, Ore. (near Portland), where she met President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, and back to Oakland in 1945 where she became the administrative go-to person at the iconic 28-story Kaiser Center, built in 1959.

Anne married Raymond Ferreira, another Oakland native, in 1938. Ray worked for Pan American Airways as a paymaster, and in 1941 he was transferred to New York City. Anne left her job to go east with Ray and landed a job in the Kaiser Companies’ New York office.

Before the couple could get settled, world events intervened and Henry Kaiser’s son Edgar asked for Ray’s help in urgently mustering a wartime workforce to fulfill Kaiser’s contracts to build hundreds of ships on the West Coast.

On Sept. 23, 1942, Ray Ferreira took on the shepherding of 510 newly hired shipyard workers from Hoboken, N.J., to Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver, Wash. Ferreira was in charge of the first “Kaiser Special” or “Kaiser Karavan” that fed the east-to-west migration that would irrevocably alter the nation’s demographics.

On that exact date, Ray’s wife Anne, already working in the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation office, was taken by surprise when she heard workers shouting that President Roosevelt had arrived. She ran out of the office to join the crowd gathering to see FDR ride by in a white convertible with Secret Service men in suits, hats and trench coats running alongside.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Henry and Edgar Kaiser and Oregon Governor Charles Sprague take a ride through the Kaiser shipyard in 1942.

The beloved wartime president was six days into his unpublicized national tour of wartime production sites when he cruised into the shipyard for the launching of the SS Joseph Teal, a Liberty Ship built in a then-astonishing 10 days. His daughter, Anna, wife of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer publisher John Boettiger, was there to christen the Teal.

Shipyard construction crews had adequately prepared for the president’s visit with a special platform with an automobile ramp erected opposite the launching site. Crippled by polio, Roosevelt could view the festivities from his seat in the limousine. He watched as his daughter crashed a champagne bottle on the bow of the Joseph Teal.

Much to Anne’s amazement, while she was standing among the spectators, Henry Kaiser spotted her and shouted to her to come down to the President’s car. He signaled the guards to let her through the security barriers and alongside FDR’s entourage.

Kaiser, son Edgar, and Oregon Governor Charles Sprague were seated in the President’s limousine talking away and greeting notables along the way. When Anne, “Annie” as Kaiser knew her, reached the convertible, the industrialist introduced her to President Roosevelt who chatted with her a bit, mostly about how she liked working for Henry Kaiser.

Ray and Anne Ferreira, both natives of Oakland, Calif., worked for the Kaisers at the Vancouver Shipyard during World War II. Photo courtesy of Jill Suico.

Recently, after Anne’s death at age 98 in December 2012, her daughter, Jill Suico, summarized her mother’s lifelong affection for the Kaisers, especially Henry: “She loved the man; she loved the company; and she loved her job.”

Over the decades, Anne had many bosses within the Kaiser Companies, including Kaiser Aluminum President Cornell Maier and Dick Spees, public affairs officer for Kaiser Aluminum for 31 years, who was elected to the Oakland City Council in 1979. Anne played the role of Snoopy at the Kaiser Aluminum’s “Salute the A’s Night” in 1980 at the Oakland Coliseum and posed with Maier for an Oakland Tribune photograph.

She was an active critic of Oakland city government, and through the years chided officials for unsafe streets, untidy neighborhoods and at one point urged the addition of a spruce tree to the Oakland city logo, next to the symbol of a mighty oak tree. She pushed that campaign – to no avail – with the donation of 50 spruce trees to the city, trees that had been part of the Kaiser Center landscape.

When Anne retired in 1983, Vice Mayor Dick Spees and the Oakland City Council declared June 15 Anne Ferreira day of appreciation and presented a tongue-in-cheek certificate that read in part: “Anne . . . is duly recognized for her sage advice and persistent admonitions to (the city) to clean its streets, put its youth to work . . . and generally get its act together.”

After her official retirement, Anne returned to Kaiser Aluminum as a contractor filling in for vacationing staffers and coordinating a community service program. She finally retired at age 77 in 1991. In 2009, Anne was honored as the oldest Kaiser Aluminum retiree at age 95.

Next time: More about Anne and Ray Ferreira’s wartime experiences.

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The President, the First Lady, and Henry J. Kaiser

posted on February 20, 2012

President Franklin D. Roosevelt greets a crowd at the Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, on September 23, 1942. Here Kaiser turned out combat ships including small aircraft carriers. His workers were delivering “baby flattops” at the unprecedented and seemingly impossible rate of one a week for the Allied cause. When Mr. Kaiser was asked about this time what interested him most, he replied, “the power that is in the souls of men and how to reach it.”




First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt strikes up a conversation with an injured shipyard worker at the Permanente Hospital in Vancouver. Mrs. Roosevelt was so intrigued with the new medical care program for the Kaiser workforce that she wrote Permanente’s founding physician, Dr. Sidney R. Garfield, who happened to be away at the time of her visit.  “What is your plan for preventive care?” she asked. Stay tuned. We’ll post Dr. Garfield’s reply in these pages.



– KP Heritage Resources Photo Archive


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Sunnyside physician publishes story of Permanente Northwest

posted on January 20, 2012

By Lincoln Cushing

Heritage writer

Permanente in the Northwest fills a large gap in the history of Kaiser Permanente – the unique contribution made by the Northwest region, especially in the early years.  Author and retired Northwest internist Ian C. MacMillan, who served 14 years as chief of medicine at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center, demonstrates an insider’s insight and enviable access to details that thoroughly enrich this account.

Before there was a Kaiser Permanente, there was Permanente Metals, the division of Henry J. Kaiser’s construction consortium that built ships during World War II. The medical services offered to those civilian workers was the kernel of what would eventually grow to become one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans, and with two vibrant shipyards in Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, the Northwest was a key participant.

The prologue provides a history of the medical care options in the area before 1941 as well as the story of how Sidney Garfield, MD, and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser came to collaborate on their successful model of prepaid industrial medical care. This is followed by a detailed account of the wartime boom – shipyards, housing, and health care rolled into one.

Wartime shipyards in Oregon and Washington

Notable events include the then-new practice of treating civilian tuberculosis patients with streptomycin, the model day care program for workers’ children endorsed by Eleanor Roosevelt, and a rich art community.

Clipping about the completion of Bess Kaiser Hospital, July 1959, Oregon Journal

The demand for medical facilities soon outstripped the capacity of the first aid stations in the yards, and the first Northern Permanente Foundation (NPF) Hospital was built in Vancouver, Washington, in 1942, followed by a second one across the Columbia River in Vanport, Oregon, a temporary community built for shipyard workers, the following year.

That hospital was kept out of the nearby metropolis of Portland through stiff resistance by the local medical establishment, an example of a contentious relationship that would last many years.

As happened in California, the exodus of shipyard workers after the war forced the Northwest medical care program to expand to the broader community. Ernest Saward, MD, who had administered the wartime health care plan for DuPont plutonium workers at Hanford, Washington, became the medical director of the physician group and the Northwest health plan in 1947.

Changes after World War II

Dr. MacMillan explores some of the fractious cold-war dynamics of the medical partnership at that time, including debates about how KP internist Charles Grossman’s political activism was affecting the medical group’s relationship with the community.* (See note below.)

Beaverton (Oregon) medical office building groundbreaking, June 1968

By 1950 relationships had deteriorated to the point that Edgar Kaiser (Henry J. Kaiser’s son) fired them all and formed a new partnership. Dr. MacMillan details other challenges to the Northwest region, including its struggle for legitimacy with the American Medical Association and ostracism by private practitioners.

The first major postwar facility in the Northwest was the Bess Kaiser Hospital in Portland, completed July 7, 1959. (There would not be another until the 1975 Garfield-designed Sunnyside Medical Center at Clackamas, Oregon). Named for Henry Kaiser’s first wife, the state-of-the-art facility featured air conditioning, telephones and televisions in every room, pneumatic medical records delivery, and a drawer bassinet allowing newborns to slide through the wall between mother’s room and the nursery.

Tumultuous times for KP Northwest medical group

The Kaiser Permanente health plan expanded into Hawaii in 1958, and the Northwest physicians played a significant role in helping that region survive a rocky start. Dr. Saward was called out to apply his management skills when friction within the physicians group exploded. Dr. MacMillan explains some of the complex background that led to the struggle, and he chronicles the eventual maturation of the region.

Frank Stewart, administrator; George Wolff, architect, Dr. Wallace Neighbor (pointing); Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital, circa 1942.

A large portion of the book is devoted to the history of various medical specialties of the Northwest medical group, detailing medical arcana more likely to be of interest to practitioners than a lay audience.  The last three chapters trace significant chronological events in the region from the 1970s to the present.

Among these topics are the challenges of recruiting and retaining good doctors (he outlines the need for robust medical infrastructure, clear work policies, and adequate pay), the deep impact of the 1988 nurses’ strike, and the erratic steps taken by KP to institutionalize an effective electronic medical record system.

In all, this is a much-needed historical survey of a major region in the Kaiser Permanente constellation. Dr. MacMillan does not shy away from exploring awkward and complicated events in the Northwest Permanente history, and he writes with an insider’s viewpoint that enriches the accounts.

Permanente in the Northwest should be of interest to anyone interested in modern American health care policy, health practice, and the broader history of medicine.

Permanente in the Northwest
Ian C. MacMillan, MD, The Permanente Press, 2010
313 pp, with illustrations, bibliography, and index
To order the book, go to

KP Northwest historical materials brought to Oakland

Preservation of the rich history of Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest Region (KPNW) got a boost at the end of 2011 when staff of the national Heritage Resources department in Oakland packed up over 100 cartons of Northwest photographs, clippings, newsletters, and files to fold into the KP archives. These materials will be selectively processed over time and added to the existing collection, greatly enhancing our research capacity. The photographs accompanying this review were drawn from that collection.

Special thanks to KPNW Community Benefit and External Affairs staff Jim Gersbach and Mary Ann Schell for their help.


*After leaving Permanente in 1950 Dr. Grossman continued to practice medicine privately, and his political activism continued throughout his life (a path respectfully footnoted in MacMillan’s book in his Afterword titled “What Happened to the Pioneers?”). He was arrested in 1990 during a peaceful demonstration organized by Physicians for Social Responsibility, challenging the presence of a nuclear-armed battleship berthed near the Portland Rose Festival. His court testimony describes the scene:

“I was standing silently with several other doctors and a few others with a sign in my hand saying ‘Rose Festival is a fun time, we don’t need nuclear weapons.’ About 2:30 p.m. three or four policemen approached and asked us to leave. I asked why and was told that we have no right to stand in a city park carrying a sign. . . I put my sign down and said ‘O.K. I am not carrying a sign.’ His response was that if I did not leave within 30 seconds I would be forcibly removed. I said we were creating no disturbance and again asked why such a confrontation was necessary.  While I was writing [down his badge and name] my two arms were forcibly seized, forced behind my back and handcuffs were applied.”



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