Monday, October 3, 2011

New Book About Naval Hospital Corona Just Released



In their new book, The Navy in Norco, the husband and wife team of Kevin Bash and Brigitte Jouxtel expertly explore the storied past of Naval Hospital Corona, in Norco, CA, through historical images.

As a Navy hospital commissioned in World War II, Corona was unique. It was not uncommon for the Navy to take over hotels and even on one occasion a former estate, but the hospital established at Corona was different. Constructed in the 1920’s as a luxury hotel and resort called the Norconian, it owed more to San Simeon than to the Ritz. And like Hearst’s home, it served as the playground for the who’s who of Hollywood.

Architecturally, it offered guests a festival of wrought iron, art deco, and Spanish elements complete with resplendent pillars, marble floors, and lavish Heinsbergen murals. Guests could stay in one of the luxurious 250-bedrooms, and access Louis IV-inspired lounges, dining rooms, bath houses and Olympic-sized pools, and of course, a man-made lake. These amenities would later play a pivotal role in the rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of wounded servicemen returning home from World War II and later the Korean War. It is remarkable that many of these amenities and architectural features like the murals still exist at the old property today.

As a military hospital, Corona proved to be a rarity among its Army and Navy counterparts in that it had a Hollywood star as a chairman of its Naval Aid Auxiliary Hospital Visiting Committee. Kay Francis, once the most highly paid star in Hollywood, headed this cultural affairs committee. Every Thursday, Francis would bring “friends” such as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant, Red Skelton, and others, to the hospital to meet with patients. And thanks to her connections, the hospital hosted numerous radio programs, big band concerts, and USO shows.

In the 1950’s, the hospital was used by the Navy as a testing bed for new techniques in Occupational and Physical therapy, and the treatment diseases like tuberculosis. In fact, the Navy saw fit to use the hospital as setting for several important educational and training films now found at the National Archives. Some of these films even featured the celebrities that frequented the hospital in World War II.

22 comments:

  1. WOW! I just Googled "the history of " this hospital and found this! My dad was Chief of Medicine here from summer 1953 until October 1958 when the hospital closed. I will see about finding this book, but please email me through my blog sign-in if you have them available. This is amazing. Does the book go into the history of this property after 1958 and into today as a Naval Surface Warfare Center? I was looking to see what used the property after we left, vaguely recalling some of my Norco friends writing about various uses back in the 60s. Thanks for your book and help. Linda Ross Gill @ lindalou@beingwoven.org

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    1. Was your father Commander, later Captain Ross ?
      But was not the hospital closed at the end of 1955 ?

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  2. I was born in this hospital, and strangely,have memories of it. Someone told me it was an experimental hospital. My birth certificate doesn't even have the time I was born. I will be reading this book.

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    1. I was born in this hospital on May 6th, 1953. (I have no memories of the hospital, or California, as my parents moved back to Louisiana when I was less than a year old...)

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    2. I was born in this hospital on October 21, 1956, and I grew up just a few miles north in Fontana, then to Ontario, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga. Great to know that there are stories written about the place.

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    3. Me too ! I was born here with my twin brother Kevin in March 1957 ! My father was in the USMC and we were living in Camp Pendalton - Keith D

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    4. I was born there December 30, 1955. My parents lived in Long Beach. I remember my mom saying the Long Beach Naval Hospital didn't have a maternity ward and was filled with soldiers injured in the Korean War.

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    5. I was born in this hospital on November 4th, 1955. I believe for the same reason. The Long Beach Hospital didn't have a maternity ward. My mother rode in an ambulance all the way from Long Beach where we lived. I was almost born in the ambulance on the way there.

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  3. My mother (Eileen Powers) was secretary to the commanding officer at this hospital from 1953 to its closure in late 1957 or 58. She worked for Capts. Chesser and mostly for Capt. Jullian Love. Dr. Love went on to work at the City of Hope Hospital after retirement. In the summers and on sometimes when I had ear infections, I spent time there. Mostly "helping": the janitors or grounds keepers or visiting with Capt. Love's sons Frank and Peter. I was free to roam the first floor and grounds and pool area. What a beautiful place it was. Too bad the State of California took it over as a prison and as they do with all the properties they own, let them degrade beyond repair due to lack of maintenance. I understand that there is a group "Save the Norconian" that is trying to raise money to preserve what is left or maybe restore some of it. My second cousin who was a navy chief (Neil Starrett) was there after having a heart attack in 1957.

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  4. My father was in the Navy 20 years and I was born on Camp Pendleton in a hospital no longer there. He ended up in Corona because of this hospital. He was a hospital corpsman among other medical knowledge, X-ray tech and repair persona, pharmacy and I think a long list of things. I was taken there when I got knocked down by a car that was backing. I remember the cold metal table they put me on and I was really scared at the time. My Dad was also on the USS Haven.

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  5. After 59 yrs I just found out about the hospital I was born in. Wow what a history! I was born in April 1956. I grew up in Calif. my whole life and never knew any of this history. If it wasn't for this book I would of never known a thing. Dies anybody know what building the babies were born?

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    1. I was also born at this hospital in April, 1956. Pretty cool.

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    2. I ALSO was born in this hospital in April 1956! At noon. My mother always blamed me that she missed lunch that day.

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  6. I just ordered this book and look forward to reading about the hospital I was born in on the evening of Friday, December 21, 1956. My mother does not recall what the exterior of the hospital looked like, but does remember the interior as being "festive" as this was the night of the hospital's Christmas party. The nurses and doctors were friendly and kind. Although, her doctor gently chastised my parents for waiting too long to drive from Los Angeles, where they were visiting my grandmother, for my delivery. My dad was a Marine stationed at either El Toro or Camp Pendleton at the time. It will be fun to also share this book with my mother.

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  7. I believe that I was born here in Oct. 1953. My birth registration has a date but not a time of birth which I find strange. My mother made a point of saying that I cost about $2 to be born there, and that the nurse wrapped me up in wool blankets to leave the hospital on a beautiful and warm California day! She immediately freed me from my wrappings upon leaving.

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  8. I was born there Jan 1956. My parents were both in the Navy, though I believe my Mom was released from duty due to being pregnant with me. I will be reading this book. Does the building still stand?

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  9. I was born same date year

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  10. My father Jeff Parker of Arkansas (seaman 1st class) was admitted to this facility for treatment of rheumatic fever... little did he dream that he would be living less than a mile away on Alhambra Street, just on the other side of Beacon Hill,25 yrs later, and would be a founding member of Beacon Hill Assembly of God just 2 blocks from Alhambra St.!

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  11. I was at The Dublin, Ga Naval Hospital for nine months with Rheumatic Fever in 1946. I ended up as editor of the base newspaper, "The Dublin Murmur" It was a nice hospital, and the treatment was excellent, but we heard that the Corona Hospital was was even nicer! But here I am over 90, so I won't complain, even with the old murmur.

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  12. Yes most of the buildings are standing . Www.lakenorconianclub.org is the group trying to save this place .

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  13. All so interesting and bringing back some memories. I was stationed there for a few months before it closed, having finished Corpsman School at US Naval Hospital, San Diego. I remember it as a very beautiful place, very impressive. I served on an orthopedic ward, patients in full body casts and other combinations of casts. Their stories of how they ended up there, were definitely tales driven by testosterone. I was transferred to Point Magu, preferring that over the USS Haven that was, at that point, permanently attached to a pier in Long Beach. I turned down my other option at China Lake. It saddens me to read about the neglect and deterioration of such a beautiful facility on other websites.

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