The Henry Hotel before it became the Spencer Hospital.
Last updated: July 6, 2012
The Lusk Herald
April 19, 1945
Four years ago, April 23, 1941, a new business enterprise in Lusk was started. Dr. Walter E. Reckling and associates purchased the Henry Hotel and transformed it into a modern hospital.
The original purchase of eight hospital beds proved so inadequate in number after the first few weeks that an additional eight were purchased, doubling the admittances.
The doctor and hospital staff can now look back on those first days with many a laugh at the inconveniences overcome.
It was at the time when the policy was "all out for Great Britain," and they were hard pressed to obtain supplies and had to wait weeks for a sterilizer. In the meantime a large pressure cooker belonging to Mrs. Chris Joss was loaned to the hospital, and those first weeks the sterilizing for the operating room was done in this cooker.
Many of the rooms had to be remodeled. Carpenters and electricians were scarce. The furnace was changed from a stoker to an oil burner and the heating system had to be revamped, more refrigeration was needed, different light fixtures had to be installed, but little by little the changes were accomplished.
Back in 1942 Hap Clark flew one of the first big bombers over Lusk, giving residents an eyeful of the new air weapon, but in flying over the hospital the chimney almost shook to pieces by the vibration and had to be completely rebuilt.
It is not likely that another hospital anywhere in the world ever had a "call system" like the first one used at the Spencer. Cow bells and sheep bells of various sizes and tones were borrowed from ranch friends throughout the county. One patient, a lady from Minneapolis, asked if she might have hers for a memento. Usually the patients just swiped them as folks do ash trays from restaurants and hotels.
Dr. J. B. Viers assists Dr. Reckling, giving the anathesia for the operations. Miss Kitty Browder is superintendent of the hospital, Miss Gladys McKillip is the secretary, Mrs. Beulah Burgess and Mrs. Faye Lynn, well-known nurses of this community, have been with the hospital almost since it was organized.
The securing of nurses has always been a problem, but the hospital has hired from the reservoir of nurses who have grown up in this community and taken their training in various Denver hospitals or elsewhere.
Through the influence of Dr. Reckling, many of these girls decided to take up a nurse's career. Miss Gertrude Kuhn and Miss Edith Christian were both steadily employed in the hospital prior to their marriages. Other local girls who have been employed at the hospital are Norma Shillenn, Jantine Warnock, Flora Percival, Maxine Koch, Jane Chester and Ruby Bernthal. Many of them still assist when needed.
At least a dozen nurse's aids have been employed in the hospital, with half of them going on to cadet training in the war program.
Mrs. Jerry Foley was among the first cooks at the hospital, and under her direction a reputation for good food and in sufficient quantities was established, which is difficult to maintain in these days of national emergency and rationing. Mrs. Gus Dietchler and Rosemary Voohees now have charge of the food preparation.
The laundry is operated by Mrs. Donald Nier and Louise Kennedy. These ladies have worked long and vigorously to keep the linen clean.
Mrs. Emma Moreland has managed the hospital sanitation ever since this hospital was established.
Dr. Reckling states that the hospital is indebted to many Lusk folks who have helped to keep the machinery going 24 hours a day. He says that Harry Fernau and Buck Culver have fought the engines and plumbing and made many repairs to keep the equipment running these war days. They are also grateful to the folks from the Independent Refinery for work on the furnace and to D. F. Wilson, who helped them out many times.
The 3,000th hospital patient entered the institution Monday. Two hundred and fifty babies have come into the world here during the past four years.
This business enterprise has prospered and grown, more than $17,000.00 being paid out in the past year to employees, more than $4000.00 has been paid for groceries during the same time, and the town of Lusk has received better than $800 for electricity.
Dr. Reckling came to Lusk from Kansas fourteen years ago and has been a practicing physician since that time. Although a very busy man he found time to take part in Lusk's community life. Last year he headed the Red Cross organization in this county and has been one of the enthusiastic promoters of Niobrara's county fair.
He also found time to take part in many community activities, participating in the early salvage drive, conducting Red Cross first aid classes here and there in the county, present Civilian Defense chairman, and only recently chairman of Niobrara's largest Red Cross war fund.
He is a member of the county Red Cross board, a member of the Armory board and has always been ready to assist in any community program such as Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs and other groups where a bit of professional help would assist youngsters meet health requirements.
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