Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Informal medical practitioners

Durham's mother-in-law was a respected local medical practitioner, and here Durham explains how local healthcare worked, especially when community members called a doctor and when they called his mother-in-law instead.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DOUGLAS DENATALE:
A lot of people in town have told me about her mother, Mrs. Ida Smith. She took care of a lot of the people in town, didn't she?
FRANK DURHAM:
Oh, yes, she did. Her mother was the same as a doctor, near about. And Louise did what she could, but her mother was real good. Children and people that's sick. They all did; they just sent them children.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Do you know how her mother learned to doctor like that?
FRANK DURHAM:
No, I don't. They were just old-time remedies that were handed down, and she was the best with babies that I ever saw. I declare, she could do anything with a baby that a doctor couldn't do, it looked like, near about. One thing: she knew these old remedies actually better-I mean, at the time she was at it-than the doctors knew a whole lot, it looked like. They've got the specialists and all now, you know. But around a neighborhood like this one here, years ago, there was no doctor, hardly. If you went to the hospital, you had to go to Watts, or Rex in Raleigh; that was all. And you didn't go unless you was dying or something about. Nobody didn't go to the hospital; hardly ever in the world anybody went to the hospital. And people in the neighborhood looked after one another the best they could, and they did pretty good at it. And another thing, it's a fact that if you lived along then and compare them times with now, people are just doing too much running to the doctor now. [Laughter] The doctor'll kill you, if you fool with him too much. [Laughter] You take something like appendicitis or some dreaded thing like that, they'd carry you to a doctor, near about always. But I'd see Dr. Chapin over here at Pittsboro sitting around over there waiting on patients. Now you can't get in nowhere, hardly. And he didn't have nothing to do; he didn't make much more than they did in the mill. He didn't have much to do, Dr. Chapin. And this daddy before him was a doctor. They were good doctors, but there just weren't nobody that wanted them much. I had an uncle that was a doctor lived by the river up here, Dr. Mann. He took a whole lot of his earnings that he could get hold of; they had to pay him stuff off the farm a whole lot: meat and stuff like that. That's all they had, and if you didn't take that, you'd be out. Of course he got some money, but they didn't make no big thing noways like they do now. No way, no comparison.