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.

July 19, 1936

Did you know something – when you get this letter you will be 9 years old. And Daddy only hopes that every nine yeas will bring him as much happiness as you have brought in these nine. Of course, mother has some memories about milk, etc., but aside from this and fighting with K.L., I think you have just been perfect. I will never forget how you used to “hug Daddy tight” every night and so tight he had to grunt. You will miss your little party at home, but I presume you are having much more fun in New Hampshire. Don’t get too sunburned and bring the freckles out too much. Do you remember when I just happened to come in the driveway and your carriage ran into my car before it got going very fast? Otherwise, you would have gone across the road and might have hit a car in the street. Also, do you remember the time you were walking the wall and I went back to get the cane you had lost? Then got back just in time to catch you in my arms as you fell head foremost. These were almost two miracles, weren’t they? How close I came to losing my little angel!

Grandmother is very sick, but talks about your visit with her and how sweet you were. Really, there isn’t anything in the world so wonderful as a sweet little girl and a big one too. That was why I picked Mommy and that is why you were sweet too. Granddaddy is living with me now and is sleeping in your bed. He is very worried, as I am.

Am looking forward to seeing you all again. It seems such a long time. You mustn’t forget your daddy, for you will never have anyone who will love you so much - except Mother.

Love and kisses and 10 spanks for which I will substitute kisses.


July 23, 1936

Mother is very sick. Her temperature rises to 103.4 and now is up most of the day. Her pulse and respiration are also up. She coughs a lot. They don’t know yet what is the cause though it must be in the lung. But shows so little - in fact nothing but the old X-ray shadow. I don’t think I can get away - unless by some unlooked for chance that the condition will break spontaneously. It looks to me like a steady downward course. She does eat pretty well, but is too tired and exhausted. The examinations wear her down a great deal, but she is very patient and is trying hard to get well. A swelling developed in her arm and had to be punctured. There was no pus. The cough bothers her more than anything.

I rather think your plan of coming home is the best. I should feel safer having you down home than to send Emerson, but I just don’t know. You would have no trouble. Just take it easy and in three days. Walter will guide you perfectly. I think the best way is to go to the Mohawk trail - then over to the Hudson, then down the Hudson on either side. I think there is a short cut bridge at Hudson New York to the west side or Hudson New York to the west side. Or you can go down the Albany post road to the George Washington or Bear Mt. Bridge and then down. Wish I could have been with you. Be sure to pick a day for Lilly or the baby when the sleeper goes through from Portland to Baltimore. This is only on certain days: Wed, Thurs, Friday and Sunday. Leaves Portland at 9:35 PM. I would start driving so you will end up without Saturday and Sunday on the road.

Lots of love to my little kiddies and their mother.

x x x x x Walter

If you prefer Emerson, let me know. Helen takes good care of us.

July 24, 1936

Mother continues much the same, her temp was higher 104.2 last night, but she doesn’t look any worse and possibly her cough is a little looser.

I am sending you a ticket for Lilly. This will allow you to check your baggage. Get a section and put Margaret in the upper berth where she can be penned in securely. She couldn’t possibly sleep in the lower with Lilly. Tell her to give the porter 50¢ or 75¢ when she gets off. He can bring meals to both of them. Tell her to tip the waiter 25¢. She may not know these things. I may yet be able to run up, since mother isn’t changing much. I could get there in the morning and leave right away and let you take the evening train. Please stay out your full time. I wonder if you could get out on Saturday, or if you could leave Sunday night the 2nd. I could possibly leave here in order to leave there Monday morning – avoiding the big weekend travel. Or possibly leave there Thursday the 30th. Let me know your wishes in the matter.

I went to York, Pennsylvania the other night to see an accident case – 6 yr old boy ran in front of auto. He died in a few hours.

Have been busy right along. Am anxious to see you all. Mrs. Hook wants a lock of Margaret’s hair. Have been playing golf right along. Father keeps busy around the house. Your mother calls us every day. Is Margaret talking any? How about thumb sucking? Glad you have all been happy and content and that the little girls don’t quarrel anymore. That always hurt me more than anything connected with our little family. They should be so happy and love each other. I’m afraid there won’t be many of their little playmates around when they return.

Love and kisses and hugs to each and maybe one for Margaret, too.

Walter x x x x x x x x x x

February 21, 1937

Here I have played golf and haven’t written my little girl! Such a train, no stationery, and such a place here - no pen. But despite all handicaps of backwoods places, I am writing, even though with a pencil. My train was 2 hours late. I rushed out to this golf course to get my initial sunbath and found another who was alone and looking for a partner and a really nice fellow he was. But at the 15th hole, we were driven in by a sudden spring shower. The clouds were so black it almost was nighttime. Coming in the clubhouse, whom do you think I saw - Mr. and Mrs. Hook! They are leaving tonight after a two week sojourn. I also met on the golf course Mr. Ludwig of the Bik X suggestion. Tell Margaret her friend was the first I saw and doubtless for a purpose! Keyser Manley is here from Baltimore. You know, I operated on his mother. I saw his bulging frame at a distance. The club is full - 600. Weather has been perfect.

How is my little girl? I hate to run off and leave her and my little kiddies – and I wouldn’t if I didn’t think it was the wisest thing to do. I hope you are having a good time with Will and Margaret. But don’t wear yourself out entertaining. How are my little angels and rascals and how is Margaret? Don’t let her forget her daddy. Nor for that matter any of my little Kiddies. I feel safe about my big angel.

Better go over and see the model. I don’t think you locked the upper drawer in the trunk, but I couldn’t open it and finally had to pry it loose. Perhaps there’s a trick I didn’t know, but it had me going for a while.

Love and kisses to my little girl and all my little Kiddies & Fagin.

Walter x x x x

February 28, 1937

I miss you all so much. I suppose Margaret is like Mary Ellen – will probably never ask about her daddy the whole time he is away. Do you remember how Mary broke her daddy’s heart?

Got my first sunshine today - and took it modestly - I think.

Yesterday I had to go to Miami with Mr. Geist. He is in pretty bad shape, looks badly and has lost 14 pounds - also has heart pains. I persuaded him to send for Louis Harrison who is leaving Baltimore today. He is a hard customer to handle, but his wife and I finally persuaded him that he could not afford to do anything less than see the best.

Have seen several people whom I know. Dr. Core, who went to school about my time. Met Dr. Paul on the train - another doctor from Boston here. Last night I went to a large dinner party given by Mrs. Geist. It was a beautiful setting with flowers in profusion. Every kind of wine and delicious food - ice cream with blazing cherries - Please page the kiddies!

Did you get any snow yesterday? Forgot to tell you went to the races yesterday at Hialeah - (Miami) - tremendous jam - never saw so many Packards and Cadillac’s, etc. - everybody seems to have them, anything less is in no standing. There is the same condition here, too. It’s nice and a little chilly today - also yesterday after a spring shower, but the sun is warm. The day I arrived it was quite hot.

How are my little kiddies? Tell me when I get back that Mary and Kitty never quarrel any more. I hope all goes well at school - that Margaret never loses booties, that Walter gets his arithmetic with better? assistance. Give my regards to Margaret (Sr.) & Will.

Kiss my little pal and all my little kiddies, all of whom I miss & miss & miss.

Love & kisses,

x x x x x Walter x x x x x

February 28, 1937

A week is now past. You wouldn’t know your red faced sunburned friend. The weather has been lovely - warm and sunny until today - it is raining gently and looks like a day with no sunshine. Have been getting good exercise - golf every day, swimming in the morning. Hope my little family is tip top. I miss everyone more than I can tell you. Have been waking about 8 every morning thanks to Humpy - but still I would rather have her and hear that dear little call in the morning and find her in the midst of a badly upset room and having my underwear thrown off the radiator to make room for “voo voo.” It won’t be long until Walter wends his way southward. How are my little angel twins - no more quarreling!

Mr. Geist had some heart attacks. I persuaded him to have Dr. Harrison come down. He stopped his golf and made him rest till noon every day. He took it very well, although it’s his real life - no other diversions. Two of his daughters are here - both lovely and beautiful girls. Dr. Can had to stop his golf because his joints became swollen. He had arthritis before coming down. His wife is lovely - much like my girl. You would like her.

So sorry to hear of the little Daley girl and Miss Rowe. Your letter was a very long time coming. Were you getting even? You should see the swanky dresses the ladies wear here. This is no place for poor people. Mr. G. has a new patented engine that is going to make me so rich that I won’t want to do brain surgery any more. The suit arrived yesterday. Just called Mrs. C and will go over Friday evening. Leave Sunday morning arriving Monday at 12 - Hat and coat, please!

Love & kisses to all my kiddies - 5 of them -

Walter x x x x x

March 8, 1937

You should see my red face and body - and no upper bathing suit! But you can’t go around the golf courses without a shirt! Have already had a good rest. Your friend Bob Harris and wife had Ben Baker and myself out for a dinner at a nightclub where we saw Lopez and Richmond (who flew the Atlantic) - doubtless both familiar names to you and the kiddies, but all a void to me. There were some trick jumpers from the circus which hibernates near here.

Have just come from a lecture by McFadden -- print of which I enclose. The large room was filled, people bulged from every door far out into the corridors and many turned back - and such nonsense I haven’t heard since I was a boy! And he is so sincere - no charges. He is failing in physique and now looks older than his age - 70. He flies his own plane. Swooped around the beach as we were bathing – great showman, always looking for the limelight. He is trying to interest Baker in the medical side of his hotel and is said to have money to give away.

Am going to [S___? ] tomorrow to watch the airplanes come in (I on the ground!!)

Mr. Miller whom I operated twice for a brain tumor is here with his yacht and failing fast. I suspect a carcinoma of the stomach, but hasn’t been proven. He has been a threat on my vacation. Am going to see him tomorrow. His niece, Dr Ella Oppenheimer - is here - flew down.

Haven’t heard from Palm Beach. I couldn’t fathom it either. Guess it’s all wasted - I got the M.H. I’ll call her sometime. Went to Hollywood to play golf. That’s where we went to the Florida State meeting a few years ago and the car broke down en route.

Tell Walter he didn’t write down all the places of interest to see – and I’m stranded. Hope he has a good trip on the train and a good sleep in it. Such a way of having a good time! Mary and Kitty are certainly having a grand time at parties! Does the angelic rascal keep dry at night? Don’t let her forget her daddy! Her habits will doubtless be so improved when I return that I shall scarcely be welcome - except to Lilly!

Lots of love & kisses nonetheless -

x x x x x Walter x x x x x

February 23, 1938

Why don’t you come down Sunday and stay the last week with me? You would get a rest which you need and it would be good for all. You could bring the angel if you wish, but she would be an anchor around your neck and cramp your style greatly. You wouldn’t have much fun with her and she would be better at home. Come on the Orange Blossom Seaboard. You could get along here without me when playing golf.

Dr. Greene loaned me his car and since I got two days allotment of sunshine the first day I took a ride to Key West over the highway (overseas) the second day. It was a lovely trip. One bridge was 7 ½ miles long and there were 30 or 40 of ½ to 3 miles. It’s 160 miles each way. I got back at 7 o’clock just as it was getting dark. Daylight is an hour or more longer here than in Baltimore - ask the little girls or (omniscient) Walter why!

Today is very cold 40 - needed the sweater! It’s the only cold day I’ve seen in Florida. There are hundreds of robins on the golf course waiting for the weather to moderate up north. I thought of the poor little robin at home that made a mistake.

Had a nice morning with the daughters of Mrs. Green of Missouri - and their husbands. They were to take me fishing tomorrow, but the windy cold weather caused a postponement. Saw an old patient, Cositer from Texas, the one to whom I was to fly a couple of months ago. Had dinner with him last night. The McCormacks and the little boy are here.

The hip is holding up quite well. Never anything like that morning - but it persists. Still I can get along with it. Dr. Baker and bride just arrived - haven’t seen them. How are my kiddies? And my big girl? Am quite sunburned. The cold has almost vanished. Saw a patient today who may come for an operation. Had a nice medical meeting. Played golf today with the aviator who landed the big plane outside Baltimore in a big fog, 2 or 3 months ago. Hope you can come.

Love to all, top to bottom and kisses.

x x x x x x Walter x x.

March 6, 1938

Have just arrived - met at the station by Dr. Baker. It’s a very nice place. Soon be in for a swim and golf this afternoon. Got hot on the train very quickly yesterday (not today!). At Richmond, the jonquils were out. In North Carolina, the peach trees in full bloom and in South Carolina the gardens were up.

Wrote an article on Experimental Vertigo yesterday and slept 12 hrs. Had two nice dinners in Philadelphia. Stayed at Mrs. Shaeffers dinner ‘til it was over, then went to the Brexels in time for the speeches: it was very large and a very excellent group of speakers. The President of the AMH spoke of Miss Hager and her drawings on Brain Surgery. Saw Cushing and many others.

Tell Margaret the train had 19 cars and didn’t stop from Richmond to Jacksonville except for water and coal. They are real choo choos. Sorry Walter can’t come back again this year. Also the “little girls”. Had a nice trip to Washington on the private car, nice big room to myself. It’s hot and sunny here. Will soon get sunburned and feel tip top.

Love and kisses to all my little family. Suppose Margaret is dry at night.

x x x x Love Walter x x x

March 11, 1938

Thanks to all for the nice letters which I have enjoyed, but Margaret didn’t send me even a scratch. I hope she won’t forget me like Mary Ellen did. Well the time is slipping fast - now half gone, but I’m using it well and am as red and brown as an Indian – but not too much - not today! You are all doubtless listening to Charlie McCarthy and I am not getting my head rubbed and it needs it badly - a little overtime will be in order. Got a nice letter from Mr. Geist inviting me to see him and have a good vacation. But it’s nice here. Ben Baker and I go to a different golf course every day. And they are both numerous and beautiful. The one today was the most elaborate and extravagant course I have seen - quite an exclusive one. Was out to dinner with your friend Bob Harris and wife - both are very nice - they have no children, so I can’t say much about Margaret - In fact I am always very mum on that subject.

Tell Walter I enjoyed his letter with the notations of the important places to see and Kitty’s letters and Mary Ellen’s were so nice.

Had dinner with Dr. Greene and spent an hour watching the huge birds land so gently in the water. Wished I had an excuse to travel to South America on one. They are perfectly safe - and besides, one’s wife can travel free! Dr. Greene has been so brave about adjusting his life to his cardiac calamity.

The woman I was to come down to see was operated on by a local man (my charge too high). He got into the spinal fluid in the presence of an abscess and it will probably prove fatal or leave her permanently paralyzed. The Charlottesville woman was recovered at the last note.

Played bridge with Dr. & Mrs. Harris, so you see I’m keeping in practice. Heard from Mrs. C.A.M.T.V., but doubt that I shall get there. Mr. Miller is quite ill and I may have to run back with him before my time is up, though I’m hoping not. My assistants are getting a week apiece at home. The weather is perfect. Lots of sun, water and golf.

Love and kisses to each and every one of my little family and then the biggest and smallest.

x x x x x Walter x x x x