My Dear Papa & Mama
Letters home from a member of the class of 1906 fashion quaint images of life at the 13-year-old medical school in Baltimore at the beginning of the last century....
arl Meloy is a rather sketchy figure in Hopkins' historical records. We know when and where he was born (1882, in Selina, Ohio) and when he attended the School of Medicine (1902-06). We know he went on to work briefly at the University of Virginia and then returned to Hopkins Hospital before settling in Detroit, where he was a pathologist at Grace Hospital. He died in 1921, at the tender age of 39. That's about all we know of our subject, unless you count the dark hair, faint smile and playful eyes on display in an old class photo.
But Meloy springs fully to life in the handwriting on a few pages that are now frayed and yellowing from the passage of time. The letters young Carl wrote home to his family paint a vibrant picture of life at Johns Hopkins back in the early years of the 20th century. They arrived in the mail recently courtesy of his granddaughter, Laure Meloy. An opera singer in EnglandŃshe and her husband run the touring Gala Opera International troupeŃshe never knew her grandfather. In fact, her summary of his life's story is just as sketchy as the Hopkins bio. ŇI get the feeling [from the letters] that he was quite a charmer,Ó muses Laure, who so cherishes this cache of her grandfather's letters that she wanted to share them with his fellow alumni. Here are excerpts from her collection.
Oct. 26, 1904
My Dear Papa & Mama:
As I am loafing tonight I shall tell you my troubles. This a.m. I arose at 7:30, went to Recitation in Surgery from 9-10; from 10-12 worked in Surgical dispensary, attending to about 8 cases, including one accident case of a drunk who had fallen down several times and every time cut his head, 4 cuts all told. I then rushed to Osler's Wed. Clinic from 12-1:15; then poked down some dinner and back to surgical Pathology at 2 p.m. At 3 we had a Sterioptician demonstration in Surg. Path. At 4:30 we attended a recitation on nervous diseases under Dr. Thomas til 5:30.
We are getting fine work. Osler is simply Ňdelicious.Ó Physical Diagnosis as it is taught here is not equaled any place in this country, not even Cincinnati or Columbus, and I doubt if they have it better in Germany. They lay great stress upon it, and most wisely. We don't do things in a superficial way here, I assure you. I am going out for a walk tonight and get to bed early. I am what you could call neurasthenic. The great trouble here or at any school I suppose [is that] when a fellow is rather nervous, as I am, he imagines he has certain things because he is thrown up against diseases, the symptoms of which he must of course learn, and then, when he has a stomach ache or a headache, imagines he is about ready for the Ňice box.Ó Byrnes, the lucky scoundrel, got a new suit, new overcoat, new hat, shoes. He got word yesterday from his father that he had $1,100 to his credit, and he thought he was about broke. Thus, he will not feel so badly when he has to buy me a silk hat when Teddy is elected. I believe he would rather lose an arm than see him elected.
With much love,
Nov. 14, 1904
(Addressed to Miss Jessie B. Crabill of Springfield, Ohio, this letter is missing its first two pages. Four years later Crabill would become Meloy's wife.)
On Wednesday a.m. I went over to McCoy Hall to the commemorative exercises. It was ŇOsler day.Ó He gave the speech of the day. Perhaps you have heard of it. It has created a great comment from ocean to ocean. He says a man is at his best from 25-40. After he passes 40 he deteriorates and after 60 he is useless as far as research and creative ability goes and should be chloroformed. Of course the last clause was a joke. He was misinterpreted and has had much severe criticism. These remarks were addressed to scientific men by a great scientist and are surely trueŃwhat a man does in science after the age of 40 is a building up upon the foundation laid before 40.
In the p.m. I attended his reception, which was a swell affair. You should have seen me in my frock coat and silk bonnet! Am sorry to say some in our class made hogs of themselves over the punch bowl. Yours Truly had two small thimblefuls, no more, no less. There were 430 invitations out and as it was beginning to get very crowded I left after 1/2 hour. That evening there was a banquet of the alumni which I did not attend on account of the price ($2.00). This Ňday offÓ broke up the week for everyone.
Well I am now sterile of interesting matters. I will close hoping and praying for your health.
April 21, 1913
(Now an assistant resident pathologist in the Hospital, Meloy wrote this letter to his wife, who was in Ohio at the time.)
My Dearest Family one & all:
Please excuse a lead pencil letter: my pen is so aggravating that I hate to use it. As all of my days have been this was a very busy day. This a.m. I nosed around the laboratories. Then I went over to the new Phipps building and Ted Keyser took me through, from top to bottom. It is a wonderfully well furnished and equipped hospital. It cost $750,000 to build.
Then I went over and called on Mrs. Pennington and Vernon. She looks well. The boy is a great big good-looking fellow who still has his epileptic attacks. Mrs. P. wished to be remembered to you. I left there at 5:50, reached the Hotel at 6:00, changed my clothes, shaved and slicked up, left the hotel at 6:25 and reached the Maryland Club at 6:30 in good time for a very swell dinner given by Dr. J.S. Cullen for Dr. Strong. Among other notables there were Drs. Welch, Kelly, Barker, Halsted, Williams, Thayer, Cullen, Baer, etc.
This a.m. I saw Byrnes pass a room I was in. I was sure B. saw me, but of course he may not have recognized me with my brush (which by the way is reaching heroic proportions again). B. came back and was oh so glad to see me! We chatted a while like two old cronies and he asked after you and the babies.
With much love to all, Carl.