OAKLAND -- When the Albany Historical Society decided to place a plaque at the site of the old Albany Hospital in June, it stirred the memory of Oakland's Eleanor Schrower Koplan. You see, her father, Kunibert Schrower, built the hospital.
Koplan, now 90, was a little girl when the hospital opened in 1928.
"I loved to see my dad on Sundays, because I could go downstairs and have all the ice cream that I wanted," Koplan said. "My dad was always working. He was there on Sundays. I went over to visit him and I always went straight to the hospital."
Humboldt Hospital was dedicated on March 25, 1928. It was later renamed Albany Hospital and operated until 1985. It was located on Marin Avenue where the Albany library and community center now stand.
Kunibert Schrower immigrated from Germany in 1907 along with his wife. Koplan was succinct about the reason: "They didn't like the Prussian regime," she said.
Schrower first built the Golden Gate Food Products Co. factory in Berkeley. Then, he partnered with Dr. Eric Koster and several others to open the hospital, which was named after German scientist Alexander von Humboldt. Koster was from the Prussian province of Silesia.
The hospital opened with 27 beds, two operating rooms and a maternity ward.
A 1953 Berkeley Gazette column by Hal Johnson commemorating the hospital's 25th anniversary in 1953, told the story of the first baby born at the hospital.
Henry W. Taylor
The hospital hit hard times during the Great Depression, and Schrower purchased it back from the other investors.
He leased it to Mary LaMatch (later Mrs. Mary Loss), who served as superintendent of the hospital for 20 years. According to Johnson's column, there were 1,200 births at the hospital in 1943.
Koplan has many fond memories of the hospital.
"One thing that tickled me is that people brought a lot of animals there," she said. "They had an area in the back and they would wheel the patients out there and they would each have an animal to pet. I used to love to go look at the babies in the nursery. I used to get to ride in the wheelchairs. I thought it was great fun."
Schrower was president of the East Bay Soccer Club, which had property on Gilman Street, according to Koplan. Teams, mostly of other European immigrants, would play there every Sunday. Schrower, who had played in Europe, coached one of the teams.
When Schrower died in December 1952, the residents of Albany came out to celebrate his life.
"When he died the limousine picked us up," Koplan said. "We were going to go down San Pablo Avenue to the mortuary. There were police and they escorted us to the mortuary. There were people lined up."