One of the fascinating patterns evident in old Hogg Foundation publications is how many of them are structured as narratives. They begin from the assumption that the best way to convey the impact of a particular program or campaign is to tell the story of it, and in particular the stories of the people who were involved in the effort--foundation staff, clinicians, service providers, and above all the stories of the people (we now call them "consumers," in the past it was more often "patients") who were receiving the services.
There's a commonsense logic to this, and a disciplinary history. The fields connected to mental health have always dealt in stories. In the case of the foundation, however, it also reflects the particular influence of program office Bert Kruger Smith, who was one of the early "circuit riders" hired by the foundation to spread the gospel of mental health around Texas.
Smith joined the Foundation as a full-time staff member in 1952, and over the next thirty years would serve as the principal author of dozens of Foundation publications, write six books and two documentary film scripts, and host The Human Condition, a weekly radio broadcast that ran for a decade.
Although Smith wrote only the introduction to The Best Medicine, which describes a one week camping trip by Day Center members of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston, her influence (and almost certainly her editorial touch) are clear from word one of the narrative section of the report. It begins like this.
"The doors to the Houston VA Day Center were closed and locked on the morning of September 10, 1965. Fastened to the window was a sign reading, 'Day Center Closed From Friday, September 10, 10:30 A.M. to Friday, September 17, 8:00 A.M.' The trip upon which the staff and members of the Day Center were embarking was in many respects no different from the weekly Day Center Trips that had been conducted throughout the previous year. There was, nevertheless, little doubt in the minds of the 37 passengers on the bus parked at the curb, that this week-long, 6oo mile trip from Houston, Texas, to the Frio River hill country and back was far different from any they had undertaken before. Certainly for the staff, made up of a psychologist director, psychiatric social worker, recreation therapist, secretary, psychiatric consultant, two graduate psychology trainees, and five volunteers, and for the 25 patients (or members), this trip elicited mixed emotions ranging from varying degrees of anxiety to pleasurable anticipation."
The publication is also one of a series of Hogg Foundation publications from the 1960s on therapeutic camping programs, including A View of the Texas State Hospital Camping Program, The Worth of a Boy, and The Group.
You can sense in Kruger's introduction that she has special affection for this particular report, which "is a case document which fully and completely focuses on the feelings and attitudes of patients as reflected in their behavior. [It is a] literary psychological document which, put alongside other camping materials, might well lead to some broader reflections about camping as a therapeutic technique."