Posts Tagged ‘World War II shipyards’

Avram Yedidia: Handling loads of steel like books in a library

posted on January 9, 2014

By Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

Imagine the chaos of a thousand boxcars of steel destined for ship production sitting in and around Richmond, Calif., in 1942. How could managers

Avram Yedidia handled steel in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards like books in a library.

Avram Yedidia handled steel in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards like books in a library.

unravel the mess and get the far-flung steel to the right place at the right time and avoid production delays?

The solution was obvious to Avram Yedidia, a native of Israel who later made his mark as a Kaiser Permanente consultant and economist:  Handle steel like books in a library.

Yedidia earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and did graduate work in economics and philosophy at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley. In 1937 he learned library science by the seat of his pants so he could lead efforts to archive the huge Adolph Sutro special collection in San Francisco.

The Sutro Collection, part of the California State Library system, is made up of documents chronicling the Mexican Revolution and the British “poor laws” of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Yedidia applied the principles of library science to create an effective process for unloading, storing and delivering steel to the job sites. He was a shipyard expediter, charged with ensuring timely deliveries of equipment and materials to meet the “just in time” production pace of the yards, a task made especially challenging by wartime shortages.

In 1945 he was hired by Dr. Sidney Garfield as a representative for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, responsible for signing up groups of workers and their dependents. Between 1957 and 1982 Yedidia was a consultant for the Kaiser health plans in northern California, Hawaii, and Ohio, as well as other health maintenance organizations (HMOs) nationwide. He was a champion of the “dual choice” concept, asserting that wherever the Kaiser plan was offered another medical plan must be available to employees.

For Yedidia, this was a carryover from shipyard days when he let his 400 employees know they were not required to sign up for the Kaiser Health Plan.

“Tell them it is voluntary,” Yedidia told the supervisors who presented the plan to workers. The plan cost 50 cents a week ($2.60 a month).  They all signed up within 24 hours, except one Danish woman. “She didn’t understand what it was. Once she understood, she signed up too,” Yedidia recounted in his oral history.

Yedidia was a graduate of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and studied economics and philosophy as a postgraduate at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1959, he established his own consulting service in the organization of health care services and advised Kaiser Permanente for the next 31 years. Yedidia and his son Peter consulted with the program on the organization of geriatric services in the late 1980s.

Yedidia’s influence on health care financing and delivery extended beyond Kaiser Permanente. He earned an international reputation as a medical economist and a consultant on employee health benefits.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Community Health Foundation in Cleveland, which later became Kaiser Permanente’s Ohio Region. He was also involved with the reorganization of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York.

Yedidia passed away in 1990.


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Millie Cutting: physician’s wife makes her own mark

posted on July 27, 2012

By Ginny McPartland
Heritage writer

Millie Cutting in the early years of Permanente Medicine. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Archives photo

Millie Cutting was the wife of Kaiser Permanente’s pioneering chief surgeon Cecil Cutting, but her influence on the fledgling medical program during World War II contradicts any cliché prescribing the role of a doctor’s spouse. She was a vibrant, energetic force in her own right, a good woman behind a good man, but much, much more.

The Cuttings 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.

Millie was at first reluctant to leave San Francisco to relocate in the desert. But when Cecil convinced her that he would have more opportunity as a surgeon with Garfield than in San Francisco, she was game.  “Oh, she was willing to go along; she had a lot of spirit and enthusiasm,” Cecil Cutting said in his oral history.

“I think with a little reluctance, perhaps of the unknown,” he told interviewer Malca Chall of UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office in 1985. “We didn’t have any money. She had worked during my residency as a nurse, to keep us in food.”  Sidney Garfield was able to match the $300 Cutting was earning at Stanford to get him to Coulee.

A rough start at Grand Coulee

Unfortunately for Millie, things at Coulee didn’t start out too well. John Smillie, MD, writes: “Cecil and Millie Cutting resided in the company hotel. They were flat broke. The young couple had exhausted their resources getting to Washington. Neither of them thought of asking for an advance.”1

“My wife couldn’t take the heat very well,” Cutting told Smillie. “She would lay on the bed with a wet sheet over her; and we didn’t have enough money to eat, really. She would go to the cafeteria and see how far she could stretch a few pennies to eat. Of course, I ate well at the hospital and had air conditioning and everything.

Cecil Cutting, a surgeon, and Millie Cutting, a registered nurse, both graduates of Stanford University, married in 1935. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources Archives photo

“She finally learned to come over and sit in the waiting room on the very hottest days. Since then, Dr. Garfield laughed at us and said, ‘Why didn’t you ask me for money?’ We didn’t know enough to do that!”

“At the end of the first discomforting month, Cutting received his first paycheck for $350,” Smillie writes. “He and Millie moved into a remodeled schoolhouse, the largest home in the community, and it soon became the social center for the physicians and the Kaiser executives.”

Millie gets her groove back

During the rest of their time at Coulee, Millie not only got her energy back but she 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. 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 Smillie. “The community church provided the space, and the houses of ill repute the money – a very compatible community.”

Garfield’s right hand ‘man’ at wartime shipyards

Millie and Cecil Cutting with Kaiser Permanente physician co-founder Sidney Garfield (right) at Oakland Kaiser Foundation Hospital, 1943. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources Archives photo

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 assembe the medical troops.

Cecil Cutting was the first physician to arrive in Richmond, California, where Henry Kaiser set up four 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.

Perturbing postwar perceptions

After the war, Millie and Bobbie Collen, wife of Morris Collen, MD, started a Permanente wives group in 1949. The association created a support system against an often hostile medical establishment that shunned prepaid group practice of medicine as “socialist.” The physicians were not allowed in the local medical society, and the women felt socially ostracized.

“They organized themselves as the Permanente Wives Association, which had a nickname, ‘Garfield’s Girls,’ ” Smillie wrote. “They had dances, parties, picnics and social outings several times a year that were really a lot of fun. The auxiliary. . .became famous for its rummage sales.”

Millie and Cecil Cutting with daughter Sydney and son Christopher, circa 1948 in Orinda, California. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources Archives photo.

The Cuttings became good friends with Sidney Garfield, and in fact, he spent periods of time living with them in their Orinda home in the 1940s and 1950s. Cecil Cutting credits Garfield with the couple’s decision in 1948 to adopt their two children, Sydney and Christopher. “He talked us into it,” Cutting said.

Garfield often went to them for advice about business matters, as well. “I think he talked over a lot of things with Dr. Cutting and Millie,” said Smillie in his oral history. “He had a great deal of confidence in their judgment. If they told him he was wrong, he was able to accept it.”

The Cuttings were the friends Garfield chose to share the happy moment of burning the mortgage papers once the renovated Fabiola Hospital (the first Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland) note was paid off.  The private celebration took place in the Cuttings’ home with just Garfield and Millie and Cecil present.

Dr. Cutting worked his way up to become the executive director of The Permanente Medical Group in 1957 and retired in 1976 after 35 years as a major figure in the organization. Millie Cutting continued to volunteer at the Oakland Kaiser Foundation Hospital all of her life. She had to quit in 1985 when she became too ill to leave her house. She died that year at the age of 73. Cecil Cutting received a flood of condolence notes from all the people whose lives Millie had touched.

One woman wrote: “When life seemed just too much, Millie’s unforgettable laughter would ring in my mind’s ear, and the will to tackle life again would be there like a gift from her. She didn’t just give. She was a gift.”

1 John Smillie, MD, Can Physicians Manage the Quality and Costs of Health Care? The Story of The Permanente Medical Group, McGraw-Hill Companies, New York, 1991

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Richmond shipyard women – Homefront heroines

posted on April 10, 2012

A recent gift to the Heritage Resources archive – a Kaiser Richmond Shipyards photo of 20 female workers, one happy fellow, and a nurse. This acquisition was from Terry Meneze, granddaughter of Mamie Allen (middle row, far right) who came to California from a dustbowl cotton farm in Oaklahoma in 1942 with her four children seeking a better life. [LC]

Names and cities of origin are written on the back, but not linked to any face.Frances Huff, Salem, Illinois – “Slow Poke”; Muriel Kidd, Evanston, Wyoming; Frances Huff, Salem, Illinois – “Slow Poke”; Ina Hallum, Arkansas; Gertrude “Bobby” Fall, California; Helen Brashear, Oklahoma; Donna Lee Tudder, McGee “Cale”; Shirley Marriott, “Dumbo”, Ogden, Utah; Viola Meddo, Oklahoma; Sally Perata; Anita Siehl, San Francisco, California; Myrtle Dedman, Trumann, Arkansas; Wilma Salonish, California, “Prune”,”Mrs. Mike”; Eunice Smith, “Little Smitty Honey,” Wisconsin; Willie Rogers, Louisiana; Mrs. Medley, Arkansas; Christine Cole, McAlester, Oklahoma; Lois Allen, Fargo, North Dakota; Louelle Erikson, Billings, Montana; Lois Stoelting; Mamie Allen.

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Target of ecstatic Times Square kiss still adorable after all these years

posted on April 26, 2010

By Ginny McPartland
Where were you on August 14, 1945? Not born yet? Most of us weren’t. You may remember the day President Kennedy was shot (November 22, 1963), the night the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan (February 4, 1964), the day the Berlin Wall was doomed to come down (November 9, 1989). Or maybe for you the biggest day in history was the night Barack Obama was elected president of the United States (November 4, 2008).

Kiss felt around the world

But for the generation that endured World War II (and, for many, the Great Depression), the day the war finally ended has no competition for the most significant day in American, if not world, history. Those left of the Greatest Generation in 2010, 65 years after the war ended, are making a valiant effort to get across to the latest generation why we can’t forget WWII.

I met one of the WWII history ambassadors and an icon –Edith Shain – the other day in Oakland. Her claim to fame is the unscripted role she played in a spontaneous drama in Times Square on the day the war ended. Her shapely legs with a nice turn of the ankle were part of the attraction of the photo of a sailor and a nurse kissing as if there were no tomorrow. She was adorable then, and she’s adorable now.

Tiny Edith is traveling around America at age 91 to spread the word of the WWII legacy. Spokeswoman for “Keeping the Spirit of ’45 Alive” with actor Hugh O’Brien (Wyatt Earp), she’s stumping with the message that “we” have to stick together like Americans did during the four-year nightmare to defeat Adolph Hitler and Japanese imperialists.

Edith Shain, Ginny McPartland

As someone who soaks up everything I can about  WWII, I was excited to meet Edith. I was especially jazzed because Kaiser Permanente is also celebrating our 65th anniversary. The health plan, set up to take care of Richmond shipyard workers during the war, opened to the public in October of 1945. So our heritage work gels beautifully with the Spirit of ‘45 initiatives.

The day the world could breathe again

Edith Shain, 1945

Edith was a part-time nurse and student at New York University on the day President Harry Truman announced the Japanese had surrendered. She and a friend, at work in Manhattan at Doctors Hospital, took the subway to Times Square when they heard the news. Still wearing her nursing whites, Shain joined the crowd in expressing their impossible-to-describe exhilaration that the horrors of world war were over.

Amid the pandemonium, Edith was suddenly grabbed, embraced and passionately kissed by the unknown sailor who’d forgotten his manners in the heat of the moment. Alert photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt and naval photographer Lt. Victor Jorgenson seized the opportunity for the image of a lifetime. Jorgenson’s version was published the next day in the New York Times; Eisenstaedt’s shot appeared on Life magazine’s cover.

Eisenstaedt’s iconic photo has for six decades epitomized the unbridled jubilation of all Americans on that day in history. People surmised the sailor and the nurse were being reunited as a couple at war’s end. But actually, after the kiss the ecstatic sailor went looking for another thrill. “He went one way and I went the other,” Shain said in a 2005 NPR interview following the dedication of a 26-foot bronze statue replicating the famous kiss.

Sharing the lessons of a world at war

Edith left nursing after the war and became a teacher of small children in West Los Angeles. She took on the mission of education with a vengeance, and today she wants to teach all generations about the lessons of war.
She laments: “The younger generation knows nothing about the war.” She complains our current military actions in the Middle East are not justified and we shouldn’t be there. “In World War II, we were fighting for something.”

The “Spirit of’45” campaign is to bring attention to the war legacy by sponsoring numerous events through 2010 to culminate with special events nationwide on August 14. The organization is asking people to write letters to their representatives in Congress to designate a day in August to commemorate World War II veterans. The group has set up a Web site for veterans and other people to share their war stories.

Permanente marks 65 years as public health plan

Permanente’s first years after the war were rough. We had a small membership so it was difficult to keep the enterprise going. Things picked up in 1950 when the longshoremen’s union, the retail clerks, cannery workers and other small groups brought an influx of members. Through these 65 years, the health plan has grown to 8 million-plus members in eight states – California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Georgia, Ohio, Maryland (and Washington D.C.) and Colorado.

We will be marking the milestone along with our partners at the Rosie the Riveter National Park in Richmond, especially during the Home Front festival in October. With the park service, we are developing educational displays and other interpretive materials to highlight our shared history and the war legacy.

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