Remember how we discovered that Thirza Browne Cole ended up actually owning and running a hospital? What Karen sent was a copy of a local newspaper article on Thirza's presentation to the ladies' auxiliary of a current-day hospital in the same city where she lived in Lodi, California.
The newspaper clipping itself is unfortunately undated, but I suspect it was an article which ran in the Lodi News Sentinel. Since Thirza passed away in 1979, judging from her picture which accompanied the article, the report was likely written in either the 1960s or early 1970s. Unfortunately, there are no online newspaper archives carrying an extensive collection of that publication, and those dates were not included in the scanty collection of Lodi issues in the Google News archives. As for dates, we'll have to remain blissfully ignorant.
What was useful was the detail Thirza shared with the (unnamed) reporter, especially about her years after first arriving in Lodi. According to the article, "Hospitals: Past and Future discussed at Branch meeting," Thirza's medical career spanned almost forty years.
Thirza got her start in a practical way: after graduation in 1911 from the Red Cross Hospital nursing school in Salida, Colorado, in 1915, she and her husband, William Cole, moved to Lodi. At the time, Thirza had been taking care of her mother-in-law, who had recently suffered a stroke. In the course of providing that care, Thirza became acquainted with several local doctors, who then asked her to take on some of their own cases of patients needing extended care.
By the time the 1918 influenza epidemic hit Lodi, several local doctors fell ill along with their patients. This left two main doctors, operating one small hospital facility, to serve the stricken population of Lodi—at that time, a city of just over four thousand residents—and a makeshift emergency facility was set up on the upper floor of a local bank. Several "practical nurses" bore the load of caring for those smitten with the disease, and Thirza Cole was asked to take charge of the emergency center.
Not long after that—July of 1921—Thirza and her sister, Nellie Yates, together bought a nearby hospital called the Mason Hospital. This was the former home of one of Lodi's popular doctors, Wilton M. Mason, which he had converted into a hospital. Thirza and Nellie did extensive work to the facility over the years, but the building certainly wasn't anything of the magnitude of the type we think of today when we consider hospitals. There were several rooms for patients, plus a room for surgery and a room for "sterilizing." That was it.
Nor were the services at the facility as specialized as those we'd expect from a hospital today. It was not unusual, for someone undergoing surgery, to have Thirza administering the anesthetic—usually ether. Then, if X-rays were required, they might "occasionally" be done by Thirza, as well, since she had been "taught X-ray" in Colorado. As the newspaper article explained, "Nursing in those days embraced many facets usually associated today only with specialization."
If the building needed painting, the two sisters would be there, doing the work themselves. Of course, any equipment updates were a cost Thirza attended to, as well. Nellie stayed with her sister to launch the business and oversee it in its formative season, but after seven years, she returned to Colorado. Thirza operated the hospital for twenty nine years, selling it in 1949.
The building once known as the Mason Hospital is still standing today, though it certainly is no longer a hospital. In its current re-iteration, it serves as a board and care home for seniors, a much sleepier ambience than in its heyday. The old Mason Hospital sits just north of the downtown area on the same main street which traverses the entire downtown shopping district, today a tony collection of bistros, wine tasting stops and antique shops.
It was a treat to find an old photograph of the Mason home on a Facebook page called "Historic Lodi," a picture taken from the time long before its establishment as a hospital. Dr. Mason, it turns out, was one of the first residents in town to own an automobile, as documented in a photograph preserving the memory of not only his home but his horseless carriage. Click through the embedded photo from a year ago to view the actual page on Facebook and explanation of the photograph from long before Thirza Cole and her sister bought the place as one of Lodi's hospitals.