Because I was born just before World War I, it taxes my memory to recall the Armistice. Adults stood motionless in the front yard listening to the sirens and bells from downtown Columbia; they hugged each other and shouted "It’s over, It’s over!" A year later a board of county-appointed trustees bought property east of downtown Columbia from H.H. Tandy for the purpose of building a hospital.
I remember the big, white, two-story Tandy home that was used to house the hospital’s nurses in the early years. Those men employed Eleanor Keely to help equip and furnish the hospital. Then, recognizing her skills for investigation, leadership and organization, they named her superintendent.
Keely made thorough investigations before making decisions. For example, she visited several family dairies to see how the animals and their products were handled before she gave her OK for products for her future patients.
In those days, all milk was "raw" - that is, it had not been pasteurized. Various family dairies advertised their products as "clean," "fresh" or "all from one tested herd." Our neighbor and friend, S.H. Sides, advertised "From the Moo to You." Dad’s truck declared, "Clean Milk, Fresh from My Own Cows." Large dairies bought milk from many farms and dumped it all together. Inspection of all of those barns and the different methods of milking and washing cans, buckets and strainers would be impossible.
Pasteurized milk had a cooked taste when compared to raw milk. Keely checked several family dairies personally and chose Dad’s. She came often and was always welcome to inspect the barn, milk house, utensils, storage temperatures - any of it. She usually just stayed about 30 minutes. When another dairyman owed the hospital for his care when ill, Keely took the hospital’s cream from him - and continued to buy milk from Dad.
The first few years of Boone County Hospital were prosperous ones even in the Depression. There were more patients and not enough beds. Extra beds were placed in a ward arrangement - youngsters and oldsters were in the same wards when necessary.
The hospital finally had to discontinue the charity services it had provided. Many nurses and others on the payroll had to take cuts or wait for their money, and patients without a means to pay their bills were discharged as soon as possible. There was a time when not one patient in the hospital’s medical and surgical clinic could pay his bill!
I was in high school when Keely was finally able to buy an icebox for the hospital. I was in that kitchen often when Dad delivered milk because I was on my way to University High School. I enjoyed the two genial cooks, Miss Minnie and her sister, Miss Lizzie.
Keely retired in 1942, and John McMullen filled the slot for a few years. The next nursing superintendent of the entire hospital was Bertha Hochuli, who took over in 1944 for a salary of $185 a month "plus free room, board and laundry services." World War II was in full swing, and Hochuli organized blackout drills where everyone worked in dim candlelight.
Many Columbia natives will remember Keely and Hochuli because they helped deliver our "war babies."