Wednesday, April 08, 2015

"Narnian" journey in the Archives

While working with Crystal Rodgers, Student Assistant, on some flat storage of nursing uniforms I made a unique discovery.  We were removing the clothing rack of uniforms from the archives closet (Room 440A) when I noticed an electrical panel painted the same color as the wall.  Since archives work requires a dubious level of curiosity I decided to check out what controls this panel might hide.

Who wouldn't open this door?
I totally expected a series of breakers or some kind of ad hoc wiring scheme, instead this portal opened to another world, untouched by humans . . . 

Inviting, yes?
Crystal and I did some flashlight work to see if there was anything in the room, or whether it was your standard interstitial space.  The initial pass with the phone/flashlights proved intriguing, we could see various items, and to the archivist's delight, papers!!!!  Naturally, I had to don my safety gloves and explore.
Papers and clothing, naturally
Photograph courtesy of Crystal Rodgers
Max investigating the contents of the lumpy burlap sack.
Photograph courtesy of Crystal Rodgers 
Pretty dapper shoe, no laces.
Photograph courtesy of Crystal Rodgers

Because this is one of the most bizarre things that we've uncovered, I told everyone I could.  Naturally, Meg Langford, Public Services Coordinator for HC&A, was the next to investigate what we had by this point dubbed "The Chamber." Here's a series of images Meg took:

Papers, socks and a burlap sack!
Photograph courtesy of Meg Langford
A better perspective on the room's shape and size.
Photograph courtesy of Meg Langford
The gray-hazing of history.
Photograph courtesy of Meg Langford
Perhaps some info on this tag?
Photograph courtesy of Meg Langford
All in all, the materials we found were of dubious archival value.  There were a number of blank forms for the US Army/Department of Defense from the 1940's, mainly Change of Dependency and Change of Address, all blank, but many covered in a soft blanket of choking dust.  We brought some of them back for further investigation.

The only documents to have unique content.
Two copies of the same form, note the intense amount of dust/dirt.
Is this what 70 years of accumulation looks like?*
Examples of the forms found in "The Chamber."
Unfortunately, I did not find the trove of archival treasure I had hoped for.  We did however uncover a potential mystery that needs solving.  So, the whole find runs down like so, we found:

-A letter requesting a typewriter inventory from an Army Base to UOMS, Department of Military Science & Tactics.
-A burlap sack with a tag on it giving information on its destination.
-A massive amount of War Department forms, all blank.
-A pair of shoes, without laces.
-Old socks
-What could have been at one point underwear.
-A wooden doodad with a metal clip.

Here's the real info, and where I need your assistance, dear reader.  On the tag for the sack the following was written:

"FROM: QUARTERMASTER SUPPLY OFFICE, Utah Q. M. Depot, Ogden, Utah --- SHIP TO: Trans O, Portland Army Air Base, Portland Oregon --- FOR: General Supply Officer, AAF-337-Q ---
S.T. No. 4058 --- REQ No. 35027-15511-45."

A letter FROM R.W. Bryan, Colonel, Medical Corps, P.M.S. & T. --- TO: The Commanding General, Ninth Service Command, Fort Douglas, Utah.  The letter is dated January 12, 1943 and contains this numeric string in the upper left hand corner "400.7"

We also have a MEMORANDUM No. W700-11-42, dated December 26, 1942 and by Order of the Secretary of War J. A. Ulio, Major General, The Adjutant General, and by command of Major General Joyce issued by Chas C. Quigley, Colonel, A. G. D., Adjutant General.  This memorandum requests a survey of all typewriters.

So there's the info as retrieved from "The Chamber."  In addition, I spoke with several members of the library here at OHSU who recall tales told by former colleagues of people living in the Old Library "back in the day."

So, here's where I need your help.  Does anyone reading this have any information about the people mentioned here?  I plan to do some digging into the various names, requisition numbers and order numbers if those materials are still maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Any information, ideas or theories?  Please contact Max Johnson, University Archivist and let's shed some light on this strange scenario!

Until next time, when I hope to bring you more information on new accessions and unique medical artifacts.



William Prendergast said...

"Major General Joyce" might be referring to the legendary Oregon Medical School Chief of Surgery, Doctor Tom Joyce, who, according to an OHSU web page of school history found on a quick search, was appointed "the first true Chief of Surgery" at (then) UOMS in 1941. Offhand I don't recall the details, but I know there was an Army Field Hospital unit formed around UOMS, and I would imagine that Tom Joyce would very likely have been the Commanding Officer, and possibly a Major General. By the time I was there in the '60s, Tom Joyce was just a larger than life legend, but I know he was a very prominent figure at UOMS in his day. There was also an interesting story about him getting is a fist fight in the OR at Multnomah Hospital with then Chief of Pathology (and almost equally legendary) Doctor Warren Hunter.

WIliam J. Prendergast, M.D.
Class of '67

Maija said...

Thanks for the great information, Dr. Prendergast - Gotta wonder what the fist fight was about!

William Prendergast said...

Maija: What I know about the Great Surgical Pathology Fight is entirely hearsay, and not remembered, I'm sure, with absolute precision after 50 odd years. If you're interested in researching the history of the event (which was, I think, pretty momentous because it resulted, I believe, in the resignation of 2 major Professors/Dept. Chm.), contact me via my personal email and I will give you what fragments and leads I can.
W.J. Prendergast