William J. Bigler oral history interview

William J. Bigler oral history interview

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William J. Bigler oral history interview
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program


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Oral history ( local )
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interviewed by E. Charlton Prather.

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C53-00003 ( USFLDC DOI )
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text E. Charles Prather: Its a pleasure and an honor to have, this afternoon, Dr. William J. Bigler of the Department of Health. Youve been associated with Public Health in Florida, some thirty-four, thirty-five years. First came to us as a wildlife biologist, but he spent the last couple of decades as, kind of the focus and the center of knowledge of public health history for this state. Hes come today to, one: share with us his experience with the Florida Public Health system, and hopefully, to talk about some [of] his interest in the history of public health; and why he has devoted considerable attention to producing, for example, an orientation tape for new employees, and for the rest of us, that sets forth a pictorial history of Florida Public Health; a super tape.
Hes also written widely on the matters of the history of Florida Public Health, and hes published in multiple journals on the history of Florida Public Health. Hes presently working on a book, given to the history of Florida Public Health. Hes working on updating a classic document of Florida Public Health; a monograph that hes updating to reflect the history of the individual programs within the Florida Public Health system. An outstanding person with a unique interest, Dr. Bigler, we welcome you here.
William Bigler: Thank you.
CP: And we thank you for your willingness to come. What in the world got you fascinated with the history of Florida Public Health?
WB: It kind of goes back to when I first got here, I guess. When I first got here, Iits kind of interesting, I worked in the veterinary section, the Veterinary Public Health section. I came as a wildlife person. I was, essentially, the trapper for the State Board of Health, at least, thats what I was hired for. (CP laughs) My interests were much wider than that, as you know. I had some good mentors, including you and Dr. Hardy Dr. Albert V. Hardy (1897-1988), and some other folks that made me feel welcome and, sort of, tweak my interest in a lot of things. But I think the biggest thing that got me started, probably, was that the biologist that I followed, Bill Jennings, hadwere some big shoes to fill, and I didnt know exactly what he did or exactly what I was supposed to do. So, I thought itd be very interesting to look back at the history of the Veterinary Public Health section, to find out what they had done in the last ten or twelve years, and see whether there was a niche I could fill, because I wasnt sure exactly what I was supposed to do. I had to appreciate it, in my wildlife training, I knew very little about diseases of people, it was something about some diseases of wildlife, but very little about people. So, my first interest was to find out what I could learn in, sort of, a quick study format. And so, I went back and I did an exhaustive history of the veterinary public health section, first.
Did that within the first year or so, and kind of got a feel for where I needed to go; and shortly after that, Dr. Hardy came out with Millstones and Milestones, which he and May Pynchon did, and I went back and I read that; and I got a broader feel for whats going on in the public health arena, at least, at the State Board of Health level. I really thought thats all there was to it, at one time. A few years later, Dr. Hardy came around, he was doing some audio tapes, I believe, of key people, and I sat with him, asking what he was going to do with those, and why they were important and whatnot; and he started mentioning some names of some people who werent there before, and the things they did, and I wanted to find out about that; and Tom Jarvis was the editor for Florida Medical, as you know, was working with Dr. Hardy, at that time, as an editor for all of the journals and all of the bulletins and annual reports that came out of the health department. And Tom says, Well, you want to know about this stuff, just go back to the written documents. Go back to the annual reports. And I wanted to know about Dr. Scatterday a little bit more; he was written in the annual reports.
CP: Dr. Scatterday was?
WB: Dr. Scatterday was a veterinarian; a public health veterinarian that probablythe first one, I guessyou know, historically, there was a veterinarian back in the twenties.
CP: Yes.
WB: And then, there was a hiatus there for a while, when everything was transferred over to Department of Agriculture. And then, I guess, Dr. Scatterday was the first veterinarian that came back in the forties, after that hiatus.
CP: Public health veterinarian.
WB: Right, and he got the vaccination going for dogs, and tried to get a state rabies law going, but he couldnt; but he got city ordinances going to the point where it knocked down dog rabies considerably. So, he played a significant role; but I wanted to know more about him. And there was some information in file, so I kind of got into the history of it, but I think what gotkept me going on this track, early on, was that there were people like you who actually spent time to give me the verbal history; and keeping my interest by telling sort of first person stories about things that happened.
And in my travels, on my job, I travelled to county health departments all the time, and worked with county health people. So, I got a really close working relationship with a lot of them, and then I got to pick up their lore, if you will, their folklore and their stories, and it just kind of grew. It fascinated me. So, where it started out kind of small, the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn; and the bigger the arena got, the more I wanted to get into it. But I think what really got me going was back when the reorganization took place in 1974, 75, 76, all that shakeup. You know, there was a scramble, as you know, to try to save pieces of memorabilia that were going to be moved from the office in Jacksonville all the way over here, and what might happen to those.
And Dr. Hardy, particularly, was very interested in that, you know, making sure we dont lose things; and I know a lot of others were. And Hank Janowski, as you know, you put him in charge of the move, and Hank was worried about not losing anything. So, a number of usDick Wistoffinvolvedwas involved, tried to bring the things over here. Once we got a lot of things here, in boxes, we realized that they were vulnerable to damage. So, we moved to pick the things that we thought were most fragile, and put them in Florida archives, at the Gray Building downtown. So, they were archived; these were the old newspaper clipping scrapbooks. They were the yellowed scrapbooks; there was a number of those. Photos, old photos that were just in file folders. Much of that has alreadyit was saved, so thats the good news. The bad news is that much of what was saved is not documented in any way.
CP: Is it still there?
WB: I mean, its still there, but someone who knows what the
CP: It hasnt been indexed.
WB: Yeah, right; it needs someone who knows what the photos mean. Ive gone down there, and Ive seen some very interesting photos, but I dont know what year they were taken. I dont know whos in them.
WB: No. No, I dont. I think Dick Wistoff probably handledWhen Dick
CP: Okay.
WB: I know Dick had these scrapbooks in file cabinets, cause they were fairly long, and they were narrow enough to get in there, and weand he hadthere might have been, seven, eight, ten of those, something like that. Thats all I saw. Now, again, going through the Gray Library archives tofor a variety of research reasons, Ive come across some of Porters hand written notes. Ive come across telegrams; telegrams were really big
CP: That was the major communication. In those years, yeah.
WB: Major way, yes, and the telegram. So, those are there. Theres all kind oftheres reports, theres letters, theres responses to telegrams and letters, there are speeches, handwritten speeches, you know, a lot of thats still down there. Now
CP: Do we need to get a grant to have all that indexed?
WB: I think so. I think so. The sooner, the better, because some of the people that could help with the indexing are still around. The longer we wait, the more chance we have of someone not having a clue. A few of theI mean, there are boxes of photos down there, literally boxes of loose photos. It looks like a households setup. I know in my household, we have shoeboxes full of photos; some have indexes on the back, and some dont. I mean
CP: Youre getting very personal with my own system of filing photos.
WB: Right, right. (CP laughs) So, we need to address that somehow, and I think, I really think that it can be done. Theresnow, Ive gone down and pulled various photos out of the Gray Library, and made enlargements, and hung them on the walls, and theyre around here now; and when we move to our new building, I would expect we could do more of that.
CP: Yeah. I had an interesting thought: you know, you breathe retirement now, and I know youve been here almost thirty-five years, if not more. A grant from the department of statethose special grants they give for historic purposes, let the department of health get a grant to pay you to go down and do all this indexing after you are retired. Wouldnt that be fun?
WB: Might be, might be.
CP: Ill come down periodically and buy you a cup of coffee.
WB: Could be. Theres a lot that needs to be done, and somebody has to have the interest to do it, and one nice thing Ive found about rummaging through some of this stuff is that its easy to get some interested in a lot of this, and some of the things that weve tried to doone of the things, for instance, when we did the video. You know, you did the orientation for years for new employees; and every time, it was a stand up show, and every time was slightly different, and you spentyou had a half an hour, at least, and you spent the first fifteen minutes trying to make sure everybody was awake, and thatand in fact (CP laughs)
CP: You must have been there.
WB: Yeah, (WB laughs) the first couple. And then, when I took over for you, it was the same kind of a thing. So, I tried showing, you know, slides, and then trying to have little quips and little remarks, humorous things; kind of trying to lighten it up, to get people going. But one of the things I noticed, Im sure you did, in the orientation, is that the employees in the health department, particularly, as they getwell, not necessarily, as they get more towards the lower end of the pay scale. Sometimes, its at the highest ends of the pay scale.
Theres the lack of interest. One of the things that you and others did for me, was that you made me, for whateverfor better or for worse, proud to work where I did, and to have a really deep feeling for, not just the organization, but the whole public health movement. The whole action of it all, across the board, at the federal, state, local level, and I think what Id like to do, or what I was trying to do, what we were probably trying to do in a half an hourand thats not enough time, of course, is to entice the new people to come in; to kind of get into that. Get hooked a little bit.
CP: That was my motivation, personally.
WB: So, doing that in half an hour I think is, like, impossible, but what we wanted to do with the video, and I think what Jim Howell got going was a good idea. And the fact the he said, Lets do it at the outsetstart off, and thats how we did it before, and said, Lets do something for a video tape, and do it for a forty minute stint, instead of thirty, you know, gave usDavis, Janowski, and I, a chance to really do something different; and I thought that maybe we could generate the interest in the new employees by saying, Look, this is a big thing that youre dealing with, and this didnt just start yesterday. The new department might have started a couple of years ago, but theres been a department long before that. It goes way back, before there was a department.
CP: It actuallythere was history before you got here.
WB: Right, exactly. (CP laughs) And we realized, Davis and I, as we got into this, we realizedDavis had an interest in archeology, and how Florida was settled, and how traumatic it was for the Native Americans, and everyone involved. And we realized that, if it hadnt been for public health, or something like public health, or people who thought about sanitation and hygiene, and making a better lifestyle for other people who came here, this state would have never been settled. It just wasnt going to happen, all right?
And so, it dawned on us that, you know, maybe we could package whatever we do to engage, if you will, the new employees would be to say, Okay. Public health goes way, way back. It goes back five hundred years. It goes back when this state was founded. The people who came here brought diseases, made the people who lived here sick, and the people that lived here got diseases from the people who came here, and it all got worse; it didnt get better. And for years, people said Yeah, Floridas kind of pretty, but I dont think I want to go there, and then, if I do go there, tell me the best time. And the word was out that this was a place where you could get sick, and you could get sick enough to die, and it happened, and it happened regularly, and if it did happen, you probably couldnt get out fast enough.
So, public healthyou know, were trying to say public health had a great deal to do with this state being where it is today; and we thought that if we could get the people that worked here to tie into that; and not feel like theyre just another state employee, collecting another check, waiting to retire, that maybe they would stay here longer. One of the benefits I had, and I didnt realize it when I first came, wasat least, from where I sit now, looking backand, of course, the hindsight is always
CP: So clear.
WB: So clear, right. (CP laughs) Was thatin 1965, through about 69, we probably had one of the best state health departments in the nation, including the county health units and departments; and that was probably the peak. You know, shortly after 69in 69, the legislature, in their wisdom, said, There shall be no consolidated
CP: Consolidated Health Agency
WB: Right. There will be a division, and there will the division of health. There will be no state board of health; the state boards dissolved. Theres a new health and rehabilitative services, and all that; and people like me, who were there just a few years, were wondering, Well, whats happening? Is Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall? You know, and, is it for real? And the people who had been there a long time, many of them said, this is the worst thing thats ever happened. We cant handle it. Were out of here. And a lot of key staff just walked away. So that was, for me, that was kind of a traumatic experience, trying to figure out, well, you know, should I go? Should I stay? You know, what are we gonna do? But if there was one, reallythere was a lot traumatic things that went on, in that twenty year period that we were with the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services; but, one of the things was, our identity was taken away. You know, what identity we had was something that was unique, something that we could almost embrace, was diluted to the fact that we were not(sighs), weyou know, you could see the surface, but you couldnt quite get there. You know?
So, I, at that time, Dr. Hardy was trying to update Millstones and Milestones, and was working with Tom Jarvis very diligently, on that; and I was fortunate enough to be the research coordinator, at that time, under your administration; and I felt like we could get that published. Well, the department had otheras you know, had other plans for that. They didnt like some of the things that Dr. Hardy said, and I suppose it wasnt politically correct to try to get that published outside the department, at that time. So, we hadin 1965, he did a seventy-five year Millstones and Milestones, thatsince the department started in 1889, was appropriate to do in 65. Well, he updated that to about eightyseventy-eight or eighty, somewhere in there. And then we couldnt get it published, so, I became the keeper of that; and just, sort of, sat on it for a while.
CP: In the meantime, Dr. Hardy got into Alzheimers problems.
WB: Right.
CP: Okay.
WB: Right, andbut it was fairly complete, you know, we just were trying to figure out what to do with it, because the department didnt think it was appropriate; and as you know, one of the most devastating things that happened, in 69actually, in 75, when we hadin 69, the legislature said, There will be a division of health, and then, in 1975, it became the state health office, and we all moved; but the most devastating thing happened there, and you and I tried to overcome this, is we werent allowed to do any reports anymore; and so, we did hip pocket annual reports, and you ask everyone in your area, all your division and bureau chiefs to do one, and we did one. The last formal one, that was bound, was done in 1974, before we left; and I have one, in big notebooks, for 75, and part of 76I think we tried to do one in 76; and its in typed, different fonts, and its all one, big, loose-leaf notebook. So, those are the last annual reports. So, from 1976 through two years ago, we have no annual reports for anything that was done in health in Florida. Now, to overcome that, Iwhen we had the centennial, we were able to get bureau chiefs and division directors to write down what they knew had happened since 1976. So, those pieces were sent to me; then, at that time, you and I started working on trying to put those together, to update the manual.
CP: Let me interrupt and askDr. Mahan came in 88. Late 88 or 89. I think it was afterhe was here one year. He published a status report, on where we are?
WB: Right.
CP: Where does that fit into the scheme of things? I just thought of it myself
WB: Well, we have that. Thats onethats, sort of, a singular piece; theres a couple of those.
CP: Okay.
WB: Theres about two or three of those at odd intervals; sort of, like, ad hoc reports; where the governors office said, I want every agency to tell me the good things that happened last year, and they really focused on the good things.
CP: Yes, it does.
WB: Oneone of the things that the older reports that we hadwe had a series of annual reports, and a series thats Floridas health notes.
CP: Yes.
WB: Thethethe beauty of the both of those is that the reports that are in there are almost in their own words, so to speak. Particularly in the health notes, and you can really get the sense of the individual; a little bit about their personality, and how they present their material, and what theyre trying to get across. Theyre not bureaucratic reports; theyre not just facts. Just the facts, you know? Theres some flavor there, some really interesting pieces; but in going through that, we tried toyou know, when the centennial rolled around, we tried to get a hundred years worth of good information; and we did, but we got kind of bogged down with that, and I was able to pull pieces out, and write an article for the Florida Public Health Association Bigler, W.J. (1989).  Public health in Florida yesteryear.  Florida Journal of Public Health, 1, 7-19. that came out that year; and then, a seriesa three-part series of articles that were in the Florida Medical Association that year; Bigler, W. (1989). 100 years of public health in Florida. The first and second quarters, 1889-1939. The Journal of the Florida Medical Association, 76(8), 693-697. and Dr. Sauder, of course, did a series, and they were side-by-side. So, he gave his recollections of his area of expertise, from his perspective, for the number of years he served; and I was trying to just lay the foundation for the whole hundred years. So, I think it worked pretty well.
CP: I think so, too.
WB: Wewe still have the raw material for that, so I still have the detail material for that; some of the program detail material, which we can, and we hope, to put together for the scholars to actually go back and see how the programs evolved. But getting back to the video, what the video did isDavis and I had already started working on a book that would not just speak to the focused area that Dr. Hardy did with the state board of health, and what the state board of health did, but we wanted to look at public health as it evolved. Andrew Jackson created two boards of health, in 1821, in Pensacola and St. Augustine. Turns out that health department in St. Augustine did so well quarantining the ships, and collecting the funds, and whatnot, that when the state board of health was formed, they didnt want to join. (CP and WB laugh) They said, Thank you, but no thank you. Were doing fine, as it is. So, heres one of our boards of health thats local that says, Oh, we dont want to join the state on this one. Wed like to do our own thing. Eventually, they didthey did join, after a few years; but the point is, there were local health departments, too, as early as 1821, and then, there were city health departments in the 1840s and 50s, all the major ports
There was a city health department where Dr. Porter came from in Key West, there was one in Jacksonville, even Ocala had one; but they just sort of did their own thing in concert with the state board of health, the one that was founded in the 1889; and coordinatedI think, coordinated with it pretty well; but we didnt have our own county health departments until the thirtiesuntil 1930; I mean, formally linked with the state board of health. So, theres a lot of history that we havent really been able to get a handle on between, say, the 1820s and the 1890s; and one of the things Davis and I were trying to do was to actually go toto certain cities, like he went to Pensacola, for instance, and tried to go through some of the archives of the newspaper.
And see what he could pull out of there, and weve done some of that, and we need to do more of that; but what we were trying to do in the book was to build this continuum, and show how it built over time. The military had a tremendous influence on public health in Florida; I mean, negative and positive. They brought a lot of people here; they brought a lot of diseases here; they brought the wives, and the wives had children; and then, the guys got out of the service, and then, they wanted to go to school, and that made the university system grow; and on, and on, and on.
So, theres a tremendous back and forth of the public health movement and people; and dealing with the growth and development of this state. So, when we didstarted in the book, we had gotten bogged down a little bit, trying to get that piece that I just mentioned; and then, we had the opportunity to do the video for orientation; we tried to do the video based on snapshots, where we would show a series of snapshots with voiceovers. And that worked fairly well, in a stand-up mode, but we only had a handful of photos; maybe fortythirty or forty, when started to do the video, we had hundreds before it was all over. But the video hasit will take you through almost everything that we think we can put in the larger book. And thats been helpful. It gives us a way to look at what the book might look like, you know? And weve researched out a lot of photos that we can use in the book.
CP: Let me just comment, if I may, to our audience, that this video of which he is speaking should be available at the University of South Florida library. If it is not now, it will be, in due course. But it does present, as Dr. Bigler is saying, a pictorial overview of the history of public health in Florida; from about 500 BC, I think, through 1998; a tremendous work; that it requires forty-three minutes to look at.
WB: Right. (WB laughs)
CP: Or something like that.
WB: Theres even some music to go with it, you know, theres an overview of music; it carries through certain parts. But what we tried to do is not bore you too much, but we did it in that format so it could be used in a classroom setting, or could be used for a documentary, or whatever. But its a, sort of, an unI think, its an untold story, and thats, really, the kind of thing thats piqued by interest, recently, is tothe story needs to be told. I think that, generally speaking, people who work in public health, theyre kind of like Rodney Dangerfield; they just dont get any respect, (CP laughs) and they notice it, you know? It affects their self-image, and it affects theirI think their ability to hold their head high, and say, I know Im doing something thats good.
So, if we can do that; if we can get people, whether theyre directly in the arena, like we are, or theyre infection control practitioners, or clinicians, or infectious disease docs, or they work in a community health center, whatever; theyre in public health, and theyrewere all in the same boat, you know? And I think we need to find a way to communicate where we are in it, and who else is in it, and how were supposed to be working with them, and I think we can do that. One thing that Ithat comes across really strongly to me, is that as I read the history, Dr. Porter wrote for a piece for Florida Health Notes, and he started in about 1892, or something like that, I think, and 1894, he wrote a piece that sounded like Governor Chiles healthy start program.
CP: Really?
WB: Okay, and Im going, Yeah. Wow. A hundred years, okay?
CP: (inaudible)
WB: And sohe wasntright. And so, one of the things that Ive been trying to do; in my own way, and Davis and I felt very strongly about this; is that wetheres this bulletin that you started years ago, where you tried to get a newsletter out to people who worked in epidemiology about the latest and greatest things that were going on; and, at that time, through the mail, we were already able to do it once a month or whenever. Sometimes, it was more than once a month. But, over time, its evolved, and now, its an electronic bulletin board; and its sort of an electronic magazine, and it goes out every week, on a Thursday or Friday, from epidemiology; and within the context of that, Dr. Hopkins is the state epidemiologist, has been kind enough to say, If you want to put something in about history, and its relevant to public health, go for it. So, weve done that for the lastsince about late 1996.
CP: And whats the name of this
WB: Its called Epi Update. Epi Update.
CP: Epi Update; it is available at, what?
WB: And itsyou can get it on our website, the department of health website; its posted every week, on the website; and you can get it through CCMail
CP: Whats the address?
WB: Its www.doh.state.fl.us.
CP: Okay.
WB: And thatll take you to our website, and then you go to division of disease control, and bureau of epidemiology, and you can find it.
CP: There it is.
WB: There it is. And so, its posted every week; and what weve tried to do, in that, is pull sort of first person vignettes, like I said, something thats in their own words: the chair we pulled from Florida Health Notes, or the annual report, or some ancillary piece that weve found in a library, under some other author; and we credit where we find it, and cite it as a reference, and then just quote it. Give a little introduction, and say, Heres how we think it fits; and some are humorous, some are serious, but basically, I think, what were trying to do is give the people who read the Epi Update a page, page and a half, of a little bit of history, without making it too boring, and have it almost go down easy; and I think that most people that read it take it that way. I mean
CP: My feedback, from multiple sources, is its profoundly well received.
WB: Well, even we heard from people visiting the CEC, particularly, as far west as western office in Colorado. Where they think thatthats kind of neat. That, you know, in the seriousness of the business of the day, here, we try to make it light. Theyre not always light, some of them are fairly heavy; but the point were trying to make is that, like you said before, times dont change all that much, and that some of the things that are new ideas today really arent all that new. Theyve been tried before; maybe they worked then, maybe they didnt work then; but if you think you reinvented the wheel, you may have. It may have been there. And the other thing is, that we want to communicate, I think, to people very clearly, is when you read about this, the pieces we write arent written always by the bosses. Sometimes, its an account of what happened, and I think were trying to say that if you were the nutritionist; if you were the health educator; if you were a nurse; if you were in environmental health, quote, sanitarian; or you were a clerk, and you were just collecting vital statistics, day in and day out; all of that has value, and this is the value of it. This is what we get from it. This is how its used. I think, today, you see too many people, that work in all the range, is thatare so focused, with blinders, on what their job is, they donttheyre not even interested in what happening in the doorthe room next door, much less the desk next door.
CP: Yes, yes.
WB: And I think what were trying to do is say that, to them, in some subtle way, What you do is important. Its all important. And so, I think it haslike you said, I think its fairly well received. What we intend to do thatwhat were going to do now is, you know, were trying to take those vignettes, find the best ones, and package them into a little booklet or two.
CP: Now, tell us about it.
WB: And so, where we think that weve coveredI mean, theres plenty of material out there, but in the last few years, weve covered an awful lot of the bases, so to speak. Weve covered the whole five hundred years that weve been talking about in one way or another; and weve talkedweve got information, and some pieces on county health departments, and some things that happened there, things that have happened in other areasone of the things thats been fascinating to me, for instance, is the womens clubs.
CP: Yes?
WB: Women make things happen. We all know that.
CP: Yes.
WB: But one of the things that was really interesting; and, again, this is me just getting an impression from my readings; but, at the beginning, the state board of health was a good old boys club, okay?
CP: Yeah.
WB: I really think it was, and theyre mostly doctors.
CP: I agree.
WB: And that went on for at least ten years, and it was difficult forand they had an agenda, and it was mostly, like, quarantine, and quarantine, and quarantine, and work on a handful of diseases; and the womens clubs of the statethe cities, they said, Well, you know theres some other problems out there. You gotta go bang on some of these doors. These kids, theyre notthey have poor nutrition, theyre dying of various diseases, theyre not well clothed, their sanitations poor, theyre drinking fouled water, couldnt we do something about this? So, it was interesting to see how the womens club would, essentially, come to the board and say, Gosh, couldnt we help you do something about this? You know, and they did; and they did over and over and over again.
CP: Wow.
WB: And, I think, I got the impression that they had a big influence in getting a lot of things started; perhaps some things that related to mothers and the care of their children, and
CP: Modern times, Id mention the immunization program.
WB: Yeah.
CP: Womens club was very influential with that, and the auxiliary of the Florida Medical Association, the womens part of Florida Medical Association, very influential in our immunization programs.
WB: Well, now, you dont know whether it was the boardyou know, there was the board, and then there were the worker bees, including Dr. Porter, whos the psych health officer; who was the secretary of the board. So, you really dont know, you know. Hes got a group that he had to report to, you know? And, of course, they were all males; or I dont know, maybe there were some women.
CP: They were all males.
WB: And I know he made a proposal about 1901, 1902, to get some nurses, and they said, Well, Im not sure we really need them out there. Maybe we could get social workers or something like that. And so, it wasnt until 1914 that really got its first nurses. So, it took quite a while.
CP: Yes.
WB: But you can see the evolution through time, and you can see how the board and the department we influenced by a lot of outside influences, including Florida Medical; and the Mosquito Control Associations; and Tuberculosis Associationor Anti-Tuberculosis, thats what it was called, early on; so, there was a lot of influences, and a lot of partnerships, a lot of collaboration; and I thought that it was kind of interesting that, in recent years, weve been talking about collaborating more, and I think its probably because, maybe, weve pulled back some, and not reached out the way used to years ago. So, I thought that some of the things were doing with the vignettes, and with the video, would show that its not bad to do that.
CP: Yeah.
WB: Okay, its okay, you know? (WB laughs) Itll be all right, you know? (CP laughs) So, those are, kind of, things I felt like wemessages that we wanted to get across.
CP: Yes.
WB: And I think, when we put the books together, well have some photos in it; but well have these little vignettes, which are short reading, and you can flip through the book, and pick a title, and justits sort of like a book of short stories, you know? But theyre all in the first person; mostly, theyre all in the first person. Theyre not like we researched something and said, This is what we found. We have one or two of those, cause we couldnt find anything first person that worked, but Davis and I worked very hard to try to very selectively bring pieces to the Epi Update that we thought would be of interest, but it would also convey a message.
CP: Yes, very good.
WB: All right? And to show that Public Health was deeply involved in a whole variety of things. Now, the part that Im dealing with, at the moment, is to try to figure out how exactly to package all of this so that it is of interest to everyone involved. I mean, if we do this book, I would like to see people in the Florida Medical Association, Florida Nurses Association, the Florida Infection Control Practitioners
CP: Public Health Association.
WB: Public Health Association, Hospital Association; all of these people have enough interest to look at this, and the idea would be to try to sell these little booklets, and pull in enough money to help the museum that were gonna be putting up in the 1911 building thats being restored. So, that was the intention, and it wouldnt be like were trying to make any money for it, but if we could just use that with studentsit would be for students. They would justit would be for the light reader; somebody who just feels, Well, Im not sure Im interested in this. What they couldif they didnt spend a lot of money on it, they could flip through, and pick out three or four of these little short stories; theyd only take a minute to read, and if they like them, theyll read more.
CP: Yes.
WB: You know?
CP: Yes.
WB: Its not like you have to read the book, cover to cover, or anything like that. So
CP: Not in one sitting.
WB: Right, right. So, we thought wed try to package those, and see if we could get them out on the market, somehow. Thats sort of our
CP: Excellent, excellent. What your timetable?
WB: Well, Ive got one drafted, and Ive got another one half-drafted, so, hopefully, before the end of the year, well havewell be able to take em someplace, see if we cant get em published, and try toI think, wherever we go, if we dont do them within the department, if we do them externalId like to do them external to the department, and try to pull funds in from these other agencies that I mentioned, so they could buy into it.
CP: Yes.
WB: Okay, theyd say, If its going to have an upfront cost to publish it, why not get them to contribute to the upfront cost?
CP: Yes, yes.
WB: And then, theyll have some vested interest in
CP: You know, from other sources that, first of all, youve been put together, and you have it out to a consultant, but sitting on it. Im aware of that.
WB: Okay. (CP and WB laugh)
CP: And, for our audience, Im that consultant thats sitting on it, right at the moment; but Ill have it back to you, in reasonable time. And its just super; thoroughly, Im enjoying it, and I like
WB: Well, weve enjoyed doing em, and thatsI think, thats, you know, I hope that comes through, that weve had a lot of fun putting the pieces together.
CP: Let me, for future researchers, whats your source material? Where did you and Davisyou might tell our audience who Davis is, too.
WB: Well, Davis Janowski is the son of Hank Janowski, who is the bureau chief of the immunization program for the health department; and Davis has come to us to through a circuitous route, I guess; he got an undergraduate degree at Florida State, then he
CP: In what?
WB: I think it was literature or Englishsomething like that.
CP: Okay.
WB: Then he went on to Syracuse to get a degreea masters degree in communications.
CP: Yes.
WB: Particularly, in magazine orientationmagazine media orientation; and for what ever reason, he didnt finish; he got halfway there, came back to us, then he worked for us in a variety of ways; sort of that O.P.S., which is really notis almost like contract work; and we got him in the epidemiology program to do the Epi Update. And he had  (inaudible); he had some background in computers; and had an interest in doing this electronic magazine; and hes actually the inventor, if you will, of this electronic magazine, which has gotten national recognition. Florida, up until twoa year ago, Floridas the only state in the nation that had anything like this; and he took it to a national meeting, I cant remember which, but it was at C.D.C. [Centers for Disease Control], and people just went nuts over it. They thought it was a terrific way to go. It was timely; it was short; it was easy to read; and itand he actuallyone thing that he did, that Im really proud of, is thatEpidemiology, as you know, youve been there, youve done that, you know its difficult; people think of you more as a scientist and as a researcher than as a real person, sometimes.
CP: Yes.
WB: And Davis put a friendly face on this weekly report. So, people who didnt even know us, who only talked to us on the phone, orcould kind of get an impression that we were just like anybody else; were not necessarily a bunch of eggheads that only talked in scientific jargon, and that we really had a sense of humor (CP laughs), and that, you know, that came across very clearly.
CP: Yes.
WB: And were still trying to do that, now that hes gone, and hes went on to get his degree
CP: Where is he now?
WB: He went on to get his degree. He finished at Syracuse, and now living in New York, and hes getting married in about a week or two, and hes job hunting, at the moment. So, we wish him well; but hes gonnahopefully, he promised to help us finish these booklets.
CP: Okay.
WB: And I think he will; and hes been tonow that hes got all this degree under his belt, Im sure hes gonna give us much more advice on how we should do things. (CP laughs)
CP: But back to my question of the source, source materials. Where did yall find these beautiful things?
WB: We found them in a number places. Some of them, believe it or not, were in the annual reports; where county health officers would write in a report, and the editor of the report would just take whatever they sent and
CP: Put it in.
WB: Put it in; and some of them are fairly interesting. The best ones are in the Florida Health Notes, and theyrethat was sort of a bully pulpit, in a way; or it was a soapbox, for others. The division directors and the bureau chiefs were able, and encouraged by the health officer, to talk about their program, market it; cause thisthe Florida Health Notes was built to go out to the public at large, so it was written at a fairly low level of education, for the time; but, at the same time, there were articles in there that a physician would read, and appreciate, and understand, as well. So, there was a mix. And so, some of the first person pieces that come out of the Health Notes are really choice. The one that I like the best of all is called Outrage, and its a fellow that was supposed to be doing quarantine service for Dr. Porter, and off of Tampa, he stopped a boathe had this old boat, he was a contract employee, and he had his own boat; and he stopped a boat, and askedthey talked with Spanish, and he asked the captain for the papers, and knowing it came from Cuba, he was supposed to quarantine it; and when he came aboard, he asked for the papers.
They gave him the papers; he looked at them; handed them back; and then, two of the mates promptly picked him up, and threw him overboard, (CP laughs) and they sailed away; and they went to shore, and unloaded the rum or whatever contraband they were really bringing in; and heand it was dark, and he had to swim back to his boat; and when all of this was over, he wrote a letter to the health officer, saying, you know, in essence, This is a heck of a job. (CP and WB laugh) Youre either goinglet me have a bigger boat and a gun, or Im not gonna work here anymore. (CP and WB laugh) Shortly after that, there was a boat that was commissioned by the port, called the Germ, of all things.
CP: Oh, a schooner?
WB: And it was a patrol boat. They used it to patrol with. But this guy was on his own boat, and he was very indignant about being thrown overboard; so, in the annual report, theres a letter from him to the boss, saying, I dont know what you got me into down here, but this is not good. (CP laughs) So, those are the kind of pieces that were looking for. Some are in letters; letters sayingthat are complimentary; some that are complaining about the kinds of service that were given. We just try to findI mean, theres an awful lot of material there, but we really try to find pieces that have some significance, that have some humor, that have somethat are interesting, and I think you can make a point with some of these, if you dont try to overdo it.
CP: Yes.
WB: And we tried to make them as short as possible; and so, we do a lot of editing; and Dr. Porter, bless his heart, he did a lot of good things, but he was not a writer. (CP laughs) He
CP: Not a short, to-the-point writer.
WB: Heyeah, and sometimes, he would just go on and on andbut he, in his writings, it comes off, very clearly, that hes a very strong individual; and when he had his mind made up, he was not going to be persuaded to do anything different; and so, those make for very interesting readings; some of the encounters that he had.
CP: And aside to the questions here. I was in possession, once upon a time, of the leprosy file Porter had written everybody and his brother over the world as to what to do about leprosy, it was given a teach-in to answer the disease in Key West; and the Public Health Service, about that time, had chosen Florida as the site for the national leprosy hospital; and Porters writings to everybody about his not wanting the leprosarium in Florida. In the petition that he did to sheriffs and others in Florida, garnering support against placement of the national leprosy hospital here. What happened to that file, Will?
WB: I dont know. I havent seen that. It may be in some of the papers at the Gray Building. Ive seen writings that confirm what youve just said, but with not as much detail, where it was obvious that we did not want that here.
CP: Yeahevery mayoryeah, every mayor in Florida signed that petition. Every board of county commission signed a petition. Every sheriff in Florida signed a petition against the placement of a national leprosarium in Florida. Probably unique in all politics, that all birds of one color would agree on one issue. Theyre just beautiful writings; and after we moved, I had that in Jacksonville, and it was a part of our move from Jacksonville to Tallahassee; I have not seen those files. There was a fair amount, I would say about four inches of files dealing with that subject.
CP: What happened to it?
WB: I dont know; we could check with Dick Wistoff, ifDick might know.
CP: It was a beautiful piece of history, yeah.
WB: You know, I said, there was a lot of stuff taken down to the Gray Library that I havent even been able to go through, yet; but Davis and I have gone through, and I mean, theres just boxes and boxes of letters, and it takes quite a bit of time to go through a box, you know?
CP: Oh, yeah.
WB: Weve only begun to scratch the surface; its a possibility that thats where it wound up; but the Gray Library has all of our old photosnot all of them, most of them; we have a few here that are still in our possession; and all of the writings, as well as copies of all the reports that are bound. One of the unfortunate things is that, even in our office here, we dont have all of the annual reports bound; I mean, theres some missing. Thereswe dont havewe certainly dontwe only have intermittent copies of the Florida Health Notes here, too.
I rescued some out of the attic of the 1911 building, a few years back, and we just need to make it an issue to get those bound; and I havent been able to get the time to do that, but I think we can come up with the money, within the department, to do that. But, we have a lot of bits and pieces, not only within the department, that need to be organized and documented and catalogued, but we need to do that down at the Gray Building also. What wasI thought was kind of interesting, actually disappointing, when I first went to the Gray Library, to make some enlargements of some interesting photos, and they wanted to charge me; and I said, Well, no, these are our photos, and they said, Well, not anymore. Theyre the states; you gave them to us, and theyre ours, and if you want to make an enlargement, you know, heres the price list.
CP: Whoops.
WB: And, Oh, really? Thats the way the game is played now.
CP: Whoops.
WB: We did; we played the game, and we made the photos that we wanted; but, you know, we were able to sort through them and whatnot. But one of the things that we found that we were able to do when we made the video was we could bring a video cam down to the Gray Library; and sort through our photos, as well as their photos, and put a stack on the table; and then, one by one, shoot each one, and for nothing. We were able to do that, and then I felt good about that. (CP laughs) So, when we do thesethe books with the little vignettes in it, we want to incorporate a few photos, so I intend to try to go down and take a piece of machinery with me, and a computera scanner and a computer, and see if I cant run these through and scan them. I hope theyll allow us to scan them. I dont know.
CP: They probably will. Another question: the, quote, historic files from all of the programs moving from Jacksonville here, Im carrying the impression that a lot of those files got to the HRS [The Department Health and Rehabilitative Services] warehouse. Ive never known where the HRS warehouse was. Could you talk about that?
WB: Well, you know, the HRS warehouse was, until, I dont know, recently, I guess its been moved again, but it was out on the Capital Circle Bypass, across from the Pearl, a place where they still serve raw oysters. It was right across from the Pearl, (CP laughs) and they closed that recently, and we were able to get some of the epidemiology stuff that we had out; and the fact that theres some other pieces that are now on our boxes that are on our first floor, that need to be gone through, we may have some stuff in there, but I havent seenonly thing Ive been able to rescue are old epidemiology files; hard copy files on certain, what we call, the diseases of infrequent occurrence. The lepto, and brucellosis, and those sort of things.
CP: Quote the Tallahassee Polio of 1956?
WB: Yeah, itll be an interesting one to find. Ive read about that in the annual report, that was awhen I was going through the monograph, I was reading about polio in Tallahassee, and it was like, Its polio today, but a couple years later, well maybe not. (CP laughs)
CP: Thats right. They never could confirm it laboratorialy? That was the whole case.
WB: Right, and the moreas time went on, they thought, maybe, it really wasnt. So, I dont know how that really resolved. In those days, of course, we couldnt do very much, weas far as isolating material, and whatnot.
CP: What happened with that? In the
WB: You know, some of the stuff might be at the local county health departments, you know.
CP: Right, but they, as a rule of thumb, have no appreciation of history, either.
WB: Well, thats true. One of the things that I didnt realize, when I came here in 65, is how much continuity there werethere was. I mean, in my first evaluation, for instance, said that I wasit looked like I was going to turn out to be okay, but I was awfully young; and I was twenty-six, at the time. (CP laughs) Okay? You know? And, you know, there were a couple other that were of my age there, but most of the people were much older; and that was because theyd been there all this time, and they liked where they worked, and they were happy and content, and so, thatone of the benefits of that; Im sure there were, you know, things on the downside; but the benefit of that, I thought, was that there was some continuity.
CP: Yes.
WB: And the other part of it was that; and I didnt realize this at the time, until much later; is that, in just daily conversations with people, a lot of folklore and tales were being told.
CP: Yes, and passed on.
WB: Right, and passed on, you know? There it is. (WB and CP laugh) But anyway, goinggetting back on that subject, I think that it was a benefit to me and a lot of other people that work there, that there was a sense of belonging because we were able to communicate verbally with each other, and theI think, for instance, the value of these videos that youre doing now is that its, again, in their own words, its first person. Its not edited, its not
CP: Its not somebody else saying, I think you said.
WB: Right, its not bureaucratically written to feather anybodys nest. Its not trying to, you know, make something out of somebody that they werent. And so, you know, everything was more real; and then, when we left the Jacksonville scene and came over here, it was very, very much different. And you justthat whole scene came apart. I mean, we werent the same community. We werent the same. It was difficult to connect with the county health departments; they were leery of us, because we werethey were the same, they thought, but what happened to us, you know? And so, we lost a lot there, and I think one of the overriding or driving forces for me, right now; in the next couple of years, before I decide to retire; is to try to pull the pieces together, if I canas much as I can, so that we can say, Yes, we are a department unto ourselves. Yes, we have some history; we have some roots. Yes, we have something to be proud of.
A lot ofwere not going to necessarily dwell on the history, but its there, if you want it; and if you need something to hang onto, something to connect with, it doesnt have to be your neighbor; you can go back, and you can see where others like you did similar things; and, I think, thats what Im trying to do: is to, at least, entice the newcomer to sayto be able to say to themselves, Well, there is a place for me. What I do will be of value. It may not be recognized by anybody, but Ill know it. You know, its really interesting, for instance, as we try to save the old 1911 building, all the different things that have happened; and theres a few of us that are pretty passionate about it, but thewithin the department, the architects worked for HRS, and when we broke departments apart, some of them went to health, and some of them came with HRS; and the ones that came to us said, Whats this old building about? (CP laughs) What are you guys trying to do?
CP: It was, like, a nice parking lot?
WB: Yeah, like, I thought we were gonna tear that down when we built the new lab, Will. I thought Reubin Askew 37th Governor of Florida. Served 1971-1979. said that, too, about the old capital; and, somehow, we changed his mind. (CP laughs) So, we felt like we could do the same thing; but now, the architects have been into this game for a couple of years now; with this whole building, trying to bring it back, and I think theyre as steeped in it as anybody.
CP: Good, good.
WB: So, itI think its infectious. (WB laughs) I hate to say it, but it truly is. Even the laboratory people thought that it would make a good parking lot, and finally, you know, theyre finally saying, Well, okay; if weve got to, weve got to. But now, the more they wander through the building, the more they see the character of it, and what it was. And
CP: Tellpause to tell our audience what the Union Street Building is.
WB: Well, itsto go back a ways; I guess the old Board of Heath, when it started, they had rental quarters, sort of downtown Jacksonville, and a couple of different places, and we understand it, J.Y. Porter lived ineven though hes a secretary for the board; his assistant was in Jacksonville, doing a lot of the administrative work; but he still lived in Key West, and he wouldearly on, he would go by ship. He would take a schooner froma paddle wheeler, actually, from Key West to Miami, and then from Miami to Jacksonville, and
CP: Wow.
WB: And then, of course, later, when the trains came in, when Flagler finally got the train, he took the train back and forth; but he was a commuter. (WB laughs) Thats a heck of a commute.
CP: From Key West.
WB: And sobut he did show up, from time to time, and sign things; and go to meetings; and whatnot; and through the telegraph and other methods, he was able to keep in touch with what went on, and he had his eyes and ears out there; he had agentsagents, they were called, out there. But there was a devastating fire in 1902, 1903, somewhere in that range in downtown Jacksonville; swept the whole city; and it burned all the records, and burned down the Health Department, State Board of Health and everything. And so, they had to get new rental quarters. And, of course, all the records up to that time were burned.
CP: Oh, boy.
WB: In fact, Porter sent something out about 190405; a call tosaying, Weve lost all of our health notes thatour back copies, and if anybodys got any, please send them to us, because weveours are all burned. So, they didnt even have any records of their own publications; but the city had this park that was called Raspberry Park, that was onwhat was the name of that little creek?
CP: Hogan.
WB: Hogans Creek. Which wasI dont know whether it wasI guess it had some aspects of an open sewer; but, at that time, because there was dump atcalled Raspberry Park. We know that, now that weve dug there, butfor the new lab, but it was city land, and it was sold. I think Dr. Porter said, Look, itd be really nice if we had our own building, and the city of Jacksonville didnt want to give this away free. I thought it was kind of interesting, that it was city land, and then they charged us a hundred dollars for it.  But, we got the lot for a hundred dollars; and then, Im trying to think how much the building cost. It wasnt a lot of money, it was like thirty-five or forty thousand dollarsforty-five thousand, somewhere in there.
CP: What year?
WB: It was built in nineteenit was finished in 1911; I think it was started about nineteenlate 1909.
CP: Okay.
WB: And it was builtit was finished in 1911, and theres pictures of it in the annual reportthe 1911 annual report, without landscaping. It was a, like, on aactually mounded up area little bit, to build it up a little bit above water level, and theywe now know that they put pilings down, wooden pilings; and then, on the pilings, they poured a cement foundation. So, it has a basement, it has a first floor, and it has a top floor.
CP: And you said something about the attic, did you? The attic, where you got some health notes?
WB: Yeah, theres an attic. There was an attic in it, too; and what happened, I guess, in the beginning, they had a basement, which I guess theywe found, when wewhen I came there, that it flooded. I suppose it had flooded all along. So, parts of the basement, they stored materials in; and then the first floor had, I believe, some program stuff, maybe on one side; but on the other side, it was our laboratory. The new laboratory was put in there. Now, I think Dr. Porters office was on the top floor, and over on one corner, but the attic was for storage, also; but as time went on, and they grew, they actually had offices in that attic. And after being up there, it was not a special place to be; it was pretty warm, and it was poorly ventilated, and musty, and just not finished. I mean, there was just boards.
CP: Yeah, it was unfinished in the early 50s, when I went up there.
WB: But you could see where they stored things up there, and they had desks and benchworkbenches and things; So, and ityou know, over the years, it went through a lot of iterations; as you know, it was changed from this to that, but it has some really beautiful characteristics, and I think its got some nice tile floors, and some iron railings, and I would like to seeI dont know whether theywhen they restore it, theyre going to bring theat one time, obviously, you came in the front.
CP: Yes.
WB: And you went upyou went up a central stairwell that went off two ways; and it only goes off one side now, and they filled the second curvature off with cement to build a ramp to go to the other buildings they built in 1936 and 37. So, Im hoping that theyll be able to get that cement fill out of there, so they have that flow that they had, at one time, which would really make it nice.
CP: Ah, yes. So, Union Street Building is the original State Board of Health headquarters.
WB: Thats right.
CP: Yeah.
WB: Thats right, and its served us well; and I think having that as an icon, something that, sort of a touchstone, something that people can go to. We thought the big room thats on one side, which is probably as big as the room were in right now, its probably, oh, twenty-five or thirty feet long, and maybe fifteen or eighteen feet wide. Its pretty big. It would make a nice meeting room, and what we would try to do is open that up as a meeting room, andon the main floor, for those who would like to use it; and then use the rest of the main floor library/museum for medical paraphernalia and memorabilia. And the big call that we would have to make, I guess, would be to have people go into their attics, and their basements, and their garages, and pull the things that theyve been squirreling away for years, and decide theres a safe place to send them now.
CP: Great. Great. This buildings been put on the national registry of historic places?
WB: Right, right.
CP: And senator Jackson got a special recognition from the city of Jacksonville, of some sort.
WB: Right, right. And the difficult part, I guess, was trying to come up with departmental funds to restore it; and we were able to qualify for a Department of StateFlorida Department of State grant for about three hundred and fifty thousand dollars; because we put four hundred thousand dollars in matching money, as departmental money. And
CP: When was this?
WB: ThisI think we started that in 96.
CP: Okay.
WB: Ninety-six. And so, were doingtrying to re-up that grant right now. We got three hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the first year. First year we put in for, we didnt get the grant, but we went ahead with our own money and did some restoration work, and tried to actually find out an assessment; is it worth restoring?
CP: Yeah, saving, yeah.
WB: You know? It might be that it wasnt worth restoring. So, we got that part done, and we got a fellow named Kent Smith, whos an architect atactually did some restoration work at the city hall in St. Augustine.
CP: Uh-huh.
WB: And then thatsif youve been down there, its a beautiful job that they did, down there. So, hes sort of like the architect, overseer, contractor to work with, a different sub-contractor
CP: Is he state employed with the Department of Health?
WB: No, no, hes an outside consultant who specializes in restoration.
CP: Ah, whats his name?
WB: Smith. Kent Smith, I believe.
CP: Kent Smith. For the record; for my knowledge.
WB: Anyway, I think, once we get that together, and get it moving, itll be a nice for people to actually go back and visit; maybe have a meeting at; maybe, if they get to Jacksonville toif theyre on some other business, they can pop on in and look at the museum.
CP: Yes.
WB: It would be nice, I think. Theres only a handful of us whove had the privilege of fondling some of these photos, and some of thethe old papers, and I think others might like to do that.
CP: Yes, Im sure so. Now, I appreciate all that youre doing. I really do.
WB: Im having fun doing it.
CP: For the record, I justtremendous, for a guy whos reason for being is catching wild animals. Youve come a rather interesting path from there, but we need to note that youre a dominant in our bureau of epidemiologists. Im not sure of your current responsibilities in bureau of epidemiology, but I know you do know trapping these days. Other than humans that you want to pick their brains some; you trap them, Im witness to that; being one of those myself, you do very well. If I was some future researcher who really wanted to go beyond or go into the publications that youre doing, where would you suggest he start? I think at the Borland library, for example. When we
WB: Yes.
CP: When HRS took overthe 74 reorg[anization], the library of the Division of Healththe State Board of Health was lost, and it was divided some. There was a lot of historic documents that were part of that library, that were in that attic that youre speaking to. Some went to the University of Florida, some went to the Borland Library in Jacksonville, theres a prospect that some went to the city library in Jacksonville; tell us about that. What happened to those documentations?
WB: Well, Ive been to the Borland library, and theres a special room, and Davis and I pulled quite a bit of material out of there, actually. Speeches; reports on signedsome of them unsigned reports, some of them signed; newspapers clippings; magazine articles, theres a variety of material there. Old textbooks. So, yeah, theres a wealth of information there. Weve gone through a lot of it, but theres an awful lot to do there.
CP: Is it catalogued? Or is it just there?
WB: Not really, not really. Its just there; its never really been catalogued all that well. You just have to, like, start at one end of a row, on a shelf, and work your way down. So, it takesIve been over there three or four times; it just takes a long while to go through it. Theres no way you can easily just thumb through it. Caroline Hall, as you know, who was the librarian for years and years and years, has retired; but she does go over there, from time to time, and do some volunteer work. Its supposedly on her agenda to do some cataloguing of that; I dont know how that agendas being worked right now. Down in
CP: Not very fast, Ill tell you that; and we were privileged to have Caroline as a part of our historic group for these tapings; and so, we have her own words.
WB: Well, thattheres someif there is some in the Haydon Burns Library downtown, theres a Florida room there; Ive been in that, and I dont know if thereshow much of our material is in there; but Ive been in that years ago, and I need to get back again. Theres placesthings I wantI know where I want to look, now; when I was in there before, I was focusing on a specific disease; and it was rabies, at the time; so, I was really not looking for some other things. Theres a really nice little library in Key West thats got a wealth of history, and Key West goes way back.
CP: Sure does.
WB: What I want to find outIImy agenda is to find a good little library in St. Augustine. I hope there is such a library in St. Augustine.
CP: Try the, in St. Augustine, for you and for the record, the St. Augustine Historical Society. I was looking for an anvil, and found them. They have a library, and they have a lot of material. A lot of it I cant read, because its in Old Spanish, in longhand.
WB: Yeah, its Spanish.
CP: But for your interest, they were very interested in my interest in a particular anvilparticular anvil. We didnt find the anvil, but it was a good contact. Anvil black and blacksmithery.
WB: Yeah, yeah. Well, thats
CP: Let me mention that for the record.
WB: I think that might be one place I want to start picking up some pieces, but the little town libraries are a good place to go. Thewherever you can find, and Davis is at the archives of newspapers that have been around a while; for instance, I think I want to try to visit the Ocala Star Banner, which has been around forever.
CP: Its been there for years and years. Yeah, forever. Its as old as dirt, as youd say.
WB: Right, so, they may have some microfilm that I could
CP: Its not as old as St. Augustineas Pensacola.
WB: Right. So, Davis has done some looking in Pensacola, and actually, thereI dont what the newspapers have evolved in Tallahassee, believe it or not, but there may be some archives. I know theres microfilm of some newspaper archives in the Gray Library.
CP: Yes.
WB: But I havent had time to go through all of them; Ive gone through some of them, but its pretty tedious work. So, theres a lot of interesting material, but I havent been to Gainesville; I dont know if the University of Florida, what they might have thats
CP:  P.K Young is were thinkingIm associated with some Spanish antiquity, as youre aware, in some sort of way, in P.K Young, it maintains a rather large historic file Florida historic file. Let me mention that to you for the record, and Im aware of no one whos gone there for early Public Health; but if youre interested in Spanish documents; early Spanish-occupied Florida, or English-occupied Florida, historic documents, real ones.
WB: Really?
CP: There are documents on that sort of history, and P.K Young Library is an appropriate place to go.
WB: Sounds like another mine that I have to visit.
CP: Some of our stuff from the State Board of Health Library got transferred to the University of Florida Medical Library. It was divided, its my impression, between the Borland
WB: I wasnt aware of that.
CP: And whether the Borland got first choice, Im aware that Caroline said, Just know, theres certain Public Health historic things that shall stay here. And she was dogged for that.
WB: Well, in my conversations with her, after the reorganizationand I visited with her quite often, for a variety of reasons, and I got the impression that she wasnt going to let anything out of her sight. So, unless it happened after she left, I think it actuallyshe probably was a good keeper of the material, at least, up to some point.
CP: Yeah, you; for your future reference, too, in case I get killed on the way home this afternoon, and for the record
WB: (WB laughs) Heaven forbid.
CP: Ive just thought ofthe Florida Medical Association had a museum in the nations first hospital, which is the St. Augustine Hospital, built by the Spanish in the late 1500s. A hospital. And the Florida Medical Association established a museum in that building.
WB: Really?
CP: It was called the Medicalthe Florida Medical Museum, and it continued to operate until someone broke into it, and Dr. Porters watch
WB: Oh, is that where his watch was?
CP: The city of Jacksonville gave to Dr. Porter, in 1889, a watcha pocket watch; a beautiful, profoundly expensive thing they had had specially made for Dr. Porter to say, Thank you, Dr. Porter, for getting us out of the 87 Jacksonville yellow fever epidemic. And that watch, that belonged to the State Board of Healthit had come down to the State Board of the Health, and was in the possession of the Board of Health, was loaned to that museum for a display. The museum was broken into, and the only thing of value stolen was that watch. But upcoming from that, was they say, The museum was closed. They werent gonna do that anymore.
This was in the mid-late 60s, when all that occurred. The Florida Medical Association, for lack of a place to store their artifacts, they were sent to the Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, the University of Florida Museum; and they stayed there in boxes, that museum did, for a long time; until the museum needed space, and they are not a medical museum; they had no intention of displaying those artifacts. So, correspondents with the State Museum of FloridaFlorida State Museum/R.A Gray Building, you call it, agreed to take those artifacts, with some notable exceptions that they would not take, because they didnt want them or have room for them; and so, those artifacts, from St. Augustine to the Gainesville University of Florida Museum
WB: What a trip.
CP: Are now in the possession of the museumFlorida Museum in Tallahassee; and they are due to catalogue, and theyre due to kept here, but they have no intent of displaying them, either; but because of what they are, theyve agreed to keep them there. When a museum, a medicalFlorida Medical Public Health Museum opens in the Julia Street building, it would be very appropriate for those in charge to consult with the Florida Museum here, in the R.A Gray Building, for those artifacts to be moved for our discipline. For your further record, the storage
WB: Yeah, would there be any trouble getting those?
CP: No, not really. Everybody has to be under very official hospices, though; no, you could not walk down there and walk off with some of those artifacts.
WB: Well, I was hoping that we could get those. Theres probablyI got the impression that theressome of our stuff in is a back room down there, too, in boxes.
CP: There probably is. For your record, I personally have a whole bunch, though, that Ive collected, over the years, for that museum. For the record, too, Im stimulated to tell you that there is a pharmacy desk, for lack of a better term, that came out of McIntoshthe city of McIntosh, was built byfor a physician who practiced in McIntosh in the early 1800s.
WB: Wow.
CP: And was there, and in due course, that pharmacy desk was given to the Florida Medical Association as an artifact. That is now inthat particular artifact is in the warehouse at the laboratories in Jacksonville. It is in their physical possession.
WB: And theyre in a warehouse?
CP: Yeah, its acrosson the west
WB: Is it in someplace where its going to be high and dry, and all that?
CP: Yeah.
WB: Yeah?
CP: Its, if youll remember, across the street from the Julia Street building, west of Pearl Street. Across Pearl Street.
WB: Okay.
CP: Theres a warehouse. Theres a (inaudible)-house looking building that was a warehouse when you were there.
WB: Yeah.
CP: You know?
WB: Still there.
CP: In building number two, is this pharmacy desk. That in the opinions of a lot of folks, is a valuable piece. It is there for the purpose of the Julia Street building museum, if it ever gets put up, but that is physically in our possession.
WB: How big is this?
CP: Big. I think it weighs nine million, seven hundred and sixty-three trillion pounds, since me and Dr. Hardwig and all of the laborers we could gather, complete with some pieces of iron tubing, were moving that sucker around. Its about eight feet, maybe ten feet long; made of heart pine, a lot of it one inch thick heart pine; if you could imagine, it has got a lot of cubiclescubby holes for the storage of pharmaceuticals; but a really, really, really, really old-time pharmacy desk, but its a place for the compounding of prescriptions; but it belonged to a particular physician, and was made for him; but it was his pharmacy center. There was no such thing as pharmacists
WB: Oh, yeah.
CP: In the early 1800s, in Florida, the physicians did their own compounds; but this is where he kept all of his crude drugs, and he would provide your compound; he would compound your drug if you got to him and needed a drug.
WB: Thats terrific. And we have in the lab that are aware of all of this.
CP: And the director is theall of the upstairs of the laboratory are where it is over there, and Im quite certain that anybody who goes in will ask the question, What in the world is this? Its about eight feet tall, and about ten feet wide; comes in two pieces, the top piece is tractableis detractable from the lower piece; but when I left them there, some years ago, they were one sitting on top of the other, and I personally went to Gainesville, cause their museum wanted that big monstrosity out of their space, and the Tallahassee libraryTallahassee museum didnt want it. And it was one piece, and they were anxious to have their record cleared, but its stillits a valuable artifact, and its an officially recorded piece in the Florida Museum R.A Gray Building, and they know exactly where it is; but it is in the possessiontheir official records state
WB: So, its our very first piece, is that what youre saying?
CP: Yeah, and Im kind ofIve got some legal accountability for it, but its in the legal possession of the laboratories, and thats where its physically located.
WB: Well, I know that youve had visions for years of trying to get a Public Health museum, and Im just hoping were gonna get this thing to fruition, before too long.
CP: Yes, you know, youreI appreciate this opportunity withyoure here to record that piece of that stuff. Thats valuable for future researchers interested in public health; and, perchance, you and I dont see all this come to fruition, at least theres a public record now.
WB: Right; somebody can dig through it and find it. (CP and WB laugh) Well, I think that itsI suppose you knew that your office, in that 1911 building, was in part of the laboratory, but I didnt know that. I mean, Iit was all partitioned and whatnot.
CP: Yeah, its not my time on tape, but the room that youre talking about is awhen I joined the State Board of Health, was the serology laboratory, and it was physicallythe physical arrangement of that room and that floor, was sharply different from what it was when my office was there, and what it is now. Its been
WB: I was kind of surprised, it goes from the front of the building to the back of the building, you know, and I guess there was a refrigerator or something that we had that was built on the back
CP: We had a separate (inaudible) called the Preparation room, when I joined in 1950, the way that building was constructed, and that was the state serology laboratory, one of the mainthat and parasitology, was the two major functions of the laboratory and consumed all the space. An earlier speaker that weve had spoke to the parasite surveys, the hookworm surveys of those days. We had the parasitology lab over there, and the serology lab, because wed just come into our own for doing something about syphilis; just got penicillin. Right? Just got penicillin available, and there was great promise for eradicating syphilis, and a law was passed to require premarital syphilis lawthis is not going to be on tape.
WB: Thats right, all of that, weve come across that.
CP: All of great historic moment of why all of that, and this room that you speak to, in that building.
WB: Well, you know, theres a lot to be said for getting photos of that. Theres not many photos that we can find that were taken inside of that building. We do have a photo of the lab in the Tampa laboratory building, but not of the lab in the 1911 building. At least, we havent come across it.
CP: You might have challenged me to go through some slides, cause I have a fair number of slides that were taken of the interior of that laboratory.
WB: Really?
CP: And thats not 1911, now, Im not that old. Not 1911, but from 1950.
WB: From when it was still functioning as a laboratory.
CP: um-hm.
WB: Yeah, I thought it was kind of strange that, you know, that they came full circle; the laboratory, years later, finally came back to that building again. (CP laughs)
CP: Thats right. And it started out in the basement and first floor were largely laboratory. Even in 1911. Youre aware of that; the basement was a laboratory.
WB: Was the basement part of the laboratory? Yeah, I guess I did read that. I was wondering what it would be like, with the fumes coming out from down in the basement, whether they have a way to ventilate that.
CP: Im sure it was pleasant. Cause they still did a lot of parasitology.
WB: I think they were doing chemistrya lot of chemistry, down in the basement.
CP: Yeah, yeah.
WB: I remember commenting to that, I thought, Im not sure I would want to be working in the basement down there. (CP laughs)
CP: No, I would want to be working the second floor.
WB: Yeah, because it would be coming right on through, right on up to you. But Im really anxious to see it come back together again. I really think its gonna make a difference, and I reallyI hope that, you know, the conversations weve had recently, Ive had particularly with Florida Medical Association indicates that theyre very anxious to participate in that museum, and I think
CP: I think they are. I think they are.
WB: I think that would be really terrific, to sort of bring that piece together again. Cause, you know, the readings Ive done, it really indicates that they actually sat at the table, literally, sat at the table, and a lot of the decisions that were being made early on. Because thats where the medical association was formed, and
CP: Yes, secretary and first executive officer, the guy that did all the work for the medical association was also the vital statistician of the State Board of Health.
WB: Right, right. So, theres some really close ties.
CP: Yeah, and the offices of Florida Medical Associationquote-unquote, offices, physically were at the Julia Street building.
WB: Right.
CP: In the office of Dr. Thompson, was his name, who was also chief of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and thats what he was doing there. But he was selected secretary, and consequently, carried on all the work of the office of the Florida Medical Association was in the Julia Street building. You know what?
WB: Yeah, I understand that, at some point, he got crowded out. When they grew a little bit.
CP: Yeah, he did, yeah. But that all is because of all his recordsall of his records, he had to move. Remember that all this was longhand; remember his longhand records?
WB: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, it is really interesting, though, like you say, the county health units have a turnover like we do, and Im not sure that, when they did haveIve gone to several county health units, and tried to find the records, and they just dont seem to have them. They just dont seem to have them.
CP: No they dont.
WB: And Ive enticed a few of them to dig deeper, and a couple have on their own. For instance, Ive heard from Bill Toth in Orange County, whos been there about twenty-seven years or so, and he couldnthe found some materials; a diary from a nurse in the Apopka clinic, but many of the things hes pulled out, he has gone down to the Historical Society to get.
CP: Yeah.
WB: Because its just not there for the health department, which is really unfortunate. You know?
CP: It is. Shockingly some of them in a particular county health department, not to be named, they could not determine from their records, or county commission records, the year they were organized. Because they were wanting to celebrate their hundredth anniversary
WB: And they didnt know what year they were began.
CP: And they couldnt find, locally, what year they began; and I had a phone call about that, and with a flip through our annual report, of course, I could tell them what year they were organized, and there was some nice stuff in the annual report about their coming on as one of the cooperating county health units.
WB: Well, I think, as time goes on, were gonna find the twenty years that we lost with HRS aretheres gonna be a lot of gaps there, and Im hopingtheres a possibility that a few of the people who were there then will help us put the pieces together; but theyre going to be a rough overview, theyre not going to be detailed, you know? Theres going to be a lot of cracks.
CP: I hope youll have time to stimulate them to do it. I was talking to one of your cohorts recently, in the immunization program, and trying to admonish him that the necessity of getting the written record for that period of what all happened. You know, in the immunization program, amazing things happened during our HRS years; and I know of no place that thats recorded for future historians who are trying to get a handle on this sort of stuff.
WB: All right, well, you and I both know Joyner Sims, and we know that Joyner, for better or for worse, would create volumes and volumes of documentation in the AIDS program; much more than I ever did when I got it started for a couple years before, but I would hate to see that be lost, though, cause, you know, I mean, we could cook that down.
CP: Yeah, to a manageable size.
WB: Right, but I wish, you knowI mean, he did it. He sort of overdid it a little bit, but, I mean, its there, and you can actually work through it; but if its not there at all, you dont have anything to work with, and thats a bit disappointing; but the part that disappoints me the most is that I think the counties made more of a contribution than they realize, and the staff at the counties, I think theres more of a chance for some of those staff at the small counties to stay on and actually spend a long period of time at a county health department, should they wish to, assuming the salaries were appropriate and whatnot, but there doesnt seem to be much incentive for them to stay, and, I guess, thats how they lost whatever records they had. So, those annual reports, where they required the counties, as you know, A to Z, every county, send in a report once a year saying what their highlights were, those were quite important. Now, Im sure some counties have their own annual reports, which they continue to publish, at least, during that twenty-year period.
CP: I hope they do.
WB: And Im not sure anybodys really gone back and asked them to
CP: Did you do it?
WB: To put that together.
CP: Yeah.
WB: And I could do that. Iyou know, what I do now is connect with the counties through the regional epidemiologists; we have the state divided in five regions. So, our regional epidemiologists visit the county health departments regularly; so, through them, I could get the word out that wed be trying to find a way to pull those together; even if we just gathered them up and put in em in a library. One of the nice things that weve got going for us in the epidemiology program is we have a little library space, we have some shelving; and hopefully, well be able to carry that over to the new building.
CP: Good, good.
WB: Butbut, again, as programs go, space is used for offices, and sobut the main thing, I think, is to try to pull it all together, and even if it doesnt get cataloged, well at least have it. But right now, things are scattered; and anybody who wanted to come in and try to follow where weve been, hopefully they can do that from the documentation that weve made on the pieces that weve put together.
CP: Yeah, youre
WB: But theresI have an office full of material that I want to put someplace safe.
CP: Yeah, dont you retire quick.
WB: Well, Im gonna hang around just a little while longer.
CP: Till we can get that taken care of. Well, Dr. Bigler, have we left out any significant something?
WB: Dont think so.
CP: I appreciate your letting me talk. This is very unusual; it is not my purpose on tape, but
WB: Well, thats great.
CP: Things occurred to me. Were trying toI knew this is trying to make a record of whats in your head, though, and I think youve done very well at putting that out for others to see where the record of the history of public health in this state can be located. I appreciate sincerely your willingness to do that. And on behalf of the University of South Florida College of Public Health, were very interested in what it is that were doing; but especially myself, Dr. Bigler, really appreciate your coming by and sharing with us these terribly valuable things that I worry theres too many that dont share my and your opinion of the value of these things; and I thank you, Dr. Bigler.
WB: Right, were going to have to do some missionary work, I think here.
CP: We gonna work on it. And Im Skeeter Prather.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2014 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 42 02 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


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