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Rex Lewis Field (Cotton Was King i…): I just visited both New and Old Dime Box just to see the defunct cotton gin in New Dime Box. The gi…
Dee Wait (Dr. J. Dan Schuma…): I think this was the hospital my aunt worked at. Her name was Emma Wait (she died in 1981). I remem…
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Dr. J. Dan Schumann and the Closing of the Old Schumann Clinic

Sunday 27 September 2015 at 04:56 am.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for April 2, 2009, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

Folks who have read my columns for many years, first in the Tribune, and later in the Express after it purchased the Tribune, know that one of my weaknesses or strengths (take your pick) is sentimentality. What I want to write about this week goes even deeper than just being sentimental, -- I call it "passionate historical sentimentality." I mean, I feel compelled to write about the closing of the old Schumann Clinic three days ago.

When word reached me a couple weeks ago that our South Texas Medical Clinic (the old Schuhmann Clinic to many of us) would close on Dr. Culpepper's last day, March 31, after my initial shock, I got a sentimental frog in my throat. In recent years, we've had some good doctors in this clinic, Dr. Farrell, Dr. Hirshfield, and Dr. Culpepper being my favorites. But there is one who preceded all three of these and whose spirit remains in that clinic as the iconic epitome of the great, caring country doctor, -- Dr. J. Dan Schumann.

Dr. Schumann died on March 22, 1993, after a long bout with cancer, and after being East Bernard's beloved doctor for 52 years. When he retired in 1988, a great pall of sadness came over the town, as even though a short man, he was bigger than life, an icon, a legend in his own time. He had delivered as babies so many people in town (5,000 to be exact) and had continued to be their family doctor until his retirement. How could people get medical care? Where would they go?

He had been a community leader, serving on the Wharton County Junior College Board of Trustees for 24 years; he was one of the shapers of that great college, and much loved by the WCJC faculty, myself included. Recognized by others as a living legend, he made headlines all over the county and surrounding areas when he retired from the WCJC Board in 1992.

I interviewed Dr. Schumann and his wife Dorothy for the Tribune shortly after he retired, and he told me that one of the main highlights of his 24 years of service at WCJC was being able to build the Johnson Health Occupations Center, where students could train in such fields as Dental Hygiene, Medical Laboratory Technology, Radiologic Technology, as well as several fields of nursing. When I asked him what it was that made him such a beloved doctor, such a legend in the community, he just laughed. However, his wife Dorothy pointed out that he used to perform operations like appendectomies free for people who had no money and no insurance. "He made house calls and delivered many of those babies at their homes," she noted.

"Yes, I got $2 for a house call in those days," the good doctor chimed in, "and one dollar for an office visit." He began his practice in East Bernard in 1936.

You begin to see where the legend of his caring and goodness got started, and why he was the epitome of the beloved "country doctor," an entity now extinct.

Because of the excellent medical service he provided to the community so selflessly, his education hardly seems to matter. Yet it was very impressive. He attended Schreiner Institute, Kerrville, before earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in 1931 and his medical degree from UTMB in 1935. He completed an internship at Charity Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, and began practice in East Bernard in 1936. In 1940, he opened the Albert Schuhmann Hospital, a private, 20-bed hospital named for his father, and administered that facility until 1968. Working in East Bernard, he helped to compile information for research on familial genetic factors associated with pheochromoctomas, a tumor of the adrenal gland. He had a long-standing association with the major professional organizations. For many years, he served as a UTMB medical preceptor, taking senior medical students into his practice for valuable "hands-on" training in community medicine.

Now comes the personal (to me), sentimental part. He was born in Dime Box, Texas, growing up on a farm right across the fence from my great uncle's farm, and right across the country lane from my grandfather's farm. My mother and her sisters walked to rural school with him every day, rain, mud, sleet, or snow. He was in my aunt's class, and she told me a long time ago that he was the shortest child in the class, and the teacher had to put a cigar box under his feet so they wouldn't dangle as he sat at his desk. I taught at WCJC twenty-two of the twenty-four years he served on the Board; he planted the trees that grow in my front yard; he brought me vegetables that grew in his garden at the end of my street; one of our neighborhood streets is named after his sister who was my favorite teacher at Dime Box Rural School; and his nephew was one of my favorite childhood playmates.

In terms of iconic historical sentimentality, the now closed South Texas Medical Clinic building was built by him and is still known affectionately as the Schumann Clinic. The old timers in town have many stories to tell about being treated by him in that building. Some of the men tell about how they wanted to show Doc how tough they were, so would ask him to sew up their sliced finger without any "deadening." As ridiculous as this may sound to some people, many of us feel that closing down the old Schumann Clinic in East Bernard is tantamount to closing down M. D. Anderson in Houston. Oh, the history that echoes through its empty spaces! It's difficult to say our goodbyes to something that lives in our hearts.


Ray Spitzenberger serves as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wallis, after retiring from Wharton County Junior College, where he taught English and speech and served as chairman of Communications and Fine Arts for many years.

One comment

Dee Wait

I think this was the hospital my aunt worked at. Her name was Emma Wait (she died in 1981). I remember when we took trips to East Bernard from Louisiana. She had a small apartment at the hospital.

Dee Wait - 04/24/2017 02:00

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