The Difference Between Half A Crown and Five Shillings


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.”