Thursday, July 02, 2009

Life of Gory

This week, Dr. Jim O'Dea, M.D., retired Portland pediatrician and OHSU alumnus, brought us more materials for the archives of the North Pacific Pediatric Society (originally donated by Dr. Oliver Massengale in January).

The collection includes financial ledger books from the 1970s to the late 1980s (when the society went digital for its accounting), member directories, meeting programs, updated by-laws from 2005, and a wealth of correspondence including... printouts of email! (It just warms my heart to see folks acting on archivists' advice to keep the really important documents in paper.)

Unexpectedly, the collection also contains a copy of an unpublished autobiography of Dr. S. Gorham Babson, M.D., known as "Gory" to friends and colleagues. Titled The Full and Wonderful Life of Gorham Babson, the memoir is short but sweet. The table of contents includes:

"Prologue--My fascination with travel"
wherein we learn that Babson's father's fourth brother was named after Sir William Morton Stanley;

"European junket with the family--1924"
wherein we hear that Babson's father was so annoyed by the pigeons in Italy that he wanted to write to Mussolini to propose "a great pigeon shoot";

"Back to Oregon through the Panama Canal--1927"
wherein we find young Gory on a stopver in still-rustic Acapulco, watching cock fights;

"Again to Panama Canal, across South America and up to New York--1938"
wherein we get a glimpse of the locum tenens in North Portland that Babson took right out of medical school: it paid $200 a month, and came with a small office library but no R.N. to turn to for advice ("fortunately patients were not of litigious mind");

"How I married Ruth Lambert--1939"
wherein we hear that their first date was watching Sonja Henie skate at MSG, and that Guy Lombardo's orchestra provided the dancing music for their wedding day;

"How I started my practice--1940"
wherein Babson gets his start, even though "opportunities to practice the art for a living were not frequent" in Portland;

"Shirley Thompson: Supervisor of Doernbecher Hospital--1950"
wherein we hear of the efforts of "this innovative nurse" to establish the first nursery for premature babies at Doernbecher;

"How I became a professor of perinatology at OHSU--1961"
wherein we hear that the reason Babson gave up one of the leading private practices in Oregon was that his clinic was about to be demolished to make way for an expansion of the I-5;

"In search of Petra, our first trip around the world--1963"
wherein we hear of the ancient practice of the "open" airline ticket that allowed travelers to make up their itinerary as they went;

"Director of the OHSU Neonatal Center--1965"
wherein we hear about nurse Katie Simpson's technique for teaching staff to intubate neonates by practicing on cats;

"Epilogue"
wherein Babson thanks his daughter Jane for awakening in him an interest in creative writing, "restricted by years of inscribing medical manuscripts";

"World trips of the intrepid traveler"
which presents a chronological list of the highlights of a footloose life, one of the more intriguing of these being "An Eunoto, a jungle campsite where Maasi boys are admitted to manhood" (1979).

These materials, and the rest of the NPPS Records, are now available for research. But you'll have to wait until after July 4 to have at them; Historical Collections & Archives is closed Friday July 3 in observance of the federal holiday. Happy Independence Day!

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