“Turn It Up To 300 and Hit It 3 Times!”

Defibrillator
Circa 1965

I met and worked with some outstanding doctors and surgical residents during the 4 years I took my surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans between 1965 and 1969. One of the surgical trainees with whom I did a large number of operations was Dr. John Piker who was from Clinton, Louisiana.

John and I rotated together from “Big Charity” in New Orleans to “Little Charity” in Lake Charles, Louisiana during my 3rd year of training and spent 3 months operating together at that facility. We were responsible for all the general surgical procedures done at the hospital under the supervision and assistance of a staff surgeon. John and I seldom asked the staff surgeon to scrub with us as we had become very confident in our operating abilities and self-sufficient in our management of surgical patients.

John Piker was a few years older than most of us and had lots of other experiences outside of his medical training. He was an excellent story-teller and could spin some of the funniest tales I had ever heard from a Cajun. One of his funniest involved an episode when he was a medical student at the LSU School of Medicine. I will tell the account in the first person just as he told me:

“I was in my senior year of medical school and had a 2 weeks-long clinical rotation on anesthesia. My job was to assist an anesthesiologist in the operating room for that 2 week period, and it included taking night call for emergencies when he was on call. The anesthesia resident whom I will call Dr. Smith (not his real name) had the reputation of being especially hard on medical students. Perhaps he had been treated this way as a student and wanted to continue making life as miserable as possible for hapless and gullible students. He had a way of calling me “Piker” with a few added unmentionable adjectives which constantly irritated me, but I had to keep my mouth shut and my attitude hidden as much as possible. It was by far the worst 2 weeks rotation I had in medical school.

We had an on-call room with comfortable chairs and a TV to watch to help pass the time when we were not being called out for an emergency. I tried to use the spare time to read and study, but Dr. Smith had the TV on so loud it was difficult to concentrate. On this particular night we were between emergency surgical cases when we got a Code Blue call from 5th floor which was the medical floor. The patients there had various medical problems including MI (heart attacks), CVA (stroke), and diabetic emergencies. There were no surgical problems on the 5th floor.”

Dr. Smith said, “Piker, get your lazy butt off the couch and bring the crash cart with you. We’re going to 5th floor. Be quick about it!!” The crash cart had all the supplies necessary for a cardiac arrest, including a very large and antiquated defibrillator. The modern ones were compact, but this one was about 10 years old, stood tall on the stand and required 2 people to operate it. One person had to set the dials on the console while the other one held the paddles to the patient. The one on the console was responsible for firing the electrical charge by means of  a firing button located on the console.

When we finally got to the 5th floor and the patient’s bed, we found a typical scene for a person who had a cardiac arrest. It was a large open ward with approximately 12 beds, and this person was in a bed in the middle of the ward. The beds were all metal with wire springs. They were not like the modern beds which have electric controls to raise and lower the  bed and the head of the bed. A few beds had a manual crank for raising the head of the bed, but most did not even have that feature. The mattresses lay on springs which precluded any effective chest compressions should they be needed. This patient was a large woman in her late 60’s in age, and had probably had an MI (heart attack) which caused her heart to start fibrillating. There had been several failed attempts to start an IV, and there were small puddles of saline on the floor beside the bed. In order to apply the paddles effectively to the patient, she had to be rolled slightly on her side to apply one to the front and the other to the back. Because of her size Dr. Smith was stretched out almost to his limits and his knees were touching the side of the bed. He didn’t notice he was standing in a small puddle of saline.

When he was in position he said, “Piker, turn the power to 50 volts and hit it once.” I did what he said and nothing happened. “Turn it to 75 and hit it again”, which I did with the same result. “Come on Piker give me some power quick! Turn it to 300 (maximum for this machine) and hit it 3 times.” When I pushed the firing button after setting the machine to deliver 300 volts, the electricity made an arc with Dr Smith touching the side of the bed and standing in saline, and it was Dr. Smith instead of the patient who got the full charge. The electric shock lifted him up on his toes, caused his facial muscles to grimace and his arm muscles to straighten in spasm. You could hear air being sucked into his lungs with the spasm. I saw what had happened, but had my head turned slightly away from him toward the console and pretended I didn’t see him being shocked. I hit the button the second time with the same results, and then for a third and final time!

When he finally came back down to neutral, the air rushed out of his lungs as he said with a grunt, “Don’t hit that button again!” He thought I didn’t see him being shocked and knew I was doing what he had told me, so he didn’t blame me or punish me for shocking him. He did have a whole new respect for me though, and not once after that did he ever criticize or belittle me. I guess he was afraid I might think of something worse to do in retaliation. Maybe the shocks just made him sweeter.  🙂

Dr. John

 

 

 

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” Do You Have A Coil In?”

The following is one of many unusual and often hilarious stories told me by Dr. Bill Scurlock, my surgical associate for 25 years at The Surgical Clinic of South Arkansas In El Dorado.  Dr. Scurlock has the wonderful skill of story-telling, and although some of his medical stories seemed incredulous, I assumed all were truthful. I will relate this one in the first person just as I remember him telling me:

“I was on surgical call for this particular weekend and responsible for all surgical emergencies which might come to the emergency rooms of the 2 local hospitals. I was also responsible for any phone calls or surgical problems of my partners at The Surgical Clinic. The weekend was busy as usual, but by Sunday afternoon I was taking advantage of some free time and taking a much-needed nap. After about 30 minutes of calm, my rest was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. (This was prior to cellular phones.) I answered without identifying myself, and the woman who was Black American recognized my voice and identified herself as Lillian — from Warren (not her name nor home town). I recognized her as one of my patients. I said, “Lillian, what in the world is wrong with you?” She said, “Dr. Scurlock, I’ve been bleeding.” I knew she wasn’t talking about gastrointestinal bleeding, but was concerned about gynecological bleeding which was outside my area of practice. Thinking of ways I could refer her to someone else for her problem I asked,”Good grief Lillian, do you have a coil in?” I knew women with birth control coils in place frequently have problems with abnormal bleeding, and the coils have to be removed, usually by the doctor who inserted it.

She said, “Y’as sir I have a coil in”, she quickly responded. “Who put it in?”, I asked. She said, “My husband did.” I said, “What? He can’t do that Lillian. Your husband is not a doctor, and he’s not authorized to do it. It’s against the law for your husband to put in a coil.” Seemingly astounded she replied, “I didn’t know it was against the law for him to put a coil in. I thought we could coil you direct without going through a doctor!”

When I recognized we were talking about 2 completely different things I started laughing while thinking what I might say next to straighten out this dilemma. “Lillian I wasn’t talking about coiling me on the telephone. I was talking about a coil a doctor has to put in your womb to keep you from having babies.”Oh,” she said. “I don’t know nothin’ about no coil in my womb. We was just coiling you to tell you I’m bleeding.”

The hallmark for excellent medical care is the physician understanding just exactly the nature of his patient’s complaints and being alert and sensitive to what they are really saying when they express those complaints. In this particular instance it took Dr. Scurlock a little longer than usual to understand the problem with her coil!

Dr. John

 

More About Luampa Mission Hospital in Zambia

Luampa Hospital
Zambia – circa 1982

It should be no great surprise the countless ways God interweaves our lives with the lives of others and in particular with fellow believers. What we consider as coincidences or chance encounters God had planned all along to encourage us and make us know how highly He values our investment in others.When Cathy and I became acquainted with Gordon and Jeanette Jones in the 1980’s, we did not envision how our friendship and association with them would connect us with so many and stretch out to involve a friendship even 35 years in the future.

In previous posts (A Divine Appointment in South Africa, Jan. 2014; Dr. Jones and the Spitting Cobra, Jan 2014; and An African Elephant Opens a Door, June 2017) I describe a few ways God has opened doors to Cathy and me. Until we met the Jones’s when they were on furlough in El Dorado I could not have told anyone where Zambia was located. I wasn’t particularly interested in the country because we knew no one there nor anyone going there. Gordon and Jeanette changed all that. They had been medical missionaries with Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) in Zambia for about 20 years when we met them, and we developed an instant connection. In addition to the relationships already noted, there was yet another connection to be made to Zambia, Luampa Mission Hospital and the Jones’s right here in Branson, Missouri.

About 5 years ago the Van Haitsma family joined First Baptist Branson, and began attending Sunday and Wednesday night services regularly. Their oldest daughter April who had been a student at the College of the Ozarks had begun a dating relationship and finally married Corey Huddleston, the older son of my best friend Tim and his wife Teresa Huddleston. At the time we met the Van Haitsma’s, Corey and April had celebrated the birth of their first child, Palmer, and Cathy and I wanted to take a gift and be introduced to Palmer. They were in the process of building their home  on property immediately adjacent to April’s parents and during the interim were living with them.We took the gift one afternoon to Scott and Melinda’s home. Scott, who is a building contractor was not at home, nor was Corey who was teaching at his school that afternoon. Melinda, April and Palmer were there and welcomed us.

Their beautiful country home is in Reeds Spring which is a 15 minute automobile drive from Branson. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted and invited for a short visit in their spacious living room. Following brief introductions Cathy asked Melinda where she and Scott were raised, thinking they might be native SW Missourians. She said they both were missionary kids and were raised literally “all over the world.” She said Scott was raised in Zambia. That caught our attention because of our connection to the Jones’s, so I asked her more questions concerning Scott. I told her the only missionaries we knew in Zambia lived and served for over 25 years in a small mission hospital in Luampa. “That’s where Scott grew up!”, she exclaimed. It was several weeks later when I had a conversation with Scott I got a few more details of his connections with the Jones’s and his life in Zambia.

Scott’s parents were also missionaries with AEF (Africa Evangelical Fellowship}) which was the sponsoring entity of the Luampa Mission Hospital in Zambia. His Dad Roger was in charge of all maintenance at the hospital and served there for 5 years from 1975 until 1980 when they transition to another location. When I initially asked Gordon Jones the location of his hospital he said, “Luampa is 300 miles out in the bush and 350 miles from the supermarket in Lusaka!” (capital city of Zambia). During most of the years I knew Gordon and Jeanette they were with AEF, but in 1998 that organization merged with a larger organization called SIM (Serving In Mission)  in order to broaden its’ scope and outreach.

Scott spent his early formative years from age 9 to 14 years old in Luampa deepening his love for ministry to people who need to know Christ as Savior and Lord. He related he enjoyed scrubbing in and assisting “Uncle Gordy” and “Aunt Evie” (Evelyn Hattan) in the operating room on many occasions and frequently went on hunting trips with Uncle Gordy to get fresh meat for the hospital patients and staff.

Evelyn Hattan was a Registered Nurse at the hospital for over 20 years, and is the person who provided the photo above of the hospital staff taken in the mid-1970’s. She is located on the back row of the photo facing toward her left. Dr. Jones is on the back row next to the end on the right side of the photo. At the time of my last correspondence with Evelyn over 4 years ago she had retired to Spokane, Washington to be near family. It is my understanding she has now departed this life.

I am no longer amazed nor surprised when connections of acquaintances and friends are made in our Christian lives. God interweaves us with others in order to encourage and challenge us in our ministries. Cathy and I are so grateful for our friendship with and co-labor involvement with Gordon and Jeanette Jones during those years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Our life in Branson, Missouri since 2005 has been wonderful and full of ministry. We fully anticipate God showing us many more connections with His saints He knew about all along.

Dr. John

 

 

 

 

Andy’s Courtship of Norrine

 

 

Long- Barrel Pistol

Disclaimer: The following account is true but the names of the man and his wife have been changed, because they have both died and it was not possible to obtain their permission to publish this account of their courtship. I have used this story numerous times in couple’s counselling sessions to illustrate the protective influence of a father’s love for his daughter.

 

Andy Jameison was a colorful character who lived and raised his family in El Dorado, Arkansas. I got to know him when Cathy and I moved our family to El Dorado in the early 1970’s to begin my medical practice. Andy was an agent with a local company with whom I had a business relationship, and I was familiar with most of the personnel in the company. One of my best friends was a company agent, and it was through him I developed a friendship with Andy.

Andy and wife Norrine had several children and their oldest son Joe was several years behind me in high school in the 1950’s. Although at the time I did know Joe, I didn’t know anything about his parents except their names were “Mr.and Mrs. Jameison.”

One day in the late 1970’s during a casual conversation with Andy he asked me how and where I had met Cathy, because he knew she was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Following the account of my courtship with Cathy, I asked him about his heritage and how he had met Norrine. This is my recollection of his account of his courtship and subsequent marriage to her;

“Norrine came from a farming family in eastern Arkansas, and her father was a hard-working cotton farmer with darkly tanned skin and thick callused hands. He was a tall slender man who didn’t talk much, but when he did speak everyone stopped and listened. He loved his wife and children and provided as well for them as any Arkansas farmer could during the lean years of the Great Depression. I was a big city boy from the North and had lots of worldly experience, but recognized a good family with a beautiful girl raised in that environment. I had no prior experience with the culture of farming, but I quickly learned to appreciate the importance of daily hard work, and the protection of a loving father with his children and especially a daughter.

On my second date with Norrine she met me at the front door, and said her Dad wanted to talk with me. I had met him briefly prior to our first date, but had no significant conversation with him then. She said he was back in the kitchen. As I walked through the door into the kitchen I saw he was seated at the table facing the door, and there was one other chair directly across from him. I immediately noticed a very large pistol lying on the table and pointed toward the place where I sat down. Without any introductory remarks, he asked me “How do you like my pistol?” All I knew to say was, “It is a very nice looking pistol!” He said, “Pick it up and see what you think.” As I raised the pistol, I immediately noticed how heavy it was and even for a large man like myself was difficult to hold up for very long. He asked, “Do you think you could hit anything with it?” I said, “I could probably hit a large building like the barn outside with it!” while nervously chuckling. He picked up the pistol and in a slow sweeping motion of pointing the weapon around the walls of the room, he brought the barrel down between my eyes and said, “I can hit a fly on the wall with this pistol.” He left the pistol pointed at me for another second, and then placed it back on the table still pointed in my direction. Without even being subtle, he said he just wanted me to see his pistol before going out on the date with Norrine. I said something like, “I’ll make sure Norrine is safe, and I’ll be sure to protect her.” Andy told me, “If my intentions toward Norrine had not been honorable up to this point, they surely were from then on!”

Following a courtship over the following year, Andy and Norrine were married with the full permission and blessing of her father. World War II was imminent just prior to the events of Pearl Harbour, and Andy had avoided the draft by enlisting in the Navy. Following a brief honeymoon he received orders to report to the Naval base in San Diego, and they made preparations to move there. Although Andy would likely be shipped out of San Diego for duty in the Pacific, Norrine would remain in the apartment in San Diego awaiting his shore leave whenever that might occur. Norrine’s Dad wanted her to have as much protection as possible, especially during his deployment. To assure maximum protection for her, he gave her his long-barreled pistol and a supply of ammunition. Andy said when they got to San Diego and were settled, he placed the pistol on a shelf in a closet where it remained the entire time of their residence. He said the pistol was so heavy there was no way Norrine could lift it to even fire a shot! But at the very least, her Dad had done all he could to protect her.

In recalling this account to various couples with children, I am always struck by the importance of all parents, and especially Dad’s for protecting their children. In an age where predators and evil men seem to be in abundance, a strong and fearless Dad is a major deterrence to anyone with wrong intentions to harm his family. Norrine’s Dad was her protector until she married Andy, and then provided her with a “little” assistance when Andy was absent from the home. I believe this is God’s way! (Prov. 4: 1-4)

Dr. John

One Night in Cleveland

 

During my years as a general surgeon the Cleveland Clinic had the best reputation in the country for colorectal surgery and numerous scientific papers were published by their staff. The hospital excelled in other areas, but I was not as familiar with them. When I began having my own issues with heart disease I became more aware the Cleveland Clinic had the reputation of being one of the best centers for cardiac surgery and in particular valvular heart disease. Their surgeons are on the cutting edge of minimally invasive valvular replacement and repair. Fortunately I have not had problems with my heart valves.

Our son John Aaron who has been extremely healthy and aerobically fit has developed recent heart issues with a diminished exercise tolerance. He has been receiving excellent care from his primary care physician in El Dorado, but decided to have an evaluation at The Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock. One of the founders of the hospital is Dr. Bruce Murphy a distinguished cardiologist for many years and whose roots are in El Dorado. His father Rev. Bruce Murphy was Pastor for many years of Second Baptist Church and has been a wonderful friend and encourager, especially during the 30 years Cathy and I lived in El Dorado. Dr. Murphy’s responsibilities now are administrative, but he took a personal interest in John’s care which I very much appreciated.

Following initial evaluation by his cardiologist and followup several months later at Arkansas Heart Hospital John and wife Gina were told he had significant valvular heart disease. The problem primarily involving a “leaking” aortic valve, and the aortic regurgitation (blood back-flowing into the heart) was becoming worse. At the advice of his cardiologist and concurrence by Dr. Murphy, an appointment was made with Dr. Edward Soltesz at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Murphy said in his opinion  Dr. Soltesz was the best cardio-thoracic surgeon in the country and his sub-specialty was valvular heart problems. John and Gina were convinced the heart problem would require immediate repair, and with all their responsibilities including John’s leadership at Murphy USA as Senior Vice-President, the sooner he had the procedure the more quickly he could return to a more normal life-style. The appointment at Cleveland Clinic had to be postponed for 2 weeks because Dr. Soltesz was on vacation with his family. The appointment for pre-op evaluation was made for Monday July 30 and the operation was scheduled for the following morning.

Cathy and I were planning to be in Cleveland for the operation and remain until John was ready to come home. We made our airline reservations to arrive in Cleveland on the day prior to operation, and return home 3 days later depending on his post-operative condition. Delta Airlines was very gracious to sell us a “medical ticket” which allowed for cancellation of the reservation or extension to a later date depending on the medical condition of an immediate family member. We were able to purchase a similar ticket for our daughters, Mary Kay and Ginny so they could be present for their brother’s procedure.

The four of us were en route to Cleveland while John was receiving his pre-operative evaluation. Following the testing done at the Cleveland Clinic, John and Gina met with Dr. Soltesz and the cardiologist, Dr. Leonardo Rodriguez. They were extremely impressed with their doctors’ knowledge and their personalized care and concern. They were not in a hurry to fully explain John’s condition and prognosis, and made John and Gina believe they would patiently answer any question they might have. These are qualities not often seen in doctors in such large medical centers.

The joint recommendations of the two physicians was John would need to have aortic valvular replacement at some point in the future, but it was not needed at the present time. With evolving technology in minimally invasive surgery by the time John will need an operation, perhaps it can be done by means of a catheter through a peripheral artery!

When we arrived at the airport in Cleveland around 5 PM, I received a phone call from John telling me the good news they had just received. Our only regret at this point was having not received the news about 6 hours earlier before boarding the plane in Springfield. So we proceeded to the Intercontinental Hotel where the 4 of us met John, Gina and Landon, their youngest son for a celebration meal at the restaurant. That evening we all changed our airline reservations to return home the following morning.

We didn’t experience or see very much of Cleveland nor of the famed Cleveland Clinic. As we returned home the following day we thanked God for His provision for us, and for placing our son John into the skilled hands of the heart doctors of world-famous Cleveland Clinic. It was an expensive 2 day outing, but well-worth the cost.

Dr. John

 

The Evangelist Gives An Invitation

Revival Preacher

Evangelistic revivals are fast becoming events of a past generation in the modern church. I am old enough to remember when a scheduled revival meeting would begin on a Sunday morning continuing through the following Saturday evening, and if the meeting was successful it  might be extended for another week. As time progressed the usual revival of the 1980’s and 1990’s was reduced to a Sunday morning through Wednesday night. Fewer and fewer churches after the 1990’s even scheduled evangelists to come preach, until now only a very few pastors consider an evangelistic revival a relevant event for their church. I believe the church is missing a very significant tool for outreach evangelism, which for many decades was responsible for tens of thousands of spiritually dead sinners to make lasting professions of faith. I use the term lasting because one of the arguments against revivals is many recorded professions of faith from the past were simply emotional responses to high pressure techniques of over-zealous evangelists.

In a previous post I related the account of my friend Rev. Anton (Buddy) Uth’s first evangelistic visit. He was a college student at Ouachita Baptist University at the time, and upon graduation went to seminary to receive his M Div. degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He pastored many Southern Baptist churches in the south during his years of ministry. I was privileged to know and love him because his son David, who is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Orlando is married to our niece Rachel Moore. Brother David became our pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado for a 5 year period in the 1990’s. Besides being a wonderful pastor-shepherd, Brother Buddy could tell some of the most interesting and hilarious stories of any pastor I have known. I always thought one of his best stories concerned a visiting evangelist.

I don’t recall Brother Buddy revealing the name of the evangelist, and this account might well have been the first time this man had preached in one of his churches. In the modern church very few pastors wear a coat and tie, but in the majority of Southern Baptist churches prior to 2000, it would have been unthinkable for a pastor or evangelist to wear anything but a coat and tie. This evangelist had on his nicest suit and came fully prepared to lead a successful meeting.

For the initial service on Sunday morning Brother Buddy didn’t recognize prior to walking onto the platform with the evangelist, the visitor had failed to close the zipper of his pants. The visitor; however recognized his own mistake when he sat in his chair on the platform while the choir was singing the opening anthem. This was certainly not the time to close a zipper with all the congregants  watching the activities behind him. The preacher thought he could easily close his zipper when he stood to preach standing behind the pulpit, and the action would not be noticed by even the most observant viewer.

The church sanctuary was an old one without air conditioning and during the hot summer months the windows along the sides were kept open. This meeting was being held in the latter days of August before Labor Day. With the help of the ceiling fans the circulation was enough on most Sundays to keep the inside temperatures pleasant enough for a 1-2 hour service. The pulpit had been built years before by one of the skilled members, and to add a little color and formality a small silk cloth with tassels was covering the top of the pulpit. Those overlays were common in many country churches. The evangelist had no idea this colorful but unobtrusive item was about to become a focal point of his message that morning.

At the close of the choir special the evangelist kept his Bible and notes in front of him as he stood and quickly positioned himself behind the pulpit. While he was making introductory praise remarks to Pastor Buddy and the congregation he quickly pulled on the zipper and succeeded in closing it. His preaching style was not typical of many evangelists in that he primarily remained behind the pulpit while preaching. It was more common for preachers to move back and forth across the platform while speaking, stopping frequently to emphasize a particular point. This particular style for this preacher delayed the discovery of what had just occurred.

The evangelist  noted during his message the pulpit overlay seemed to moved slightly when he shifted positions, but he attributed it to the slight breeze coming into the auditorium and thought nothing of it. He remained stationed behind the pulpit and re-positioned his preaching notes. Nearing the close of his message he began making an appeal for anyone desiring to make a public profession of faith or re-commitment of their life to Christ to stand and make their way to the front of the auditorium. He said he and Brother Buddy would be at the front to receive them and pray with them. He asked the pianist to begin softly playing “Just As I Am.” With a quick turn and move the evangelist stepped fully out from behind the pulpit, and he discovered what had occurred when he zipped up his zipper!

One of the tassels was trapped in the top of his zipper and the entire overlay with his Bible and preaching notes came flying off the pulpit. He was suddenly fully exposed to the congregation with the brightly colored overlay hanging down from his pants. He made several attempts at freeing the tassel, but it was so deeply embedded it was not to be removed apart from being cut free. Brother Buddy said he and the entire congregation were so near to breaking out into laughter, the solemnity of the invitation time was gone. As the evangelist turned his back to the crowd he continued in his efforts to free the tassel. Brother Buddy said all he knew to do at the moment was to call on the Chairman of Deacons seated near the front to close in prayer. At the moment he seemed less likely to break out in laughter and was able to successfully voice a prayer.

As Brother Buddy usually said when recalling this funny incident, “Don’t ever assume what God may do in any church service. He will have His way.” God wants us to come to Him with a humble and contrite heart knowing anything good we have is from His hand. (Psalm 51: 16,17). I can think of few things which will humble a preacher more than standing in front of his hearers with a brightly colored pulpit overlay hanging from the front of his pants!

Dr. John

 

 

 

Aunt Fanny’s Cabin

Dining at Aunt Fanny’s Cabin

Prior to moving to Atlanta, Georgia in June, 1964 to begin my medical internship I had never lived in a major city. My 4 years in medical school in Little Rock were spent in a town so much larger than my home of El Dorado, Arkansas, yet by city population standards Little Rock is not a metropolis. Because of the immensity and intensity of the work of a medical student I didn’t get to enjoy many of the benefits of the city of Little Rock.

Atlanta was different in so many ways and frankly was a bit intimidating to a small town guy. I was at once very excited to move to a major city with my new MD degree and all the doors which might be opened, but at the same time frightened I might be swallowed up in the immensity of it all and lose any personal identity. At that point in life faith played no role in my thinking, and I was not seeking after God to direct my path. My secular thoughts led me to believe like the poem “Invictus”; I was the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.

Fortunately within a few months of living in Atlanta and working at Grady Memorial Hospital, I met a young and beautiful woman named Cathy Young with whom I fell madly in love. My work schedule at the hospital was crazy in those days since I was on call for 36 hours and off duty for 12 hours in a 2 day span. Those kind of work hours are no longer allowed because of the physical and emotional drain, but at the time I thought nothing about it because I was single, young and strong! Sleep and rest were accomplished by short, quick naps interspersed by 3-4 hours of deep sleep when available. Cathy will tell you I occasionally took short naps on her couch while waiting for her to get ready for a date.

My salary at the hospital was below poverty level, but this was the culture of medical training in those days. We expected the temporary poverty awaiting the time when larger incomes could be attained. Cathy was earning a salary for her teaching responsibilities as an elementary teacher, but her income was modest at best.

Our dates did not involve any expensive outings because we were relatively poor. Perhaps once each month we could afford dining in a moderately priced restaurant, but never in a 4 or 5 star restaurant. We ate lots of hamburgers and hot dogs, but I don’t recall ever feeling deprived. Had we been invited to a 5 star restaurant by someone who could afford it, we would have felt uncomfortable and out-of-place.

Perhaps our favorite restaurant for a special date was Aunt Fanny’s Cabin located in Smyrna, an Atlanta suburb. We didn’t get to go there often, but when we did it was a visual and culinary delight. Opened since the 1940’s Aunt Fanny’s Cabin catered to people who loved good Southern comfort food served in an atmosphere of a culture  long since gone.

When we lived in Atlanta the Civil Rights Movement was near its’ peak in intensity and confrontation. Reverend Martin Luther King whose church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta was a prominent figure in Atlanta and throughout the entire South. Sadly there were many death threats hurled against him and his family. At Grady Hospital there was always talk among our hospital staff we expected he might be brought to the emergency room at any time either severely wounded or killed. From a racial hatred and intolerance standpoint Atlanta was a risky and sometimes frightening place to live in the mid-1960’s.

Cathy and I never felt threatened or intimidated in any public place in which we dated, nor did we believe by eating in a restaurant like Aunt Fanny’s Cabin were we endorsing a stance of racial prejudice. It was a fun place we could occasionally afford and not only did we love the food, we had a good time there.

Upon entering the restaurant and being seated at a table with a red and white checkered tablecloth, a young black boy named “Jimmy” would come to the table with a large black board with a hole in the top of the board. Written on the board in white chalk were the  4 main entrees of the restaurant. Jimmy would say with a big wide-mouth grin; “Aant Fanny sez, howdy folks, what’ll it be? Today’s specials are — our famous Southern fried chicken — six dollas. Gen u wine Smithfield ham — six fifty. Charcoal broiled steak — sebn’ dollas and Rainbow trout — sebn’ fifty”

The price of the entrée included the side dishes which were brought to the table and  served family style. The sides included black-eyed peas, turnip greens, green beans, squash and mashed potatoes with gravy.The baked corn bread was absolutely delicious. As I recall when one finished the meal and was still hungry, desserts were available at a small extra charge. The meals were so filling only the heartiest diners had one of their desserts.

Occasionally Jimmy would stand at the table while allowing customers to read his menu sign and might recite a jingle or do a shortened version of the “Hambone.” This was a syncopated hand slap associated with a rhyming tune about a character named Hambone. I had known how to do the “Hambone” since junior high days in El Dorado when Buzzy Sutherlin and I had “Hambone” contests. Cathy had never seen such a thing and was intrigued by having seen me do it once or twice in private. On one occasion at Aunt Fanny’s Cabin I told Jimmy “I’ll bet you a dollar I can do the “Hambone” better than you.” We had a brief contest in front of several tables of near-by customers, who all seemed to enjoy it. It embarrassed Cathy just a little, but she didn’t urge me to stop. I didn’t prolong the contest fearing it might jeopardize Jimmy’s job, and I gave him a dollar for his good nature in contesting with me.

Cathy and I will always fondly remember our days of courtship in Atlanta. Despite the stresses of available free time, financial insufficiency and big city living, we had a blast. All of our remembrances of dining at Aunt Fanny’s Cabin are wonderful and I wish we could find restaurant food like that once again! We never considered the atmosphere of the place to be demeaning or insulting to black people, because neither of us was racially prejudiced. The restaurant was closed in the 1980’s for some of those reasons.

Dr. John

PS: I always thought I beat Jimmy in the contest!