Ranch in Western OR
Grain Elevator showing construction
Digging for Thunderbird Eggs
Cushing History Research -- Doc Squirt in Seattle
In Seattle, I continued my local history research by spending a few afternoons in the University of Washington microfilm library reading 1936-43 issues of the Duwamish Valley News. Roy Hennings (Doc Squirt) of Cushing, WI., moved to Seattle in the mid 1930s and continued his newspaper writing out here for the News. He wrote extensively for all of the local papers in Polk and Burnett County from 1904 until his death in 1943. I was curious what he wrote about while he was in Seattle. Out here, he began billing himself as Doc Squirt, Paul Bunyan’s Doctor after he had spent some time in a local hospital and dreamed about talking to Paul and seeing Babe the blue ox. Paul asked him to be his personal doctor in the dream.
I have been researching Doc Squirt through his writings and from people who have known him for 4 years now. I have a booklet I put out two years ago, but continue to be interested in his life and writings. He was a very outspoken Republican in the 1930s and referred to President Roosevelt as Franklin Deficit. His position on health care became increasingly clear as he had to have an operation (hernia?) at age 57 (1940) before dieing from a brain tumor in 1943. His opinion from his columns is interesting today as Health Care is on the national agenda.
From the Pen of Doc Squirt, Paul Bunyan’s Personal Doctor,
Duwamish Valley News, Seattle WA
11/29/41 Well folks, we are out of the hospital and feel pretty lucky at pulling thru a very tough situation as well as we did. One thing certain is that in Dr. Ralph Dalton and the medical staff of the Virgina Mason Hospital in Seattle, we had the best talent available in this big northwest to take care of us. Folks, that’s just what turned the trick with our operation.
“’Just got out out of the hospital,’ is a remark that we hear pretty often and that usually calls for a sympathetic comment from those around about, and just how long this bunch sticks around depends a lot on just what symptoms the ‘ex-patient’ shows of getting ready to give a longwinded account of just what happened to him in minute detail, or whether he just gives them a brief review of his experience and then gets set to discuss the issues of the day with them as he always used to do.
The hospital is the last place that most any of us want to go to, and the fact that it quite often is the ‘Last Place’ a feller goes, is often accounted for by the fact that one’s call then was put off a heap too long and when one finally showed up for a work over it was a little to late in the season for the Medico’s to do very much about it. One often goes thru a lot of misseries doping oneself up to postpone a trip to the hospital. We have all done that more or less, but one can hardly be blamed for that as a stop over at one of these places of healing and solace wrecks one’s bank roll something scandalous and a feller is very liable to figure that one might as well be “on the shelf” as broke and take a gambling chance on ones health that in the end lays up an awful accumulation of acute trouble for him or her. Hospitals are wonderful institutions, folks, we have never realized that as fully as we do right now as we were never in one as a patient before and had this realization forcibly brought home to us.
The service one gets there is worth a lot and that’s just what it costs. The tragic part of it is that the facilities of a great hospital like the Virginia Mason and other hospitals are not thru some humane legislation made available to every suffering member of the human race regardless of their ability or inability to pay the fee that these Institutions have to collect in order to keep on functioning. A small national hospitalization tax would take care of this super necessary detail and people would then be able to have their minor troubles taken care of at the right time which would greatly reduce the number of major troubles and getting this service wouldn’t mean that they would be turned out to convalesce plumb broke at the most helpless moment of their existence.
The present system at times brings on worries that often lead to mental troubles. National hospitalization would give the public a real break and at the same time assure the hospital of the payment of our bills for services rendered and in cases of office calls or home calls, one’s local physician would receive the compensation that they cannot always gamble on under the setup of today.
We have heard doctors and nurses in the hospital claim that National Hospitalization making this service so easily obtainable, would bring on an epidemic of ‘Hospital Addicts’, people who would abuse this fine service, but we know a way to stop that. An infallible way. There is a hospital orderly at large in this U. S. of ours who puts so much ‘zing’ into his enema work outs that we hung the name of ‘Niagara Johnson’ on him and ‘Hospital Addicts’ would become plumb migratory fast if ‘Niagara’ was called to do his stuff in their case. Personally tho, we feel pretty kindly towards ‘Niagara Johnson’ as in the cassitary period of our trouble, his skillful care was a source of a lot of comfort to us.
Our trouble was the result of years spent in hard motorcycling racing cross count runs etc., as a professional. Thousands of miles of skally hooting over the U. S. on jolting freight trains that at times seem to kind of disintegrate a feller and we kind of marvel at what they were able to do for us at Virginia Mason Hospital.”
Dec 27 1940. “The little story we ran some time back about our session in Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle has brought us quite a few comments by mail, over the phone and in street conversations. Most of these people seem to be very much interested in National Hospitalization and cannot understand why the idea is being take up so slowly by the people at the head of the government. There is another little angle in the hospital setup.
The Farmer’s Union Publication from Walla Walla, Washington, “Pacific Northwest Cooperator” is a real live wire paper devoted to the interests of cooperation—a very worthy cause, and one that meets with a lot of resistance on every front.
There is an item in this month’s paper about the students at Washington State College being favored with cooperative hospitalization. Let us hope that this idea spreads fast, as no one who has not spent some time in a regular commercial hospital can visualize the mental agony gone thru by patients driven frantic by worrying about the hospital bill that they are running up every day of their stay there; in fact, some of this mental agony overshadows the physical and retards recovery.
Some of the best ideas in the business world today have come direct from the farm. The Farmers’ Auto Insurance setup has saved the public a lot of money, not only in its own operation, but it has forced old line insurance companies to cut down on their exorbitant rates that used to make up the big dividends which were all out of proportion to the profits that they were justly entitled to and have met a lot of the officials of the Farmers Union, and we believe that this group can work out a cooperative hospitalization plan that will go over big and bring the farmers and their city cousins a to closer together than they are now. These things cannot be planned outright in the bigger cities as the grafting element is sure to get into the picture and in order to get a good “drag” out of it themselves they will run the rates up into too much money. “
1942 Folks, how does the idea of making… National Hospitalization a reality strike you? Right now a number of the people, and a very limited number, have hospitalization, but they have to be in a group to get it. The rest of the public is at the mercy of ruinous hospital bills in even of an accident of an illness. At the end of this war, which we hope comes soon, the bigger groups which can qualify for hospitalization will become smaller groups that cannot qualify and what is more these smaller groups under war conditions might be shy of all the requirements to get medical attention. The present set up is plumb coo coo and the time to correct it is now.
Doc Squirt passed away at a hospital in Seattle, two years later at age 60, on September 20, 1943 from a brain tumor. Two years later, a Lebanese born doctor, who had been forming health co-ops in Oklahoma, came to Seattle and gave speeches about forming them. Out of that came at least one co-op, Group Health of WA, that continues to this day and is mentioned as an example of what a health co-operative would be like in current efforts to figure out a health care system that solves Doc’s complaints 68 years ago, that ring just as true now as they did in 1941.