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VERDUGO VIEWS:Remembering one of the area's hospitals

January 05, 2007|By KATHERINE YAMADA

Sid Gordon's mother, Rosaline, worked at Charles B. Behrens Memorial Hospital when he was young. Now he has become curious about the hospital, which was the precursor to Verdugo Hills Hospital.

"My mother was a nurse and she always talked about work, but I was a kid then and didn't pay attention," said Gordon, who was a student at Clark Junior High School at the time.

"She worked there after we came to California in 1960," he said. "We lived in La Crescenta, and she drove down to the hospital every day. My sister Randi was born there in 1962."

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Behrens has its roots in Seventh-day Adventist medical history.

In 1905, the Adventists, noting that the area only had one doctor, purchased the Glendale Hotel and converted it into a hospital, bringing an influx of doctors into the city. By the 1920s, Glendale was a medical center for the entire San Fernando Valley, according to Robert Marsh, M.D., who compiled a history of Behrens.

One new facility was the 30-bed Glendale Research Hospital on Piedmont Avenue. It was purchased in 1945 by Dr. George Johnstone, then widely known for his "radical" surgery for acute gallbladder problems. Later, Marsh wrote, Johnstone's method became standard practice.

Johnstone intended to name his new hospital for his mother, but, after his partner, Dr. Charles B. Behrens, was accidentally shot on a hunting trip and bled to death, Johnstone chose to honor him instead. It grew rapidly and new physicians such as Marsh practiced there briefly, as did Jacob Janzen and Harry Prout.

Glendale resident Phyllis Matlick Kenney recalled the years that her mother, Ethel Matlick, worked at Behrens. Matlick began working nights around 1945.

"She worked 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. five days a week at the front desk," Kenney said. "Her job was to post all the charges so each account was up-to-date when patients checked out. In those days, they had to be balanced to the penny and sometimes it would take a long time to find the error."

Matlick lived at 1467 E. Wilson at the time, but later moved to Naranja Drive.

"If she didn't have a ride, she would walk to work carrying a butcher knife for protection," Kenney said.

"Dr. Johnstone opened her desk one day and laughed when he found several knives. Dorothea Farmer was in charge of nurses at night and sometimes picked her up."

Kenney also worked at Behrens for awhile.

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