Oral History Interview with Drs. Fred and Malene Irons

Part 1


Interviewer: Ruth Moskop

Transcribed by: Sabrina Coburn

26 Total Pages

Copyright 1999 by East Carolina University. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from East Carolina University.

RM: My name is Ruth Moskop. It is May 5, 1999. I'm here at the home of Doctors Fred and Malene Irons, at 100 Hickory Street in Greenville, North Carolina. We're just about to begin a conversation about them, how they set up their practice of medicine in Greenville. Doctors Fred and Malene, do I have your permission to record this interview?

DM: Oh, yes.

DF: Yes, you do.

RM: Thank you. You were just telling me a story, Dr. Fred, how was your office set up when you first came to Greenville?

DF: Well, we had a house on the comer of 8th and Evans Street, it was a big house, so we lived upstairs and had the offices downstairs, and Malene had all of the crying babies, of course, and my adults didn't take on too well to that, but they put up with it, and were very patient. There wasn ' t anybody at the hospital to see those patients at night, and they all knew we were there, and so they came at any hour, day or night, so we decided that as soon as we made other arrangements, we would do so. Our first son was born while we were there, in that building.

DM: December 22.

DF: 1946 and...

RM: And that was Tom.

DM: And that was Tom.

DF: That's right, December 22, 1946.

DM: Fred was asked by the doctors of the Medical Arts Clinic to move over with them. They were opening up and building offices. Dr. Pott, Dr. Winston, Dr. Alston, and who was the OB man? Pott did the OB and then later we had Dr. Clement and Dr. Dayton. He moved over to the Medical Arts Clinic and I had the whole first floor, and I had four nurses. A nurse would find out what was wrong with the baby, and I would come in and talk with the mother and the baby, and the nurse would then tell her everything that I had said one more time, and write it out for her, if necessary, because it's mighty hard with anxious mothers for them to remember all that was said, so we had four rooms going.

RM: You had a good system. Where was the Medical Arts Clinic?

DF: On Rotary Avenue.

DM: ...between Fourth Street...it's now a supply building with a dentist office for the college. You know where it is.

RM: I know that building, I think I'm going to have to take some pictures, so we can illustrate this story you're telling here. So, Dr. Fred went to the Medical Arts building, and Dr. Malene stayed there on 8th and Evans.

DM: Right.

RM: Is the building at 8th and Evans still standing?

DM: No. That was torn down. It was a very well-built building. It had a slate roof and was a very comfortable building, but when I left to go to the Developmental Clinic, they tore that down and another building was put there.

RM: You didn't leave for the Developmental Evaluation Clinic until.

DM: Until l964.

RM: '64, that's what my records show.

DM: Um,hum.

RM: So, you were in that building for almost twenty years.

DM: Yeah, right, and I had wonderful nurses, who were a great joy.

RM: How did you locate those nurses to help?

DM: Well, one of them was related to my second mother and we took her from Oxford Orphanage, and sent her to nursing school, and she was one top notch nurse. She really was. She went to Richmond, to nursing school and the other two were very fine Pitt County folks, three. We had a nurse from Wilburn, NC that was a Quaker. She was the most compassionate, thoughtful, helpful person. Her name was Outman, and she, people just as soon consult her as consult me. She knew all of the things that were going on, but she went to the infirmary, and then she died. She didn't stay at the infirmary long. She was not well then.

DF: Died of a heart attack.

RM: I see. Now when you say she went to the infirmary, was that the ECU?

DM: That's right, East Carolina University infirmary.

RM: Was that before you came, or after you came?

DM: That was after he was there.

RM: Yeah, because you started at the infirmary very soon after you came to Greenville. Just a couple of years later, wasn't it?

DF: '47.

RM: Yeah. You stayed there from '47-'67.

DM: Wait a minute. When did you start full time at the infirmary?

DF: Seems to me it was around about '67, wasn't it?

DM: It was after I was moved, yes.

RM: I have that. 1967-1980 you were Director of Student Health.

DF: That's correct.

RM: And that's when you became a fulltime employee of ECU. Is that what I'm hearing?

DM: That's right.

DF: That's correct.

RM: You had your private practice as well.

DF: That's correct.

DM: And he had an OB practice with that, which was a busy practice, but he stopped the OB when he went to the infirmary.

DF: After I went to the infirmary, because we had the obstetricians when Dr. Pott's joined the ()then Dr. Dayton came...

DM: Dayton came early 60's or the late 50's.

RM: I'm sure you had plenty of medical care to give; everybody needed it.

DM: That's right.

RM: Tell me about the emergency services you provided, while you were both on 8th street. How did that go?

DM: Well, we lived on 8th street, in the office until 1951. That was ten years. Then we moved into a house on Rock Springs Road, which we were very thankful for. We saved for that house. Mr. Shoe was so intricate in his study of what we needed. It's got more closets and bathrooms that any house in Greenville, but we loved that house, but we sold it when we came out here.

RM: Was it built especially for you?

DM: Yes, indeed.

RM: By a Mr. Shoe?

DM: Yeah. He was an architect here, and he was very thoughtful and helpful.

DF: Shoe, the architect.

RM: I should...I'll have to go by and get a picture of that house as well. You had mentioned earlier that when you were still on 8th street, people used your office as a place to come nights and weekends.

DM: They did.

RM: Because there was no emergency room at the hospital.

DM: Well, there wasn't one at the new hospital. The one at the old hospital wasn't manned, so it wasn't there. We moved to the old hospital in '51, I mean from the old hospital to the new one in '51, first of '51.

DF: Right.

DM: The new hospital was a beautiful, great thing for Greenville and we were so grateful for it, and it had so many good things, especially sterilizing rooms. It had rooms for sterilization, and was a big service and help to Greenville.

RM: Now, when you say that hospital, that would have been the red, brick one here.

DM: Yeah. That's the red, brick one.

RM: Is it Fifth Street or Sixth?

DM: It's on Fifth Street.

RM: Fifth Street extension out this way. How did the first hospital strike you when you first came to Greenville? You'd been working in a big city up there in Richmond. What did you think of that hospital over on Johnston?

DF: We were concerned because the facilities were considerably difficult, different from what we were accustomed to practicing in. Particularly, we were concerned because at that time, it was not segregated, and the black people were limited to the basement.

RM: You mean it was segregated.

DM: It was segregated.

DF: Yeah, it was not integrated, yes.

DM: And the basement had several inches of water every time there was a bad, heavy rain, and that distressed us dreadfully.

RM: Well now, in Richmond, was the hospital integrated or was there separated hospitals?

DM: There were separated hospitals and they weren't integrated until a long time afterwards.

RM: Were you satisfied with the facilities as far as, provisions for white patients in that old hospital?

DF: Yeah, I think they did the best they could with what was available at that time and we were...

DM: There were so many things that we had used, they didn't have here. Well, they didn't have any penicillin. That came in the year we came. They didn't have awangastene, which is a suction with intestinal obstruction, and we put the first one together because that gives much relief, and they can improve much faster. They had very good nurse service. Nurses were helpful and thoughtful and compassionate as a whole. Very helpful, compassionate nurses, but they didn't, have the physical set up that they wanted. And they knew they didn't and they knew they needed a new hospital and the first committee were formed the month Tom was born to build a new hospital.

RM: That was a busy month for you.

DM: Yeah. That was a big event, big event. Of course, having the baby was the biggest. In fact, that was a big joy, but that was talked about, the new hospital, and they made the plans and it was, that was '46, and it was '51 when we moved into the new hospital, but they got the money. Mr. John Clark was on the transportation committee, and he put us in touch with the people that had the money for new hospitals. Pace and Crisp were most eager for it. They were family doctors here and they were together. In fact, the family doctors here were most conscientious, but they just got worked down.

DF: Dr. Burrough was also here at that time.

DM: Burrough...and we had Garrenton in Bethel.

DF: Dixon in Ayden.

DM: Dixon and we had Williams in Ayden and Fitz...

DF: Fitzgerald was in Farmville.

DM: Who was the bald headed man in Ayden?

DF: Smith.

DM: No, Smith was bald headed, too, but this one was the one that...

DF: Frezel.

DM: Yeah, Frezel.

RM: Where was he, in Ayden?

DM: He was in Ayden, and there was somebody in Fountain and somebody in Grimesland.

DF: Honey, I don't remember anybody in Fountain. I think Dr. Marrow was dead before he came to...

DM: Dr. Marrow was in Falkland, and the doctor in Fountain is...

DF: Beasley.

DM: Beasley, yeah, and that was all. But they had them around because that was the way they could reach them.

DF: I can't remember the name of the one in Grimesland, honey?

DM: No, he left before we, a few months before we came, I think.

DF: No, he didn't, because he never paid his dues to the Medical Society, and I was the secretary of Medical Society. He was here a while.

RM: He was still here and not paying his dues. Do you remember how many physicians were on the staff at the hospital on Johnston Street?

DM: I'm not sure. There were twenty-nine physicians and dentists notified when we had a medical meeting, but not all of them were practicing. There were physicians and dentists. That was when we came. See, Dr. Park came to replace Dr. Wooten, who was at Main Hospital. He was a surgeon and very helpful, good one. Isa and I thought a great deal of him, because he called and asked if we wanted to see him operate. We were seniors in medical school, and that was a fascinating thing to do, and we came and watched him a lot, but he died...

RM: You came from where to Greenville? You came from school to Greenville to watch Dr. Wooten?

DM: My parents were living here and just when I was home, we'd go up to see him operate.

RM: Here in Greenville?

DM: Here in Greenville.

DF: At the old hospital.

RM: At the old hospital.

DM: And of course, that interested me so much because in Richmond, we had five or six residents and interns operating with any big surgeon, and here he had nurses and that's what he had and did it.

RM: Now, which Dr. Wooten was that?

DF: Dr. John Wooten's father.

Dr. Marlene: William Wooten.

RM: So, we have a Dr. William Wooten, we have a Dr. John Wooten...

DM: And we have his son.

RM: And have Mont Wooten.

DM: Mont.

DF: That's John Wooten's son, yes, Mont. Well, of course Dr. Harriet Wooten is Dr. John Wooten's wife.

RM: Harriet, yes. I need to talk to them, as well.

DM: They are fine.

RM: That's going to be an interesting experience. So, you had twenty-nine, did you have any other specialty physicians? You had pediatrics...

DM: We did not have an obstetrician. We had the surgeons, Dr. Winston and Dr. Pott, were both surgeons, but Dr. Pott took on the deliveries. He had done that in China. He was a missionary to China. He delivered Agnes Sanford. You don't know who she is, but she's a writer that is very interesting from China, but he delivered the families of the Americans that were over there, too, and he came and settled here and took up the obstetrics, and he was very good at it. He delivered our babies. He delivered them all. Didn't he? Yeah.

RM: Dr. Fred, you came to Greenville with a little extra training in anesthesia.

DF: Yes, I had that in the Army. I learned six weeks, in the Army, of anesthesia and oxygen therapy. When first came, before Dr. Malene came, I...

DM: Yeah, I was a month later getting here.

DF: I was studying anesthesia from the hospital.

RM: And after that, you didn't use that [anesthesia training] much more?

DF: No, I had other things to do.

RM: They had to manage without you in that department.

DF: Well, they had a very, very good nurse in that division.

RM: Oh good! And then you also...

DM: She was good...Ms. Evans.

RM: Ms. Evans?

DM: Um,hum.

RM: You also had some training in dermatology.

DF: Yes, I did, and I had that after I went back up to...

DM: No, the dermatology, you got in the service. You had the allergy training when you went to Richmond.

DF: That's correct. The dermatology was in the Army. I worked with a very fine nurse that also worked with me in dermatology.

RM: I wonder if that helped you at all with the college students. DF: Oh, yes it did. It certainly did.

DM: We didn't have a dermatologist here. If I had any peculiar rash, I had them to see him. He would usually know what it was.

RM: An allergist? Did that, too? What can you tell us about allergies at that time, in eastern North Carolina? Were they a significant problem recognized then as they are now?

DF: Well, I'm sure they were recognized as a problem, but we just didn't have the facilities for them, testing people for allergies, as they did later on. So I went up to Degram Allergy Clinic, in Richmond, and stayed there for a period of time. I think it was a month or six weeks. Wasn't it, honey? Something like that.

DM: Six weeks.

DF: Then I came back...

DM: Ben and Tom were here, and there wasn't another baby yet.

DF: Yeah, so it was after '49, when I was up there.

RM: So, what did we do for allergies in those days?

DM: We had piberizolene and benadryl. None of those others.

DF: And we had injectable medications. We had to order it for people who needed it. What we usually did was ask some of the people to go to the Allergy Area and get the material, and come back, and we would give it to them.

RM: Where would they have to go?

DF: Well, at that time, they went to either Duke or Richmond.

DM: You know Chapel Hill as a four-year medical school didn't come about, back then. Some later, it came about. Their four-year medical school came, what year was it, honey? It was after '50, I know.

DF: I don't know.

DM: They had a two-year medical school, though and they were very helpful, but they did not take on problems at all. You had to send them to Duke, and to ease the pressure, I just started going to Duke every fourth Saturday, to see what they had brought up what they had found out, and carried the little boys with me. The little boys enjoyed it thoroughly.

RM: Well...your own sons.

DM: Yeah.

RM: You took with you to visit Duke!

DM: That's right.

RM: I bet they did enjoy going.

DM: That was, you know how a small child in a pediatric ward, he's the most popular thing around. They were all so sweet to him, but I went to the, they had a conference, lecture, that Saturday morning, all Saturday morning, to discuss the new things. I felt like I would not be up on what was happening if I didn't go.

RM: You made arrangements to get your own continuing education.

DM: Right.

RM: I understand that sometimes you took patients with you.

DM: I did. Every now and then, I took a carload of patients. I had that pituitary dwarf and they took him. He was in the car one time when I went. I took about four patients when I had a real full list of them that needed help. But that little boy, that was a pituitary dwarf, and I thought it was pituitary, but they had to prove it by studying the hormones. He was fascinated with the Duke campus. In the middle of the day, he and I walked down the Duke campus and we got to the Duke chapel and he said he got to go in and I said, well, I'll take you, go in, and he said, will they let me in? And that hurt my feelings so bad that he had been treated that way. He and I went in and walked all over and nobody stopped us. I don't think they did stop black people then, but he was worried.

RM: Sure. How old was he?

DM: Oh, he was eleven or twelve. He was and he was the size of a four or five year old boy.

RM: My goodness.

DM: And I got the Kiwanis Club to pay for the pituitary extract he had to have. That was a wonderful help. We called on Kiwanis Club if somebody was in trouble. We had a girl who had six children and lived in a house like the Arandak shacks, one side was gone. The baby was losing weight. I sent her milk from the Kiwanis Club. She said that was the greatest gift she ever had. That baby started to drink, you remember, you and Grace took it out there when I went somewhere.

DF: Yeah.

DM: And she was so thrilled, but they got the milk.

RM: That's wonderful. Did your patient with the pituitary hormone problems, did the hormones help him?

DM: It helped him tremendously. I really don't remember exactly how many inches he gained in height, but it was a number of inches. He became a different child, and he was working at one of these car-washing stands. The last time I saw him, he was delighted to see me. That was years ago; that was ten or fifteen years ago.

RM: So, did he, was he able to grow to a more or less normal stature?

DM: He really was a small boy, but he was nearer normal, much nearer normal.

RM: That's wonderful.

DM: Yeah. That was just marvelous. You don't often get a pituitary dwarf. They were so excited over the cases we brought. We had a time. But I had one doctor there who was so interested in my cases, because they were so unusual, and interested in me that he went out of his way to help me and I would call him up. RM: And who was that?

DM: Demario, and he was at Duke. He was a wonderful fella, though, because he was always helpful, and looked at it, see it for me.

RM: And did you ever have to take patients on an emergency basis to the western part, or to the central part of the state?

DM: I hate, shamed to tell you that I took one on an emergency basis, and it was a little girl, and she had a mild throat infection, and I gave her sulfanilamide, and she couldn't void and there was no GU man here, and when she came back home and her mama said she hadn't voided, I had to take her and I was so glad when they called me in the treatment room to see in getting the urine out of her...

RM: Her bladder.

DM: Yeah. Bladder and kidneys, see we knew that was a defect of sulfanilamide, but we didn't ever expect to get it, ever. We knew that it could block, but and a lot of powder came with it, but she was entirely relieved and I was relieved. I got home that night and, sort of late, but I took several like that. I took a little boy that I lost, that called me right where the house are built on Fourteenth Street. She called me and said that the father had hit the child with a chair and of course, I carried him to the hospital and he, they had cracked his skull, and we didn't have a neurosurgeon. And I had to take him and he did not make it, but we took them when we needed to.

RM: And how did you arrange for your own family when you had to take off that way.

DM: That's what we had to do between Fred and me.

DF: That's right.

DM: We had good black help. We always had somebody there after Frederick came because there was three children and it just wasn't safe. I chose those people if they had attitudes I valued and treasured and they were. We had three from Frederick, until he was three years old, we had three black people every eight hours, because we had to.

RM: Around the clock.

DM: Yeah. And they were wonderful people and they were all fine Christians. We lost one that had meant so much to us this fall, been with us forty-five years and the boys all went to see her, regularly, while she was in the hospital. They just loved her. She was just like a mother to them. She was a good lady.

RM: What was her name?

DF: Mary Foreman.

DM: Mary Foreman.

DF: Her husband is still living.

DM: She had a number of children. We gave them, I hope we did right, most of the extra things out of our house. Now, that was an antique, that was in a tavern somewhere, it's a lady trying on a hat, but we didn't give them any antiques. Just because we liked them, but that one, somebody gave us my cousin gave us. We gave them everything; the beds, the sheets, the towels. We gave all of the good china to the boys, and the good silver to the two girls, two things of silver. So, we were able to dispose of a lot of things. We're still downsizing.

RM: Yeah. I know what you mean.

DM: But as your children grew, you accumulate more and some of it can be so valuable, you hate to do without it.

RM: I understand. You mentioned that the nurses were very helpful to you.

DM: Yeah.

RM: Were any of them trained locally?

DM: Oh, yes. Ms. Keeta and Mrs., not Worthington, her husband. They were sisters, they were McLawhorns and they were both well-trained nurses, and they knew a lot about childcare, as we worked together. Ms. Outman and Ms. Benton, she's the one that manied here in town, that we trained at Richmond, but they were all trained by people we had confidence in.

RM: I see.

DM: Now those two girls, the McLawhorns, were trained, one of them was trained in Rocky Mount, and the other one, where was Ms. Keeta trained? I'm not sure where she was trained, but she had been working at this hospital and she was there when I had Tom.

RM: And their background would have been at a teaching hospital, I guess, a nursing program at a teaching hospital, that had a nurse intern program.

DM: No, they didn't, now. Catherine did, the one that we had trained, it was a teaching hospital, but these two weren't, but they were able to work with us to learn how to see the patients. Though, of course, were supposed to always speak in positive ways in taking care of the interesting, little ones, and anything that was beautiful and special, they were supposed to notice and brag on it. Everybody would do that.

RM: What a good technique.

DM: Well, you loved the babies and you know they're charming.

RM: Sure. And you developed an interest, Dr. Malene, in children with special disabilities.

DM: That's right, and that was why I went to the Developmental Clinic, because we wanted to find out what they could do. Of course, I had psychologists there and special education people, hearing and speech people; a lot of very good help.

RM: What kind of disabilities concerned you the most, or were most prevalent?

DM: Oh, I don't know. We had, we had a lot of spinabifida, that didn't do well Some of them did and some of them didn't, but spinabifida is a terrific thing and I remember...

RM: It's tragic.

DM: Well, not tragic. One I had in Richmond, and the neurosurgeon said let' s just try this one and see if we can patch it up, and maybe leave a little leak there. That child developed hydrocephalus and we didn't have enough leak and we didn't do and, then they developed, this was before they developed this inter-cranial plastic tube that they used to help relieve that...

RM: The shunts.

DM: Yeah. The shunts and that was a great help, and we had right many of those in the clinic. We had the mongoloids, and they can usually be trained to do something, and we had the disabilities like; a child was born with just one-half of her body. In other words, she had only half of her face, and half of a chest, and one leg, and still lived and she lived until she was seven or eight. We had the nurse visiting her regularly and helping her learn some things, but she was very upsetting to me. She lived out in the country from Morehead City. Dr. Hedges, who is now retiring, came new to Greenville to that clinic and he was a very helpful in his psychological testing. Patsy Adams was there. She knew the man that

was dealing out this money in Charlottesville, and he taught her Sunday school class in Richmond, and she knew him.

RM: Small world.

DM: And when we got the papers and I saw his name, we went up there and he said what those girls want, they're going to have. You know, it does mean that sometimes you have to just walk in on people you know and we got it, and it's a good help in the community, and we're glad it's here.

RM: Well, who was that man handing out the money, and why was he in Charlotte?

DM: Charlottesville. He was in Charlottesville, and he was at the social. No, he was at one of John Kennedy's bills. He was the one to deliver that. It was from the Social Security Administration, but Leo Jenkins picked that right up. He did everything he could for this school and he said if we need it, in this section, we were going to have it.

RM: So we got a Developmental Evaluation Center.

DM: Right.

RM: And you headed that up beginning in...

DM: '64.

RM: '64.

DM: Until '81.

RM: How did you feel about leaving your private practice?

DM: I really missed it very much, and I really didn't much want to lose it, but also it came at a good time. My boys were in college, and I needed to be away more than I had before. We did, and we thought it came at a good time, because he was then at the infirmary, then we had weekends off. We were so glad when we could sleep at night.

RM: So, the Developmental Evaluation Clinic gave you more, I should say more control here.

DM: It gave me more regular hours.

RM: That's good, and then you had your weekends so you go visit your boys.

DM: That's right.

RM: That did work out well.

DM: They were getting married and all that.

RM: I can remember. We've lost, in the process of raising our children, a couple of pediatricians have gone to the Developmental Evaluation Clinic and we've been sad every time, but I imagine that was one of their motivations.

DM: I imagine so.

RM: It's the responsibility and certain hours.

DM: That's right. It meant a lot.

RM: That helps. Well, it's mighty wonderful opportunity, a wonderful clinic that you've gotten started there.

DM: Well, it is just doing some very good things. I'm real proud of the leadership there because I didn't want them not to have a doctor in charge. wanted a doctor to be in charge, and I never said anything, but they put the psychologist in charge after some further training, and he's turned out to do very, very well.

RM: Now there's a physician, they must have a medical head, as well, too, though.

DM: They have a medical head, but the psychologist now, leads the conferences on the children. The physician is always there; has to be there. Ithought the physician was more able to be there and I still think the physician knows some things that the psychologist doesn't know and visa versa, but I think that what they need is to communicate and they do.

RM: Well, in that setting, it makes it easier for them to communicate.

DM: Yeah.

RM: All under one roof.

DM: Yeah. That's right.

RM: They have regularly scheduled meetings and patient evaluations. It's wonderful and I believe you also worked with the East Carolina Vocational Center.

DM: Well, what I did, then, I was just trying to get places to put them and so I called the people in the Parents of Retarded Children and asked their help and they came in and they were just a tremendous help and we had a Director from England there, you know Fred. What was his name? But, anyway, we met and discussed how we could do it and we asked Charles Clark, Clark's boy, Joe Clark to collect our money. He said that won't be but a trouble. How much you need? And I said $50,000. He said we'll have it in a month. I was shook up. I couldn't possibly think of getting $50,000 in a month and he started with the JayCees, which of course, are very helpful in that type of thing and they knew we needed it and so...

RM: And it started as an idea for a training facility for new patients.

DM: That's right and that's where we, and we've got several there. Dr. Kriggins' little girl had been there over fifteen years. She went and she likes it; she loves to go. There are others that have been there a long time, but they are doing things that mean that they are not doing nothing.

RM: That's right. They're being productive.

DM: They're being productive and they like it.

RM: Yeah. And do the clients now, I believe the clients actually pay on some situations, don't they?

DM: Oh, yeah. They're paying something. I don't know what they pay her, but they pay them something, which they should.

RM: It's a sheltered environment, sheltered workshop environment.

DM: And they've gone back to doing the frames, picture frames, and they are very pretty, and I understand they're going to do, I don't know whether they're going to do the furniture or not. I haven't been out there recently, but they were repairing furniture and doing a mighty good job at that.

RM: They do. They recaned a chair for me years ago and then they also...

DM: But they stopped for a while and now they're supposed to be doing it back.

RM: Good, because, it's a wonderful service.

DM: Yeah.

RM: Needed, yeah. Oh, there was the old hospital and then in the mid-60s again, the new hospital.

DM: In '51, it opened, the new hospital and oh, then, the other one opened. What year, Fred? Maybe '69. The big hospital now. I can't realize that it had 760 patients.

RM: That would be in the '70s when the big white one opened up, because I think we were here for that or very close to being here. It was brand new. So, the new, you're thinking about '51, the red, brick one on Fifth Street opened up.

DM: '51 is the old, old one. It's the brick one, red, brick one.

RM: Red, brick one, yeah.

DM: And then, but it's the last of '50. What year did you come?

RM: We carne in '79.

DM: Well, I'm too early on it or am I not?

RM: But the new, the red, brick hospital opened, and how was that different from the one on Johnston?

DM: Oh, it was marvelous. It was a new world.

RM: Did more staff come with it?

DM: More staff, more nurses, more sterilizing procedures, more consideration of everyone who was dealing with the hospital. Far as I know, they never turned anybody away for any reason. Of course, they had a fit bending the paper, if they had, but I never asked them to take a patient and I had several like, I went out one time, Torn was with me and he bought the baby in and the mother couldn't come. She was sick, too and that baby was well in two or three days, and they could have resisted taking the baby, because they had no family at all and no family that would have and I never saw anything any better that the way they accepted everything that had a need. They could tell that baby had a need.

RM: I think you taught your son, Tom, all he needed to know about pediatrics before he was in third grade.

DM: You know, he was interested in it, but we're supposed to teach our children.

RM: I agree, I agree. Tell me about integrating the hospital. At what point did that happen?

DM: Well, that was after...it happened. Dr. Best and I had both talked about it and knew it had to be done and I had a baby that didn't have the equipment it needed to get well.

RM: Now, are we on Fifth Street?

DM: Yeah. We were on Fifth Street and I just took the nurse with me and carried it upstairs and put it up there because I had to use that equipment.

RM: Which equipment was that?

DM: I'm really not sure what it was because it was a baby that was in the process of getting out and I didn't know where I was going to put it. I did put it up there in the incubator and they did take care of it, but I didn't know and so I just carried it up there and they said yes, they should take it and I found out that Dr. Best had asked for it to be done and Dr. Minges had said that we ought to integrate the hospital and it wasn't anybody that wanted to raise a ruckus about it.

RM: And it was, you carried the little baby up, the little black baby...

DM: Yeah. That's right.

RM: Upstairs to the incubator that was only reserved for white babies only, basically.

DM: Probably. I'm sure they had it that way. The Junior League had gave it to us and we had used it for some, but that shouldn't have been a rule, you know.

RM: So, the one little baby...

DM: The one little baby we carried up there integrated the place. Pediatrics was run by a very nice lady and she was eager to do that, too.

RM: And how did it work with the adults?

DM: Well, we just didn't pay attention to them. If they carried on, they carried on their own suffering.

RM: Well, I mean to integrate the adults .

DM: Oh, oh. Well, they moved them right on up soon after that. They moved several more babies, you know, and then they moved more.

RM: There was some discussion, I think, about admitting people according to their condition; according to their diagnosis and then putting them in the units according to what their problem was, rather than according to whether they were black or white.

DM: Well, that would make sense.

RM: But, you didn't really, I guess. Were you on the hospital staff, Dr. Malene?

DM: Oh, yes. I was Head of Pediatrics when it opened and I changed with Haar and with Bothan and went back on again. You know, I, one of them followed me and then another one followed me, and then I went back on.

RM: Dr. Fred, did you practice at the hospital as well?

DF: Surely did.

DM: He was Director of the hospital. What year were you the President for two years?

DF: '70-'71. I believe it was.

RM: That would make sense. We had to tum the tape over here. Dr. Fred, you were about to tell us about your tenor as Chief of Staff at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. That was between 1959 and 1961.

DF: Yes. I was very thankful for the cooperation of the physicians who worked. They were very, very helpful. I had the assistance of people that had been there before and I could ask them for things that I was uncertain about and the Superintendent of the hospital, at that time was C.D. Ward, wasn't it honey?

Dr. Ma1ene:Yes, C.D. Ward until it John came, you know. That was before we went into the new hospital, though. John came.

DF: Yeah, right. Anyway, it was a learning, pleasant experience.

RM: Do you remember any particular challenges that came up during that time?

DF: Well, I remember one of the surgeons at the, very excellent surgeon, bought up something real controversial, and I had to say, 'This should not be brought up at this time." After that, we were very good friends and still are. But he is not practicing now.

RM: I see. Do you remember what the issue was?

DF: No.

RM: You just remember it was the issue.

DF: Yeah.

RM: Yeah. What sorts of things came up in your daily occupation as East Carolina College physician? What were you called upon to take care of in that capacity?

DF: Well, I was the first one on the defense and the things that were really problems was the people that wanted excuses for class. So, we did have some difficulty at first. I saw all kinds of excuses but we agreed to decide on whether they, a person needed to be absent from classes for some reason.

RM: I see.

DM: Was that the Dean of Men and Dean of Women?

DF: Right, Dean Mallory was one of them.

DM: Dean Mallory was really interested in the boys.

RM: Well, tell me, did the students come to your practice at the Medical Arts Clinic there or was there a place on campus?

DF: No. They didn't come to the Medical Arts Clinic.

DM: They came on campus and he went to the infirmary certain hours and after he was over there full-time, he was there eight hours a day.

RM: That would have been between '67 and '80, when you were there eight hours a day. And what sort of staff, support staff did you have there on campus?

DF: I had a very excellent nursing staff. It was most helpful in, one member in particular, the night duty nurse. She never called unless it was necessary. If I got a call from her, I knew it was time for me to roll and that dear lady had a stroke, but she's better now, and is coming home.

DM: Yeah. She was, she was almost a doctor. She knew so well how to get something for somebody.

DF: I had real good office help, secretary, very, very helpful.

RM: How did? Go ahead.

DF: The doctors and the hospital staff were most helpful. I'd refer patients that needed help to them. Occasionally, I told them to call the doctors at home. It, them..?

RM: Yes, to know that you had those resources. Comforting to them, too, if they were very sick. How did the infirmary work on campus? Was there a dispensing pharmacy there, too?

DF: No. When I first went there, we didn't have, but we did get some. We had drugs that were used most frequently available there. You prescribed them through the pharmacy there. The pharmacist in town was very, very, very helpful. We had no problems.

RM: What about the School of Nursing? Do you remember how they developed?

DF: Yes, I remember.

DM: All of that.

DF: and Dr. Jenkins

DM: Yes, and you interviewed Pearl and hired her.

DF: Yeah.

RM: Who was Pearl?

DM: He was on the Nursing Board and he knew the head nurse there, in Raleigh, in the nursing office and he called her and asked her who they should interview and this one was one they interviewed, the one they took, but they recommended some others.

RM: And you interviewed her for what position?

DM: Head of the Nursing School.

RM: What was her name, Pearl?

DM: I can't think of her last name, now.

RM: We can look it up.

DM: It's Pearl.

RM: She was the first Head of the...

DM: Yeah. The first head and she was, Dr. Jenkins told me, he knew that Fred and I had known people that knew her, that she was almost too laid back. But he was going to change her anyway in a few years, so he just let me know that he didn't think so much of her, but I think that she contributed a whole lot.

RM: And then, we were able to start a, what it would have been a, it wasn't, was it a four-year Nursing Degree or an Associate Degree.

DM: That was a four-year Nursing Degree that we started out with and they built the Nursing School building and it was a great addition.

RM: Yes. I tell you, nurses are in demand, can't manage without them. It's interesting to me how even, how today, especially, probably even more than then, nurses can set their own schedules, their own hours.

DF: Right.

DM: I can't get over the way things have changed, that nurses can do. We had that experience with his illness in the hospital, in December. He had to have an operation, for obstructive hernia, but the nurses waited until his body told them what they should do and I had not seen nurses doing that and I think that's a great idea and I think doctors need to do it, too.

RM: So skillfully and so carefully watching, monitoring and...

DM: Yeah.

RM: Yeah.

DM: And they knew what they were doing.

RM: Well, should we conclude our interview for today and take up again next Wednesday?

DM: That'll be fine. I think we can finish next Wednesday.

Oral History Interview with Drs. Fred and Malene Irons
55 minutes
May 05, 1999
Original Format
oral histories
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Laupus Library History Collections
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