By: Carolyn Johnson
We fear the things we do not understand. Thus, the greatest fear of mankind is the fear of pain, disease, and death. Truly, much fear is going around today with the existing pandemic. Our Senior Center is now open every day for our noon meals, yet we have many of our patrons who prefer to get their meals through home delivery or drive-thru service. We certainly understand that. No one yet has a “safe” answer to this pandemic. We will do all we can to continue these services for our seniors.
We are blessed to have a staff and volunteers who understand the importance of helping our seniors through this. We are also blessed to live in a community where our citizens, churches and other groups generously give to our Center to help us with this effort. And, so important, we are blessed to have a hospital here with great doctors and capable nurses who have advanced knowledge and skills to assist those needing medical help.
As I pondered on all of this last week, I found myself wondering about the history of our medical services here in Muleshoe. So, I decided to do some research. What I found was most interesting to me. I hope it is of equal interest to you.
The first doctor serving Bailey County was C.C. Matthews who had his office in the rear of McCarty Drug Store. In January 1923, patients called on him there or took him to their homes for house calls, furnishing the transportation. It was a time consuming task to see even a few patients daily.
Coming to Muleshoe for a short period in the next few years were Doctors Williams, Duke and Gibbs.
In September 1939, L. T. Green, Jr. moved to Muleshoe from Littlefield. Office space for Dr. Green was procured in the back of the Western Drug Store. The next year, space for a clinic was obtained in one side of the building then occupied by Southwestern Public Service Company. The other half of the building was used by Tye Young, for a chicken hatchery. A report was made by Mrs. L.T. Green, office nurse, that although the bare unpainted floor was difficult to keep clean, the “cheep cheep” of Tye Young’s chickens kept things cheerful.
Dr. L.T. Green was joined that next year by Dr. Dudly Lancaster who came from Clovis, New Mexico. After a one-year stay here he left Muleshoe to return to practice with this brother and father in Clovis.
Dr. C.C. Matthews died in 1941, leaving Bailey County with only one doctor, L.T. Green, who built the first hospital in Muleshoe that year. The 8-patient hospital was a part of the previous West Plains Regional Hospital and Clinic.
The next seven years were quite busy for one doctor and hospital staff to care for a fast growing community. Breakfast trays had to be started at five in the morning by the doctor’s wife, who was also “chief cook and bottle washer”, as well as bookkeeper. The regular cooks came on duty at mid- morning to handle the other two meals.
During this time, the doctor and his family lived in part of the hospital and could not tell night from day. Certainly the nine to five schedule was not in effect. People would come to the doctor and hospital as the need arose and as they were able to make it in. The doctor never refused a patient.
House calls were a common thing since the transportation for the majority of the residents was scarce and slow. Many of the calls were made by mail, especially during the measles epidemic. A letter would arrive saying that Johnny had broken out and knowing that the other children in the family would take the disease, would the doctor please come as soon as possible.
A cold ride through the deep snow on a maternity call would often end with a stalled car, only to be met by the “anxious” father on a tractor to take the doctor on to the residence for the delivery.
The population was increasing more and more people were moving into the county. Dr. L.T. Green was then joined by his brother, Dr. M.F. Green in 1948. A new addition was built in the hospital, known as the Green Hospital and Clinic.
In 1954, three doctors from Amherst who had operated the Co-Op Hospital; Doctors W.R. Birdsong, B.O. McDaniel and T.M. Slemmons, purchased the Green Hospital. They changed the name to West Plains Hospital and Clinic. It then contained 11 rooms in the new addition. The annex, formerly a duplex residence for the Green’s house became the Muleshoe Nursing Home for the elderly citizens with 15 rooms connected to the hospital property.
Dr. McSpadden joined the staff at West Plains Hospital and Clinic in 1959. Later that year, Dr. Ray E. Santos became associated with them. Dr. L.T. Green had returned to the hospital and clinic until he moved to the Hospital on Avenue C, north of the Courthouse.
In 1957, Joe Damron built a clinic for Dr. George Chambers who operated it until the following year when they enlarged it into a hospital. Dr. Fite joined the staff for a year. The following two years Dr. Ray Vinson and Dr. Gushwa were associated with Dr. Chambers. Desiring to continue his studies, Dr. Chambers sold to Dr. L.T. Green, who along with Dr. Santos, operated the hospital. Dr. Ray Santos moved into his own clinic in 1962 on Avenue B.Dr. William Dean joined L.T. Green and continued after Dr. Green’s death in April of 1963.
The bulk of this information in the article comes from the writings of Annita Ellrod. This research covers only the first 40 years of medical history in Muleshoe. The last 50 years are still to be learned. And I feel there’s nothing more interesting that researching the ‘Shoe.
Guess I better get my reading glasses…