I live in California today. I was born here, but only lived here for two years as a baby and then grew up in Hamilton, Ohio. There are of course lots of differences between each of the various states, but one thing that sticks out in California for me is Californians’ desire to keep the Mom & Pop shops alive. You can of course drive to a shopping mall where you can find all the chain stores and of course nearby you will find the Olive Gardens and Elephant Bars, but for the most part, the small shops thrive here still. They continue to battle and compete against Walmart, but all service related businesses tend to lean towards the sole proprietor and partnerships.
I like that; it reminds me of boyhood and growing up in Hamilton where I had a corner grocery store near me in any direction, a doughnut shop, a diner, an ice cream shop and a local family doctor.
Irene’s doughnut Shop – it was a tiny building, possibly only 700 sq ft, so it had room only for a couple of doughnut fryers, tables and racks, a small office and food storage space and an area large enough to hold maybe only 4 customers comfortably. The doughnuts were delicious, so good that you had better set your alarm very early if you wanted to get a special favorite doughnut. My favorite was the crème filled, but their glazed doughnuts were most excellent as well. Irene’s was so good that often times you’d spot the Dunkin’ Doughnut and Krispy Kreme employees sneaking over there at break time.
If you had the misfortune of needing to see a family doctor due to eating too many doughnuts, well then all you had to do was to walk across the street to see Dr. Kappers. Dr. Kappers was my family doctor from the time I was a tiny boy living on Goodman Avenue up until early adulthood when we transferred to Louisiana. I never had to see the good doctor for stomach cramps due to overeating of Irene’s doughnuts, but he treated me for childhood scrapes and bruises, just as he did hundreds of other Hamilton residents.
My favorite visit with Dr. Kappers was one where I got to see he had a bit of a sense of humor. I think I was 14 years old when one day a few of us were throwing a football around in the alley. The ball accidentally made its way into the backyard of the house next to the Mathews’ place. The yard had a waist-high chain link fence so I volunteered to hoist myself up and jump over to get he ball. At fourteen, this was an easy enough task – we did it all the time. On this occurrence however, something happened. I felt a quick twinge in my right shoulder. Something inside had snapped such that if I were to lift up my right arm at a 90 degree angle, away from my body, I felt an increasing pain. Meanwhile my right scapula would stick out.
It was called a winged scapula, (that was the visible symptom), caused as a result of a rotator cuff injury. It was painful as I experienced a nagging, constant ache in my shoulder. The pain was greatly modified if I lifted my arm. I went a couple of days in hopes of avoiding a doctor’s fee for my parents, and possibly seeing the injury repair itself in a short while.
But the injury is not the point of this little story; it is the visit to the doctor itself. I had seen Dr. Kappers over the years as a young boy several times for minor physical ailments. He was an “adult”, an old man to me, very serious and grumpy. Of course he wasn’t really like this – that was just my kid impression. We kids thought all adults were serious unless they wore a Red Skelton clown face and rode a unicycle.
On the visit to see him for the weird bone sticking out of my back, I was a little older and had not seen him for several years. Either he was in a goofy mood that day or else because I was older now, he exposed me to a side of him I had not yet seen – his medical brilliance. The exam began normally as they always did; weigh in – check, temperature – check, pulse and blood pressure – check, the 20 question game – check, go into the room and strip down to your underwear when they only need to see your shoulder – check.
Let’s see, what seems to be the problem?
So I told him the story and then I showed him the symptom. “When I lift my arm like this, it really hurts”.
With the very next sentence to come out of the doctor’s mouth, it was obvious that the dozen years at an expensive medical school were invaluable. All that knowledge and training was coming to a head as the next sentence was uttered – “well then, don’t lift your arm like that”. “Go tell your mom that will be $20.” He kept a serious face as I was gaping mine. And then he cracked a smile and got down to the real doctoring.
My arm ultimately healed all by itself like he said it would. He didn’t send me off to a specialist for $5,000 of x-rays and tests I didn’t need. As it turned out, the scapula did end up moving back into proper position. I never did have surgery for the cuff. I was left with a lesser ability to use overhand force in my right arm. The overall end result was that I could not throw a baseball as hard as I could before the injury. Seeing as how I was never going to be trying out for the Reds, not having to have surgery seemed to be a great alternative.
Dr. Kappers was ‘our’ doctor. He was our small town, west side of Hamilton General Practioner who watched us grow and picked us up when we fell down. He had a small office on the corner and if you really needed to see him, you could drop into the office unannounced. If you popped into the office very early you probably would see his car in the lot, the office door locked and the good doctor right across the street, sneaking into Irene’s. No wonder the crème-filled were always gone by the time I got there!