Even More Memphis: St. Jude Hospital
West Memphis, AR - Events of Wednesday, July 11 to Friday, July 13, 2012
Wednesday morning was quite dreary. The previous day, our friends, Barbara and Dick, did some sightseeing on their own, and they stopped at the Tennessee Welcome Center. While they were there, they picked up information on the Danny Thomas/ALSAC Pavilion at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital. We decided that sounded like something good to do on a cloudy, dreary day with a 50 or 60% chance of rain. The Pavilion has memorabilia of entertainer Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and information on the history and operation of the hospital.
As a starving entertainer, Danny Thomas vowed that if he ever made it big, he would do something to give back. He chose to build a hospital that would treat catastrophic diseases in children and conduct research into new cures and treatment methods for those diseases.
The Danny Thomas/ALSAC Pavilion is located right across from the main entrance of the hospital. ALSAC is the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. Danny Thomas, who was Lebanese, started ALSAC as the fund-raising arm of St. Jude Children's Hospital.
Inside the entrance of the pavilion is a portrait of Danny Thomas.
The pavilion has information about Danny Thomas, about the history of the hospital, about fundraising and about the future plans for research and expansion. There are alcoves around the central space under the dome.
Although Danny Thomas was Catholic, the pavilion reflects his Lebanese heritage with design elements reminiscent of Muslim mosques. The hospital is named for St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of hopeless causes; but the hospital is not affiliated with the Catholic Church or any other religion.
We started with the history of the hospital. Danny Thomas began raising money to build a children's hospital in the 1950s. His dream came to fruition when the hospital opened in Memphis in 1962. The hospital has undergone many expansions and additions over the years, and there is a whole complex of buildings today. A $1 billion, 5-year expansion was completed in 2005.
Back in 1962, the hospital opened with a budget of $1 million a year. Today, the average cost to operate the hospital is $1.7 million - A DAY! The average treatment cost is $500,000 per child. In 1962, the survival rate for childhood leukemia was 4%. Today, that survival rate is 94%.
It was surprising to learn that the hospital only has 78 beds. The majority of treatments are done on an outpatient basis while the patient and family live in the Target, Grizzly or Ronald McDonald Houses depending on their length of stay.
The next section of the pavilion had biographical information about Danny Thomas' life and show business career. There were old family photos, a replica of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, some of his show business awards and numerous photos with other show business personalities and with several presidents.
Danny Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz in 1912, the son of Lebanese immigrants. His family Americanized their name, so Danny Thomas was known as Amos Jacob as a child. When he started in show business, he wanted to be a radio actor. In 1940, the only gig Amos Jacob could get was at a nightclub, and he felt like a failure. He didn't want to embarrass his family, so he decided not to use his real name. Instead, he combined the names of his youngest brother (Danny) and his oldest brother (Thomas).
Danny Thomas finally did make it to radio later in the 1940s. He also made a couple of movies including a 1951 musical called The Jazz Singer. He is best known for his starring role in the TV sitcom, Make Room for Daddy where he played a successful comedian who struggled to find time to spend with his family. The show aired from 1953 to 1964. They had a video screen where you could select and watch various clips form the TV series and from The Jazz Singer.
One of the clips was from an episode of Make Room for Daddy that featured Andy Griffith in the role of a small-town sheriff. That episode spawned The Andy Griffith Show, which was produced by Danny Thomas. Thomas also produced The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mod Squad, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and several TV specials.
Over the years, Danny Thomas won many humanitarian and show business awards. Only a small percentage of them like the three Emmys he won for Make Room for Daddy are on display. The rest of the awards are in storage.
No one ever pays for treatment at St. Jude. St. Jude also pays for transportation, lodging and meals for the patient and an accompanying family member. As we said above, the daily expenditures average $1.7 million, so fund raising is very important to St. Jude. There was a section of the pavilion explaining fund raising at St. Jude. Eighty-one percent of all funds raised go directly for research and treatment; 13% goes back into fund raising, and 6% is for administration. St. Jude's receives no support from the government.
As we mentioned, the cure rate for childhood cancers has greatly improved. A great deal of that improvement was brought about by the research at St. Jude, which was explained in another section of the pavilion. The hospital shares its research with other hospitals around the world, and they also have several hospitals with which they have a direct affiliation.
Also extending from the central dome of the pavilion is a chapel.
In the chapel is a large wood carving that is a replica of da Vinci's painting The Last Supper. Carved from Honduras mahogany, the bas relief sculpture is 6 feet high by 12 feet long and took 14 months to complete. The panels on each end represent the Old and the New Testament. The carving used to hang in the Thomas dining room. Danny's wife, Rose Marie, donated it to the chapel after Danny's death in 1991.
Behind the pavilion is a garden with a waterfall and the mausoleum where Danny Thomas and his wife, Rose Marie, are interred.
It was interesting to learn about Danny Thomas and St. Jude Children's Research hospital. The hospital, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, has made huge strides in the advancement of the treatment of serious childhood illnesses.
Barbara and Dick were originally scheduled to leave Memphis on Thursday, but they found so much they wanted to see they extended their stay by a couple of days. They went off on Thursday on their own to do more sightseeing while we made a Walmart run, began making preparations for our departure on Friday, and just relaxed a bit. Later Friday afternoon, we met them for lupper at Central BBQ. Memphis has so many barbecue joints, it was difficult deciding where to go; but Central BBQ got lots of good reviews, so that was our choice.
Central BBQ has pork, chicken, turkey, brisket, sausage and ribs. They also have barbecued bologna sandwiches. Sandwiches range in price form $4 to $7 (without sides), and plates are $9 to $23 and include two sides.
Dick had a chopped pork sandwich that he said was good. Barbara, Margery and Paul had ribs ($15 half rack, $22 whole rack, $24 whole rack for two with four sides). The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and were excellent. Memphis-style ribs are prepared with dry rub and are served wet or dry. We all got ours dry and added our own sauce, which was also good. Margery had the excellent house-made potato chips. The potato salad was also good, but the slaw was just so-so (not much flavor).
We headed back to our respective rigs after lupper. In the morning, we said our good-byes and headed off to our next destination. We'll tell you where that was in our next post.