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Thompson gave patients personal attention, hospital

August 03, 2002

THEN AND NOW

After treating more than 150,000 patients, performing more than

30,000 surgeries and delivering 3,744 babies, Thompson Memorial

Hospital closed its doors and was torn down about this time last

year.

To many Burbankers, the hospital on the corner of Olive Avenue and

5th Street was commonly known as Burbank Community Hospital. It was a

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fixture in the community for nearly a century, and it was all started

by Dr. Elmer Thompson.

On April 19, 1905, Dr. Thompson arrived in Burbank after

practicing medicine in Wisconsin. Anxious to establish his own

practice, he canvassed the Valley to find a suitable location. He had

the foresight to realize that Los Angeles County was on the edge of a

population explosion that would provide an abundance of patients. He

almost decided to locate his practice, but decided not to because he

feared that he would be unable to make any money since most of the

people there at that time were clerks and laborers who were often

unemployed because of circumstances beyond their control.

He also contemplated Van Nuys and Newhall but opted not to locate

there because of the distance from downtown Los Angeles. He finally

selected Burbank because of its close proximity to downtown Los

Angeles, lack of physicians in the area and because the area was

populated by established ranchers who could easily pay their medical

bills ... or so he thought.

Having decided on Burbank, he started his medical practice from

his home, which was on the corner of Olive Avenue and 1st Street. Not

able to afford a horse, he purchased a bicycle to make his house

visits. He was often referred to as "The Kid" because of his youth,

but was the nearest doctor to the small town.

His first patient was Henry Hays, who required that an infected

tooth by pulled. Dr. Thomson performed the surgery, charged 25 cents

and gave the patient $1 worth of pain killers. His next patient would

require a more complicated medical procedure.

A man speeding down San Fernando Boulevard (apparently, speeding

is part of Burbank's history, too) ran head on into a wooden cane

rake. The impact was so severe that the prong of the rake pierced his

heart. Bystanders immediately summoned Dr. Thompson and the

undertaker, as the victim's prognosis did not look very good.

Dr. Thompson arrived on the scene and treated the man by

sterilizing his equipment in a dishpan and operated on him on the

dining room table of a nearly home. Curious onlookers were recruited

to assist in the delicate operation, which included Dr. Thompson

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