Clarence Doc Auld
Forty years after his death, if you mention Doc Auld’s name in the Plankinton area, you are sequestered in your chair for the next hour as story after story about “Doc” surfaces. Whether it’s delivering three generations of babies, his dedication to his patients, or his uncanny ability to diagnose illness, he had a gift, and his community loved him.
“Doc”Auld was born Clarence Vivian Auld, the eldest son of Oliver P. Auld and Nelli Hoon Auld on April 14, 1886, in an upstairs room on Plankinton’s main street. At age nine, he ran the city milk cow herd, taking them to pasture in the mornings and delivering them back in the evenings. He attended Plankinton City School up until his last two years which were in Iowa. He was the first person from Plankinton to venture away to go to school. It was there that he met the man who inspired him to become a doctor.
He followed in his mentor’s footsteps and enrolled at the University of Michigan Medical School and graduated a general practitioner in 1909. He received an appointment as an intern in <st1:placename w:st="on">Minnequa</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">Hospital</st1:placetype>, <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Pueblo</st1:city>, <st1:state w:st="on">Colorado</st1:state></st1:city></st1:place>. While serving there as an intern, he was sent to New Mexico as a relief doctor for the St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Railroad Company. While working at the camps, a whooping cough epidemic started. In late summer of 1910, he developed a cough which persisted and caused him to return to <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">South Dakota</st1:place></st1:state>. The cough turned out to be his second attack of whooping cough. He became a licensed physician in the State of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:state w:st="on">South Dakota</st1:state></st1:place> on February 1, 1911 and practiced in the Plankinton area until his retirement in 1962. Of the many stories, one of the most unusual in today’s standards, is that he never sent a bill. He was paid with currency, farm products – “whatever people had” – but his favorite payment was buttermilk. When a patient said a check would be “in the mail”, and never was, he said he would rather have the patient tell him they couldn’t pay. He wrote many thousands of dollars off the books in unpaid bills.
When he first began his practice, Doc purchased his first car, and owned over 25 cars during his 52 years of practice. He spent a good deal of his time making house calls to his patients that lived within a 25 mile radius of Plankinton. He maintained office hours 24/7. He attended the births of numerous babies, and lived to attend the births of their grandchildren. These babies varied in weight from one and one half pounds to 16 pounds. Two babies born prematurely at six months lived with an oven door as an incubator.
In 1912, he was united in marriage to Bird Abbott of Tyndall, SD. To this union, five children were born. Two of whom died, one in infancy, and the other at the age of 17 of a brain tumor. The other three were Dr. Meritt Auld of Yankton, now deceased, Donald Auld of Plankinton, now deceased, and Dr. Marian Auld Mach of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Sun City</st1:city>, <st1:state w:st="on">AZ.</st1:state></st1:city></st1:place>
<st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on"><st1:state w:st="on"></st1:state></st1:city></st1:place>Doc’s office was located on main street. It was an obscure little office located behind the barber shop. He never had an office nurse. He thought they would be under his feet all the time. His granddaughter, Nancy Auld Konechne, tells her own stories of assisting him. He would get her up at night so that she could keep him awake as he made house calls to patients who lived in the country. Doc was a master at diagnosis. When his son Don was a few days old, Doc diagnosed him with having been born with his stomach upside. He rushed him to Mitchell and he assisted a surgeon in an operation to reverse his stomach, also known as hyper trophic stenosis of the pyloris. It was the first time this type of operation was performed in this part of the country. This quick diagnosis and operation saved Don’s life.
When Doc wasn’t in his office or out on a house call, he could be found in one of his vegetable or flower gardens trying to breed a new color of gladiolas, or at the corner drug store, sipping quinine water, and philosophizing on life with his many friends. He loved words, ideas, and politics. Though he was of Presbyterian faith, one of his best friends was the Catholic priest. He was a community builder and friendships reflected his conviction that different belief systems make for more lively conversation.
Doc served as a member of a three man local draft board for the First World War. He enlisted in WWI, and was very excited about becoming a captain in the service, but was not released by the local board because they felt he was too vital to the community to be sent away. He was medical examiner for three wars, WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. He was the resident physician of the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placetype w:st="on">State</st1:placetype> <st1:placetype w:st="on">Training School</st1:placetype></st1:place> from 1918 until he retired, with only a few years in there that he didn’t serve there. His salary was 35 dollars per month. Besides caring for the residents, he was also charged with examining each new student as they were admitted into the school.
Highly dedicated to his practice, his vacations totaled only about four months in his entire career. Having worked from the age of 8, he didn’t feel comfortable taking a vacation and leaving his patients without medical care. Over the last few years of his practice, he was the only doctor in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Aurora</st1:placename> <st1:placename w:st="on">County</st1:placename></st1:place>.
In 1958 there was a community play performed in Plankinton entitled “Old Doc” that was dedicated to Doc and his counterpart, Dr. Cochran. Prior the play, an ad was placed in the paper for any of their patients to send in stories about the Doctors. Hundred of letters flooded in, some of which included payments that they had never sent. The play starred Gary Altman who later Gary Owens of the popular TV show, “Laugh-In".
Doc was a fifty year Mason, played the baritone in the Shriners band for many years, and served one term on the school board. He held memberships in the Presbyterian Church of Plankinton, the Mitchell Medical Society, and the SD State Medical Association. In 1957, he was awarded the honor of “General Practitioner of the Year” for <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">South Dakota</st1:place></st1:state>. He was recommended for National Practitioner of the year by Joe Foss, Senator Case, Senator Karl Mundt, and George McGovern. Dr. Auld passed away in 1968 at the age of 82. The memorial was held at the High School Gymnasium and attended by the entire community.
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