Dr. Arthur H. Thompson
University of Maryland, College Park. "I find it quite
amazing. I was going to retire early." Retired, Dr. Thompson is
still active around his yard and garden, and recognized as one of the leading
horticulturalists in the world.
Dr. Art Thompson and his wife, Isabelle, at a 1994 fall Horticultural Department
Picnic, University of Maryland, near College Park. He still swims 8 miles
"I have just received the announcement of the book, and am responding with a
check. I look forward to it, and have advertised it around here. My
secretary told me today she is going to buy a copy for a friend.
"You are off to the Orient and won't see this for a month. But while I am
at the typewriter I may as well 'report in', as it were. For you
don't know what happened to me.
"I turned 59 last month (1977- still "kicking" at 81 years,
1998). I can point the finger at an incident 21 yrs. ago which suggests my
problems were beginning then. I bought a 1960 Pontiac wagon to pull my
first trailer traveler. I didn't like the new models- the seats were too
low which gave me trouble on long drives. My dealer raised the front seat
of that Pontiac 1/2 inch, the maximum he could go. It helped, but I still
didn't like it. I took a 3-month travel sabbatical in that rig in 1961;
the seat was still too low, but the problem was moderate.
Real troubles began when our motor pools bought new Ford sedans in the fall of
1969. When I got to the University Substation with one of those cars, I
spent a few moments leaning on the hood to get my back straightened out before
walking into the lab building. It was serious enough to ask for GM and
Chrysler cars after a few trips in those Fords. But I was getting
worse. The 1970 Ford experience told me I had a real problem; it was all
downhill after that. My coworker has done the stoop jobs since 1971 while
I have done the standup jobs, in measuring trunks, e.g. I bought a new
Chevy in 1971- a Blazer. This short wheelbase truck has chair-height
seats; by this time I hated passenger cars because my back hurt so much.
Getting out of bed in the morning was work.
"A thorough medical exam revealed no disc problem whatever. I was told I
had "a little arthritis in the lower spine; nothing could be done about
it. Take aspirin when the pain gets bad."
1976 was my worst year. Daily living was a chore. I told my wife
last winter that she is now the family gardener by default- I simply could not
bend over anymore. My one respite was walking, and I do much of
that. But I was in such shape that I was contemplating early retirement,
moving to Wenatchee, Washington now rather than wait another few years.
Perhaps the dry climate would help. I was getting to the end of my road.
"Pure chance put me in the same seat section as you on the flight to Cleveland
last March. The bag of peanuts (Paprika labeled on the bag) offered by the
stewardess changed my whole life, for that brought up the subject. I began
avoiding the nightshades immediately, perhaps somewhat out of desperation, but
also with the attitude of having nothing really whatever to lose, and a great
deal to gain. I don't think I really believed it would do anything for my
back but I was anxious to try.
"I responded before March was out. I woke up one morning vaguely aware that
I had not awakened to turn my body over with the long manipulation of elbows to
minimize the pain in the back. A night or two later it happened
again. Sure enough I had gone to sleep on one side and awakened on the
other side! That had not happened in more than three years.
That gets attention! Now I observed closely, but kept the business low key
all the way. By early April, I was sleeping through the night without
waking up to turn myself over. But I still had pain turning over before
I went to sleep. So really it was no big deal. However, it turned
out to be the steady progression to a normal life. Painless sleep, easier
driving of motor pool cars, a bit of weeding this spring and summer without
problems then or later. Then on June 13th I arrived. I got out of
bed that morning and strode to the picture window of our bedroom to view all my
backyard plants- a routine of 21 years since we moved into that bedroom.
But this morning I had gotten out of bed and strode to the window like
any normal person! For the first time I had gotten up and walked away
without standing still to get straightened up, or simply wait for that first
back pain of the day. It always began then. And so for me
June 13th was the day.
"Two days later we left for a month on the road with our travel trailer-
Nashville, Dayton, Purdue (peach pruning), Rochester, Duluth, Thunder Bay,
Ottawa, Ithaca, New York. Several times I got caught as a guest with the
nightshades in front of me. I first got by as best I could, but by the
time I got to Cornell in Ithaca, I decided it was time to put it all to test
anyhow. When the Mrs. served a large bowl of wonderful potato salad, I
made the most of it for I like the stuff. My departure from the Diet had
been limited, and yet the last two mornings on the road I had the old back pains
when I got out of bed in the trailer. Mild to be sure, but they were
"So now I am back on a tight schedule. Clearly, I am one who was
going to Hell fast with the Solanaceae and didn't know it. Now I am
enjoying little things which I thought I had given up forever. An evening
after dinner weeding ivy, holly, the garden with no ill effects. Perhaps
even more significant- my professional life goes on to normal terms. I can
look forward to finishing out my later years here, then go back to Wenatchee to
enjoy the climate rather than having the outlook of hoping that climate will
"And so it is with one case history. I have nothing but encouragement
for your book. I have seen the bias of vegetable breeders when I tell 'em
about my reaction to the nightshades, but I don't take any stuff from any of
them. I tell them as researchers, they ought to know better than to scoff
at evidence. But feelings run strong on this issue, and I can well imagine
some of the flak that will follow your book. But it is as I tell my wife
and my graduating students, my lifelong motto of sorts holds that 'The truth
makes you free.' And so I lean on that when contemplating the reception of
your book. Best wishes in this endeavor.
As of July 1995 he continues- "Today I swim 8 miles per month among other
normal activities in retirement, my physical limitations being other than
arthritis (at 77) all this is no accident, for I went off the Diet many years
ago while visiting a friend for three days in July. Nothing happened for
those three days, but on the morning of the fourth day I could hardly get out of
bed! I started over, regained painless movement in about three weeks, and
learned never to tinker with the Diet again. We learned in Inorganic
Chemistry that a reaction which is reversible is real; the Childers' Diet is
"It has been an interesting odyssey. It has been years of politely,
but with obvious finality, stiff-armed by doctors, of dealing with many trying
the Diet, and of observing the closed mind of the Arthritis Foundation who still
maintain their head-in-the-sand mentality regarding arthritis and diet. I
continue to urge all who will listen never to contribute any money to the
Arthritis Foundation. People trying the Diet have reported everything from
complete recovery to no response. Quiet inquiry in non-response cases has
often led to disclosure- unwitting and otherwise- that the person has
compromised the Diet in one of various ways. Hardest to understand are
those who dropped all nightshades but favorites potatoes or tomatoes, and yet
reported the Diet a failure!
I often wonder what life would be like now without the Diet. I
suspect I would be a basket case not able to do much of anything. I know
how to find out, but I don't need that lesson again, for the Diet changed my
life and I am not about to trash it. I marvel at the whole experience,
most grateful to Norman Childers for his leadership thru these years in
promoting objective research, in spreading the word in the face of opposition
from medical science and the Arthritis Foundation. to paraphrase Winston
Churchill, 'Rarely in the course of human affairs have so many owed so much to