Good Southern Boys

Good Southern Boys

I was born at home (361 Front Street) 12/28/1931.  My mother was no longer employed as the school district would not employ married women as teachers.  My father was not employed as the anthracite coal industry on which much of Pottsville’s economy depended was in severe decline. The Depression was a strong reality.

In February of 1932 we travelled by bus to Edgley, PA. and stayed with my mother’s brother Russ (a twin of Ray) and his wife, an Englishwoman named Annie.

A short time later we moved on, by Greyhound Bus to Galveston, TX and lived with my father’s brother Joe.

My father scrabbled for work and found some here and there.  For a short time he worked at the Todd Shipyards on Pelican Island catching hot rivets. (This was a job he nearly didn’t have because when told in the morning to come back this evening to begin work he reported at 4:00pm.  The foreman was upset that Schmidty didn’t know ‘This evening’ meant after noon.)

Each of the jobs ran out and the Depression continued.

Galveston had suffered tremendous destruction and enormous loss of life in 1900 when a hurricane inundated the island.  A high seawall to protect the city was being built in fits and starts.

Schmidty applied for a job, any job, on the project.

He was interviewed by a chubby Protestant preacher who sat tilted back in his chair with his hands folded on his stomach.  After a short review of Schmidty’s qualifications for any of the positions the interviewer told him.  “ Why don’t you go back up north where you came from?  We need to have these jobs for our good southern boys.”

Job prospects didn’t improve for northern or southern boys and in a few more weeks we were on our way back to PA. by Greyhound Bus.

AMA Against Medical Advice

AMA Against Medical Advice

Patients and doctors don’t always agree on their treatment plan or progress in treatment.  The patient may leave the hospital AMA after signing release of liability and discussion.  A patient may decline the ambulance attendant’s advice and refuse to be transported to the hospital and he/she then signs an AMA form. There are many reasons given for leaving AMA.

My most memorable AMA didn’t involve any forms or witnesses to the discussion and signature which usually accompanies an AMA event.

About mid-morning in the office the nurse told me that “Mel’ had come in and looked so bad they had moved hm ahead of everyone else and put him in a room.  I entered the exam room to see my barber seated  on the table end, pale, perspiring profusely, and breathing a bit rapidly. 

“My chest hurt me most of the night and I couldn’t wait for an appointment,” he informed me. 

I assured him he had been right to seek medical attention but thought he should have gone to the hospital emergency room.

“I’m not going to that hospital, never have.  You take care of me here,” was his demand.

The nurse entered the room with the EKG machine as I listened to his loudly pounding heart and the sounds in his chest that indicated fluid was building up in his lungs.

The EKG tracing indicated that a myocardial infarction was occurring-he was having a heart attack.

“Mel, I’m telling you this is really serious and you need to be in the hospital.  We need to call the ambulance and get you there right away, like NOW.”

“No, I will not ride in an ambulance to the hospital.  You just write out the papers and I’ll drive myself.”

We dickered for a minute or two and I said I would go write the orders for admission.  I also planned to call his wife from their home nearby to drive him to the hospital.  I quickly wrote the orders and returned to the room to find the door open and Mel absent.

The nurse was looking flustered and said he had come out of the room in a rush saying he would take care of things himself. 

“He just wouldn’t listen.  He just rushed out the door yelling he’d take care of things himself”, she reported.

I alerted the hospital that he was on his way and called his wife to alert her to the situation and enlist her help.

The morning passed with no further word about Mel or his location or condition.

About five hours after Mel’s abrupt departure from my office the nurse told me I had a call from a doctor at Scripps Hospital north of San Diego.  I picked up the phone and the doctor immediately began to berate me for allowing Mel to leave my office and drive 210 miles through desert, across the coastal mountain range and through the city of San Diego while he was suffering a myocardial infarction.

I finally got him to realize the only way to have kept Mel in Yuma for treatment was to have physically restrained him.

Mel was 210 miles away AGAINST MEDICAL ADVICE.

P.S. Mel survived and lived another 4-5 years, a tribute to pure cussedness.

He Died Happy

He Died Happy

The lady was a patient new to my practice.  I was taking a history of her and becoming familiar with her.  Questions relating to previous illnesses, current problems, and her social history were asked and being answered, in part as follows.

Me: ”Are you married and living with your husband?”

Patient: “No, I’ve been widowed for three years,” followed by a reflective pause, and then,”but he died happy.”

I looked at her quizzically and she said, “Yes, I know he was happy.  It happened on a Sunday morning.  That’s when we usually, you know, ‘fooled around.’  We had just made love, and then he rolled over on his side and died.  That’s how I know he died happy.”

There was a moment of silence as I digested the information, tacitly acknowledged this bit of intimate information, and then proceeded with my questions and subsequent exam and treatment.

I saw the lady over subsequent years for various problems and treatments, and several times as she left the office she stopped, put her hand on my arm and said, “Yes, I know he died happy.”

I think she was a wise and perceptive woman.

Kirkus Book Review

Kirkus Book Review


A collection of debut short essays recalling the author’s experiences during five decades as a general practitioner in the American Southwest.

This memoir, which has a fluid timeline that moves back and forth over more than four decades, is loaded with vignettes about Schmidt’s experiences with individual patients. As a result, it effectively illustrates the day-to- day life of a general practitioner before the days of medical conglomerates. He opens, for instance, with an amusing tale about Christmas Eve 1962, in Jal, when he was repeatedly called to the emergency room to treat patients’ injuries after they tried out skateboards they gave their kids. He also occasionally vents about Medicare regulations regarding such things as doorway widths and about “new societal norms” that discourage diagnostic physical contact, but he also counsels that doctors must always listen to what their patients are saying—and, yes, he has a story for that. 

Engaging, sometimes-poignant, and occasionally acerbic stories from a longtime physician. 

Read the full Kirkus Book Review here.