Cold hands, bright eyes, and tuberculosis… Happy New Year!

30 Dec 2014

We asked our Women Surgeons to share with us their Holiday traditions and some of their favorite memories of the holidays.

Please enjoy these delightful stories from fellow AWS members — and feel free to share your own in the Comments.

Happy Holidays from all of us on the Blog team and the AWS!
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Lauren Poindexter
MD Candidate, Class of 2015
Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Nearly every child lining the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade route on New Year’s Day in Southern California is bundled up to their noses in oversized parkas, gripping onto their parents hands tightly so as not to get lost in the excitable mass of humanity. Long before the start of the parade at 8:00am, bright-eyed children pull adults this way and that in attempts to touch the vibrant flowers, seeds, and grasses of the floats, stare at the huge costumed parade horses, and say hello to the perfectly-positioned musicians of the marching bands. Fascination and wonder predominates. Families are honored, a community gathers, rival football fans cheer, the nation celebrates a new year. Since the first Rose Parade in 1890 and the first Rose Bowl Game in 1902, the scene has only grown larger and more fantastic. New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday!

However lighthearted the modern festivities appear, few know of the original purpose of the Rose Parade and its roots in medical history: it was a nineteenth century small-town public relations stunt to entice the families of tuberculosis patients to relocate to Pasadena. Their target audience was East Coast citizens trapped in frigid, blustery winters.

The founder of Pasadena’s exclusive society, the Valley Hunt Club, was, himself, an East Coast transplant, former “consumptive,” and mastermind of the first Rose Parade. He established his club in 1888, the same decade when Prussian scientist Robert Koch identified the Mycobacterium tuberculosis organism, and at a time when physician specialists in America espoused the healing benefits of “climatic therapeutics” for tuberculosis sufferers.

Physicians in those days recommended their patients receive modern tuberculosis treatment and rest in temperate locales – ideally ones offering drier climes, mild winters, and warm temperature ranges. Through the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, international medical journals, textbooks, and newspaper articles included the Greater Los Angeles Area in their purported list of ideal regions. The Valley Hunt Club’s goal was to capitalize on this movement.

The 1890 Rose Parade featured a festival atmosphere of many athletic competitions and a parade of floral-bedecked horse-drawn carriages held under a sunny blue sky in the “dead of winter.” Vivid roses draped over horses necks and bundles of bright juicy citrus fruits wowed the 8,000 attendees. Foot races were run, children rode ponies, and visitors gushed in letters to their families.

Amidst the sprawling citrus groves and well-established ranches, newly constructed mansions sprouted in Pasadena. A residential spectacle dubbed “Millionaire’s Row” consisted of an impressive line of winter retreats commissioned by Eastern magnates desperate for a seasonal escape. Famous residents included the Wrigleys of chewing gum fame and the Gamble family of Proctor & Gamble. Average citizens also sought treatment for tuberculosis in this region. Pasadena’s “Ballard Pulmonary Sanitorium” was well-known for its excellent outcomes and its success was complimented by donations of dollars and volunteer time from members of local women’s clubs. By 1910, Pasadena was one of the fastest growing cities in the US.

When the Valley Hunt Club could no longer financially sustain the wild success of the Rose Parade, the non-profit Pasadena Tournament of Roses was created, eventually choosing William Wrigley’s winter mansion as its home base. Today, the parade progresses down the original “Millionaire’s Row” (now Orange Grove Boulevard) and past the Wrigley Estate. As a young child, I, too, was overwhelmed by the fantastic experience of the Rose Parade and fondly remember the years when we would spend New Year’s Eve at my grandfather’s townhouse across from the Wrigley Estate. He had ventured to Southern California as a young man to start his family in this beautiful region and was a strong supporter of the Tournament’s community involvement.

Though I’ve since migrated back east for medical school, and my grandfather has passed away, I look forward to every opportunity to head home to Pasadena for this annual celebration. Spending time with my family on a crisp January morning watching scores of floats, marching bands, and equestrian units, plus a raucous college football competition, is my favorite way to start a new year. Now I know to credit this event to the Valley Hunt Club… and tuberculosis!

* Tradition dictates that no parade will be held on a Sunday, therefore January 2nd is an alternate date.

One Reply to “Cold hands, bright eyes, and tuberculosis… Happy New Year!”

  1. Lauren- thanks for sharing. I always enjoy watch the Rose Parade around New Years Day and absolutely had no idea about the link to tuberculosis therapy in the southwest. Looking forward to more of your contributions to the AWS blog.

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