By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–When Clayton Petty, MD, now a retired U.S. Navy Captain, was sent to Vietnam on October 9, 1969, he left behind family and friends in Cedar City, but not before stopping at the old Iron County Recorder to make sure his loved ones would read a personal note in the newspaper.
Now, he loves the paper that replaced it, Iron County Today.
In the book Vietnam Doc, An American Physician’s Memoir, Petty writes, ‘I wanted to leave a message for my family in an issue to run just before Christmas,’ with an advertisement he paid $10 to publish. In those days, Petty said a delivered-to-the-door edition was a mainstay in his Utah hometown.
“As a student, I remember reading it faithfully every week,” said Petty of the 1950s. “That’s where you could see who was marrying who, who was doing what, the latest sports and school news, and how the town was growing and changing.”
In those years, Petty graduated from Cedar High School, and enlisted with the 222nd Utah Army National Guard as a company clerk with summer training at Camp Williams. After completing two years at what is now Southern Utah University, Petty transferred to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to finish pre-medical requirements for medical school. But all through those college years, Petty kept up with news in the Iron County community newspaper.
“There was news on Enoch, on Parowan and Kanarraville, who was building what, and what’s going on around town,” said Petty. Though he didn’t get much news during his two-year LDS mission to Australia, he returned in 1961 to complete his undergraduate work in Salt Lake City, and study at the University of Utah Medical School.
Petty admits that aside from missing family and friends, he longed for the hometown news.
“That was the one thing I counted on to stay connected through the years — there was no Internet, but if you had a copy of the Iron County Record you kept up with things. A good newspaper is the soul of the community.”
During his third year of medical school, then 2nd Lieutenant Petty was accepted into the Army Senior Medical Student program, which paid for a nine-month tuition in exchange for an active duty assignment after internship. “When medical school was completed, (my wife Zoe and I) were off to Hawaii with our children, Mason and Yvonne, to Tripler Army Medical Center, (TAMC) Hawaii.” Though he continued to subscribe to the paper, there were long delays in getting weekly editions. “I missed getting a newspaper delivered at the doorstep.”
According to Petty, his rotating internships at the TAMC provided excellent exposure to various clinical specialties, and that experience brought him to focus on physiology, and the pharmaceutical aspects of anesthesia. In later years, he was assigned to the Brook Army Medical Center, (BAMC) San Antonio, Tex., for a two-year residency in anesthesiology and a one-year fellowship in research.
But a community like Cedar City changed a great deal in the 1970s and local news was hard to come by during his subsequent medical field orders with the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh Vietnam. Before leaving for Vietnam, Petty writes, ‘I arranged for flowers to be sent to Zoe, my mother and mother-in-law, and I decided to stop at the Iron County Record, for a personal message in the photo section of the newspaper.’
“It’s not my generation now. I don’t use an iPhone, but I still like the feel of reading a newspaper, you can cut out the ads or things I want to keep… I guess it’s a personal thing, like wearing a favorite shirt and feeling comfortable in it.” While he enjoys perusing the Wall Street Journal, Petty says you cannot replace those personal stories you find in the local paper—which is now Iron County Today.
“I remember the article about the day a pilot from Nellis Air Force Base flew his jet along Main Street, (breaking the sound barrier) and knocking out storefront windows – or reading about the first murder that took place at a local restaurant,” said Petty of his penchant for interesting news stories. “And everybody in my neighborhood counted on those advertised specials.”
Last month, Petty thought it time to tip his local news carrier, who, as it turns out, was a veteran like himself. And he stopped at the Iron County Today office to express his support for the staff and news operation. Petty teaches a course on the history of medicine at SUU and has fond memories of Cedar City and of the local newspaper. He and Friends of the Cedar City Library have made an effort to include local news for Internet access.
“I was concerned this (a local newspaper) may go away, so I want more people to understand the importance of a community newspaper, to stay informed,” said Petty with a smile, “People need to get engaged in what’s going on. Read the Iron County Today and write those letters to the editor.”
Caption: In the book, Vietnam Doc, an American Physicians Memoir William Clayton Petty, M.D., retired CAPT, USN, MC; Major, MC, U.S. Army shares his memories of the 24th Evacuation Hospital, Long Binh, Vietnam, his military experience in anesthesia and medical treatment. (Photo by J. Aerts)