CGP Community Stories

Dr. Charles Hudson, November 15, 2012

Title

Dr. Charles Hudson, November 15, 2012

Subject

New Jersey
Childhood
Family
Psychiatry
Medicine
Alaska
Indian Health Service of Alaska
Public Health Service
Navy
Naval reserves

Description

Dr. Charles J. Hudson has lived in Cooperstown since 1974. He was born in 1937 and grew up in Oak Tree, New Jersey. After attending Princeton and the McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Hudson spent time in Salt Lake City and then in Alaska, where he served in the Indian Health Service of Alaska. He played an instrumental role in organizing mental health services for the Native Peoples of Alaska. He moved to Cooperstown in 1974 to work at Bassett Hospital, though he also served in the Naval Reserves. He has had a distinguished career as a psychiatrist and physician.
Dr. Hudson’s recollections include his father, a Baptist from Georgia who worked as a maintenance engineer in New York City, his mother, an Irish Catholic nurse from New York City, his childhood in New Jersey attending an integrated elementary school in the 1940s, his work in Alaska, and his family with his wife, Dorothy (Dotty). He also discusses issues of mental illness in the United States, including its relation to problems of homelessness. Of particular interest is Dr. Hudson’s description of psychiatry education in the 1960s and his stories of circumventing the law while serving in the Public Health Service and the Naval reserves.

Creator

Lindsey Marolt

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2012-11-15

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

12-003

Coverage

Oak Tree, NJ
1937-2012
Alaska
Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Lindsey Marolt

Interviewee

Dr. Charles Hudson

Location

44 Nelson Ave
Cooperstown NY

Transcription

CH = Dr. Charles Hudson
LM = Lindsey Marolt

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]
LM:
This is the November 15, 2012 interview of Dr. Charles Hudson by Lindsey Marolt for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course recorded at [his home] 44 Nelson Avenue [Cooperstown, NY]. Could you state your full name, please?
CH:
Charles J. Hudson.
LM:
When and where were you born?
CH:
I was born in Oak Tree, New Jersey, at a time when New Jersey was still very rural. We lived only 27 miles from New York City but it was farm country, and we raised some farm animals, had a big garden. So I grew up in the sticks or in the country. My family, my father came from Georgia, he came up north after the First World War. He didn’t see any future in the South. My mother’s from New York City from an Irish family there. They met in a VA [Veterans Affairs] hospital in Perry Point, Maryland. My father was there for almost a year and we never figured out why he was there, but we think probably it was something related to battle trauma, what we would call today probably post-traumatic stress disorder. So they settled in New Jersey. My father had had some college education in Georgia, but didn’t finish; the war came along. They married while my father was in Perry Point Hospital and then they went to New York City to settle with my mother’s family. Then the children started coming and they really didn’t like raising their children in the city so they moved to rural New Jersey. My father was a farming person and he loved it. He also was able to get a job with one of the great utility companies, Consolidated Edison in New York City and he held that job for 30, 40 years, I don’t know, a long, long time. So it kept us safe through the Depression, the World War. So when I talk about the World War, I’m talking about the Second World War, which most people younger than I don’t have on their radar.
LM:
What do you remember about the war?
CH:
Some things about it. Of course, I was young; there was only radio. I remember Pearl Harbor, being announced on the radio. Then one of my brothers went into the Merchant Marines, and that was getting near the end of the war. So a lot of the stuff between is hazy. He served about a year and then came home at the end of the war, and was redrafted when the Korean War came.
LM:
So were you in school during the war?
CH:
Yes.
LM:
Could you talk a little about your school life?
CH:
Sure. I was born in 1937, so I must have started school around 1942 or 3. I used to walk to school through some back woods. There was no bus that came by where I lived. It was a very interesting school, it was a fairly large school. It was no one-room school house by any means. All of the grades were represented by single classrooms. What was most interesting about my school was that about a third of it was made up of African American students. So right from first grade, nobody in the neighborhood seemed to care, my parents didn’t care, who I went to school with. My father didn’t, he was from the South, that was no issue for him. So right from day one, I learned to go to school and play with black children all though grade school. Some I played with, some were my best friends. Everything just seemed perfectly natural until we got into the outside world.
LM:
Could you talk a little more about your friends at school?
CH:
Yeah, okay. The demographics were interesting, there seemed to be two levels of kids, at least when I went through. There was an area where people were coming to stay. There were a lot of black children coming up from the South. They had been educated in black schools down south, so they were not up to grade level. They were bigger than us. Then the New Jersey, we’ll call one level New Jersey and the other immigrants. There were black students from New Jersey, my age, grade appropriate. We played together and when there was recess or recreation of some kind, we didn’t have a lot of athletic equipment, but the bigger kids immediately went and got the baseball and the soccer ball, or whatever it was, and that didn’t leave much for the New Jersey guys, black or white. So all through grade school we played running games, one two three my man, and all sorts of things. So that’s what we did, we all learned to become good runners.
LM:
What is one two three my man?
CH:
One person hides his face at the tree and everybody scatters out and then the person at the tree has to go out and find people, and if he finds somebody he runs back to the tree and touches it and says “one two three my man” and the guy who’s been found also has to do that, so he’ll come running to the tree to see if he can say it first. So you either got caught or you didn’t. I think one of those people became the next guy at the tree. That was awfully simple but was an awful lot of fun. We had so much fun playing running games.
LM:
What other sorts of running games or other games in general did you play?
CH:
Sometimes, once or twice a week we’d have a phys ed teacher come. There’s be phys ed time and he’d take us out and we’d play baseball or soccer. That was for an hour once or twice a week and the girls would go off and I guess they played similar games, but that’s not something that has stuck with me. What was most interesting, of course we had a lot of black girls and they used to play jump rope - double dutch. Can you imagine? The key was, when two girls were doing the double dutch, swinging the ropes, you had to jump in and start jumping so that you didn’t get caught by the ropes. Once a girl did that, she would start chanting some black, not a poem, but some lovely little thing that she learned growing up as a girl. So [you would] get in to the ropes and be in there for a while and be chanting, and the girls at the ropes chanted too. It was most unusual. I guess I don’t know if that went back to their African roots or not, but it was something that stuck with me.
LM:
Did you ever double dutch?
CH:
Oh no. Boys didn’t do that, just didn’t. We didn’t know the songs. Yes, that was a golden time of my life, growing up with those children.
LM:
Can you talk a little bit more about that time?
CH:
Okay. So basically there were two groups of black students, one born and raised in New Jersey, and others who had moved in, usually from the South because they were looking for jobs or whatever. The New Jersey kids, we all spoke whatever the New Jersey dialect was, the kids who were coming up and some others, could speak in a black dialect. So that I grew up, I don’t know why I ever did this, but I learned black dialect. I rarely used it, because I didn’t know whether that was the proper thing to do, but it was a funny thing to realize that I had grown up learning another dialect.
LM:
So you said that your father was a farmer?
CH:
Yes. He was trained in college to be a farm manager, but he loved to go out and take a hoe and cultivate the corn. First thing he’d do when he came home from work was go out to the garden and weed. We usually had a big garden. Believe it or not, one day my mother went to an auction, and she came home that night and said to my father, “Sam, I bought a heifer today for forty nine dollars.” He just about hit the roof, “What in God’s name did you buy a heifer for?” and she knew he’d love it, and it was delivered two days later and he knew everything there was to do about that animal. This was more a family experiment, the men learned how to milk the cow, including me, we had churns and made our own butter. This was a unique experience, we made cheese, I don’t know what else, but the high point of it for me, was that my two brothers, two older brothers, they didn’t particularly care to milk the cow. I didn’t see any problem with it, even at the age of five or six, I could milk a cow and I was very proud of that. Then, one morning I got up for school, and I always got up in plenty of time, and my mother said, “Chuck, your father had to leave early this morning and would you milk the cow before you go to school?” So, on and off, I was the backup milking the cow, in the morning, sometimes at night. My father worked in the city at night so I would do the milking. So not many present-day kids can relate to that. I’m careful who I tell about that, because I never wanted to be stigmatized as you know, somebody from the whatever.
LM:
You mentioned that your father worked in the city sometimes at night. What did he do there?
CH:
He did a variety of things. Basically he was a maintenance engineer. That was a huge system generating electricity from coal dust, sending electricity all over the city, so that some things went wrong in the main area where the electricity was generated, or something would blow up around the city and he would have to take a group of men, who were trained to do this, and go out to where the problem was and fix it and replace whatever was blown. And it was dangerous work because they had to go down in these manholes where there were giant cables carrying electricity. Always had to be sure the electricity was cut off and that they were working in a safe field. So he was very proud of his safety record. My father was a southerner, he spoke with a southern dialect, and he was working with a lot of Irish immigrants and others. My father was a teetotaler and the management came to know that and a lot of these people, according to my father, that he worked with, especially if they were hired off the street, they had drinking problems. They would come to work drunk, or whatever and my father was a big man, six feet three, he was an imposing fella. He scared the daylights out of these guys. He would give them money to go get black coffee and they would come back a little bit better and he made sure everybody worked. There was nobody just poopin’ along. He said, “you know, I got tired of that and one day I complained to the bosses that they were sending me bad guys, drunks or whatever,” and one of them confessed, he said, “Sam, we’ve been doing that on purpose, we know your feeling about alcohol and you’ve been doing a good job on the guys that we send you.” They were intentionally sending him who needed rehabilitation. I don’t know that he cured anybody’s alcohol[ism], but he taught them better working habits. You know, my father would come home and he would tell Irish stories, and I thought, practically until I grew up, that those were the only jokes or stories that people told. And that was funny, because I was part Irish, and my mother was full Irish, but she never seemed to mind, you know like Polish stories and all that sort of thing. It wasn’t until later that I found out that there were other ethnic groups in the world.
LM:
Could you talk a little more about your mother?
CH:
My mother. Yes. My mother was born in New York City. Her family was completely Irish in background. She had two sisters and three brothers and they were born here in the U.S. You know they made their way in the world, doing well. Unfortunately, my grandmother, my mother’s mother, died when my mother was about nine or ten and her father remarried someone that my mother couldn’t get along with. My mother was a person of firm will. She didn’t know it at the time, but she was a feminist. She did things in public and the community. But she couldn’t get along with her stepmother and got angry at her father, so she left home at the age of fourteen and went to stay with her brother in Pittsburgh, having no real plan and thinking about what to do. My mother was Catholic. She went to a Catholic nursing school in Pittsburgh, St. Joseph’s and applied there. She was fourteen and she was supposed to be sixteen, but she fibbed about her age and went through nurses training and she was a nurse the rest of her life. But to show you the kind of person she was, in the area where we lived, of course we didn’t all live together, there were black people living in one area, and there was prejudice. She, in the 1940s, joined the NAACP to be an advocate for black people, and that came up very sharply once. Every year, the eighth grade school would plan on a trip to Washington, DC, and we would go with a couple of teachers, stay overnight or two and visit all the great sights. My mother was in charge of that one year and she started calling down there looking for places to stay. It turned out that nobody wanted the black children; nobody wanted black children to stay in their hotel or their motel. I don’t know how she did it, but she rang all around with one place for a while and finally they agreed, but they said, “Keep them out of sight. Keep them out of sight.” Well, I don’t think my mother made any great effort to do that because she wasn’t the kind of person to lie down and roll over for anybody. She got to know women in the black community, especially a woman named Earline Fisher. A very lovely, nice person. Her daughter became famous on television, and was a classmate of mine, Gail Fisher, she played on Mannix for years and years. I didn’t know her very well. She was a good looking, beautiful kid, and she was starting her career around New Jersey in plays and things. So my mother would call up her mother and say, “Hey, let’s go see Gail.” So they would drive across New Jersey somewhere to some festival and they would go see Mrs. Fisher’s daughter. So she had relationships in the black community as well.
LM:
Did your mother work as a nurse throughout your childhood?
CH:
Yes.
LM:
Where did she work?
CH:
She worked a couple of places. She worked in Middlesex Hospital, in Middlesex County, New Jersey. She also did a lot of private duty nursing, in people’s homes, especially people who had chronic and terminal illnesses.
LM:
You mentioned that your mother was Catholic, was your family religious?
CH:
That’s a good question. My father was a Baptist, and he was an affiliated Baptist. He had this paper that if he moved around he could take it to any church who would accept it and he would become a member of that church. So that’s what he did. My mother when she married my Protestant father was excommunicated. Didn’t seem to bother her a whole lot. But nevertheless, she had all these Catholic relatives in New York City, and she was accepted. She used to go there a lot, meet with her cousins and things. They never discussed religion; religion was never an item in our household. My father used to beg me to go to Sunday school. I went once or twice, and then on Sunday mornings when I knew my father was getting ready to go to church, I’d run and hide. But later, my mother joined the Episcopal church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. And I don’t know how much you know about the Episcopalian church…
LM:
Not a whole lot.
CH:
Okay. Well, it’s almost like what the Catholic church used to be. It’s a lot of pageantry, and I’ve forgotten whether they did incense or not, but lots of dressing up and Communion. It’s high Episcopalianism. There’s one here in town, too. And the deal was, I was to join the choir, which was quite a good choir, and they paid the choir members. So I couldn’t argue with that. So I sang in the boy’s choir for seven or eight years until I went away to high school. I still know all the hymns. That was an excellent way to learn music because we sang music by Mozart, and Beethoven, and Bach, really terrific pieces that once you learn them, they’re yours forever.
LM:
I notice you have several instruments in this room, are you very musical?
CH:
Moderately so. I’m sort of on a downgrade right now. I had a lot of illness last winter and I just haven’t practiced, but I always liked early music, Baroque, sometimes Renaissance music. I played in early instrument groups. We had one here in town. There’s a group of instruments that preceded the violin family, you know there’s violin, second violin, viola, and, bass. There was a similar arrangement for these [START OF TRACK 2, 0:00] Renaissance instruments, of viols, and that’s what I have, that’s a bass viol there. I played for many years, took lessons, played around the community. I used to practice every day for an hour and I just was unable to keep that up. And the nice thing about a lot of viol music is that you can play for yourself, I mean it’s not just the melody line, you can play some harmony. I’ll get back to it.
LM:
What were you interested in in school?
CH:
What was I interested in in school? Well, I think early on I wanted to be an Arctic explorer. Even in elementary school I started reading books about the great explorers and who explored the Arctic or the Antarctic, so much so that when I got to high school, and was thinking about college, I wanted something different to do. I had, I think, at that point been to Alaska once and I knew they had a university there and I knew they taught mining engineering, and that was my only way to get back to Alaska. And I was accepted there, but some prominent people began looking at that and didn’t think that was a good way to go. I think my mother especially was, you know, “Chuck, you don’t want to go to a mining engineering school.” But I had also, because my mother was a nurse, I learned a lot from her. When she came home she was always telling stories about the people that she was taking care of and mostly they were sad stories, but there were a lot of things about medicine. I enjoyed her stories. Eventually, I steered toward medicine. I went to a really good high school then when I went to undergraduate school I formally enrolled as premedical. It was tough, yeah.
LM:
Where did you go to undergrad?
CH:
Princeton.
LM:
Princeton. Can you tell me about your time there?
CH:
My time at Princeton. Well, I was a scholarship student. Princeton doesn’t give athletic scholarships, but they smile favorably upon students who are also good athletes, and that’s what I was. Princeton was not co-ed, and being caught up in sports all the time and studying a lot, I didn’t have much of a social life, I mean with guys, but you know there were no women there. There was a school called Westminster Choir School. I think some of my friends dated girls from there. We used to have these big weekends, special football weekends, or prom weekends and the custom was to bring in your date, you know, someone you went to high school with who was at another college, or if you had girlfriend. You would hire a room for her and bring her over for the weekend and then you know be going to all the events and all the drinking, have a good time, go to the football game, or whatever. It was so artificial though, you know?
LM:
How so?
CH:
Well, if I had been at a co-ed school, if you had a girlfriend you’d be meeting her for coffee or you’d be studying together. There just was none of that. Oh, a couple times I went away for the weekend to date someone at another school, but you know that’s artificial too. I didn’t do a hell of a lot socially; I felt somewhat isolated. I devoted myself to being a premedical student, which meant a lot of studying, staying up late, all that folderol. You know, I didn’t have a lot else on my mind. Sports, I was out for sports fall, winter, and spring. I thought that unless I did that, I’d lose my scholarship, but that wasn’t true.
LM:
What sports did you do?
CH:
Well, knowing what I did in grade school, what would you guess?
LM:
Running?
CH:
Cross country, indoor track, and in the spring outdoor track. Yeah, I was a distance runner.
LM:
That’s great. So you eventually went to med school.
CH:
Yeah.
LM:
Where did you go?
CH:
McGill University in Montreal.
LM:
Why did you decide to go to Canada?
CH:
Well that’s a good question. Applying to medical school is a real major undertaking and a lot of people apply to a lot of schools - the top schools, the middle schools, whatever. I’ve forgotten how many I applied to, but it was, you know, several. A relative of mine had gone there and spoke well of it. They were the first one who accepted me so I went up and interviewed with them and right after the interview they told me I was accepted. So I thought, boloney, I’m canceling all those others. They year is over for me, so that was that. And it turned out to be an excellent choice.
LM:
Can you talk more about that?
CH:
Yes. We had a large class, one hundred and twenty, not as many women as there should have been, but we had a large representation of international students, students from Africa, China, and this was during the Cold War, Ethiopia, Russia, and we had about a half dozen Arab students. Of course, a lot of Jewish students, a lot of WASPs [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant], Canadian WASPs and a small contingent of American students, so it was a major education getting to know those people, to hear about their ideas, and to be friends with them. And to be in Montreal, which is a pretty international city, and to have all these places around the city, there’d be the Jewish area, the Greek area, Chinese area. All made it a very enticing experience. You could get almost anything you wanted up there.
LM:
Did you explore the city very much, while you were there?
CH:
Yes and no. I remember going around to a lot of the different areas, going out to eat. There were some distant areas that we didn’t bother exploring.
LM:
So what did you concentrate in in medical school?
CH:
Oh, everybody concentrated on everything. As it turned out, McGill was excellent at teaching psychiatry. We started having psychiatric studies in our first year and every year after that, we’d have some kind of psychiatry rotation. And I happened to luck out, because at that period of time, American psychiatry was dominated by Freudian teaching and psychoanalysis. I had taken a course about that in my college years and decided I didn’t believe in it, but that’s what American science and psychiatry was about. That was not the case in Canada. They sort of taught a psychiatry that was based on science and medicine and pragmatic. So they reached everywhere into other human behavioral fields to try to make an eclectic form of psychiatry and they were up to date on what was going on elsewhere. For example, in the 1950s, the first tranquilizing drugs were discovered in Europe and found to have a considerably positive effect on disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Well, bang-o, one of my professors flew to Europe and came back with a whole supply of those new drugs. He was a European himself, spoke French, German, so he had no problem going and visiting the French center where these were made, and he started them right off in the teaching hospitals of the university, the psychiatric teaching hospitals, and I was able to see the early results of those drugs on some very disturbed people, people who almost were not recognized as people. They were just so, well, they were the equivalent of deformed, dysfunctional people, you know who might just stand in the corner all day, or stand there making the same sound every couple of minutes. Terribly, terribly regressed people, so I saw those people getting medication, starting to show a lot of improvement. Then, another experience was that I was based in a clinic where I saw the people who were discharged on those drugs and it was truly remarkable. A couple of months before I was seeing this person virtually as a derelict and then seeing them on the medication in the clinic, they were virtually in remission. And, occasionally they would say something like, “Well doctor, I still remember all those voices that used to torment me, but they don’t bother me any more. I don’t pay attention to them.” I heard that story so many times, and one I remember in particular was this lovely, talented nurse who worked in the neurological institute. That is a pretty top-flight place throughout the world and she had just become psychotic at work, started taking her clothes off and waving them around and not making any sense. And I saw her in follow-up clinic and I was able to read in the chart what her behavior was. So I interviewed her, she was back at work, bright, connected, together, and I didn’t ask her about any of those things that brought her to the hospital. She was doing well; she didn’t need to be reminded of that. Now that was also the time when these drugs came in that everybody thought they were a miracle and people were being given these drugs and discharged. Now they didn’t necessarily have any place to go, maybe a rooming house or something. And a significant percentage of mental patents, unless they are closely supervised will not take their medication and then they will relapse again. So this was the beginning of de-institutionalization. Governments wanted to save money, by closing hospitals, and after all, there was this wonderful new drug to get people out of hospitals. And ever since then, hospitals have been closing, but in many cases there’s no place for these people to go. It’s become the law now mostly that you have to have a good tight community plan for these people, a place to go or a clinic to go to, somebody to just check in on them, count their pills make sure they’re taking their medication on time. You live in St. Louis?
LM:
[Yes.]
CH:
Do you ever see any homeless people there?
LM:
A little bit.
CH:
Yeah, well, places like New York City have thousands and thousands of them. A lot of those people were in the hospital and they were discharged with no place to go, or it wasn’t a place that could take them and put them in a good community plan with things to do, places to go. I think there are about six hundred thousand homeless people in the United States, most of those have been discharged from hospitals and relapsed and a lot of the hospitals have been closed and so there’s this dilemma: what to do with all these people? Most of them have a history of mental illness. You know, they’re sleeping under bridges, digging in garbage cans, getting in trouble. There are a couple hundred thousand mentally ill people in jails and penitentiaries. They committed some minor kind of a thing or worse and they end up getting locked up for years with no treatment. And so, given this background at McGill and the people who taught psychiatry were just such nice guys. We had to have exams, and usually in psychiatry, they were oral exams, and you would go and sit at a table and meet a senior attending person who would say something like, “Okay Mr. Hudson, I have to find a reason to pass you today, and believe me I want you to pass.” And they would ask very simple, straightforward questions. They weren’t out to get you. And a lot of my class went in to psychiatry, and I’m convinced it was because of their humane treatment by the psychiatric teachers.
LM:
So what did you do after you graduated? You went directly into psychiatry?
CH:
Well, everybody had to do their internship. It was sort of your fifth postgraduate year. I don’t know what got it into my head but I got to thinking that I was going to be a hematologist—work with leukemias and blood tumors and things. So I went out to Salt Lake City where the most prominent hematologist in the world was, University of Utah Medical School. It was one of the worst places I ever was. It turned out that this great hematologist was just a crabby, snotty guy, I mean rude. I didn’t think he had a good molecule in him, but the rest of the story was that a year or two before that, he lost his only son in a tragic accident. Many people think he, even after I left, that he just didn’t recover from that and that played out in how he treated us. It was getting close to the end of the year and you were supposed to have all your charts done and I had about five charts where you have to dictate the summary and that’s no big deal, and he pulled me in and just chewed me out up and down. [Brief interruption] So that finished me. But later the same afternoon, the director of medical education called me in and said I had been accepted into their hematology program as a postgraduate and I thought, “Nope, not for me.” Now, in that era, up to about the 1980s, every male was subject to the draft, selective service. We were all doctors and if you were a doctor, you knew you were going to be called. You didn’t know where you were going to be sent, and that was the troubling part of it. I didn’t just want to go to some ordinary army base and treat snotty noses for the year. I had always had an interest in Native Americans, and I discovered that there was a part of the federal government charged with giving health to American Indians. So early on in medical school I applied and was accepted. I was given this low rating, but I was a member and that would serve as my selective service time. I felt like I had pulled one. It wasn’t that I was anti-military or not patriotic. My brothers had gone through the army and I saw what they went through; that wasn’t for me. When it came time at the end of Salt Lake City to be called in the draft, I said, “Sorry!” So the Indian Health Service called me up and you were able to list a couple places where you would be willing to go. I put down Arizona, Alaska, and lo and behold, they sent me to Alaska. I just couldn’t believe it, it was such, such an experience to be in that wild, faraway place providing medical care to these poor people. They didn’t have two nickels to rub together. And that was when I learned that all Native Americans on reservation and in Alaska were provided free medical care, free paid by the government. So, that, I thought “My God, why can’t everybody get that.” So, I was imprinted with that in the 1960s. It’s coming to pass. Going out, had some great adventures. I went up as a general physician, primary care, regular doctor, and you had to be prepared to do anything. I had to learn to pull teeth, fit eyeglasses, and of course any kind of trauma, deliver babies. So I was getting ready to leave to go study psychiatry somewhere and the Indian Health Service said “Well, Chuck, if you’ll consider coming back here as a psychiatrist, we’ll recommend you for a special scholarship, or whatever. You’ll have to go down to be interviewed for this.” Which I did. I went down to San Francisco and there were a whole bunch of other people applying for it. I happened to win it, so all my expenses and salary were paid while I was studying psychiatry, so at the end of that I went back to Alaska as the chief psychiatrist for the Indian Health Service of Alaska. There were no organized services then, well, what you might be able to get from a primary care physician was, well, it was very irregular. But I had the distinct honor of being able to organize mental health services for the native peoples spread all over Alaska. I was able to get another psychiatrist up there, by a very stealthy maneuver in the hospital in Anchorage. There were a bunch of beds open on one ward one summer and there were mental patients all over the hospital on other services, you know somebody in surgery, on the TB floor and my colleague and I, the best we could do would be to go around and visit them, order medications. Oh, and we also used to get them together for group therapy once in the morning. But an old doctor went on vacation once. He had been doing TB and over the summer the TB patients dropped to five or six. So, without even asking anybody, my colleague and I started transferring all those patients to those empty beds, so we created what they call in-patient service, like here at Bassett they have twenty beds or so. So we created for ourselves and for the patients, a place where they could get treatment and they could get group therapy there, have a nurse assigned to them. Oh, by the way, we had to train all the nurses. But that worked wonderfully, because TB was cranking down and they were afraid they were going to lose their jobs, and they saw us coming and they were overjoyed, and, “Yes, we’ll do whatever you want us to do.” We started having a lot of teaching sessions. We had at that time what was known as a mental health pharmacist. He knew his drugs very, very well. So, I and my colleague taught him interviewing so that with time, he would be able to see [patients], and we [START OF TRACK 3, 0:00] allowed him to write prescriptions, and it worked well. He was a very sensible, empathic guy, and he turned around and he had classes for the nurses in all the medications. So that was amazing that we accomplished that. A lot of Native American, or Indian, people used to go to the state hospital up there and they didn’t identify with that. So, we started skimming those off and then taking them to our hospital so that we could treat them until they were in the best shape they could be, make a plan for them, and send them back to their village. Now the other thing woven into all this, when I first got there, I would go out and visit villages, there were a lot of villages and many of them were just so far away. There was no way that they could come to the hospital, because that was expensive, so the government paid expenses for anyone who got acute illness to come to the hospital. Well, we started, instead, visiting the villages and doing physicals on everybody, seeing prenatal cases, newborn babies, babies in general, and all the things you should be doing to provide preventative health care. Sometimes I’d pull the occasional tooth, or fit eyeglasses. No, I didn’t fit eyeglasses in the village; I didn’t have any portable eyeglass stuff. I noticed that people wanted to be seen at night, after dinner - that was fine with me - and it turned out, they were people who wanted to talk to me, just talk. Certainly, a lot of them had very real problems, some of them needed medication. So I did that, I had charge of about thirty villages, which I tried to visit twice a year, and so every time I went back, I’d see the same people, check them over, give them encouragement and so on. That was when I was a primary care person; then three years later I came back as the psychiatrist and started organizing. [Brief interruption] We began outpatient services. My second four years as a psychiatrist was very busy. We had seven or eight little hospitals around Alaska [brings out globe to point out locations]. There was one up here at Point Barrow, one here at Kotzebue, one at Nome. I was down here, and then there was one in the middle, and in Anchorage was the big Alaska Native Medical Center with about four hundred beds and the specialists and things. I started doing outpatient and inpatient care and, this was something new, if someone became acutely mentally ill in a village, I would fly them in to be hospitalized at my center, not at the state hospital. State hospitals, generally, have a bad aroma, and in some ways it’s not fully deserved, but what I had at my hospital, the Native Service Hospital, most of the employees, including the nurses, the aids, the people who were doing maintenance or cleaning, they were all Native, and it was amazing when I first saw this happening, they would sort of side along to my unit and begin talking with the patients. So that made our people feel very much at home. They had people to talk to in their own language and then occasionally one of those people would come to us and say, “You know, Johnny’s really upset because he hasn’t heard from his wife,” or some really difficult matter, and we could check right into it, get in touch with the village and pass on things and really build some more communication into the system so they could be in touch with their families.
LM:
So how much time did you spend in Alaska?
CH:
Seven years.
LM:
Seven years.
CH:
Yeah.
LM:
Where did you go after that?
CH:
Well, at this point, I was sort of becoming a professional member of the Public Health Service. I had increased in rank. My sister lived up there, fairly close to us and our kids played together, and we had a wonderful time. But then her marriage broke up and really, I felt very badly, and she moved to another part of the state. So we began thinking, we lost my sister, and at that point we basically had become Alaskans, and that’s a real point to reach. Then we began asking ourselves, “Are we really? Is this what we want to be?” and I never wanted to be a stereotype of anything. I used to see the older Public Health Service officers around, you know in their uniforms, we used to have to wear uniforms - sometimes - acting like they were generals and you know, professional types, and I could never think of myself as a career officer for the government. So, we decided to leave and come back east. We came to Cooperstown because we’re Easterners, all our relatives were here. My children were not getting to see their grandparents, so here we are.
LM:
If you don’t mind backtracking a little bit, could you tell me about how you met your wife?
CH:
Well, like many college students, I worked over the summer doing something to save up for college. So I guess it was the summer after my sophomore year, I was working in a, you know what a Howard Johnson is?
LM:
[Yes.]
CH:
I was working at a Howard Johnson’s, in the kitchen washing dishes, cleaning up, and there was this lovely young woman who was out at the bar, serving sodas and sundaes. And, yeah, we made a connection.
LM:
Now, when did you get married?
CH:
Just about the end of my senior year of college.
LM:
Can you tell me a little bit about your family with your wife, your children?
CH:
Okay, our first youngster was born in Vermont. We were transients for [a] fair amount of our lives. Where we were working for the summer, our first child was born there, in medical school. She has turned out to be really quite something. She came home from college once and said “Dad,” I had been thinking she was pre-med and she and I had done some things together in psychiatry. Well, she came home from college and said “Dad, I’ve decided, if I go into social work, I can do more for people than you do as a psychiatrist.” Okay. So, that’s what she wanted to do, and what’s she now? Fifty two, yeah. She’s done a lot of really interesting things in her career and we have two granddaughters from her, both of whom have graduated from college. The second youngster, Andrew, was born in my senior year, the funny part about it was, that he was late. One day, one wintery day, I had to be taking my obstetrics exam and, I think by then, Dot was two weeks late, at least. So I came home from that exam all tired out and when I got in the door she said, “Chuck, I’m ready to go.” So back we went to the hospital. Then my third youngster, and he [Andrew] is a computer engineer for Maine Public Radio. So, the third one, is also interesting, my second daughter. When I got to Alaska, for the first time as a fresh young doc, I arrived and told them, I said, “You know, I’d like to do two years out in one of the remote hospitals.” And they about fell all over themselves, because nobody volunteered for that. Who would want to do that, you know? But to me it was an adventure. A lot of the things that I chose to do I did because they looked interesting, they sounded adventurous, and also there was the possibility of doing good for somebody. My first year there, at the end of the first year, we moved to the boonies, a small thirty bed hospital, with two doctors. Dot had been brewing a pregnancy that year and was due in September and there was another doctor there with me who turned out to be mentally unbalanced, and it was my understanding that he was going to deliver my third child. All of a sudden, he got called away by the government. I complained and I said, “Look, you promised there would be somebody here. I don’t want to deliver my own child.” And they said, “It’s okay, Chuck, we’ll have somebody up.” A couple days later, this stiff young doctor, newly arrived in a military uniform came out, and I met him at the plane, and he gets off the plane with his hand out and says, “Are you Doctor Hudson?” And I said, “Yes.” “Well I heard your wife is pregnant, and I just want you to know, I did a surgical residency and I never did any deliveries, so you’ll have to do it.” I thought, oh yeah, thanks a lot. But then, as it turned out, the other guy came back and one morning Dot told me, “I think I’m having pains,” so the hospital was just down the street, well a street, we were all on hospital grounds, so I took her down to the hospital and she was really moving along and I thought, “Dammit, where’s Sam (the other doctor)?” And he always was hard to get out of bed. I had them call the time to him and I was jangling myself, and she was moving along. Finally, this little head starting arriving and he wasn’t there. So, it wasn’t complicated and just as I was starting to ease the head out, he arrived. And if I’d had time, I would have killed him. So, the third one was born in Kanakanak Hospital in Alaska.
LM:
And you have three children?
CH:
Yes.
LM:
So you moved to Cooperstown with quite a young family.
CH:
Yes, and that worked out well, because there were schools up there, small, there were a lot of Native students, Eskimo kids and so on. But there was no high school, that’s right, no high school. They would have had to go elsewhere for high school, boarding school or something, but I don’t remember thinking about that before. So, it seemed a good time to make a split. I was looking for jobs that were advertised in the psychiatric journals and there was one for a hospital in Cooperstown. And we discussed it as a family and there was resistance. “We don’t want to go to Cooperstown, Dad. We like it here.” And I said, “Well, what about if we go next year?” Well, there was grudging acceptance, so I flew down here to Cooperstown, had an interview, and then I told them I couldn’t come for a year. They accepted that, so we came down in 1974.
LM:
So, can you tell me a little about your work in Cooperstown?
CH:
Working in Cooperstown? [Recorder turned off for short break]
[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]
LM:
[No, I don’t know very much about the hospital]
CH:
So when I arrived here the services were very similar to what I had developed in the Anchorage hospital. There was an inpatient section with twenty beds for people who had to come into the hospital for a while. We had an outpatient clinic so people could come in and be seen on an outpatient basis, and that’s what I was in charge of, the outpatient people coming in and some emergency calls. But the important thing about this hospital was that it is a teaching hospital, which means that the staff are not just looking after themselves and their own interests and their own private practice. People are expected to be up on things, to read, to be of a higher caliber. And the hospital is affiliated with a medical school in New York City, so we all had an appointment to that hospital. I was an assistant professor or something like that. We also had interns and residents to teach and you have to be on your toes if you’re going to do good teaching, know what’s current in the literature or the students will think you’re a doof. They pick up on that pretty quickly. I participated in teaching all aspects of the clinical part of psychiatry. I did do some impatient work when the inpatient doctor was out of town or something. When I came here, this was a very small place; this was not a medical center. There were much smaller numbers of physicians, some of the specialities were represented. Some of the doctors had become specialists because they work in that area, in other words an intern that’s on the staff could become interested in gastro-intestinal disorders so that’s what people would start sending him and on his own initiative, he would become the local specialist in GI medicine. There were two cardiologists, three psychiatrists, I guess there was a urologist, a couple of surgeons, a few interns and residents, but it was a small place, comfortable and generally everybody got along together.
LM:
So we’ve been talking for about an hour and a half and I don’t want to take up a whole lot more of your time so is there anything that you would have liked to have talked about that I didn’t ask you about, any closing words?
CH:
Let’s see… well, there’s a whole other segment of my career that we haven’t talked about. When I was in the Indian Health Service in Alaska, we were a uniformed service, we wore uniforms, but we were not in the military, we were under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which is basically civilian. But we abided by military protocol, you know we had to salute. Nobody ever taught us how to, but we at least had to act military and you know we would wear the wrong color socks, or something, everybody was screwing up on their uniform because we never had any training about it. There were people who had their problems with authority but we never got bugged about it. When I left, I was given credit for twelve years in the Public Health Service because I spent two summers with them. And when I got down here I thought, well, that’s a shame, that was twelve years towards some kind of retirement and benefits. There was no Public Health Service down here that I could affiliate with. I went in to Albany and found the Naval reserve center and talked to them and found out that I would be eligible just to transfer, become a Naval reserve officer, despite the fact I knew nothing about the military, nothing. So I was accepted gladly because they needed doctors, and I was in charge of a medical unit, about twenty men who were basically hospital corpsmen, they had some hospital training and first aid and other things. They would be the first line of call if they were in the service and were in action. They would come carry the wounded off and take care of them. But they had great fun teasing me, teaching me proper military etiquette, which I promptly forgot and had to try to get all my insignias right, and it wasn’t easy. So, I didn’t do psychiatry. I did an occasional situation where they wanted me to assess someone for a psychiatric interview, which I did, but I used the opportunity to be one of the doctors who was doing physicals, just ordinary physicals. Everybody had to have a physical every year recorded on their chart, and if there were any irregularities, make sure they were taken care of. And that proved to be very instrumental in bringing back my medical skills, because I was hands-on, feeling bellies, listening to hearts, and all that kind of thing. But then, I began to notice something else. We had a lot of minorities in the Naval reserve, and on the outside they had no medical care, no medical charts, so even if it wasn’t time for their physical, they would come in with a medical problem. I and the other doctors had agreed that we would do that, so we would take care of medical issues for them, prescribe medication; we were basically their family doctor. And then some of them started bringing their babies in. Well, I honed up on my examining of children. It was the usual thing of sore ears and colds and that, so that wasn’t a problem, but having this sort of ethnic divide really was an eye-opener for me. These people needed that money. They didn’t want to be sent home because they were sick because they would lose pay. So that motivated us more to do anything we could to help them out. One day I was in the clinic and this young Hispanic woman came in and she was obviously expecting and told me that she was starting to have pains, but she didn’t think she was due yet. She didn’t know what to do because she was afraid she would be sent home and lose her pay for the afternoon. So, I examined her, and there was a little room off to the side of the clinic with a nice cotton blanket, so I said, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you just come in here and lie down and take it easy and see how things go?” So, she spent the afternoon there and her pains quieted down and I had to think up some excuse why I kept her at the clinic all afternoon, but whatever I did worked out and there weren’t any problems because of that. But yeah, we were circumventing the law. I always did that. I’ll tell you another one, where we committed federal crimes. When the other doctor and I were out in the little hospital where my daughter was born, those people were poor, but they were subsistence people, they lived on hunting and various other things. However, they were under government care and we were forbidden to prescribe contraceptives. Now, the health of those people had been very bad; the mortality rate had been terrible with TB, infant diseases, but the Public Health Service was getting a handle on those with the result that families were growing, people were staying healthier and the women didn’t necessarily want big families and there wasn’t anything we could do, really. Birth control pills really didn’t work up there because of the irregularity of the mail flights. If your prescription renewal was late, you were in trouble. Well, my colleague took some vacation and went down to see his father in Georgia, his father was a physician and a very good one too, and he came back with this big jar of, you know what Lippes Loops are?
LM:
[No]
CH:
You know what IUDs [Intrauterine Device] are?
LM:
Yeah.
CH:
Okay, Lippes Loops are simply a form of IUDs, they’re funny looking little things, and we had a special applicator, we would put this little thing, it looked like a long sperm, and this would be inserted into the uterus and they were good contraceptives, but they were illegal. And, our superiors used to call up every month and say, “Have you prescribed any birth controls this month?” Well, of course the answer was no, we were giving them away for free, we weren’t prescribing them and we weren’t using pills, but it was against the law, and my colleague and I used to joke around saying, “Do you think the FBI’s going to come out here, to this God forsaken place, give us trouble?” Finally they were legalized, but meanwhile we had a good jump on that social issue.
LM:
That’s wonderful, and did anybody ever find out before they were legalized?
CH:
About what we were doing?
LM:
Yeah.
CH:
It wouldn’t have mattered.
LM:
Yeah?
CH:
We were delighted that we were getting away with something.
LM:
That’s fantastic. Well, like I said, I don’t want to make this last too long, though I’m sorry that it’s ending because you have lots of interesting stories.
CH:
You want to go on for a few more minutes?
LM:
If you have something more that you’d like to share, absolutely.
CH:
Well, I guess the other point was about how my turn in the Navy reserves sort of morphed into this other kind of thing of providing some care for underserved groups. Yeah, that was fun. I liked to do something where I knew I was doing something socially approved, but especially where I was learning something. That was part of the whole thing with Alaska, flying around to those villages and to the mountain, having all those small plane experiences. Okay!
LM:
Yeah.
CH:
Thank you for coming.
LM:
Thank you very much for letting me interview you. This was wonderful.
[RECORDER TURNED BACK ON FOR ONE LAST STORY] [START OF TRACK 5, 0:00]
CH:
In the Naval reserve, in addition to going to a Naval reserve center and doing medical things once or twice a month we had to go away to a Naval hospital for two weeks every year and that was to do psychiatry, to go to some hospital that had a psychiatric center there where people were being treated and seen in the clinic and so on. And so they had usually made up an agenda of things they wanted me to do. One of the things that they had would be a list of people they thought were homosexuals. Yeah, you weren’t supposed to be in the service if you were gay, and my views on that were not the same as the Navy’s. But I was stuck, and so I figured out what I would do. I would sit down and tell them, “Now, I’m not your regular Navy psychiatrist, I’m a civilian.” This was hard for them to believe because I had the uniform on and all that junk, but I tried as hard as I could to make them realize that really, I was on their side, and I would tell them, “I’ve been asked to see you because the Navy wants to know if you’re gay or no.” So I would go through some history with them, life history, such as you would do for anybody and then I’d simply ask them straight out, “Are you gay?” and they would say, “No.” And well, as far as I was concerned, that was it, if somebody says they aren’t, they aren’t. So that was the way I’d write it up. One guy was in difficulty, though. His boyfriend had written a letter to him, which his mother intercepted and it contained incriminating statements in it. Well, she sent it to the Navy, bless her heart, and so there that was, sitting in the chart, and I thought, “What the hell am I going to do with this?” So I discussed it with him. I asked him about the letter. “Oh, that’s a complete misunderstanding,” he said, and then went on to give me an explanation of what that letter was about and then I asked him, “Well, are you gay?” “Well certainly not. Mom may think I am, but I’m not.” Okay? I think his mother ended up being delusional in my report. Yeah, that was a funny thing. How to, during those two weeks, how to get around things you didn’t believe in, things that the Navy wanted you to do their way. There was another case where a young man, a recruit, had been on this Navy base and he was lying on his cot one day and just started becoming psychotic - hallucinating and crazy thoughts. So he just got up off his cot and walked off the base and left for a couple of years. And seemingly was forgotten about, however he did come back and told the Navy that he’d been mentally ill. Well, the Navy doesn’t really believe in mental illness, so they thought he had committed a criminal act and ought to be held accountable. So I was assigned to do this examination for the Navy, basically they wanted me to find him guilty, not mentally ill, but when I talked to him, it was so clear, it was crystal clear he couldn’t have made that up. And then he said, “By the way, I went to see a private psychiatrist in Boston, and she believes that I was psychotic and she told me what my diagnosis was.” To me, even though I didn’t see any writing, that was strong evidence, and the Navy, of course, wanted him to go to prison. Oh! And he brought his lawyer with him and the Navy told me specifically, “Do not have the lawyer come in. If it gets to be a problem, just cancel the interview.” Well, on the day of the interview, the lawyer did show up, and I thought, yeah I had terrible attitudes, I thought, “I don’t really give a damn if the lawyer sits in or not, no skin off my nose.” So I started the interview and he made an effort to interrupt and I said, “Stop. I’ll let you stay here, but you’re not to interfere in the interview,” so, he didn’t. I was going against the Naval orders. He clearly was mentally ill. There was another psychiatrist, and I talked to her, she agreed with me. The Navy didn’t want that. But I was only there for two weeks and I had a getaway, I had a way to get out of there, and had in my report. So I worked until the last day on the report, and I made the last couple sentences ambiguous, I put double negatives in and then the afternoon came, I ran to the receptionist, or the typist and I said, “Here it is, I’m gone.” So I got in my car and left, and I was stopped at the gate, wanting to know if I’d handed that report in, “Oh yes, yes, I did, the typist has it.” In Cooperstown that Monday, they called here, called me at my office and they said, “We’re confused by those last two sentences. What does that mean?” and I said, “I know it’s complex, but it basically means this man is not guilty by reason of insanity.” So, I don’t know if I was breaking the law or not, but I wasn’t being a good example of a Naval psychiatrist.
LM:
So did they accept your diagnosis, your finding?
CH:
I presume so. They could have gotten another one on their own, gone out and gotten still another psychiatrist, but with two opinions against them, and a good lawyer, I think they found some way to wiggle out of it. There were bad things done in the military, real bad.
LM:
Well, thank you for that last story, it was very interesting. Is the anything more you think?
CH:
Oh there will be, but may not be today.
LM:
Okay, well thank you very much.

Duration

30:00
30:00
18:51
15:38
9:27

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Citation

Lindsey Marolt, “Dr. Charles Hudson, November 15, 2012,” CGP Community Stories, accessed November 17, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/130.