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Charlie's Checkup: 1950

Charlie's Checkup: 1950

From circa 1950 in Anytown, USA, we present: "Dental office." Medium format negative, photographer unknown. The first in a series. View full size.


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Bread Bags

The proper way to get shoe-clad feet into and out of galoshes is to place bread bags over your shoes, increasing the embarrassment of wearing the darn things exponentially.

And he filled the hole with mercury

In fact it was an amalgam of mercury and other stuff but if I was a good patient, the reward would often be a stoppered test tube with a small amount of mercury to play with.

[Me too! -tterrace]

Dental Burs

Burs are steel rotary tools with many forms used to drill and grind teeth. At age 14 in 1948 I owned a hobby grinder called Handee Moto Tool. My dentist would save his used burs for me to use with my grinder. The Dremel of today will accept the same burs.

Along with "Getting Cold Feet"...

...among our crowd those black galoshes were a mark of utmost shame; no one would be caught dead with them on. We would all stash them in the woods on the way to school. One day a neighbor saw me and ratted me out to my mother. Mom would never tell me who, which is probably just as well because I dreamed of revenge for years. ;-)

Getting Cold Feet

Let us divert a moment from the horrors of old time dentistry to recall the misery of those rubber boots: the way snow always got in them and left me with cold wet feet, the infuriating little clips that got frozen with slush, the holes that inevitably occurred with wear and let in MORE moisture, the clanking sound they made, the way they impeded effective walking, their weight, the difficulty of extracting wet-sock and shoe clad feet (leaving the socks behind), the way they incubated wet feet into a fragrant miasma of stinkiness. Do not want.

Old equipment

Yes, exactly the gear I endured in the 50's and early 60's!
Like Angus J, I was fascinated by things mechanical and medical, and learned a lot from old Doctor Holbrook.

He was even gracious when, while waiting for the Novocaine to take over, I once used the air blow-gun to clean out the dust in that black, horizontal slot in the drill's base.

Unfortunately, that was where the speed control tapped switch is, and the resulting arc blew a hole in the tool tip!

I can't say for sure

but that equipment looks a lot like the Knight-Ritter dental equipment that was made in Rochester NY from back when I was a kid (a few years after this photo was taken).

And Vintagetvs was right, looking through the window, there appears to be a layer of snow on everything.

Items of note

The pictures of nasty teeth. The gloss on the porcelain and enamel objects. The buckles on the lad's galoshes. The dentist's lovely hair.

Where's the drill?

As a young boy, I went to an old dentist who was about to retire. Naturally, he didn't update his tools, and I had the misfortune of hearing my older sister scream when he used the foot-operated drill, whose years of pedal-pumping took their toll on his arthritic knees. The drill would speed up and slow down as the pain in the knees ebbed and flowed. Fortunately I didn't have any cavities and the thought of "THE DRILL" made me think before chewing on that Mary Jane or Jujube candy.

Admiring the quality

of the design work and the craftsmanship of the dental chair; pin-stripping nonetheless. Very nice work. Wonderful detailing. Perhaps the Dentist's handiwork was just as elegant.

The Cuspidor

... is back in my periodontist's newly outfitted office. I like the wording of "little spit-sink" by Lord-Velveeta better, though. As I kid I had a strong interest in things mechanical, and watching the old pulley system powering the drills helped lessen the anguish of a trip to the dentist.

Low Speed Drill Builds America's Youth

The water-cooled high speed drill started the decline of the national character in this country. If you learned young with the ancient low-speed dry drill, you can stand anything today.

[What I learned was to start asking for novocaine once I had any say in the matter. -tterrace]

My view is funny

This is Grandpa's office where I never needed any work. I visited often since it was only a block away from my home. This same equipment was installed when my Grandpa set up practice in 1927 and he retired in 1974. He did invest in a turbine drill early on and today I have his "tool chest" with many of the tools that are great for model building.

Close Shave

"Wait a second, I came in for a hot shave -- what are you doing?!"

You're Next

That setup was the same as the one I had to endure. Worse than that, my brother was first, and with the sun behind him I could see all the pieces of tooth chipping out as the dreaded drill did its deed.


This will cure anybody who longs for those simpler times. Old-time dentistry was a scream.

Not just any town

but someplace wet and probably cold. I base that on the Galoshes the kid is wearing.

This will only hurt a lot!

I remember that drill well, it's the stuff of nightmares. But I also remember the soothing noise of the water running in that little spit-sink.

Oh, The Humanity

Slow drill, no novacaine (he had it, just didn't believe in it). I remember it well. The chair of my Saturday tortures.

Kids today don't know how good they have it!

As the Dentist Said While Fishing

"Open wide. This might hurt a little. Now bite down!"

Those of us of a certain age will recognize the cable-driven drill and what looks like a flame sterilizer located on the hinge supporting the round appliance tray. The young man’s arm seems fairly relaxed suggesting the dentist is gentle.

[Or that they're just posing for a commercial photo. The dentist lie I most remember always preceded a series of eye-watering grinds: "OK, just one more." -tterrace]

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