Robert A. Schoonover oral history interview

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Robert A. Schoonover oral history interview

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Robert A. Schoonover oral history interview
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University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program

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Oral history ( local )
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Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.
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interviewed by E. Charlton Prather.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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C53-00031 ( USFLDC DOI )
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subfield code a C53-000312 USFLDC DOI0 245 Robert A. Schoonover oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by E. Charlton Prather.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.Transcription and timecoding of this interview is underway and will be added when complete. At that time the audio link will be replaced with the OHPi player link (player supporting syncronized audio and full-text transcription).7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local710 University of South Florida.b Library.Special & Digital Collections.Oral History Program.1 773 t USF College of Public Health oral history project4 856 u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?c53.31


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text Charlton Prather (CP): We are privileged, this afternoon, to have with us Mr. Robert Schoonover, presently of upstate Pennsylvania. He tells me that he can throw a rock almost from his house into New York State. But he has come here to Tampa today to share with us the story of Florida Health Notes.
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Mr. Schoonover was the longtime editor and writer for Florida Health Notes, which is a publication first initiated in 1898 by Floridas first state health officer, Dr. Jay Y. Porterhes got three names, Dr. Porter, anywayand continued in essentially continuous, monthly publication through about 1976 with an interruption or two, here and there, because of money, I think, but we will ask Mr. Schoonover that.
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Mr. Schoonover came to the State Board of Health to take over the publication of this, but in the minds of many historians, has probably had more influence on the general health welfare of this state than any other single item. It was an educational, how-to publication: how to protect yourself from disease, how to live healthfully. Early copies were distributed in all libraries, and, I think, to all school districts of Florida, free of charge, and to virtually anybody who would want to get on the mailing list, a very widely read and widely used health-focused publication.
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And it is truly a pleasure, now, to have with us the longtime editor of that publication. Mr. Schoonover, let me say welcome and thank you so much for your willingness to come. And, on behalf of the College of Public Health and the University of South Floridaand all future students who are interested in matters of health education in the state will be reviewing this tapeand I say, thank you for coming.
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Tell me, how was it a man that went to acting school, was in with a traveling troupe of actors, traveled around giving plays, I think you even did some photography, and suddenly you are the editor of Floridawhat in the world brought you there?
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Robert Schoonover (RS): Well, you see, I was a graduate of Temple University with a degree in journalisma bachelors. And then, I had worked on the cultural record as sports editor, and then on the Corning Leader as a reporter. And then, I decided to go to American University in Washington to get a masters degree in journalism and public relations.
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And my wife was a Navy nurse, and she was ordered to duty at Jacksonville Naval Hospital. So, when I finished with my degree classwork, I came down here, wrote my thesis, went to the [Florida] Times-Union to get a job and they said, Sorry, you are too highly qualified.
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CP: To be a real reporter.
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RS: And so, they said that there was an opening for a writer at the state board of health. And I went up there, and Elizabeth Reed (sic) hired me. And I guess I beat out a couple of other people. But I started in July of 1962 and walked right in the middle of a encephalitis epidemic in St. Petersburg.
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And that was one of my first stories that I wrote, was on encephalitis. I learned public health from the ground up because I didnt even know what it was. And so I started, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, my twelve years doing it. I covered everything, from babies, alcoholism, to VD, to nuclear medicines
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CP: Polio.
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RS: Pardon?
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CP: Polio.
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RS: Polio. That was near the end of the epidemics.
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CP: Yeah, and I remember a particular Health Notes on Americas first hospital.
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RS: Yeah, that was in St. Augustine, on the east side of St. George Street.
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CP: That is correct. How do you remember all of those details?
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RS: I looked in the books.
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CP: Good, good, good.
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RS: And by 16it was started shortly before 1600.
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CP: Yes, that is correct.
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RS: And then they had the little problem withmaybe a hurricane or something. And by 1600, it was defunct, but I think there was a commander. I think his name was Mndez
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CP: All right. I cant confirm nor deny that.
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RS: came and started it with help from the royal treasury, and it was dedicated to Saint Barbara. And for years, it was on and off again, finally gone again, because according to money and according to how much health they had. In fact, they even bought a slave to help with the care of the patients and take care of the cleaning of the place and cooking their meals. And there isnt much I know about what happened to it afterwards.
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CP: Well, Id have to get your Health Notes and reread to confirm from what all you just said. You remember too much of that.
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RS: And then, of course, after the start of the public health in Florida in 1888and I never could figure out what was fomites. It was something that they thought, maybe, carried yellow fever.
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CP: Yes, yellow fever transmitted by fomites, which is an inanimate object.
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RS: Well, I am glad that Walter Reed found the cause of yellow fever because that helped Florida grow. Once they found the cause of yellow fever and
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CP: Once they could control mosquitos, I say. If we had never learned to control mosquitos, we wouldnt have a Florida as we know it.
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RS: Well, I think if it wasnt for the mosquito control programs, there wouldnt be.
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CP: Yeah, there wouldnt even be a University of South Florida here in Tampa. Mosquitos would keep them ate up.
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RS: And, even today, my niece out there in Palm Harbor says sitting out in the early evening is impossible.
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CP: It is still, today.
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RS: It is still, today. And that
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CP: I cant imagine what it used to be.
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RS: I cant either. And, you know, there is something else about Floridas public health.
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CP: Whats that?
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RS: They started in 1888, but it wasnt until 1913 they hired their first nurses.
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CP: Speak to that. Did you write about this in some of your Health Notes?
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RS: Yes. There were three nurses, hired in 1913, to take care of TB patients, but in three years, they had 13 nurses. But in 1915, the legislature passed a law that schoolchildren had to be checked and
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CS: For what?
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RS: For disease and health.
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CP: That was in 1915?
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RS: Nineteen fifteen. No nurses to do it! So they had to find nurses, but there was one thing about the health departmentup and down went the money, the tax. There was one administration that gotten into office with the idea that it would cut taxes. And do you know where the money came from, that they cut?
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CP: Out of the health department.
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RS: Sure.
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CP: Yeah, because we werent very tangible.
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RS: It wasnt until really in 1944, when Dr. Sowder came, that there was a change.
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CP: Consistent sort of funding?
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RS: Consistent. And there was the County Health Department Enabling Law in 1931 that was supposed to enable the county health departments to have health programs. See, I think
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CP: And the county commissions, then, were mandated to put money into it?
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RS: I think so. And Taylor County was the first one to have one.
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CP: Over in Perry, Florida.
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RS: And then Escambia had one, but Taylors didnt last too long. But it wasnt until after World War II that they really got going.
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CP: Ah, yes. And I am gathering that all of these are subjects of Health Notes. Thats where you are getting all of this history?
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RS: You would be surprised about the digging Ive been doing out of those books I have.
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CP: Great.
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RS: In fact, I wrote a 30 page speech, put it on tape
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CP: For today?
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RS: For today.
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CP: Im glad you didnt bring it.
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RS: Well, I put it on tape and listened to it, and it was a boring thing I
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CP: No, thats because you were familiar with the data. You were familiar with what you were saying, so it would be boring to you, but it wont be to us.
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RS: Well, you know, the years that I have worked with Health Notes, it was a tremendousI didnt know I was writing history, doing history.
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CP: I think a lot of us didnt know that you were doing that.
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RS: I was just doing the job that I loved. And we didnt use very many names.
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CP: I know. You rarely used a name.
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RS: There were three names that we used. One issue was dedicated to Dr. Cato, down in Miami, after he passed away. And then there was Dr. Womback from Palm Beach, and he was with Dr. Covington of the small county type and we compared the two types of counties.
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CP: And you named names.
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RS: That one issue had names. But the
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CP: Well, the names werent important to the mission of what you were doing.
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RS: No, but I did several issues on the county health departments, and, one I particularly am fond of, was one that covered the three important people in the health department. In this small county, there was the clerk, the nurse, the sanitarian. Now, every county had a clerk and a nurse; sometimes, they shared the sanitarian.
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CP: Yes, yes. The small counties.
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RS: The small, very small counties. And I came across a list of questions that a clerk would get. Such as, Oh dear, my boyfriend and II think I am pregnant. What do I do now? And another one from a young man who said, Ive got a sore. I think the doctor ought to see it.
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And there was a girla mother called in. She said, My boy has been bit by a raccoon, and the raccoon died. What do we do? And there was another person called in and said, We are going on a trip. What immunizations do we need?
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There was a nurse called in into the health department and said, I have a child who is not doing well, and I think the nurse ought to visit the home. In another case, there was a big burly man, walked into the clinic, took a number, sat down in a chair, but he didnt notice the sign said family planning.
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CP: Well, he probably needed some help.
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RS: He probably did.
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CP: Now, how did you get all of thosethis was research for Health Notes?
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RS: Research, I didntwell, I went out, made acquaintances in the county health departments and talked to people and asked them questions
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CP: Like a real reporter, or even one with a masters degree.
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RS: like a real reporter. I also took all the photographs. Sometimes I used people from the health department, I used some of my friends, I even used a picture of a little boy from next door. He was squatting in the bushesan issue on hookworm.
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Oh, I had a lot of fun. It is really the essence ofI have to dig back way back in my memories tomemory banksto get all of this.
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CP: Well, that is okay.
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RS: Because
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CP: I cant imagine you would carry that in the forefront, anyway.
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RS: The oneson venereal disease was the most touching.
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CP: Oh, really? How come? Because it was taboo to talk about such things?
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RS: It was.
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CP: Ah yes.
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RS: People were scared of it.
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CP: Apparently they werent too scared because the rates were sky high.
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RS: Well, they didnt know. There was one issue that carried the story of an investigator and what he went through to find the victims. For instance, we know that when somebody came in and was diagnosed with syphilis, they would be asked for their contacts. And this investigator was given a name ofnow, this was a fictitious nameBarbara.
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And he went, called herhe went to call several times before he found herand he asked her about her personal life, and she denied any problem with it. And, finally, she got kind of worried, so she went to the health department and was examined, found out she was positive, and named more names and the investigation went on and on and on, spreading like wildfire.
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CP: Yeah, yeah. Thats syphilis.
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RS: And we had several issues that just touched on this so frequently thatand it is still going on today. When I was with Health Notes, at first, we didnt have anything on drugs, and then we got startedwe had two or three before I left.
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CP: On drug abuse? On street drugs?
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RS: On drug abuse. Then that was something else. We didnt get into all the fine details that they do today because we just
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CP: You probably couldnt find it.
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RS: Well, it wasnt in publication. It wasnt in literature or anything. And then there were the restaurants. Oh, man, did I have a ball with those.
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CP: How is that? Did the restaurateurs give you a free meal for coming in and interviewing?
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RS: No, I never got a free meal, but I got a lot of information.
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CP: All right.
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RS: Sanitarians, who I always went with, was very kind, very alpha. They would pose with the cooks and the waiters and everybody for pictures. They would check the shelves to see if everything was copacetic on the shelves. Sometimes they would find a bottle of alcohol along with the sauces or a bottle ofwhat is the
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CP: Bleach?
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RS: Bleach or ammonia.
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CP: Ammonia. Yeah, that is a good one, ammonia.
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RS: My wife had an incident, and she went to a restaurant in southern New York. And she asked for a salad with oil and vinegar, and she was brought a bottle of ammonia.
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CP: Oh, man. Thats personal.
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RS: They knew right away that it wasnt right.
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CP: As soon as she opened it?
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RS: Nowell, they could smell it. They sent it back, and they left the restaurant.
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CP: Did you do much travel in your research?
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RS: Oh yes. I used the state car and everything from Pensacola to Key West. And, of course, I have always contacted the health departments before I came and
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CP: They were helpful to you?
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RS: They were very helpful. I had some good friends among the sanitarians and the clerks, nurses. In fact, there was one nurse that I knew in Tampa that had been a Navy nurse with my wife in Bainbridge, Maryland, Martha Long. And I think she is still alive, but
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CP: No, no she isnt. I would like for her to sit in that chair some if she were available.
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RS: She was a very capable lady nurse. I dont think she retired from the Navy, but I know I saw her a couple of times in Tampa.
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CP: She became director of nurses for the Hillsborough County Health Department, are you aware of that?
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RS: Well, I am glad to hear that.
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CP: And, for your general knowledge, she developed Alzheimers, and it was very sad. She was symptomatic for several years and lived with her daughter.
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RS: Well, my wife will be interested in hearing that.
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CP: Yeah, tell her. And Marthait has been six, seven, or eight years ago since she died.
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RS: But I never stopped to play along the way because I was always getting back to Jacksonville to write my stories. And one thing that I was very conscious of was deadlines.
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CP: Thats a characteristic of reporters, isnt it?
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RS: Well, yes. Especially those who are trying to publish something on a schedule. Dr. Sowder and I would work out a schedule of subjects, usually in September or October, for the following year.
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CP: That was going to be a question. How did you select your subjects? With consultations with Dr. Sowder?
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RS: Yeah, and I would suggest a list, and he would cross out some and add some. And together, we would get a list. And then I would ask for bidseach year, we had to ask for bids. I wrote rights
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CP: For printing?
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RS: For printing. And I would write to the qualifications, I mean, the specifications of what we wanted and the size, type, approximate number of pages; and then, we would have sealed bids. And one time we had a printer in Tallahassee that got the bid, and the manuscripts and proofs and everything came back and forth by Greyhound.
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But meeting the deadlines was the thing that I had to do. Once, I had a boss that didnt realize what deadlines were. And I would keep asking him for a manuscript, keep asking him for the manuscript, so I could pass it on to Dr. Ford and Dr. Sowder, and I, sometimes, almost had to wring his neck.
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CP: That is too bad. You had access to Dr. Sowder. Why didnt you ask Dr. Sowder, Tell him that we got deadlines to meet? Get that back off his desk.
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RS: Well, Jerry Conger fixed that; he was on Dr. Sowders staff. And since they knew that my degree was in journalism and public relations, they wanted me up there. So they invited me up on Dr. Sowders staff. And I said that if I come, I want to take Health Notes with me, so they okayed that.
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CP: Were you in health education?
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RS: Yeah.
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CP: You were in health education, but you were writing Health Notes?
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RS: I was writing Health Notes.
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CP: And that was all you really ever did was write Health Notes?
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RS: Well, no, I did a lot of pamphlets.
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CP: Oh yes, okay.
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RS: And I also helped with the annual report.
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CP: Yeah, the editorializing of it.
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RS: Frequently, we had a problem with annual reports because, although doctors are nice people, and sometimes they think they can write, but theysometimes, they dont know what an antecedent is.
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CP: I know some of those.
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RS: So we always had trouble. And they would be verbose in their writing, so we had to cut them back.
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CP: And it would make them mad.
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RS: Pardon?
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CP: It would make them mad.
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RS: It would make them mad, and they would call and say, Why are you taking this out? And I would say, Because you repeated it someplace else, and that was always a big problem. And then we printalso, I helped with the monographs and
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CP: Anything that had to do with writing and editing you were involved.
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RS: Yes.
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CP: Yeah, that is good. But your prime responsibility was Health Notes. Can you speak to the history of Health Notes a little? Why did Dr. Porter start them?
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RS: Well, the reason Dr. Porter started it was for education.
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CP: Yes, this was in 1889. He put out his first
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RS: Eighteen ninety-two.
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CP: Eighteen ninety-two, sorry.
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RS: And it was printed until about 19almost 1900. And then it was stopped for six years because of shortage of staff that could help with it and money, and then it started again in about 1906. And it was printed until about 1919. And then, for some reason, it stopped for three years, and then it picked up again and would continue, then, until 1976. And I always felt that it was a publication that was worthwhile.
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It was written at about a tenth grade level. And it was used throughout the state in schools, colleges, in their health education classes, and we sent a lot to other health departments too. I had a friend in Virginia who works for the health department, and he tried to start one up there in Virginia, but he didnt get very far with it. But he always admired what we did.
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CP: From your memory, did not you or the state board of health provide copies for free to who all, do you remember? Who all got free copies on a routine basis?
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RS: Well, we had a mailing list of probably 25 to 30,000 each month.
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CP: You did? Wow.
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RS: And Earl Holly, who manned the addressograph room, mailed them all out, and sometimes wed been mailing Health Notes to an address for years, and all of a sudden, the post office would return it and say, No such address. We had a lot of fun with the post office, because I think sometimes they just didnt want to work.
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CP: They just didnt want to mess with them.
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RS: No, but it was aI wish, today, it was still going. And if they would ask me to come back and help work with it, at 80, Id come back.
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CP: Well, I dont see it in the immediate future, but I see it. I see a facsimile ofand I would want to call it the Florida Health Notes. It would be a continuity of those and for the same purpose.
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RS: Well, you know, the stateafter I left, I would get publications from the health department for professionals, but there wasnt anything for the public.
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CP: That is correct, and there still isnt.
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RS: The people on the streets, in the schools, in their homes, they need something they can read that would help them
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CP: That is trustworthy and from a reliable source. I totally agree.
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RS: And I was so sorry to hear the health department get into trouble, and I hope it can survive somehow.
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CP: It is. We got a new state department of health now. It is not a state board of health, but it is a department of state government and reports directly to the governor, and the health officer is called a secretary nowthe secretary of department of health, who is appointed by the governor. And with every gubernatorial change since weve had such a department, we have changed secretaries also.
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RS: Yeah, well, I wish Dr. Sowder was around to help.
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CP: Yeah, he is here. Physically, he is doing very well. I havent seen him in a good while. I hope to see him before long.
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RS: But if they get another man to run Health Notes, make sure they get a well-trained journalist.
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CP: I agree. Hell know how to get the data. We dont need a professional nurse, unless she has got a degree in journalism.
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RS: Or a doctor.
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CP: Thatsoh, forbid the thought.
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RS: But the thing is that if Health Notes were still around, I would love to help with it.
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CP: Go back to Dr. Porters days. Did you have much opportunity to read much of his? I am recalling that hishe just kind of wrote whatever came to mind, and, during your tenure, the Health Notes became single subject issues.
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RS: Well, up until 1944, there were little items in each issue; there were no singular subjects. And they covered things like hookworm, which was greatly helped by the Rockefeller Foundation.
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CP: Yes, yes, they provided many
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RS: And there was one article on womens corsets. It just blasted womens fashion because he said the corsets squeezed the womens organs together, and they were damaged by that.
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CP: This is Dr. Porter?
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RS: Dr. Porter, yeah. And
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CP: Yeah, he had a sharp pen. But he made points through the Health Notes. He made very practical, helpful, living points.
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RS: And heI have to admire him because he did such a great job, started the Health Notes
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00:30:5.0
CP: And he wrote it.
187
00:30:6.7
RS: Yeah, and something else that was interesting, or is interesting, is the fact that we didnt start keeping vital statistics until 1917. And that was so important because people need to know when they were born, how they died, and
188
00:30:33.5
CP: How do you do good planning without those data?
189
00:30:36.2
RS: You cant. And some people I know cant even find their ancestry because theres no record.
190
00:30:45.6
CP: Oh, you are one of those genealogists, and so you are complaining because you cant trace the genealogy. Yeah, I would be complaining on the birth records because of death rates.
191
00:30:56.6
RS: Because of what?
192
00:30:57.3
CP: Death rates.
193
00:30:58.5
RS: Death rates.
194
00:30:59.9
CP: Yeah, as a part of the vital statistic system, the profiles of communities. The underweight verse needs to be recorded, and they tend to clusteror if they do cluster, we need to know it.
195
00:31:15.5
RS: Each year, I get a copy of the Book of Facts put out by the New York Times. And I check the different nations to see what their mortality is among the infants, and some of them, especially in Africa, are very high. I had a friend who was a missionary in Mali, and she said that most babies dieeight out of ten die before they are ten years old because when one baby was born, the mother would nurse it. When another baby came along, there wasnt enough food for the first one, and so that baby would die.
196
00:32:4.6
CP: Oh, me, Bob.
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00:32:6.1
RS: And your point about death mortality, infant mortality, and causes of why people die, my wife says that she hopes that when she dies, they just dont put cardiac arrest on her birth certificate.
198
00:32:29.4
CP: Well, we started in 1917, and it is my impression that there were only a very few states that were recording vital statistics in 1917.
199
00:32:40.7
RS: Well, I think Florida was the forerunner on many things, and I loved working with the sanitarians because weI got into a lot of places. One time, I was going downstate and I stopped at a restaurant to have something to eat. I went to the restroom. It was flooded. I went and told the manager, You better get ahold of the sanitarian or somebody. Fix that bathroom.
200
00:33:18.4
And, another time, I was driving the state car up [U.S. Route] 301. And I was going just about the speed limit, and some foreignsome car from out of state zoomed by me. So I sped up and got up beside it on the four-lane highway and motioned for the person to slow down, and then I drove on.
201
00:33:40.9
CP: Did they slow down?
202
00:33:42.0
RS: Pardon?
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00:33:42.5
CP: Did they slow down? Did you have a seal on the side of your car?
204
00:33:45.1
RS: Yeah. It wasnt a state trooper, but
205
00:33:49.3
CP: It still had a Florida seal on it.
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00:33:50.8
RS: Yeah, and we had a lot of fun. And I can remember when you came back from public health school in North Carolina and was assistant director of epidemiology or preventable diseases and that was the first time I knew you.
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00:34:14.3
CP: Uh-oh. Well, dont tell anybody about that.
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00:34:16.1
RS: And the books I brought back with me, has a nice picture of you on an issue on examinations, and you were talking to a patient
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00:34:31.7
CP: I had hair, too, probably.
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00:34:34.5
RS: No, you didnt have hair.
211
00:34:35.5
CP: Oh, I didnt have any hair. Thats too bad.
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00:34:40.5
RS: And all through the book, you examine thishe was an employee of the health department, and I wish I knew his nameI cant remember his name. I used to know him quite well, but my foggy brain doesnt work that way anymore.
213
00:34:53.4
CP: Yeah, I am not even remembering the issue, Bob, the issue of the Health Notes.
214
00:34:56.8
RS: It was in 1968.
215
00:34:59.7
CP: Yeah, I have trouble remembering that far back.
216
00:35:4.6
RS: Well, I wasnt remembering until I looked if I hadnt seen it.
217
00:35:7.9
CP: Let me refocus you to Dr. Porters days. Just what do you remember about the Health Notes, the early Health Notes. Let me tell you, just for your knowledge, that the journal of public health, the Florida Journal of Public Health, now has a regular feature in every issue entitled Yesteryear. And the most of the articles published in this Yesteryear regular column are copies of early Health Notes, of Dr. Porters writings.
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00:35:43.6
RS: No kidding.
219
00:35:44.6
CP: Yeah, they are. Yeah, they aresome of those pearls. Some of those pearls that Porter penned are now being republished in every issue.
220
00:35:54.8
RS: Well, I hope people pay attention to them.
221
00:35:56.9
CP: I think they do. I think they do. I thoroughly enjoy them, myself.
222
00:36:1.7
RS: Well, I just wish it was back the way we were 30 years ago.
223
00:36:11.2
CP: I dont think we will ever get back there, but I see nothing but bright futures for public health in Florida.
224
00:36:17.2
RS: Well, back in those days, the Florida Health Department was one of the top five, or at the top of the heap of health departments in the country.
225
00:36:27.9
CP: I wouldnt say one of the top five. I would say the top in the world.
226
00:36:35.0
RS: Well, anyhow, and I know it was internationally known because people like Ms. Reed and other people went to work with the World Health Organization.
227
00:36:47.8
CP: But we had many foreign health dignitaries come to us for learning. I remember the commissioner of healthwhat would be the commissioner of healthfor India, for the country of India. Public health service, to learn something about the function of local health departments, invited Florida to host him. And he stayed at my house a weekhe was a houseguest at my home for a weekthe guy who was health commissioner for the nation of India.
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00:37:21.3
Thats one. There was a number of others who were inviting foreigners who public health service, the World Health Organization, sent them to Florida for some learning. Largely around, there was one or two on communicable disease control. That is highly complimentary to have the CDC to refer somebody for communicable disease control.
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00:37:46.1
RS: Well, I can remember that whenever the American Public Health Association wanted a meeting they held it down in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale in one of those big hotels. I think they delighted in coming to Florida.
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00:37:58.2
CP: I think they do. I think they do. But it is kind of expensive to hold a national meeting in South Florida because everybody has got to go a long distance to get there.
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00:38:7.1
RS: Yeah, which reminds me, one time I was working on a story I went up to the welcome station up above Fernandina and
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00:38:20.2
CP: Yeah, thats in Yulee.
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00:38:21.7
RS: on [Interstate] 95, and I was listening to the people as they came in, inquiring about things, and they would be shocked to find that they got into Florida and they still had a days journey to get to Miami.
234
00:38:34.8
CP: Still another 550 miles to go.
235
00:38:37.9
RS: They thought, once they were in Florida, they were there.
236
00:38:40.5
CP: I am afraid too many of our northern friends equate Florida and Miami; the two are the same thing. But, today, it is becoming Orlando and Florida. You know, we have them stop in Tallahassee, figuratively speaking, and say, How do you get to Disney World from here? What do you mean? I am in Florida! Where is it? I know what you are talking about.
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00:39:5.5
RS: Speaking of Disney World, I went with the sanitarians to Disney World when it was nothing more than a hole in the ground. They were building the cellar that went under the Magic Kingdom, and then I was back later to go backstage and take pictures of the cooks and the bakers and all the other things.
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00:39:24.5
CP: And the cabinetmakers?
239
00:39:27.8
RS: And the Fort Wilderness, where they had the camping. And Disney World was quite, quite helpful.
240
00:39:38.7
CP: It was? They freely let you in and out?
241
00:39:41.0
RS: Pardon?
242
00:39:41.3
CP: They freely let you come and go?
243
00:39:43.5
RS: Yeah.
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00:39:44.7
CP: Did you do Health Notes on these or something else?
245
00:39:47.1
RS: They were incorporated in with other stories like sanitation and their sewage systems and the cooks and baking, all that in with the restaurant.
246
00:40:1.5
CP: Yeah, including management. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Well, you got to go to some interesting places, didnt you?
247
00:40:7.9
RS: Yeah.
248
00:40:8.6
CP: But investigative reporters always do, dont they?
249
00:40:12.5
RS: And one thing I stayed away from, though, was Tallahassee.
250
00:40:17.9
CP: Now, why would you do that? That is where all policy was made.
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00:40:21.5
RS: I would let other people go to Tallahassee to talk to the legislators. I would stay away from them because I had a few run-ins with a politician or two. One time, we had an issue on nutrition, and we said that milk was good for peopleand I still believe it isbut this politician wrote and said, Why did you put that in there? Because milk is not good for people.
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00:40:50.4
CP: Whoops. How did Sowder react to that?
253
00:40:54.3
RS: Well
254
00:40:54.9
CP: He let you manage it?
255
00:40:56.5
RS: He just laughed it off, and I think we let the head nutritionist answer it.
256
00:41:2.1
CP: Ah, okay. That was Ms. Kaufman, probably.
257
00:41:4.7
RS: Yeah, Ms. Kaufman, and sobut it wasI am thinking about the relationship of the county health departments to the state health department.
258
00:41:21.6
CP: What are you thinking? Go ahead.
259
00:41:23.2
RS: Well, the heads of the county health departments were always hired by the commissioners, the county commissioners, after being suggested by the state health department. And then they had their staffs that they selected, and they had direct access to all the departments in the state health department for help or information. And some of the funding went that way, and they wereit was a big cooperating body.
260
00:42:9.4
CP: One big cooperating family, all with a common mission. One mission. Yeah, go ahead.
261
00:42:15.0
RS: That was one thing I admired about themabout the whole situation.
262
00:42:19.9
CP: Yeah, this was the model for the nation, our county health department system. I think we are still, today, the only state in the nation that has an organized public health presence in each governmental areain each county.
263
00:42:35.1
RS: Well, I have lived in Pennsylvania for the last 27 years. I have had no contact with the county health department, if there is one.
264
00:42:49.6
CP: Oh, that is terrible.
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00:42:52.3
RS: I called one time up and told them who I was and if they had any kind of publication or anythingnever heard from them again.
266
00:43:0.5
CP: Didnt even respond? Did you write to the headquarters in Ashburn?
267
00:43:4.7
RS: No, maybe I should have. Maybe I still will. But I have a nephew that has a restaurant, and I know he is inspected by, I think, the health department.
268
00:43:16.6
CP: Yeah, and I wonder if it is the local or the state?
269
00:43:19.1
RS: Pardon?
270
00:43:19.6
CP: I wonder whether it is the local health department or
271
00:43:21.9
RS: I dont know. It might be regional.
272
00:43:24.5
CP: Yeah, in many states that would be true. There is no local health authority that would do that sort of thing.
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00:43:31.2
RS: But he maintains a good restaurant.
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00:43:37.8
CP: What does he think of the Pennsylvania Health Department?
275
00:43:40.0
RS: I was going to ask him before I came down here, but I forgot to.
276
00:43:44.8
CP: Okay.
277
00:43:45.3
RS: But I think the relationship between the counties and all the workers in the countiesthey, incidentally, the clerks or somebody in the county was a registrar of vital records.
278
00:44:9.7
CS: That is right, the formal registrar, by law, the formal registrar.
279
00:44:14.7
RS: And that was something that really to me was interesting. I did an issue on vital statistics, and my great nephew, who was born in Jacksonville, has his picture up here in the magazine with a full complete birth date.
280
00:44:41.0
CP: Yes. Birth certificate.
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00:44:42.9
RS: Birth certificate.
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00:44:45.1
CP: You were being very selective there.
283
00:44:47.1
RS: I know, but nobody knew him from Adam.
284
00:44:51.1
CP: No, totally acceptable for
285
00:44:52.8
RS: But I saw him Sunday night.
286
00:44:58.1
CP: Oh, you did? Did yall come through Jacksonville? You came down 95?
287
00:45:1.2
RS: No, I came down through Wellington Springs, where he lives now.
288
00:45:4.5
CP: Oh, okay.
289
00:45:5.8
RS: And he has his wife and a ten-month-old baby girl. She is a joy to behold. She was kissingall of ten months oldshe is already learning how to kiss.
290
00:45:21.9
CP: This little girl learning how to kiss at ten years of age. I worry about her future.
291
00:45:25.3
RS: Ten months.
292
00:45:25.9
CP: Ten months of age. Yeah, well, that is marvelous. Were they glad to see you?
293
00:45:33.0
RS: Oh, yeah, more than glad.
294
00:45:34.6
CP: And you hadnt seen them in a long time.
295
00:45:37.0
RS: Well, our niece, who was the mother of this boy, comes to Pennsylvania every summer for a couple of months because she is getting the farm and all the property up there. She is the only one in the family.
296
00:45:53.7
CP: So she comes over to see her parents?
297
00:45:57.3
RS: Well, her father and mother are both gone.
298
00:45:59.3
CP: Aw, too bad.
299
00:46:0.4
RS: But her aunt, my wife, and myself are there. She still has some friends in the area, and she always comes up and has a good time.
300
00:46:13.3
CP: Great, great, great. Okay, let me carry you back to Dr. Porters days now, and just what can you tell me about Health Notes during Dr. Porters time?
301
00:46:23.1
RS: Well, I dont remember reading about too much.
302
00:46:29.2
CP: Yeah, you didnt write any of those, now. I know that.
303
00:46:32.0
RS: I know, but I went through some of them, trying to get information to complete the story and there wasI just dont remember much.
304
00:46:48.1
CP: Thats okay. I dont either. I dont either. But did you ever get any feedback fromparticularly through survey systemsof the impact, the benefit of Health Notes?
305
00:47:3.7
RS: Once in a while we would send out an inquiry if people wanted to continue it, and we never got any refusals.
306
00:47:14.1
CP: Oh really?
307
00:47:15.4
RS: No.
308
00:47:17.4
CP: Who all did you send them to? Just, kind of, tick them off the best you can remember.
309
00:47:23.4
RS: Schools, colleges
310
00:47:28.8
CP: Colleges to the library or to the presidents office?
311
00:47:32.9
RS: Both, the library and the presidents office and especially to homes and health departments who usually got a supply to use in their work. And everybody who wrote in
312
00:47:51.1
CP: Anybody who wanted to be on the mailing list, could be.
313
00:47:54.7
RS: And, late, after I had been there awhile, we had to put in each issue how much it cost to produce that issue.
314
00:48:2.0
CP: Yeah, I remember that. My motherjust want you to knowgot the Florida Health Notes for years and years and years when I was in high school, and she continued to get them. I didnt ask her to save them, but during your tenure, I think.
315
00:48:19.4
I think I wrote you a formal note that said, Take my mothers name off the list. She has quit reading them. She has no particular use for them, and she just throws them in the trash when they arrive. So take her off the mailing list.
316
00:48:33.2
RS: I dont remember that.
317
00:48:34.7
CP: I dont know how she got on that mailing list. She doesnt know either. She doesnt know how she ever got on that mailing list. She is now gone. And that is years ago.
318
00:48:44.8
RS: And did she still live in Jasper?
319
00:48:47.2
CP: Yes and no. Yes and no. At the time of her death, she lived in Tallahassee with us, which isshe died in 1990, at the ripe age of 94.
320
00:49:6.7
RS: Well, what else do you want to know?
321
00:49:14.0
CP: We just had a time element put on us. Well, what have we left out, Bob?
322
00:49:20.7
RS: Well, campgrounds, trailer parkswe carried two or three issues on those, and I always found it interesting that people would live in their trailers or their mobile homes year-round and travel from place to place and always come back to the same nesting area in Florida.
323
00:49:44.6
CP: Yes, yes, for the winter.
324
00:49:47.6
RS: For the winter. And that was something that really surprised mehow many campgrounds there were in the state. Oh, there were thousands.
325
00:49:57.7
CP: I bet you it is up 500 percent since thensince you were here.
326
00:50:2.9
RS: Well, when I was driving down last week, the northbound lanes of Interstate 81 and 77 were jammed.
327
00:50:14.6
CP: With campers going north.
328
00:50:18.5
RS: Snowbirds were returning.
329
00:50:19.9
CP: Going home for the summer and getting out of that hot Florida. Thats right, snowbirds going home. But they will be back before long.
330
00:50:29.0
RS: Oh yeah. In fact, I remember an advertisement that was run in the paper. It said, Visit Florida, and bring your green.
331
00:50:36.2
CP: That is right. Keep FloridaI always said, Come to Florida to keep it green, and help keep it green. Bring money. What have we left out now of the Health Notes story? We can go long.
332
00:50:50.4
For the record, that Mr. Schoonover has brought us 13 or 14 years of bound Health Notes by volume that he is giving to the new, to-be Museum of Medicine and Public Health in Florida, which will be housed in the original building of the state board of health, what we call the Julia Street building. To put a non-paid political announcement, Bob, that building, by acts of the legislature, has been named the Wilson T. Sowder Building; and thus, it will be the Florida Medicine and Public Health Museum in Jacksonvillehoused in the Wilson T. Sowder Building. And I think thatand your Health Notes will be there.
333
00:51:39.4
RS: Well, I have had them for 27 years, and they have been on my shelf. And I tried to give them to our local library, and they never even unpacked them.
334
00:51:50.8
CP: They didnt have the slightest idea of what they were and had no use to them.
335
00:51:54.2
RS: So I asked for them back and to bring down here.
336
00:51:57.9
CP: And you told them they would go into a museum. One of my personal projects is trying to collect all issues of Florida Health Notes from Porters time on. And I have got some inquiries to selected libraries that if they still got them, would they consider giving them to the museum.
337
00:52:20.8
RS: They had a long, big list of them in the library they had there on Pearl Street.
338
00:52:29.7
CP: Yes, we still got those, but there is not a complete set. There is not a complete set in our library, but those are available. Okay, because of the tape filmlet me draw us to a close by saying, Mr. Schoonover, that the College of Public Health and the university and, particularly, I, are terribly grateful that you would come all the way from Pennsylvania just to bring us some books and to let future students of public health, particularly public health educationpublic education, yeah, health educationhave the benefit of this piece of history and to hear you talk and to see who you are. I just thank you so much, Bob, for sharing this with us.
339
00:53:22.2
RS: Well
340
00:53:22.8
CP: And as a token of thank you, the library will send you a copy of the tape after they have edited and the final version. Do you have any final comments?
341
00:53:35.7
RS: No, except I just enjoyed being here and doing this and seeing you again, after all these years.
342
00:53:43.4
CP: Good, good. I am glad to see that you are doing so well too.
343
00:53:47.1
RS: And you are invitedyou and your wifeto come up and visit us and the Finger Lakes and the Corning Museum [of Glass].
344
00:53:54.5
CP: We are coming late summer, before the snow, after the students go back to school. And we will buy your dinner at that time.
345
00:53:4.5
RS: Okay.
346
00:53:5.7
CP: And let me say that I am Skeeter Prather. Today is April 23, 2002, and we are in the conference room of the dean of the College of Public Health.



PAGE 1

COPYR I GHT NOTI CE 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, 19952016, 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, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


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