Mike Barr

GATESVILLE — In 1949, two doctors, a dentist and a self-made engineer with a ninth-grade education cobbled together a shop for making plastic human skeletons for the medical profession.

Two brothers, Drs. Wendell and Elworth Lowrey, partnered with Dr. Thomas Williams, a dentist, and Jess Blakely to found Medical Plastics Laboratory, now Laerdal Texas, in Gatesville.

Struck by the high cost and long delay of purchasing a human skeleton for medical training, the group launched their improbable endeavor over coffee at a local drug store.

Gatesville writer Michael Barr spins their tale of hits and misses, trials and errors and eventual triumph in his book “The Wizards of OS — The Story of Medical Plastics Laboratory.”

Barr will sign copies of the book from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Coryell Museum in Gatesville.

Copies will be on sale for $8 each, and proceeds will go to the Coryell Museum and Historical Center.

The title — “os” comes from the Latin word for “bone” — is an obvious play on L. Frank Baum’s classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and borrows a quote to describe the founders’ desire to keep their business in their hometown: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.”

Drawing on local talent and skills, the Lowrey brothers, Williams and Blakely combined their energies to create what today is a multimillion-dollar company.

“I knew these doctors all my life,” Barr said, “but until I wrote this book, I never understood how their amazing accomplishments changed the world.”

A Gatesville native, Barr is a retired educator with a passion for local history. “The Wizards of OS” is his fourth book.


Contact Tim Orwig at torwig@kdhnews.com

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.