In 1950 I was six years old, so I wasn't a nurse, but these are the things that I remember about medical care. Everyone had a family doctor who was like a member of your family. He took care of your mom and dad, aunts and uncles, grand parents and you. Our family doctor was Dr. Riech. He was a scrubby clean, sweetly serious man with a bald head with meticiously cut white hair on the sides. "His"
nurse was Alma. When you went to the doctor's office you didn't call first, you just walked in. His office was open from 7am to 4pm, Monday through Friday and from 7am till 12 noon on Saturday.
The doctor's office: The office was in a small red brick building. It had wooden door with a large glass, like a French door, and Dr. R.F. Riche, M.D. was painted neatly on the door in gold leaf, block lettering with the hours below, and a phone number to call the doctor, after hours
, which was his HOME phone number. You couldn't see inside the door because it had a spotless, white, sheer curtain, gathered closely together and tightly stretched, on the inside of the door, between two curtain rods at the top and the bottom of the glass.
When you opened the door and walked inside, it was a large waiting room with dark oak wooden arm chairs lined up against three walls, and they were always full of patients. The walls always looked freshly painted, and were "hospital" green, a light minty color. There were 12x12 green and white asbestos tiles with little black veins in them on the floor. The floor was so shiny that you could see yourself in it. The minute that you walked through the door, you smelled alcohol. There was a long, dark oak, chest high, counter centered in the middle of the wall that faced the entry door and a closed, dark panneled oak door was in the wall behind the counter. When you entered the office a buzzer sounded and Alma, immediately
came out from the closed door behind the counter.
She knew your name, greeted you with your name, asked how the family was, how you were, and told you to have a seat and the Doctor would see you when it was your turn.
Alma was middle aged, matronly chubby, impeccably dressed in a starched, never wrinkled, long sleeved, white uniform
, a gold nurse pin on her breast, white hose with seams up the back, white oxfords that looked like they were new out of the box, and a friendly, smiling face with perfect makeup, under perfectly coiffed hair, and not a hair out of place under her snappy, white starched nurse's cap. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Immediately after she greeted you she went back inside the closed door. She would come out that door with a patient and go back in with another one, until it was your turn.
The office was very quiet, there was no piped in music, people visited with each other in hushed voices, no one's babies screamed, children sat quietly by their parents until it was their turn to see the doctor.
Your turn: Alma came out and said, Dr. Riech is ready for you now, Mary Lou, and you entered with her through the closed door. You were in the only exam room. It was spotless, furnished with a black upholstered bed / lounge chair kind of looking thing that was on a white porcelain pedestal that had all kinds of chrome plated gizmos on it that could be lifted from the sides, and the doctor pumped a lever on it's side with his foot to raise and lower the contraption. There were several, free standing, white enameled coated cabinets along the walls with glass windows in them like small white china cabinets, and there were all kinds of bottles jars, towels, bandages and amazing things in them. There was a skeleton hanging on a stand in the corner of the room and a skull mounted on a stand on top of one of the cabinets. There was a white refrigerator where the doctor kept medicines and serums, etc. Alma helped you up on the table and put a glass thermometer in your mouth, took it out and told the doctor your temperature.
Dr. Riech always had on a white lab coat, never a speck or wrinkle. He wore a head band thing around is forehead to the back of his head that had a round shiny silver reflector kind of thing with a light and a hole for his eye to look through, attached to it. He would make small talk with you, while asking your symptoms. He always looked in your ears with a pointy flash light thing, and would say humm, then he have you open you mouth, press your tongue down with a unwrapped clean depressor that he pulled from a jar full of depressors, (no gloves, but his hands always smelled like Lifebuoy Soap), and say, "Say ahh", you said,"Ahh", and he would stick the depressor in, look around, remove the depressor, and Alma would take it from him and throw it in a big white enameled waste can with a lid that she opened with her foot on a lever. Dr. Riche would then pull down the round shiny thing on his head and looked into your eyes.
When I needed a shot, Alma prepared the injection and handed it to Dr. Riche. He gave the shot. I would cry, he would coddle, pamper, and tell you it was almost over while Alma held your arm still, and looked at you with an angelic-like expression of reassurance. When you looked at Alma, you just knew that everything was really just fine, and you knew that Dr. Riche really cared about you and would never
let anything bad happen to you. When it was over, Dr. Riche gave you a new depressor to take home with you and a couple of brand new white band-aids to use on your dolls, and a cherry flavored lollypop on a kind of flexible string handle. He gave you and your Mom a hug and Alma took you to the closed door and let you out and brought the next patient in. If you remembered to, you paid Alma for the visit, if you forgot they never billed you, and never said a word to you about it. We always paid him. It was always about $5.00, maybe $7.00 or $10.00 if you got a shot, or one of those tiny, little white envelopes with medicine that he dispensed right from his office. I loved Dr. Riche, Alma, and going to the doctor. Everyone did.