Upstate University Hospital’s 50th anniversary exhibit — on display at the children’s hospital gallery — inspired librarian Mary Laverty to look for 50th anniversary books to read with pediatric patients and their families at the hospital’s Family Resource Center.
During her Monday afternoon story hour, Laverty read the 1964 classic, “Whistle for Willie,” by Ezra Jack Keats. One of several of his books about Peter, it begins, “Oh, how Peter wished he could whistle,” and takes readers through the struggles and satisfaction of learning something new. (Keats’ first book about Peter — “The Snowy Day” — was the first full-color children’s book to feature an African American child. It won the 1963 Caldecott award.)
In 1964 — the year the Upstate hospitals opened — the Caldecott was awarded to Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” a book also on display at the Family Resource Center and available to patients, families and staff at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.
According to Laverty, “It was a wonderful year for children’s literature. ‘Harriet the Spy,’ ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘ and ‘The Giving Tree’ were all published in ’64. These, and the Keats and Sendak books, have withstood the test of time, just like our hospital.”
Thanks to Laverty and the Family Resource Center, Upstate patients have access to great books from 1964. What was pediatric medicine like in 1964?
Upstate’s Howard Weinberger MD, who was hired as a professor of pediatrics in 1964, described working in the new hospital as “very exciting” and an “opportunity to work with giants in the field.”
Weinberger spoke of Dr. Fred Roberts and Dr. Cassady as “great teachers and role models” and his mentor, Dr. Silverman, as “a wonderful pediatrician.” (Upstate’s Health Professions’ building is named after him.)
Weinberger noted that the subspecialty of pediatric hematology-oncology was new in the 1960s, and that his colleague, William Waters MD, was a trailblazer in the field. (Upstate’s Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders was named for him in 2004.)
Fifty years ago, Upstate’s chairman of pediatrics was Julius B. Richmond MD. He was one of the “giants in the field” that Weinberger described. Richmond was instrumental in creating Head Start, the federal program for babies and young children from low-income households, and YMED, the Syracuse program that offered educational and lifestyle support for teenaged mothers and their babies. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Richmond as US Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health.