In the video that I posted with yesterday’s post, my uncle Allen mentioned a Dr. Flanagan. It was the only time I had ever heard his name, and I never followed up on it.
But the former Debbie Miller, now Debbie Shriver (no relation to the Sarge), asked if I had any information about him. She recalled hearing his name during her now far distant youth and wondered if I could shed any light on his early retirement or possible demise.
With nothing but a Dr. Flanagan of Myerstown, Pennsylvania, to go by, I went to the newspaper archive site where I still have an open subscription (though not for much longer). After battling its not always terribly accurate scanning software (“Myerstown” might actually show up as “Myer jown” or some such, in which case it will not be a match in a search), I eventually found a bunch of articles and references that paint an incomplete picture of what sounds like a well-liked, small town physician.
George E. Flanagan was born in Avonmore, Ontario, Canada, in 1898, and was educated at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, after which he began a medical practice in Richland, PA, in 1926, bringing with him his wife, Mabel and his son George Jr. His office was located at the foot of the hill at the juncture of West Main and Race Streets near the railroad tracks, and according to my uncle Allen, his most memorable sight from his time in Richland was seeing my mother running up that hill. He moved his practice to Myerstown in 1929 when my mother was but five years old.
There followed a long series of articles and brief mentions where he performs doctor-type things such as sewing up cuts, checking on folks in the hospital, declaring people dead, that sort of thing. By the 1950s he has become a trusted doctor in the community and is the designated school doctor in Myerstown. He’s also active in community affairs, as he leads a protest against the installation of parking meters in the borough. Successfully, I might add.
There are also references to vacations he takes with his family (a two week tour of the eastern states and Canada), to vacations his wife takes with friends to visit distant relatives, and to his son George Jr attending Queens University.
Along with Dr. Carl Miller, another physician who would be well known to Myerstownites (Myerstonians?) in the 50s and 60s, he inoculated school children who had been exposed to polio with gamma globulin injections (this was before the vaccine became available).
Sadly, a heart attack felled him in 1959 at the age of 61.
While these articles filled in a somewhat incomplete picture of Dr. George E. Flanagan, they raised a lot of questions in turn. Chiefly, what brought a Canadian doctor to the tiny community of Richland, PA, in 1926?