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.
c. December, 1909
Well My Boy,
Mama says my letter is good but you will want some railroad news. Everything is about the same. Runs rather hard to make account of cold in addition they are rather heavy, 9 and 10 cars on 5 and 6 account of so much travel for Christmas. Engine 337 is out of shops, looks good. She has made 2 trips on freight. Will get her as soon as she is broke in good.
I hear that C.P. Curtis has quit. Has got a position with the American R.R. [Kansas City] Employers and Investors Association. It is a scheam got up to use the men to block adverse legislation to R.R. I don't think much of it and I think it will be hard to get the men to take hold of it. I tryed to lay off today to go to K.C. but can't.…
Christmas presents in our family is going to be small this year. I looked all over Parsons and Sedalia for something for you but could not find anything that I thought would suite you. And my Boss won't have anything eather. Wishing you the best Christmas as you can possibly get under the circumstances and may God bless you with a happy and prosperous New Year.
Your affectionate Father
c. late November 1909
My Dear Son,
Always glad to hear from you and that everything is well with you as that is how it is here at present. Thank God for his goodness to us all.…
…Papa has gone at 5:50. He will be home Sunday. He thought sure he would have heard something about your getting to see Dr. Cushing. I believe if I were you I would just speak for yourself not ask Dr. Mall or any one else. I hope you are successful in getting this desired place but if you can't get it, it will be for the best. All things work together for good to them that love God. Trust Him. Cast all your cares upon Him for he careth for you.
Well Thanksgiving is over. Papa was in Parsons. My new neighbor had a few for dinner. She had turkey and a ham. She asked me to come in for dinner, but I did not care to go. She fetched me a plate full of good things and a big piece of turkey. I did not care much for the turkey. It was rather tasteless, more like it was stewed than baked. I kept some for Pa. He did not like it so I finally put it in the fire. She is a pretty good cook and she thinks so too. I can eat anything she cooks. It is clean. She is a great talker. She is an aunt of Harry Phelan's. I like her fine.
Friday Mrs. Weir came down and invited Papa and I for supper. They had a duck. Mr. Weir told her to ask us to help eat the duck. We went. She had a nice supper, then we all went to the tabernacle so I guess I will have to invite them for supper. Mark was off hunting had been gone all day and was coming back on No 4. He had some one with him. She says she never worrys about him and don't even think about him when he is gone. She went off with us to the meeting, never thought I suppose anything about him. I don't believe I could have been so composed. I guess when you have only one you are more anxious.
Papa was telling me that Weir was telling some man in Parsons that Papa has one of the finest sons in this country. He said he wished his son would be half as thoughtful to his mother as you were to yours. He would be proud. He says he told his wife she was not raising Mark right and she would have to do different when she asked Mark to do anything. She would want it done right away so he told her when she asked him to do anything to not hurry him as she did not know what was in his mind, what he was thinking about and to give him time. So she is doing Mr. Weir's way now and he says Mark is a far better boy (I expect if she waits very long to get Marks mind empty he'll be gone).
I went with Mrs. Minnier to hear Rev. Jacoby give his life experience. He was pretty tough and rough, drunkard, gambler and everything that was bad. His father ran him away from home. He goes preaching with Dr. Lorey now. There is wonderful power in the blood to raise a man from the lowest depths of sin till the place he now occupies.
I took your stick pin to Ormands. He gave me a check for it. Have you been able to get one you liked.
I did not want you to get a black suit. I am glad you got a rough kind. I always liked rough goods. You ought to look well in it. I am sorry I cut that piece out of your pants. I was sorry after I did it, but I never thought you would have to have them let out. It probably won't show with your coat on. You can wear them on the bad days.
Do you ever hear from Miss Stanley. I hardly know what you mean when you say my mind will be free about any such possibility (regard to Polly getting married). Why my mind has always been free since that time you went to Columbia, when you told me it was a story on Polly's side. You were young then and I did not want anything to come between you and a bright future but I would regret it very much if I thought I had done anything to put between you and the girl you loved, even Polly. Of course any objections I would have it would be for your sake. But when it comes to real love just marry the girl you want, no matter what father or mother says.
Mrs. B. says Foraker can hardly wait from morning till night to see Polly. Now if you were that far gone you would not have so much mind for your work. Papa said the other day I would hate to see my boy tied to Polly. I think she will be lazy. When he read your letter yesterday tell Walter he is not too late for Polly yet.…
Your loving Mother
c. December, 1909
My Dear Boy,
…Walter, I feel rather sorry to think that the clerk or registrar you speak of at Johns Hopkins got in trouble account of you. If I understood it right he told you for your advantage about your grades so you could have it remided did he not. If he did I would help him to get out of his trouble if I was in your place.
Well I trust you get what you desire in working for Dr. Cushing. It would be to bad if you missed it seeing you enjoy it so well. At the same time we can't all have all we want. Some of us must take what we can get and if unsuccessful in getting what we want we must try and get the next best thing. I think we value a good thing more if it has been hard to get. The old saying come easy go easy is often the case. I feel satisfied that you will get what you desire for I believe you will dig hard to get it. Then you can feel proud over it for you will have justly earned it.
Did we understand in your last letter right. We concluded that you had been teaching surgery in Dr. Cushing's class. If so that looks good. Well I must close as I have filled 2 sheets, so goodbye and God bless the best boy on Earth which is my boy.
Your affectionate Father
c. December 1909
My Dear Son,
…Well Papa has just gone. I must put you on to his game. He went up town. I told him to fetch a tablet so he brought a little one and wrote you two sheets. He says Walter will think I wrote him a lot this time, two sheets. I got a little tablet so he will think I did well. So you can tell him about it. He was saying the other day he believed he had a hook worm. I told him I believe he had too as he knew how to hook the money in.…
I thought you told me in your last letter you did not want a box. I did not think you would care for it as you were getting such good meals. I think you had better eat fresh meals in place of this stale food as it gets pretty old by the time you get it. But Pa says you shall have it. He says he hated to let Xmas go past without sending you something. He says I have been looking in all the jewelry stores for something and did not know what to get him. I said I didn't feel anything about not sending him anything as I don't think he needs anything. I didn't want you to send us anything as we don't need anything and it is only a waste of money to send it.
Mrs. B. came down Friday evening had supper. She said they had a letter from you but did not seem elated over it. (What did you say.)
She said Foraker did not have much fever now. Getting along fine. He weighed 115 lbs when he got out of bed. He has gained about 10 since then. He wants to go right out to Broadway when he leaves the hospital. The mother thinks they ought to wait while Polly says she will have to go to work if she don't get married right away.
They want to live at Broadway with Mrs. B. but Stanley told her to not let them, to make them go to themselves as she could not put up with Foraker's attention to Polly. She says sometimes Foraker says little things that makes Polly mad. She said she was mad one night and said she had a good mind to throw his ring at him and give him up. She thinks Polly likes him because of him being such a good Christian.
Jim Dow called B.'s up, wanted to know where Polly was. He went downtown after her.… She told him she was as good as married. So she went to Foraker and told him about Jim, how he thought she was the only girl and Foraker said he doesn't love you as well as I do. She said you were so slow last summer when she went riding with Jim and could not see anything and Foraker cried. Next morning Stanley went to see Foraker and he said Polly doesn't think I love her as much as Dow does and he cried. (I don't think Dow ever made much love to her but she was trying to be mean with F.) She said Dow looked fine weighed 210.
Mrs. B. said Polly went to a funeral in the country with their minister. He is a widow and she had a fine time. She believed she could win the heart of the preacher. The preacher told Foraker he was getting the choice of the Congregation.
Another pretty good thing I must tell you she said when F. could sit up they pinned him in blankets. She said he looked awful and big shoes on his feet. Polly kept hinting about getting a bathrobe for him. The mother knew it would come out of her pocket, so she thought she would get it and a pair of slippers and get the honor herself. So she paid $2 for slippers and $5 for the bathrobe and gave them to him. He was tickled about them. She told Stanley what she paid and he said, Ann bought him a dollar blanket (cotton) and made him one so when Xmas came Foraker bought a cut glass dish and a box of chocolate for Polly. (Sent a nigger to get them) Polly eat all the candies before she came home and showed the mother the dish, and she said what did he send me, nothing. She was terrible mad raged and foamed all day and night. Stanley and Ann came up. Still she called him and all of them everything. She said after her buying him $7 worth that he could not buy her a handkerchief. She said she never was so crushed in her life. The funny part Polly eat all the candies before she got home (if that had been you you would have been afraid to eat one for fear we did not get our share). She told Polly she did not think she could ever like him (I'll bet Foraker will have a hot time of it with those two women. I don't think Polly cares very much for him).…
They were at Gornals one night and Gornal said Polly I would not marry an American. Why don't you marry an English man. She said who would I marry. He said Walter Dandy. She said Walter would not have me. He will be looking out for some moneyed lady. Mrs. Gornal said like Daisy Washington. She is going to be a moneyed lady some of these days. She said he used to send her cards. Mrs. B. said he had quit sending cards to girls and Mrs. Gornal says and I believe to married women too. He hasn't sent me any this Xmas. Mrs. B. said she was mad leaving you to Daisy (I just laughed). Mrs. B. seemed very anxious to know what you were going to do when you got through. More anxious than usual to hear about you.
I just heard that Mrs. Bremer's boy has pneumonia fever. I am just sitting at my little heater. It keeps this place fine and warm. We are very comfortable here.… Glad you have such a good boarding place. I am glad you are not worrying about grades or anything else. Goodbye and God bless you and give you the desires of your heart if it is for your good and his glory.
Your loving Mother
c. Winter 1909
My Dear Boy,
…Well I just come back from downtown about your watch etc. and I confess I don't know what to do. I spoke to Cordis Mr. Bards Jewler. He as always been very candid. And I told him about your watch playing out. He says I aught to get you a nice Howard 16 size. And he showed them to me. They are very nice. Made in Boston by the Walton [Waltham] Watch Co.
He says this one of yours is to large for Professional life, and to high grade movement. He said you should not have one over 17 jeweled, as in your business you may change from place to place and 23 jewelled movement easy gets aut of order unless put in the hands of competent jewelers and their seems to be very few of them. Besides they cost $1.00 more to clean them and are realy no better time keepers. I told him you liked this watch and had your name in it. He said that was another consideration. And I said he as got a good gold case for 18 size movement. What could he do with it. He says I don't know how to advise on that. I realy thought you would like the 16 size better except for this being a present for glory attained by you. Therefore I don't know what to do.
You might look at the different watches in Baltimore and see what you think about them. You might be able to trade yours in to good advantage, or you might write and ask Bard about it. If you like the 16 size best, this will do me or I will exchange with you when I get through the railroad. I think you had better buy the watch yourself. And if it takes you to long in makeing the trade get your own Ingersol for the time being.… Some of them keep good time or you could consult "Seers and Roebucks" catalogues after finding aut the prices from Baltimore jewlers. Just do what you think best. I will furnish legal tender.…
Your affectionate Father
December 6, 1909
Well My Boy,
…If there is one thing above another that I liked to hear was that we had been the means of placing you in a institution wheir you could be your own boss. For I can't think of liberty and freedom and at the same time have a boss. I am like you, as I look back I can not see wheir I could have done better at least as far as progress in my occupation is concerned.
Well I must tell you that although I have been turned down in getting 9 and 10 so far, I have not quit trying. You know the "Rubicon must be crossed" and I am going to cross it or know the reasons why. I shall take the case to the grand cheif or perhaps to the convention which will be the limit I can go.
We have just had an election of officers for the Brotherhood. I have not heard the results. The firemen have been fighting on practicaly the same thing that I am fighting for. They gained one point but lost the other. They got 2 men for passengers. Then they claimed right to prefered runs because of milage on their respective dist. The same as I claim 9 and 10 on, they got beat on this claim. They had one of their grand officers here. He ruled against them. The schedule reads, "The right and prefference to regular runs shall be governed by seniority and capacity (or ability) in regular road service on their respective dist. to which they belong." The schedule says the first dist. is from St. Louis to New Franklin. The 2nd dist. from Sedalia to Hanibull and the 3rd dist. from Sedalia to Parsons. The 3rd dist. men want seniority rights on 2 dists. Franklin to Parsons. I claim it on respective dists. and me being the oldest on the 2nd dist. that signed or claimed it during the time of 30 days that it was open I claim right to it.
Except for getting more nights to sleep I don't like it any better. They are longer on the road. They allways have to take siding for us, but have smaller trains to handle, but ours is better than it was.
Goodbye and God bless you.
Your affectionate Father
December 20, 1909
Well My Dear Boy,
…Sorry you take reverces so hard. You remember about crossing the Rubicon. You have a long time to live and you will have many to cross and if you never get them worse than this you will do well.
I think now of Benjamin Disraeli who became the Prime Minister of England. He was once speaking at the street corner of one of Londons streets and the crowds hised him. He did not get discouraged but defied them and told them that the world would have to listen to him someday and it did.
Their are very few men of importance that can go through life without being imposed on and I expect you to get it like the rest. It reminds me of one time you came home from school when you was quite small and one of the teachers had not graded you as you thought she should. And you was vexed. And afterwards you was defient and said with rage in your little face I can beat her. So you had better repeat the dose in this case. And if you feel that the professor done you wrong try and explain the things to him. It may be his oversight.
In the little case of mine with awer Chairman about giving me 9 and 10 etc., he turned me down. I was vexed. I showed letter to Walter Letts.… He said we could not do anything but grin and bear it and Mama said I used to tell you that the Rubicon must be crossed and she made fun of me because I took it so hard. But she sympathises with you. So you have one freind at least and I could name another that will never go back on you. But your Papa had to go it alone and I got my English and Mama's Irish up and I wrote him a schorcher and it made him take notice and he has got them working on my ideas. And I am optimist enough to believe that victory will crown my efforts.
So don't be discouraged my boy. If you can't get them one way try them some other and if he won't change his decree on your first years grades show him by your works the next year what you can do. We used to sing a song when I was a boy. It run like this: Remember the grass that is troden under foot, give it time, give it time, it will rise again. You have got good health, have demonstrated good mind in the past. And your father and mother will always back you to their limit. And while it is nice to see good grades in your school days and we have seen them and satisfied with them, yet these are only small tokens of what we expect.… For I think the fruit is far ahead of the blossom.
You have often told us you would not try for grades any more. And of course we did not expect perfection of you all the time. You will have to learn the lesson I learned in my school days. Of course I did not go as long as you have done and you may have learnt better lessons. But mine was good. Just the same it read if at first you don't succeed try again. Then try again and in addition I would suggest that you would set your face like flint and defy them who has unjustly dealt with you and tell them to do the worst they can to you and still you will show them that you are their peer and that you will scatter them like the sun drives away the mists.
I had better close for fear I will want to come fight some of your teachers.…
Your affectionate Father
December 20, 1909
My Dear Son,
…I am not as sorry about your grades as I am to hear of your being so very much disappointed. It doesn't make any difference about your grades. Nothing on earth would make me feel any different about you. I believe and always will that you are the smartest student at Hopkins. It is not you that has failed in making good grades, it is the man that has the say over them and they are not particular who they give them too. It is the man that will count in future, not grades. In a few months they will all be forgotten, but the man with the ability will shine forth as the Sun for all time to come. These examinations won't count for much in your future life. You have often said only a few weeks and you had forgotten everything about them.…
You surely have had a bright career. All the honors everywhere. I think more of you now than ever I have done in my life (in your ability). These low grades don't amount to anything. In fact I have not been thinking about grades. I have been thinking more about the time when you get through how you would show them and me one of the greatest and smartest doctors in the U.S.
I want you to be sure and not worry over such a very small thing. You are just as smart as if you had ranked one. You can't depend on man to do a fair thing. You did not want a place at Hopkins except Dr. Cushings, so your grades can't deprive you of much, except you worry over them and make yourself sick. And that you can not afford to do. That is all that is worrying me now, for fear you will worry or work too hard and loose some of that flesh that I put on. You have often said you would not work anymore for grades. They are not worth working for.… Just do the best you can and that is quite enough. I believe you will see it is all for the best, so be sure and take care of your health, no matter about grades.
I think grades are all right for boys, but I think men like you students ought not to have grades. It is a waste of time and energy that ought to be occupied at something better. I think that was a good grade but of course nothing like you had at Columbia. We are not thinking anything about it. It is all right whatever way they grade you. It is the man we are looking at and no one can spoil that. He can spoil your grades, but never mind, that is a very small matter. I just wished I was near so as I could put my arms around you and comfort you like I did when you were a boy and hated to loose an honor.
It is pretty near Xmas. I wish my dear boy could be here with us. I think very little about Xmas. It was different when you were here, looked forward to the time to surprise you with several little things.
I bought Papa a pair of slippers like yours. He likes them better than any he ever had, and he got me a pair. I don't think I will send a box as a little one would not hold enough to do any good. Pie and cake and chicken would take a big box, and you will be getting good meals that will be better for you.
I have not seen any of B.'s nor heard how Foraker was since last I wrote to you.
The weather is cold and crisp here. I think you ought to put your flannels on. Try and get some exercise this Xmas.
Well I hope you will have better news next time. I will close now by wishing you a very happy Xmas and bright New Year.
Your loving Mother
c. January 1910
My Dear Son,
…Pleased to hear you are feeling so well. You must be careful of your health above everything in your busy life. Seems to me you are working very hard. More so than ever before. I have confidence in you that you won't over tax your health and strength. You are still holding your own in weight. Last week you said you were 162, this week 160. How is that. Wallie Jakeman asked Papa how you were and if you were still gaining. Papa said yes you were 162 now. He said that was going some.
Papa's just gone, it was pay day today. He was agreeably surprised it was over $160. He won't know very much about changing runs till he hears from the Chairman in Texas. It is out of their hands here, so everything is at a standstill.…
He forgot to tell you that they have fired Charlie Green for running through a railroad gate. Only broke the gate, that was all the damage he done. Weir is laying off with a bad back, has only worked a couple of trips this month and Challacomb is laying off with a bad stomach. He is now doctoring with Dr. Wood. He pumps his stomach out (or I should say what is in it) every morning to see if it was cancer or tumor, but he says there is nothing of this there.…
Your loving Mother
c. January, 1910
My Dear Son,
…I thought you would probably have seen in the paper where Polly B. had got married, but if you didn't get the paper regular you may not know about it. Well she got married last Wednesday night or a week ago tomorrow night at Smith & Cotton's home. Foraker had only been dressed 10 days after getting out of bed when he got married. I was very much surprised at Polly marrying till he had got well and strong. She must have been very anxious when she would marry what you might call a sick man.
The mother would have liked they had waited till he had got properly well and at work but I guess Polly could not wait any longer. The mother acted crazy when Polly was leaving to get married. She screamed and hollered Robert, he is taking Polly away. Foraker came in a carriage for her. When he went to her to bid her goodbye she says go away from me. But she finally said goodbye. She would not let them come home so they went to the Huckins Hotel. She did not see them get married.
I think there was a lot of put on with her foolishness. Crazy work I call it for I believe she wanted Polly to get married. I believe she had some selfish motives for the way she has done, liking to make people believe she was not pushing Polly out and probably to make Foraker believe he was getting somebody that was hard to get. She is a peculiar woman. I heard she was sick and had a doctor so I went there Sunday and saw the bride and groom and all was so happy as could be and the old lady as happy any of them. She sent for them to come home and gave them the key to the house and told them as long as she had a house they had a shelter. So you see there was something queer about her anger. Such a big change in such a short time.
Stanley told her not to let them live with her. He said if he came to Sedalia Ann might think she had just as good a right to live there as Polly and she could not do it. I believe that is just what Stanley would have done if he came here.
When I was there on Sunday, Polly could not keep her hands off Foraker, kissing and putting her arms around him. She was tickled she was married. She did not seem to give the man any peace. Oliver put some coal in. Oliver help with supper and fetch water in. The man needed rest for he was not strong. She said he got up and made the fire and helped to get breakfast.
Polly has got very beautiful clothes the mother bought her. She showed me her white satin dress. Elegant indeed. I expect the president's daughter hasn't any nicer. Polly is far from being a nice modest girl. When she put her tea jacket on to get supper I thought she looked common class of a girl. She never sent me word she was married.… She sent Mrs. Gornal a card to say she was married and she phoned to Annie Craven and Mrs. Jakemen to tell them. I was not going to say anything about it to her but she wanted to know how I knew. I said you did not tell me. You sent a card to Mr. G. and phoned to the others. I said I had thought of not giving you anything. I just gave her some knives and forks. We did intend to give her large and small spoons as well but I told Papa knives and forks were enough and he thought so too. She said she wrote to Mrs. Gornal so as she would go and stay with her mother.…
Well I am glad for your sake that you have no love affair, that your mind is free to scale the heights of fame. And when you can in comfort settle down and keep in comfort the one you love I would like to see you married and enjoy home comforts. I would be selfish to say don't get married, or to advise anything that would deprive you of love and comfort which only a wife can give in that sphere. Your love for your father and mother would not be any less nor our love for you. I would be happy in your happiness, but we did want you to have no entanglements till you were through for your own sake. But when you get to the point of looking for a partner you must not be too exacting or looking for perfection for that is not to be found in our race but you will find some that is not all perfection and will make you a good wife and a happy home.
I just heard yesterday that poor Mrs. Rose has been sick again takeing treatments again. They thought they would have to operate on her again and she has lost the sight of one eye and the other is very weak. Poor thing. She has a hard time of it (Opal called and told me).
Gornal came down for his Xmas treat, wine and cakes. It was an awful bad day, sleet and rain, but Gornal couldn't miss his treat.
Let us know about your work in surgery, what operations you have made. It is a pity you could not find out whether Dr. Cushing wanted you before you go for those examinations. Was it Cushing told you to instruct that class.
I think you ought to put your flannels on. Mamie Knaus got married. Rudolph Ramhow got hurt at the shop, his arm fractured and face cut, 16 stiches had to be taken in it.…
Your loving Mother