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Mason County Memories

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Doc Etch History Column Dave Petersen Although not a native son of Mason County Kenneth L Etchinson (Doc Etch) was born in Arenac County April 2nd 1918 he became however a native son of the heart. He logged 60 years of service as Mason County's longest serving Veterinarian. He was born on the farm located between Standish and Pinconning in the spring of the year that WWI came to an end. He was the second of three children, but he lost his oldest sister to Diphtheria when she was nine years old. Doc's duties like many farm boys of the time included taking care of the farms livestock. Animal Husbandry is defined as the breeding, caring for and raising of livestock, it is a vital skill for the farmer, in order for the farm to survive and prosper so must the livestock. Anyone who raises animals can tell you of the late nights, early mornings, and the nurturing of sick animals that would not have made it except for the extra care given not only by the farmer and his family but also the local vet. Maybe it was that experience that helped to pull young Kenneth into Veterinarian School. Before that day came however there were lots of other things for him to do. George Etchinson, Doc's son related some stories that he did not think many people knew that he wanted to share about his father's youth " Dad grew up on the farm and in the spring one of his jobs was to break up large clumps of clay in the field with a large sledge hammer after the fields were plowed. They farmed forty acres so there was plenty to do. The pay wasn't good but the food was great. Breakfasts usually consisted of potatoes, eggs, bacon, toast and fried or boiled mush. Since the farms main crop was navy beans they also ate a lot of them. After a hot day in the field Doc and his brother Don would hop in the truck and head for the local swimming hole at the neighbors farm." Communities were different back then, closer, more involved, and neighbors would host social events. George went on to say "On some weekends different farming families would host a chicken roast, but the chickens had to be heisted from the neighbors farms without getting caught. I'm sure it made for an interesting and lighthearted get together. On those occasions when they had a barn dance Dad would play the Guitar and the harmonica." "Once Dad told the story that one day when he was driving the old model T truck to school in Standish he cut across the neighbors filed and kicked up a couple bottles of homemade hooch that were hidden there, after the he was not allowed to take the shortcut across their property." After graduating from Standish High School Dad attended Michigan State University Vet school, he attained the rank of Captain and graduated from college in time to WWII as a Veterinarian. He served in Burma and attended the pack mules, that was the way that many of the supplies and some weapons were transported to the field." After the war Doc Etch opened his practice in a duplex on Blaine Street behind the Four Star Theatre in Scottville, The living quarters wee in one side of the duplex and the clinic was in a lean to type building in the back of the house." At the time in 1946 he was the only Vet in the area, family farms were a big part of the economy in 1946, and much of the work centered around the caring of the same types of farm animals that Doc grew up with on his families farm. Pets were not a large part of the early practice. In the early 1950's a new clinic was built on US 10 east of Scottville, that building was converted to a home for the family when another building to house the clinic was built just to the west. Although both buildings still stand today, the clinic last used just a couple short years ago seems to cry out for it's owner to open the doors and welcome in the thousands of local pets and their owners that made that clinic a haven for the care and protection of the animals that Doc Etch so clearly loved. Doc passed away Saturday January 20th 2007. A celebration of life gathering will be held today, Saturday June 23rd from 1 to 3 PM at Oak Grove Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Ludington. In the March 16th 1999 Ludington Daily News Doc Etch talked about his age and heart arrhythmia and in looking forward is quoted as saying " At my funeral I want them to play "Sweet Georgia Brown" that's always been my favorite song." Georgia as Louis Armstrong sang so well may have claimed Sweet Georgia Brown, but Mason County had the privilege of claiming Doc Etch as one of it's own and one that the two and four legged residents of the county will miss. If you have any stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com, mail should be sent in care of the Ludington Daily News PO box 340 Ludington Mi 49431.

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