I don’t know why, but I wish I had asked my mother what day of the week I was born. I just know it was on July 19th, 1933, and it was in the Denver General Hospital. Eight years later I had another experience that made me wonder if being born in that particular hospital was a good thing. I will say more about that later.
My family was living on West Cedar Street, but I, of course, have no memories of that house. I do remember than my oldest brother, Jack, told me later that when they brought me home from the hospital the family dog snapped at me. Jack said my dad almost killed the dog.
I was the youngest of four. My sister, Patsy Ruth, was born on August 15th, 1928. Then came Jack Warren Douglas on February 10th, 1930 and David Neville Phillip on May 22nd, 1931. You may have noticed that both my brothers had two middle names. I always felt I was short-changed in two ways. First of all, I only had one middle name and that name was such an embarrassment to me that I was always reluctant to tell people what it was. I was told that my mother named me and I’m not sure why she gave me the burden of being Ronald Leroy. If you take a hard look at all this, I am certain you will understand why I felt short-changed. Jack had two cool middle, tough guy sounding names, especially Douglas. Dave was named after my mother’s two brothers. I’m sure he wasn’t that thrilled with the name Neville, but Phillip was at the same cool level as Douglas. Of course, as we were growing up we were called Jackie, Davey, and Ronny. I was so glad when I finally outgrew that variation of my name becoming known as Ron. Not as cool as Douglas or Phillip, but certainly better than Ronald Leroy or Ronny.
There was a lot that happened during the first four years of my life, but I only know about most of these things from what I was told. The most significant thing happened when I was eight months old. My dad was in an automobile accident that almost destroyed his right arm. If my memory serves me, he had something like five compound fractures and on top of that, when they pulled him out of the wreck they laid him on a lawn that had been freshly fertilized. It is not surprising that he developed gangrene in the injured arm.
They didn’t know much about gangrene back in those days and it seems even the medical staff was afraid of it, like it was contagious. So when they put my dad in the Denver General Hospital he didn’t receive the best of care. Today, most hospitals have an ICU (Intensive Care Unit). In 1934, Denver General had what they called the 48 Hour Ward. This simply meant that patients in this ward were not expected to live for more than 48 hours. I can only imagine how discouraging that must have been if a patient knew they were in that ward. My dad was in the 48 Hour Ward for eight weeks. The doctors wanted to amputate his arm, but he refused.
As an example of how primitive things were, part of the treatment for gangrene was sterilized maggots. Their job was to get rid of the diseased flesh. Dad said he could remember picking the maggots off his body. Adding to the other mistakes, someone ordered that his arm be put in a cast. Because of the gangrene, the pressure of the infection began to build up causing the pain to be almost unbearable. So, if you can imagine this, he was left alone long enough to allow him time to leave his bed (actually falling out of the bed), crawl over to the sink, and pull himself up where he found an old double-edged razor blade. He never said how long it took him, but after he lay back down on the floor, he began to shave away the cast to relieve the pressure. He would have lost his arm or possible died if he had stayed in this hospital. It seems he had a good friend who had connection with the Veterans Administration and since Dad was a veteran he was transferred to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. They saved his arm, but he right arm and was so crippled he had to learn to write with his left hand. I have no memories of him with a normal right arm.
My dad was born in Lumberton, North Carolina and was saddled with a name that was even worse than mine. He had no middle name. He was named after his father’s best friend. Believe it or not, his given name was Ippie. That’s right, IPPIE! Is it any wonder that, when he was old enough to be in charge of his life, he had it legally changed to Jack I. Carter? When he was asked what the “I” stood for, he would never say. I never felt like I had much in common with him, but I guess we did carry a similar burden. His brothers were named Wesley, Ben and George—all cool names, and he had to suffer being known as Ippie. When my brothers and I got older we made a joke, saying that our mother could be called Mrs. Ippie. My dad didn’t laugh.
By the way, my mother’s name was Ruth Ellen and her maiden name was Colglazier. From my dad’s side we were part French and Cherokee. Mom added to the mix with German/Jew. She was 17 when she married my dad and by the time she was 23 she had four children, all born within four years and eleven months. When I was eight months old, my dad not only had his accident, but I had my first bout with pneumonia. I’m still not sure how she was able to handle all of this. If I were to write her story the title would be, “Too Much, Too Soon, With Too Little.”