The ride up in the elevator of the First National Bank Building in Danville was usually enjoyable, but not on that long ago day as I made my first visit to a dentist as an actual patient.
“He likes to hunt, you know,” my father told me, as if that were a resounding recommendation for his dentist. I had learned early on one of the common denominators of many of his friends was their shared joy of hunting, usually pheasants. This group included his barber, the dealer where he bought his Dodge cars, his attorney, the livestock dealer he traded with and several others. Pheasants were abundant in the rural areas back then, and they all came to the country to hunt them.
The First National Bank owned the sky scraper built in 1918 at 4 N. Vermilion St., and occupied the lower level of the building. It was a busy place in the 1940s, with attorneys, doctors, dentists and other professionals in offices on the upper floors. The attractive building was in excellent shape, and enjoyed a waiting list of renters.
I had been to this dentist with my father when he had appointments, and was well aware of the arsenal of shiny instruments laid out on a tray in the treatment room. It didn’t take a long reach of a kid’s imagination to arrive at the conclusion some of those metal tools might be capable of inflicting a lot of pain. I had never observed the dentist actually working on teeth, but I had heard the drill running, and seen the results when my father came out. He was usually so numbed up he had a hard time carrying on a conversation about the prospects of the next pheasant expedition.
The elderly dentist did not treat children, at least that was what I had been told, and I had never seen any in his office. He was evidently making an exception in my case. He had one assistant who seemed to manage the office and occasionally lend him a hand when needed.