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Interview with Ernie Ben Ward, April 9, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Ernie Ben Ward, April 9, 2005
April 9, 2005
In this interview, Dr. Ernie Ben Ward discusses his dental school training in the late 40s and shares anecdotes from his years in practice including changes in equipment and techniques, the arrival of specialized dentistry, and the evolution of the dental health system in North Carolina.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Ward, Ernie Ben Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul Series: SENC Health Services Length 51:30

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a Staff Member with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. This is another video tape in the Series of professionals uh... who have been in the "health care delivery systems", in North Carolina or other States. Today, we are interviewing Dr. Ernie Ward...

Ernie Ben Ward: Ben.

Zarbock: Ben. Uh... and at his home in Whiteville, North Carolina. Good morning, Doctor! And how are you?

Ernie Ben Ward: Good morning.

Zarbock: When did you graduate from Med... Dental School?

Ernie Ben Ward: 1948.

Zarbock: Where did you go to school?

Ernie Ben Ward: Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, Dental School, University of Maryland.

Zarbock: And, why did you go there?

Ernie Ben Ward: Because we had no Dental School in North Carolina, in those days. They... one interested in the profession had to go either to Atlanta, or Virginia, or some other place, out of State. No Dental School at all.

Zarbock: When did the Dental School start?

Ernie Ben Ward: The Freshman year, to the best of my knowledge, was around 1946 because I think I was a Sophomore in Dental School when the first year began in "kwonset huts" on campus there at Chapel Hill. The first year was in "kwonset huts". That was when they had the Freshman Class.

Zarbock: Doctor, what... why did you go into Dentistry?

Ernie Ben Ward: Well, I... when I was an Undergraduate I was narrowing my profession down to Accounting, believe it or not... Ministry, or Dentistry. And, uh... my neighbor in St. Pauls, North Carolina, was a Dentist, and a good friend and a fine Christian gentleman. And, I think he had led me into the profession, more than probably anyone else. And, also... while I was in my Freshman Year in College, I had to do a research paper and I chose "Dentistry as a Profession". And, I did my research on that in 1942 and uh... derived at the fact that I was interested in Dentistry... mostly... as a profession.

Zarbock: What was the application process like, in those days?

Ernie Ben Ward: Uh...

Zarbock: What did you have to do to prove yourself?

Ernie Ben Ward: They had no entrance exams, back then, as far as qualifications. I think it was mostly "academic" and your personal interview. Uh, no Dental Aptitude Test, what we call DAT. Didn't have that. Very little written. I don't recall exactly my interview, it's been so long. Uh... but, mostly academically... and your personal interview.

Zarbock: Did... did... were you one of those young Dentists that had to carve something that... ?

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, yes, I'm glad you mentioned that because I have a tooth that I carved out of ivory. We had to carve our teeth out of ivory. Take a block of ivory, a little block of ivory, try and uh... had to carve... carve a tooth. I have one over there. Forgot to get it out a while ago. But, I have one... I have others but I don't know where they are (laughs).

Zarbock: Did they give you a tooth to copy or...

Ernie Ben Ward: You had copies... you had dimensions, down to a fraction of a millimeter. And, if it was off, you had to start over.

Zarbock: Was it a timed test?

Ernie Ben Ward: Weeks. I don't recall exactly. It wasn't something you did in a week or two. You'd work on a tooth for weeks. Weeks! With a file and little sharp knives. Ivory is not exactly easy to carve (laughs).

Zarbock: And, that was... that was to show your digital dexterity?

Ernie Ben Ward: That was to show, I guess, to some degree, how your digital dexterity might be. Uh... that was a long process, I remember that. And, to have to see them put a Foley (?) Gauge on it and measure it and to see if it was off any, at all. It was quite intriguing.

Zarbock: And, was that a "Pass/Fail" situation?

Ernie Ben Ward: I think so, best I remember. Uh... you got graded some... No, it was... I think it was probably a numerical A, B, C... I don't remember. But, we have some that were really excellent in that.

Zarbock: How did you do in that?

Ernie Ben Ward: I did mediocre (laughs).

Zarbock: Have you had to carve an ivory tooth ever since?

Ernie Ben Ward: I have carved an ivory... I have like I say, one on the shelf, up there, a front tooth. We had to carve molars, too, best I recall. But, yes, I have an ivory tooth. I think I put a date on it, but I'm not sure.

Zarbock: But, you didn't much of that in your Practice, did you?

Ernie Ben Ward: None. Absolutely none. We didn't do any carving, hardly, in our Practice, of course. That was just... that was in "Dental Materials".

Zarbock: Doctor, had you ever given a shot before you went to Dental School?

Ernie Ben Ward: Never. Never.

Zarbock: What was that experience like?

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, gracious, it was... scary (laughs). It was very scary. Uh... while we're speaking on that subject of shots, we had to make our own Novocaine. Uh, and that's what made me think of the shots. We used an aspirating syringe to take a tablet about the size of an Alkaseltzor tablet and put it in a little crucible with saline, heat it over a flame to melt... to dissolve the... it was Proc... it was Cocaine in the first... that's Cocaine now, not Procaine. Cocaine, then Procaine, then Carbocaine (?), etc. The line goes on up as far as the line of Dental uh... Anesthes... Anesthetics... go. But, we were using Cocaine... Cocaine tablet, like I say, about the size of... of uh... Alka-Seltzer tablet... drop it in a crucible with a little saline. Held it there with a (inaudible) and heat it over and then it'd dissolve. Then, you took you aspirating syringe. Sucked it up into the syringe, with your needle, and then that's the way we gave our shots. And, that was in Surgery, by the way, only... only in Surgery. We were not allowed to use any type of Novocaine in Operative Dentistry. It was a "no, no".

Zarbock: What could you use in Operative Dentistry?

Ernie Ben Ward: Nothing.

Zarbock: Just get used to it.

Ernie Ben Ward: Just get my arm around their neck. Hold 'em steady, maybe (laughs)... I mean uh... for some reason, back in the Forties, they felt like... that if you did use any type of anesthetic while you were doing any type of Operative work, that you would not be able to tell whether you were approaching the pulp or not. Which is a strange phenomena to this day, of course. But we were not allowed to use anything except in doing Endontia, which is Root Canal work, if you were in that Department, you were allowed to use... But you had to go check out the anesthetic, they didn't have it available, you had to check it out. And, uh... allowed to use it in Endodontics and Surgery. Those were the only two places that you were allowed to use any type of anesthesia. So, all our Operative work was done without any kind of local anesthetic... any kind at all.

Zarbock: When did... when did local anesthetics begin to appear, in Dentistry?

Ernie Ben Ward: Well, they were out then. The carfuels (sp?) as we know them... I don't recall. I'm sure were out in the Forties. But, uh... I don't recall exactly when they went into the carfuels (?) in the Dental Schools. But, they certainly didn't use them in... we had to make our own anesthetic, like I said. There probably was... they were out then, I'm sure. Uh... but I don't recall exactly what year the uh... carfuel (?) anesthetic came out. But, anyhow the first was Cocaine, then Procaine hydrochloride. Cocaine... those were the order and then up to the other anesthetics that they use today.

Zarbock: So when you went... when you got out... when you graduated, what year was that?

Ernie Ben Ward: '48.

Zarbock: And went into... did you go directly into Private Practice?

Ernie Ben Ward: Yes.

Zarbock: And, where?

Ernie Ben Ward: In Chadbourne, North Carolina.

Zarbock: And, there you are... a brand new Dentist with uh... brand new Patients for you.

Ernie Ben Ward: And, actually, no... brand new? Correct. Well, actually I bought a Practice. The Dentist had come there out of the Service. His wife was a Nurse... To make a long story, short, she didn't like Chadbourne. They went back into the Service, as a Career. I had made arrangements to set up a little Practice in Rowland, North Carolina. Already bought all my stuff. Hadn't paid for it. But, uh... found... I was told by a Lab Technician that this guy was leaving Chadbourne. So to make a long story, short, I bought his "two-chair"... "two-chair" Operative... It was upstairs over an old bank, in 1948, for $3,000. Cancelled my Order for my equipment which I was going to have to start from scratch. So, I was able to uh... buy a Practice that was already established, in a sense established, upstairs over an old bank. Before the days of air conditioning, or about the time that air conditioning started because I remember buying a window unit, an International Harvester unit. But, before I was able to buy a International... the window air conditioner, all I had was a little 4" fan with a leather strap on the arm of the chair to keep me cool... or keep them cool (laughter). I was (laughs) hot, too! A little 4" fan... upstairs, mind you... a tin roof building! It was a little warm, to say it mildly (laughs). Oooh... So, that's the way I got started by buying a Practice for $3,000. ... a two-chair Practice. And, had no money and had to get one of my Uncles come to Chadbourne, to sign a Note at the old Waccamaw Bank so that I could borrow $3,000. to start practicing. My father was dead and my Mother had gone back to teaching to help me get through School.

Zarbock: Back to the anesthetic... did you continue to make your own?

Ernie Ben Ward: No, no, no. We did not. We bought carfuels (?) Abbott... Abbott Laboratories was the first carfuels that I remember. Out of Atlanta, I think... is where I bought mine. Yes, we used carfuels, then. We did not... absolutely did not... make any.

Zarbock: Tell me about the equipment when you started off. And, by the way, what is that chair, to your left? [Camera shows antique Dentistry chair.]

Ernie Ben Ward: This chair is the chair used in the early 1900's... the late 1800's, when the Dentist traveled from... to Institutions and/or homes.

Zarbock: They would go into a private home?

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, yes, yes. They would go into a private home. And a Dr. Davis, here in Whiteville, North Carolina... my Mother had told me... my Mother was... had lived over in Marietta, on the other side of Fair Bluff. And, uh... they used to ford a creek there to go into Marietta and Dr. Davis would go to her home, she would told me. And, he would stay four or five days, at the time, to do the Dentistry for the family.

Zarbock: Now, what year would that be... About?

Ernie Ben Ward: I don't... she was born, as I said in '85... so uh... she said she was a young girl.

Zarbock: So the early 1900's, probably?

Ernie Ben Ward: Yes.

Zarbock: And, what is that wheel?

Ernie Ben Ward: The wheel is the S. S. White, 1905, before the days of electricity, unfortunately this was made into a lamp. But, uh... it still has a working mechanism, pulleys, the rope driven and it went on out to the hand feeds (?). But, it was uh... used by a Dr. Bardent (sp?) in Chadbourne, and I think in the very same location where I practiced upstairs over the old bank... but in 1905 is when this... S. S. White was one of the original and largest dental manufacturers.

Zarbock: So, it really was like an old-fashioned sewing machine?

Ernie Ben Ward: Absolutely. [turns wheel mechanism] with this wheel and turn... it would go. Revolution-wise... oh, gracious... practically none (laughs)... out of it. But, you just use the regular hand pieces and then... he told me... this same old Doctor told me... From this, he went to battery-operated. I don't know what kind of batteries... he told me... but, I don't recall exactly... but he used batteries to use his dental equipment with after the foot pedal, before the days of electricity.

Zarbock: Would that have speeding-up drill rotation?

Ernie Ben Ward: Yes, yes it would. It would have.

Zarbock: Well, in your... in your Practice, in the early days, did you do it all? You pulled 'em and you...

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh yes, yes.

Zarbock: Did you make "partials"...

Ernie Ben Ward: We did, we did, we did. That... in the late Forties and early Fifties, there were no Specialists. To my knowledge, there was not a Orthodonist, in Wilmington. I don't recall what year. But, I do remember that Dr. Raymond Renfrow (sp?), born and raised in Fair Bluff, North Carolina, was practicing Orthodonics in Fayetteville. And, uh... he went to Wilmington, one day a week. That was in the Fifties. As I said, I don't know when they had an Orthodontist. They may have had one but I don't think so... if he had been going from Fayetteville to Wilmington, one day a week. Dr. Raymond Renfrow was an Orthodontist. And, uh... that's how I got interested in some Orthodontics, too, because I'd see the people coming into my Office with crooked teeth. Most of.... some had no transportation to go to Fayetteville. So, I got interested in doing some Orthodontics. So, I took some short courses and with a friend who was also doing Orthodontics, in Fairmont. P.C. Purvis (?). With his help, I got into Orthodontics. And, the reason I did, because I wanted to help these people and I call 'em "poor people" because most of us then, were poor in a sense in that we had transportation problems... particularly going as far as Fayetteville for the Orthodontics. So, I started doing the Orthodontics. So for years and years, I continued to do... we had to do it all... Orthodontics and did Orthodontics, I did Oral Surgery, I did the jaw... broken jaw... uh... wiring. We did it all. We had no choice but to do it all. Or, it wouldn't be done or they had a 60-mile plus Practice... place to go to try to get it done.

Zarbock: On bad roads?

Ernie Ben Ward: On bad roads. And, uh... so we... did it all. Every bit of it!

Zarbock: Did you get called out?

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, at night?

Zarbock: Yeah.

Ernie Ben Ward: That's a good... that's another one. Yessiree, Bob! Back then... The man whose Practice I took over, in '48, was a little bit too good to the people. I mean he'd go out... he was out every night, just about, because he didn't charge 'em anymore to go out at night. So, I put a little bit of a quietus on that, by charging 'em to go out at night and I carved it down a little bit. But, there was so much toothache and poor mouth hygiene, in those days, that the dental toothache was a common, everyday occurrence. So, we saw a lot, a lot, a lot of emergencies. And, while we're speaking of emergencies... on the... most people, you know, planted by the "Signs" a lot (inaudible) back then. Well, they also removed, extracted their teeth by the "Signs". Signs of the Zodiac. And uh... I had to have... I had to have a "Ladies Birthday Almanac" or a Farmer's Almanac... or both because they were off two or three days from each other. And, the people had their teeth removed by the "Signs". And, the "Sign" for removing the teeth was when the "fish", on the Almanac, was in the "feet", because if they had the tooth removed when the "Sign" was in the "head", they'd bleed to death (laughs). So, on the days, when the "Signs" were right, I made no appointments for two or three days, because when I opened my Office in the morning, they'd be lined-up... to come into the Office for extractions. That's the truth! There'd be six or eight people at the front, waiting for me to open the door. You didn't have any problem knowing when the "Signs" were because they knew what the "Signs" were. And, they would always have the teeth pulled when the "Signs" were in the "feet"... which was a "fish", the "Sign" of a fish. So, I had to keep an almanac (laughs).

Zarbock: What kind of Assistants did you have... uh did...

Ernie Ben Ward: Dental Assistants?

Zarbock: Bookkeeper or something?

Ernie Ben Ward: Well, I... the first year I did my own taxes. Not being much of a Mathematician, that was it... I did (inaudible) my first year... I think I took in $400 or $500. But, uh... but, Dental Assistants ... we had... you trained 'em yourself... uh, back then... you trained 'em yourself. But, no Certified Dental Assistants. At least, not in to our part of the County or State. We had to do our own training. We had no Dental Hygienist and uh... that was... that was a problem. That was a real problem.

Zarbock: Did you do the cleaning?

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, absolutely. Unfortunately. That was one of my pet peeves! And, we did see so much dental disease... and so much periodontal disease... then, that we had to do the periodontal treatments, of course, there were no Periodontist in the area. And, we saw gross... gross amounts of calculus. I mean there'd be some people that you'd take off pieces as big as the end of your thumb! Believe it or not! And, of course, we saw a lot of dental disease. A lot of abscessed teeth. A lot of what we called in those days, "lopus angina" (sp?) which was an infection in the mouth where the floor of the mouth is elevated. And, we'd even see once in a while where it'd come to a head out here [he gestures toward his cheek]. We have to lance it and put a drain in. We did all that. I have lanced an abscess coming through the cheek. And, uh... I put a drain in it.

Zarbock: What about uh... people who chawed (sp?) tobacco?

Ernie Ben Ward: They did. They did... there was a lot of "chewing". We'd have a lot of people coming in... of course... tobacco, still in their mouth, as far as that's concerned. That was uh... and was up until recently... the last twenty years... chewing was one of the biggest problems of attrition ... as far as wear on the teeth were concerned. But, I think the worst part, as far as dental health... hygiene... was the... the diet. That was one of the problems, back then, as we... Oh, what I'm talking about... I'm changing the subject, briefly, but if I don't now... North Carolina had the first Public Health Dental System, in the United States. We had the first Public Health Dental System. It started in 1935. Dr. Ernest Branch, from Lumberton, was our first Public Health Dentist. And, uh... we established this program. We had... and up... 40 or 50 Dentists... later on... 20 years later, that traveled throughout the State, that went to the Schools, and did Dental Work in the Schools. And they'd have a "Puppet Program" that uh... they'd show to the Students... that was carried out by a Dental Hygienist... 20 years, later. We had a wonderful Dental Health Program... Early Dental Health Program. So, we got started on trying to get our Dental Health in our North Carolinians, early. But, as far as the education, it was slow, slow, slow.

Zarbock: But, you were talking about diet... uh, those were "poor times" and... poor people eat uh... probably a lot of salted products and probably a lot of sugar.

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, yes... yes. Candy, sugary uh... stuff. It's just unreal the amount of "dental caries" that we would see. I mean, complete mouths just wiped-out... in children. Uh... just beyond salvage... just beyond salvage. It was just heartbreaking... to see the amount of dental caries. And, it still needs to be improved, tremendously... in ruyal... rural areas, in particular. Dental hygiene has come a long ways! We still have a way to go.

Zarbock: So, you went... if required, to a full mouth extraction?

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, absolutely. I think... (laughs) that brings up somebody asked me how many teeth have you ever extracted, at one time. And, I said, "32." Uh... I've taken out a whole mouth. (laughs) Believe it or not. Maybe it wasn't 32... it could have been 30, 29 anyhow... I removed all of the teeth. Uh... at one time... but...

Zarbock: And, then you'd have to suture...

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, yes, yes you'd have to suture it and care from there. I remember one time, this was later in life, I mean not... I started in '48... but this was probably the late Fifties, maybe even the Sixties... one of the local, prominent people in town came. He wanted his teeth removed. I don't think he had about 8 or 10 left or 20, maybe. We took 'em all out and he went home and his wife was so, so angry with both of us. We thought we were both going to have to sleep in the dog house because... (laughs) he wanted them out... we took 'em out. But, we did a lot of extractions.

Zarbock: Did you do your own dentures, too?

Ernie Ben Ward: We... did... in Dental School. Uh... that brings back the fact that uh... and, I wanted to show you one... that we had to do first... the first dentures that we had to do were vulcanite... vulcanite dentures. That was the dentures that were popular in the 1900's up until... I think probably the first acrylic dentures were made around 1945, maybe? But, we... in Dental School... had to do a vulcanite denture. And, vulcanite was very, very difficult to work with. Of course, you had to take little pieces of rubber and put it on the denture and it had to be cooked at high temperatures. So, our first... my first denture I made... was vulcanite. I'd like to show you one, which I have in the other room. Dentures that we made back then. And then, that was about the time acrylic came out. Much easier.

Zarbock: Do you want me to stop the camera, a minute, while you get that?

Ernie Ben Ward: Yes.

Zarbock: Ok. I'll go off camera, here.

[Camera turned-off.]

Ernie Ben Ward: and your dental...

Zarbock: You were saying about changes in the practices of Dentistry.

Ernie Ben Ward: Yes, I was thinking then... about the lighting system. Yes, when I was in Dental School, it would be very difficult to realize that we practiced on the floor with a gooseneck lamp type... bent lamp... about a 50, 60 watt bulb, probably. It's what our lighting was. Of course, the lighting... uh... got much better. Then they went with the big "Castle" light... round light with the reflector in the back, that had an incandescent bulb in it. And, then there tubes, etc. But, that's the lighting system. And, as far as the... uh... the practice of... I think that most... let me get to the most revolutionary things, in my day, probably, were first... getting away from the vulcanite denture. Which is here... [he pulls dentures out of plastic bag] and, of course... vulcanite... if anybody is familiar with the tires. But you use a different color vulcanite here... rubber. That's what vulcanite is... its plain rubber. [He turns the denture at different angles.] That's one of the old dentures that were made right on up through... the mid-Forties.

Zarbock: And, hand-crafted?

Ernie Ben Ward: Mostly. Hand-craft... it had to... well, you made them differently. I'll not go into the technique, but you waxed them up... the teeth... you boil the wax out and then you put the rubber in there, in little pieces. Put it in a vulcanizer, which is steam. Back then, you used gas... to run the steam up to... to in a sense... melt the rubber or "vulcanize" it.

Zarbock: What about the artificial teeth that are in there?

Ernie Ben Ward: These were porcelain. And, that's another good point. You had no acrylic teeth. I don't know what... recall what year acrylic teeth came in but uh... porcelain teeth were the only teeth and of course, the theory on that is that the porcelain teeth uh... have more trauma to the "ridge" and therefore acrylic teeth are easier on the "ridge"... as far as wearing the ridge away. However, I have seen plenty of ridges that were retained with porcelain teeth. And, my guess is... that uh... I have patients even today that have porcelain teeth in their mouth... 40 years. I've seen 'em even in the last few weeks. And said, "They're going to their grave with these porcelain teeth.". However, your acrylic teeth, mostly, will only last 10 or 12 years. The cost would be... much, much, much. Harder... and... but you don't see any porcelain teeth made... this day and time. Hardly ever. And, I don't recall... Of course they're much, much harder than they were when they first came out because uh... anybody with tobacco chewing, back then, would wear a pair out, in a year or two. Well, just wear them down... just like sandpaper. But, that's one thing that I am proud of... I've had a few patients, recently, that have been wearing my teeth... 30, 40 years. And, anybody else that has acrylic teeth, average life... I don't know what it would be now... but certainly not that. And, uh... this is an old acryl... old vulcanite. [shows another example] And, this is one denture that I made when I was first in... when we went to acrylic. Of course, its a decided difference (laughs)... as far as that's concerned. Acrylic was... I said there were two things... in my practice. First, from the use of vulcanite dentures, to acrylic dentures which was certainly a revolutionary... as you can see in the teeth themselves. The second was the invention, if you would, of the high speed uh... which was such a... such a... simple technique. I don't know why it was not done before 1957. 1957 was when the first air turbine was put on the market uh... and uh... the first six months to a year we had uh... had an awful lot of trouble with the cooling and the system and the water system and the oiling system until they got a lot of the kinks worked-out they were a problem, in the beginning. But, the air turbine is such a simple mechanism, its just like the old water wheel... it works on the same principle, as we used to grind the meal. All it is is air going by a little fin (?), that twirls the turbine. Now... with this we're going about 300 or 400 revolutions... at the very most... very, very most. The old hand piece would go up to a few thousand. Whereas, the air turbine would go 300,000. So, we go from vulcanite to acrylic... from belt-driven, slow speed 20,000... 25,000, at the tops. 50,000 when they "Page Sage" (?) put one in, years later, with the mechanism that... of uh... wheels, etc. that would rev it up to, maybe, 50,000. And, then later, the air turbine which came out in 1957. Then it was a rather large turbine head. It was a little bit bulky. But, today, the head of the turbine is... and the whole system... has been revolutionized to where you... the water system, the cooling system, and the lighting system... that have lights built into the end of the turbine... little lights built into the end of the turbine that you... And, those are two revolutionary... as far as... in my day and place (chuckles).

Zarbock: Something... I'm going to take you back to your uh... original days of Dentistry... other Dentists have told me that they learned an awful lot about Dentistry in Dental School., but they didn't learn anything about the "business" of being in private Practice.

Ernie Ben Ward: That's true. We had... I don't recall that we even had a course in uh... Business Administration. I don't recall that we had one.

Zarbock: So...

Ernie Ben Ward: ...about its "history" but I don't recall anything about the "administration".

Zarbock: So, its (inaudible) root hog (?) or die?

Ernie Ben Ward: Yes. Uh...

Zarbock: Well, how'd you learn...

Ernie Ben Ward: ... The business aspect?

Zarbock: Yeah.

Ernie Ben Ward: Uh... trial and error. Other Dentists. And, talking about actually as far as the techniques were concerned... we got... not any where near as much experience, I don't feel like, as they got... as they're getting today, at least. And, I kept the phone pretty busy between White... Chadbourne, North Carolina and Fair Bluff and the old Dentist that was practicing in Fair Bluff... just about every day... or twice a day. He was very helpful, most polite, congenial, and most helpful to me. And, he was... had "open x-ray", the x-ray bulb itself was exposed, in his x-ray. That was in 1948, now. He... my x-ray, of course, was enclosed in a lead... like they are today, to some degree. But, he was still using the "open x-ray" machine with the tube exposed. [He gestures with his hands.] X-ray tube exposed. You could see it. And, I also recall that Dr. Pridgen, in Fayetteville, had had his... nub of his finger burned-off, from holding the x-ray film, in those days. We didn't know any better! In the beginning. But, he lost the end of his finger because you'd hold the x-ray film with your finger, rather than let the patient hold it. Well, now you don't even do that. You have the "carriers" that carry it into place. And, uh...of course, you're out of the room in a lead... its uh... different world. And, (laughs)... but, anyway, he had uh...

Zarbock: I wonder how many Dentists were injured or... or died?

Ernie Ben Ward: I have no idea, as far as that... that's the only thing I ever saw but... that had visible loss of part of his finger, from holding the x-ray packet, in his mouth.

Zarbock: As I remember, when I was a young man, being attended by a Dentist, they didn't wear rubber gloves or masks or...

Ernie Ben Ward: I don't know when... we... well, actually it was after I was in Whiteville... we did not, back then we used an open sterilizer, uh... which I have one in there. An open, old "water sterilizer" its called. I don't remember what year that Autoclave (?), I really... I haven't looked it up, when the Autoclave (?) were introduced. Of course, Waterclave... Autoclave (?) is just like an old pressure cooker, more or less. Its steam. And, it's... kills all the bacteria. Whereas, with the old sterilization techniques, that we first used when I began practicing, it was all water. Just a plain sterilizer that you opened.

Zarbock: (chuckling) How did we all live through those days, Doctor?

Ernie Ben Ward: (laughs) Oh, gracious. Those were good old days! Uh, those were the days when family was closer, I feel like. On Sunday, you'd go see Grandmama's. And, all the children, whether there were five or ten of them, would show up on Grandmama's, on Sunday afternoon. The families were much closer. Dentistry was much more crude And, uh... Madison also, by the way, speaking of that... when I first began practice, I roomed with an M.D. He had a home in Chadbourne, in 1948. Asked me to move in with him... which I did, before I was married. And, I would go out with him, at night, to give the ether and he would deliver the baby. In a small house, you'd put a sheet up between them... maybe a two-room house... put the sheet up between them and the rest of the house. And, I 'd give the ether and uh... (laughs) he'd deliver the baby. We did that a few times. But, he was trying to get them to start going to the Hospital. He was doing his best to get these "country people" to go to the Hospital but it was very difficult in the late Forties... mid-Forties... to get farmer's wives to go to the Hospital to have those children. So, he did a lot of "home deliveries".

Zarbock: Doctor, did you ever use ether in your practice?

Ernie Ben Ward: I didn't use ether, in my practice, but I used uh... in early days, I use... a few times but I let the Physician administer it, if I used it. Very little. But, we did use Trilene (sp?). I have a Trilene mask here, somplace. And, they also did it deliveries, by the way, in the Hospital. The Physicians... having children... what it was... the woman would have a labor pain... She'd breathe the Trilene. And, it was an extract from dry cleaning fluid is how they found it way back then, in the late Forties... or the early Forties, late Forties. I don't know how long Trilene was used. I used it in Dentistry for difficult, particular Pediadontic patients that were uncontrollable. Uh... which is a type of general anesthetic to a cer... certain extent. But, anyway, they'd strap this to the lady's arm, when she was having labor pains and she'd take some deep breaths out of it. And, it would help some... it would help some. And, we used it in Dentistry some , too. Trilene was the name. And, that's it. I have a couple of masks... but, one of the Physicians gave me when he left the Country. And, one I had myself. Just pour the juice in there and put the mask on and let them hold it (laughs). That was the only type of general anesthetic... until we went into nitrous oxide...

Zarbock: So-called "laughing gas".

Ernie Ben Ward: ... months later. We didn't use it until we went to Chapel Hill. After the Dental School came... we took a course in the use of nitrous oxide.

Zarbock: By the way, do people laugh after... nitrous oxide?

Ernie Ben Ward: Do they what?

Zarbock: Do they laugh? You know its called "laughing gas"...

Ernie Ben Ward: I don't know... well... some of them well, actually, one patient told me, onetime, "Its like two martinis."... or, "Three martinis.". (laughs) That's what he told me. I asked him what it was like. He said, "Like three martinis!" So... uh... (laughs)...

Zarbock: Well, three martinis, I get very mirthful!

Ernie Ben Ward: (laughs heartily) Oh me...

Zarbock: Now, did you move... when did you move to into... did you practice in Whiteville?

Ernie Ben Ward: No, I started practicing.... as I said... in Chadbourne, in 1948, up over an old bank building uh... with, as I said, no air conditioning. And, uh... I stayed there until I was called to Active... called to Duty, if you would... I was deferred, during the War, because I had been accepted in Dental School and they wanted to keep a certain number... uh... in this professional school. So, during the Forties, I was deferred. And, uh... after then, I was continued to be deferred because I had what they called a medical advisory board and... been declared essential to the area because we only had three or four Dentists in the County... whole County of Columbus. And, so I kept on... the Medical Board kept on having me be deferred until I had a telegram, from the Army, in January, I believe it was, 1955, saying for me to accept the Commission or go in as a Buck Private (laughs). That was not easy... I mean, that was very easy decision to make. So, uh... I accepted the Commission. I was married and had a four year old child. So, I went to Medical Field Service School, San Antonio, Texas. Brooks Hospital. Went through the whole nine yards. And, uh...

Zarbock: What year was that, sir?

Ernie Ben Ward: 1955. February. And, I ... they shipped me straight to the "DMZ", after my Medical Field Service Training. I didn't want to stay around. I wanted to get it over with.

Zarbock: The "DMZ"?

Ernie Ben Ward: The... in Korea... "demilitarized zone".... demilitarized zone. Right up on "the front". Uh... in a Medical Field Service Hospital... in 1957... which I stayed a year and field equipment, of course, and we didn't do a whole lot of Dentistry, either. And, uh... from what I (inaudible) there were only two Dentists in the whole 24th Division. And, before I left, there were probably twenty. So, that's the way the Army did things, then! But, I was lucky enough to be one of the first, in my class, to go into the Service, to get it over with. I didn't want to spend my two weeks at home. I wanted to go and get it over with! My wife was staying in Charlotte, with her family. And, I stayed over there a year and I had an opening back in Enshine (sp?) which was Wamado (sp?) Hospital there. And, I was pulled back there to a real nice Dental Clinic and a Korean Dental Assistant. The reason, I think, I was pulled back there was because I was one of the first Dentists to get over there. Therefore, I was authorized to go back, quicker. So, I was really happy that I didn't take my two weeks "Leave", right on. And, then they had an opening in Japan, at Camp Zama. Camp Zama is nothing but "Field Grade" Officers, back then. And, (laughs) I was a little bit uneasy about working on "Field Grade" Officers! But, I pulled back to Camp Zama and uh... and uh... ok... Yokohama... because again... I was first to rotate back. And, my wife was supposed to meet us, there. And, I could not find housing, anywhere, for my wife and four-year-old child. Couldn't find any on the Base, off the Base, anywhere in the world. And, the Colonel came in one day and said, "We have brand new housing opening in Okinawa. Would any of you Dentists in this Clinic like to go?". So, I raised my hand. And, my wife's Orders had to be changed after she got the State of Washington... to go to Okinawa because I didn't know where we were going to stay in Japan. So, I... we would have had better experience... as far as... history in Japan, because Okinawa was so small. But, we had plush living conditions, plush... because the Clinics were so nice. And, she got to go back to see those other places... and did I, too... Hong Kong, etc. while we were over there. So, I was gone for two years... '55 to '57 to fulfill my Active Duty. And, then when I came back, to North Carolina, a Dentist had moved in to Chadbourne, then. So, that's when I came to Whiteville. You asked my had I been in Whiteville. So I came... I didn't practice for six months... uh... I was trying to decide. I was going to practice in Charlotte... since my wife was there... from there. In north Charlotte, I was planning... I found a house I could buy... but again, to make a long story short, I had to go to twenty different people to get uh restriction lifted... they all had signed... they... so that I could turn that into a Dental Office. So, rather than go to twenty people and... I came to Whiteville to practice with a Dr. Hubert Todd, in an old, old, old building that he had just cut rooms off of and made Dental Offices out of... And, uh... I was... my room... bedroom cut in half... There was a phone right outside of the window where uh... in the hall... where I was... where my first operatory was... it was like that old fire bell. And, I never had a light (?) phone since. I had to listen to that thing (laughs) for... all that time. So, eventually he moved that building. Dr. Todd owned the house. He moved it on back of the lot and built the "Dental Arts" Building which is still standing, to this day. Where my son is practicing now. So... that's how I got to Whiteville (laughs).

Zarbock: Well, did you branch-out in Dentistry, after you returned, or what...

Ernie Ben Ward: No. I did not. After... I don't recall, you know, when they started getting the Specialists, even today, most of the Dentists today are very, very limited... of their own choosing... in the practice. Uh... I did... uh... some Bracing and some Oral Surgery, then. But as a... as a progression of the... it came about... then I kinda' just eased out of it... in time. But, I still enjoyed the whole thing. I think what I enjoyed most was in Orthodontics... was seeing the results... of taking a child with ugly teeth and then seeing how beautiful and straight they were. I thoroughly enjoyed the practice of Orthodontics. But, it got to... you know... where the whole nine yards... you get overwhelmed and can't to anything, almost. So, I had to give up a lot of the Endodontics and Orthodontics and Oral Surgery. And, limit it, mostly, to just plain Dentistry.

Zarbock: Well... I really, really did enjoy some of your reminiscence of the early days. People lining-up to have their teeth pulled (laughs).

Ernie Ben Ward: Beg your pardon?

Zarbock: People lining-up to have their teeth pulled!

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh yes... that is... I can see that as if it were yesterday.

Zarbock: And, you were on the second floor so that..

Ernie Ben Ward: I was on the second floor... absolutely.

Zarbock: So, they were milling around on the... in front of the Bank?

Ernie Ben Ward: In the Hall... in a narrow Hall, on the second Floor. And... uh... I had to go undo my lock and they would file in. Like I said, I'd uh... you always had an "x" mark on your Appointment Book for the days when the "Signs" were in the "feet" (laughs). Always had an "x" mark (laughs). You did not make Appointments. You pulled teeth all day! (laughs) That was for sure. Yessir. You could not... and, people asked, "Were the "Signs" right, today?". And, I'd say, "Well, the "Sign" to have a tooth pulled is when it hurts." (laughs) That was all... my firm answer, always! But, uh...

Zarbock: But, you really have seen tremendous changes... in equipment?

Ernie Ben Ward: Oh, absolutely! I mean it is... it is fantastic. The materials... for example... I mean we could talk for hours... just on materials, even, you know. Uh... back in the early days, there was nothing but gold. That's all we used, mostly. Uh... was uh... let me go... let's stop for a moment and let me get...

Zarbock: Hold on just a moment.

Ernie Ben Ward: [camera shows old piece of dental equipment] This is an old water sterilizer that... the type that we used until the Autoclade (?) came into existence. You just put water in it and uh... closed it and leave 'em for twenty minutes or so... And, that is considered "sterile", in those days before the days of the Autoclade (?). And, on the point of... when we didn't have uh... water available, sometimes, or air available we used these little syringes like this to blow air on the tooth [he gestures with the equipment] ... to dehydrate it... to blow it... to (inaudible). Or, the same syringe had two heads on it. One to suck water in... to actually flush the tooth or means (?) out there. Also... the early days... we had no "central suction". Had no suction at all, in fact, until... I don't recall just when? But, then we used these portable suctions, from room to room. Now, everybody has "central suction". Had uh... no suction. And, our amal... fillings has come a long ways. But, back then, what we did was take a mortar and pestle [he holds up a small bowl]. You'd take your little filling material and you would put it into the crucible, and the mortar and pestle, rather... and you'd grind it [he motions with his hands] until the amalgam was triturated, taking the oxides off the material. And, then that's when your... and put it into the teeth. So, that is the way we did... Now, all filling material is pre-capsulated with the mercury and the amalgam in one capsule and all you have to do is triturate it. And, that's all it was. But, we'd put it in the mortar and pestle and we had to grind it. I use the word "grind" it but actually you're triturating it and taking the oxides off and making the amalgam so it was... be carried into the amalgam carrier... into the amalgam. And, one other thing, these are the type needles [he reaches for a vial of needles] we first had to use, then. Now, they're in a plastic container, but these are times... back in Forties and early Fifties... uh... the needles we had to use. They were not disposable. And, they were... we used them in this nature, like here. And, one other thing, when we went to lance an abscess, we used to freeze it with this ethyl chloride [holds up a box]. We take it... we take the ethyl chloride, freeze the (inaudible) until it turned real white and take the Bardparker (sp?) and lance it. And, then we'd put a drain in the abscess, whether it be in the mouth or on the cheek. Sometimes, as I said, it'd be occasionally on the cheek, sometimes in the mouth. Anyway, put a drain in for a couple of days until it quit draining. And, that's some of the ways that we did have to practice Dentistry.

Zarbock: You said that the needles were not disposable?

Ernie Ben Ward: No!

Zarbock: So, you'd cook and use 'em again?

Ernie Ben Ward: Yes. Correct. We'd use 'em, again. They were not disposable and they came in a vial like this. Little small vial with certain gauges... certain gauge needles [shows needle sizes]. And, these are some of the older ones we used, back then. And, that is a synopsis of the practice of Dentistry.

Zarbock: And, you know what? You've done a great job in synopsizing!

Ernie Ben Ward: (laughs) Well, thank you.

Zarbock: Thank you, Doctor!

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