Way back when – The Incredble Dr. Dykes

Image: A photo taken from the July 16, 1971 issue of the Italy News Herald of Dr. A. O. Dykes.

A photo taken from the July 16, 1971 issue of the Italy News Herald of Dr. A. O. Dykes. (The Italy News Herald)

I don’t think you will ever find a child that truly likes to go to the doctor. I cannot imagine any child enjoying getting a shot. When I was a child way back when, I can remember not wanting to go to Dr. Dykes here in Italy. What made it easier was the drawer full of double bubble that I knew he had. I knew if I behaved I could reach in and get that sweet, sugary bubble gum.

Now way back when I also had another reason that made it easier going to see Dr. Dykes. My Aunt Mary, (Mary Lou McGuire) was one of his nurses. I never minded her giving me a shot because she tried to make it painless and most of the time she did. What Dr. Dykes did not know was that she gave my sisters and me a quarter every time she gave us a shot.

Way back when a quarter went a long, long way at the store. What my aunt had kept from Dr. Dykes quickly revealed itself one day when my younger sister, Michele, had to get a shot. Aunt Mary was not there that day so Dr. Dykes gave Michele the shot. She stood very still, offered him her arm and never flinched or shed a tear. When he handed her a piece of gum from the drawer, she scowled at him and held out her hand. He asked my mom what she wanted and was quickly told that Mary always let us the three of us reach in for a handful of gum. So I think against his better judgment he let Michele reach in for her handful of gum. After she got her gum, she stood there looking at him sternly and reached out her other hand.

Dr. Dykes was so baffled by this time and had no idea what she could possibly want. My mom explained that Mary gave us a quarter every time she gave us a shot and Michele would probably not leave the office without one. Because he did not have any change in his pockets, he quickly went to the petty cash drawer and picked up a quarter for my sister. As soon as he gave her the quarter, her demeanor changed. She smiled at him, said “thank you” and turned to leave.

“Clara Mae,” he said as he wiped the sweat from his brow, “When Michele needs a shot next time, please come when Mary is here.” My mom laughed every time she told this story.

In the July 16, 1971 issue of The Italy News Herald, the following was written about Dr. A. O. Dykes:

He began his practice in 1927 in Avalon, Texas. He delivered 3,029 babies before he retired in 1971. He was inducted into the army on the morning of November 11, 1918 and was discharged that same evening after the Armistice went into effect.

When Dr. Dykes first began practicing medicine in Avalon, his fee for delivery of a baby was $25.00 or $22.50 if the payment was in cash. Through the years he gradually increased the delivery fee to $75 before he discontinued obstetrical service in 1967.

Dr. Dykes loved bells and hearing them ring. When he was a student at the Howard school, he was required to ring the school bell to signal the beginning of classes in the morning, at noon and after recess. Many years later he discovered the old school bell on the school grounds. He brought it to Italy and erected it at the old location of the Central Baptist Church.

When the First Baptist Church erected a new building there was no provision for having a belfry, so Dr. Dykes provided funds for the erection of the bell tower in front of the church so the old bell that had served the church could be mounted.

Later he purchased a bell from the defunct St. Mary’s A.M.E. Church and donated it to the First Christian Church. The bell was mounted on a tower in front of the church and was dedicated Sunday, July 11, 1971.

Dr. Dykes was the Health Officer for the City of Italy for many years. He was paid $30 per year to begin with then the salary was raised to $90 per year. He donated all his salary as Health Officer every year to the Italy Cemetery Association.

I know everyone one that he doctored could tell story after story about Dr. Dykes. He was a compassionate, Christian man that treated everyone with respect. He studied the Bible and had a strong prayer life.

Dr. Dykes was one of the kindest, most intelligent, community minded men that God blessed our community with. He truly was a country doctor in every sense of the word. He treated all of his patients equally no matter their race, sex, religion or social status. He was one of the best country doctors anywhere. He knew his patients inside out and was a true healer. Way back when, he made house calls when needed, allowed people to barter for office calls and also took partial payments until folks could pay their bill in full.

Not only was he the doctor for everyone in this part of the county, he was also a friend to just about everybody. He also was willing to help anyone that was in need. No matter how tired he was, he never refused to help anyone that needed it. I can just image how heavy his crown was when he got to heaven. I am sure he needed help placing it at the feet of Jesus. He led many people to Christ by his example and witness which is very important to me because one of those was my dad. He saved their lives but was probably more concerned about saving their souls.

I am so thankful God allowed me to have Dr. Dykes as my doctor way back when. The community has not been the same since he retired. That is a testament to him.

Italy has been blessed with so many wonderful people that built our community and made it what it was and is. I am thankful that I was here and have memories of Italy and the people here way back when. The end for now.