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Doctor Walter Chase Shares Memories of Small Town Doctoring, 1980

Doc Chase wrote an article for the New-Sun Newspaper in Sun City, AZ after his retirement. He shared the article with the library, as well as the Jefferson Herald, so the local folks would be able to read it.

 Jefferson Herald, October 30, 1980

 (Doc Chase also sent this article to the Rippey Library to be shared with the community.)

Former Rippey doctor recalls early practice

The following clipping taken from the New-Sun.,  published in Sun City, AZ, on Oct 4, 1980, was submitted to the Rippey  postmaster, who in turn gave it to the Rippey reporter, related to the Sun City news columnist by Dr. Walter Chase "Lanterns Lighted Doctor's Way"—It was a glorious July morning in 1933 when I opened my office for general practice in Rippey, Iowa (population 350) The race between the time it took to prepare and the money I had to invest in this project was almost a draw. I won with the largest $5 bill ever printed, left in my most secure pocket.

 In 1928 I entered Washington University in St Louis. I was going to be an electrical engineer.  After one year, I knew it had to be medicine. I wanted to get my training here because it ranked fifth in the United States. I had to work my way through school, and with St. Louis being my home town, I knew best where to seek part-time employment.

Every minute of my pre-med years was planned ahead. I had to earn money to live and study hard to receive grades sufficiently high to qualify for acceptance into medical school. I met the challenge and interned at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines.

 My lovely, dedicated wife, the former Pearl Henry of Van Meter, Iowa, was in her senior year in nurses' training during my internship. We were married at the end of our training, July 31, 1933. The office we rented for $15 per month had been vacant for some time. It required hard, fast work before any opening date could be announced. It consisted of a small entrance area, drug room and treatment room.  We obtained our water from a pump next door.  The toilets were of "Maggie and Jiggs" era.

Our office hours were 9 to noon and 2 to 5 p.m. on week days and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. We made house calls before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m., except for emergencies. These were accepted anytime.

I kept the drug room stocked and my charge was only for the drugs dispensed. Our gross income for the last portion of 1933 was $1,024 and for the entire year of 1934 it was $2,000. We bought a home for $1,800 at five percent interest. After 10 years of practice we had advanced our office charge for each visit to $2 plus drugs and $3 plus drugs for a night call. Medical progress was evidenced when the Greene County Hospital was opened in Jefferson, Iowa in 1939. It received patients from the farms and small towns in our area. Babies were delivered at home prior to the opening of the hospital. Many a bed was converted into a makeshift delivery table.

We are the parents of two sons and one daughter. Pearl asked me to deliver our children. I was very proud of the confidence she placed in my ability. Today, our family has increased by six grandchildren.

When Pearl and I were married, I owned a 1930 Model A Ford. No car could have battled the mud, blizzards and snowdrifts as well as a Model A. However, there were times when a farmer had to pick me up in his bobsled.  On several of these occasions we drove on top of deep drifts that were higher than the fences. A blinding blizzard was the most dangerous hazard. It could be combatted only by walking to get to my call. In this case, neighbors lighted lanterns to mark the way for me. Driving on mud roads was a slippery, sliding ordeal. But on frozen roads it was a tire-cutting, vertebrae-fracturing peril.

I practiced medicine in Rippey for 33 years. The University of Northern Iowa at Cedar Falls was in need of an associate director of student health, so I accepted the position. After five years, I became the director. We retired in 1973 to this beautiful sunshine city of Sun City.


Pearl died July 8, 1986 and Doc died November 17, 2001.  They are buried in the Rippey Cemetery.