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Interview with Olin Perritt, September 6, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Olin Perritt, September 6, 2006
September 6, 2006
In this interview, retired radiology specialist Dr. Olin Perritt discusses his career history in Wilmington beginning with his arrival in 1956 and changes in the field of radiology. Dr. Perritt also includes a personal account of the 1961 local air show tragedy.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Perritt, Olin Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 9/6/2006 Series: SENC Physicians and Surgeons Length 61 minutes

Mims: This is LuAnn Mims and Jerry Parnell with Randall Library Special Collections, continuing our oral history interviews with people of the medical community in Wilmington. This is September 6, 2006. I'm speaking with Dr. John Olin Perritt. If you could start by telling us a little bit about your personal background; where you were born and raised.

Olin Perritt: Well I was born in Tarboro, North Carolina. That's Edgecombe County. You don't want to know the year or anything, do you?

Mims: If you want to give it.

Olin Perritt: (laugh) Well, it was 1922.

Mims: What kind of work did your father do?

Olin Perritt: My father was a professional baseball player.

Mims: Really?

Olin Perritt: And he played baseball until he got kind of old, then he was sort of a player/manager. And then when he got a little too old to play, he was a manager and he went down to the minor leagues and, um, actually played ball until about 1936, at which time our family moved to Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I entered high school the first year in 1936 in Rocky Mount, and the usual boyhood activities like the Boy Scouts and church activities. I had a paper route and ushered at a local theater, played in the high school band for four years. I almost forgot that. Pretty much was a musician, but I also had a great desire to learn to fly, so I started hanging around the airport. And on Saturdays, I would help out fueling the planes and Sundays, I would sell tickets to the crowd to take rides. And many times, when there was an extra seat, I'd get to go along.

Mims: What type of aircraft?

Olin Perritt: Oh they had old biplanes and cabin Wacos, four-place. And pretty soon, I started taking flying lessons when I was 14.

Mims: You're kidding!

Olin Perritt: And I have currently realized I've been flying for 70 years.

Mims: Oh my gosh.

Olin Perritt: But on my 16th birthday, my dad took me to the local highway patrol station to get my driver's license, and after lunch, he said, "You now can drive." So he let me have the car and I went over and picked up my sweetheart, and I went out and soloed. They wouldn't let me solo until I was 16. That high school sweetheart was my wife of 50 years. She passed away suddenly two weeks before our 50th anniversary.

Mims: Oh, that's a shame.

Olin Perritt: I had a very, I thought, exciting life in high school. I took practically every course offered, college preparatory, because I wanted to go to North Carolina State College and take aeronautical engineering, but the war clouds were on the horizon and right after high school, I volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corp. I stayed in the Air Corp as an enlisted person, and then I passed the exam and started flight training, U.S. Army Air Corp and graduated with wings and commissioned in '43. I was an instructor for a year, and then I went overseas and flew with General Chennault and the Flying Tigers in China for two years as a combat pilot.

Mims: Where did you do your flight training?

Olin Perritt: You're talking about military?

Mims: Mm hmm.

Olin Perritt: Well I started with a classification in Nashville, preflight in Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama. Then I had primary flight training in Lakeland, Florida, basic flight training in Shaw Field, Sumter, South Carolina. And then advanced at Spence Field, Moultrie, Georgia, where I graduated. I was sent to Central Instructors School at Randolph Field in San Antonio and went back to Spence Field as an instructor. I've been around the board a time or two.

Mims: You did.

Olin Perritt: I finally got out of training command, and of course, I went to Florida for fighter training, and then I went right over to India and on into Burma and China where I flew all my combat in China.

Mims: We weren't actively engaged in war at this time. This was still pre-war?

Olin Perritt: No, ma'am. This was '44.

Mims: Oh '44, okay.

Olin Perritt: I got into China in '44 and I was there when the war ended. And our outfit, I was in the 528th fighter squadron, which by the way, we're having our 63rd reunion the end of this month in Knoxville, Tennessee. I'm not planning to go. It's just too much on me. But when the war ended, my outfit went into Shanghai as troops of occupation, took over from Japanese. I was there from war ending until the end of December, when the 528th was totally deactivated and we came home on a large troop ship. I was seasick for 17 days. (laugh) We skirted a typhoon right on the edge of it, and the water was extremely rough and the boat pitching. I get a little nauseated just thinking about it. (laugh) But there was about 3,000 of us that mostly were sick. And then I was engaged to be married before I went overseas, and on my leave when I got back to the states, we were married in 1946, which this coming February would have been 61 years ago.

Mims: That's incredible. What was your wife's name?

Olin Perritt: I'm sorry?

Mims: Your wife's name. What was her name?

Olin Perritt: My wife's name was Carolyn.

Mims: When you came back to the United States from the war, what did you start doing then?

Olin Perritt: Well I tried to stay in the service. I was an officer and I was hoping to transition into jets and have a career, a military career, but there were too many others that wanted to do the same thing. So I finagled a pass and went up to Chapel Hill and talked to the director of admissions and he said, "Yeah, we'll take you." So I went back and processed a separation from the service. I stayed in the reserve, but I started right at Chapel Hill in '46. I actually entered the school-- in those years; it was called the School of Commerce. It's now the School of Business. I'm not saying I didn't like business, but apparently, I liked science much better. And I give my mother-in-law, bless her heart, uh... talked me into going into medicine. So I switched to premed and then got the equivalent of four-year premed in two years.

Mims: Wow!

Olin Perritt: I was smart (laugh) so they tell me.

Mims: Yeah.

Olin Perritt: But I entered Chapel Hill, which in those years, was a two-year medical school in '48. And then in 1950, we all had to transfer to get our last two years. I was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where I went with my bride, and graduated in '52, an intern at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and I stayed on another three years for my residency in radiology. All those many years with my wife working my way through college, we didn't start having our family until I was an intern. My oldest child, my daughter was born in '53, the year I was an intern. She lives in Winston-Salem. Her daughter, that beautiful girl over there on the end is marrying in December. She finished state college. Her mother was a Salem girl. My mother went to Salem, and we thought sure that Caroline would go to Salem, but she went to state. She wanted to get out of town. They live in Winston-Salem and her brother, my oldest grandson, graduated last year at Carolina. He's a banker. He's working with BB&T. (laugh)

Mims: How did you come by being interested in radiology?

Olin Perritt: There were really two things. First, I guess, was the fact that I had an uncle by marriage that was practicing radiology here in Wilmington.

Mims: What's his name?

Olin Perritt: He's been dead for years. He's was Doctor Ivan Brouse.

Mims: Yep.

Olin Perritt: Does the name sound familiar?

Mims: He worked with Dr. Barefoot, I think.

Olin Perritt: Yes, he and Dr. Barefoot were partners. They were desperate for an associate, so I had a place pretty well set up for me, even before I started radiology. And the second thing is that I had a rotating internship and the very first service I had was gynecology. I had at that time an interest in specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, but gynecology is a lot of surgery and my legs gave out. I couldn't stand for the long periods at the operating table that were required in surgical procedures. I can sit down a lot during radiology. (laugh) Well actually, they told me that you did most of your work between your ears. You've heard that expression? But anyway, I had a place here for me. They actually had a great desire for me to improve and help Dr. Sidbury in radiology at Babies Hospital, so I spent the last six months of my residency in pediatric radiology at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

Mims: So you had a definite plan. You had an interest, but you also had a definite place to go and use your skills.

Olin Perritt: Exactly, exactly. They didn't pay me very much. Actually, I was with the old James Walker x-ray department for five years, and-- of course my kids, by that time, we had three children and our expenses were a lot more than they were when we had no children. I didn't seem to feel like I was getting anywhere, so I threatened to leave and go somewhere else, so they came around, made me a full partner. (laugh) Then they turned over most of the hard work to me, anyway.

Mims: We talked to one of Dr. Barefoot's children.

Olin Perritt: Which one?

Mims: Roxana.

Olin Perritt: The baby.

Mims: She was talking about how radiology was considered like a separate entity. We'd like to hear the transition, how the radiographer, the radiologist had their own equipment and kind of rented it to the hospital.

Olin Perritt: Well she's actually pretty much referring back to the situation that it was when I came to Wilmington.

Mims: Right, okay.

Olin Perritt: The department of radiology at James Walker was leased by Dr. Barefoot and Dr. Brouse and they had their own equipment. They had their own payroll, their own employees, their own technicians. They also did all the hospital's free work, including the employees of the hospital, the nurses and all that stuff.

Mims: The annual chest x-rays.

Olin Perritt: Yes, the annual requirements. All of that changed when the new hospital opened. I still call it the new hospital, but it opened in '67, which is what, 37 years ago. (laugh)

Mims: Coming up on 40 almost.

Olin Perritt: Yeah, it's getting close to 40. When we went into the New Hanover Memorial in those days, we went on what's called separate billing, and that's the way it has been around the country for some years now. The hospital bills a technical fee, charge, which is the use of the department, the equipment and the technicians who work for the hospital. The doctors, radiologists, charge a professional fee for doing the work, supervising the department, training the technicians, doing the x-ray work, x-raying and fluoroscoping, interpreting the films and reporting and consulting with a referring physician. That was when our status was markedly elevated.

Mims: So you came into Wilmington in what year?

Olin Perritt: 1956, first of July.

Mims: So you were here about ten years or so before New Hanover.

Olin Perritt: Yes, ma'am. Actually, 11 years. And you might be interested, LuAnn, that he's still living, but Dr. Sinclair, who was affiliated with the early on hospital downtown--

Mims: Bulluck.

Olin Perritt: Bulluck Hospital with Dr. Mebane and Sam Pace, Hubert Johnson, and they opened up and started the Cape Fear Hospital.

Mims: We did talk to Dr. Sinclair.

Olin Perritt: Okay. Well he was doing radiology work at the old Community Hospital, and as a matter of reference, it was the so-called black Hospital. He-- for one reason or another, I don't recall exactly-- he left and Mr. Butler[ph?], a black gentleman was chairman of the board of directors, and he called me and asked for an appointment and he came over and he pled with me to come and help him out. At that time, they had a School of Nursing, and these girls were getting ready to go up to New York or New Jersey, affiliating in psychiatry. The hospital that they were going to required them to have an up-to-date chest x-ray-- in those days, you know, we had tuberculosis and other problems-- and have an official interpretation of those x-rays. Well they did the x-rays, but there was nobody to read them and interpret them, and that's what he was after me to help. Well I've always had an easygoing... you could get to me very quickly, so I did. I worked for that hospital for 11 years.

Mims: At Community?

Olin Perritt: Yes, and I got very little monetary reward, but I got a lot of satisfaction that I felt like I was doing a civic duty. I enjoyed working over there. I was over there in the morning, almost at daylight, before I went over to James Walker at 8 o'clock. And then I'd come back in the afternoon at 5:00 and read the films. Then I'd go to Babies Hospital, because I lived at Wrightsville Beach. Oh, I forgot to tell you. I also was covering Pender Memorial in Burgaw. I started there in '56, mainly because two of the physicians up there, Dr. John Dees[ph?] and Dr. Harold Peaton[ph?] were classmates of mine in medical school, and they begged me to come up there and help out with the radiology. They didn't have anybody to read the films, so I actually worked up there until 1984. That's when I finally retired. I actually left New Hanover in '79, semi-retired and I went to Burgaw. I was going up there three mornings a week. I didn't have night calls, weekends or holidays, but I couldn't go very far on a vacation. I had to be back, you know

Mims: This is incredible! I mean you've got four hospitals you're juggling.

Olin Perritt: Yes, at one time, I was at Community, Babies, Pender and James Walker. It's what we call circuit riding. We had Dr. Bell in New Bern, and he was covering three hospitals in New Bern, and the hospital in Jacksonville in Onslow County, and Dr. Patrick in Kinston, and he was covering Kenansville and two or three other small cities. We were the three eastern North Carolina radiologists. We called ourselves circuit riders. Are you familiar with the term?

Mims: Sure. I never likened it to the medical profession. (laugh)

Olin Perritt: We always thought circuit riders were preachers. That's what I learned because my grandfather, my father's father lived on the farm and the local church, he built. If the circuit rider came every other week, one week on the morning, and the next two weeks later on the afternoon, that's when all the ladies dressed up. That's when my brother and I had to wear shoes. We spent our summers on my grandfather's farm. But if the circuit rider, for some reason, didn't show up, you know who preached> My grandfather. He established the county school. He was chairman of the board of education.

Mims: What's his name?

Olin Perritt: His name was Asa, A.J.A., Asa John-- we never really figured out what the third initial was, but it was Perritt, my father's father.

Parnell: And this is Edgecombe County?

Mims: What county was this?

Olin Perritt: I don't know what county. It was Lamar, South Carolina. He lived two miles out of town. I never had but one disagreement with my grandfather. I was 7-years-old. And that was when they were getting ready to go to town on Saturday-- that's when you go to town-- I didn't want to go in his Model A Ford. I wanted to go on the wagon with the mules with the black folks. I enjoyed riding in that wagon.

Mims: Really?

Olin Perritt: They'd let me guide the horses, the mules. (laugh) That's a lot of flashbacks. Anyway, this was during the Depression. We were very poor. My father, by this time, is not playing baseball anymore and hadn't saved any money. You didn't make much in those days, but we did get plenty to eat on the farm.

Mims: When you were doing all these hospitals, you mentioned other radiologists in North Carolina. Would you guys have like a consortium or a meeting or anything?

Olin Perritt: Yes. When I first joined in '56, we had a so-called North Carolina Radiologists Society, but very shortly after that, I'd say within three years, we became the North Carolina Chapter of the American College of Radiology. You might be interested that towards the latter part of my medical career, I was one of the three counselors to the American College from the state of North Carolina.

Mims: And they helped to set standards?

Olin Perritt: We were mostly policy making. We had annual meetings. This is an aside, but it's one of the reasons I retired so young in life. I didn't have any vacation time. I had to use my vacation time for these national meetings, and my associates wouldn't allow me to have anymore time. They said, "You use your vacation time for your national," I said, "Yes, and my time is being spent making policy for the whole group, and you guys are surfing," I mean, "scuba diving down in Acapulco and stuff like that." But I was ready to retire anyway.

Mims: It sounds like you didn't have very much downtime.

Olin Perritt: Well actually, I guess we need to lead into this. I was president of the medical staff at Community. I was president of the medical staff at Pender Memorial. I was on state committees of the American College, North Carolina chapter. I became a fellow of the American College, which is my fourth degree. There's not another one in my old group, which is now over twenty members here in Wilmington, not a single one has ever gotten that high in the National Association.

Mims: All of these things that you're involved with, again, it takes personal time away because you're attending meetings.

Olin Perritt: Absolutely. I forgot to mention I was president of the Tri-county Medical Society. That's New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick County. I've got the certificate somewhere. I guess it's in my computer room. I keep most of my airplane pictures and all of the certificates and things in my office at the hospital. I got my daughter-in-law to put them up in my computer room. Don't mean a thing to me anymore, but it impresses guests. (laugh) I'd much rather look at my grandchildren.

Mims: We like looking at those things too. It seems like you're just so, so busy. Now I've gotta ask you; why did you feel that you needed to be involved with all of this? Was it professional or was it something personal?

Olin Perritt: Well actually, most of these things I've mentioned I was asked to serve. I've never been much to refuse. I didn't refuse you. (laugh)

Mims: No, you didn't.

Olin Perritt: I was delighted to have you come. I actually served on the vestry at St. Johns Episcopal Church and was a senior warden and that's the hardest year I worked. And that was when I probably had the busiest time of my medical practice. That was late 1972. That's a long time ago. They don't ask me to do much over there anymore. I said, "Let the younger guys do it."

Mims: It seems like you've put in your time here.

Olin Perritt: That's exactly the right way to approach it, I think.

Mims: If we could go back for just a minute and talk a little bit more about that transition from James Walker Community into New Hanover Hospital. It's an area of interest to us, and you've had the benefit of being at the two hospitals that were separated.

Olin Perritt: Yes.

Mims: What was it like coming into New Hanover, in your perspective?

Olin Perritt: Well first of all, let me stress the fact that at the time New Hanover opened, Babies closed, Community closed, so I lost those two jobs. We had a very tough first year. Dr. Barefoot came down with lung cancer and he died within three months. And Dr. Joe Jambs [ph?], who had joined me while we were at James Walker when Dr. Brouse retired, he and I ran that radiology department at the same time I was still going to Burgaw, and we got Dr. Morris, Kenny Morris to join us one year after New Hanover opened. So the three of us pretty well got along with what we had to do. In nineteen-sixty... three years later, we opened our private office over on Delaney Avenue. At that time, we all were actually working way too much. The department was still doing routine exams at 11 o'clock at night. I had some of the elderly physicians that pointed out to me and our department that we had to do something to alleviate this problem. I can remember Dr. Charles Graham, who was a surgeon, talked us into opening a private office. The reason is, let's say you, as a private patient, as an outpatient, needed to have an examination. You could get bumped very quickly by an emergency room or exam from an inpatient. So the private outpatients were really considered the low man on the totem pole. They could be shifted around and they didn't like it. They didn't like the wait. They didn't like to have to reschedule, and so opening the private outpatient office-- which we did on our own, the hospital had nothing to do with it-- enabled a great deal of improvement in care of the private outpatients.

Mims: Now this was Delaney Radiology.

Olin Perritt: Yes, just strictly radiology. No, it was the New Hanover Radiology, and it was that way until I retired, and shortly after that, the group broke up, split up. I had one of the wives tell my wife that I was the glue that held the group together. (laugh) And when I left, eventually, they changed the name to Delaney Radiology.

Mims: Right and now they've got that super huge building over there.

Olin Perritt: Well yes, but see the office we had was there on Delaney. I think that's why they chose the name Delaney. They also opened, a few years back, another office a little further down. They had more work than they could handle; mammography and stuff of that nature. And they had put in a CAT scanner and diagnostic ultrasound and a lot of new things. Now over there-- I forgot the name of the street-- but they have built a massive new building and I haven't seen it since it's been finished.

Mims: Medical Center Drive. It's way down there. I've been there. It's huge!

Olin Perritt: It's across the highway from Thayer Dunn, who was my respiratory doctor.

Mims: It is. It's beautiful.

Olin Perritt: Yes. I don't know what. I think they have turned the old office, the one that I helped build, over to a female radiologist that apparently specializes in pediatric radiology.

Mims: Interesting.

Olin Perritt: And right across the parking lot, you know, is Angelina Knox, who's a pediatrician, and she's such a sweet lady. I always had a soft spot in my heart for her.

Mims: Whenever they were building New Hanover, we've talked to other doctors who said that they were kind of asked for their input on how to make the department work at the transfer. Were you consulted about equipment that they needed?

Olin Perritt: Yes. We sat in with Mr. Blumenkrantz. He was, I guess, a New York man that was working with the Boneys and Seymour Alper, who was, I think, at that time Chairman of the board of directors. I haven't seen Seymour in years, but he was like me, getting old.

Mims: We talked to him like two years ago.

Olin Perritt: We conferred and sat and looked at plans and things, but the final result of the department-- and I have to add, I was very pleased with it, we had very little input into the exact routing of patients-- but it worked so well that when we did our office over on Delaney, we copied it on a smaller scale. Patients didn't come in. There were other doctors and the technicians who worked in the darkrooms and the reading and the interpretation. They came down another corridor, so that their dressing rooms were there when they entered the radiology and the x-ray department, x-ray room, and the doctor came in from the other corridor, so we had a patients' corridor and a doctors' corridor. It just worked beautifully. As you're well aware, there's a lot of traffic in the hospital. In fact, the last time I was in New Hanover, I got lost. I had to ask the security fellow and actually, he got me to the place to sign in, and then they wanted me to go somewhere else and I said, "Would you lead me by the hand?" and they did. It's terrible.

Mims: It's massive!

Olin Perritt: It's maddening!

Mims: It's not like how it used to be, but you know, we have so many people coming into the area; we have to have such a large facility.

Olin Perritt: Exactly and they're growing in leaps and bounds all the time. I guess most of my work at James Walker and at Community, and also these other hospitals, as well as New Hanover was pretty much isolated to the department. I did go out on the floors to see patients and write orders for the patients' special procedures. but the vast majority of my time was spent in the department.

Mims: Radiology has become specialized in itself. Like you said, this lady has focused on pediatrics. Did you have a special interest in your field?

Olin Perritt: Actually, they started out with the sub-specialist radiology in the early '50's. I had probably a higher interest in pediatric radiology, and I think that's because I trained with one of the top men in the world, Dr. John Hope in Philadelphia. I did not see eye-to-eye with some of the pediatricians, however. (laugh) They had some ideas that went way back, and those ideas had been pretty well superseded by newer knowledge in radiology, and they were not very impressed with trying to learn the newer methods, which I tried to teach them.

Mims: We talked to Dr. Van Beltzer[ph?] and he was talking about the radiation therapy, and so part of your job was to do the therapy, too, or the diagnostics?

Olin Perritt: Well yes. This is something that I'm glad you brought that up. We had, up until I'd say the late '50's, early '60's, the majority of residencies in radiology at the top notch hospitals and universities in the country were so-called combination of therapy and diagnosis called general radiology. Then they started sub-specializing into diagnosis or therapy. And then I'd say in the '80's, late '70's-'80's, we have neuroradiology, and pediatric radiology, uroradiology. There was so much coming out in radiology for different specialties otherwise, that your demand was such that if you were doing gastroenterology radiology, you didn't have much time for pediatrics or neuroradiology. I was trained as a general radiologist. I did diagnosis and therapy until-- and Harry Van Beltzer would have told you this-- until 5 fluorouracil came along-- 5FU, we called it, we treated most all skin cancer with radiation, superficial radiation. And when 5FU came out, almost over night, the dermatologist treated skin cancer. I've used it myself on places on my face. You daub it on with your finger. You don't use a Q-tip. It's too expensive. It absorbs too much. You use the end of your finger and you put it on twice a day, and in two weeks, it starts to form a scab, and when that sloughs, it's just smooth. And that's been used by people with very bad skin to very good effect, but it came out pretty much after I stopped doing therapy. But New Hanover, we put in a cobalt unit, and that's what we used for deep therapy and rotational therapy, and things like breast cancer, prostate, and it was quite effective. Now later on, shortly before I retired, we got a full-time therapist, Dr. Myerson, who was at that time at New Bern. He was looking for a new position and I talked him into coming to Wilmington. He did not join our group. He took over therapy as a separate entity from the department. And later on, they abandoned the cobalt and put in a linear accelerator, which is a much more powerful machine for radiation therapy. And as you know, most radiation therapy is for cancer.

Mims: Right. I know that he's in a group that's radiation oncology.

Olin Perritt: Well actually, I believe in some recent years, he's opened a private office and has an associate. I don't know him. As I said, I've been rehashing things here that I've been out of the picture so long.

Mims: What about development of what they call the nuclear side, with all of the different scanning devices?

Olin Perritt: Let me compliment you. You are a real great interviewer, because I totally miss that. When I finished my training in Philadelphia, I went to take the National Boards in radiology, and I took three sections of the board at one time; radiation therapy, diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine. And when I came to practice, and for a short while after, a few years, I was the only doctor in Wilmington that had nuclear medicine training. I helped set up the nuclear layout at the old James Walker.

Mims: So they did have that.

Olin Perritt: Yes. I did a lot of diagnostic studies with nuclear medicine, thyroids, mostly. I treated blood diseases, ovarian cancer with radiation, nuclear medicine. It's not used anymore. But when the actual planning for the New Hanover Memorial came along, I was outvoted on all of this, just like they had done at James Walker, the pathologist section got the nuclear lab. So even though I went along for a number of years as sort of consultant, they never consulted me. It was all in the laboratory section. I don't know how it's handled now, but I'm assuming it's still.

Mims: Now they have that Zimmer Cancer Center and a lot of nuclear stuff that's handled through that section of the hospital.

Olin Perritt: Well we used, in diagnostic radiology, when I was in practice in New Hanover, a lot of radioactive drugs, the scans. We did bone scans, and liver scans, lung scans and all these different things using radioactive medicine. But at that time, we were the only ones that were-- I don't like to use the word qualified-- we were the only ones licensed to use these doses. The thyroid with radioactive iodine was just a trace, a very small trace, but when you were doing a bone scan, a lung scan, liver scan and some of these others, it took a higher dose and we were the only ones licensed to handle it. And of course, we were the only ones that had the machines to do it. They didn't have cameras. For lack of a better statement, I will tell you that things have changed so much in the radiological aspect of medicine that it has replaced many of the invasive procedures that we had to use in my early years, and that's mainly with the radioactive stuff, and CAT scans, MRI's. MRI's didn't come till after I retired, but we did have CAT scanners. The old procedures, let's say for brain problems, tumor, what have you, abnormal vascular systems entail procedures that were fraught with all kinds of problems, and never really had as good a diagnostic ability in radiology as they had with the CAT scans. And then of course special procedures, this was catheter work, which we became extremely well equipped for in the short years before I retired, and even now for carotid arteriograms, cerebral arteriograms, angiocardiograms, all of the things where you inject by using catheters in the femoral artery and isolate different vessels. That has proceeded into the surgical procedure of stenting many people that have bypasses and those vessels start to close, and they can pass a catheter with a wire basket on and put a stent in, a little coil to open a vessel and make it stay open. All of these surgical procedures have followed the ability to do this.

Mims: You were also talking about other noninvasive... you mentioned ultrasounds.

Olin Perritt: Yes. Ultrasound started out-- I hate to mention anything controversial, but I have alluded to it a little bit on the edge here-- the biggest problem of all with ultrasound was obstetrics, because the ultrasound was being used in the early years mainly for fetal problems, and the obstetricians felt like it was in their ______. So a few of those real quickly kind of learned a little bit about it, and the next thing you know, they've got ultrasound. Most of the radiologists were trained in ultrasound and felt like this was a departmental type of activity, but it was very quickly superseded by being outvoted.

Mims: The specialty group.

Olin Perritt: Yes, exactly.

Mims: You hear that they're doing more and more ultrasound because they can see things.

Olin Perritt: Exactly. I personally have had some problems with stones, so I go over to have an ultrasound, but I have in the x-ray, the private office when it was Delaney, before the new office, and lo and behold, not only did they find stones in my kidneys, but also in my gall bladder and my urinary bladder, so I've got stones galore. They're not causing any problems, but I suspect that we all consider a stone potentially a problem. It can suddenly decide to break loose, and then when it starts sliding down a small tube, it blocks. And I've passed a couple of stones.

Mims: Not fun, huh?

Olin Perritt: They have told me, because I can't verify this, that the only pain any more severe than passing a stone is having a baby. I can't verify that.

Mims: When my brother had one, I asked him if he named it. (laugh) I have it on good authority that you have a story about our air show tragedy in 1961, I believe.

Olin Perritt: That sounds about right.

Mims: You were out at the airfield or you were at the hospital when this happened?

Olin Perritt: I don't know, but what it was, the after affect of my interest in aviation and being a doctor, but every time anything got planned for an air show at the local airport, the people that did the planning came to me to provide medical coverage. And if I recall correctly, it was considered for every 50,000 spectators, you should have at least one tent set up with Red Cross and physician and attendants, so I, for years, found the physicians to be on hand, including myself. The crash that they had-- the C123 Provider, which was a support plane for the Thunderbirds-- they had a helicopter that I was stationing myself on. And when that plane crashed, this helicopter waited for me to climb aboard. I had gone over to get drinks for the crew, Cokes. It was very hot that day. And one of the crew on the helicopter pulled me aboard as the helicopter pilot started off, and I hadn't even been tied in and I almost fell out the door when he banked. It would have killed me for sure, because by this time, he was 50 or 100 feet up. Anyway, he flew over and landed very close to the crash and we went and got the first people out.

Mims: You loaded them into the helicopter and transported them.

Olin Perritt: Oh yes, we loaded them in the helicopter. The airport in those days, still a pretty big problem is access, very hard to get on or off, and that's why sometimes I waited till after dark before I ever got my family together to come home, because it's bumper-to-bumper traffic. But anyway, as the helicopter pilot-- he was a Marine-- as he lifted off heading for the hospital-- and of course, remember this noise is just deafening from a helicopter, nothing any louder-- but I got the crew chief to tell the pilot to call the tower on the radio and have the tower call the hospital to set up disaster program. And very quickly, we are over the hospital and I'm looking down at this single tennis court, and here's the hospital and here's high-tension lines. And he brought this thing down and landed right next to the net. The rotor was passing over the net, a beautiful job. And by this time, they had people coming out with-- we call them stretchers, but we call them gurneys, too. Well we had people lined up to donate blood. As soon as I got out of the helicopter, I got my people in from the x-ray department, because we had a lot of broken backs.

Mims: Do you remember how many people were involved with the crash?

Olin Perritt: Well there were, I think, five fatalities. Jimmy Craig, he had been very instrumental in getting the battleship here, which was just a few years before. These were for burns. See this plane caught fire. I think the crew chief, who was not strapped in and he was at the tail of the plane-- it had this thing that goes up, ramp-- he was getting the ramp closed and when they crashed, he went flying forward. I don't mean flying. Inertia took him forward against the bulkhead and I think he was killed instantly. The two that I happened to know at the time, they succumbed to their burns. C.E. Martin still lived. He's one that I picked up. He was-- half of a heel was pretty well amputated and I think he still walks with a limp, but he played golf until-- he may still be playing. He was one of the public relations people with the television station. All these people were associated one way or another with either the paper or TV. But when that plane came down, of course, those that were seated, strapped in, they crunched vertebra, so of course, we x-rayed them. It was not a very pleasant day.

Mims: We've heard stories told by some of the student nurses, that it was their very first experience in even being with patients. They were just assisting, but just the whole idea that it happened so suddenly.

Olin Perritt: Well, I had sort of always wanted to be a detective, Sam Spade and Marlow and all those movies I saw in the '30's. I worked occasionally in the city with the Chief of Police and the Sheriff, forensic medicine. I was very involved in that from a radiologist standpoint. I don't know whether you've heard the history of the airliner that crashed just southeast of us that was blown up by Julian Franks. Have you ever heard that story? I've forgotten the history.

Mims: Is it the swamp crash?

Olin Perritt: Well, he apparently was an attorney in New York and the story developed later that he was involved somehow with the mob. He purchased a one-way ticket to Cuba and took out a million dollars worth of insurance made out to his wife. And when he boarded the plane-- it was a DC7 Douglas, United Airlines, I guess-- they didn't land here, but practically all of the traffic north and south New York to Miami, you know, pass over Wilmington, the radio navigation. And shortly after leaving this Wilmington area at altitude heading south, they passed out over the water. Well when he got aboard, embarked, when he boarded the plane in New York, he had a little blue gym bag. That's the only luggage he had. I'm going to get way winded with this story, because it's a famous story. But anyway, apparently he set this bomb off too soon. He had it between his legs. Well it blew the side of the plane out and the plane went out of control and crashed. They crashed on land, but a lot of the stuff fell out over the water; life preservers, seat cushions under there and all that stuff. Well they couldn't find his body. And Paul Waters, who was a fish spotter-- he spotted for the fishery down in Southport-- Menhaden-- he was up, coming back from Southport and flying over what we call the boondocks, the marshes, and he saw this reflection. He circled and it absolutely was the inner surface of this part of the fuselage that was blown out. He radioed to some people on the ground and they recovered this a good distance from the crash, and they found this Julian Frank's body.

Mims: Really?

Olin Perritt: Yeah.

Mims: Do you know what timeframe this was? What year was this?

Olin Perritt: I can't remember. But anyway, we had the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, FBI, all kinds of national people from Washington were here, and they were working with Dr. George Lum, who was a pathologist at James Walker. And when they got Frank's body, as well as the others, the crew, we x-rayed them all from tip to toe. I called George and I said, "George, we have x-rayed his forearms, but there's no wrists and hands. And we've x-rayed his legs, but there are no ankles and feet." And I said, "In the stumps, there are tiny little pieces of metal, little short pieces of wire." And I took the x-rays over to pathology with the people from Washington and I said, "I don't know what this is, but it doesn't look like any part of an airplane." Well they dug some of these fragments out and analyzed it and it was parts of a battery, and wiring. And this is when they first got the idea that he had blown the plane up. He had set the bomb off between his legs, and when he reached over to open the bag, apparently, it blew his arms and his legs off. Well Paul Waters, at the time, was operating out of Wilmington Airport, the old county tie down area. He was asked and approved reconstructing all the parts of that airplane in his hanger. They put the plane together on chicken wire. They do the same thing with all these big crashes. It takes months trying to find what part went wrong. Well it must have been a month or so later, they had about given up, you know, and somebody was out there. I had been out there many times. They had an unusual odor and they started looking around, and on the shelf, luggage racks on the opposite side of where this fellow had been sitting, they found an arm or a leg, I forget which.

Mims: Oh, my gosh!

Olin Perritt: Do you remember this story?

Parnell: I've heard parts of it.

Olin Perritt: Anyway, the insurance company never paid his wife, and this was written up in Reader's Digest. Paul was given credit for actually solving the problem.

Mims: Wow, incredible. We're at the end of the tape.

Olin Perritt: He was an ardent fisherman and he would land his plane on the beach and surf cast. And he kept his rod and reels in the tail end of his plane. (laugh) But he probably had as many flying hours of anyone his age when he gave up flying.

Mims: How many hours have you flown in your time, starting at 14?

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