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Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Occasionally I hear someone say they were injured by a hospital bed. I once was hit on my nose while repairing a bed and I had several other interesting experiences with hospital beds.

One day while working at Tomball Regional Medical Center, I was paged to come to a certain room “stat.” Nurses had just removed a patient from a bed shaped like the letter V. The patient said all at once the head of the bed and the knee part came up and were squeezing him. He pushed his nurse call button and also yelled “Help.” A nurse came immediately, unplugged the bed and called for additional help and a stretcher. They were able to remove him from the bed without further injury. We took the bed to our workshop and discovered the inside of the control box was wet. Further checking determined the problem was caused by urine. His nurse said the patient had recently used the urinal, but she was trying to get his IV working so she hung the urinal on the footboard. She walked to the supply room to get some supplies and while there she heard him call for help. We found the urinal on the floor when we moved the bed. I called the factory and also filed a written complaint. We “waterproofed” all of the control boxes on our existing beds but we never heard back from the factory. Such malfunctions make one wonder how we ever got a man on the moon.

When our hospital added rooms to grow from 70 beds to 140 beds, Administration decided to make the new rooms look like nice motel rooms, with headboards, footboards, bedside tables and chairs. Head and footboards were to be stained hardwood to match the other furnishings. When the 70 new beds arrived we were told the head and footboards would be shipped directly from a furniture factory, I believe in North Carolina. Since the patient rooms were not yet finished we left the beds in the corridors. As each room was completed and inspected we placed a bed in that room. When the head and footboards arrived I sent two men to install them. In a short time they returned and said the headboards were fine but the footboards were backward: the finished side was facing the mattress and the back was facing out. I called the bed factory and was highly insulted by what they said about our intelligence. I insisted there was a problem and they finally said they would send someone but if it was my mistake, we would have to pay for a service call. I agreed.

Within several days, two young men with three-piece suits and briefcases flew in from St. Louis and came to our administrator’s office. They let him know what incompetent people he had working at his hospital. I had not told him about the problem, thinking I could solve it myself, so this was his first time hearing about it. When he called me to his office, I said I would show the men the problem.

We walked to a room where a new bed had the headboard in place and the footboard leaning against the wall. One of the men grabbed the footboard and slammed it into place with the good side out. Words cannot describe the look the two men gave me. I walked over to the bed and asked, “How will we install the IV poles, the traction equipment and the other equipment, now that you have covered up the holes where they are inserted?” The man who had slammed the footboard down picked it up, reversed it, looked at the holes, and said they would send us 70 new footboards.

In about a week a truck from the furniture factory came with the new footboards. I asked the driver to let me open a box before they were unloaded. You have already guessed it – the footboards were still backwards. I took one and asked the driver to go with me to look at the beds. He understood immediately and left with his 70 wrong footboards. In several weeks the correct footboards arrived.

The factory did not want the bad boards returned, and it seemed a shame to burn them so I took them to my shop. Over the years I have used the wood from about 20, but if you need some hardwood I have about 50 boards left in the back of my shop.

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Ben the Cook

Ben the Cook
Action shot from the 1970s



I recently made Tuna Helper, following the instructions on the box and adding margine, milk, etc. Priscilla and I had generous portions for lunch. When she asked about my recipe, I pointed to the kitchen table where the box was sitting...and only then noticed the unopened can of tuna sitting next to the empty box.

Well, we enjoyed our macaroni & cheese lunch and already have the tuna on hand to make another box of Helper.


I watched the TV news show "The Eyes of Texas" for years. When in the mid 1980s they announced the publication of a Texas cookbook I wrote down my grandmother's honey cookie recipe. I asked Priscilla to type it, and she mailed it along with several of her personal favorites.

When the book was published Priscilla's recipes were not included but mine was, with a special mention in the cookbook's introduction. I was invited to the signing in Houston, where I got all three of the main Eyes of Texas contributors to sign the front and while standing in line got a number of contributing cooks to sign their recipe pages.

Some might consider the description "somewhat chewy" an understatement. For those who are dentally impaired, I recommend soaking a cookie in milk or hot coffee before trying to chew it. The good news is, these cookies will keep indefinitely.

Eyes of Texas Cookbook introduction:
My great-grandparents August and Caroline Weiss operated the first cotton gin operated by steam, near Salem in Washington County, Texas. They were among the first German settlers in that area. Money was scarce; however, they always had bees and native pecans...consequently, this recipe was a favorite.

1 1/2 pints honey, warmed
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour for a very stiff dough

Mix all ingredients well. Roll dough out on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter, or drop the dough in a greased pan and flatten with a floured glass. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, with edges slightly darker. These cookies will be somewhat chewy.

Ben's Bio

I was born in Rose Hill, Texas in 1925 and at age 18 drafted into the Army. After my discharge I settled in Tomball, which although a small town had more opportunities than Rose Hill. I ran my own appliance installation and repair business for many years and in 1977 accepted a position as Plant Engineer and Director of Maintenance at Tomball Regional Hospital, where I worked until retirement in the late 1980s. In the 1970s I served two years on Tomball’s City Council, was elected mayor and served for six years during which major streets were paved and guttered, utility lines were extended, and a new jail and city hall were built. After retirement from the hospital I spent time on a genealogy project that included two trips to Germany to visit relatives and look up archival records. I have also gotten into writing, chronicling my WW II experiences and authoring Growing Up in Rose Hill, published by private press and sold as a fund-raiser for the Tomball Community Museum Center, where I have served as a volunteer, trustee and Chairman. I am still involved with the Tomball hospital as a weekly volunteer and serve as General Manager of Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM), a church-sponsored operation that provides food and other assistance to area families. I continue to be involved in writing about my childhood and personal interests, and I still enjoy woodworking and other handyman projects. My wife and I still live in Tomball and are not far from most of our 8 surviving children and 14 grandchildren.