After a small fire was started in a rain spout at the C.S. Williams Clinic last week, writing about the history of this vacant landmark seemed very fitting for this week’s Trail Blazers.
Anyone who grew up in Trail prior to the mid-1990’s likely remembers that particular antiseptic aroma that would hit you in the face upon opening those magnificent heavy glass doors that framed the entrance to the C.S. Williams Clinic.
Receptionists would greet patients at the door and direct them up the grand stairs that if memory serves correct, held a bright sparkle within sepia-toned hard tile.
There was little turnover of nurses who worked so devotedly for their doctors, even today their names are remembered by many.
And in those days the nurses were donned in starched white uniforms, white stockings and white shoes as they softly traversed the long corridors lined with lacquered wooden chairs that, over time, held countless waiting patients.
It was around 1994 when the C.S. Williams Clinic was vacated and the doctors moved to the new medical offices by the Victoria Street bridge.
So with files provided by Sarah Benson-Lord of the Trail Museum and Archives, the Trail Times is looking at the early years of the clinic.
Interestingly, the building right at the corner of Cedar Avenue and Helena Street, next to the Colander Restaurant, is actually the first Trail hospital, built in 1905.
The attached structure of the C.S. Williams Clinic didn’t happen until decades later.
The history of this clinic is long, storied, and full of compelling and dynamic characters; “trail blazers” if you will.
So for brevity, the following excerpts were taken from “The life and death of the C.S. Williams Clinic, Trail and Rossland, B.C., 1922 to 1972” by Adam C. Waldie, MD, and H. Barss Dimock, MD, FRCP.
“Industry attracted settlement, and settlement attracted medical services. As early as 1905 the company [now Teck Trail] had made agreements with local doctors to provide group medical care, and in 1920 a plan was introduced for hospital services. In 1927 the company began its contributions to medical and hospital care, which increased over the years …
“Dr C.S. Williams moved from Ladysmith to Rossland in about 1920, then to Trail in 1922, where he was able to concentrate on his primary interest, surgery. He joined several doctors in the formation of the Trail-Rossland Clinic in 1922 … In 1940 the College of Physicians and Surgeons ruled that no group could call their office after a town or city. The hour drawing late, the partners decided to call it the C.S. Williams Clinic after their late surgical colleague, Dr. C.S. Williams, who had died of meningitis eight years before.
“In the late 1960’s there were as many as 25 doctors working in the C.S. Williams Clinic, but despite ongoing attempts they could not arrive at an equitable agreement for income distribution. The result was, in 1973, another mass upheaval, and many of the group left to practise elsewhere … the five remaining partners came under severe financial strain as they had to buy out their associates. With the help of some new arrivals working on an associate basis, the clinic held together for almost another 20 years. Ultimately it was the change in methods of distribution of income within the group that spelled the end of the old-style clinics and paved the way to return to private practices using flexible coverage arrangements with professional friends and colleagues.
“For 50 years the C.S. Williams Clinic was a thriving, progressive organization deeply rooted in the communities it served. Its history provides a window into an era, now past, of large, multi-service clinics.”