Cobargo welcomed back a much-loved doctor from years past as Reuben Glass enjoyed a Christmas holiday where he once called home.
Dr Glass, now retired, was holidaying in the Bega Valley with his daughter Deborah, who is the Victorian Ombudsman.
He said it was his first time back in the area in at least a decade, but it was a memorable visit, with a good number of Cobargo locals hosting a reception for him at the local pub.
“It was almost like a hero’s welcome,” Dr Glass said. “It was really touching.”
Dr Glass served as the town’s GP from 1958-61 before heading to Melbourne for post-graduate studies and further work as a paediatrician, and more recently on the editorial panel of the Australian Medical Council.
However, despite the relatively short stay and it being 60 years ago, memories of the doctor remain strong in a community where he is credited for saving lives and limbs.
As well as reuniting with former children who he had treated, and in some reported case saved, Dr Glass and Deborah also enjoyed walking Cobargo’s main street where it seems he was still recognised.
“This was a ‘roots’ trip into ancient history,” he said.
Dr Glass said he remembers the Cobargo community “very fondly”, it being his first posting as a full-time GP.
He recalled several amusing anecdotes about being a doctor in those times, where a cardigan hung on a neighbour’s front verandah indicated to any other homes within sight that he was home from a hospital visit and available to call for updates.
He also recalled a consultation with HJ Bate, ‘lord of the manor’ at Tilba.
“HJ Bate and his wife were good to us when we first arrived and he made an appointment just to show goodwill to the new doctor and give him a guinea,” Dr Glass said.
“You could see he was a man used to being listened to and he said to me, ‘I’m 78 and I’ve got to live another two years or probate will get it all!’ I’m happy to say he lived a lot more than two years after that.”
Among the faces from the past at last week’s reception for Dr Glass was a woman who as a 16-year-old very badly damaged her leg in a tractor accident.
Both she and Dr Glass were determined to save the leg, which he did even though other doctors recommended it be amputated.
There was also another patient who as a boy contracted an unusual complication with an infection, with Dr Glass credited with saving his life.
“This was a time when surgery for this abnormality was just in existence and we were using stethoscopes to make diagnoses, not computers,” Dr Glass said.
“There was a somewhat incredulous voice in Sydney questioning why I recommended the surgery, but he came back cured and acquired somewhat of a reputation in the district.
“All the grandchildren have heard the legend,” he added with a chuckle.
Adding to the legend was the time he almost single-handedly brought down the Cobargo butter factory by reporting a sore throat to the Public Health Authority, which then enacted infectious disease quarantine procedures on nearby dairy farms! Thankfully he was able to rectify that quickly.
Deborah, who was born in Bega, delivered by none other than Dr McKee, said she found the visit home very moving.
“There’s a very definite community spirit here that you don’t get in Melbourne,” she said.
“Everyone knows everyone – and cares for them.”