A former Duncan resident remembers his years serving the community as he reflected on growing up in Stephens County and venturing out into the world.
Dr. James Patterson, Jr., former Duncan resident, said the Patterson hospital was built by his dad in 1928.
Born in Woodward, Oklahoma in 1923, Patterson moved to Duncan with his family as a young child.
“We moved there when I was five or six — I know I went to Emerson, I went to grade school there,” Patterson said. “Then went to Duncan, went to the junior high and then to the high school and I graduated in 1941.”
Patterson said he did the usual things in Duncan.
“There was quite a group of us,” Patterson said. “Actually, there were 52 in my class.”
Since graduating in 1941, around 2006 would have been their last reunion he attended, 65 years later, in Duncan.
“After about 15 or 20 years, we had a reunion every five years,” Patterson said. “Our last reunion was our 65th and I think there were 20 of us there.”
From dinners at the country club, to lunch, as well as gathering to chat at one of the stores on Main Street, Patterson has fond memories of the Duncan community.
“We get together of course and we do things and have dinner,” Patterson said.
According to Patterson, since the last reunion, he went and toured Eastern Oklahoma, in the hills and pine trees, with a few of his classmates.
Patterson said after graduating high school and leaving Duncan, he went to Hobart College, a school in Geneva, New York on Lake Seneca, where eventually the Navel base came in.
“I graduated high school, then I went to college. I went to Hobart College for two years, then the war broke out,” he said. “It’s in (Upstate) New York up in the Finger Lakes and they took the college over, because Lake Seneca is 28 miles long and probably two miles across, and they (the Navy) set up a Navel training station there. So, they took the college over.”
Patterson returned to Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma for a year.
“Then I went back, came back, spent my junior year in Norman, the university,” Patterson said. “There were so anxious for doctors that they allowed us to go to medical school without a B.S. degree, so I don’t have a B.S. degree.”
According to Patterson, while in medical school, most of of the students were in the military.
“In the med school, most of us were in military,” Patterson said. “Either Navy or PFC in the Army and then the war ended our junior year, so I finished my senior year on my own.”
Life took Patterson to California for an internship.
“I interned in San Diego County Hospital and that’s where I met my wife. She was a social worker there. She was a third generation Californian,” Patterson said. “We got married in ’48.”
Eventually returning to Duncan, Patterson wanted to practice medicine with his father.
“I returned to Duncan and was going to practice and did six months of practice with my dad,” Patterson said.
According to Patterson, back when the Rexall Drug Store was on Main Street, his dad had an office across the alley.
“My dad had an office right across the alley from them,” Patterson said. “He would frequently go into the drug store and sit — that Rexall Drug Store was the center of most of the oil business in Duncan at that time — he’d sit there at that counter and with a handshake they would trade oil leases. My dad used to enjoy going in there and talking to them, because he was friends with everyone.”
After practice for six months, Patterson volunteered for the service.
“I went back and practiced with him for six months, I wanted to go general practice, before I went into internal medicine,” Patterson said. “Then the Army sent Colonel Robinson, they were recruiting for doctors, if you graduated in that program in med school — ‘course you had to pay them back, but our class didn’t — so I felt obligated and I volunteered, went to Fort Sill, had my exam. I was the first to sign up with that, so went back to Washington, that’s where Secretary of Defense Johnson swore me in.”
According to Patterson, they were only supposed to be in Washington D.C. for a few days.
“To go back there for just a few days, they flew us back, but we were there for 10 days and stayed at the Walter Reed Hospital,” he said. “Then I went to Japan and my wife joined me and while I was there, I went to Korea and she stayed in Japan. I went over with the first medical unit into Korea, we took a train from Tokyo, then got on a freighter. It was our hospital group and there was some MT’s on it, then we took over a school and set up a hospital.”
Patterson returned to Duncan a few times for several reunions.
According to Patterson, the building was remodeled around 1992.
“Sometime my wife and I were back there for one of the reunions,” Patterson said. “It was an office for attorney’s. They took me through it and I explained where the therapy was and that sort of thing.”
Patterson remembers the Patterson Hospital, as well as the Weedn Hospital in Duncan.
“Lindley joined and then he separated and built his own hospital,” Patterson said. “I met the young Weedn when I was in my 65th reunion in Oklahoma City.”
Patterson said he retired in 1986.
“My wife died in September of 2013, she was 89,” Patterson said. “We were married 65 years, we had a three month courtship, but it lasted.”
Patterson currently resides in Butte, Montana and will turn 98 on April 9.
Patterson said he came to Butte in 1957 from San Diego where we worked with a medical group.
“I was just shy of 52 when I retired,” Patterson said.
According to Patterson, anyone wanting to go into the medical field could have a bright future.
“Medicine has changed so much, so I think the future for the family doctor, certainly in rural areas, is going to be in nurses,” Patterson said. “There’s not going to be enough physicians that will fill that, nurses will do it and will do a wonderful job.”
Patterson said he hopes students have goals in mind when they go to college.
“College, of course can be fun, but you’re there for an education,” Patterson said. “That’s your primary goal for going there.”