Frisco’s Medical Milestones

by Bob Warren

Editor’s note: A version of this column was first published in the January 2012 issue of Frisco STYLE

It has taken a while, but Frisco has come from a time of only one country doctor and no hospitals to a time of many physicians, other healthcare providers and a number of quality medical facilities (with more on the way). Come along as we discover the giant strides our community has made in healthcare since Frisco’s beginning in 1902.

Milestone number one came early when Dr. I. S. Rogers became Frisco’s first physician. He came here from Little Elm in 1902, when our little village was in its infancy. In the same year, Dr. J. M. Ogle moved his practice here from the nearby Erudia community. Two years later, Dr. J. D. Carpenter came from Little Elm, joining his brother-in-law, Dr. Rogers, in his Frisco practice. In 1907, Dr. J. M. Mallow came here from Tennessee, and Dr. W. L. Saye arrived in 1912. Those five country doctors served our town and the surrounding community well, making house calls night and day, in all kinds of weather, by horseback or in their horse-drawn buggies. For this they got very little money. They were sometimes paid in produce, and many of the farm families “ran up a tab” to pay — when and if their crops were harvested.

These doctors worked in very primitive conditions. With no hospitals in Frisco, most babies in this area were born at home and many surgeries were performed on kitchen tables or in the doctor’s office. The office was usually in his home or in the back of a local drugstore. A doctor’s wife often doubled as a receptionist and sometimes helped deliver babies. 

Early physicians had to be innovative. In the early 1900s, Frisco and Little Elm had separate telephone systems, so there was no way for our doctors to receive calls from their patients just five miles to the west. However, during the devastating flu epidemic of 1918, our doctors found a way. The Sam Rose family, living about four miles west of Frisco, had both a Frisco and a Little Elm phone. They graciously opened their home for a communications headquarters. There the doctors changed to fresh horses and received telephone reports from patients in both communities.

 For multiple reasons, these early physicians were generally well-respected and revered. They not only cared for their patients from birth to death, but many were called on to be civic leaders. Three served as mayor of our city. Dr. Rogers was elected in 1908, the year of the town’s incorporation. In 1921, Dr. Carpenter was appointed to complete Mayor Stacy’s term, and in 1930, Dr. Ogle became Frisco’s eighth mayor. Some served on the school board and our school district named three of its schools in honor of doctors. Those are Rogers, Ogle and Pink. 

By the 1930s, four of Frisco’s aging doctors had retired or died, leaving only one, Dr. W. L. Saye. I’ll call him our third milestone. He was the town’s only physician until his death in 1952, and a great one at that. Books could be written about Dr. Saye and his service to this community. “Doc” Saye was my favorite of the old country doctors because he delivered me at home in 1921. Then, 21 years later he delivered our first child, Don, also at home. Never to be forgotten, when I was about 4 years old, he performed on me what some choose to call “minor” surgery on our dining room table.

 Dr. Saye was a visionary, an avid reader, a leader, a poet and a civic-minded planner. I learned to know and respect him even more when I was a teenager working as a soda jerk in Curtsinger’s Drug Store. Doc’s office was in the back part of the drugstore, and when he was not busy, he sat at one of the little alabaster topped tables near the soda fountain reading, greeting people, drinking sodas and drawing plans for lakes and highways. There,  he drew plans for a direct road from McKinney to Fort Worth. With the help of his friend, then-Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, Doc’s plan became our State Highway 121, part of which has recently been named the Sam Rayburn Toll Road.

 After Doc Saye died in 1952, Frisco was left without a physician. This void forced another medical milestone: Many of the area residents went to pharmacist Claude Curtsinger with their ailments while looking for a way to bring another doctor to town. With only about 800 people in Frisco at the time, they raised enough money to build a clinic and attract a doctor. Led by Benton Staley, Jack Scott and Curley Eaton, the city offered the clinic rent free for one year to a qualified physician. Dr. Billy Parnell accepted the offer and moved here in 1953. He served nine months before leaving for health reasons. Dr. Erwin Pink soon took his place. 

Thus, was born a fourth milestone and the story of another great Frisco doctor. Doc Pink came here in 1954 to fill a vacancy as our city’s only physician, a role he held until 1985 when he brought Dr. Vicki Davis into his practice. He continued to practice until retiring in 1997. During his time here, through pro-development efforts, he helped the little town grow from less than 1,000 to almost 30,000 people. “Doc” endeared himself to the people of the community not only for his medical skills and care, but also for his community involvement. Like some of the physicians before him, he was a true leader and servant. He spent 17 years on the school board, and for many years was the city’s health officer. 

 Doc Pink was quite a legend. His wife, Elisabeth, said, “He especially loved taking care of older people and babies. He delivered more than 2,000 babies during his 43 years in Frisco.” He served as the school’s athletic team doctor for more than 40 years when Frisco had only one high school and very few players on the football team. It was while Doc was “patching up” wounded football players that he got the name “Painless Pink.” He once told me, “I sometimes laid an injured player on the bench, or on the hood of a car, and, without anesthetic, stitched up his wounds before sending him back into the game.” Doc continued his community service until his death in 2006 by helping preserve Frisco’s history as president of the Heritage Association. 

All of a sudden, it seems, medical milestones began flying by. New facilities were built and a welcomed flood of physicians and other healthcare professionals moved their practices to Frisco. We were no longer a one-doctor town or a town without a hospital. 

In addition, there are nursing homes, healthcare services, assisted living and rehab facilities now available in Frisco.

The medical milestones keep coming. We no longer have to leave the city to get top-notch health service, yet there is room for more. 

 Bob Warren is a local historian, former mayor of Frisco and formerly a regular contributor to Frisco STYLE Magazine.

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