October 31, 1957 – Tragic Power Failure at Minnesota Hospital Spurs Life-Saving Invention

Dr. Walter Lillehei and young patient with portable, battery-powered pacemaker invented by Medtronic’s Earl Bakken. Photo: University of Minnesota Archives

On October 31, 1957 – Halloween! – a rolling blackout across parts of Minnesota and western Wisconsin left Minneapolis’ University of Minnesota Hospital without power for three hours.  The hospital never anticipated such a dire emergency; two separate power plants provided electricity for the facility and it seemed unlikely that both sources could fail at the same time.  One of the most tragic consequences of the hospital’s power loss was the death of a young post-heart surgery patient, whose life was being sustained by an externally-powered heart pacemaker.

When the blackout hit, all the children in the cardiac recovery unit – whose large, cart-borne pacemakers were plugged into wall sockets  – were immediately at great risk.  The children in the unit were temporarily dependent on pacemakers as part of University of Minnesota heart surgeon Dr. C. Walter Lillehei’s new life-saving efforts to surgically treat children affected by blue baby syndrome.  While police officers parked their cruisers outside hospital windows, aiming their headlights inward to provide light, doctors scrambled to administer medication that would hopefully substitute for the inoperative pacemakers.  Their efforts were successful for all but one of the fragile patients.  The trauma of the baby’s death spurred Dr. Lillehei to consult with Earl Bakken, electrical engineer and founder of Medtronic, the then-fledgling medical device development company.  Lillehei asked Bakken, who was still running Medtronic out of his garage, if he could design a portable pacemaker that ran on a battery.  Bakken went to work.

Earl Bakken. Photo: (c) 2009 IEEE

His first design, based on a six volt automobile battery, produced more power than needed.  Then, Bakken remembered a recent article in Popular Electronics about a new metronome circuit and had a brain flash – “a metronome has the same rates as heart rates,” he realized.  The metronome circuit also had a size advantage – it could fit in a box about the size of a paperback book, and sit in bed beside the patient.

Bakken created a prototype and tested in on a dog in the hospital’s laboratory.  It worked.  Bakken headed back to the garage to make another unit for human patients.  When he returned to the hospital the next day, his first unit was already in use in the surgery recovery room.  “There was a child in there with this pacemaker connected to him . . . What a great feeling that is to see here’s something we made with our own hands keeping this child alive, ” he said.  Concerned that the initial prototype wasn’t really ready for the critical job of supporting human life, he asked Dr. Lillehei why he hadn’t waited for Bakken’s more carefully constructed second unit.  According to Bakken, Lillehei replied, “Well as long as this battery-operated pacemaker was available he wasn’t going to risk losing another child to a power failure.”

Bakken was modest about his new invention, claiming that the rapid advances in heart surgery in the 1950’s would inevitably have led to the portable pacemaker’s development.  He acknowledged that the Halloween blackout had highlighted the urgency of creating such a device.  Out of tragedy, and thanks to Dr. Lillehei and Earl Bakken, heart surgery patients young and old now stood a better chance of surviving to lead long, productive, and healthy lives.

On the Road: 1957 Jeep FC-150 Wrecker

Jeep FC-150 Wrecker. Photo: Fourwheeler Network.

Jeep FC-150 Wrecker. Photo: Fourwheeler Network.

How cute is this mini-tow truck?!

The 1957 Jeep FC-150 was one of the first light-duty forward control (FC) trucks manufactured in the United States. “Forward control” means that the cab sits all the way up front, over the engine. At only 147″ in length, and 71″ in width, this FC-150 shares the same wheelbase as the classic Jeep CJ-5 and is only ten inches longer. Tiny! Jeep sold the FC-150 in several body styles: pickup; cab and chassis; stakebed (what I think of as a panel truck); stripped chassis (just a frame and engine); and flat-faced cowl (stripped chassis plus front fenders and hood, ready to be customized into a school bus or special delivery van). The cab came in Standard or Deluxe versions. Deluxe treated the driver to dual sun visors, dual armrests, rear quarter windows, a better padded seat, and other fancy touches.  A heater and defroster were extra! And no radio! There were several engine sizes to choose from. This FC-150 is powered by the smaller, 134 I4 four-cylinder, which delivered about 75 hp to haul loads up to 1730 lbs in a tight 18′ turning circle. Jeep FC models were in production from 1956 to 1964 and went through several upgrades and revamps. When the first models rolled out, Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated quipped, “It’s rugged as an Olympic weight-lifter and as able as a three-armed Irishman in a bar fight.”

This particular FC-150 has an amazing story. Look close at those tires. They are original! FC collector and expert Craig Brockhaus found this little wrecker in 1989 just miles from his home in Missouri. Jim Allen at Fourwheeler Network reports that the wrecker

“was only showing 2,817 miles but had been sitting a very long time. It started life as a service station truck in Des Peres, Missouri, and the original owner installed a dealer-accessory dual-rear-wheel kit as well as a Towboy wrecker. He didn’t use the truck very long. In the mid-’60s, the land upon which his service station was built was purchased to build a mall. The truck went to his home and sat for about 25 years before Craig came along. The truck now has 2,892 miles on it.”

Watson Towboy Ad. Image: The FC Connection.

Watson Towboy Ad. Image: The FC Connection.

So, what’s a Towboy, you ask? Craig Brockhaus explains on his website, The FC Connection.

“The Watson ‘Towboy’ is a bolt-in, hand crank wrecker unit that was produced to help garage owners move vehicles easily around the shop without tying up the big wrecker that was used mainly for emergency vehicle retrieval. The Towboy unit was easily installed or removed in about 5 minutes from any vehicle and proved invaluable to many an automotive shop owner.”

More pictures of this great little slice of 1957 Americana can be viewed using the Fourwheeler or FC Connection links. Check out the fully restored interior, which also includes the original seats!

Where Were They Then? – Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee at Newsweek's Washington bureau, late 1950s. Photo: Mike Lien, The New York Times-Redux

Ben Bradlee at Newsweek’s Washington bureau, late 1950s. Photo: Mike Lien, The New York Times-Redux

Benjamin Crowninshield “Ben” Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post, was a towering figure in American journalism with a rich family history (literally and figuratively) and a broad experience of life and the world. His family relations and close friendships included Old World royalty and New World privilege. He moved among people who made the news and then made sure they were the news. He is best known for giving Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein free rein to follow the slim story of the Watergate Apartments break-in to its damning conclusion, ultimately bringing down President Richard M. Nixon and radically remaking the journalism profession for all who followed. Bradlee not only served his country by pursuing the truth, he also served in the Pacific during World War II as an naval intelligence officer. He participated in numerous operations including the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle ever fought. After the war, Bradlee immediately started on his career as a reporter for the New Hampshire Sunday News, Newsweek, and the Washington Post.

Where was Ben in 1957? Through a connection at the Post, Bradlee had been assigned to the United States French embassy in 1951 as a press attaché. There he joined the staff of the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange (USIE), which produced Pro-American films, magazines, research, speeches, and news items for use by the CIA throughout Europe (propaganda, if you like). Bradlee’s official role with USIE ended in 1953 and he began reporting for Newsweek in 1954.

In 1956, Ben interviewed members of the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), or National Liberation Front of Algeria. The FLN was a socialist political party with a revolutionary guerilla arm fighting to liberate colonial Algeria from control by France. The war of liberation lasted from 1954 until 1962, when the French government agreed to a cease-fire, Algerian independence, and mutual cooperation between the two countries.

As a  American resident of France, working as a foreign correspondent, Bradlee’s contact with Algerian forces was not looked upon favorably by the French authorities. His background in intelligence raised red flags – was he really just a reporter for Newsweek, or was something else going on? A biographer of Post publisher Katharine Graham, Deborah Davis, later described Bradlee’s actions in 1956 as having “all the earmarks of an intelligence operation.” “I flew back to Paris, and next morning went to see Ambassador Dillon to let him know what I had been up to in Algeria,” Bradlee wrote in The Good Life: Newspapers and Other Adventures, his 1995 memoir. “When I got back to my office on the Rue de Berri in a taxi, I was suddenly surrounded by cops and black Citroens. Two cops got me by the elbows, lifting me off the pavement, and asked me to come along with them.”

Bradlee’s recent marriage to Antoinette Pinchot added to the suspicion. Toni was closely tied to two CIA figures in France – her brother-in-law Cord Meyer, and James Jesus Angleton, the husband of a good friend. Ben and Toni’s circle of connections seemed to indicate that Bradlee might have been doing more with the FLN than taking notes.

Consequently, Bradlee was no longer welcome in France. He returned to Washington in 1957 and continued working at Newsweek. Ben and Toni bought a house in the prestigious Washington, DC suburb of Georgetown. Very soon after, a new power couple moved in down the street: Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline. “I was on a roll being in the right place at the right time, a luck that stayed with me,” Bradlee wrote in The Good Life. For Bradlee, the year 1957 was the year he put his career on a fast track. Building an intimate friendship with future-President Kennedy would ultimately boost Ben’s professional credentials and provide insights and access into the halls of government.

Four years later, Newsweek was bought by the Washington Post. Bradlee played an instrumental role in the acquisition. Now at the Post, Ben moved up the ladder to become “the most lauded and influential American journalist of his era.”

1957 Pantry – Lipton Onion Soup Mix

Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix advertised in the June 1957 issue of ? Photo: Pinterest by beachgal

Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix advertised in the June 1957 issue of ? Photo: Pinterest by beachgal

In 1957, almost every pantry surely stocked a supply of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. The familiar envelopes filled with powdered ingredients came in very handy for all kinds of meal preparations.

The Thomas J. Lipton Company, born in 1893 as a tea-packing concern, branched out into soup mixes in 1941. Like so many of the new food products in the 1950s, Lipton soup mixes were convenience foods, labor- and time-saving concoctions that were seen as an improvement over old, “from-scratch” cooking methods. Food technology was a science of progress and processed foods were the wave of the future.

According to traveling food culturists Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the Roadfood books, articles, and website, Lipton introduced their onion soup mix in 1952. Two years later, a mystery housewife from Southern California (was she scrambling to serve last-minute guests?) grabbed an envelope of onion soup mix and a tub of sour cream. Stirred and plated with crunchy goodies like potato chips, or kissing-cousin Fritos, and presto-mixo, California Dip was born! The chip-n-dip offering worked perfectly for a cocktail crowd. No plates or utensils. Drink in one hand, leaving the other free to scoop and munch.

The other star pairing for Lipton’s onion soup mix was very likely all-American beef. Memories of meatloaf and pot roast come immediately to mind. Cooks were quick to find other uses for the handy pantry staple. By the mid-1990s, the Sterns report, Americans were ripping open packets of onion soup mix at a rate of a quarter-million per day.

Just what are the ingredients in Lipton Onion Soup Mix? The envelope, please!

Nutrition: Per 1 oz. serving: 20 calories, 0 g fat, 610 mg sodium
Ingredients: Dehydrated onions, salt, cornstarch, onion powder, sugar, autolyzed yeast extract (barley), caramel color, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, monosodium glutamate, dehydrated corn syrup, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, sulfur dioxide (to protect quality)

Vintage 1957 – Church Membership Growing

Harrisena Community Church, Queensbury, New York, 1957. Photo: Harrisena Community Church

Harrisena Community Church, Queensbury, New York, 1957. Photo: Harrisena Community Church

On this autumn Sunday in 1950s America, church attendance was increasing steadily. The newly-published 1958 Yearbook of American Churches presented the most recent church membership statistics for the major faith traditions across the land. Three hundred million new members had joined a local congregation over the past year, expanding enrollments to a record-high 103,224,954 adults. Sixty-two percent of Americans claimed church affiliation, a booming post-World War II trend.

The change in membership figures from 1955 to 1956:

Protestant: 58, 448, 567 to 60, 148,980 (2.9% increase, 36% of US population)
Roman Catholic: 33,396, 647 to 34,563,851 (3.5% increase, 21% of US population)
Jewish: 5,500,000 to 5,500,000 (unchanged, 3.3 % of US population)
Eastern Orthodox: 2,754,315 to 2,949,123 (7.1% increase, 1.8% of US population)
Buddhist: 63,000 to 63,000 (unchanged, 0.04% of US population)

In 1957, Islam was not a major religion in America. Between the 1870s and 1924, a large number of Muslim immigrants arrived from the Middle East looking for greater economic opportunity. They settled predominantly in the Midwestern states. Detroit’s Ford Motor Company hired a great many of these early Muslim immigrants. The US essentially closed the country to immigration from 1924 until 1952. During this time, the US-resident Muslims built numerous communities and mosques. When immigration began again, a new wave of Muslims began to arrive from Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq. As of 1956, their numbers were too small to appear on the Yearbook of American Churches’ roster of major denominations.

October 26, 1957 – First American Woman Nobel Laureate Passes Away

American biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Gerty Theresa Cori. Photo: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

American biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Gerty Theresa Cori. Photo: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

On October 26, 1957, biochemist Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori passed away at home from complications of myelosclerosis. Gerty had been born sixty-one years earlier in Prague. Her father was a successful chemist, inventor, and sugar factory manager and her family participated in a culturally sophisticated circle which included author Franz Kafka. The Radnitz’ were Jewish. Gerty’s uncle, a professor of pediatrics, supported her in her desire to become a doctor at a time when women were discouraged from pursuing a career in science or medicine. In 1914, at age 18, Gerty entered the Karl-Ferdinands-Universitat medical school in Prague. She received her Doctorate in Medicine in 1920 and married fellow student Carl Cori the same year. Gerty was a vital, charming young woman who loved her studies, the outdoors, and mountain climbing. She converted to Roman Catholicism in order to marry Carl within his religious tradition.

Together, Carl and Gerty embarked on careers in research. They began in Vienna, but Gerty’s poor health due to post-World War I food shortages, and the increasing atmosphere of anti-Semitism prompted their emigration to America. First at the State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases in Buffalo, New York (now the Roswell Park Cancer Institute) and finally at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, the Coris made investigating carbohydrate metabolism their life’s work. Carl’s opportunities, and pay, were always greater that Gerty’s. Despite repeated institutional pressure to drop her as a research partner, Carl insisted on Gerty’s continued participation. They published many papers together and completed their ground-breaking work on carbohydrate metabolism. In 1947, Carl and Gerty Cori were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

What the Coris discovered – and is now called the Cori cycle – is the reversible process by which our cells break down glycogen into glucose for fuel or reconstitute glucose into glycogen to store for future energy needs. They specifically identified the “Cori ester”, the compound glucose 1-phosphate (and the enzyme that enabled its formation). The Cori ester is the key to the glycogen-glucose-glycogen pathway. Gerty Cori later went on to study diseases attributable to defects in the glucose metabolism-related enzyme, including diabetes.

Gerty won several prestigious awards during her lifetime. As a Nobel Prize winner in 1947, she became only the third woman laureate in history and the first American woman so honored. In 1953, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Two Cori craters – one on the moon, one of Venus – were named after her. In April, 2008, the US Postal Service created a stamp in her memory. The American Chemical Society recognized the carbohydrate metabolism work of Carl and Gerty Cori with National Historic Chemical Landmark status in 2004.

Gerty suffered from increasingly poor health from myelosclerosis – a disease involving loss of bone marrow – during the last ten years of her life. In spite of pain and difficulty, she carried on her work as a professor and researcher at Washington University School of Medicine. Her discoveries, as acknowledged by the postage stamp bearing her likeness, “contributed to the understanding and treatment of diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” She was a pioneer in life and science, an example still of courage, determination, and passionate pursuit of a life worth living.

October 25, 1957 – The Rocky Mount Evening Telegram News

A Rocky Mount High School student looks over an edition of the Evening Telegram during a 1952 tour of the newspaper's original office on Howard Street. Photo: Rocky Mount Telegram archives

A Rocky Mount High School student looks over an edition of the Evening Telegram during a 1952 tour of the newspaper’s original office on Howard Street. Photo: Rocky Mount Telegram archives

On October 25, 1957, the Friday night edition of the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram reported the news from far and near to the residents of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Published from 1894 until 1966, the Evening Telegram served a community first founded in 1816 and the home, in 1957, of about 28,000 people.

And what would those Rocky Mount residents have seen on the front page when they snapped open the evening news at the start of their weekend? Here are two of the headlines:

 

Reds Launching Could Be Fake

REDLANDS, Calif. (AP)-Russia’s launching of Sputnik may have been a “fake stunt,” says a physicist participating in the U.S. Far Side Project.

Sputnik may have been launched from a balloon–as the Far Side rocket was–instead of using an intercontinental ballistic missile, said Charles E. Bartley.

“As propaganda, the Russian launching is undeniably superb,” Bartley told a group of University of Redlands scientists. “By innuendo, it supports Soviet claims to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“But objective analysis raises several questions. Sputnik could easily have been launched from a balloon. This would have been possible without employing a large rocket of ICBM magnitude.

He quoted a Russian scientist, Mrs. Anna T. Masevich, vice president of the Soviet Astronautical Council, as saying in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 4:

“Newspapers were wrong when they said the satellite weighed 184.3 pounds. I think it is not so heavy.”

Commented Bartley: “Common sense and logic sum up two reasonable suppositions. The Soviet Sputnik more likely weighs 18 pounds and it does not make sense that the Russians would expend a large ICBM rocket, even if they had it, to put that weight into an orbit when a light cluster of efficient small rockets could do the same job from a balloon.”

Bartley is the president of Grand Central Rocket Co., which makes third and fourth stage motors for Far Side rockets.

 

Not Socialized

ASHEVILLE, NC (AP)-Dr. True B. Eveleth of Chicago, executive secretary of the American Osteopathic Assn., has told the North Carolina Osteopathic Society that socialized medicine will never be imposed in the United States.

“Rapidly expanding prepaid hospitalization programs will ultimately circumvent any future possible need of government-controlled medicine,” he told the 53rd annual convention of the society here yesterday.

Dr. Albert G. Moore of Wilmington was elected president, succeeding Dr. T. M. Rowlett of Concord.

 

And at the bottom of the page, the following some-things-never-change item:

DETROIT (AP)-Mrs. Edith Hall told police a thief took $5 from her purse which she had left on the porch of her home while she raked leaves. He threw away the purse, overlooking $2,170 hidden in a secret compartment.