Hospital Mental Ward 1938

A HospitalMental Ward in 1938 - the wonders of modern medicine hadn't arrived yet.

Inside A Detroit Hospital – 1938 – Past Daily Gallimaufry: Radio Documentaries

 Hospital Mental Ward 1938
A Hospital Mental Ward in 1938 – the wonders of modern medicine hadn’t arrived yet.
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This is an interesting recording on two levels. One: it represents some of the earliest attempts at doing on-the-spot location recording and assembling a documentary for radio. Two: it shines a light on the then-current problems facing our medical system; the Urban hospital of 1938 and the problems associated with over-crowding; lack of adequate facilities and at the time, very little idea what state-of-the-art medical care was like. Virtually none of the procedures we take for granted today were employed in 1938. A hospital stay for broken leg lasted weeks. People with a wide range of emotional problems were all lumped together in one ward, with very little supervision and even less in the way of medication.

The narrator, obviously disturbed at what he’s witnessing is powerless to offer any solutions – instead, he asks hospital staff members, and members of the Mayor’s office, who coincidentally are visiting the same day this documentary is being recorded. The hospital staff claim overcrowding and a lack of adequate facilities as the problem. The city officials feign lack of any knowledge of the problems they are facing. They are all subject to the conditions and the outbursts of the patients – whether the outbursts are intentionally staged or if this really were incidents that took place in the course of this visit we’ll never know.

But like I said, this is a fascinating glimpse of a less acknowledged life in the 1930s – one which brought out photo essayists from publications such as Life Magazine and radio programs such as this one; People’s Business, from Detroit Radio station WJR. It no doubt offered at least some basis for the argument towards Universal Healthcare, which was in the process of being proposed to Congress by the FDR Administration, just prior to our entry into World War 2.

In any event, it’s crude to a degree (lack of sophisticated recording equipment) and it does pull at a few heart-strings with full intention of the desired effect. But it’s a glimpse of day-to-day life; open and unvarnished. Just the way life is.

Here is that documentary from the series People’s Business from February 26, 1938 over radio station WJR-Detroit.

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