A lot of news was breaking on Sunday, July 20, 1969, and the front page of the Brownwood Bulletin reflected it.
Perhaps you recall: That was the day when Americans landed on the moon.
Perhaps because the moon landing hadn’t happened yet when that day’s edition of the Bulletin went to press, it wasn’t the story at the top of the front page that morning. Instead, that spot was reserved for, “Brownwood Community Hospital Open Today.”
The hospital didn’t formally admit any patients on July 20, but officials did host an open house for area residents. A dedication ceremony was also part of the festivities. The top half of the front page featured a photograph of the hospital’s exterior stretching from one side to the other. Almost 10 pages of coverage about the new hospital was found in a separate section included in that day’s newspaper.
Beneath that large, front page photo of the hospital’s exterior was that other significant story, “Moon Landing Still ‘Go’.”
While open house was held that afternoon, the new hospital didn’t begin accepting patients until late August.
Accordingly, that facility — known now as the continually expanded and evolving Brownwood Regional Medical Center — will celebrate the 50th anniversary of that achievement on Thursday next week. Information announced online by the medical center indicates that ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. near the north entrance.
Even though I was working at a summer job in another state when all this was happening, I was quickly brought up to speed after I started my part-time job at the Bulletin a few weeks later. I had watched the moon landing with my parents that Sunday 50 years ago this summer, and it was certainly emotional because my father had been among the hundreds of thousands of workers who had a part in the U.S. space program during the 1960s.
The space initiative has led to important breakthroughs in science and quality of life that might have otherwise never been possible. At least, they wouldn’t have happened as soon as they did.
However, the other major story on the front page of the Bulletin on July 20, 1969, eventually proved to have arguably just as much impact on my life and the lives of my family as residents of Brownwood.
Our two children were born at the Brownwood hospital. I’ve been hospitalized several times, including three surgical procedures, and each time was at our Brownwood hospital. Others in my family, including my mother who was visiting for our daughter’s wedding, have been patients there over the years.
Of course, a medical center is much more than its facilities, as important as they are. The soul of a hospital in any community is found in its people — the family of physicians, nurses, and support personnel whose fundamental responsibility is the health of residents of, and visitors to, the area. The building and medical technologies have expanded significantly since the hospital opened 50 years ago, just as the number of medical services and practices has grown.
As I write, I’m looking at a copy of that front page of the Bulletin from 50 years (plus a month), and the face of the hospital is easily recognizable. But much is missing in that historic photo, and what is missing are the multiple expansions that have been built to constantly keep the medical center current with latest medical advances.
Many elements must come together for a community to enjoy a high quality of life, and top-notch medical services are high on the list. We’re fortunate that local leaders had the vision to open a modern hospital 50 years ago. Similar vision continues to serve us well a half-century later.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.