Things surely have changed since I was a kid! Babies now have their first immunization shots when they are only a few weeks old. All that was required in the 1920s was for a child to have his "shots" before he started school. Women had their babies at home with the help of a midwife or a female family member. A doctor was called only when the birth was a difficult one. A wife took care of her husband at home when he was sick and nursed her children at home. Only in the case of extreme or terminal illness, the patient might be sent to New Orleans for hospitalization.
There were only two doctors in Kaplan when I was a child, and my family used both of them. Dr. Abshire was the doctor who tended my mother when Jerry was born, and it was Dr. Poche who administered my shots when I was six years old, before I started school. Dr. Abshire was a kindly gentleman who lived in a big white house on the corner across the street from the LeJeune family. Dr. Poche lived one block over in a rather small house, but his yard covered almost half a block and he had a huge aviary with all sorts of exotic birds. My memory is not quite clear here, but I think it was his daughter who showed visiting children those beautiful birds.
When I was about four years old, I had diphtheria, but I don't remember being sick. I only recall waking up in my little bed in the alcove off my parents' bedroom. I sat up and said brightly, "Good morning!" I couldn't understand why everyone was sitting in the room and why they all laughed, until Dee explained to me that what I thought was the morning sun shining through the window was really the setting sun. Then they sent my brother Jay running over to Dr. Abshire's to let him know that I had wakened and was alright.
I've told you that my Dad worked as a hunting guide in the winter. Once, when he had taken a hunting party out to the marsh to hunt wild ducks, everyone was walking back to the boat with their game slung over their shoulders. Dad slipped and grabbed a big clump of marsh grass to break his fall. Well, it happened that a water moccasin was living there, and it bit Dad in the palm of his right hand. He jerked his hand back, and the snake came with it! He finally was able to shake it off, and then opened the wound with his hunting knife to suck out the poison. His companions were panic-stricken, didn't know what to do, so were not able to help him. He ended up carrying their game as well as his own back to the boat, then he had to drive the boat back to Intracoastal City. I don't remember who it was who drove him home from there. Mom called Dr. Poche to attend him. Dad had to stay in bed several days, and for the next seven years after, at the same time of the year he broke out with one great big oozing sore some place on his body. Dr. Poche told him that was just some more of the poison coming out. I'm not sure I believe that.
The only other time I had to have a doctor when I was little was when I hurt my left eye while playing with my Dad's stick pen. I am not sure they have those any more, but they were the fashion then. A gentleman used a stick pin to fasten his necktie to his shirt, much in the manner a tie tack is used today. Anyway, Dad had one with a gorgeous red stone in it. Of course, I'd been warned not to touch it. But it was so pretty!
I knew I'd been naughty, so I didn't tell Mom what had happened until she noticed that my eye was real teary. She immediately sent someone to the machine shop to tell Dad that he needed to borrow Mr. Hebert's car because I had to be taken to the eye doctor in Lafayette.
That doctor's name was Landry. I remember going up some dark stairs to his office. I remember the smell of liquor on his breath. And I remember when he said, "There's nothing wrong with this child's eye," Mom told him, "I can see the cut across the pupil!" Then she scooped me up in her arms and marched out of that place, stomping down the stairs, leaving Dad to take care of paying the bill. When he came to meet us in the car, he had some ointment and a black patch in a little bag. Mom applied the ointment faithfully, but I hated that patch and loaned it to my brother to play pirate with. He looked quite dashing.
Of course, that didn't help my hurt eye at all. I gradually lost vision in it and have spent my life blind in my left eye. But, you know, I was not treated any differently by my family, and I didn't know I should feel sorry for myself. So I never did
Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA
this window to return to the "On the Bayou..." listings
(Left click on the "X" in upper right-hand corner of this window.)