Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Our second day of the white stuff this winter puts me in mind of the old stories about students who would travel up and down Marquam Hill on skis when the weather was right. In her oral history interview, Gwynn Brice Dockery reminisces about the modes of conveyance she witnessed in her years here at the Medical School:

WEIMER: How did people get up to the Hill in the forties?

DOCKERY: [Laughing] Same way they do now, on a bus, or by car. Some of them walked. But when the snow was on the ground, it was often pretty hard to get up here, and the ambulances didn’t like it very well because the county didn't do much about keeping the roads open in those days, so it was pretty tough. But the students mostly lived on the Hill in rooms....

But mostly they came by bus—of course, students skied down occasionally, too, and they also skied up occasionally. The buses would be very crowded with patients. Of course, bus fares weren't very much then, either. I know kids rode for a nickel, and I think adults rode for ten or fifteen cents. Then maybe it went to a quarter; I'm not too sure.

Skis would be nicer than the bus most days, I imagine! There isn't quite enough on the ground yet to justify pulling out the gear, but perhaps by Thursday morning when forecasters are calling for freezing rain--then again, we might be better served by sleds than skis, since downhill is the dominant route of travel whenever ice is involved.

The situation of the university and its hospitals and clinics on such a Hill has been the subject of much writing and discussion since the first building was built up here in 1919; in his oral history interview, Michael Baird relates an old saying (which was news to me): "No patient would go up on a hill. They'll go down steps for care, but they will not go up steps for care." Which may also explain America's expanding waistline.

Whether walking, driving, riding, or skiing, we'll try to enjoy the snow while it lasts....

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