When a husband and wife team of doctors moved to the Tehachapi Valley in the early 1930s, they changed the healthcare landscape forever.
Dr. Harold Schlotthauer and Dr. Madge Schlotthauer recognized the lack of healthcare resources in Tehachapi. At the time, there wasn’t a single medical professional in the mountain mining community.
Then, in 1932, the Schlotthauers rented a large, private residence — the Asher home — on the corner of Curry and E streets. They opened a clinic in that location.
Within two years, the two had outgrown the location and purchased the two-story Capedeville Hotel on E Street. They renovated it and converted the building into a hospital, caring for patients upstairs and housing on-call doctors on the first floor. The hospital stood at that site, in different iterations, for 84 years, until it moved across town where it currently stands.
But even before the advent of modern healthcare, the Schlotthauers were practicing medicine ahead of their time. Trained at the Seventh-day Adventist Loma Linda University in Southern California, the doctors’ faith informed many aspects of their care.
When the first Seventh-day Adventist hospital, the Battle Creek Sanitarium, was opened in Michigan in 1852, it was started out of a two-story hotel — not unlike the Schlotthauer’s first hospital in Tehachapi. Seventh-day Adventists often emphasize preventive care to keep patients well, rather than just treating them when they get sick.
Dr. Madge partnered with public schools in Tehachapi, Cummings Valley, Keene and Monolith to launch a healthcare program in 1934 that included vaccinating children, treating cuts, bruises, headlice, and even providing nutritional information to parents. She also provided "well baby" clinics starting in 1936 throughout the valley and in Mojave for new parents, giving babies check-ups and providing mothers dietary advice to keep their children healthy.
A 7.5 magnitude temblor shook Kern County July 21, 1952, crumbling buildings and claiming 13 lives. At least 35 others were injured, some critically. The hospital was so badly damaged that it was eventually razed to make way for a new facility. During the time it took to rebuild the hospital, Drs. Madge and Harold Schlotthauer saw patients in Mojave Hospital, and a modest clinic adjacent to their E Street home.
By 1953 — less than one year after the earthquake — construction crews broke ground on the new Tehachapi Medical Center. Dr. Harold insisted that the new hospital design incorporate two cedar trees planted in the front of the property in the early 1900s. When one architect told him it wasn’t possible and that the trees had to be cut down, Schlothauer told him he would find another architect for the job.
Less than four months later, construction was complete, and the trees remained where they still stand today. The medical center offered outpatient care, but no place to keep patients overnight.
In 1956, crews began working on an addition to the medical center for inpatient care and opened the facility less than one year later. The hospital’s first patients were admitted April 8, 1957.
And they weren’t all your typical patients.
The Schlotthauers had, on one occasion, taken in a dog that had been hit by a car and injured and patched its leg up in a cast, recalled Sally Errecart, who worked at the hospital in the 1950s.
The two were generous to their employees. One Christmas in the early 1950s, they gifted nurse Elizabeth Cuddeback a brand new car.
By 1969, the Schlotthauers sold their privately-owned hospital to the public Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District and relocated to La Quinta, Calif., presently known as Palm Desert. Dr. Harold died in 1973, and Dr. Madge died in 1998. She was 92 years old.
Roughly 20 years after Dr. Madge’s death, and almost 40 years after being sold, the hospital reopened its doors as Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley, an integrated faith-based healthcare system with its roots in the Seventh-day Adventist Church — the very same faith of the Schlotthauers.