100 Years

1930 to 1939: The Great Depression

The Great Depression

The Great Depression Patients enjoy a performance on the lawn at Children’s Orthopedic Hospital  

The trustees feel the first chill of the economic winter in spring 1930, when membership drives fall short and requests for free care and the number of serious cases spike.

Parents of some private patients resent the fact that their children and those of nonpaying families receive the same quality of care. Some staff members advocate segregating the two classes of patients. The trustees adamantly refuse.

Employees voluntarily surrender their paid vacations, yet the trustees must still cut salaries. Guilds disband and some of the Hospital Association's most experienced leaders and volunteers resign to seek work to support their families. Nine out of ten patients continue to receive free care.

Even during the leanest times, trustees continue to write personal thank-you letters to donors, volunteers and guild members.

In 1935, trustees borrow $50,000 from the endowment to keep the hospital afloat. The hospital jumps from an $8,000 deficit to a $19,000 surplus in 1939 – more paying patients and generous donations signal the end of the Great Depression.

The American College of Surgeons heaps praise upon Children's Orthopedic for maintaining its quality of care during the Depression, and other hospitals look to Seattle as a model.

Creative Financing

In 1932, the board launches its first Penny Drive – a door-to-door effort that nets the hospital $7,000. It takes two tellers at Washington Mutual Savings Bank most of two days to count the profit.

Creative Financing Guild members from across the state raise money for Children’s Orthopedic Hospital during the annual Penny Drive in May  

For the next 52 years, on a designated Saturday in May, Guilds, Elks, Rotarians, Eagles, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts fan out across the state, asking hospital patrons to fill their envelopes, jars and cans with coins.

In 1938, the Mary Meyers Guild begins to sell appointment calendars – a useful product that keeps the Children's Orthopedic name in the public eye all year long. To this day, the calendars continue to raise money for the hospital.


Milestones Clise headstone at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Seattle  

Hospital founder Anna Clise dies in California in February 1936. Although Clise has not been active in the hospital for 20 years, her commitment to children inspires all of those who follow. The trustees commission a bronze plaque in her memory.

Six months later in August 1936, founding trustee and past president Harriet Stimson passes away.

In 1937, Ruth Clise Colwell, Anna's daughter, is elected as board president.

Christmas at the Orthopedic

Trustees try to make the holidays festive since patients are separated from their families. Volunteers decorate a large tree in the playroom and a Seattle-area climbing club, The Mountaineers, hangs lights on the outside of the hospital.

Christmas at the Orthopedic Christmas at Children’s Orthopedic, 1930s  

All the children eagerly wait for Santa Claus, who comes with gifts for every patient – either delivered personally or tied in a bag at the foot of the bed.

In 1930, Neal Tourtellotte (son-in-law of trustee Elizabeth Powell) volunteers as Santa, a role he fills faithfully for the next 30 years. Beginning in 1972, auto dealer Phil Smart Sr. logs 27 seasons as Santa.

Boxers and Presidents

Boxers and Presidents Jack Dempsey with patients  

Former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, a frequent and popular visitor to Children's Orthopedic, suffers a knockout of his own at the hospital one Sunday morning in 1931.

As Dr. John LeCocq changes a young boy's dressing on an open wound caused by a bone infection, Dempsey saunters over to watch. In the days before penicillin and sulfa, physicians put live maggots in wounds to eat away dead tissue. One look and Dempsey keels over and is out to the count of 10!

While campaigning for president in 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt stops by the hospital to greet patients and is particularly impressed with the therapeutic swimming pool – a godsend for children rehabilitating muscles atrophied by polio.

A year later, the Georgia retreat where Roosevelt undergoes hydrotherapy for polio sends Children's Orthopedic a share of the proceeds from a benefit gala celebrating the new president's birthday.