Reflections of a Menlo Doctor During the Depression
Thomas Hudson Moss ,1907-1988, attended the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and graduated in 1929. He served a brief internship there and soon after came to Menlo to work as a country doctor. His father, Robert M. Moss, was raised near Lyerly and Holland. Tom Moss worked in Menlo for 5 or 6 months before going to Rome to work Dr. Turner McCall. This article, taken from taped interviews his family made, was written for our quarterly by his great nephew, Russell McClanahan, with help from Bob and Ann Moss of Rome, Tom’s son and daughter-in-law.
I started practicing first up on Menlo,Georgia, it was during the depression, in connection with Summerville-Trion Hospital and I started doing a little surgery there under Dr. Hair in the hospital in Summerville. Bob Little from Summerville was a friend of min and they needed a doctor over at Menlo. Dr. Jennings and Dr. Woods, they were old and couldn’t do much. Those two old doctors wouldn’t speak to each other, they had been there for years. I thought that was the darnest thing I’d ever saw, so I finally got them together. I told Dr. Woods, he’d take his watch off. I said Doctor, I understand you and Jennings don’t speak, He said no, no, no, he’s alright we don’t speak. We don’t have nothing to do with each other. I said that ain’t right and finally got them together and got them talking before I left Menlo… about the only good thing I did up there. I made a living. I didn’t go in debt. Menlo couldn’t support three doctors, it could two.
We were circuit riders, we’d go into Valley Head, Mentone, all around. Sometimes we could only drive our car so far and they’d meet us with a mule. We used the barter system and sometimes I’d get chickens or even pigs for pay. We had telephones and sometimes they’d go to Summerville hospital and call me.
When I first went to practice in Menlo I roomed with a doctor’s widow, Mrs. Martin, shows a doctor’s widow and she took especially good care of me. there wasn’t nothing she wouldn’t as she was used to a doctor and she would encourage me anyway she could ,when I’d get down she’d encourage me and do any favor she could. I continued to room with her until I left there. Her son had the drugstore there, such as it was, they did’t fill many prescriptions, mostly proprietary drugs. It was the hangout. He did a little bit of treatment, he’d advise people and he was pretty good too!
One time I was in Menlo and a man comes in and says he wants me to go up on the mountain for something. I asked him was this a baby case; he said he didn’t know, but there was a woman “bigged” up there so I went up there and delivered the baby and when I was finished he said,”Doc, I ain’t got no money but I’ll give you 10 gallons of liquor.” I said no, you can give me a gallon but give Jim Barry, he was driving, I says give him what he wants and I’ll give you the credit for it. And he did. The name was Husky and when I got back to Rome I got a letter with the remainder of my money and the letter said,”Dear Doc, I am sending you the remainder of your money, my wife got along fine after you left only she had a little spell of milk failure” that was the worst thing I could think could happen to her but he didn’t think it was nothing. He sent me the rest of my money and thanked me. He showed he appreciated my efforts.
One time I was up there and it was snowing and I finished the delivery and they said Doc we haven’t got any money, as usual, which was all right and he says, ” Doc, I am going to carry your bags out to the car and he says, I’ll pay you and he did when I got to Rome he sent me the money. But when I started down the mountain and it was snowing, freezing and I couldn’t go any further. I said Lord knows what am I going to do. I kept the car running but I was afraid I’d asphyxiate myself and I looked in my grip and there was a pint of white lightening and I ain’t never enjoyed drinking like that in my life. The next morning they came to get me, they knew I was up there and I did’t feel no pain. I was happy as a lark.
Jim Barry would drive for me and my last day I went to see if this fellow would pay me and he said” Doc, I can’t pay you but to show you my heart is in the right place come on in and have a drink. Well I took one and then another and when I went back to the car Jim Berry says where do you want to go and I said go anywhere but don’t go to Menlo so we went to Valley Head and like to have gotten thrown in jail!
When I got ready to leave I took the last money I had to pay Mrs. Martin. She didn’t want to take it. She knew I didn’t have any. Most of the people count pay much, of course we did not charge much either.