The thing I remember mostly was the smell of the chloroform.
My first experience of dentists was at school, just after the war. I went to Western School in Wallsend and the dentist came to the school. He was a man and I think he was Chinese but I’m not sure. He brought along some charts with him to teach us about looking after our teeth and gums.
My first proper visit to a dentist was to see Mr Don Coles, who practised in Wallsend. His surgery was above a bank on the corner of the High Street and Station Road. My brother, who was about six years older than me said he was known as “Butcher Coles”. He told me “he’s got this big old fashioned drill, about this long and it goes round at about one turn a minute!” I asked was it electric? He said it might be but it could be worked by rubber bands – that gave me real confidence!
The thing I remember mostly was the smell of the chloroform and I can still remember it. I remember climbing the stairs to the first floor and going into his surgery with my mother. I was placed into a big black chair. There was an anaesthetist in attendance to administer gas to me. She placed a mask on my face and told me to start counting, and then I went over to sleep.
It turned out that I took after my father; he was what was known as ‘a bleeder’. It was hard to stop the flow of blood when he had teeth extracted. After my extractions the holes were plugged in the usual way and off I went home. I spent a very uncomfortable night, and it was back to the dentist the next morning with my face covered in blood for further treatment to stop the bleeding. That was a horrible experience and I couldn’t face going to the dentist for years and years after that.
Nowadays things have changed and it is a totally different situation to those days.