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.

December 1, 1909

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

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 1, 1909

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

c. December, 1909

My Dear Son,

…Polly is with him most of the time. She says he looks awful thin. He says he is going out to 1029 when he gets well. She says the wedding will be quieter than ever.

Stanley is not doing much and Ann had a letter from her home from her sister wanting her to come there and keep house for her father. When she went to see her sister she told her if she would go and live with her husband (he is a missionary in China) she would go and keep the home and Stanley start practicing there. But Stanley don't want to leave Cole Camp. But Ann says she will surely go if they go to China. (So you see Ann is acting good deal like a mother over Stanley. Stanley wants to stay among the poor ignorant class).…

Mrs. B. wanted to see Papa about renewing the note on her house that Peterson bought. He owes $1000 on it. She says he wanted to pay $500 on it, but she was afraid if he did the kids would get it. She believes Polly would use all she had on dresses if she could get it. She will make Foraker's money fly I think.…

Pa wants me to go to Kansas City meetings this Xmas.

I had a letter from my sister Mrs. Williamson. They have sold their farm and is now going to live on the money. She said Arthur's daughter Maggie, you saw the pictures when at home, has got a position teaching. Gets £16. She says Arthur is very proud of her. You thought she was a nice looking little girl. I am very glad to hear of her doing so well.

Not be long till Xmas. Wish you could come home and eat turkey at home. They are very high this year.

You say you could make $9000 a year if you wanted to make money. Papa and I is very anxious to know how you could get it so don't forget to tell us. If you want to go to Cleveland, Ohio, or any place else don't let what it takes be any consideration nor don't deny yourself anything you need.

I am glad you like your suit so well. Would like to see you in it. Don't be afraid to wear it.… You have to dress nice where you are and we want you to look nice.…

Your loving Mother


December 1, 1909

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

c. December 1909

My Dear Son,

I haven't seen Mrs. B. since last week, but I saw in the paper where Foraker was some better. Gornal was down with some gossip. He said he would not lay off to go to a wedding like Polly's, a dry wedding. It would be all over in two minutes. He said Mrs. B. said she was going to take us to an hotel and give us dinner there. He says Polly is wearing the clothes she got for the wedding. He knows all about what her clothes cost. Mrs. B. said Foraker just wanted to get married to dress Polly fine to show her off. He says Polly is looking old and wrinkled and thin. Gornal is a great old gossip (long time till Pa would go there and talk like that). He says Mrs. B. is just tickled about the wedding. She says they can have the house and a horse and buggy for Foraker.… She was mean to talk about Foraker like she used to do. She just wanted to let us see that she was not roping him in as she called it.

They had a letter from Stanleys wife. She said Stanley was not feeling very well and was worring a good deal. She thought it was over Polly (I thought it was over his financial condition. He is going to stay at Cole Camp till he makes some money).…

Your loving Mother


December 1, 1909

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

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


December 1, 1909

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

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


December 6, 1909

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

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

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

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

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

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


January 1, 1910

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

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


January 1, 1910

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

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


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