There aren’t many in Carlisle born in the 1920s with as much vigor as Dr. Tom Landis, and he credits two things for that: walking his dog and the physical demands during the earlier years of his profession.
Landis is a Dickinson College graduate who worked locally as a veterinarian at the Northside Veterinary Clinic, 31 E St., Carlisle, for about 60 years. It was only recently that the 89-year-old retired completely, though his last few years at the office have been on a part-time basis.
Still, Landis has seen the world change, and that change was certainly something that not only affected what he saw in Cumberland County, he saw how the changing landscape affected his business.
When Dr. Guy Shultz, of Boiling Springs, founded the clinic in the 1930s, and even when he hired Landis, the business was focused primarily on large animals due to the many dairy farms in the county. But over the years, a lot of those farms went away, so today, the focus of the practice has turned toward small animals and pets.
Nowadays, the Carlisle native spends his time with his dog and wife, and their three children when they’re in town. He’s also an avid reader, with tastes for history, astronomy and sailing. But he remarked more than once that if he could go back “to the old days,” he would in a heartbeat.
Q. How did you become a veterinarian?
A. I was in the tail end of WWII. When I got out of the Navy and came home, the thing that happened to me was the GI Bill (which provides assistance for education to veterans). On the GI Bill I was able to go to Dickinson College for four years. During that period I had to try and make some decision on what I wanted to do.
I always enjoyed being outside and being around animals. I went out and introduced myself to Dr. Shultz and asked him if I could ride with him, and I really liked it, so I decided that’s what I was going to do. The trouble is, back then, in 1950, there were hundreds of thousands that would’ve never gone to college that went to college so there was competition. I went to Kansas for grad school in zoology, and decided to go back to vet school, 1954 to 1958. Dr. Shultz asked me to come back into town and asked me to work for him in ‘59 or ‘60. It was the only practice at that time in town. He did 90 percent of his work on large animals.
Q. When you first began what type of animals were you primarily working on?
A. Mostly farm animals. I did small animals; we had small animal hours every day. We called them fire engine practices, because on the farms they called you whenever they had an emergency. I had evening hours at the clinic and worked pretty much every day of the week except for Sunday.
Q. What changed the most in the nearly 60 years you spent working as a veterinarian?
A. The large animal business. We did horses, hogs, all the animals on the farm. We were primarily a dairy practice. Cumberland County was a big dairy county at that time. We had over 400 herds in our practice. It was very busy and fulfilling. What I’ve seen change was back in those days, 98 percent of the dairy farms were family farms. The whole county was just dotted with these farms. As a consequence, for reasons that had to do with children not being available to take over or not wanting to take over, all these farms, very few of them are left. Now there are far, far fewer farms with farmers milking dairy cows, and they’re modernized with equipment that can be so sophisticated they can go to bed and the cows can milk themselves nowadays.
Q. Describe what your last few years at the practice were like.
A. I was just doing small animals part time at Northside Clinic. That’s where I worked my whole time in Carlisle. I bought out Dr. Shultz when he retired, and Dr. (Eugene) Hoefert, my associate, bought me out when I was 65 years old. I’d been working for him part-time.
I loved it and I hated it. I would do it again, but not by today’s criteria. Back then you’d have 20 calls a day. You were running all over the county starting at three or four in the morning and working until 11 o’ clock at night.
Q. How are you spending your time now since you’ve retired?
A. It’s never been boring. I really feel that there’s never been a day that I have felt bored. I was working part-time for a while so I had a lot of time, so retiring didn’t seem to be a complete shock.
I’ve got a house that requires a lot of work; I’ve got a yard to take care of and I take care of the yard. I still play tennis, go skiing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the work. It was very fulfilling and I made a decent living at it. I give the credit to the fact that my health’s good now to the fact that I was so physical. It was so demanding to be a manual veterinary practitioner back in these days.