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Gatewood: This is a tape of a series sponsored by the Kentucky Folklife Foundation, in cooperation with the Oral History Commission, series of tapes devoted to healthcare in the tri-county area of Pulaski, McCreary, and−

Simpson: .

Gatewood: . Thank you. I’m in the home of Miss− [coughs] Excuse me. Miss Pauline Simpson. Miss Simpson’s father was a doctor in the coal camp at Co-op – cooperative. Mr. Simpson passed away in ’73, but his daughter has some memories that would be valuable in recreating some of the experiences that a coal physician, a physician in a coal camp, may have experienced. Miss Simpson− [coughs] Excuse me. How old were you when you, were you born at the camp?

Simpson: No. I was three years old when we moved. Three years old.

Gatewood: What, was it actually a town? Was there−

Simpson: Well, not really a big town. Just, you know, a number of houses. A little village, or whatever you would call it. Camp, mostly.

Gatewood: And your father was, of course, the only physician there.

Simpson: He was the only one there at Co-op, yes.

Gatewood: Did he have any staff there in his office, besides himself?

Simpson: No, just himself.

Gatewood: Is that right. Now where did he, where did he come from, and what was his background, and what was his training, this type of thing?

Simpson: He received his training in . It was called the University of, , at the time that he graduated.

Gatewood: Mm hmm. Back in the year−

Simpson: 1905.

Gatewood: 1905. And after he graduated, where did he move and practice?

Simpson: Well, he practiced in , and , and . And we were living in when we moved here in 1929.

Gatewood: 1929. And that was, I guess, at a time when the coal business was really booming.

Simpson: Yes, it was.

Gatewood: They were moving out, was this a new camp?

Simpson: Well, no. I don’t suppose so. There had been doctors before him. Maybe one or two, anyway.

Gatewood: What, what kind of relationship did he have to the company and the patient? Did the company, did they pay him a salary?

Simpson: They paid him a salary. The miners paid him so much, and they paid him a salary. Yes.

Gatewood: Do you remember how much they paid to him? I guess it was taken out of their pay?

Simpson: Yes, it was taken out of their pay. But I have no idea. I would say that he got about four or five hundred dollars a month. I don’t know. I don’t remember that.

Gatewood: Yes, I was thinking more about what the miners would pay for the care. Pay the company.

Simpson: Oh, I have no idea how much they paid.

Gatewood: But whatever they paid, they had full medical coverage, did they? At least they had access to your father?

Simpson: Well, yes, yes. Any time they came, day or night, he had to go to the office, or to go on call, as we called it.

Gatewood: I can imagine that would have been, how many people were in the camp?

Simpson: Oh, I don’t know. I guess about 200 people.

Gatewood: That must have been quite a job, I would think.

Simpson: Yes. Of course, there were, you know, out in the mountains, that people lived. And of course he had to go to those people, too.

Gatewood: Those that didn’t even work in the mines, sometimes? Or−

Simpson: Well, no. A lot of them worked in the mines, but they just didn’t live there in the camp. They lived out in the mountains.

Gatewood: Oh, I see. So he wasn’t just responsible for the 200 in the camp−

Simpson: No.

Gatewood: − but a number out in the mountain area, too.

Simpson: Yes. Yes.

Gatewood: Can you remember any experiences that your father had with people who, that lived in somewhat isolated situations in the, well, I guess the whole thing was isolated, wasn’t it?

Simpson: It was isolated. Yes. When we moved down there, you had to walk from White Oak Junction. And we called it, which was about two miles, up into camp.

Gatewood: Did he have any relationship to some of the folk types of medicine, and people that− Obviously, without having doctors before, they must have had some type of healthcare.

Simpson: Well, I’m sure that they did. But I don’t know that much about it.

Gatewood: Like were people, did they have, before the coming of the doctor, midwives?

Simpson: Oh, yes.

Gatewood: So he did relate to mid−

Simpson: Yes, he did.

Gatewood: Did he deliver babies?

Simpson: Yes. He delivered babies for ten dollars. Yes. That was about the fee. Sometimes he was gone for three days, maybe, day and night.

Gatewood: Did he, did he work sometimes with the midwives? With people who would prefer the midwives?

Simpson: Well, I’m sure that he did. But there were a lot of times when he went to deliver, there were midwives, or somebody that helped him.

Gatewood: Mm hmm.

Simpson: A neighbor or whatever, you know. And some were midwives.

Gatewood: Did, how did he get his drugs that he used?

Simpson: Well, from a drugs salesman that came.

Gatewood: Came strictly right to the camp?

Simpson: Right to him. No, they came to the camp.

Gatewood: To the camp.

Simpson: Well, yes. I’m sure that they visited all the doctors in the other camps. But they did come to him in the camp. Yes. We had a K&T Railroad that they came on.

Gatewood: So in that sense, you weren’t that isolated. The railroad came right through you.

Simpson: Well as I said, when we moved there, the railroad didn’t go all the way into the camp. Later, it did.

Gatewood: I see. You had to walk. I see. When did the railroad come in? What year was that? Do you remember?

Simpson: I don’t, I don’t remember that.

Gatewood: Well how was it like, life in a coal camp, for a young girl growing up, a child?

Simpson: Well, of course, I enjoyed it. I’m sure I missed out on a lot of things that I would have gotten had I lived in a city or a larger town but…

Gatewood: Did you have a school right there?

Simpson: Yes, we did. Eight grades, and then two years of high school.

Gatewood: Was your, was your father involved in any, I guess, I’m not sure if I can even ask this, because I’m sure he had his hands full just dealing with immediate care of people, but he wasn’t involved with any type of relationship to the school, did he, in education? Health education type thing?

Simpson: No.

Gatewood: Did you recall that, at that, when you were growing up, had the health department become involved in−

Simpson: Oh, yes. They had a health nurse that would visit the schools.

Gatewood: We’re dealing with, I asked you earlier about the dates. But you really began remembering quite a while after he had already been there for some time.

Simpson: Yes. Oh, yes. I was only, I was three years old when we moved there.

Gatewood: Now when, did you ever go out with him on any of the−

Simpson: Yes, I have been. Lots of times. Drive and so forth.

Gatewood: Can you remember any of the situations where you went into? And what type thing he was doing?

Simpson: Yes, I can remember. I’ve been with him to deliver babies. And other places, too.

Gatewood: When you went out to deliver babies, did the people kind of congregate around?

Simpson: Well, yes, they did.

Gatewood: That’s sort of a traditional thing, wasn’t it?

Simpson: And lots of times, he had to eat with them, and whatever.

Gatewood: So there was really kind of a home situation there. They made him feel at home.

Simpson: Right.

Gatewood: And helped him, washed things. I wonder, is that, as you reflect back on it, do you think that was probably a traditional way? It kind of sort of was the way that they had always done, the midwife−

Simpson: Oh, yes. I think so, yes. Of course, he had some bad situations, too. I know that.

Gatewood: Tell me some of that in general things.

Simpson: Well, you know, a lot of the mountain people, they’re not, their cleanliness is, you know, not that good, and things like that.

Gatewood: Had a hard time establishing a sanitary−

Simpson: Sanitary. Yes.

Gatewood: Were you able to help sometimes in getting things clean?

Simpson: No. No, no, I didn’t do anything like that.

Gatewood: I guess you were young and just didn’t−

Simpson: Right. I don’t know if this would be interesting or not, but anyway, my dad rode a wheel, we called it a wheel, a lot. He did a lot of walking in the mountains, and did his practice by walking. And, of course, rode horseback. But he rode a wheel up and down the railroad track. It looked like a bicycle, only it, of course, it had four wheels. And if he’d meet the train, why of course, he’d have to get off, and get the wheel off. And then put it back on the tracks.

Gatewood: That’s amazing. That is interesting. That was one of mode of his transportation.

Simpson: It was. Somebody asked me the other day, whatever happened to the wheels? And I told him I didn’t know. I wish I knew.

Gatewood: That is amazing. How in the world would he know when a train was coming in time−

Simpson: He’d hear a whistle or whatever. [laughs]

Gatewood: That’s intriguing to me. Yes, I’m glad you mentioned that. Now in addition to the wheel, you say he did a lot of walking. And what else?

Simpson: Yes, a lot of walking. And horseback, we did do some horseback riding.

Gatewood: I guess in the early, did he get an automobile at some point?

Simpson: Oh, yes. At some point in time. But I guess it was a Model-T. I’m sure. We have some pictures of Model-T.

Gatewood: I guess one of the problems in the early period, there just weren’t roads, were there?

Simpson: No, there wasn’t. I guess in about 1937, I can remember, we had a ’37 Chevrolet, and we’d come out, and I know this one particular place at Yamacraw, which we had to come up the hill. And it was just big sand rocks that you had to climb.

Gatewood: How did, could you kind of describe the housing that people had usually?

Simpson: The housing?

Gatewood: Yes. Both in the camp, and those that lived up in the hills.

Simpson: Well, the housing in the camp was mostly just four rooms, box type houses, you know? I don’t think too many of them had bathrooms. The house that we lived in did. And the houses, of course, in the mountains, and around, I guess, were mostly log cabins and just box type, too.

Gatewood: Did the people that lived out of the camp, did they seem to farm a little bit?

Simpson: Yes, they did.

Gatewood: As well as mining.

Simpson: Yes, they did. I don’t know, I mean, my daddy was paid with scrip, we called it scrip. At one time, it was in little books like stamps, you see. And then, then this collection that I have here, he was paid like that a lot of times, you see.

Gatewood: Just like the miner was.

Simpson: Yes. So I don’t know if you want that on there or not.

Gatewood: Well, that’s interesting. The fact that he was paid with scrip is very interesting. Things that you think are interesting, you just help me out in terms. And you describe what you think about. It would be very helpful. On most anything about the life of the camp, or about his practice, would be interesting.

Simpson: Well, there were several epidemics. I guess one epidemic was spinal meningitis. And of course he called the doctors from out here. I don’t know, there must have been four or five that came down there. I remember that. I wasn’t very old. And another time, there was an epidemic, I guess it was sleeping sickness. He called it creek fever, because we had all been swimming in the creek. But there was some serious damage. Some died. And other things like that that happened.

Gatewood: Was there any problems with typhoid fever?

Simpson: I don’t remember any cases of typhoid fever, but I’m sure that there was. I just don’t remember them.

Gatewood: Those sort of stand out in your mind because they were new and involved the whole town.

Simpson: Yes. And we were quarantined both times. On those two different occasions.

Gatewood: How did the people relate to the doctors? I’ve heard it said time and time again that the people, there was a tendency for people to abuse the company doctors.

Simpson: Oh, I think they did. A lot of them did. If they, you know, whether they were real sick or not, they’d come. I think they did.

Gatewood: That’s, was it very widespread? Or was it just more of people that were hypochondriacs by nature?

Simpson: Well probably hypochondriacs, yes, by nature.

Gatewood: And I guess of course the fact that they had free medical care. Well, not free, but it was preventive care program−

Simpson: Right.

Gatewood: You get some of that. I’m in preventive care in . And I think some people tend to abuse the thing. Some people use it against any type of approach that way. And I just, it’s always fascinated me. Is that a general tendency? I mean, is that human nature? Is it a cultural thing? Or is just poor doctors that are already overworked are just being flooded by just a few hypochondriacs?

Simpson: Well, I think they just, you know, a hypochondriac, every little thing, scratch or whatever, they came. I guess because they were paying so much a month. Of course, he had his own medicine. And he always gave the envelopes full of medicine, you know.

Gatewood: He dispensed the medicine just out.

Simpson: He did.

Gatewood: So he was really his own druggist, wasn’t he?

Simpson: Right.

Gatewood: Took it from the salesman.

Simpson: Right. He had the pills, whatever, all kinds. Then big bottles of the cough syrup or whatever it was. I know I still have some of the bottles that he had.

Gatewood: Did he do any, did he do any private practice in addition to the company?

Simpson: No. Well, I mean, after the mines, he did some. But not a lot. That was in his later years.

Gatewood: Right. Did he seem, as a person, to enjoy the work that he did?

Simpson: Very much.

Gatewood: And he had been in private practice before, hadn’t he?

Simpson: Yes.

Gatewood: What is it, do you think, he liked about it?

Simpson: I don’t know. I guess being with people. He liked to talk a lot.

Gatewood: And I guess it was like a little small community. Did he really get to know each other, people?

Simpson: Oh, yes, yes. We knew everybody.

Gatewood: Were there ministers in the camp, too?

Simpson: No. Well, yes. A few. Not a whole lot. I can remember preachers or ministers coming, and holding revivals down there. But I guess we didn’t go a whole lot.

Gatewood: And they were, they were mainly−

Simpson: Mountain.

Gatewood: Mountain type preachers.

Simpson: Preachers, yes.

Gatewood: There was not a Union church or anything like a Southern−

Simpson: No, not like a Southern Baptist or anything like that. They hadn’t really been to school.

Gatewood: So I guess your father didn’t really have very, probably as close a relationship with these men because of the difference in their approach to−

Simpson: Right.

Gatewood: How about, we could talk about the teachers. There were mainly elementary, I guess, and up to eighth grade.

Simpson: Eighth grade. And then the two years of high school. Of course, they didn’t have the two years of high school all the time that we lived down there.

Gatewood: Was your mother living at the time?

Simpson: Yes. Yes. Well, my mother died in 1946.

Gatewood: Oh, I see. Uh huh. Did she like, did she adjust to the life?

Simpson: Yes, she adjusted.

Gatewood: Did she help your father at times?

Simpson: Well, I can’t remember her going.

Gatewood: Can you remember his office? How it looked?

Simpson: Yes, I can. [laughs] I guess it wasn’t very much of an office. Had probably a potbellied stove and some cane chairs, and things like that. I mean, it wasn’t a fancy office or anything like that.

Gatewood: Just one room there.

Simpson: There were two rooms.

Gatewood: Two rooms. Sort of a waiting room and−

Simpson: Yes. Where he did his, you know, whatever. And kept his medicines. The second room.

Gatewood: How did it look?

Simpson: [laughs] Well, I don’t know. He kept his medicine on the shelf. And I guess he did have an old operating table, and a few things like that.

Gatewood: And a few tools.

Simpson: Tools. Yes. And his bags, with his instruments and things that he carried. When he went on calls, he carried medicine. And then when we went to deliver babies, of course, he had another, we called them grips.

Gatewood: Did he do more work outside his office than in his office? Home calls?

Simpson: I would say that he did.

Gatewood: So he was really on the go.

Simpson: He was on the go. Yes.

Gatewood: Were there any mine tragedies that−

Simpson: Oh, yes. I can remember him lots of times going in the mines. In a coal car, as we call them.

Gatewood: To care for someone who’s hurt.

Simpson: Right. Lots of times. I don’t know if this would be interesting or not, but of course when we moved there in 1929, it was kind of a mean or rough place, whatever you want to say. And he had to carry a pistol.

Gatewood: Is that right.

Simpson: And they had a lot of killings. And I remember being up all night. You know, my daddy would be at the office with whoever was shot, or whatever, along with the killing. And then they’d have to send a motorcar down to get whoever, and then take them out to take them to the hospital. So we had some trying times, too.

Gatewood: I can imagine. It was a real rough environment.

Simpson: Oh, it was rough. Yes.

Gatewood: Well, that’s very interesting. I wonder what, what do you think caused that? Was it just the rapid change? Or were people genuinely another type of, what causes that?

Simpson: I don’t know. I guess kind of feuding, a lot of it. You know, they do have feuds in the mountains, and a lot of it, I guess, was that.

Gatewood: I hadn’t thought about what you mentioned, too. Getting people to the hospital. That was quite a, you had to wait until a train came, didn’t you?

Simpson: Well, what they called a motorcar, as we called it. Which was a car on wheels that had a motor. And they’d come down and get them and bring them out to Stearns. And then I guess the nearest hospital was at . At that time.

Gatewood: Amazing. Hmm. So I guess your father tried to do all he could within his limits.

Simpson: Yes, he did.

Gatewood: Because a wounded person or a seriously ill person− All right. Were there any, you said that it was a very violent community. What type of situations did doctors have to go into sometime that could lead to them being hurt themselves?

Simpson: Well, they had a saloon type thing, you know. And I think that two men were killed and the man that did the killing. When he had to sit up, was in the office with them all night. And I know of several occasions where they’d be killed up on the mountains, and Daddy would have to go.

Gatewood: Mm hmm. Were there many family disputes that could get violent?

Simpson: Well, I don’t remember any family disputes. It would be between, you know, different families.

Gatewood: Do you remember anything about the way these people took to the doctors? The fact that they hadn’t seen, maybe I’m overplaying this, but I wouldn’t think that they had not had much relationship with doctors before, particularly.

Simpson: No, I don’t think so. As I say, I think there might have been two or three doctors there before we went there in 1929.

Gatewood: Right. So the ones, there were doctors before, company doctors. And I guess there were new people coming into the mines all the time.

Simpson: Oh, there was. And you know, if a lot of the doctors out of the other camps were gone, then Daddy had to, say, get on his wheel, as we called it, and he had to go to the other camps. And take care, practice there. They helped each other.

Gatewood: Did they ever, were they ever able to take a vacation?

Simpson: Not very often. No. I can remember going to , which was where we came from, to this county a couple of times. We went on the train. I had never ridden a bus until I was grown. We always rode the train.

Gatewood: There’s no passenger train out there now, is it?

Simpson: Oh, no.

Gatewood: I mean, well, of course, there’s nothing now. Just the track beds.

Simpson: Nothing there now. Right.

Gatewood: In terms of preventive medicine, your father was not too involved in that, was he? Like giving inoculations?

Simpson: I don’t remember him giving inoculations. I know he gave us ours, but I don’t remember that. I’m pretty sure it was the health nurse that came to the school.

Gatewood: So he cooperate, work with them, with the nurse.

Simpson: Right. Right.

Gatewood: So really, the camps were just like, as far as the state services were concerned, they did offer some things? Although the schools were paid by the camp, weren’t they?

Simpson: The schools?

Gatewood: Right.

Simpson: No, they weren’t paid for by the camp. No.

Gatewood: Oh, they weren’t. I see. This is later. They were, initially. But the state was paying when you−

Simpson: Yes. They were state schools. Yes.

Gatewood: See, the early period, they were run by the camp. And teachers were paid−

Simpson: I remember we had just a two-room, great big building that we went to school in. Then we had a one-room, little old house type thing that we, they held classes in. Up on the hill from the other school. And then sometimes we had to cross the creek, and we had school in just a house. And then eventually they did build a new school, which I think had about four rooms in it.

Gatewood: And that was, you think, was built by the state? Or by the, by the camp?

Simpson: No, it wasn’t by the camp.

Gatewood: Wasn’t by the Stearns Coal…

Simpson: It was the state.

Gatewood: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. But in the area of medicine, healthcare, they paid for that, at least through this cut off system. Except the preventive healthcare.

Simpson: You mean through the school.

Gatewood: No, through the company. The company paid the doctors.

Simpson: Oh, yes. Well, the miners paid the company.

Gatewood: The company. Who in turn used the money−

Simpson: Who in turn paid the doctor.

Gatewood: To pay the doctor. Mm hmm. But the company, did they pay a certain amount irregardless of how much came in? Or just exactly what was paid, was paid the doctor?

Simpson: As far as I know, it was just what the men paid in. And in turn, that was paid to the doctor.

Gatewood: I see. So the company didn’t, it really wasn’t, they just handed the money to the doctor.

Simpson: Right.

Gatewood: Well did the medicine that your father bought, did he buy his own medicine? Or did the company provide it?

Simpson: As far as I remember, he had to buy his own medicine.

Gatewood: So he had to make due with whatever that amount was taken out.

Simpson: Right. Now I mean, that’s what I remember.

Gatewood: Yes. Right. Mm hmm. Yes. And being a child at a time, I’m not sure exactly, it’s going to come to the end of the tape.

[End Side A. Begin Side B.]

[End Interview.]