CLIFFSIDE - A miniature black metal sewing machine occupies a prominent place on a shelf in the home of Dr. Howard Radford.
It's an object he proudly shows to visitors: The machine, he explains, was made in the 1860's and was once owned by one of his patients. "I saw it when I made a house call and asked him if he'd sell it" Dr. Radford recalls. "He said no, but later he said he wanted to give me the machine as a gift."
It was just one expression of love that the doctor received during his 28 years of practice in the Cliffside area and he's had many expressions of esteem from the thousands of patients he's treated.
Now he's decided it's time to retire, a decision he's made with mixed feelings. Being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a bit much for a man who turned 64 last Friday, he says, and he's been looking forward to having some time to travel, to enjoy his family, friends, church and community. "And I might get some fishing in" he adds.
His is a dying breed: the family practitioner who knew his patients intimately-their backgrounds, how they lived - delivered many of their babies and watched those babies grow to adulthood.
His wife, Reva, recalls going with him on house calls to families where he knew he'd never be paid. "He'd give them medicine samples he had with him, and if he didn't have the medicine, he'd give them a prescription and the money to have it filled."
His hasn't been a career, it's been a labor of love. A native of Shiloh who grew up in Caroleen, Dr. Radford says "ever since I can remember I wanted to be a doctor. I don't know why, because there were no doctors in the family."
That has changed now. Though he says he exerted no intentional influence, the Radford's only child, Wanda, is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Richmond, Va. and a nephew will graduate in medicine June 1 from the University of Virginia.
The doctor smiles, "That will take up the slack when I retire from the profession." He assured his patients that the area will not be without a physician. Two years ago Dr. M.O. Elizondo came to Cliffside to practice and occupies a portion of Dr. Radford's clinic building.
The pathway to his dream wasn't short. It meant work, Army service for 56 months emerging as a captain, more work, re-entering college to get a degree before going to Bowman Gray School of Medicine, then internship at Spartanburg General Hospital.
It also meant cooperation and financial aid from his wife. A native of Kentucky and a 'school teacher, she had a summer job at the Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio, where she met her future husband, who was stationed there.
After his service discharge and a period of work, he and his wife decided he could realize his life-long ambition - to become a doctor. He had attended what was then Boiling Springs Junior College, (now Gardner-Webb), and had one year at Wake Forest before entering service. After their marriage, while he worked, they save some money, had a portion from the GI Bill and he went back to college to graduate from Mrs. Radford's alma mater, Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. In 1950 he entered Bowman Gray.
By then the Radfords had a year-old daughter, but they were luckier than some post-war college students - Mrs. Radford had a job teaching sixth grade in Winston-Salem.
Survival was a matter of pinching pennies, juggling schedules, inexpensive leisure activities but enjoying new friends and keeping in touch with old friends.
Eventually they were ready to settle down and he chose his home area, a choice neither he nor his wife have ever regretted. "I think North Carolina is a beautiful state," Mrs. Radford says, "and we wouldn't live anywhere but here. This is home."
Dr. Radford said when he chose the Cliffside and Tri-Community area he was following in the footsteps of some highly respected doctors: Dr. L.B. Harrill, Dr. Perry Wiseman and Dr. T.C. Lovelace.
And he's enjoyed the fact that he had some of his former teachers as patients. "Miss Amanda Head was my first grade teacher, and Misses Ella and Margaret Lynch (former teachers) were my patients."
During his early days of practice, he kept office hours seven days a week. "Monday through Friday, it was 8 a.m. until the last patient left, Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Sunday 2 to 4. After I finished in the office I made house calls."
His wife interrupted, "He wanted to let his `girls' who worked for him rest so you know who helped him."
Office calls were $2 but the doctor admits, with a little prodding from his wife, he never turned a patient down, even if he knew they couldn't pay. "I never worried about their politics, religion, or race, I just wanted to help them."
Mrs. Radford remembers going to see a woman and her baby. "I knew the woman couldn't pay him and usually he gave medicine he happened to have. But this time he wrote a prescription, then gave her the money to get it filled.
On hearing of his retirement, one grateful patient wrote him: "I remember you called to my parents' house in the middle of the night and you came out during a flu epidemic when you had not been in bed in four days."
Practicing medicine in those days, before specialists came to this county, meant taking x-rays, setting bones and delivering babies. And most families relied on their family physician for every illness except major surgery.
Cliffside was the last area in the county to have dial phones, and Dr. Radford said the phone operator was a big help.
"Mr. Callahan would take calls when I was out, or he'd tell my wife where I had gone. Sometimes a patient gave me directions on the phone how to get to his house and, after the patient hung up Mr. Callahan would say `Dr. Radford, those directions are wrong, let me tell you where he lives'."
Now house calls are virtually extinct. "We used to make 20 to 25 a day, but no more, due to changes in doctors' policies, in the fact that most patients now have cars or a means of transportation, that communications can be made by phone, and that the doctor sees many more patients in an office than he can possibly see in house calls."
He sees a big improvement in medicine. "We have more drugs, better diagnostic methods and more and better educational procedures than ever before, besides selfinstruction."
Present-day doctors, he said, continue their educations. He attends classes once a week at Rutherford and Cleveland Memorial hospitals.
His official retirement date is March 31 but he will remain in his office until April 30 to forward records to physicians who request them.
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier.
Copyright owned by The Daily Courier.
CLIFFSIDE - Dr. Howard Radford has seen the babies he delivered graduate from college and begin careers. He has seen old friends pass on and watched new ones grow into adulthood. His life has been the lives of his patients.
For most of his 28-year medical practice, Dr. Radford was the only constant physician in Cliffside. But Radford, a 64-year-old Caroleen native and a mainstay of health for the eastern Rutherford County area, made his last house call Friday. He has retired from his Cliffside family practice clinic and left his work to others.
In a letter to all his regular patients, Dr. Radford recalled his deep regard for his work and his home, saying the time had come for him to enjoy that "special time of my life ..." But judging from the doctor's recollections of his past work and his dedication to the welfare of his patients, it's easy to see that the most special chapter in the the story of his life has drawn to a close.
Dr. Radford came home to Rutherford County in 1954 after finishing his physician's internship at Spartanburg (S.C.) General Hospital. He carried a bagful of badly needed medical skills to the small textile community and the wish to repay his home for the many things it had given him in his childhood.
"They needed doctors here and where else could I do better than to come home where I was raised and trained?" he says.
Radford returned to Rutherford County with Dr. Frank Weir. The two had planned to open a practice together; but shortly after the small office across from Tri-High School opened for business, Weir was drafted into the service. Radford remained to take on the heavy load of calls alone.
"It was very demanding, but very rewarding, to be the only doctor in the area," he says. "There's satisfaction knowing everyone depends on you. And it's a lot of long hours."
The long hours included getting up in the middle of the night for house calls, something he started to do less of with a decline in his health and with the increasing number of specialists in the area. Many of the tasks once left to Radford now belong to specialists who have moved into the Cleveland and Rutherford County areas.
"I used to do deliveries," he says, "but I stopped about 10 or 12 years ago when I could send them to the ObGyn (obstetrics and gynecology) specialists. They were better trained."
The medical community has changed dramatically throughout the years, but Radford never failed to keep up with the advances - even in prices. When he first opened his practice, the cost of an office visit was $2; house calls were $4. By 1983, a visit to his office ran $14.
In addition to keeping pace with the monetary rewards, he attended classes at the hospital in Shelby on Tuesdays and in Rutherfordton on Thursdays to keep abreast of the new techniques and discoveries. Even with retirement, Radford plans to remain licensed, just in case, he says, he gets bored with his new-found freedom.
Although he's had moments of doubt about retiring, he doesn't think he'll become bored. His wife, Reva, a retired schoolteacher, already has plans mapped out.
Reprinted with permission from The
Shelby Star. Copyright owned by The Shelby Star.
For the past 28 years the community of Cliffside has looked to Howard Radford as "their doctor." Last week, after years of service to the area and to Rutherford County, Dr. Radford retired.
"I hated to quit but I knew it was really time to quit or at least slow down the pace," the 64-yearold general practitioner stated during an interview at his home.
Dr. Radford plans to keep his license "up-to-date" and plans to keep up with continuing education but the long hours and long days of practicing medicine are now a thing of the past.
"I've enjoyed my practice and have made so many, many friends," he said. "You know around here you are treating your friends when they come to the office...they are not strangers, they're friends."
The years of practicing medicine have passed swiftly for Dr. Radford and his wife, Reva. It was Reva who was a strong supporter of Dr. Radford while he was in school.
For as long as he can remember, Radford had wanted to be a doctor. As a little boy, he talked of becoming a doctor.
After graduating from Tri-High School, Radford entered Boiling Springs Junior College. After two years at Boiling Springs, Radford entered Wake Forest University but had to drop out after one year there because of his father's
Before going back to school,Howard enlisted in the Armed Services and served four years.
Radford worked in Charlotte after his time in the service and following one year there attended Western Kentucky University. It was in Kentucky that Radford met his future wife, Reva.
After graduating from Western Kentucky he attended Bowman Gray School of Medicine, later doing internship at Spartanburg General Hospital.
Radford returned to his native community of Caroleen and Cliffside in 1955 and opened up his office for general practice.
Back in those days, folks in Cliffside had the hand-cranked telephones and the operator in the area proved essential to Dr. Radford's early years of doctoring.
"Someone would call me up on the telephone and ask me to come to their home," Dr. Radford began, "...and I'd ask them how to get to their homes.. .well, they'd tell me, but sometimes they were confused."
Dr. Radford stated that after the person completed the call, the dial operator would ring up Dr. Radford and explain, "well, now let me tell you how to get there. So then I'd get the proper directions," he said.
The operator also answered numerous calls for Radford when he was out of his office. "It was like I had my own answering service," Radford explained.
Dr. Radford's house calls were frequent in his early days as transportation was many times a problem for patients. "People just couldn't get to the office so of course, I'd go there," he said.
The doctor continued to make house calls throughout his 28 years of practice, although as he means of transportation improved, people were able to come into the office. It's ironic though that Dr. Radford's last official "doctoring" prior to his retirement was a house call.
Since Dr. Radford was the only doctor in the area for some years, he was a general practitioner as well as a specialist in some fields.
"There were no OB-GYN doctors, so I delivered babies during my early years of practice." He
also set some fractures that didn't have to be sent to Spartanburg or Greenville.
Dr. Radford stated he probably delivered 1500 babies during his early practice, but as specialists began arriving in the county, as well as other ' doctors, his deliveries were less frequent.
Dr. Radford would see 80-100 patients per day during the first portion of his career. He worked seven days per week, 24 hours a day for many years, yet he never regretted what he could do for community people.
People in the neighborhood would drop by the Doctor's house, even if office hours were over, if they had an ache or pain.
"One woman stopped by here one day and was in labor," Dr. Radford began. "She just about
had the baby right here in the living room," he said.
Dr. Radford was able to get the woman into the office, but that was as far as they got. They didn't make it to the hospital. The baby was born in the office.
For the past 28 years the telephone has constantly rung and people have knocked on the Radford's door asking for help.
With that kind of schedule, the Radfords had little time for themselves. In fact, when their daughter Wanda arrived, Dr. Radford was unable to do a lot of things with her. Mrs. Radford raised Wanda, but the influence Dr. Radford had on Wanda was everlasting.
Wanda is an OB-GYN doctor now, practicing medicine in Richmond, Va. She and her husband were among the hundreds of wellwishers who attended a retirement party for Dr. Radford last Sunday.
As a special gift for her father, Wanda presented him with a T. V. satellite dish. Now that he's retired, Dr. Radford plans to learn to "operate" the 14 satellite dish which is capable of bringing in at least 240 stations.
Dr. Radford and Mrs. Radford look forward to traveling and "fishing", both of which they haven't had the opportunity to do very much of in the past years. They have a cottage at Lake Lure, which they plan to utilize greatly in the next few years.
One of their first trips, however, will be to Michigan to watch a nephew receive his M. D. from the University of Michigan.
Dr. Radford looks back on his life as a doctor in the Cliffside community with happiness.
He doesn't regret giving up the past 28 years for the people of his community and calls the career a "labor of love."
Even while in medical school, Dr. Radford never got discouraged.
"I have a wife who encouraged me and who supported me," he said. "That kept me going."
While Dr. Radford was in school, Mrs. Radford taught school.
Radford figures medical school was a little more difficult for him than for some. "You see, I went back so I had to relearn a lot of things," but even with that, he's happy he became a doctor.
The days of little sleep and lots of work are obviously over for Dr. and Mrs. Radford. Now at age 64, it's Dr. Radford's time to enjoy so many of the things that he gave up while serving his community's people.