The historic record with respect to doctoring on the Peninsula during the Great Depression and Pre-World War II years speaks highly about Dr. David Strang and his efforts to get a hospital started on the Peninsula. However, the other Ilwaco-based doctor who came about the same time as Dr. Strang is mentioned mostly with regard to his interest in playing the piano. His name was Dr. Winford G. Sargent.
Virginia Williams Jones (1915-2013) remembered Dr. Sargent with great fondness — perhaps for providing just the right medicine for the aches and pains of adolescence, if not for the traditional sorts of doctoring provided by Dr. Strang. In a memoir she called Gin’s Tonic published in the Summer/Fall 2007 Sou’wester, Virginia wrote:
One of the biggest pluses towards the arts came in the late 20s when Dr. Winford G. Sargent arrived. He came from Paris where he had lived for a few years doing his medical intern work. He studied voice while there and loved to sing, especially arias from the operas he had seen in Paris — most especially “La Boehme.” (Dad said that he was well trained but had no voice.) I took piano lessons from him and, as he was in demand to perform all over the peninsula, I accompanied him. (He also tried to teach me French but got disgusted with me that I couldn’t stick my lips out far enough!)
”Doc” was great fun. He introduced me to Balzac and the French classics. My mother was a big reader and insisted we read all the classics possible — David Copperfield, Vanity Fair, the Forsythe Saga, Anna Karenina — so she approved my further reading under his tutelage. Doc was also an avid bridge player so he ate at our house two or three nights a week and we played bridge with the folks.
Not a word did Ginger say about Dr. Sargent’s medical career ‘nor, for that matter, did she speak of doctoring at all — not in Ilwaco or elsewhere in Pacific County. She did, however talk about the status of dentistry in the 1920s and ‘30s:
Our local dentist was Dr. Albert Kinney in Seaview. He lived two or three blocks south on the same side of the ditch as we did. When we had to have a tooth filled, Doc used a drill that was on a big wheel and he pumped it with his foot. Did that get hot and hurt! He always filled the drilled-out hole with oil of cloves and cotton and you had to make a couple of trips before he could scrape up enough money to buy the amalgam or whatever for the filling.
When Dad had to get false teeth — pyorrhea being the cause according to Dr. Kinney — his beautiful teeth were pulled in several sittings and then the gums were allowed to shrink before impressions could be taken and the false teeth made. Every week Dad would walk down to see if Doc was ready to take the impressions. This was during the Depression and Doc was too poor to buy to material to make the teeth so Dad waited a whole year.
One day the ditch was frozen and Dad walked the track to Kinneys’ and then across their little bridge to their gate. As he started on the planks of the bridge, he felt himself sliding on ice so he headed for the gate which he hit hard enough to knock it off its hinges, whirled around, and landed down in the ditch with the gate on top of him. He didn’t get his teeth that day either! Finally the day came and, as you would suspect, perfect little gray pearls in dark red gutta-percha — but at least he could get off the mashed potatoes and soup diet!
Mama wanted a flower garden alongside the garage so she could plant nasturtiums. While Dad was out spading, he had a coughing spasm, coughed his teeth out, and they fell into the hole he was digging. He dug down, found them, rinsed them off and popped them back into his mouth. After that, every time he coughed he would grab out his teeth so they wouldn’t fall out. They were a terrible fit! It was most embarrassing to my mother because she was very proud and proper. Wherever they were, it didn’t matter; if Dad had to cough, out came the teeth. Several years later he did get better teeth which stayed in.
Alec Samuels, like Dad, had been waiting months for Doc to finish his teeth and his wife, Ruel, was getting really impatient. Alec was working on the rock crusher with Ed Woods and Ed had just gotten a replacement set of false teeth, so Alec asked Ed to borrow his old set, even though his appointment with Dr. Kinney was scheduled for the very next day. He took Ed’s teeth and put them in his mouth but he had to hold them in — kept his thumb on the upper plate as he walked in the house. Finally Ruel said, “What’s the matter, Alec, do you have to hold the teeth in?” Alec let go and the teeth fell on the floor! Ruel was so mad, she didn’t come up for air for another half hour — until Alec explained the situation or she would have gone to kill the dentist!