A Week At The Greenhouse

Greenhouse Spa-Dallas

Greenhouse Spa in Dallas – 1980

During the years Cathy and I lived in El Dorado, Arkansas most of our out-of-town shopping trips were either to Monroe, Louisiana to the Pecanland Mall or to Little Rock to one of several malls there. We seldom travelled to Dallas because it was a long six hour drive, and we dreaded the traffic in Dallas. After living in a small town where it takes five minutes to drive downtown and park right next to the store, the idea of visiting a city of one and a half million is not only unattractive but intimidating.

On rare occasion when attending a conference or a sporting event in Dallas we did shop in a few of the nicer Dallas stores. On two occasions I remember we visited the world-famous Neiman-Marcus Department Store just to rub shoulders with the rich and famous of Dallas. Cathy found and bought some item she needed, so our name was automatically placed on their mailing list. For several years we received the beautiful Neiman-Marcus catalog with its’ gorgeous clothes and outlandish prices. We looked forward to seeing what they had to offer especially the “His and Hers” gifts. One I recall was a 5 star African safari for three weeks for husband and wife, which included a formal dinner party with the US Ambassador in Kenya. The price tag was a mere seventy-five thousand dollars.

One particular offering featured in the Neiman Marcus catalog which caught Cathy’s eye was an invitation to spend a week at The Greenhouse Spa. This exclusive spa was built in 1965 in Grand Prairie, Texas by owner Stanley Marcus and featured the very latest and finest amenities certain to pamper those who could afford it. It attracted clientele from Dallas and across the nation. Like so many of our friends Cathy was at a stage in life in which she was constantly on the go with our three children who required transportation to school, to friend’s homes after school, to sporting practices and games, and to piano practices and recitals. In addition she had to shop for groceries, household items and clothes among many other things. All the while she was maintaining our home and keeping our marriage relationship vibrant and fresh. I knew the thought of having a week of rest, relaxation and total pampering might be appealing, and one which she had certainly earned. I happened to mention one evening if she would agree I would consider underwriting a week at the Greenhouse for her Mom and her. Cathy’s Mom, Virginia Young was the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale at the time and was in the midst of a re-election campaign. I thought she might also welcome a relaxing week following her victory.

Within a few days of my suggestion Cathy had a phone conversation with her Mom, and told her I would send them both to the Greenhouse for a week if they wanted. She briefly explained the function of the Greenhouse, and said it might be a relaxing time for both of them. Her Mom’s only comment was, “That might be fun.” Nothing more was said about it during the exchange.

It was not unusual for Mom (Mayor Young) as part of her official duties to give two or three talks per day at various official functions. During a re-election campaign however, she might have seven or eight stops with speeches at each place. I was always amazed at her knowledge base, her memory and her ability to speak without the use of notes or a prepared speech. She never used a teleprompter nor did she need one. She probably knew more about Fort Lauderdale and its’ history than anyone during her era.

One afternoon one of her scheduled campaign stops was at a large condominium near the beach, and she spoke to a group of one hundred or more interested citizens about what the City Council had been doing for their benefit. She said as their Mayor she was best qualified to continue those policies. During the talk she spoke about her family’s heritage of being early settlers of the city, and proceeded to tell them about her own children and their families. When she told them a little about Cathy she said she was married to a surgeon, and they had planted their roots in South Arkansas. She said something to this effect; “My son-in-law is so generous he offered to send Cathy and me for a week of relaxation at “The Green Door.” She had forgotten Cathy had said I would send them to The Greenhouse! According to her this was all she said concerning the offer.

When the meeting was over one of the ladies pulled her aside and after congratulating her on an excellent talk said, “Virginia, I would advise you not ever mention that your son-in-law in Arkansas was sending you and your daughter to “The Green Door.” Virginia said, “Why? I thought it was a sweet and generous offer.” The lady said, “Are you aware that The Green Door is an X-rated business out on Sunrise Boulevard?” 

When Mom told us about the error in her talk over the name of the spa we had a good laugh. At the same time we were prayerful no one who heard her thought or believed there was anything unwholesome about my offer. We were later very thankful when the election was over Mom was once again re-elected to the City Council. She and Cathy never did make it for a week or even a day at The Greenhouse. I still believe they both not only  earned it but would have had a great time there.

Dr. John


From A Broken Window To New Life

Broken windowIn the fall of 1971 Cathy and I were living in Valdosta, Georgia where I was completing my military service obligation in the United States Air Force. We had already made the major decision to move to El Dorado, Arkansas to begin our life there and for me to begin my surgical practice. Our son John was 4 years old and Mary Kay was 1 1/2  years old. Ginny had not yet arrived. We were very excited to make this transition so we might have more stability, since up to this point it seemed we were always moving and unsettled.

During the transition we found a very nice 3 bedroom house on the north side of town we could rent at a reasonable price. It was owned by friends who lived 2 doors away, which offered the added security of having them as neighbors . They had recently done some remodeling to the house, and it was freshly painted. Our new home was located in the neighborhood in which I spent my childhood and was 3 blocks from my Mom’s home. The whole situation was ideal for us.

My brother Berry Lee (Bubba) had offered me space in his medical office to establish my referral surgical practice. He had practiced family medicine in El Dorado for 14 years; the first 5 years had been with our Dad (Pop) and the last 5 years he had Dr. Grady Hill, a family practitioner renting space in his office. Their practices were separate. Initially this arrangement with Bubba seemed ideal for me, because I would get all of his surgical referrals, and his patients could be seen immediately by me.

Approximately 1 month following our move, Cathy and I each had lingering upper respiratory illnesses which were beginning to improve after 7 days of aggravating symptoms. On this particular Monday morning upon leaving home for a scheduled surgical case, I told Cathy she should raise the windows in our bedroom to “air it out of any contagious germs.”

The procedure I was doing that morning was a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) which usually takes one hour, but this one was less difficult, and within 45 minutes I was in the recovery room writing post-operative orders. I heard the hospital operator page my call number and when I answered her, she said my wife was calling. I thought this unusual since she knew I was operating and wouldn’t be finished until mid-morning. As I answered she was almost hysterical saying she had cut her foot and needed me to come home as quickly as possible. My thought was she had dropped a glass and had stepped on a broken piece while trying to clean the floor; nevertheless I dressed as quickly as possible and drove the 7 to 10 minutes it took to get to our home.

Upon arrival I noted my Mom’s car and an ambulance parked in our garage, which gave me the first indication Cathy’s injury was greater than a simple foot laceration. As I entered the back door into the kitchen I will never forget the horrific scene I encountered. Cathy was lying in the middle of the kitchen floor holding pressure on her right ankle with a towel and despite her pressure, blood was oozing around the towel. The kitchen floor was covered with a large amount of blood (probably a pint or more), and standing there observing was Mom who appeared helpless and our Mary Kay staring wide-eyed wondering what had just happened to her Mommy. The ambulance driver also was at a loss because this was prior to EMT training and ambulance attendants then were nothing more than transporters. When I told Mom to get me a sheet to make a tourniquet and a pressure bandage, her only comment was, “But these are all new sheets.” Despite the fact she had been a doctor’s wife for over 30 years, she had not personally been involved in an emergency with blood loss such as this.

On the way to the hospital Cathy related she had tried to open the bedroom windows, but found they were stuck because of the recent painting. She lay on her back on the bed and tried to strike the window frame with her heel to loosen the seal. Her foot glanced off the frame, broke through the glass and when reflexively pulling it back, a large shard of glass severed her Achille’s tendon and the major blood vessels in her ankle. She said she could “look down in her ankle and see all the anatomy including the bone.” Thankfully, Cathy is strong by nature because had she fainted when seeing the extent of the wound and the blood, she would have bled to death within minutes.

The two senior surgeons in town, Dr. David Yocum and Dr. C.E. Tommey successfully repaired the injury, and Cathy began a slow recovery and rehabilitation process which took about 8 weeks. A number of things happened in our lives as a result of her injury and recovery, but the most significant changes occurred in us internally. Friends and family visited, prepared meals, sent cards and offered to help with things Cathy could not do because of her cast and crutches. A friend of Bubba named Dave Dawson, a Navigator from Greenville, Texas visited Cathy and me and spoke to us about our relationship with Christ and the necessity of making certain we knew Him. Cathy, in particular points to that visit as pivotal to her in later receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. Her spiritual journey is so intimately tied to mine that I, too believe Dave’s visit was divinely appointed for both of us. We faced the reality that our lives are fragile and uncertain when we try to manage life in our own strength and we began seeking the One who could help us.

It was several years before we surrendered ourselves completely to Christ, but we look back to those days when Cathy endured the pain and disability of a nearly severed foot and together we started on a path where we finally allowed God to make us into new creations. (II Corinthians 5:17)

Dr. John