The Difference Between Half A Crown and Five Shillings

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In thirty years of medical practice we never thought to take a photo of a Native Clinic. This web picture gives you an idea of what it was like.

The Difference Between Half a Crown and Five Shillings

The much respected Menashe family owned a habadashery store.  They were pioneer stock in Que Que from the island of Rhodes. Their two beautiful  daughters, Katie and Rachel,had just graduated from medical school in the Union of South Africa. They were home for a few months pending taking up housemanships in Bulawayo at Mpilo Hospital.

The Difference Between Half a Crown and Five Shillings

When Dad arrived in Que Que he decided to open an afternoon Native clinic at the back of the European surgery adjoining our house at 1, Silver Oaks Road on the Globe and Phoenix Mine.  There was a need for it.

News of the clinic soon spread. Natives of all sizes and ages waited patiently in line in the shade of the peppercorn trees.  Mothers with babies on their backs and toddlers at their sides nursed their newborns, while the picannins wandered between the surgery and the mine railway shunting line. As the patients neared the back door of the clinic they had a chance to sit on logs that soon wore smooth over time with the many bottoms that inched forward one by one.   Heat and sickness hung in the air.  Doves could barely muster a coo.  Even flies were drowsy and settled on runny noses, ignoring twitches and the occasional swat.

But with Cookie, Dad’s Native factotum, as interpreter at his side they diagnosed almost everyone very quickly.  A charge of half a crown for a consultation was imposed to eliminate unwarranted visits.  It included distribution of sample drugs from the dispensary, five shillings if an injection was necessary.

The afternoon clinic proved overwhelming. Dad invited the Menashe girls to take it on.  They were only too delighted to put their new skills to work.

After a week the girls tackled Dad, “It’s abusive charging so much for a consultation! You know they can’t afford it.”

“Well,’ said Dad, “There has to be some charge to discourage malingerers, but I am not dependent on it.  It’s a service I’m providing.  Charge whatever you like.”

The girls reduced the charge to a shilling and two and sixpence respectively.

As the weeks went by the lines became noticeably shorter.  Cookie came to Dad in distress.  “The medems no good.  The patient not want the half crown injection.  He want the five shilling.”

“Cookie, you know yourself they are the same.  Only the price has changed.  You must explain.”

“Explain!  Not the same.  Medems no good.”

10 Comments

  • betty

    Reply Reply May 13, 2011

    Doves barely mustering a coo is priceless. I love the images you evoke and your taking me back to the wonderful British way with words. That’s why I love old British movies….you are so talented, Diana! Loved this piece!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 13, 2011

      Betty,

      Thanks for keeping me going week after week. Are you watching South Riding on Masterpiece Theatre?

  • Andrew Davis

    Reply Reply May 14, 2011

    Diana,
    Fantastic story! Love this one. I remember Granny telling me this one as a kid!
    Keep it up!
    – Drew

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 14, 2011

      Yes, Andrew this one is firmly entrenched in the annuals of our family story telling. It also reminds me of the Museum of Natural Science Saturday classes in Houston Jonathan and I attended with two or three other dedicated souls. Once the oil money dried up for funding they started charging for the classes. They were swamped. Now there was no room for mothers to sit in. (the ones who were enjoying the classes most.)

  • Val Barbour

    Reply Reply May 14, 2011

    There is no explaining us humans! If it costs more then it is better! Maybe because we relate the “more” to more effort (not money) on our part. There is an entry on one of Jess’s facebook friends pages today “Would a book on failure be a success?” Ask Steven Covey! It is quite an interesting question when posed by a 17 year old!
    Mirle is still okay – some days better than others but she is very determined. I dont know if you remember Pat West? She is mom’s best mate. She is 94 now and lives in UK with Lyn her only daughter, losing her sight now because of botched cateract ops on National Health. Sad. Lyn has a similar problem to us – they don’t get to go away much because there is always someone to look after at home! Don, Lyn’s husband, has just won the best beef award in Liss in England for his biltong.
    Take care Diana
    Cheers
    Val

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 15, 2011

      The culture today is all about accentuating the positive. Any kind of constructive criticism is OUT! But I think we do fail our way to success. You have to be prepared to take a risk, put your whole heart in it, pick yourself up from the failures. Ask yourself why and then apply the lessons learned. There’s also a lot of luck, timing, involved which unfortunately you can’t control, notwithstanding God favours the well prepared. I think this is what Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling books are all about.

      Val, Thats why Dad started the Native Clinics. The GMO service was really inadequate. The bottom line being that private enterprise provides a far superior service…even at the grass roots level. So sorry to hear about Pat’s poor outcomes on the cataract surgery under National Health and Lynn’s family obligations constricting her middle years, but glad that Don is finding creative outlets and is a winner! I didn’t think you could make biltong in England. The air is just too wet! He must have it in a special drying room.

      Tell your mom I just went down to see an ex-Chemistry Prof from Wits’ orchid growing set up. He exclusively grows disas, native of Table Mountain, using tissue culture methods for propagation. Since I spent 13 years in a state of the art facility at Rice University it was fun to see a grass roots set up in a 4×5 room being so successful. He shares a greenhouse with another guy about an hour away and they were in full bloom. I must say the more exotic Asian cousins are more my style. He makes his own SA sausage.

      I’ve entered the (WAFA) World Flower Arranging Show in Boston (mid June) Over 600 international entries. Won’t be in the US for another 25 years. Staying with my oldest son, Andrew, while there of course. Should be wonderful. Got to ship the driftwood. African theme. Visit the wholesale flower market in Boston….huge, the size of a couple of football fields…a treat in itself. Mrs. DeBeer would be in seventh heaven…

      Trying to plough through this draft of THE book. More anon

  • Fran Lamusse

    Reply Reply May 15, 2011

    Diana, I am really enjoying this. Although I am only a couple of years younger than you and lived in Que Que from the age of eight til seventeen, therafter going back for the odd holiday there is so much I don’t know and you make it so entertaining! AS Betty says you certainly have a “way with words.”

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 15, 2011

      Fran so glad you are enjoying this addition to your store of QQ history. Recently connected with Margie Lewis who remembered your first place position in class and top O level results as well as Jan’s mother at weekly bridge sessions. Life in QQ was full and interesting for everyone, as well as a great education system.

  • Jenny Swift nee Waymark

    Reply Reply February 26, 2012

    Di, I cant stop reading these stories, just so delightful and the 2/6 story to the 5 shillings is so typical isnt it………….we are just fascinated. Well done and please keep it going, so uplifting. Thanks so much. Jenny Bob Swift (nee Waymark)

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 26, 2012

      Jenny, Yes, the stories are I hope whilst being true to time and place are also universal…I am thrilled you are enjoying them so much. Diana

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