Submitted by:
Kay Cunningham

The Torbett Sanatorium

Chapter 9


It's making here an honest name
By serving those in greatest need--
Far better than a world-wide fame
As leader of some selfish creed.
It's loving, serving every day
Those met in dire distress;
Just living here your noblest way-
That's what makes true success.

-One verse from my Pastime Poems.

            During the past ten years the Bethesda, with its twelve rooms and its bathing facilities, had grown gradually in patronage until I felt that there must be something larger to accommodate my institution in the future.

My little hexagon office building by the railroad had served as an office, with all sorts of modern equipment in the form of electricity, X-ray, static machines, and many treatment rooms, but all small. Of course, they served for a time, and furnished the necessary assistance to the many health- seekers who came to Marlin for treatment and baths.     

Doctors Buie, Earle and myself were the staff. My brother, Bert M. Torbett, who had been in the navy four years, returned and became a physical therapist in training from 1906 to 1912.     

Dr. Oscar Torbett would graduate in Atlanta in 1908. So I began to get plans and specifications ready for a new three-story brick building containing seventeen rooms, with office space on the first floor. The little hexagon office building was to be moved behind it for treatment rooms and doctor's offices.    

The new building was begun on November 4,1907, which was national election day, and was finished ready for occupancy on March 11, 1908. The new Sanatorium was dedicated on the night of its opening, with services conducted by the Rev. I. F. Betts, Methodist minister and Presiding Elder, and the Rev. J. H. Gambrell, Baptist minister of Marlin. It was dedicated to the use of humanity for the utilization of everyone of God's own agencies in the form of Physical Therapy, for the betterment of mankind and to assist in the relief of human ailments.     

Every Saturday afternoon I gave thirty-minute lectures to the various patients who were there, dwelling on the nature and value of preventive medicines, diet, baths and sanitation, and answering all sorts of health questions that might be asked. I was carrying out the resolution I made when I was so discouraged by the death of Maggie Box, my first typhoid fatality.     

Soon after the new building was finished, Mrs. J. C. League of Galveston came to Marlin. I knew she did not need the entire top floor, but I had no patients to fill it with then and she knew I needed the money; so, in her bigness of heart, she said she would like to rent the whole space on the top floor for her own use. She offered to pay me well for it, since it was so nice and new. Of course I accepted her proposition, and she paid me liberally. I was indeed glad to receive the money, for my expenses had been very heavy in completing the building.     

Dr. J. H. Rule of Galveston, who treated longshoremen and others engaged in that kind of work along the Gulf coast, referred his patients to Marlin for baths and what- ever treatment they might need, when they expressed a wish to take a vacation. Galveston people were certainly helpful to me in those early days of struggle.     

With our increase in facilities, time flew swiftly by, and many patients came and went. Often we would go to the I office at six o'clock in the morning to do test meals and gastric lavage as they were done in those days. We were especially busy during the summer month, when we had
so many visitors from Louisiana and South Texas.      

The institution was called "Sanatorium" because it used climate and the forces of nature, like heat, light and mineral water. We took a great deal of time explaining the difference between "Sanitarium" and "Sanatorium." In 1940, when it was incorporated, with Dr. E. P. Hutchings and Dr. Howard O. Smith as partners, it was named "The Torbett Clinic and Hospital."    

The word "spa" means a health resort where there are mineral springs. The term originated in Belgium and is used principally in Europe.  

After the opening of the Sanatorium my business continued to grow and prosper, and a larger clientele was treated each year. As I have said, the Saturday afternoon lectures given by me were a part of our regular routine. Many patients told me afterward how they had benefited by the educational advantages offered in these talks on prevention of disease.    

One patient, after I had dwelt on the importance of the skin and respiration, related what he said was one of. the most tragic experiences of his life. I had stated that if breathing is stopped for ten minutes a person will die, and if the action of the skin is cut off for a few hours, that, likewise would induce death.     

"It doesn't take 'a few hours,'" he commented ruefully.  "I know, for I once painted a negro boy with white paint and he died before we could get the paint washed off.  I have never ceased to regret that boyish prank."     

The article mentioned in this book on "The Detection of Disease in School Life". was read before the State Medical Association on May 19, 1907, and was given many times after that as a part of my Saturday afternoon talks to patients.     

Some of the outstanding physicians who served on my staff in the next few years were: pr. S. D. Whitten of Greenville, Texas, who has been very successful and who has accumlated a fortune. He had a lovely wife and daughter. Also Dr. W. K. Logsdon of Corsicana, Texas, a highly respected physician who likewise was blessed with an attractive wife and daughter. Both of these doctors were members of my staff for three years each. Dr. Jesse B. White of Amarillo is another staff member who served faithfully and well. His wife was a nurse, and was superintendent of the hospital for some time.     

In 1911 I, developed a rather rapid heart, and decided I would go, about the first of November, to Johns Hopkins for some examinations, and for post-graduate work. When I arrived there, I met Dr. Barker, one of the most brilliant men I have ever known, and head of the Internal Medicine Department.     

Dr. Barker went over me thoroughly, but found no serious disease. He did find, however, that I had what I called "a dancing heart." He advised me to eat more meat, and to take about eight or ten drops of nux vomica three times a day. I took two drops of nux and it almost made me jump out of bed. I told the doctor he was a very smart man - but he certainly didn't know my temperament-that I could not take strychnine in any form; neither could I eat much meat; that I belonged to the cow and donkey type and not to the cat and dog family; that I never ate meat more than once a day.     

I got along pretty well after that, and soon came home having little acid in my stomach. Later on I wrote the poem "The Dancing Heart." Here it is:

I'm the man who works with a Dancing Heart
To help my friends each day;
While it dances along
Like a merry song
That children love to play.
It jumps with its extra systoles
And beats against my breast;
But still I'm glad
Each day I've had
Some joy in work; some love and rest.

It dances a clog, or maybe a jig,
And it changes its time and tune;
But it feeds my brain,
And gives me no pain,
So I'm happy as a bride in June.
I'm working along to help my friends
To health and joy each day,
And my dancing heart
Is doing its part
Till the Master calls it away.


            I received a letter from Dr. Barker complimenting me on the above verses, and adding that they gave me an excellent explanation of that type of heart disease.    

Johns Hopkins has attained prominence because of the great men who have served on the staff there - all of them honest and frank. One day when I was talking with Doctor Thayer, he was examining and diagnosing the case of a man from South Carolina whose hands had a dark-gloved appearance and who gave a history of recurrent diarrhea every Spring. I said, "Doctor, I believe this is pellagra."     

He thought for a moment. "Yes," he agreed, "I think you're right. We hadn't thought of that; we don't see many cases of pellagra."     

Such honesty and fairness of judgment was a characteristic thing. Great men like Osler, Barker, Halstead, Welch, Gilchrist and Rountree, all shared this common virtue.     

 I often visited the sun-dial in the yard in front of the main entrance, and never forgot the motto on the dial:

"The hour on which the shadow stands-
That hour alone is in thy hands."

At the entrance is a large statue, about ten feet high, which bears the invitation:

"Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden,
And I will give you rest."

            Dr. S. Weir Mitchell had a dancing heart at the age of twenty-six which gave him much worry and anxiety but by care and common sense he lived to be eighty-four, and he did many great things. He wrote splendid poetry and several novels, besides many scientific medical works.    

Sudden sharp pains behind the breast bone and down one or both arms, swollen ankles at night, and shortness of breath on slightest exertion are danger signals that mean: Go to bed and send for your doctor!     

Surgeon John Hunter of London had angina. He said: "My life is in the hands of any rascal who chooses to make me angry." One chose to do so and he fell over dead.     

Emotional upsets, tobacco and worry are causes of the increased death rate from heart trouble.     

Lemons have much Vitamin C and P, which prevent and cure scurvy and capillary hemorrhages present in coronary disease and cerebral hemorrhages. Use more lemons.


I had visited most of the famous clinics and seen many well known and famous doctors in the larger cities, such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Dr. Kellogg in Battle Creek, and so I thought I would go to the Mayo Clinic, which was becoming widely known at that time. I met many of the well-known doctors there. Dr. Louis Wilson, one of the most charming and remarkable men I have ever met anywhere. I told him what I wanted - that I was a young man beginning an institution and wished to find out what would be helpful in increasing my service to the patrons of Texas. He talked to me an hour about the future of medicine and possible socialized-medicine.    

He gave me a card and told me to go to every part of the institution and tell them to show me around and tell me whatever I wanted to know and they did.     

When I returned to him, he said, "All right, what did you find, and what do you want to know further ?" I told him I wanted to know what I could do to increase the efficiency of my institution. He told me to get a surgeon and they could charge more and would get very much more appreciation than a medical man, although a medical man might save one's life. Fifteen dollars would be an ordinary fee for such service, while surgical fees would be very much more.     

He then asked me what I thought they needed in their institution to improve their services, and I told him that by all means they needed physical therapy - the baths, light, electricity, and those agencies that God has given man for his service, and he said, "I think you are right about it."     

Several years after that when I returned, he recognized me at sight and the first thing he asked was, "Well, Doctor, have you gotten your surgeon yet ?" and I answered him, "Yes, we have two." He said, "Well, we were both profited by that visit of yours the last time you were here. We have the physical therapy of all kinds here now."     

In 1924 I became a member of the American College of Physicians. I attended the meetings almost every year in the larger cities, and heard the great men give lectures on both medicine, surgery, and diagnosis.     

I attended also quite a number of the meetings at the Post-graduate Assembly of America, which always had a medical man and a surgeon on the program on each subject.     

Many patients make long, expensive visits to see these famous surgeons and physicians, when specialists nearer home could give them more personal service and treat many cases as well.


Several years ago I met Tony Wons in Chicago at the Sherman Hotel. He talked with me each night after his radio program. He told me when he was nearly grown he took tuberculosis and had to spend years in West Texas and Arizona in bed recovering. He cut out verses, jokes and other interesting pieces and made "Tony's Scrapbook," which sold for quite a bit of money to help support his mother and family. It is a very nice fad which I have used and recommended to many others as a helpful diversion. Tony developed a fine Shakesperean voice and learned much that he could recite well.


During World War I the strain on our institution and on myself was terrific. All of the doctors were gone except three: Dr. Mary Webb, my brother, Dr. Oscar Torbett, and me. And our clients continued to increase in number. I was County Chairman of the Red Cross for the entire district, and Mrs. W. H. Allen was secretary. We certainly did a lot of work for the Red Cross. Mrs. Allen and the other members of the committee, however, did more than I did. Not only was I chairman during the war, and for twenty years in all, but my services were recognized in a certificate which I received from the President of the United States.

Because I could speak German, I was successful in lining up some of our German communities. I explained the work we were doing, and many were enthusiastic in their support. They declared their ancestors had left Germany to escape militarism, and they subscribed their full quota of bonds without hesitation.     

I was also one of the directors of the State Y. M. C. A. for that period, and for several years thereafter, with such enthusiastic and inspiring men as President Vinson of Texas University, and Dr. Bizzell of A. & M. College, Dr. Brooks of Baylor, H. H. Simmons of Hillsboro, Gause of Mart, and that efficient evangelistic secretary, J. C. Coulter; George Wheeler, Secretary of the Y. M. C. A. in San Antonio for thirteen years, and twenty-one years as Secretary of the Mart Y. M. C. A., a leader in long and efficient service.     

Just prior to this period I went to Battle Creek to attend a meeting of the American Electro-Therapeutic Association, a national association and the oldest organization for those practicing electric and hydro therapy. It was called at Battle Creek by Dr. Kellogg, the founder, who had built the great six-story sanitarium there that was so popular for many years before it was taken over by the government and enlarged. It is now known as the Percy Jones Hospital and is operated by the government for the use of veterans.     

Dr. Kellogg entertained the entire membership for three days, and the next to the last night we had a banquet. At this banquet Dr. Kellogg was called on to speak and gave a splendid account of the last forty years and the things that had been accomplished by him and his co-workers in building that great institution.     

From the president, Dr. George Phaler of Philadelphia, the word was passed to me that I would be called on next. Of course I did not know why, except that I had been chairman of the section of dietetics for several years and had a report to read the next day.    

            When Dr. Kellogg finished his speech, I thought quickly of something I might say, and suddenly I remembered an extravagant forecast I had given at Hubbard City before a medical association about two years previously, outlining the things that might be accomplished in the next forty years. So I arose and stated that I could not tell of any great things I had accomplished, but that I would portray, with my Jules Verne imagination, some of the things that might be accomplished in the next forty years, if we all worked as hard as Dr. Kellogg had done in the past. So great would be the advancement in science, I told them, that no one would die except of very old age or by accident. I outlined that television would be practiced within that time, so that we might see and hear grand opera in our homes.     

            We would ride on motorcycles, in flying machines, and do preventive medical practice, examine the blood, tryout diet tests, etc. Vitamins would be so advanced by that time, I continued, that rations for a small army would occupy very little space, and vitamins would be given hypodermically so that they could do double work in pepping you up.     

I said further that I was sure Dr. Kellogg by that time would have invented a non-alcoholic, eggless egg-nog which would be regarded as the "elixir of life." (Dr. Kellogg was very much amused.) He had told us if we ate too much beef we would become beefy; if we ate too much hog we would be hoggy; and I questioned what would be the result if we ate too many nuts - would we be nutty? Dr. Kellogg was an ardent exponent of nuts as a substitute for meat. He declared he had not eaten any meat in many years. On this diet he lived healthfully and happily to be ninety-one years old, and then died of pneumonia. He was a marvelous man, with a wonderful memory and great ability.    

When the banquet was over, I was elected President of the Association. This was a surprise to me, as I thought Dr. Kellogg should have been elected.


 In 1922 I was elected delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Church that met in Hot Springs. I served nineteen days there, being associated with prominent bishops and Methodist leaders from all over the South. It was an experience greatly enjoyed by me. I was glad to meet James Kilgore, former president of Southern Methodist University and an old fellow teacher at Centenary; also Ivan Lee Holt, who later became a bishop. He was a delegate from Missouri.     

At that meeting, Bishop Sam R. Hay, who has now passed on; Bishop H. A. Boaz, Bishop James E. Dickey and Bishop Hoyt M. Dobbs were elected. All were outstanding men. Bishop Dickey had been president of Emory University and ;Bishop Hay had been pastor of many large churches. Bishop Boaz had been president of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.    

It was on the nineteenth day that the bridge over the Brazos River near Marlin washed out, killing several Marlin people, among them the mayor of the town and Dr. W. H. Allen. Many others were saved by clinging to floating rafts. One of these was Herbert Rice, who clung to a floating timber that also had a negro boy and a copperhead snake on it. Neither bothered the other. Herbert and our Methodist minister, Herman Knickerbocker, were saved six miles down the river, by means of ropes thrown from a bridge.


            Marlin has its Chamber of Commerce, of which I have been a member for forty-eight years, and a director many times. Our city now has a Junior Chamber of Commerce, the members of which have ambitions to do great things for the town. Marlin also has a Country Club, with a building and a lake for entertainment; a City Park, with a swimming pool; and also the Rotary and Lions Clubs.     

Among the women's organizations are the various church societies, and further listed among the clubs are the Learners Club for literary improvement, and a social club that has been active for many years. Besides their social activities, members of the latter have done some civic work. They play games as a social pastime. It used to be "forty-two," a game played with dominoes. Some of the ministers denounced this amusement in fervid sermons, some years ago, as exceedingly wicked. Times have changed, and preachers have become more tolerant. Even playing cards, which our grandmothers, many of them, called "the tools of the devil," are used in many clubs here and elsewhere.     

The Garden Club is an outstanding local organization. It was organized in March, 1923, by Mrs. B. J. Linthicum. Our bright woman lawyer, Miss Marjorie Rogers, had a beautifully written article in the Dallas News some time ago about Mrs. Linthicum and her garden. She had always been a great lover of flowers, loving especially the red ones. Mrs. Linthicum had many kinds of flowers and also a bird sanctuary in her garden. The beautiful two-story Colonial home, "The Southland," is surrounded by sturdy liveoak trees. It is now owned and occupied by Dr. and Mrs. Howard O. Smith. Two hundred guests celebrated the opening of this garden, one of the show places of the time. At the entrance this motto was placed:

"In the kiss of the sunshine there's pardon;
In the song of the bird there is mirth;
You are nearer to God in a garden
Than anywhere else on this earth."

The Garden Club has been an incentive to the ladies of Marlin to beautify the town and their own yards. The many visitors who come here each year enjoy and comment on th9 beautiful homes and gardens throughout Marlin.

'Flowers for the living' is a motto of ours,
Fashioned in beauty by Nature's great powers;
Flowers with fragrance and beauty for all,
Blushing and blooming from Spring until Fall;
Weaving God's sunshine into bright hues,
Bringing rejoicing and banishing blues;
Wafting Love's messages on every breeze,
Mixed with the songs of the birds in the trees.

            This is beautifully printed on a board in my yard. On July 12, 1933, a very outstanding event took place in Waco. We were to select a superintendent for the Methodist Orphans Home. Out of forty applicants, Mr. Hubert Johnson, superintendent of the Gatesville Schools, was elected. He, his wife and daughter, Marie, have carried on very efficiently since that time. The Home has had a phenomenal growth during these years under his management.     

The present Board's personnel consists of prominent ministers, business and professional men and women from various parts of the State and are Mr. J. S. Bridwell, Wichita Falls; Mr. R. B. Bryant, Stamford; Mr. J. C. DeShong, Paris; Rev. Joe Emanuel, Monahans; Mrs. W. W. Fondren, Houston; Mr. Beauford Jester, Corsicana; Dr. E. D. Landreth, Clarendon; Mr. Porter Loring, San Antonio; Mr. T. C. Mitchell, Marfa; Rev. B. J. Osborn, Cisco; Mr. J. J. Perkins, Wichita Falls; Dr. J. N. R. Score, Georgetown; Rev. L. D. Shawver, Jacksboro; Dr. J. Richard Spann, San Antonio; Dr. J. W. Torbett, Marlin, Chairman.


The Torbett Memorial Organ was dedicated in the Harrell Chapel of the Methodist Home, Waco, Texas, on May 18, 1941, with impressive ceremonies. It was presented by me in honor of my late father, John Cornelius Torbett, to be used for the glory of God and the inspiration of all hearers. Robert A. Markham, head of the organ department of Baylor University, was guest organist. On the occasion of the .dedication my good friend, Grace Noll Crowell of Dallas, one of America's most dearly loved poets, wrote:

"This organ is given by a loving son
In memory of his father. May it speak
Through music of a victory to be won;
Of high places to attain, if we but seek
The good and true and beautiful in life;
And may its golden notes sound out so clear
That Peace will follow clamoring and strife,
And something of heaven itself may enter here.

" 'Praise Him with the organ,' we are told -
And 'Paise Him with the harp,' and thus today
We would praise God as great men did of old,
With music that can bear the heart away
From earth to heaven. God, through all the days
Accept this organ's lifted voice as praise."

-Grace Noll Crowell.


The twenty tubular chimes which supplement the 547 individual pipes in this great organ I gave the Home impressed me with the beauty of chimes. I thought of how my father, a great lover of music, would have loved to hear them.     

I also thought of a story told by Bob Ripley, in his "Believe It or Not" column, concerning an incident which occurred during the First World War, in 1915. A German officer had violated some of the rules of the Kaiser and had been sentenced to be shot. He was placed in an enclosure and when the time for the execution arrived he was told that he would be granted one last request - if it were possible to grant it.

Just at that moment the chimes in a nearby church began to play. "Oh," the condemned man pleaded eagerly, "let me listen to those chimes; they will soothe my soul. When they have stopped then you may shoot me." Permission was given, and the chimes played on. Before the last note had sounded, a messenger came swiftly, bearing a reprieve for the officer, and he was finally released.     

About two years before Ripley's story was written, this same officer was appointed by Hitler to go out and collect all the bells and chimes from the various churches, to be melted down for ammunition. When he came to this place he asked the old man who played the chimes whether he had been playing them in 1915. The answer was, "Oh, yes sir, I have been doing this for forty years. The chimes are my very life. Please do not destroy them!"     

"Well, my good man," was the reply, "those chimes saved my life during the last war, and I will leave them with you if you will agree not to play any more until peace comes again." The promise was given, most gratefully.     

This little story, in a measure, strengthened my decision to give some chimes to the Methodist Church in Marlin, in the hope that they might thrill the hearts of hearers, even if they did not result in saving a life.     

The Marlin chimes were installed in December, 1945. These are the lines I wrote in dedication:

We give to Marlin these sweet chimes
To warm your hearts within,
With sacred melodies at times
That banish thoughts of sin,
And fill your hearts with love supreme
For God, as man's immortal dream.

            At the morning service I presented to the church the chimes. They are efficiently installed and seem to be quite satisfactory, a joy to the people of the town, as attested by many telephone calls and letters received after their installation.     

Other friends are equally generous in their expressions of approval. Sometimes I am burdened with a sense of humility because I cannot altogether measure up their estimates. Mrs. George McKamy of Hebron, Texas, sent a letter of commendation to the Dallas News. Modesty prevents me quoting the entire letter, but she said, in part: "Dr. Torbett's mission in life is to 'help somebody today.' He is not only a doctor for the sick in body, but for those who are lonesome, blue and despondent. He treats the poor just like he does the rich, and is a dad to all who need him . . . I know, because I used to work for him."     

In a succeeding section of this book, "From Day to Day," the reader is given an inside glimpse of a busy doctor's office, which will look familiar to the writer of the above. Her kindly expressions are greatly appreciated.


            The groom had come to the Home from Anderson County, in 1925. His boyhood was very normal until he contracted tuberculosis. The dread disease had taken the life of one of his sisters. After it became very serious, he and the other sister went to the Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Then the dynamic personality of the groom took over. Through his determination and will to regain his health, he came through the ordeal. Little by little, he regained the health he had lost and finally he became a husky guy like other fellows.    

The bride was very charming and beautiful; the groom did not show his recent hours of strain and travel. Everything moved with perfection, yet there was something very different about this wartime wedding. There was a long story behind it.     

This wedding took place at the Harrell Memorial Chapel on the campus of the Methodist Home.     

C. B. Malone made a place for himself among the students and teachers of the Home. He was a diligent worker, a good sport, a natural leader. Even his daring and mischievous pranks only served to endear him to his associates. Graduating from the Waco High School, he attended A. & M. College and Baylor University.     

Then another chapter of his life unfolded. He had always loved a scrap and when other fellows started into this big, important one, he decided he had a part to play, too. He enlisted in the Marine Corps. The stark, moving drama of his life in the Marine Corps is one that few of the students have heard, but it is a fascinating one. Two years of foreign duty. And then -- another triumph! When his division came home for a rest, he applied for a transfer. His transfer came through and he was assigned to a Naval Air Training Center and was later commissioned lieutenant in the USMC on December 31, 1943. After getting through the entanglement of red tape, prior to a leave, he finally left for Waco, on the morning of January 1.     

In the meantime, the bride had arrived home for the holidays. Never had there been such excitement. Two sweethearts of the Methodist Home were going to be married! Treasure Thomas and C. B. Malone. To the girls and boys who had held them as ideals for years, it was a marvelous event.     

The groom finally arrived, after driving all day in the sleet and rain. He was a little late; everybody had been excited and afraid that he wouldn't make it, but the bride was very calm and sure. The children and other guests assembled in the Harrell Chapel and the wedding ceremony was performed.    

This is a success story in the eyes of the world. The success of a boy who overcame a great handicap and made a place for himself. A boy whose ambition and endeavor had won for him one of the loveliest girls in the world. It is the story of a charming girl, a college graduate, well read, well informed, a diligent worker in her chosen profession, truly "everybody's Treasure." Their dreams of success and happiness came true. But the dream is only half finished. It is being carried on in the hearts of two dreamers, Lieutenant and Mrs. Malone, who now are at home with a beautiful daughter to add to their well-deserved happiness.

-By Hubert Johnson.

            Memorial to the eight boys from the Home who were lost in the war:


We thank Thee, Lord, for our own boys
Who made the sacrifice supreme,
Whose souls have won immortal joys,
Who died for our immortal dream;
They fought to help the world increase
Our hopes for one long lasting peace.



Set aside a time each day
For everything you do
A time to work, a time to play,
None left for being blue.
A time to love the friends you know,
A time to sleep and rest,
A time alone each day to show
You're worthy to be blessed.