When our family historian asked me to put together a chronology of major events in my life – graduations, work related history, moves to home addresses – it seemed easy.
In short order I roughed out a time line covering the six decades since my high school graduation. Major events were no problem; I soon had them accounted for in proper order. But calling to mind less vital data such as the name of my first boss stumped me.
Compiling any family tree is a task of grand proportions, demanding accuracy at every turn with cross-referencing to assure the pieces dovetail. Knowing the hours of careful research and recording that had gone into our history so far, I certainly wanted to present my brother with as authentic and complete a chronology as I could.
Most people have many documents available that they can check for dates and spellings, from captioned family photographs, photo albums filled with vacation highlights, to birth records noting obstetricians’ attendance, annual school report cards for the names of memorable teachers or principals, graduation certificates, and family letters exchanged over the years.
I have few references of any sort dating back that far, and none whatsoever to help me recall the name of the first doctor I ever worked for following my graduation from secretarial school.
That job was in the pathology laboratory at Saskatoon City Hospital where I worked for three years. Yet his name would not come to me at all.
I seemed to remember his name having only five letters. But which five? And in what order? Just as all music is played on a piano’s 88 keys, the trick is to know the sequence of the notes. Or in my dilemma, the sequence of which five letters.
After a night’s sleep during which my subconscious tendered no possibilities, I emailed my siblings asking if they could recall his name. After all, I’m certain I mentioned his name more than once on my weekends home.
My older brother remembered a Dr. Block, another coworker I had enjoyed working with, but not the name I was looking for.
My job consisted of transcribing pathologists’ dictation either from a dictaphone recording, or live. Rather than stopping and starting the dictaphone machine with a foot pedal, Dr. Block preferred to dictate to me.
He was a resident pathologist in his early 30s who resembled Tommy Douglas at that age. He delighted in swift, non-stop dictating, stressing my shorthand speed, easy to do, since as a recent graduate I had little speed to spare beyond graduation requirement. Expecting he would give me a run for my money, I braced myself like a bronc rider in the chute. With one foot in front of the other, firmly planted on the floor, good balance freed my arms to write effortlessly.
In those days I had a good memory. If he dictated too fast so I lagged behind, my brain would feed his words to my pen until I caught up. Our unspoken rivalry actually inspired me to acquire court reporting speed in later years.
With no other hints, I sought to list random names in the hope I might hit the correct one or come close enough to jog my memory. Wonder of wonders, as I pulled the cap off my pen, my boss’ name came to me, as clear in my mind’s eye as his signature on every letter I typed for him.
Googling Dr. J. W. Adams supplied a photo of him taken May 1950 when “the University of Saskatchewan became home to the world’s first photographic museum of pathology, hailed as “a progressive aid in the teaching of medicine,” consisting of 2,000 photographic reproductions of all the organs, blood vessels, tissue and other parts of the human body showing the development of all the diseases and ailments that beset the human frame.”