Patiently awaiting the Golden Years

Well, I'll be

By Randall Poulton | Mar 01, 2019

For the next few weeks, I will be writing from the Gulf Coast of Florida. After a cold January, the weather here has turned warm and we are enjoying our Golden Years far more than if we were shoveling the global warming back in Winterport!

I have developed a very low tolerance for winter weather, and the only ice I want to see is in a tall glass! After all, it’s important to stay hydrated. Cold beverage in hand, we continue to explore the local area and, every once in a while, we have a real, “well, I’ll be” moment. Here is one such episode:

The name “Albee” is ubiquitous in Sarasota County: Albee Road provides the main access to the paradise that is Casey Key (where Stephen King lives). There is also the Albee Farm Road, the Old Albee Road, the East Albee Road and Albee Park — to name a few.

Several years ago, someone told me these place names honor Dr. Fred Albee, a local surgeon. When I finally stopped hydrating long enough to investigate the well-honored Mr. Albee, I found he was actually a groundbreaking orthopedic surgeon from Maine! Here is the rest of the “I’ll be” story.

In 1876, Frederick Houdlett Albee was born on the family farm in Alna, Maine (near Whitefield). As a boy, Fred learned two skills that would later change history: fruit tree grafting and cabinetry.

When he was 16, Albee headed off to Lincoln Academy in Newcastle and then worked his way through Bowdoin College. Albee’s academic performance was impressive and in 1896 he landed one of the two scholarships offered by the Harvard University School of Medicine. While at Harvard, Albee studied surgery, and after graduation went to work at Mass General Hospital.

In the early 1900s, orthopedic surgery was very crude. If a broken bone would not heal or healed improperly, the common solution was amputation. If a surgeon did try to fix a deformed bone, the “adjustments” were done with a hammer and chisel (no, I am not kidding!). This technique often led to “bone splinter” and then amputation.

All that changed in 1906. Albee’s patient, Morris Noonan, had a very painful deformed hip. Amputation was not an option! Albee considered trying to fix the hip joint using the skills he learned in the apple orchard and cabinet shop. He became convinced it was worth a try.

After cleaning away the arthritic bone, Albee reshaped Noonan’s hip socket using carefully harvested slices of healthy bone from elsewhere on his patient. Sort of like removing the rotten wood and splicing on new. In fact, this was the first bone graft ever done. And it worked!

For Albee, this was just the beginning. Albee used bone grafts to treat the thousands (perhaps as many as 30,000!) wounded warriors returning from the meat grinder that was World War I. He later chronicled his work in his autobiography: "A Surgeon’s Fight to Rebuild Man."

Albee went on to invent all the equipment he needed to treat an array of skeletal problems. I inspected one of his “orthopedic tables,” which is on display in a local museum. It is quite a contraption! The “Albee Bone Mill” was a tiny saw that revolutionized the way bone was harvested for grafts.

Albee also was a pioneer in the field of physical therapy, proving post-surgical exercises to be a critical part of overall treatment.

Apparently, Albee grew to dislike New England winters as much as I do and, in 1917, he purchased thousands of acres of undeveloped Florida Gulf Coast shorefront in Sarasota County.

Albee then hired John Nolen, a famous city planner he knew from his days at Harvard, to design a new beachfront town on his property. Today, that town is Venice, Florida! Albee opened the Venice-Nokomis Bank in 1925 and his own upscale, private Florida Medical Center, complete with a LifeFlight-type air ambulance service, in 1933. The Medical Center was part hospital and part health spa.

The nearby 6,400-acre Albee Farms grew healthy fruits and vegetables to feed his patients and provided flowers to brighten up their rooms. Other amenities included private sundecks, and a swimming pool heated by “radio-active water spurts up from an unknown depth with an average temperature of 90 degrees.” Albee believed the therapeutic pool and abundant warm sunshine resulted in better outcomes for his patients.

The Medical Center attracted wealthy patients from all around the world. But World War II changed everything. By 1942, the posh Medical Center had been transformed into a military hospital, part of the Venice Army Air base.

Dr. Fred Albee died in 1945 after extraordinarily transforming both orthopedic medicine and the coast of Florida. While well-honored in Florida, it seems to me Fred Albee is deserving of a bit more recognition right here in Maine.

This month’s did you know:

While it is true there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes, the amount of your income tax refund is largely up to you. Lately there have been very misleading reports in the media that equate your income tax refund with the amount of taxes you owe. They are “apples and oranges.”

The amount of tax you pay is set by the IRS; the size of the refund you get is almost totally up to you. All year long people pay money to the IRS based on estimates of their final tax liability. For many people, this tax payment comes out of their paycheck automatically (based on how they filled out their W-4). Most business owners have to estimate and pay their income tax every three months.

Whether it is automatic or quarterly, smart money managers give the IRS as little of their hard-earned money up front as they can get away with. Would you pay for a meal at a restaurant before you ate dinner? I am guessing not! So why would you pay your taxes before they are due on April 15?

I guess some people like overpaying the IRS and getting a refund, but why that is a good thing totally escapes me. Want to have less money withheld? Claim more allowances on your W-4. It is that simple.

Randall Poulton lives in Winterport. His columns appear every other week in The Republican Journal.


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