METHODIST MEDICAL CENTER ORAL HISTORY:
MARY ANN KING
Interviewed by William (Bill) J. Wilcox, Jr.
March 6, 2009
MR. WILCOX: This is Bill Wilcox and today I am interviewing Mary Anne King. This is March 6th, 2009 about 1pm and we are at my house, 412 New York Ave. Mary Anne is an old, old….I should say a “long time Oak Ridger”!
MRS. KING: Well really.
MR. WILCOX: And has served the Hospital so faithfully and so well through the years. Mary Anne, I want to talk to you mostly about the Gift shop, but let me ask “When it was that you first started to work at the Hospital as a volunteer?”
MRS. KING: In January 1962, Paul Bjork, then Hospital Administrator, sent out a letter to some twenty some people; about twenty seven of us responded and the letter was about organizing a Volunteer Organization. That twenty seven got down to within a few weeks to twenty, then down and then eventually just a few of us had stuck through.
MR. WILCOX: And when was that?
MRS. KING: And that is when I started in January 1962.
MR. WILCOX: That is great. Now let me stop for just a minute and see how this sounds on the tape, see if we are going to have any transcription problems. (Listens). That’s fine, we’ll go ahead now with our interview. Mary Anne, I am curious to where Paul Bjork might have gotten that list of names….were these Gray Ladies?
MRS. KING: No, that group was separate and already organized as a volunteer group, but Paul asked different people who he knew. I was recommended by someone and that is how I got on his list; different ones, they may have been part of the church he attended or people he had learned to know.
MR. WILCOX: I see but this was a separate group from the Gray Ladies Group and he must have felt they wanted to start a new organization.
MRS. KING: Yes.
MR. WILCOX: What did you do then, when you signed up in 1962?
MRS. KING: It was a snowy January, I will bring that out, first one lady broke her leg. (Nell Whitcomb-see later). Then Mary Anne King went out to warm up her car and got out and slipped on ice and had to be Hospitalized.
MR. WILCOX: Oh no…
MRS. KING: So each of us had to put things off just temporarily - we kept going to the meetings, we met weekly, sometimes twice weekly in order to establish what we wanted as an organization. We knew we definitely wanted a gift shop and that was to be for the patients and those who visited the patients and eventually, of course, for the volunteers too.
MR. WILCOX: Good.
MRS. KING: And then we discussed for several weeks, we discussed the different things we would like to do as an organization; some people had stronger feelings about the types of things we should do. So we - in meetings - we realized it was going to take a long time, but in the mean time we established bylaws for the group and I am jumping ahead…..but the notice of the first meeting was sent out. It was going to be March 30, 1962, and the notice told the volunteers who had accepted where to report for this meeting. Now you might want to know how we got the volunteers. Each of us on the board was asked to recommend people to invite to the meeting. Quite often there were duplicates. You would suggest someone and I would name someone so we had a great list that we could establish, I mean go from there. We would call each one on the phone telling them they had been recommended and what we were going to do and our purpose.
MR. WILCOX: Good.
MRS. KING: And then we gave them time to think about it. So it was at that point and then later that we talked about what we wanted to do, what could be accomplished. Some, what you call Candy Stripers wanted to work with patients who were on this board but we realized that we had to take one step at a time and the first priority was getting the gift shop started so that is how we started up with volunteers.
MR. WILCOX: You mentioned you had bylaws, do you remember what that volunteer organization was called formally then?
MRS. KING: Yes, I do. I’ve got it here. The Methodist Medical Center ……….., here’s where you might help with these papers. . . . . I grabbed a few papers to bring over. I had all this together, this paper was about the meeting there. I’ve got it all here Bill, somewhere. I put bylaws up at the top and but with my limited vision here…..Is this it, Bill? See what the date is? The first line paragraph should tell you…for instance this is in March, this tells we started our own office…..is this bylaws? No….See I was going through all this morning trying to get it together. Is this the bylaws, Bill? I didn’t bring the whole folder, well here it is.
MR. WILCOX: It’s called the “Oak Ridge Hospital Women’s Organization”….That was the official title?
MRS. KING: Yes, that was what we settled on at that time.
MR. WILCOX: Oak Ridge Hospital Women’s Organization, and I noticed that the….here you’ve have an interesting piece of paper that says that at the first Annual meeting you elected Claudia MacPherson (Mrs. Robt. E. MacPherson) the President.
MRS. KING: Yes, yes…
MR. WILCOX: Chairman. And Sylvia Aliberti, Vice Chairman, and then Secretary Grace Rose, Corresponding Secretary Mary Anne King, and Treasurer Nell Witcomb.
MRS. KING: She was the one who broke her leg. Nell Witcomb, she was one.
MR. WILCOX: I knew Claudia very, very well.
MRS. KING: From Newport?
MR. WILCOX: Yes, Claudia MacPherson was the person who introduced me to my wife here in 1943.
MRS. KING: What a coincidence; I too have a soft spot in my heart for Claudia.
MR. WILCOX: You were Corresponding Secretary for Claudia’s Board?
MRS. KING: Yea, if she wanted letters sent out, I did, or if she wanted a speech was, I wrote a speech. So we each have something that we remember Claudia for fondly.
MR. WILCOX: So the Gift shop then was organized very soon in 1962?
MRS. KING: Oh, right away. Yes, and we started using catalogs and actually I am presuming and assuming that we wanted the group to hold the election and start selling, there were different ones of us who were doing that, I was on a Bylaws Committee and I was sure I put the bylaws in the stuff I brought, but it’s not here is it?
MR. WILCOX: It is not here.
MRS. KING: Well, I’ll have to go back and find them. So now what else could I help you with.
MR. WILCOX: Where was the first gift shop physically?
MRS. KING: You remember the old entrance on Tennessee Avenue? (Note added: For years that the main Outpatient entrance; now it’s the Patient Pick Up covered entrance near the heliport.) Those were the doors you entered the Hospital and on the left were the telephone operators and the elevator and we were straight in front of you with a small gift shop there. That was our first gift shop.
MR. WILCOX: It was…what kind of products did you have?? Candy, snacks or books or what?
MRS. KING: There were not many snacks, we had things that people could order and that was what I was trying to go through and I’m sorry that I had some of this together last fall but I told the lady who helps me that I just needed about three or four more hours to go through my papers and it is because of my eye sight I can’t place my things right a way, Bill. But there were things that a patient would use and at that time we could carry cigars for the men to smoke, and I mean to send when they had babies. One of the features we started later was taking and selling new baby pictures and we derived at some compensation for that …everything we made went back to the Hospital in some way.
MR. WILCOX: Money-wise.
MRS. KING: Yes. But there were so many different things. We carried things that a lady would use lipstick, lotion, shampoo….
MR. WILCOX: Did you say baby pictures?
MRS. KING: Yes, they took baby pictures later on. That was not at first - as I said I can jump around - but that was one of the projects we had to take pictures of the newborn. The nurses actually took the pictures and then we as the volunteers would go up and talk with the parents and ask if they wanted to buy these pictures.
MR. WILCOX: That is interesting.
MRS. KING: And so that was one of our projects working through the gift shop actually but that was several years later. So the things that one would carry in a gift shop were shaving cream, razors for men. Later on we went into jewelry.
MR. WILCOX: Was that soon…
MRS. KING: Yes, that was right at the first, it was. Well within the first year, Bill. Actually that shop was very small and it wasn’t even well -- it was a very small room with a counter but it was satisfactory for a while and then we had to move in other places, I think all told there were five places we moved all together.
MR. WILCOX: How many people worked in the gift shop when it first started?
MRS. KING: We had morning, afternoon and evening shifts.
MR. WILCOX: Just one person?
MRS. KING: No, two people for each shift. I started out working twice a week every other week in order to get my hours in. It was supposed to be separate weeks but I was helping organize a symphony guild at the time and they had set up shop so I couldn’t get all of my time and some of the others couldn’t because we had already established responsibilities. Hours were divided let’s say into about three and a half at most hours per shift, starting in morning at 9:00 AM and then the afternoon shift would work and they would close for supper and then we had the night shift, which would be from 6 pm to, well at one time it was 9 pm and they changed it to 8:30 pm so we had good hours so that we could reach three different sets of people.
MR. WILCOX: Did they match visiting hours; didn’t we have visiting hours for the patients in 1962?
MRS. KING: At that time they did have visiting hours and at one time children were not allowed upstairs and couldn’t even get beyond the elevator.
MR. WILCOX: Is that so?
MRS. KING: Yes, and then they changed those rules and said they could come and then they said changed back. I think children are allowed in the Hospital with the patients now but we had people who came from all around outside Oak Ridge who would come and spend the whole night in the Hospital, Bill in the waiting rooms. Their whole families would come.
MR. WILCOX: Do you remember who some of the names of the ladies that you were associated with in the gift shop?
MRS. KING: Oh I wish did, of course there was Jeanie Wilcox and Grace Rose, I could on down I’ll get lost. One of the original ladies was Mrs. Brown and I knew her well but it has nothing do with age I forgotten her first name but there was Lois McCracken, these people who volunteered. We explained that your name has been recommended and this is what we are going to do here in the shop we want you to try this out and if this is for you we would like you to help us. I know that there were many others like Ruby Elson, she started out working with me on night shift and I don’t want to leave anyone out but there were enough that we had at least 100 because you…
MR. WILCOX: What did you say?
MRS. KING: A hundred.
MR. WILCOX: A hundred. Goodness, 100 volunteers staffing the . . .
MRS. KING: You named three different shifts, staffing the gift shop and then on Sunday’s we did it voluntarily. We would ask them would you contribute your time on a Sunday afternoon or a Sunday night and that sometimes did it lead to problems and that is understandable. We were open Saturday afternoon but not Saturday night and then there were times that we were not open Friday nights because of ball games. I did twice a week every other week.
MR. WILCOX: Was Eleanor Lang involved?
MRS. KING: Oh yes, dear Eleanor and Thelma Nicholson
MR. WILCOX: Right. I guess you must have collected a fair amount of money. What did it go for?
MRS. KING: Oh, that went back to the Hospital. For instance in one of these little letters that I have handed over to you, I have on there Isolette and it is a single sheet.
MR. WILCOX: Yes, it says An “Isolette”
MRS. KING: And that was one of the requests for things the Hospital wanted that they would be glad for us to buy them. What date is that up in the right hand corner, wasn’t that the first year?
MR. WILCOX: It says June of 1962.
MRS. KING: Ok, that was right after we met and we had let the word be known that the volunteers were going to do this and we had a committee. Of course it went through the administration and they would approve all requests for things to buy that we could choose from, and we had the whole volunteer board and the volunteers, we met as a group to vote on which things to give. Yes, and these were small but necessary items.
MR. WILCOX: What is an Isolette?
MRS. KING: When little newborns, it is something I think that you -- what do you call babies when they come early?…
MR. WILCOX: Premature?
MRS. KING: Premature, thank you Bill. But I think they are what it is used for. But that was one of our first, let’s see June 1962.
MR. WILCOX: It that right. That is great.
MRS. KING: Yes.
MR. WILCOX: I bet Mr. Bjork was delighted.
MRS. KING: He was a very nice person. Now if you read on some of these others I’ll answer it. There are some thing that I thought you might be interested in, and I just thought I’ll have to get some of these others. I had the original letter from Paul asking me to join and at the time I/we had two children in elementary school and this was a family discussion with my husband and our two children before I decided to work with the organization. Because I thought they were going to be a part of it and I worked the morning shift at that time on Monday morning shift and as I still do and then I had a Thursday night shift so I feel that when you volunteer you should talk it over with your family.
MR. WILCOX: Yes, this letter that you showed me is from Pres. Claudia MacPherson reporting to the members of the Oak Ridge Hospital Women’s Organization in January of 1964 and saying that the gift shop sales for the last five months of 1963 show an increase of $700 over the sales in 1962. Congratulations.
MRS. KING: That is what I wanted you to read.
MR. WILCOX: Another $500 has been paid to the Hospital?
MRS. KING: We paid back for what they had let us borrow.
MR. WILCOX: That is a great start. I’m sure that the gift shop today is a far cry from that.
MRS. KING: I should say…
MR. WILCOX: But still staffed entirely by volunteers. Have you been with them all through the 47 years since?
MRS. KING: Since the beginning. I did give up my night shift because while they were remodeling it was too lonely downstairs and several people with the organization and several friends said I think you should give up your night shift. There were just about two of us or three who did night shifts and the gift shop at that time was rather isolated in the corners down there. But I still work the Monday morning shift though.
MR. WILCOX: You mentioned the name Grace Rose. Tell me a little bit about what she did, she was a key figure.
MRS. KING: Grace was one of the original group who met in March, 1962. She wasn’t one of the charter organizing group, but she was one of the early group. Grace was…. All of us had worked with the catalogs, looking for good things to buy for our selling, but Grace liked doing that so much that those of us on the board asked her if she would like to be our buyer and then she and Nell Whitcomb (who had worked together with her) became the ones who did that and then each year they said let’s ask Grace Rose again, let’s ask Grace Rose again, let’s ask Grace Rose again….and finally several years later she was, well she stayed with it until she retired! But she was a vital person for the organization and had a great love for it.
MR. WILCOX: She did the buying of the things, goods and materials that you sold in the shop. Do I remember correctly that she used to go to the trade shows in Atlanta?
MRS. KING: Yes, after we stopped using the catalogs, we were going way beyond the catalogs.
MR. WILCOX: You really graduated into a first class little business there….didn’t you?
MRS. KING: They went to Atlanta and later to Charlotte. Grace and a few other specialist buyers - such as animals as June Peishel did - and different ones. Each person who has worked has done it out of a love of helping someone else. Many of us have, that I am sure I can say.
MR. WILCOX: Working together was fun and rewarding?
MRS. KING: Because you met different people and some folks just want to talk about something so that is the least we could do to help people. People would be say I’m so glad you’re here because you give a little relief when they leave the room upstairs and something to think about other than the sick person. It’s a real service, so I think there is something to that and everything we do in life actually. It is not just for the group there but anyway Grace was most well loved because she did out of a love for helping others and sometimes the husbands were brought in, in helping to inventory and to do the books.
MR. WILCOX: Had you had any men volunteering
MRS. KING: That is how the group changed….
MR. WILCOX: To work in the gift shop?
MRS. KING: Yes, but they would help their wives. Yes actually that happened we first started it was Oak Ridge Hospital Women’s Organization and then that was when it advanced that men wanted to help and if they…. Now this was before we for instance Frank Peishel has helped June and then we said you should be a part of the organization because you are doing volunteer work to help us. I remember Walcott Watson worked with his wife and today there is a man who helps his wife on a Thursday afternoon, I believe. I don’t keep up with everything these days, I try not to put too much in my mind.
MR. WILCOX: You have been involved with the gift shop now for forty six years…
MRS. KING: Two from nine is forty seven years…
MR. WILCOX: Excuse me, I forgot what year it is….forty seven years. You have seen a lot of changes. Tell me something about the changes that you have seen in the gift shop over those forty seven years. Today it is a main feature of our beautiful lobby?
MRS. KING: Oh yes.
MR. WILCOX: And it is much, much larger?
MRS. KING: It is what you call uptown, if you know what that expression means “uptown” that means. It has advanced to big city status. Well of course we do it for the employees also as far as serving people concern and the volunteers have really been a part of it…. that is one of the major bases of our work. We are there to serve the patients and those who visit them as well as the employees and they have definitely been included in shopping and buying for the shop. And people from the town knowing that we are there will come in to buy because they have heard what a nice selection we have. And we have flowers. At first we couldn’t have refrigerated/florist/floral items because some one on the Board said that was not fair to the community since there were others florists in town supplying the Hospital.
MR. WILCOX: You mean competition?
MRS. KING: Yes, one of the ladies on the Board said her mother had had a gift shop and sold animals and those kinds of things….at first we didn’t want to be in competition with the community and I think that the fact is that the things we do - for instance giving scholarships to young people - we also helped people in the Hospital who had wanted to continue their education and they were granted scholarship money from the gift shop.
MR. WILCOX: Oh is that so?
MRS. KING: Yes. And then I remember one of the things the first things we used to talk about we bought for the Pediatrics was a little red wagon for the Pediatrics Department and then there were volunteers that did murals in the upstairs in the Pediatrics Department. There are so many things that have I go through all of these things and it is like reading a book or a diary, that is what it is when I read my records but of course we have grown larger with each move. Where as we used to have volunteer meetings and the entire volunteer group would vote on these things, but now it is just reduced to the Board itself. It is something I think that my part in it is helping in the gift shop is knowing that somewhere along the line this money that we have made that day will go to help someone. Right now it is just limited to scholarships and there is something else that was in the paper recently…but it is just what you call helping others.
MR. WILCOX: Great. Does it still take two people to run it on a shift or does it take more?
MRS. KING: No, two. If you have too many in the shop, first of all in the limited area that we have, there are two plus two coming in change of shifts or if another were to come in it would need to be a little larger in that area. But since my eye sight is limited now, I don’t do the cash register any longer but I can do other things to help the clients, people who come in to buy, talk with them, help them find things and also keep an eye on the shop in general, answer the telephone. So there is always something someone can do that you can find a place for someone.
MR. WILCOX: You mentioned to keep an eye on the shop has shoplifting ever been a problem?
MRS. KING: Did you want that on tape? It is always.
MR. WILCOX: Is that so? That’s something you have to be aware of?
MRS. KING: Yes.
MR. WILCOX: Well you have explained how important the service is to the Hospital….
MRS. KING: And the community, I think.
MR. WILCOX: Well certainly, they are the people that coming to see their loved ones and as you said now people coming in from the community to buy things. That is wonderful. But in terms of the gifts to the Hospital, is there a memorials book that lists all the wonderful things that you have done/given?
MRS. KING: I don’t think so. I went through this a couple of times and it was handed over to let’s say Ralph Lillard or someone whoever was had requested it. And for people like Mary Anne who keep everything and can’t walk through her house because of it….I go through every so often and I had started a list of when they had an Annual Report of maybe or thirty years whatever and I commented then about men now being a part of the organization. We had gone from selling small gifts to catalog gifts and so we would ask the Administrator would he have his staff people present recommendations on things they need to us so we could vote on them and buy those things. For instance we gave the first mammogram machine and I have pictures of that with Paul Bjork and you-know-who accepting that. And there were other things, but then as I said we went away from that now to this scholarship program which is real important, I think. Scholarships are given to the girls or boys from different high schools and there are about ten to twelve, fourteen maybe fifteen.
MR. WILCOX: These people that are studying to be in the healthcare profession.
MRS. KING: Yes, that is right.
MR. WILCOX: So it is really helping to grow future employees for Methodist Medical Center.
MRS. KING: Yes.
MR. WILCOX: That is a great objective.
MRS. KING: I don’t keep up with it now, I used to cut out all the articles and I think there are about fifteen representing each school in several different counties. Is it five or six different counties the Hospital serves? Do you know how many counties we serve?
MR. WILCOX: I don’t, not specifically.
MRS. KING: I could get started and I would leave out someone but I think there are about five counties that Oak Ridge Hospital reaches out to and but children from those high schools are the ones who…
MR. WILCOX: Are the ones who qualify or candidates for the scholarships?
MRS. KING: Yes, and then they come to some kind of a reception with their parents.
MR. WILCOX: Right. The gift shop is one part of the Hospital volunteer organization?
MRS. KING: Yes. Now I didn’t mention that when West Mall. Remember West Mall where the seniors were cared for.
MR. WILCOX: West Mall, yes.
MRS. KING: By the fall of that first year we already had established volunteers for West Mall and that was one of the projects that people wanted to do so that was either 1963 or 1964 and that’s in my files and I’ll have to go back and put all this together again but that was one thing we did and things now part of the money, Bill, comes from special sales could be books that these book vendors come through.
MR. WILCOX: Volunteer sales at the Hospital.
MRS. KING: Yes and manned by or womened by either by the volunteers and those who bring in the merchandise. They sell uniforms and we get a percentage of that, they sell jewelry, and they used to sell real elaborate jewelry, gold jewelry but they stopped that. We had been carrying that in the gift shop so that was a competition for the gift shop but you had that and more exotic jewelry and then you had costume jewelry and then you had…now you have what they call $5.00 sales and that is one of the best..
MR. WILCOX: I have been down there for one of those.
MRS. KING: That is one of the best.
MR. WILCOX: Does the gift shop help with any of those?
MRS. KING: Well you get volunteers from all over. Now someone from the gift shop used to have to, we have what we call when you have a charge account I can’t think of what it is called now. But we had our only little box and you had to look up to see how much they could charge.
MR. WILCOX: They had credit card sales?
MRS. KING: Yes, volunteers come from the gift shop, from the groups like the patient representatives who are a very important part of the whole volunteer organization. And of course the candy stripers were established and we have a nice group of those, and then of course there are men helping there, people who work in the receiving rooms, the ICU, and up in the Emergency Room. These are all volunteers included as part of the Hospital.
MR. WILCOX: I had a chance to interview Lois Ward last couple of week and got a complete report on everything the volunteers do. It is really a tremendous asset to the Hospital. I think is it fair to say that the Hospital would have a hard time getting along without the volunteers?
MRS. KING: That is another thing started after Marshall Whisnant came from his Hospital in Kingsport, the volunteers had always kept track and published the hours of volunteer work they had given. Well many of us didn’t want that, I still don’t worry about it, but I am asked to put down my hours and that is so important to some. But he had done it and it is something that is necessary for the big organizations to know that this is how many volunteer hours that go into the make up of the Hospital.
MR. WILCOX: Well this has been a great interview, I had really loved hearing you talk about the gift shop.
MRS. KING: Well thank you.
MR. WILCOX: And I wonder in closing if you have any general…..you are one of the longest term volunteers we have had looking back over all those years, I wonder if you just had any further comments?
MRS. KING: One of the other things that I started doing here was helping with the Coronary Program. Those who have been in the Hospital for different reasons so different ones of us helped in calling them and that was aside from what I did in the gift shop. But it was a part of the organization at that time they didn’t do it through the Hospital and there are things that start out to be volunteer like the library, or what people had done in different ways upstairs that became paid positions, but as for me I just move from day to day I go in with a happy attitude, I don’t look for trouble if it is there I don’t walk away from it but I just say a prayer and go forward. I think that is all you can do.
MR. WILCOX: Very, very good. I so agree with you. Well thank you so very much.
MRS. KING: Thank you for asking me Bill. I am pleased to walk through this and let’s see, I’d like my papers to take back home, well certainly.
MR. WILCOX: Thank you for bringing them.
MRS. KING: Yes, and if you need other things, I brought the little book that we had to buy.
MR. WILCOX: I will get the transcription, I’ll bring it to you and let you check it over, make sure we get all the names straight.
MRS. KING: Well I know I could have added a lot more things but I just went blank, we could have asked your wife.
MR. WILCOX: I thank you for sharing what you did.
MRS. KING: Oh thank you.
[End of Interview]