Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Good Sam

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

            In 1964, Good Samaritan Hospital had a really spiffy lobby.  It had Naugahyde benches with silver metal legs that lined the wall where I sat—patient and long-suffering—the only member of my family not able to ride the elevator to the newborn ward to see my new baby brother.

My grandparents took turns going up the elevator to see my brother in the newborn nursery.   Those were the rules. Kids had germs. Newborns had to be protected. It was several more days before I got a glimpse of the red-faced, dark-haired boy who would become my greatest irritant and one of my greatest loves.

            Good Samaritan Hospital had been there a few decades by the fall of 1964. The Palm Beach Medical Society says West Palm Beach originally had a five bedroom cottage called the “Emergency Hospital”.  Built in 1914, the cottage was on a lot donated by Henry Flagler. The building on Third Street quickly became overcrowded and a bigger building was constructed on the current site on Flagler Drive. It opened in 1920 as Good Samaritan Hospital and has been growing and expanding ever since.  

At first, travel to the hospital wasn’t always easy and, at least with an impending childbirth, challenging to impossible. Consequently, like many additions to the population in those days, my father and two of his siblings were born in a house in Boynton Beach. My youngest uncle was born in what is now the Blue Seas Suite of the Historic Hartman House in Delray Beach.

Good Samaritan Hospital 1950s
Photo Courtesy of
The Historical Society of Palm Beach County
The Historical Society of Palm Beach County has a series of pictures showing the hospital over the years. One of them is from the 1950s and that one comes closest to my earliest memories. I had a friend who worked in the laboratory there when I was in high school in the late 1970s.My memories were updated then since I was able to go behind the scenes to view the lab with all its test tubes and paraphernalia. I even rode the elevator a few times, just for old times’ sake. The hospital had changed.

There’s a great quote from Dr. William Ernest Van Landingham, who served as one of the early Superintendents of Good Samaritan Hospital. On the Palm Beach County Medical Society’s webpage Dr. Van Landingham, said, “Little does the doctor of today realize how fortunate he is to walk into a complete hospital with miracle drugs to aid him... Unless a doctor has been fortunate enough to have had a glimpse of country practice before moving into an urban area, it must be admitted that he really has lost some of the experiences that were commonplace to the doctor of yesteryear and he is also deprived of that nostalgic feeling that we now enjoy for having lived in that age of hardship, sharing with each family the joy of a new baby’s cry, the sadness and tears of the loss of loved ones, and the wishful thinking of what or what we might have accomplished had we not been born thirty years to soon.” That statement appears to have been made in the sixties.

Dr. Van Landingham would have a hard time imaging the Good Samaritan of today. A lobby with soaring ceilings greets visitors who are signed in by volunteers and security guards sign who direct them where to find loved ones in the sprawling complex. I am, however, relieved that the Naugahyde benches are no more.

Copyright (c) 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge


  1. just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all...

    Miami Ram

    1. Thank you, Miami. Hope you enjoy some of the other articles, too!

  2. Thanks for sharing this quote from my great-grandfather, Dr. Van Landingham. I enjoyed reading it. His name was Dr. Van Landingham, though not Dr. Landingham.

  3. Thank you, Lewis. I'll revise this story as well as the expanded story coming out in my book.