Walter E. Dandy Letters

We are proud to host the transcripts of Walter E. Dandy’s correspondence with his family. These letters illustrate the personal side of this neurosurgical genius, spanning his early college education through senior tenure at Johns Hopkins Medical School.

June 7, 1926

As you see I am still on the train and always thinking of my little girl and boy. It won't be very long now until home is near, almost as soon as you get this letter. Got your letter at Butte and assume from the absence of a telegram that you have decided it's best to give Mr. Chambers the contract. While others may do just as good work, I feel safer with him and I think with the cost plus. We will probably save something (though, of course, it is a gamble), but it will permit us to make alterations as we go along and without upsetting the contractor. If he is not absolutely honest, I never expect to judge another so at first sight. I also thought he might give us some valuable suggestions on things to add or subtract.

I was persuaded to stay over a day in Butte and go fishing. Everything surpassed expectations except the fishing and I still have the thrill of catching a real fish ahead. How many times I wished my little girl was along. We were within 20 miles of Yellowstone and they wanted to take me through and catch the train on the other side, but that's a pleasure I want to share with my little pal. I think I can talk to you for a month now and not "bury my head in the newspaper."

We are running though eastern Nebraska, between Lincoln and St. Joseph. There have been heavy rains and the country is at its best and the season of wheat and corn at its height. It has really been pleasant traveling so far. The paper say big storms have been hitting the east, so I guess it hasn't been unbearably warm with you. I am so anxious to see and hear the little rascal boy and his sweet little mother. I ought to be home Sunday night at 6 or 9 or, at the last, Monday morning at 8. Tell Jimmie Hobson (Hamilton 1214) to leave the car when I telegraph you.

Kiss my boy and my little sweetheart.

Daddy x x x x x x

June 28, 1926

How many times I have wished she was enjoying this trip with me, as she so much deserves, but her precious little charge has deemed to make this impossible or at least for the present inadvisable. How unselfish and sacrificing his dear little mother has been, both to him and to his daddy. I hope he will always appreciate her. It's a curious paradox of life and life seems to be on paradoxical laws, that the more one gives, the more joy one receives. Mother's instincts more than all else, demonstrate this law.

This is, I believe, my first letter to my boy. How often I have seen the little rascal in my mind's eye and surveyed his beginning signs of intellect from the great mysterious void. My little boy I see is a mental companion as he is, or is to be, with his mother's care and watching eye. How much he will have changed in two weeks. I almost wish to turn back to play with him and hug my little girl over and over. Never was there a truer sweeter little girl and surely never one who could fill every desire and placate every whim of a none too placid and compromising partner. I shall even hold those slides in reverence in addition to their intrinsic chautauquan merit, for my little girl's love is stamped indelibly on them all forever.

Last night I slept 11 hours solid and with only a psychic head rub of my girl. The psychic 6 o'clock rise was inarticulate at this time. It was a fine cool night - under blankets. But again by paradox, the farther north, the hotter and it is now like the hot days of a year ago. The wheat is just turning golden, the cherries everywhere are full red. We are skirting the Mississippi. If my little boy sees this writing at some later time, he may mistake it for his mother's. Just tell him it's the jarring of the train. Kiss him as long as his tolerance will permit and his little mother until she goes to sleep and hug her all night.

Bye bye little sweetheart and little rascal boy.


June 29, 1926

June 29, 1926

It seems such a long time since I have written you. The last time I believe just after I was married. That seems all important event from which to date things: and it has really been a great event. I have been so happy with the wonderful little girl and the little rascal around which everything seems to revolve and radiate.

I often think it must seem that I have forgotten the dearest little mother in the world and the finest father, but I know they know better. It is only the penalty they are having to pay for having stimulated in every way they could see an unbounded ambition, the results of which I know bring to them the really greatest reward. I often think I seem to do nothing to make your lives fuller, but your wants are so few and simple there is so little reason to supply any wants or needs. I do wish you would spend the week with us in Ocean City so we could see so much more of each other and, besides, I know you would enjoy it and it would also do you good. You must also come see us more often - at least once a week and watch your little boy grow, for I want you to become attached to him and he to you.

I was greatly rushed to get through my work and get away. Last night I slept 11 hours and am really relaxing to enjoy a greatly needed rest. I called to tell you goodbye, but you were doubtless at church. Do go and see that boy frequently while I am away. He is such a sweet thing. I miss him more than I thought possible. I have been so fortunate in picking the best mother and father and girl and now, I believe, this boy.

With love and kisses,

Walter x x x x x x x x

June 30, 1926

I am now passing the scenes of my great trip of nearly 20 years ago - it doesn't seem possible does it? But how those details still stand out in my memory. Last night we passed through Billings, Montana, which I remember so well because of overindulgence in food, which I had to lose soon after. That was when I was having so much trouble with my stomach.

Yesterday we passed through the badlands of Dakota. Roosevelt used to ranch here years ago when he came west to regain his health. It is a wonderful rock formation Thousands of projecting peaks of all shapes. Many of those peaks are capped with red because of burned out lignite.

It's a fine train and I am having a good rest. Am slipping one over on my little rascal boy, for he can waken me at 5:30 and 6 in the morning now. But I miss him. I guess you used to miss me when I was that age, did you? I hope you have been out to see him some times. Please don't be backward, will you?

We will reach Spokane at 5:30 this afternoon. I speak on the 1st and 3rd and go fishing on the 2nd. Will spend a few hours at Butte on the way back, seeing Miss McGill. Perhaps I may get a few hours in Sedalia. Had lost 5 lbs before I left Baltimore. But the meals are wonderful, so I fear it will come back quickly. You had rather it would, I guess! It was very hot yesterday and the day before, but is nice and cool today. Wish you could be in Sedalia with me.

With love and kisses,

Walter x x x x x x

June 30, 1926

We are just passing through Butte, Montana and how I have missed my little girl and boy for three days. It seems so much longer. I do hope you are both well. You must let me know if everything is not right with you. I am sure I could not exist if you were not looking after him. What has he done that is new? Does he still flirt with his dipping head? I just want to hug him and my girl so much.

Well, I am not telling you much that you don't know. For the first time we are passing through nice scenery, though yesterday the badlands were interesting with their innumerable buttes, many capped red by burned out lignite. It's where Roosevelt used to ranch and well he chose a place to regain his health.

Winding along the Yellowstone River was lovely toward evening. Yesterday we also passed through your Jamestown in the early morning and Sedalia in the afternoon. We can now see the patches of snow on the mountain peaks.

Have really rested a great deal - 10 and 11 hours sleep for three nights (the little rascal!) Haven't worked yet. Have finished "Lea" and beginning on the Medici. Can tell you who built the dome and the palace! Can you? Of course!

The heat was fierce the past two days, but today is raining lightly and lovely. The dust has been very bad too.

I fear this suit will be ruined, but I note a big hole in the rear. What am I going to do? Sounds like the foolish virgin, doesn't it? Tell your father about his biblical illusion.

If you haven't completed my last ones for kisses and hugs to my little girl, double their speed, for I need them more when I can't see her. Kiss my boy, too, and watch him for his daddy.

Bye, bye Sweetsie x x x x x

August 12, 1926

Since I now know how to spell the name of your landlady and that Airy is not airey, I can safely write my girl. I am so glad you are enjoying you country life, even without all the accessories! I hated to leave you in that little hole of a room, but I thought probably Mrs. Hill would let you share her nice room and take Walter in, too. I am very lonesome without my boy and girl and shall drive up as soon as I can to see them.

Have been taking off the afternoons and indulging in tennis, golf, baseball. Probably I will go to Norfolk and Dr. Coleman's over the weekend. That will depend upon the work. It still continues heavy.

Yesterday did one of our new tic operations. The little pineal girl is fine and now I think out of danger. The other boy finally died of pneumonia.

Saw a double header in Washington yesterday and missed my girl alongside. No one else would be so blindly confident to believe all I say. The house is going up fast. The brickwork in front is 3 feet high and the floor covered over. Did you know I slept till 11 o'clock Monday and, as they couldn't ring the apartment, Mother was worried. Had a great time cooking breakfast (3 eggs!), etc. The heat is again terrific.

I am so glad you are where it is cooler, even if I have to miss so much of my sweetheart and her boy. Kiss the little rascal. I only wish I could and his mother too, and hug her tight - as she likes it. Nobody to do it for her now! Or me, too! Good bye, little sweetheart and boy. Write me every day, for I get a great thrill from getting her letters.

Kisses and hugs for both my boy and girl.


August 13, 1926

I am so glad you are where the heat is not so terrific. The last three days, including today, have been fierce. I am now writing with rubber gloves between operations so my little girl won't have to wait again. Am glad there isn't a little sister coming, for you have your hands full now. I 'm afraid you will spoil your big boy, even though you think you won't.

Last night I went to Juniper Road. The brickwork is higher than our heads now. It won't be long now 'til it is under roof. It's beginning to look a little bigger, but I can still step across any of the rooms without a strain.

It's so hot, I don't think I will go to Norfolk - the boat would be hot; though if the weather changes I may do so. If not, I will run up to see my big boy and his dear little mother, both of whom I have missed so much and have thought of constantly. I was so hot yesterday I couldn't think of anything better to do than go to a ballgame - Bloomfield and I went.

Since leaving off here, have removed two brain tumors. Had four cases today. Have a tic for tomorrow and other arteriovenous aneurysm from Dr. Greene.

Doesn't look like I'm getting to Norfolk. Besides, I want to see my girl and boy and I am beginning to think I will have to go to Mt. Airy instead. Perhaps I will bring your mother and father and mine Sunday afternoon. Do you wish me to bring anything? If so, call me up. Missed your call by only a few minutes the other night. They have not been transferring my calls and I spent 30 minutes at Union Station checking up on them and missed my girl. Kiss her and my boy a hundred times for me and hug my girl.


August 16, 1926

There isn't anyone so lucky as I to have such a sweet little girl and such a wonderful little girl and such a good boy. I couldn't have gone to Norfolk and have missed my boy and girl yesterday. It seemed too long since I saw them and my little girl did need to be hugged. It was hard to be with her and not have her alone.

Some day this week I will run up in the afternoon. Wasn't the little rascal good when he woke up and was left alone? I think we will have to make everyone keep hands off him, but I don't quite know how to keep the grandparents off, especially Mother. He was so cute walking on his feet to prevent his knees getting sore. Am so glad you are happy there and comfortable. When we get our own house the big boy can have all the room he wants - for a little while, I guess!

Your last two letters came today - just now. This being an easy day, am planning to finish one of those two nearly finished articles. Possibly Dr. Greene may be up this week, though I rather hope not, as I don't want to entertain anyone.

The house ought to be nearly under roof when my girl gets back. Possibly some of our friends may want our apartment and we can move in earlier. I thought yesterday, what an efficient cute little girl I have - not a thing did she forget! Just like her big boy!! Only better by far- as, of course, I knew and expected - not by right, but by having made a very comprehensive phrenological reading in the brief span of a moment, going around the elevator. Kiss her for me as could not adequately do yesterday. Kiss her boy for me too and hug his mother all over again.

With all my love,


August 19, 1926

I'm afraid my little girl would rather be home on these two rainy days, but it would probably be rather gloomy anywhere. We'll have to arrange somehow to take a weekend off together at Ocean City. If you wouldn't take that boy so seriously, it would be easy. You see mother raised one boy better than you could hope to do!! And she would probably do pretty well for such a short time. You know methods are all bad, it's individual care that counts!! How did you ever happen to ask my advice about that bad boy's medical care? I'll bet you were a little lonesome and just wanted a little cheer from your other boy, didn't you, now?

Have been very busy - six operations today and patients all afternoon yesterday and today.

Last evening I got some good rye bread and crabs and we had one of those gorgeous feasts of which you are aware. After dark, I drove mother and father around the house. The windows are all in and almost brick cornered. It looked good in the dark and it looks bigger now. The garage foundation is in, too. I think we ought to cut down that big old tree. It's going to catch moisture and make the rooms damp - and your boy gets rheumatic and it's no beauty anyhow.

I ought to go to NY tomorrow and get some more instruments. I wish my girl were here with me. I miss her every morning so much. Perhaps I can run up, but don't expect me until I come.

Love and kisses to my girl and bad boy.


December 1, 1926

It's a long time since I felt so keenly the desire to get away from work. The terrible and I think - inexcusable -- infections have made the work a nightmare. It's like an engineer driving a fast limited train and all switches left in the hands of anyone who chanced to come along - and unlocked. No matter how careful his work, he is helpless.

But I do believe the thing is going to come to a head. The general surgeons have the same trouble, though their patients live to tell the tale with scars and permanent disabilities, whereas mine must die and the heart pangs are borne for a lifetime by loving parents and relatives. It's all so simply connected - I believe. It's difficult to think that in a modern age, human beings in such responsible positions can be so callous and heartless as to put a few measly dollars ahead of these preventable horrors. The hospital should be the first to use every effort to obliterate reflections of this character on its good name.

But I hope there will be a change soon and I think Dr. Lewis will take a firm stand. Dr. Finney was around this morning and said he would say a word to him. He seemed to feel very strongly about it.

Well, for some cheery news - do go over and see my big boy and also my girl. I fear he is showing signs of an inherited temper - from whom, you will need only one guess. At least, Father and I will need only one. This morning, he rapped on the bathroom door for admission and when his mother tried to direct his path elsewhere, he stamped his right foot vigorously and continuously in addition to giving a shriek. Go see him.

Tomorrow in Florida. Like going to Jekyl in days of old.

Love and kisses, Walter x x x x x