6th in a 9-part series

Two of the leading personalities in 1936 Rochester are profiled today in the sixth installment of Fortune Magazine's article about the city. First is Dr. Milton Leckrone, the surgeon and physician who owned, operated and modernized Woodlawn hospital, making it into one that was greatly admired by other cities.

Next is Editor Hugh Barnhart and through him The News-Sentinel, now The Sentinel, gets its moment in the spotlight. Although this article appeared four years before I first entered the newspaper's newsroom as its sports editor, I can correct one of writer Catherine Hamill's statements. It was Hugh, not his father Henry, who consolidated the city's newspapers in 1924. Hugh lost to Republican Charles Halleck in that 1936 election but gave Halleck the closest race of his 32-year career in Congress. FYI: Barnhart's nephew is William Kintigh of Lake Manitou; there are no Leckrone descendants here but a daughter, Mrs. Patty (Russell) Heyde, lives at Warsaw; Val Zimmerman was a great-uncle of Rick Zimmerman of Rochester, and, Russel Parker's son and namesake lives here today.



Early Monday morning the merchants and professional men drive in from their lake cottages to their stores and offices. Dr. Milton Leckrone, the town surgeon, and his wife go in together to the hospital, on Pontiac Street across from the high school. Dr. Leckrone came from Dr. Crile's clinic in Cleveland 10 years ago to be an assistant to Dr. Howard Shafer in Rochester.

After Dr. Shafer's death he bought the hospital and has done so well that he has been able to build a new and modernly equipped hospital in front of the ld building - a hospital for Rochester to boast about, for even larger towns to envy. Mrs. Leckrone did the decorating last year. She bought a different style of furniture for each room, chintz for the windows, and pictures for the tinted walls, and she runs the housekeeping and accounting departments. Patients pay $42 a week for a private room with bath and service and $18 for a bed in a ward. Allowing for charity patients, Dr. Leckrone about breaks even on the running of the hospital. He comes out ahead though on surgical work. A major operation costs from $100 to $150.

Dr. Leckrone is the only surgeon in Rochester, but any of the eight general practitioners may bring his patients to the hospital. Dr. Milo King is called the dean of physicians. His work as county health officer takes him out around the country a good deal, but he still gets a good share of the best trade in town - he and Mark Piper, the city health officer and official circus doctor, and Dr. Stinson and his son, and Dr. Richardson. They charge $25 or $30 to deliver a baby, $1 for an office call, $2 for a house call. About one-third of all their cases are charity, and about two-thirds of the non-charity patients pay their bills. A physician who does $7,500 worth of business in a year is doing well.

If a doctor decides to send a patient to the hospital in an ambulance he may call Ora Foster or Zimmerman Bros., but most likely he will call the latter's cousin and competitor, Val Zimmerman - "Sterling Funeral Service" - and get his invalid car, which is an ambulance and nothing but an ambulance - "has never had a dead man in it." If the patient dies he will probably be brought to Val's embalming room in the rear of the furniture store and laid out in one of Val's purple or brocade satin-lined caskets and placed in the homelike chapel. "There's nothing morbid about it, it's just one of our boys going home."After the service the funeral procession will move north along Main Street and west on Third to the Odd Fellows cemetery and beside the Erie tracks beyond the pickle works.

From his towered frame house on South Main, Hugh Barnhart walks four blocks to the News-Sentinel Building on Eighth Street. His progress is slow because he's the Democratic candidate for Congress and he stops and talks to the boy in the Texaco filling station, to the loafers sitting around the courthouse square, to Judge Ewing, the justice of the peace, standing on the corner. Bill Hudnell, town character, enthusiastic Democrat, shouts across the street, "I'm for you, Hugh" and Hugh waves to him and goes into the newspaper office.

He sits in his little room at the end of the front office and goes through the mail. Having no secretary he dictates a couple of letters to Kathleen Mullican, the society editor, and then talks to her about getting another girl to help with the society and club news. What the subscribers want - 3,032 in the county, including 1,103 in town - is local stuff, the social and club notes, births, deaths, fires, accidents that they can't get from the Chicago Tribune and the Indianapolis News, or over the radio.

Out in the editorial room Don Carlson, the sports editor, is telling Art Copeland, the reporter, about the Merchants' game out at the city park ball field yesterday and Hugh comes out to look at the pictures Don took at the tourist camp. He looks into the cubbyhole back of Don's desk, where the city editor, Carl Van Trump, with earphones clamped to his head, is taking down the United Press dispatches, dictated from Indianapolis over the P. N. T. (Private News Telephone) - "pony service" to the trade. Later in the day, about two o'clock, Van Trump will be clearing the last of the U. P. bulletins and taking final copy to the composing room, and between 4 and 5 o'clock, the papers will come off the flat-bed press.

Hugh goes back to the job-printing department - where most of the money is made - to see Russel Parker, the staff artist, about the three-color cover he is drawing for the State Fair program. He talks to Russel about the city council meeting next week and jokes him about being a Communist and still a Republican member of the council, and Russel says that even Marx or John Reed would have a tough time operating in Rochester, and after all he isn't a real Communist, just wants to see things decent and honest. He tells Hugh about his son's graduating from high school with honors and getting a scholarship to DePauw. He's smart, the kid, not afraid to say he's a pacifist, and likes to monkey around with Shakespeare and the like.

Hugh goes back to his office and sits under the picture of his father, Henry A. Barnhart, who consolidated the News and the Republican and the Sentinel and founded the telephone company and was Congressman from the district. He knocks out an editorial on the dangers of careless driving, hands the copy to Van Trump, and goes off up the street to the telephone office above Dawson's drugstore. As president of the locally-owned company he has some papers to sign, but before he goes in to see the manager he steps into the back room where the four girls sit up at the switchboard and talks to Belle Bernetha, the chief operator. Miss Bernetha was "central" on the day the office opened in 1896 and she's been on the job ever since.

While she talks to Hugh one of the girls turns to say that nobody answers at Shafers' and Miss Bernetha tells her to ring Brackett's or Ruh's. Hugh leaves her and goes to sit across the desk from Roscoe Pontius, the manager, and sign the papers. Mr. Pontius is not only the manager of the telephone company but president of the Rochester Kiwanis Club.

Published March 13, 2005