Granite Mountain Hospital: A Country Hospital in Arkansas
I have such vivid memories of "the hospital," as we used to call it. I can almost smell the odor of the wax Granddaddy's cook, Fanny, used on the floors and the polish she used on the furniture. We always walked in from the side door and down the hall. My cousin Marie and I played endless games of jacks and concentration on those floors. On a table in the hall sat a clock that chimed every half hour. It is now in my den. Not far from it was a Coke machine, my favorite thing in the whole place. Cokes were 10 cents and I usually was able to beg and nag enough to get one every time we went there. They were so good and so cold, in glass bottles and with chips of ice in them. The Cokes I drink today just don't measure up. Usually Fanny met us and hugged my sister and me up tight. Fanny was a wonder. She cooked three meals a day for my grandfather and any of the rest of the family who happened to be around. She made the best cornbread muffins I have ever tasted. I have never encountered anything that came close. Fanny had her own apartment which was connected to the hospital by a long hall. I loved to go visit her there, though looking back, I'm sure I was an aggravation. Her apartment was always immaculate, with doilies on every surface and everything starched and perfect. Looking back, it seems strange that Fanny didn't eat with the rest of us but had a small table next to a window where she ate alone. It didn't seem strange then because it's all we had ever known. Fanny loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. I remember listening to her sing as she cleaned the kitchen. My mom told me an agent came to the hospital one time and tried to get her to sign a contract to make records. Fanny wouldn't sign it because she didn't want to sing anything except spiritual music.
Nan was Granddaddy's nurse. She was petite and pretty with coal black hair and smoked Kool cigarettes, which I was totally fascinated with and were probably the reason I started smoking at a very young age, thinking it made me look as sophisticated as Nan. Of course, it made me look silly and tacky, but I didn't know that. Nan had a gorgeous emerald ring that I coveted with all my heart. It was shaped like a teardrop and had diamonds all around it. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Nan lived at the hospital and worked side by side with Granddaddy all the years I can remember. She always wore a starched white uniform and white shoes. Sometimes she would let me go up to the third floor of the hospital, which used to hold patients but was now used for storage, and look, along with her, at all her clothes, packaged in plastic bags. She had suits with fur collars, evening gowns, even long white gloves. She was my idol in every way.
Uncle Emmitt was Granddaddy's brother. He lived in a room at the hospital for a period of time. I remember him walking out to the goldfish pond and knocking on the rocks surrounding it. The fish would go crazy slapping the water as they swam to get to him, then he would feed them. It was a daily ritual as long as he lived there.
Granddaddy practiced medicine at Granite Mountain Hospital, which he had constructed, until he was in his late 70s. He delivered countless babies, including my sister and me. I remember many times we would spend the night at the hospital when someone wasn't feeling well in our family so we'd be close in case we needed Granddaddy. The phone would ring, sometimes at 2:00 in the morning. Granddaddy would get up, get dressed and go out in rain, snow, whatever, to take care of whoever it was. He did this until he was no longer allowed to drive and then wanted to continue it, but my father and his brothers finally convinced him he couldn't call a driver out at 2:00 a.m. There is a photo somewhere of him in his gray overcoat and gray hat standing in the snow. I haven't been able to locate it, but it touches my heart each time I see it because it looks exactly as I remember him. All my memories of him are after he was an older man.
We didn't have a television for a long time and would drive to the hospital, just a short way from our home, to watch television in Granddaddy's living room, which was in the back part of the hospital next to the kitchen. I often sat in his lap and asked him questions, which he seldom answered. He was a very quiet man, had little to say and always cleared his throat several times before he spoke. My dad and his brothers affectionately called him "the Doc." For years after he died, when they got together, I would hear them imitating that clearing of the throat and laughing fondly at that memory.
Granddaddy bought a new car each year, usually a black Buick. One year he bought a gray and white Buick with a red interior with tiny black dots. He was especially proud of that car. He was getting "up in years," as they say, and had been forbidden to drive by his sons, his doctor, anyone who had forbidding power. The sons (my dad and his two brothers) hired a driver to drive Granddaddy while he made house calls. One day he managed to sneak off and come down to our house. My parents weren't there and I suppose my sister had more sense than to go for a ride with him, but I hopped right in when he asked. We started off down a gravel road that ran beside our house. At that precise moment, the heavens opened up and it rained like crazy. Granddaddy couldn't find the windshield wipers. He pushed everything he could find to push, blew the horn, flipped on the turning signal, turned on the lights, etc. I remember him puffing his cigar and becoming frustrated as he pushed buttons. I suppose he figured it out as my memory ends there. It picks up with both of us being in a world of trouble with my parents. It was an adventure, though, and I never remember being afraid. I knew we would be okay.
Sometimes Granddaddy would decide it was time to go to Hot Springs, where he had a cottage on Lake Catherine. He also had a place at a small resort area called Lakeside, but my grandmother used that more often than he. They did not live together during all the years I remember them, but they never divorced. She had her own house in Saline County. They remained friends and he took her for a ride almost every Sunday afternoon. Anyway, Granddaddy would take whoever was available and wanted to go to the cottage in Hot Springs for a week or so. I remember it was large, had navy blue curtains with white anchors on them, and a fireplace. I also remember getting sick with a sore throat there once and Granddaddy giving me a shot of penicillin that hurt incredibly. I screamed and screamed because I hated shots and he had my dad and mom hold me down. As bad as it all was, I was almost well the next day!
Granddaddy also got sick that trip and he thought I was asleep but I saw him take the thermometer Nan had left in his mouth while she did something in the kitchen and shake it down to normal. I never told anyone. He wanted to go fishing the next day and knew they wouldn't let him if he had fever. I could understand his reasoning. He also liked staying up late and playing cards (Pitch) on the porch with the other adults and knew that would be over too, so he couldn't have fever!
Christmas at the hospital was a glorious thing. Granddaddy's tree had probably the first bubble lights in our small community. The whole tree was covered with them. He also had a huge stack of gifts which he simply had no interest in opening. It was so frustrating for me, as a child, that he just wasn't interested. Eventually Fanny or Nan would open them and write notes to whoever sent them. At Christmastime, many of the patients, both black and white, who could not afford to pay him would come to the back porch and leave huge baskets of vegetables, jams, jellies, etc. Now, that, he got excited about and always called to Fanny and asked what it was that someone had left.
There was a "colored entrance" to the hospital. That is certainly nothing to be proud of, but that was the way things were back then. Granddaddy treated everyone who was sick, no matter their color and whether they could pay or not.
Good-bye to The Doc
One night my parents took me over to the hospital. Granddaddy was in the "big" hospital in town and wasn't doing well. My cousin from North Little Rock was there as well. My sister stayed at home to look after my grandmother. My cousin and I slept in the same patient room in the hospital. Sometime during the night Fanny came to the door with tears streaming down her face and said, "The Doctor has passed."
I never saw my dad cry until my grandfather died. I was shocked and it frightened me for some reason. While he was in the hospital, Granddaddy said that he thought if he could have some of Fanny's soup, he might get well. They brought him some, but he didn't recover. Fanny sat with the family at his funeral in Primrose Methodist Church, as she should have. The church is across the street still today from where the hospital once was. It was an unusual thing during that time to see an African-American person in a "white" church.
The African-Americans who were his patients gathered on the grounds at the hospital and walked through the waiting room to view "Dr. Junkin." I remember it was a very sad day, and I knew my life would never be the same. So many people, so many tears. His open casket rested in the hospital waiting room for a period of time, then was moved across the street to the church.
The minister who gave the eulogy compared Granddaddy's passion for healing to the flame of a candle that had finally burned out. Granddaddy was just Granddaddy to me. I liked to sit in his lap, follow him around at the cottage in Hot Springs, and just be where he was -- except when shots were involved. What a wonderful thing to leave this planet knowing that you brought so many lives into it, as he did, and healed so many people of their illnesses. My memories of him are all happy ones and I think of him with love and admiration after all these years. My fondest memories are of watching him dressed in his white coat, holding his small scoop, filling all the brown bottles with white pills before he closed the treatment rooms down for the day.