The mission of the Paralyzed Veterans of America California Chapter is to make lives better for Paralyzed Veterans and their families across Southern California.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America California Chapter has a long and historic legacy dating back to before the existence of the National Organization that is known today.
In 1945 the US Army opened a Paraplegic Center at Birmingham General Army Hospital. The Center used the work of Doctor Ernest Bors (1900–1990) who was one of the foremost expert on neurourology in traumatic spinal cord injury. Dr. Bors had developed a holistic multidisciplinary approach for treating spinal cord injury, that is still used in care centers today. Military doctors from around the world visited Birmingham General Hospital to learn about this new traumatic spinal cord center.
After the war on 31 March 1946, the Hospital was turned over to the Veterans Administration and renamed Birmingham Veterans Administration Hospital. Dr Bors was instrumental in the development of the National Paralyzed Veterans organization. The chapter was chartered in 1946 under the name Birmingham Paralyzed Veterans Association. When the Paralyzed Veterans of America national organization was chartered in 1947, the Birmingham PVA became one of 8 original Chapters, and was the only chapter serving veterans west of the Mississippi River.
Letter from Dr. Bors to the Commanding Officer of Birmingham General Army Hospital requesting permission on behalf of his patients to form a Paralyzed Veterans Association
The hospital was located 13 miles North of Hollywood, as such many Hollywood actors and actress came to visit the Vets. Hollywood Radio personalities also visit the hospital. In 1944 the Jack Benny Christmas program was broadcast from the Hospital. Regular visitors were: Ronald Reagan, Anne Jeffreys, Basil Rathbone, Mary Pickford, Linda Darnell, Al Pearce, Charles Laughton, June Haver, Jimmy Stewart, Bagelman Sisters, Clarence Nash, The Charioteers and Bob Hope.
The hospital was used for the 1950 Hollywood movie The Men which was Marlon Brando’s first film, where he plays the part of an injured in combat World War 2 Vet. Birmingham General Hospital was also used, with it’s name, in the 1950 movie Backfire. The movie was inspired by Birmingham General Hospital’s Spinal Cord Injury Center. The main actor plays an injured Vet that falls in love with a Birmingham General Hospital nurse.
Desi Arnaz was stationed at Birmingham General Hospital during the war to entertain the troops there with the United Service Organizations (USO). Arnaz had a bad knee and so was transferred to the US Army Medical Corps. Arnaz also coordinated with the stars that visited the Hospital. Arnaz was discharged on November 16, 1945
The VA Hospital closed in 1950, the Vets at Birmingham were moved to the Veterans Administration Long Beach Hospital along with the chapter administrative offices where they still exist today.
Shortly after the move to Long Beach, the chapter changed their name to the “California Paralyzed Veterans Association.” They pulled away from the national organization and continued to independently serve veterans for 12 years from 1951-1963 before rejoining the organization as the Paralyzed Veterans of America California Chapter under the national organization again.
Today, The Spinal Cord Unit at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center bears bears the name of Dr Bors in recognition of all the work he has done for the Veteran Spinal Cord community.
The California Chapter Administrative Offices are located on the second floor of this center.