Biography of Herschel Perlman, M.D.
Camp Physician, Company 2767, Camp DSP-7, Medora, North Dakota
I was a camp Physician of our Camp in Medora, North Dakota in 1941.
Following my graduation from Medical School at the University of Minnesota in January, 1941, and waiting for my internship to start in June of that year, I decided to apply for a position in the CCC camp. I was readily accepted and was told to report to the Camp in Medora South Dakota. I chose to do this for a couple of reasons---I thought the experience would be rewarding, and secondarily it would be the first time since starting Medical School that I would have a paying job. Although I had stayed out of school for three years after graduating high school because I couldn't afford to attend college. I had several jobs including unloading freight cars and working in a wholesale drug warehouse.
While in pre med and later in Medical school I had to live very frugally and also had to borrow money to pay the munificent sum of $85.00 a quarter. I never had enough money to buy text books and either had to borrow them or use those in the library. So when I thought of making $3000.00 a year as Camp Physician I was overwhelmed. The trip to the Camp in Medora was indeed interesting. During this time of the Depression and a horrible drought the Prairie land of South Dakota was barren and uninteresting and I wondered what I was getting in to. But as soon as I reached the Western part of South Dakota I was thrilled with the colorful hilly area of the Bad Lands. Medora, itself, was a one horse town and its only feature was a run down Hotel where Theodore Roosevelt once stayed.
Our Camp was situated in the valley below the colorful Hills. I was shown to my quarters which wasn't too bad and found that I would be sharing this lodging with a wonderful big husky Irishman who was the Chief of this Camp. We got along famously. If my memory serve me right his name was Hogan I learned that the function of this Camp was to restore a Chateau which was owned by a Frenchman by the name of Count deMorales. He had come to this area to start a stockyards in which he would purchase cattle from the neighboring cattle men and then ship them to the large meat companies. The idea was good but as the story goes, he would buy the cattle during the day and then the ranchers would steal their cattle back at night. So it didn't turn out to be a very thriving business. I understand that at present is a beautiful building and draws a lot of tourists.
I quickly learned that, inasmuch as there were very few - if any - physicians in the area, I would be called upon from the local citizenry for all medical problems. Having just graduated and not even having served my internship it was with some trepidation that I handled some of these medical problems. I was even called on to take care of animals and saw some kids from the town because of painful teeth.
I believe this was unusual; however in this particular situation in which there were no practicing physicians in the near area I believe it was justified.In one particular instance I was called late at night to see one of the officers Father who was in dire pain.He lived in the town of Medora.On examination I felt he had an obstruction of the bowel and felt he needed immediate surgery.We drove many miles to find a surgeon in a neighboring town and I assisted him in operating and saving this man's life.
The medical problems in the Camp itself posed no particular problems. I cannot recall any serious conditions in the personnel other than routine upper respiratory problems and occasional lacerations which posed no difficulties. We got along quite well. I can't recall any serious malingering in the Camp either, no one seeking to fake illness to get out of work. That I was exposed to when I was in the Army during WW11.
One of my most rewarding experiences was organizing, managing, and playing on a baseball team. We weren't the greatest but managed to beat some of the local teams and even went into Montana to play some games there.
My term of duty was necessarily short but I have wonderful memories of my days there. Also I had acquired enough money to buy my first car and also buy some Medical books which I never had before.
----- Herschel Perlman M.D.
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