VERDUGO VIEWS:Remembering one of the area's hospitals

Sid Gordon's mother, Rosaline, worked at Charles B. Behrens Memorial Hospital when he was young. Now he has become curious about the hospital, which was the precursor to Verdugo Hills Hospital.

"My mother was a nurse and she always talked about work, but I was a kid then and didn't pay attention," said Gordon, who was a student at Clark Junior High School at the time.

"She worked there after we came to California in 1960," he said. "We lived in La Crescenta, and she drove down to the hospital every day. My sister Randi was born there in 1962."

Behrens has its roots in Seventh-day Adventist medical history.

In 1905, the Adventists, noting that the area only had one doctor, purchased the Glendale Hotel and converted it into a hospital, bringing an influx of doctors into the city. By the 1920s, Glendale was a medical center for the entire San Fernando Valley, according to Robert Marsh, M.D., who compiled a history of Behrens.

One new facility was the 30-bed Glendale Research Hospital on Piedmont Avenue. It was purchased in 1945 by Dr. George Johnstone, then widely known for his "radical" surgery for acute gallbladder problems. Later, Marsh wrote, Johnstone's method became standard practice.

Johnstone intended to name his new hospital for his mother, but, after his partner, Dr. Charles B. Behrens, was accidentally shot on a hunting trip and bled to death, Johnstone chose to honor him instead. It grew rapidly and new physicians such as Marsh practiced there briefly, as did Jacob Janzen and Harry Prout.

Glendale resident Phyllis Matlick Kenney recalled the years that her mother, Ethel Matlick, worked at Behrens. Matlick began working nights around 1945.

"She worked 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. five days a week at the front desk," Kenney said. "Her job was to post all the charges so each account was up-to-date when patients checked out. In those days, they had to be balanced to the penny and sometimes it would take a long time to find the error."

Matlick lived at 1467 E. Wilson at the time, but later moved to Naranja Drive.

"If she didn't have a ride, she would walk to work carrying a butcher knife for protection," Kenney said.

"Dr. Johnstone opened her desk one day and laughed when he found several knives. Dorothea Farmer was in charge of nurses at night and sometimes picked her up."

Kenney also worked at Behrens for awhile.

Her husband had been released from the Air Force after flying B-24 bombers over Germany during World War II.

"We bought a little house in North Hollywood, and he worked nights as a desk clerk at the Halifax Hotel while attending UCLA in the daytime," Kenney said.

"With two small children, it helped the loneliness if mother watched the kids while I worked at Behrens on the weekends. My younger sister, Dorothy Matlick Caruso, also worked there as a teenager as she wanted to be a doctor. Uncle George, as she called him, would let her scrub in and watch surgeries. She, too, did the bookkeeping."

The hospital prospered, but gradually problems arose. Johnstone turned the hospital into a nonprofit, diverting funds to charities and family, according to Marsh's history.

A board of directors took control under chairman Dr. Alonzo Neufeld and explored various options, including moving the entire staff to Crescenta Valley, which had no hospital.

In 1972, patients and nurses were transferred by ambulance to the new 150-bed, seven-story Verdugo Hills Hospital with Dr. John W. Matson as chief of staff. The old hospital on Piedmont was sold to condominium developers.

Dr. Johnstone died in 1974 at the age of 80.

 

 

  • KATHERINE YAMADA is a Glendale resident and historian. To contact her, call features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale's history visit the Glendale Historical Society's Web page: www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or visit the Special Collections Room at Central (open by appointment only).
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    READERS WRITE

     

    Phyllis Hudson Marks, who was the Glendale News-Press associate woman's editor in the 1950s, wrote about Jeannette Briggs Mazurki.

    "In the 100th anniversary issue in May, 2005, there was a picture of Carroll Parcher and Betty Preston on page 44. Jeannette was the anonymous third person."

    Marks enclosed an article about Mazurki, written 40 years after the News-Press hired her as a "copy girl" in 1941.

    The News-Press became the first daily in the country to hire a woman as a "copy boy."

    "Young men went off to war and newspapers learned that young women did every bit as well as their male counterparts," according to the article. Mazurki made the front page of newspapers around the nation and was also written up in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

     

     


     

     

  • If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o News-Press, 111 W. Wilson Ave., Suite 200, Glendale, CA 91203. Please include your name, address and phone number.
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