On July 29, 1947, an explosion rocked downtown Harrisonburg, destroying several buildings, killing 10 and injuring 19. (These photos are part of a scrapbook donated to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society by Gilmer W. and Janet B. Lam of Dayton.)
On July 29, 1947, a violent explosion in downtown Harrisonburg was clearly heard at the hospital, over a half-mile away. The blast demolished the Masters Building on South Main Street, leveled Paulineâ€™s Beauty Parlor and Beauty School and Rhodes Jewelry Co., and damaged other nearby buildings. Ten people were killed and 19 injured in the explosion. Another woman, beauty college student Ruth Eleanor Hart of Front Royal, died three days after the disaster due to numerous serious injuries.
The injured were brought to RMH and put in the basement dining hall, which was quickly transformed into a hospital ward by doctors and nurses who rushed to the hospital from all over the surrounding area. The Red Cross arrived as well.
Miss Reilly happened to be on vacation on the Eastern Shore when she heard about the disaster on the radio. She rushed home and arrived at the hospital the next day. A plane carrying 80 pounds of plasma landed in a field along Chicago Avenue and was quickly put to use treating the injured.13
Juanita Taylor had just been hired in the RMH Records Office two days earlier and witnessed how quickly the staff responded to the tragedy. She was amazed when she saw how well they â€œpulled together and how well they did without the technology and training to handle the trauma patients that they have today.â€14
In 1952, the radiology staff of Dr. Noland Canter Sr.â€™s department was expanded significantly. His son, Dr. Noland Canter Jr., had returned from Army service during the Korean War in 1951, then attended the Medical College of Virginia for a year to received the latest training in radiology. He and Ann Shelton, a trained X-ray technician from the Medical College of Virginia, joined the radiology staff at RMH. Miss Shelton and Dr. Canter Jr. joined Martha Showalter, who had been the only technician for many years.
In Korea, Dr. Canter Jr. had served on the staff of a semi-evacuation, or third stage, hospital that received wounded from one of two Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) units. The third stage hospital provided more extensive medical treatment than field units, and Dr. Canter learned much as he cared for soldiers fresh from the trenches.
Drs. Noland Canter Sr. and Jr. began working together in the RMH Radiology Department in 1952. Between the two, their service to RMH spanned some 60 years.
Dr. Canter Jr. remembered the old department, stating with a laugh, â€œWe were down in the basement, of course. In those days the radiology departments were always in a corner of the basement in every hospital I ever saw, often with leaky pipes running across the ceiling. This was a little dangerous because the old machines were open in the back and had exposed wiring. Of course, X-rays were going everywhere.â€15
Dr. Canter Jr. explained that the technicians and doctors had to develop their own film because this process was not automated in the old machines. After taking film with the X-ray machines or the fluoroscope, the exposed film had to be removed from the machine and processed, washed and hung to dry in the tiny darkroom. This process required some degree of training in order to know how long to process the film so as not to over- or underexpose the image.
One of the first technological improvements in the department was the purchase of new X-ray machines with fully enclosed electronics, and a machine for automated film development.
Other changes came about in the late 1950s when Dr. Canter Sr. decided that, with the cooperation of the staff of Madison College, it would benefit the hospital and the community to establish a radiologic technology school. However, he passed away in 1957 before he could act on his vision, so the teaching load was initially shared by his son and Martha Showalter. The RMH School of Radiologic Technology established by Dr. Canter still educates and graduates radiologic technologists today.
Significant developments in medicine during the 1950s included the first human aorta transplant, the development of a vaccine for yellow fever (malaria), and the development of the first pacemakers for the human heart. However, one of the most important medical advancements of the 50s was the discovery of a vaccine to prevent polio.