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Interview with Seymour Alper, February 10, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Seymour Alper, February 10, 2004
Date:
February 10, 2004
Description:
Mr. Seymour Alper came to Wilmington in 1952 from New York. He and his brother purchased a business that became Queensboro Steel. As a business leader with an interest in raising community standards, he became involved with the quest to construct a modern hospital in New Hanover County. He served on the building committee and remained on the Board of Turstees of New Hanover Regional Medical Center for 17 years. In both of these tapes, Mr. Alper discusses his experiences.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Alper, Seymour Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 2/10/2004 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 71 minutes

Mims: I'm LuAnn Mims with Jerry Parnell for the Randall Library Special Collections Series on Health Services of Southeastern North Carolina. Today we are talking with Mr. Seymour Alper and he is going to discuss his role with the development of our local health services.

Mims: Mr. Alper, could you please give us a little bit of personal background, where you came from and what your family was like?

Alper: I was born in New York City. I lived there until I was 37 at which time I moved to Wilmington. I was educated at NYU and did my graduate work at Columbia University and I was in the steel business. That’s about it.

Mims: What did you study at NYU?

Alper: Oh liberal arts I guess. It was the time of the Depression and there was no work to be done so I kept going to school. My father was in the steel business. He didn't want me in his business but I knew I was going to be in it so I just kept going to school until he invited me to come work for him.

Mims: So what brought you down to Wilmington?

Alper: My wife and I and my brother and his wife, my brother was my partner, decided that we wanted to get out of the New York City rat race. Life was too hectic and too competitive. We had a lot of family living in the south and we knew how much easier life was in the south. So in 1952, we came down here. My family are all in Atlanta and Birmingham. Then it was showing signs of already getting to be like New York and we didn't want that. We loved the water and this was a likely spot so we came here.

Mims: Were you coming with the idea of starting your own business?

Alper: We bought a business here in Wilmington and instead of things getting easier, they got harder and we kept working. That was in 1952, April 15. I was in Wilmington eight years when I got involved in the hospital business.

Mims: How did you come by getting involved with hospitals?

Alper: Well there was a need for, oh I don’t have it here, but I had written all this out for my children, there was a need for a hospital. There was a bad need for a hospital and it was well known. In 1958 there was a resolution, I don’t know the technical name for it, on the ballot that a new hospital be built and that failed. The reasons that it failed are complicated. There were all sorts of feelings about the board that was appointed to investigate the need for a hospital.

The board that was created brought in a well-known consultant by the name of Jacque Norman; I think that was his name. His report emphasized the fact that there was a need for a hospital; however the opposition to the hospital was due to other factors: a) the committee appointed to build it was very social. They were the country club set. At least that’s the way they were perceived in the community; b) there was a concern about integration or desegregation; c) there was a concern about tax increases, tax costs; d) there were a group of doctors that already had a small private hospital here.

Mims: Is that Bulluck’s Hospital?

Alper: No, that’s after Bulluck. That is the Cape Fear Hospital. Cape Fear Hospital, excuse me, I’m diverting now. Anyway they were opposed to it because it was not good for them financially. Now Cape Fear Hospital as you see it today that’s the way Cape Fear Hospital was then. I think it was about 1955 that Cape Fear Hospital started and it was started by a group of doctors who were not participating at James Walker Hospital. They preferred a hospital of their own for their own reasons.

They bought a tuberculosis sanitarium that was owned by the state, which was not being used anymore since there was no tuberculosis. They fought it. So the issue failed at the polls but the need for a new hospital continued. So they appointed in 1960 or late 1959 they appointed a 70-man committee to investigate the need for a hospital, a great need. I suspect I was on that just because I was a layman, John Metz, Johnny Metz who was a County Commissioner at the time. I was on that list. I was one of the 70.

I was not given any committee work to do and I had very little to do with the 70 man committee except, I had very little to do with them, but they reported back to the County Commissioners nine months later that there was a strong need for a new hospital, a great need. At that point, the County Commissioners appointed a seven-man committee, a finance committee, to decide how to finance this hospital should there be one.

I was appointed to the seven-man committee. Then I became active. One of the things that really got me involved was my wife. She was a volunteer at James Walker and when the issue of the hospital failed, she took me on a private tour of the hospital and I saw all the wooden staircases that could burn. I saw the chute that they would use to get infants out of the nursery, a chute on the side of the hospital.

Then I saw that you walked across a courtyard to a black ward and no matter what the weather was if you needed attention, whether it was an x-ray or other testing, you were wheeled across this open space. I also saw the nursery, which was about the size of one of the clothes closets we had when I was in grammar school and the baskets were hanging on hooks from the wall. That was in the black nursery. So I decided that this was not the way things should be and we needed to do something about it.

And as a member of the Finance Committee, I sent letters out to maybe 40 families in town asking if they would be willing to contribute toward the construction of a hospital that might cost $5 million or so and I got very few responses. Some of them were very gracious and some of them just never bothered to answer. We investigated other means of financing and decided that there really was no other way than to have a bond issue election and that we would report the same to the Board of County Commissioners.

The Board of County Commissioners were divided on the issue of a hospital. There were two for, two against and one who couldn't make up his mind. When we finished our financial deliberations of which Herbert McKim was the chairman, I was the secretary, he and I appeared before the County Commissioners and we reported that we needed to do this, we needed to be on the ballot. We needed to have a bond issue election.

And then the rest of our report, one of the members of a finance committee who had voted for this unanimous report came running into the proceedings and he held up his hand and he said, “Stop, stop what you’re doing. I just came from a meeting at the Wachovia Bank and the outlook for the economy in Wilmington is very foreboding. You can’t afford to do this,” that sort of thing. So the commissioners decided to table the question for a year.

Herb McKim got up and angrily scolded the Board of County Commissioners and a lady by the name of Dorothy Primrose, who was head of the Women’s Auxiliary at James Walker Hospital also gave them down the river. I did not. In the first place, I was new in town and in the second place I was a Yankee and I didn't know you talked that way to the County Commissioners.

So anyway we left the meeting and we went across the street to the Ambassador Grill for a cup of coffee and we were sizzling. We said that this thing simply had to get on the ballot and the only way it was going to get on the ballot is if we made it get on the ballot. Uh, so we organized. Mrs. Primrose had 200 ladies in the auxiliary of James Walker. Most of them were for the new hospital because they saw the inadequacies in what there was.

She, Herb and I started speaking to groups and when the County Commissioners saw this was serious, and we started passing petitions. Oh, there was a vacant bank on Princess Street that we borrowed from one of the banks. What happened was one bank moved in with another bank and left this empty space. It had nice teller’s cages. We got some money from the doctors and we put telephones in each cage. We had, Herb McKim was able to get a very good roster of the population and the ladies called out and talked to people on the phone.

About two months into this process, I was a little haggard from speechmaking because the County Commissioners then appointed … the hospital authority who John Kenneth Chapman became chairman and as such I was not permitted to take sides but the purpose of the authority was to answer the questions that the public might have with regard to the hospital, how much will it cost, where will it be, would it be segregated, desegregated, all that sort of thing. I wish I had known that you wanted to get into all this.

Mims: Well, we can back up. One thing I am curious about is you entered this as a volunteer position and you were on the first committee, the 70-person committee and that was your first inkling of it, okay? At this time we had James Walker Hospital…

Alper: And Community Hospital…

Mims: And Community Hospital and Cape Fear had already opened and Bullocks had moved down to Cape Fear at this time.

Alper: Yeah Bullock, some of the doctors who were not happy working at James Walker. They were not happy with the staff regulations. I don’t want this out. [Break] Does that answer your question?

Mims: Okay, so the doctors at James Walker were dissatisfied as well and Community Hospital were dissatisfied?

Alper: Well, the doctors at James Walker could see the inadequacies with James Walker and yes; they were part of a new hospital. The doctors at Community Hospital, there were five black doctors in the community at the time and they were the doctors for Community Hospital; however, there were white doctors in the community who had a sense of humanity, went there and helped out. They were good folks. Basically it was a black hospital. They had their own board and their own chairman and all that sort of thing and their own medical society.

Mims: And their own nursing school too.

Alper: Yes, I believe so. Now right after the appointment of the hospital authority, we received a letter from the black medical society. It was a registered letter and demanded a registered letter in reply and it asked 13 questions. The 13 questions, there were seven of them were routine questions that any citizen would ask. There were six questions that really had to do with integration of the hospital. And we had to… they wanted, they gave us 14 days to answer the 13 questions.

They of course were concerned about what their privileges would be in the new hospital. They were concerned that they might be constrained or not given the privileges that they felt that they needed or deserved.

Mims: And we’re talking 1961, ‘60?

Alper: This is 1960.

Mims: Dr. Eaton had already pushed for trying to get privileges at James Walker Hospital at the time.

Alper: He may have, I don’t know about that, but I can tell you when we got this letter, the question was how to handle it so that the truth got out. If we just met with the five black doctors, we were afraid that the rest of the black population would get a slanted view of what our intentions were. So what we did was we invited 35 black leaders to meet with us. We had ministers, lawyers, a dentist that I know of, the doctors of course, and some of the local black politicians. Anyway there were 35.

We met and when our board walked into that meeting, oh we met in the lobby of the telephone company building on 4th and Chestnut, when we walked in, there was Dr. Eaton with a recording machine and we had a member of the Associated Press who we did not invite was there. So of course there was a sense of distrust, something I was not accustomed to and I got angry and I went in and told him to cut off his machine. He said if he didn't have the machine, there’d be no meeting. So I thought better of it and said, “Oh okay.”

I said we’re not going to proceed until we notified the other media in town that the meeting was going on and for them to come. Well, we called the radio stations and the one television station that we had at the time and the newspaper and gave them 30 minutes and nobody showed so we proceeded with the meeting. The meeting was called for 7:00, I think, and didn't get underway until probably a quarter to 8 and it lasted until 11:00.

I had the list of questions and I went over them and answered them with the predetermined answers that we had established and then I threw the meeting open to questions. Well, we didn't get questions so much as we got harangues of distrust. It was prepared. The one dentist who was there and harangued for a while and then he pointed at me and said, “I hate you because your face is white.” Now being a Yankee I could put up with that. If I had been a Southerner, I think I probably would have thrown him.

Mims: So I’m assuming that no members of this committee were black that you were on?

Alper: There was one black.

Mims: Who was that, do you remember?

Alper: Hubert Eaton… no, I’m sorry, E. M. Butler, Mr. E. M. Butler, he was a fine man.

Mims: And he had to face the same situation.

Alper: Well, he was sort of as an Uncle Tom I suppose. So but see I was doing all the talking for the committee. The other six were sitting behind me and I don’t know if I said anything that pleased them or said anything that displeased them. I was just saying things I knew and felt you know. And so the meeting ended at 11:00 and as they were piling out, a couple of black ministers brought up the rear and two of them said to me or one said to me and the other agreed, “Mr. Alper, don’t worry, you’ll have your hospital,” and that was the Reverend…I’m sorry…I’m now weak on names. [Kirton] He was the pastor of St. Mark’s Church and a very fine man.

Mims: That’s okay, these are things we can look up if we had to.

Alper: Okay, well anyway …

Mims: How was this covered with the local media? You said nobody was there at that meeting. They had to get everything from AP.

Alper: Well, they did and I think the headline in the newspaper the next day said, “New Hospital to be Integrated,” you know, and I got a telephone call the next morning from John Burney telling me that I was some kind of an idiot, that I had ruined the issue. Anyway, but that was the only call by a fan that I got (laughter).

Mims: So you got the bond on the ballot then?

Alper: We got a sufficient number of signatures on the petitions, which forced it to be put on the ballot. The night of the election I was down at the election headquarters and at midnight, the issue was losing by a couple of hundred votes. But the first ward, which is a black ward, had not reported yet. About an hour later we got their report and their report put us over the top and so we had our hospital by a few hundred votes.

Mims: So what that did was give the county a tool to start the process of getting the hospital built?

Alper: Well, it said to the County Commissioners, “yes, we do want a new hospital.” And so they took the seven-man committee and made them the first, not the board of the hospital, but I called it the Building Committee. Somewhere here I have a few things that I dug up this morning, I threw my mail on it.

Mims: I see that, the Building Committee.

Alper: Right. Now the first board, we were actually the first board of the hospital, but about two years after we got started, the County Commissioners under Joe Hooper decided that we should expand the board, and there was enough work to be an expansion really, and he appointed or the Board of Commissioners then appointed additions to the board.

Mims: So that bond was in 1960?

Alper: 1960, yes.

Mims: And the hospital’s dedication says 1967.

Alper: Well, it takes time to plan and time to build. So we were in the planning mode for three years.

Mims: Well, one of the first things you had to consider was an appropriate site. How did this site get selected?

Alper: Well, there were certain prerequisites. We wanted it centrally located in the county and it’s pretty much centrally located in the county. We wanted high ground and this is actually the highest point in the county. So we had I think it was four possible sites. One was down on 17th Street on land that was owned by Cape Fear Country Club, but that was only about 32 acres. We took a lot of our guidance from the Duke Endowment and from the North Carolina Medical Care Commission and they insisted that we should have no less than 50 acres, so that other site was not too good.

Over here on oh, I don’t recall the name of the street, but there was some land owned by a fireworks manufacturer, I think the name was Taylor, Taylor Tract, it was nice and large and roomy, but there were railroad tracks that ran right along the edge of it and we were afraid that they would be disturbing.

There was a third and there was this one. This one was composed of land owned by three different landowners, I believe. If you’ll give me a moment, I have a folder inside. [Break]

Mims: And so you pulled out a couple of files.

Alper: Well one of them I didn't know I had here. Do you remember I said something about I had written out all about the bond election and I have it here, which one is this? This is the site, okay.

Mims: Knowing that a new hospital was going to be built, was it automatically assumed that James Walker would close?

Alper: Yes, it was part of the deal was that James Walker and Community would both close and come into one house. Now the site was not arbitrarily picked. The site was picked as it …and submitted into the Medical Care Commission and they’re the ones who said that site’s okay because the Medical Care Commission is the organization that would arrange for us to get our money from the federal government.

Mims: This would be with the Hill-Burton Act?

Alper: Hill-Burton, right.

Mims: So you have to have what they consider a Certificate of Need to establish the hospital to get the federal money?

Alper: Well, we had to have a Certificate of Need, that was number one. Then they had to approve the site see. They came down and they saw the sites that we had and this letter...

Mims: The Foster-Hill site and that would reflect…

Alper: Foster Hill was a realty company.

Mims: Oh, it was a realty company, out of Southport.

Mims: Site number one for the proposed New Hanover Memorial Hospital. This is dated 1962. So by mid-1962 you had your site selected. What was the next step after your site selection?

Alper: Well, there was planning going on. The question about that site was there was no road.

Mims: We’ve seen those on the maps. We have some aerial maps that show no road there.

Alper: Okay, there was no road there so I went to see… our representative then on the Department of Transportation who was at that time - cut. [Break]

Mims: So it was Mr. Faircloth at the Department of Transportation that helped you.

Alper: Right.

Mims: So you got your road, you’re developing some infrastructure to support…

Alper: If we couldn't get the road, we couldn't buy the property.

Mims: Right.

Alper: So then before that we had to choose an architect. Let’s get off the record again. [Break]

Mims: To select your architect you would have had to request for proposals?

Alper: Yes. We invited oh half a dozen or more architects from the state, Charlotte, Raleigh, well-known architects and we interviewed them during a period of one week and there were those that sounded possible and those who sounded so egotistical that for instance we said, “Who will be your hospital consultant?” “We don’t need a consultant, we know what to do.” Hell, a medical building is a very complicated building.

Mims: You have to meet certain guidelines. You have to have certain things in certain places.

Alper: Right, and it’s got a lot of built in equipment that has to be in the right places. So there’s one local firm that we interviewed and we thought that it was too small a company and that they probably could not do it or he could not do it. Anyway at the end of the week, Leslie Boney came in to see us. He said, “I know we were supposed to be interviewed this week, but I have a hospital consultant that I want to bring with me and he is not available this week. Can you give us another few days?” And we agreed to do that.

He told us that the man was extraordinary. Well, the man was extraordinary. His name was Joseph Blumenkrantz and when he was brought before us to speak, the man was so apparently knowledgeable that there was no question as to who would design the hospital. He was at that time rebuilding Bellevue Hospital in New York who took an old hospital and replaced it by a 22-story building with 100 rooms on each floor and each floor was a hospital in itself. He was invited to build hospitals in several countries overseas. He had all sorts of credentials. But we were mostly impressed by his quiet good sense.

So we gave the job to Boney. When the first drawings were issued to us, they were just of one floor, I think, no there were several floors. We had a meeting at Alderman School and we invited the doctors in. In those days there were 60 doctors in the community and we had pinned the drawings up around the blackboard and allowed the doctors to get an idea of what we were thinking and how we were thinking.

The next day there was an item in the newspaper, a headline in the newspaper. Some of the important doctors in town were not very happy with what we were planning. And the article went on to tell why they were unhappy so I thought their criticisms were pretty much baseless. So I invited them to have lunch over here and Millie [Alper] prepared a lovely lunch and it was a very impressive social function. We did not talk hospital.

But after lunch was over, I invited them in the living room and I said, “Ok gentlemen, I read the newspapers. Dr. you said so and so, here are the plans. Show it to me and you said something, show it” and they backed off. And even Bertram Williams or Dr. Koonce, they were the last two to leave the luncheon meeting. One of the two of them said, “Okay Seymour, that’s the last time you’ll hear any criticism from me but it better be right when it’s done.” That’s the deal and that was it.

Mims: So as you’re gathering more information and getting more work done, more people are starting to come on the bandwagon to support this new hospital, people that may be were opposed to it initially? Is that what you …

Alper: Well, I think by the time we had this thing going, people were accepting it. Getting back to the integration issue, about three years after the hospital opened, I was walking up the walk to the front door and Dr. Eaton was walking down that same walk and he stopped me. He said to me, “Mr. Alper, I know I was a pain in the neck to you during the construction of this hospital and in the planning of the hospital, but I want to tell you that everything you promised you did.” So I was very pleased with that.

Mims: Now before the hospital opened, did it have to have some kind of accreditation or meet some kind of standards? What was that process?

Alper: Actually not before it opened. After it opened and was running, then the accreditation people came around and said everything was the way they wanted. Before we opened the hospital, about two months before we opened I guess as I remember it, we were putting wallpaper up and a certain counselor by the name of Jerry Batyuois seeking reelection went up to the hospital on a Sunday and picked up a piece of wallpaper, he put a match to it and it burned. So he took some more and he went to the City Council meeting and he took an ashtray and he put a match to the wallpaper and he said, “They’re building a $10M firetrap!”

Now I didn't know anything about this. I was not at the City Council meeting, but at 11:00 the door to my office opened. In came the editor of the newspaper and half a dozen other media people, they wanted to know what my reply was, what I had to say. I said that I had nothing to say at the moment. We had had the most …the things we did in the planning, which you have to do really. It’s nothing that was special.

We had to go to Raleigh with our plans to the Fire Marshall’s office and they inspect your plans and discuss them with you. They discuss the materials, all that and so I knew that everything was okay. It was periodically inspected and we were building according to plan. If you take a match to anything or enough heat to anything, it will burn if there’s oxygen around it.

But when you have wallpaper on the wall, you don’t need to worry about it burning and so I called the Fire Marshall’s office. They came down here and they went through the hospital and they went back to Raleigh and sent me a letter saying it was perhaps the most fireproof hospital in the state and they were very pleased with it.

So I called a press conference and gave them copies of the letter, read it and I gave them copies of the letter and then I took the liberty of castigating Jerry Batyuois and he was chastised because we don’t need people who are going to seek office that would do this sort of thing. We need progressive thinking people. And so the newspaper the next day had all kinds of stuff. I didn't think that you’d get votes by scaring people about the safety of a hospital if it would.

Mims: When they made the additions, the floor additions, was that built into the architectural design initially?

Alper: Yes. The plan was to be able to add three stories; the steel structure was planned that way. This is all Joe Blumenkrantz. All of the ancillary facilities are along the back of the hospital so you could double the size of the ancillary facilities by doubling them by just taking out a door and then have a full department. And that’s exactly what we did. I don’t think it was more than seven or eight years later.

Mims: It seems like it’s been able to grow within that same ground with a minimal amount of disruption to its normal routine.

Alper: It is threatening to overflow; I think they’re doing some construction over there now. I think they’re adding to the MRI section. I’m not sure, but that’s the way it appears to me. I’m no longer on the board; I don’t know what goes on.

Mims: How long did you stay on the board?

Alper: Seventeen years.

Mims: So you oversaw the renovation or the new addition to it?

Alper: No, I didn't oversee it. I was on the board. I was part of it. But I will tell you this that I knew every brick in that building, the original building, before we expanded. We were there every Sunday. I even took people on private tours when the building was like three-quarters done, when you could see things and also people I took were Dr. Eaton and his wife, who was in a wheelchair. I took them around and showed them what we were doing.

Mims: That was my question. Were some of the other physicians that you were in contact with, what were there ideas or comments once the hospital started coming into fruition?

Alper: Well, part of the planning process really, before you really get into drawing things on paper is that you interview with the staff and we interviewed the head of each department at least and many of the other doctors and asked what was needed in the hospital and what they needed to have.

We had the head of pathology at the time was Dr. Lumb, L-U-M-B. I think Dr. Lumb, well I know he was British, I think his first name was George. Dr. Lumb was head of pathology and he came for his interview and with him came one of the other pathologists and we gave them exactly what they asked for.

Then Dr. Lumb left the community and a few years after we opened, this other doctor came and complained about how bad his facility was, he wouldn't like this and the other thing. I looked at him and I said, “Didn't you come with Dr. Lumb when we were interviewing?” He sort of was chagrined. Okay, he was a junior I guess, I don’t know. There’s lot and lots of stories.

Mims: We were talking off camera a little bit about some of the doctors. We mentioned Dr. Fales. You said he helped.

Alper: I’m sure that he helped. I’m sure that Dr. Koonce helped. Dr. Bertram Williams, I’m sure there were others but they I think, well you know I mentioned the way we campaigned for the bond issue. Well that took money and I didn't put the money out, Herb McKim didn't put money out. The money came from doctors who collected from the other doctors and gave a trust to use to pay the telephone bills and that sort of thing, have stuff printed. We had no treasury.

As a matter of fact, the hospital committee had no money. It received funds from the Medical Care Commission, from the Hill-Burton people and that money was given to the county and was probably put in separate funds. I don’t know what they did with it, but when we were building…well it had to be used for the construction, but we had, the authority had no money of its own and so when it came time to move into the hospital, we had to rent it from the county and we had no money at all. So I issued a personal check for $1.00 for which I rented the institution for one year.

Mims: “First dollar of rent on New Hanover Memorial Hospital was generously paid to the county on our behalf June 12, 1967, New Hanover Health Network.”

So how did that transfer occur between James Walker and the patients at Community all filtering into New Hanover? Who oversaw that?

Alper: Well, Emory Grubbs, who was our administrator and the doctors who were moving over and Dr. Koonce and Dr. Williams, many of them. What they did was they reduced their patient load in the existing hospitals. Now about three years earlier, my wife received a film of the dedication of the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The Hadassah Hospital was a replacement for an old hospital that was then in Arab hands and Jerusalem did not have a hospital. It had sort of clinics all over the city.

So when this new hospital was ready, they got Army trucks and Army ambulances and they dressed them up with branches of trees and flowers and things and they came as a caravan to the new hospital and it was quite a ceremony. So then they got that tape and I showed it to the board and that’s the pattern we used.

We borrowed the use of ambulances and we got one from one of the Air Force bases. We had one from the Marine base, local ambulances and we brought the patients over from James Walker and from Community. It was all done in one morning; they reduced their patient loads. The last patient to come was a lady in traction and she was brought over in a moving van in her bed and brought into the hospital.

Mims: How would they coordinate the closing of like the emergency room and opening the emergency room? Did they have them both going at the same time?

Alper: I don’t think so. I think they closed as we opened ours, but the vision was they would have breakfast at James Walker, lunch at New Hanover, that’s the way it worked.

Mims: So a pretty smooth transition. We were also discussing off camera about being able to attract new industry to the Wilmington area by having such a structure.

Alper: I think that’s very important.

Mims: So with G.E., DuPont and Corning all coming in, it was important for this community to have this facility already in place. We’d already lost the Coastline Railroad.

Alper: Right, I think, I’m not sure of the dates for G.E. for instance.

Mims: I’m not either, but I know we were here by ’68. So I think they opened maybe ’66 or ’67 so it was pretty close.

Alper: Well, it opened June 14, 1967. Oh, you’re talking about G.E.

Mims: Uh-huh.

Alper: Yeah, I was thinking of Corning. I think Corning might have come here earlier than that. What happened was, as you probably know due to the departure of the Coastline, I think we lost about 6,000 jobs and Dan Cameron and a Committee of 100 brought in G.E. and DuPont and a number of others.

Mims: Did you ever have opportunity to meet Dr. John Hoggard from the university who was at one time a practicing physician?

Alper: I may have talked to Hoggard once, yes, but I can’t say that I knew him. He was not practicing at that time.

Mims: No, he was a retired physician by the time he came and started with all the education in Wilmington, but just curious to know if you knew that because certainly the university system benefited by having a large hospital here and the transfer of the nursing school to UNCW because when Walker Hospital closed, the nursing students had to be taught somewhere else. I think it coincided with UNCW opening their nursing school. Cape Fear had their program in place too.

Alper: Well, as far as the nursing schools are concerned, that’s another story. We had a three-year nursing school here that was at the hospital. Well, we didn't have funds to put up a nursing school so we had to make other arrangements and I met the folks from the university and they agreed to a two-year nursing course.

At that time a baccalaureate degree nurse had become a popular thing, four years and we were not interested into getting into that because what we needed was bedside nurses. Didn't need degreed nurses. Now this was before Wilmington College became part of the university. After it became part of the university, the university said this has to come, you can’t have a two-year program, everything is four years or three, no two-year.

And we had a battle royal. They came down and send some nurse down here and we met for a few sessions. I got a hate letter from her. She hated me, but anyway they kept the two-year course for another two years or so and then they said no, that’s got to go. And they were very definite about it. Then it became a three-year course out at the university I guess and when they opened Cape Fear Tech, we saw that as an opportunity to get some practical nurses and we worked out a deal with them.

Mims: I understand the licensing for them came about around the time that you guys would have been opening which was ’65. Before that they weren’t licensed at all. They just learned I guess on the job kind of training. Then they developed that program to train them. If you had it to do all over again, would you do it the same way?

Alper: Are you asking am I pleased with the results?

Mims: Yes.

Alper: Yes I am. I think we have a fine hospital, but a hospital is only as good as its doctors and administration. I was very disappointed that we lost Dr. Atkinson, but I was more disappointed in him when he took some of our talented administrators with him. I didn't think that was ethical. That’s life.

Mims: Well, I guess you had a purpose for coming into this community to help be part of this project and maybe it took the outside eye that you brought in to be effective in getting this started because you said it was pointed out to you, you know, that the condition of James Walker and that helped inspire you or we may have still been stuck with our same old hospital. Anything else?

Alper: No.

Mims: Thank you so much for participating in this.

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