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.

March 11, 1938

I know full well how she used to wait for the postman and hug the letters and kiss them and they came all too infrequently to please her, but she always excused her boy. Well another vacation is half over but I am well rested already – swimming, sunning and golfing. The weather has been perfect - no rain and sunshine always. One has to take the sun rather gradually as I know from past experience. This is really a remarkable place - all built up in the past 15 years and all so beautiful - all the buildings are white and gorgeous flowers fill all the yards and climb the walls and fences. I wonder if your garden came up? Strawberries are in now, grapefruit and oranges passing their peak.

Saw Dr. Greene the other night and had dinner with him. We spent an hour watching the big Pan American planes come in from various points in South American and land so gracefully in the water. They are safer than railroads, although I can’t make Sadie believe it. The man who runs this place - McFadden - is a crank on super health. He lectured the other night in a big hall and it was overfilled and many turned away. All because it was free, and so much sheer nonsense. Have seen several doctors who came from Hopkins. All are doing well. They get the winter crowds. It’s difficult to get rooms in Miami and Miami Beach 5 miles away even though the hotels are many and big. Every year the crowds get bigger.

Yesterday I went down the bay in a big yacht - Barney Baruch’s. The yachts were as numerous as automobiles. It’s a favorite place for them to collect. One of my patients is living on his boat here - a tremendous ocean-going one.

Have you been over to see my angel and the other angels and rascals? Sadie said she was much more disturbed about your leaving her than me. I miss them all very much and hate to see them get older. Hope you are well. It won’t be long now until the garden will be in full bloom. Will soon be seeing you and I hope in the best of health -

With love,

x x x x x x Walter x x x

September 8, 1938

I was so sorry not to be with you last Sunday, Mother’s second anniversary, but I realize that dates are of little importance as Mother is always with us. Never did anyone ever have a dearer sweeter mother than her boy. I realize, and always have, that nothing mattered to her, except you and me. The last time we were here, just 4 years ago, she was waiting for a letter. I’m so glad she got to see little Margaret.

Mary Ellen is more like mother all the time. Margaret is the sweetest thing. Playing in the water all day except for meals and a brief nap. She is a trial to her mother who must match wits with her to keep ahead. She has two little playmates about her age. The weather is warm in the day and cool at night. Just about right. The corn is just about ripe. Mary and Kitty are having a great time swimming, diving, playing tennis, etc. The meals are good - too good, I fear.

I shall leave Sunday night and be in Baltimore noon, Monday for two weeks, then another week here. The roads were so good we got here 10:30 Tuesday morning -15 hours of driving.

Hope you are well and not too hot. Will be busy next week, I guess. Will call you on arrival.


Walter x x x x x x

September 9, 1938

It’s good to get back to a nice climate - it rained yesterday and again today - nice and cool. A hall full of patients greeted me and I was busy ‘til six. The scales were very good to me 183 - no gain - but that doesn’t necessarily apply to the ladies.

Your mother is about the same. She looks like she would blow away. She is quite drowsy and doesn’t want to get well. Worries Dr. Lenhard. Your father and Mary spend most of the day with her, but she doesn’t pay much attention to them. I’m worried about her, but I have been since she came in. Dr. Thomas is looking after her. Her arm is out of the apparatus.

Mary said Will was in Ocean City for a week. He’ll probably come by here on the way back. Fagie has an infection in his face. Helen had Mike come and get him. He says he is OK. I sent for him to come back today. Hope you are getting good weather. The cantaloupes are at the peak – doesn’t your mouth water! It would be cruel to miss them - even for a sunburn. Hope Mary and Kitty get some good tennis. Am sending Walter’s extended letter. He certainly can write. Take good care of my four little girls, from the biggest on down.


Walter x x x x x

February 18, 1939

Well, the sunshine is here at last. Had a nice trip down, met a very nice New York doctor - Bill Darrow - who with his wife is going on a houseboat and wander down the coast. We played bridge the last three hours en route. The hotel is nice, but it seems a little lonely to be here and have room to receive you and know no one, but things will brighten up tomorrow when I play golf with Dr. Harris. My hip is acting up some and I don’t know whether it is going to bear up. If it doesn’t, I’ll be home sooner, for there won’t be much fun if I can’t play golf. Will call up Dr. Greene tomorrow - Perhaps I’ll take a drive to Key West on the new highway over the ocean.

The trip down was on a beautiful train pulled by one of the largest diesels - 6000 horsepower. Walter will tell you what that means and Mary will do the square root of it. The engine hit a cow during the night and its macerated remains covered the entire front of the engine. There were 16 cars and scarcely an empty berth.

Don’t you think we could farm the angel out until she behaves better? Certainly she has been hard on her daddy, first giving him the mumps and then ruining his back. Missed you all at the station. Hope you had a good time at the show. Tell my little girls I had a dream last night. It was that when I got home you said they hadn’t quarreled the whole time I was away and of course that made me very happy. Tell them I’ll give them a dollar if the dream comes true. I’d be bankrupt if I paid Margaret for being good. How is the terrible angel?

I shouldn’t be surprised if I get a bid to the prizefight in Miami – you didn’t know about it? How did I arrange my vacation time so? How did I see the fight movies at Keith’s that time? A very smart person - that’s all. Mr. Levy comes down tomorrow and I first had a suspicion of what that may mean. This hotel is 10 miles away from Miami, a bus goes every hour taking 40 min. but there is everything here I came for except friends.

Kiss my big boy and three little girls for me over and over and many kisses and a big hug for my biggest little girl.

x x x x x Walter x x x x

August 8, 1939

I miss you very much and hope all goes well. We are looking about San Francisco and will leave on the boat this afternoon so it will be five days before I can send another letter. Reichert met us at the pier. We ferry across five miles of the bay from Oakland where we left the train. It’s a beautiful sight from the ferry. First we pass under the long Oakland Bridge that Hoover built for his fellow Californians before leaving the presidency. Then looking far ahead the big Golden Gate bridge could be seen and alongside the great Federal prison - Alcatraz.

Reichert lives very near the Golden Gate. His house is built on a high hill perhaps 500 feet up and from his back windows (the big living room is at the end of the house), he looks onto the Golden Gate. It’s one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. The hills in San Francisco are terrific - so steep cable cars are used. The autos are almost end up going up or down the hills. The weather is quite cool here always. Overcoats are worn every day in the year, so you see how my Panama hat blends with the climate. I saw one other straw hat, which gave me some comfort. But I will get back in Honolulu where it is always warm. Thirty miles to the south of ‘Frisco, the climate is entirely different. The fog rolls in every evening about 4:30 coming in over the Golden Gate, which is soon hidden from view.

We went to the fair yesterday. It is perfectly beautiful, particularly the lighting, with so many colors. At one end is a vast radial arrangement of colors. The fair is built on a built in island, which will later be used for an airport. It is reached by ferry which takes about 15 minutes, and at night the view of the lit up fair on one side and the great hills of ‘Frisco on the other is marvelous. Erida made a great fuss and was so sorry you were not along. Reichert seems very happy with his work as well as his marital set up. Mrs. Hilyer’s husband practices here. She has a new baby. Ed knows her well and called her on the phone. Have seen several of the men here from Hopkins.

The boat will soon be leaving. Write me in Honolulu. Am anxious to hear all is O.K. Love to all and to father. How’s the angel and the rascals.


x x x x x x Walter x x x

Has Margaret stopped sucking her thumb yet?

September 5, 1939

It looks like I have suddenly become aged but it isn’t all that, the train is partly responsible. It’s very fast and very furious. We are speeding at a terrific rate for a train, 93 miles per hour. You can interpret that for the angel, who will doubtless say, “No - it’s eight.”

We spent a nice day in Chicago, played golf at Exmoor above Evanston. It was a lovely day. The cold is very much better today. Last night it was not so good, but better than the night before. Everything goes well - no submarines yet. Did you get caught in a big storm? It looked black when we left.

We have just crossed the Mississippi River. Tell Margaret it’s a mile wide - not two of her feet! How are my little girls - they looked very sweet at the station - all four of them. Hope Walter’s engine is working smoothly. Guess we will have to go up in his plane - when Mommy is not so old fashioned. Since you can’t read this, it doesn’t matter what I said. Tell Margaret to remember her bargain. Tell her to give it to Sue if she fails me. She was so sweet at the hospital in her little yellow dress. Have you all been to the Timonium Fair? Wish I could be with you. Not more than three rides on the merry go round. Tell Miss Shauck to send me an air mail to Hawaii with all the news. I wish you were along, but since the kiddies are so irresponsible it’s better that one of us stay home. Even if it is has to be my little girl. I miss you and my little kiddies. I hope you are well. Was happy about the good report on Walter’s eye. I hope they all get primed for a good start at school. Who will rub my head now and when I get back?

Love & kisses to all my Sweethearts - Tell Daddy hello -

Walter x x x x x x x x x x x

September 8, 1939

I hope you are well and that the weather is not too hot. I saw in the paper that the thermometer was 106 in Chicago yesterday, so I presume the hot spell will reach you on the following day. This is a remarkable climate. Every evening is so cold that overcoats are worn every day in the year. Sadie started me off with a straw hat, so you can imagine how that blends with my borrowed overcoat. Every evening it gets foggy. The fog rolls in from the ocean over the Golden Gate, which is now spanned by a tremendous suspension bridge. The other big bridge across Oakland bay is over 5 miles long. Railroad passengers have to take the ferry across from Oakland.

It was a lovely train ride on the fast Streamliner. We crossed the Great Salt Lake toward evening. Its 25 miles straight across the lake - all built in by fill or trestle. You probably remember that I wrote you about this when I went across in 1907.

Yesterday was spent with Reichert at the fair - was beautiful, but not so vast as the New York one. The fair is on a man-made island, which will later be used for an airport. It’s said to be the largest man-made island in the world. The Pan American Clippers use it now and later the land planes will use it, too.

Reichert is very happy here. He has a most beautiful view from his back windows, over the Golden Gate and the Alcatraz prison, which you doubtless know about. It’s where the nation’s most vicious criminals are kept. They can’t escape.

We leave on the boat for a five days trip on the Pacific. The Clipper planes make it over night. If I weren’t so deeply entrenched at the hospital, should love to fly it. Do go over and see my little kiddies - and tell Margaret about the Salt Lake crossing.

Love, Walter x x x x x

x x x x x x x (for Mother)

I hope you are well and that the weather is not too hot.

September 13, 1939

Here we are in the Pacific Ocean in a most lovely spot! The vegetation is so luxuriant, the colored flowers so beautiful. It’s probably the loveliest spot in the nation. Hawaiians are a simple, unsophisticated people who haven’t, or at least don’t seem to have, learned the meanness that shows so quickly in most people. They meet you at the boat with wreaths of flowers to throw over your neck. They call them “lei.” I had six before I reached the hotel, which is the finest hotel in the world. One eats dinner on a big veranda that looks out over the Pacific and one sees the surfboard men and women riding the waves into shore from far out at sea. They stand on the long boards and are carried along at a rapid pace.

The trip of five days on the boat was very smooth, hardly a white cap anywhere, in marked contrast to big troughs in the Atlantic. Hardly anyone was seasick. The weather was much like Florida, after the first day out of ‘Frisco, which was quite cold and foggy. We went out of the Golden Gate Bridge about dusk. Every evening at that time, the fog rolls in so dense you can hardly see the sides of the channel which is spanned by a magnificent long bridge. I remember so well in 1907 when I took the train to Palo Alto 30 miles away to escape the fog and cold and there it is an entirely different climate.

Will mail this soon so it will get away on the Clipper tomorrow and reach you two or three days later. Hope you are well. Show the enclosed picture to Sadie and the kiddies.



x x x x x xx for Mother

September 13, 1939

We had a lovely five-day crossing of the almost perfectly smooth Pacific. No one was seasick. Met great many nice people aboard. Felt pretty sluggish most of the time – my cold flared up again in the cold, raw ‘Frisco weather. It’s now easing off again. Leaving ‘Frisco was a beautiful sight, everyone congregated on the upper deck and paper tapes were passed around by the basketful. The side of the ship was covered with the colors floating downward and those on the dock caught them to hold onto their friends. It was a riot of colors.

Erida was very nice and solicitous of you. Their two little girls were along - 6 and 14. The older one looks like her mother. They have had trouble with her sluggish mentality and her refractory disposition, but she is working out of it now. Reichert plays an important part in this Pan Pacific organization and seems to be very popular. As soon as I arrived. a message reached me that a Dr. Childs was on the telephone. He is an old Missouri classmate. He’s on a neighboring island and wanted me to come over and spend a week with him.

The incoming reception was a beautiful sight. Hula girls and friends brought many “lei” and hung them around your neck. I had half a dozen from Dr. Young’s daughter, another from a young lady doctor from Hopkins, now married and living here. Everyone was snapping photos. The Hawaiians were on the dock singing and the band playing – the routine performance - Japs, Filipinos, Chinese, Hawaiians and Americans formed a conglomerate racial picture.

The weather is lovely. Little showers, but people go on through them and soon dry off. It’s a beautiful big hotel, looks like Boca Raton. Mr. and Mrs. Wouther met me on the way in; also Dr. and Mrs. Goetsch. They have been here a week. Ed and I swam and played golf today. Saw the surfboard riders and canoes shooting the waves - come in very fast. The dining room looks out over the beach.

The Clipper leaves in the morning, so I will get this off in time. Hope you are all well and congenial. Take care of my angel and angels.

Love and kisses,


Tell Father hello!

December 1, 1940

c. Winter 1940

Just had a dip in the Arctic Ocean - Boy, was it cold! - like Maine. And the sun is shining bright and warm and clear. This is the third nice day this winter. It’s really a lovely place - not pretentious, but just right - as I see it now. Tell Margaret there are bushels of shells on the big beach, which is so hard and wide that autos now drive it.

Haven’t seen anyone I know. My berth mate was coming here, too. It’s such a nice train.

Bet Margaret will have a grand time on the train and then here. There is a swing on the beach under an artificial palm tree.

It doesn’t look as though I will need my tuxedo, but I guess you’d better bring the trousers along.

Let me hear about Father. I saw him in the bank yesterday and he seemed quite well. Will write him.

Am on my way out to play golf. There are lots of water holes - too many. It’s the 6th best course in the U.S.

It’s rather nice for a while not to know anyone. Can just read and loaf. Tell my little girls and my big boy I miss them and the big girl and Fagie.

If the weather stays like this, it will be just right. Took an hour’s sunbath this morning.

Saw a little girl just Margaret’s age as I am writing. Love to all my sweethearts and to angel (my little angel). No thumb sucking anymore.

x x x x Walter x x x x