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Tuesday, March 17, 2020
“Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life” In two past blog entries I explain how I knew my father was in the army and that he had been the pharmacist at Northern State Hospital. In Northern State Hospital’s newsletter, columnist Janet Forza includes a shared moment with the “postal representative” in a piece published May 1940. A swarm of bees has arrived at the front lawn.
It was psychiatric hospital. Some of the patients were drug addicts. The United State Post Office truck unloaded where the pharmacist sorted the mail. The hospital relied on the pharmacist to watch for possible contraband and to analyze any unknown substance at the pharmacy laboratory. The pharmacist received packages that supplied orders for drugs and necessities. The pharmacist photographed patients when they entered. He developed some photographs.
The postal representative rushed out with camera in hand and by sheer brute force wedged his way into the midst of the melee and snapped one-two pictures – then – was seen no more. The column by Janet Forza is titled, “Behold, the Conquering Hero Comes” and is about nature and man. The column is an extended metaphor which references ideas in people’s thoughts and conversations in May, 1940, the ideas included war and even concentration camps. Below the whole column appears a comment of praise: “The Men’s O.T. has done a classy job of binding Goethe’s Works for Library.” – the comment of praise for Occupational Therapy is filler, yet newsworthy. From time to time in the newsletter occurs a comment appears about columns by Janet Forza. People liked her columns. I can include the 1940 article in full.
It was at Tacoma Public Library that I awaited, with others, the 1940 United States Census in 2012. I found Theodore Jensen listed as pharmacist. I had glimpsed the 1930 census of Northern State Hospital to determine that among employees at the hospital were names of English Descent, among patients were a larger representation of names that were non-English.
Recently, when Tacoma Public Library had logged me in to Ancestry, I found a physician listed at Northern State Hospital listed as private or unknown at a family tree. The assignment of privacy or unknown requires a respectful distance, although I have no way of knowing about the physician’s distant family member who created their tree. The tree includes a beautiful professional photo, others with the wife of the physician as a young girl. The private or unknown designation can be about stigma, about the wide category of difficulty associated with the institutions.
Janet Forza’s first home address exists along a maze of old two-story row houses, where at places there are churches or public buildings, on Google Earth Street views. She was born Janet Allsopp, and is 2 years old, in Derby, in a United Kingdom 1920 Census. Derby, it seems, is close to the middle of England. Her mother, a widow in the United States, married Joseph Forza, who was born in Austria. Janet Forza is in the 1940 United States Census as 22 years old and working at Northern State Hospital as a stenographer. At Ancestry at Tacoma Public Library, I find Janet Forza is included in family trees. Janet Forza is buried in a Sedro-Wooley Cemetery, on Find a Grave, not the hospital cemetery.
Regarding the appearance of Theodore Jensen, there to photograph this event so momentarily: I can also include one photograph of hospital days saved among his other photographs. it is a photograph of a work crew I think putting down tar on the road at the hospital, this is work therapy, another occurrence during a hospital day. It is unusual for there to be among my father’s photographs a Northern State Hospital Photograph. Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life.
Friday, February 21, 2020
Janet Forza, Hospital Stenographer, at Northern State
Public Discussion of the Holocaust
Over many years public discussion of the Holocaust referenced medicine. My father, who worked as a pharmacist, put on his tie mornings at a mirror in our living room, wore a suit and his raincoat to catch a bus to the drugstore.
The references compared medical institutions to concentratioin camps. This is a quote from Life Magazine in 1946: “Through public neglect and legislative penny-pinching, state after state has allowed its institutions for the care and cure of the mentally sick to degenerate into little more than concentration camps on the Belsen pattern”. – Bedlam: 1946 by Albert Q. Maisel
Albert Deutsch referred to World War Two when he published an expose of mental hospitals called The Shame of the States in 1948: “… these (hospitals) were for the most part too understaffed to be very effective even before the military recruitment of medical personnel during World War II crippled clinic staff. "
Albert Deutsch quotes a novelist, Ellen Philtine, in The Shame of the States: “Rank in a state hospital is more rigid and counts for more, perhaps, even than in the Army. The hierarchy starts with the superintendent or director and ranges all the way down to attendants, with only patients lower.”
In about 1961, my mother and father watched our tv set in the living room from the chairs at the dining room table. I was not an only child. They supervised as we saw a documentary about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. A moderator interviewed people, maybe there was a coffee table, they were in chairs. During the discussion they told about horrors and perversities. Nazis made lampshades out of human skin. (This strange fact is supported and documented.)
From the dining room chair my father can have remembered that he worked at Northern State Hospital in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. He worked for Northern State Hospital for eight years or so. He stopped in the spring of 1941. He must have remembered the wards for patients and the farm buildings, farmlands, the occupational therapy. He must have remembered the people who worked there.
In the 1930s and 40s, to inform about the nearby Insane Asylum, reporters at The Courier-Times, the Newspaper for Sedro-Wooley, Skagit County, at times surveyed acres of wards, administrative buildings, barns and farm areas to publish a Hospital Edition. Some Northern State Hospital staff members contributed short pieces, Theodore Jensen, the Northern State Pharmacist, wrote the short description about the pharmacy, a central feature at the hospital where he filled prescriptions for all the doctors.
In the December weather of 2019, last year, I took the bus to the Washington State Archives in Olympia, where copies of Northern State Hospital newsletters revealed a voice to me that was new. Staff or patients could submit articles to a newsletter published on a printing press at the hospital as therapy. For one an administrative office stenographer named Janet Forza, an article meant a gossip column.
Janet Forza interrupts, probes, and scrutinizes, to create a satiric impression of the gossip columns of Hedda Hopper and others from the daily papers. The supt. Of nurses: “She didn’t point a finger at me and ask my name, but saluted me by name the third day she was here…they say that you have to be very good or very bad to be talked about…” (From the Janet Forza Column, I Know My People).
A stenographer writing in the Northern State Hospital News: Published by the Male Occupational Therapy Department, Janet Forza shows a true aspect of an institution that recognizes superiority: the upper hierarchy of the remote institution, residence and farm, assumes the gloss of stardom.
I reflect that Janet Forza may have had the privileged information that her “blue-eyed Viking”, Theodore Jensen, would enter the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In following issues, he has left for Alaska. And Janet Forza has left a deft impression that social innuendo has caused this. In 1942 his name appears in lists of Northern State Hospital People in the United States Army, many physicians are officers, Theodore Jensen has an address at Fort Lewis.
February 28, 1941, Janet Forza demands an interview from the unwilling pharmacist. She declares his cynicism is a surface matter, he does many unselfish and gentlemanly things that she perceives though they are to go unnoticed. Her Column, I Know My People, shares the page with lists of physicians newly part of the Army Reserves.
She writes, “I know you’re a busy man, but I’ve been waiting four years to psychoanalyze you, so here goes. Be careful there. Someday you’ll have high blood pressure, turning that bright pink…”
In a story my father tells, “About 1940…I thought I’d better get some kind of proof that I was a native-born American citizen.” Danish Settlers sold his family a log cabin, they wanted to retire and move into town. When my father was born in the log cabin in 1902, there was never a birth certificate. His family built another house near the cabin.
His friends from school told him “…maybe Mrs. Carpenter could tell him something.” Her daughter was married and lived in Sedro-Wooley. Back in Sedro-Wooley once again, at the house she said, “Yes, I remember you…I was the first person to see you. I helped your mother when you were born.”
Theodore Jensen brought back a notary public with affidavit certificates. And Mrs. Carpenter signed the birth affidavit.
Why did Theodore Jensen join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? Did a recruiter suggest he enter the service before he was drafted so that his identity papers could be screened? Did his status as a pharmacist exclude him from the Reserve Officers Medical group? Did he actually step away from his comfort zone at a secluded Sedro-Wooley State Hospital because of emotional complications involving a Gossip Columnist? When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he had a job at a pharmacy near South Seattle, in Renton, his most recent job experience the Army Corps of Engineers.
(I have visited Washington State Archives in Olympia, Washington for quotes from Northern State Hospital News.)