Back in the Day and the Family Doctor

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As a child, my family only went to the doctor when we were really ill. For financial reasons, most common problems were treated at home — for a sore throat, gargling with salt and water; for sprains, soaking in warm water and Epsom salt; for colds and coughs, Vicks VapoRub, honey, and cough syrup from the drug store (sometimes prescribed by the doctor); for cuts and scrapes, peroxide. Boy, did it sting! My father would say, “That’s all the germs coming out!”

When we did go to the doctor’s, we went when he had evening office hours — no appointment necessary. There were lots of people there, and we sat in chairs around three sides of the room. If someone had a bad cough, they would take a chair and sit out in the hall by the X-ray machine.

Our doctor delivered babies and cared for all ages from birth to the elderly. He delivered me, and when I was four took out my tonsils. Later, he removed a tumor from my mother. What a man! He could do it all. I was in awe of him. Once when I was very sick during Christmas vacation, my mother called for advice because I was too sick to leave the house. He prescribed a few pills for me to try. They cost a dollar a piece; they didn’t work, but we hadn’t wasted a lot of money on a full prescription.

Antibiotics were just coming on the scene then, and on New Year’s Eve, dressed in evening clothes and on his way to a party, the doctor came to my house with his little black bag, and gave me a shot of penicillin. A wonder drug! My fever broke the next day, and I was on the road to recovery.

Back in the day, we had to rely on ourselves a lot for illnesses, but when we really needed him, the family doctor was always there. May God Bless him and all who shared that calling.

—Bernadette R. Gentry