Hopedale Pond - September 11

Hopedale History
September 15, 2010
No. 164
Dr. Verner Johnson

Hopedale in September  

Hopedale Pond, September 1  

Sanborn insurance map of Hopedale, c. 1890  


Dr. Verner Johnson

Thanks to Dave Lowell who found the memoirs of Dr. Verner Johnson on eBay recently. Dr. Johnson came to Hopedale in 1949 and opened his practice in his home on Adin Street.

Johnson describes himself as the product of a mixed marriage. His father was Swedish and his mother was Norwegian. That was mixed enough so that their parents weren’t happy about it. “When it became apparent that my mother was pregnant, my parents both wished that their offspring be born in the land of opportunity, namely America.” They settled in Worcester. His father, who had done foundry work since finishing fourth grade, found employment at the Moen Works of American Steel and Wire. He was soon able to buy a few acres in Millbury and start a pig and fox farm. That’s where Verner grew up.
Here’s a bit from the Hopedale years, starting with his selection of Hopedale as the location to begin his practice. (This is the short version.
Click here to go to the longer version, which includes a bit about drug addiction, abortion, buying furniture, etc.)

We visited many places, saw much of the country and actually ended up in our own back yard in Hopedale, about 20 miles from Worcester, and near Milford…..We moved to Hopedale, Mass. January 1949. Nancy was pregnant with #1.

Finally I Am a Real Doctor
                                       In the Valley of Hope

Deciding to go to Hopedale, Massachusetts was after a lot of thought. Nancy and I had seen a good part of the country, we knew sort of what we wanted in that we felt priority came in raising a family in a good atmosphere and a good place to live.

Dr. Marble had retired and had sold his home on 41 Adin Street to the Draper Corporation. The Draper Corporation could not have been nicer or more cooperative. They stated they would suit the Marble house to our directions and did. The house had five bedrooms upstairs and when converted had a brand new kitchen put in, a fine office with a consultation room, two examining rooms and a waiting room and a separate entrance away from the house. We arrived there January 1949 and Nancy was to be my bookkeeper-nurse-wife and soon-to-be mother in about seven months. The Draper Corporation built my examining tables, which, son, Dr. Kirk still uses. Draper Corporation also bought us a new range, a new refrigerator, and I believe a washer.

I would work at the plant as the industrial physician from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every day, though our living expenses were paid for right from the start. I would then make house calls for a few hours, visit my hospital patients and have office hours from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. This would often extend into the supper hour and then I would again have office hours from 7 to 9 in the evening four nights weekly, as well as having hours all Saturday afternoon and as needed on Sunday. It was hectic but fun. The going price, at that time, was $4.00 for an office visit and $5.00 for a house call. This was quite illogical and for an extra dollar many people would rather have you come to their home rather than sit in the waiting room and compete. How things have changed.

During our first few interviews much of our time was spent with a Mr. Fitter FitzGerald who was personnel manager and who lived across the street from us and who was married to a nurse. She was very helpful after Bill was born and Fitter could not have been nicer to get us going. Nothing was too good for the Doc.

A Mr. B was treasurer of the company and was especially nice. He was a short man, as round as he was tall, with a deep voice. He was particularly knowledgeable of the heritage of the house and took pride in the fact that he had secured it from Dr. Marble and was especially galled that Marble had left the place with “all those God damn dog hairs.” Apparently Marble had a kennel and raised long –haired collies that would walk in and out of the waiting room, in and out of cars, leaving their trail of long hair.

All in all, Hopedale was a wonderful town. The company was also the financial mainstay of the Milford Hospital which was about a half mile away. It was, and is, an excellent little hospital that practiced good surgery, not excellent but good, but I thought only fair medicine. One young physician who was trained at Worcester City Hospital, Dr. Francis Berry and I turned out to be the best of friends. Another GP named Dr. Eugene Smith was like a big uncle to both of us, and would send us patients. My two years in Hopedale were mainly that of working day and night. There was very little home life and the summers were brutal in that the older GPs took off for their homes at the Cape and I often covered for as many as six or seven men.
Memoirs of Verner S. “Tiny” Johnson, 1918 – 1987.

After the outbreak of the Korean War, Johnson decided to go into the Air Force. He was assigned to Travis Air Force Base. He bought a house near the base and Nancy joined him there. He had an interest in orthopedics, but minimal training or experience in the field. Nevertheless, he was named Chief of the Orthopedic Service at the base hospital. After the war, he continued his training in orthopedics at Children’s Hospital in Boston and later at Massachusetts General Hospital. The autobiography ends with that, but it appears that Dr. Johnson became an orthopedic specialist at Memorial Hospital in Worcester and resided in Holden. He and Nancy had two sons and two daughters. Both sons became doctors. He died in 1987 and she passed away in 2007.

Hopedale History Email Menu                   HOME