I hit another milestone last week with my 74th birthday. And I didn’t have to look very far to note how the world has changed in the interim.
I was born in Immanuel Hospital in Mankato, Minn. It was a Lutheran institution, one of two hospitals in town. After we moved here, Immanuel and St. Joseph’s hospitals combined. I understand it is now under the distinctive umbrella of the Mayo Clinic, whose headquarters are only about 60 miles away.
Hospital patrons around here know the feeling well. St. John’s, once known by the long-fangled title of St. John’s Hickey Memorial Hospital but subsequently became St. John’s Medical Center and then St. John’s Health System, is now St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital. And a few miles north, Community Hospital Anderson is part of the Community Hospital system out of Indianapolis.
Hospital conglomerates generally are a good thing. They bring in state-of-the-art medical resources once only available at major regional medical centers across the country. The flip side, of course, is the cost of medical care also has risen dramatically.
When we relocated to Anderson in 1951 following my dad’s death, we came by train. I’m not sure if all our children have SEEN a passenger train, much less our grandkids; my wife rode on a train as a small child but doesn’t remember the experience.
The Pennsylvania Railroad train brought us from Chicago to Anderson. We had lunch in the dining car. We disembarked at the Pennsylvania depot overlooking Fletcher Street, an area that has since been leveled for the parking lot below the Work One agency.
The last time I took a train from Anderson was when I was 22 years old, riding to Chicago for a White Sox game against the New York Yankees. I overheard a conductor telling one of the few passengers, “We only run this line because the government says we have to.” Soon after that it stopped requiring it and they didn’t.
My first car had a manual transmission and a 6-volt electrical system. It had no radio, a manual choke and the starter button was separate from the key. No seat belts, turn signals or windshield washer. It used leaded gasoline, and I had to add a quart of oil frequently.
As a little kid my mom’s washing machine agitated the clothes, then she had to run them through a wringer to get the excess water out and hang them on the line to dry. After we moved to Anderson she got her first automatic washer. But it didn’t spin dry the clothes – it compressed them and literally squeezed the water out. Then she still hung them on the line. I believe I was married before we had our first clothes dryer.
There is much we take for granted these days that didn’t even exist when I was born.
Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.