Friday, February 21, 2020

Janet Forza, Hospital Stenographer, at Northern State

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…”

Is there a drift that marital status might tincture his draft deferment status?  “Don’t say I didn’t offer,” the Columnist points out, a parting comment.  She has created a portrait of the pharmacist at work.

Another Interview
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.)

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