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Infant on the eighth bridge pier: York County memoir tells about the life and times of a family of doctors

Noted Wrightsville physician Benjamin A. Hoover shows his portable medicine kit in this undated photograph. He began his decades-long practice in 1903. His son and grandson, Philip A. Hoover and Benjamin A. Hoover II, respectively, followed Dr. Hoover as physicians in York County. The kit remains in the family. (See a closeup below.) Also of interest: There’s more right with Wrightsville than wrong … .

Yorktownsquare.com readers have been introduced to the Hoover family of York County doctors in the posts: Teen motherhood: Despite historic occurrence among Pennsylvania Dutch, rate is falling and Shrewsbury Township sleigh rescued: ‘Tell the children we saved Christmas’.

They relate stories from Philip A. Hoover’s 1994 “Echoes of the Health Century, a Physician’s Memoir,” a rich account of a experiences of physicians practicing in York County for most of the 20th century.

So when I recently saw a small medicine kit in the hands of the third generation of York County physician, Dr. Benjamin A. Hoover II, I received another opportunity to dive back into his father’s memoir. That book, available at the York County Heritage Trust – reveals stories, some humorous, some serious – about life in York County.

We’ll now give two more examples of its rich content.

One is a story that fuels urban legends about the Susquehanna River bridges. When Philip was a boy, his mother would treat him to a ferry ride from Wrightsville to Columbia and back.

The boat crossed between the seventh and eighth piers of the lone bridge then going across. Young Philip had learned from his father that the babies he delivered came “off the eighth pier.” So Philip wrote years later, “As we crossed the river I would all but fall off the little boat watching for an infant on the eighth pier.”

When Veterans Memorial Bridge went up, the urban legend developed that a worker fell into the cement and was left there. So as the story goes, his bootprint can be seen on one the 1930 bridge’s piers.

So there are all kinds of stories about those bridges.

And then there’s a story about a Wrightsville resident who burned himself badly trying to dispose of a hornet’s nest in the hayloft of his barn.

Young Philip was dispatched to bring Dr. Ben’s medicine bag. (I wonder if that bag contained the medicine kit, now in the hands of his grandson.)

Anyway, Philip wrote about the singed man – and about his father: “So here he was, in need of only one person, Dr. Ben. …The country doctor. Some people have called this professional man a ‘small-town doctor.’ By whatever appellation he went, he was unique in the annals of American medicine… . But take it from a son who grew up with a prototypical village physician early in the century: his place in the history of a small community transcends the narrow bounds of nostalgia, and of a medical practice that covered nearly 60 years.

“His territory was as wide as his patients dictated. This was no realm for a doctor who didn’t make night calls, or who wished to avoid muddy, country roads and snow-covered fields, or who wanted to learn of a patient’s financial resources before he took the case. Through what often were times of exasperation, discouragement, and fatigue that would have leveled most men, Benjamin A. Hoover, M.D., carried on nobly in the best Hippocratic tradition, ministering to those who needed him and to those who thought they needed him.”

A small but telling point in “Echoes” is that Philip, writing as an accomplished physician himself late in life, referred to his father as “Father.” Unfortunately, you don’t hear that reference of respect enough these days.

At first, Dr. Benjamin Hoover II believed this traveling medicine kit, with medicine still in the small bottles, was his father’s, Philip A. Hoover, who practiced in and around Dallastown. Some of the medicine bottles are marked ‘Hinkle’s,’ suggesting that the still-operating Columbia pharmacy provided refills for his Wrightsville-based grandfather, also named Benjamin. In those days, Hinkle’s also operated a pharmacy in Wrightsville. Later, the photograph at the top was discovered,  reinforcing that Wrightsville’s Benjamin A. Hoover, M.D., was the initial owner.