As published in the White River Current - Thursday March 26, 2015. (Brenda's Birthday)
It was one of those things that you never forget. The date was March 25, 1955. The place was unit 4, apartment 18 in the base housing located on the 577 acre campus of Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado. Anita and I had been watching a program on the black-and-white 17-inch Admiral unit that we had purchased a few months earlier, when she became tired and went to bed. Drafted into the army in 1953, I was only a few weeks from being discharged after a two year enlistment. Anita and I had survived two winters, one mild and one severe, in the mile high Denver suburb and were excited about resuming civilian life in the beautiful Ozark community of Calico Rock, Arkansas. I had received a direct assignment from the army basic training camp, Camp Pickett, Virginia (now Fort Pickett). After a long train ride, interrupted by a two week delay-in-route in Calico Rock, Private Perryman reported for duty. Thinking that I would be working in the hospital pharmacy, I was instead put to work in the medical laboratory, hematology division. The sergeant in charge of my unit was from Hot Springs and he immediately nicknamed me “Arkie,” a moniker that I was stuck with for the duration. I made PFC in a few weeks and several months later was promoted to Corporal. My work in the hospital was more like a civilian job, an eight hour day, five days a week. Every morning, my partner, Hugh Glissman, and I would take our little baskets of supplies out into the various wards to collect blood specimens that we would being back to the lab and perform the tests that were requested. Pretty good duty. We enjoyed our stay in Colorado and went up into the mountains often to admire the beautiful scenery. The hospital facility was founded by the United States Army during World War I arising from the need to treat the large number of casualties from chemical weapons in Europe. Denver’s reputation as a prime location for the treatment of tuberculosis led local citizens to lobby the Army on behalf of Denver as the site for the new hospital. Army Hospital 21, as it was first called, was formally dedicated in the autumn of 1918. In July 1920, the facility was formally renamed the Fitzsimons Army Hospital after Lt. William T. Fitzsimons, the first American medical officer killed in WWI. A new main building, known as Building 500, was built in 1941. At the time, it was the largest structure in Colorado. The facility was used heavily during WWII to treat returning casualties and became one of the Army’s premier medical training centers. In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower received treatment at the facility three separate times for his heart condition while he was president. In an earlier Ramblings column, I wrote about one of his visits. I was working in the urinalysis department at the lab when an orderly came by with this container of yellow liquid. I almost did a double-take when I saw the name on the request slip but I recovered and performed the tests which were all normal. I consider this my “claim to fame.” Secretary of State John Kerry was born at Fitzsimons Hospital on December 11, 1943, while his father was receiving treatment for tuberculosis. The facility was decommissioned and closed in 1999 and has been redeveloped for civilian use as the Anschutz Medical Campus, a part of the University of Colorado. Anyway, Anita had gone to bed and, when I went to check on her, I found that she was having labor pains. Did I say earlier that she was expecting? She was, and we began to count the intervals between cramps. At about 2 AM, we decided we had better go to the hospital, only two blocks away, but it was cold, 2 degrees above zero. I warmed the car and we drove over, took the elevator up to the sixth floor where we checked into the delivery unit. After an examination, Anita’s doctor requested that we walk around the halls for a couple of hours to help the dilation process and check back later. She was admitted at 4 A.M. They wouldn’t let me stay with her so I went back to the apartment. When I called over at about 7:30, they reported that she had just delivered a little six pound baby girl. I rushed over and got to hold my little daughter for the first time. I was a father. Now, today, March 26, 2015, BRENDA IS 60.