Oral History - Ainslie, Ross


Ray Long (00:00):
The, uh, 20th of July 2005. I'm meeting with Dr. Ross Ainslie, OVC '52, in his beautiful home just outside of Halifax overlooking the sea. Hello, Dr. Ainslie.

Ross Ainslie (00:16):
Hi, Ray.

Ray Long (00:18):
Now, in this tape interview that we're doing for the archives at the University of Guelph, we'll start off by asking you a bit about where you grew up and, uh, a little bit about your family and, uh, a bit about where you went to school d-... uh, just before you started university.

Ross Ainslie (00:34):
Well, I was born on a farm, a small dairy farm i- in Millville Village, just outside Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, and, uh, and by a small farm, I mean, 20 head of cattle, and uh, I was born on the farm May 10th, 1929. And uh, attended, my tea- mother was a schoolteacher, so I started out in grade two at the local school, one room school, and uh, went through that school until I believe grade eight, then went to Shubenacadie, to High School, and once again a one room school, I went- for nine, 10, and 11. And finishing there, I- I went to, uh, Colchester County Academy for my grade 12.

Ray Long (01:18):
But that would be senior matriculation in those days?

Ross Ainslie (01:21):
Yes, that's right.

Ray Long (01:22):
Did you have, uh, brothers or sisters in the family?

Ross Ainslie (01:25):
Two sisters. Yeah.

Ray Long (01:26):
Did they, where do they fit in? Younger or older than you?

Ross Ainslie (01:28):
Uh, younger.

Ray Long (01:29):
Younger. Yeah.

Ross Ainslie (01:30):
Two years between each one of us, and they're younger.

Ray Long (01:32):
After you finished, um, high school, did you, did you work for a while, or did you go directly to university?

Ross Ainslie (01:39):
I worked for a year. Uh, having started early, I- I was just past 16 when I, uh, graduated from, uh, from the academy. So, uh, at that point in time I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I stayed home on the farm and worked.

Ray Long (01:54):
And you worked there for year, as I said-

Ross Ainslie (01:56):
For one year.

Ray Long (01:56):
... Yeah.

Ross Ainslie (01:56):

Ray Long (01:56):
Now that seemed like a very wise choice at, because you were young getting to high school, and that's... now , so you worked there a year and then what did you do?

Ross Ainslie (02:06):
Well at that point in time, I had, uh, I had a friend in the village that, uh, mentioned veterinary medicine to me and I, I pursued the, uh, research information and I was told from the, from housing that one must attend agriculture college, and then pre veterinary course, one year course, and then apply to Welch.

Ray Long (02:33):
And, uh, so after you finished there, then you went to Guelph and, uh, uh, I have to think back a bit. Would that be 48 that you went to Guelph?

Ross Ainslie (02:44):

Ray Long (02:45):
48. Yeah

Ross Ainslie (02:46):

Ray Long (02:47):
What was, when you, when you first went to Guelph, quite a little ways from where you'd grown up, what was your impression of the campus?

Ross Ainslie (02:54):
Well, I was very favorably impressed. It, it had such quiet refinement. I, you know, it's, it looked as though appeared as though it had been there forever. Everything was so comfortable and so well done. The trees were nice and the, and, um, it seemed to be a very, at that time it was relatively small campus, quite, uh, different than what is today.

Ross Ainslie (03:18):
So it was, it was a campus that we, uh, got to know other well, everybody in our class and as well as people from other classes. So we, we, uh, it was a very favorable impression and I think it was, uh, it was, uh, it was a, it was a happy time. We, uh, we, uh, enjoyed the long autumn days there and the early Springs, it was, uh, it was, uh, time was very, very nice and, uh, I thoroughly enjoyed and I still enjoy going back. I had to, uh, walk around that campus.

Ray Long (03:51):
Yeah, the campus is lovely. You're quite right. And Guelph, Guelph is a nice community, but like the campus it's grown a lot in the last 50 years or so as well. Did you live in residence when you were studying?

Ross Ainslie (04:03):
Yes. Lived every, every, every year I was in residence and it was very, I thought that was very delinquent time. It, it teaches a person to, it broadens burdens, outlook and life because you're meeting with so many other, uh, people of different, uh, cultures, and, uh, different, different areas of the, of the dominion as well as, you know, the west Indies because, um, it's, I think living residence is definitely a part of, uh, growing up of, or, uh, appreciating people from other places.

Ray Long (04:38):
Yes You're right. It's a, it's a very, uh, very big component of the education. Isn't it?

Ross Ainslie (04:42):
It is.

Ray Long (04:43):
Now, did you have, uh, when you were at OVC, did you have any, uh, professors that you particularly remember or that you often thought about since graduation?

Ross Ainslie (04:52):
Yes, we, uh, we had, uh, several of the, I called 'em ol'timers and I probably not much older than I am right now, but, uh, it was the Dr. Campbell from Toronto, who had been in smalls in Toronto.

Ross Ainslie (05:05):
And in those days, as I mentioned to you previously, right? These professors had, had, practiced extensively in, in, in, in certain areas. And they come back, came to the college to take some more education and lecture but they had a lot of experience that they've pass of handling lines that passed on to us. And, uh, there was, uh, Dr. McIntosh taught pharmacology. And, I, and I say that I still have his book because now with the alternative medicine, uh, that book should be it's going back to basics again. And-

Ray Long (05:39):
I guess it is. Yeah.

Ross Ainslie (05:41):
And then, uh, and Dr. Brown was anatomy. In fact, uh, the first Dr. [inaudible] the first two within the first two years arriving, all these people and they were in their late seventies and they all just passed away.

Ray Long (05:56):

Ross Ainslie (05:57):
It was, a it was kind of the end of an era-

Ray Long (05:58):
What would they-

Ross Ainslie (05:59):
...that we were able to, to have experience with them and their experiences. I think that was, uh, that was very beneficial in the future days. And, uh, I can still old Fowler and Dr. Fowler and his horse, I remember he was 80 years old and he was pin firing a horse with no anesthetic and someone on the twitch and, uh, dodging all the kicks. And it was, it was quite a, yeah, it was a, it was good experience.

Ray Long (06:25):
Yes. Those are things that you can remember for a long time and, and valuable things. Now I know that you must have had a lot of, uh, good friendships there because your class is one that, uh, is well connected. Uh, we're always visiting one another and having reunions and so on.

Ross Ainslie (06:45):
Yes. Uh, right. We've had a reunion at least every five years, right. Times graduation. And sometimes more often we would have a meeting at a convention, we, 10 or 12 of us would get together and, uh, enjoy our, um, talking about our, our practices and families and so on.

Ross Ainslie (07:06):
It's, uh, we were the first, after the war, ours was the first year where they took, um, more young people in after it was pretty much veterans, I think we had sort of I think about half our class were veterans.

Ray Long (07:22):

Ross Ainslie (07:22):
And, uh, so we had, uh, and they were married or they were off living off campus. So there was there, there was quite a group of us that stayed in residence and became very close as we did the other people that were also just a little bit older and out in the trailer parks or somewhere nearby. But, uh, we, uh, we seemed to get along very well together. And, uh, we were into sports together and, uh, our social life was sort of with, with, ourselves, cause we didn't have the money to go wine and dine outside. And, uh, it's, it was, uh, we got down a, a movie for 25 cents and Saturday night. That was great. But otherwise we, uh, we made our own enjoyment, our own, uh, fun at the, at the campus.

Ray Long (08:09):
Be kind of interesting. Wouldn't it, as you say, to have sort of a split class, I don't mean this in any derogatory sense, but sort of half veterans that had been in the services perhaps overseas and perhaps saw combat. And then, uh, the other group that were in there because they were qualified to be there, but they were new-

Ross Ainslie (08:29):

Ray Long (08:30):
... Just out of, uh, a pre-vet program. And if I remember correctly, you and a number of your friends had a band or an orchestra?

Ross Ainslie (08:38):
Well, Uh, the, then Ross Mitton, uh, it was, uh, they called, they called the variety Ross and the souvenirs. So I played with them for a little while I was just playing the harmonica then. So, but then they, and I, I was too busy studying to-

Ray Long (08:52):

Ross Ainslie (08:53):
Go. They were playing several, some, several times a week.

Ray Long (08:56):
Oh yes.

Ross Ainslie (08:56):
They played for every, every class party on campus.

Ray Long (08:59):
Oh, yes, yes.

Ross Ainslie (09:01):
Uh, and, uh, so I didn't, uh, since, since coming into practice, I, I played with a little band place at nursing homes.

Ray Long (09:11):

Ross Ainslie (09:11):
That sort thing.

Ray Long (09:12):

Ross Ainslie (09:12):
... Which is a kind of deal of satisfaction involved in community [crosstalk]

Ray Long (09:15):
Yeah. Now you graduated in 52. Was there anything, uh, special about the graduation that,

Ross Ainslie (09:24):

Ray Long (09:24):
I mean, I know they're always special-

Ross Ainslie (09:26):

Ray Long (09:27):
... but anything special, special?

Ross Ainslie (09:39):
well, it was, was a little bit stressful. And the first thing that I was indicating I had to go alphabetically be the first one to graduate. I always like to see someone else go and I decide, so I know what's happening, but it was very, it was, uh, it was very smooth, uh, Sydney Smith, who was previous Nova Scotia unit, then president of university of Toronto, which of course was the degree graduate.

Ray Long (09:54):

Ross Ainslie (09:55):
College to that university at that time. And, uh, I going up and shaking his hand and he, someone could bring a rose around, took it off and they handed me and, uh, freshmen. And that was it.

Ray Long (10:07):
Yeah. They-

Ross Ainslie (10:07):
It was all done in a flash.

Ray Long (10:09):
Nowadays. They, uh, they hurry it right along the classes are so long and it would be a new year, of course, too.

Ross Ainslie (10:16):
Well, we had, uh, 92 grads.

Ray Long (10:18):
Yes. Now following graduation, what did you do then? Where did you go to practice?

Ross Ainslie (10:24):
Well, came back and went, went into that general practice over in Townwich, Nova Scotia. You know, there was a practice there that Dr. Greg Archibald was servicing every town. He was doing East Hanson, he was in north Colchester, he was doing the, uh, main round Truro.

Ross Ainslie (10:42):
And so he wanted to cut down in his, his traveling bit. So he encouraged me to go over there. It was a, was a worthwhile experience. It's, uh, it it's a little bit difficult when you go out into, into the field when you have as a solo practitioner, right. From graduation only having had, uh, prime experience and, and, and two months with a preceptor.

Ray Long (11:09):

Ross Ainslie (11:09):
In the, in the previous year, it previous summer, but they were very understanding people and they, they were, they welcomed me with open arms and it was there as I met my wife, I guess, uh, that was the main reward of, of going over there.

Ross Ainslie (11:22):
It, wasn't a very big busy practice, uh, as such, didn't do any small at all. And, uh, so then in the, I moved down to river, John from Dulwich, moved down to Prague, the cause thought it might be closer the center, and then had a call in the middle of February, from Halifax, from Dr. Henry who, uh, had found himself in a situation where his partner had, had sold it to him and gone the States and, and the, his colleague who had the other cracks in Halifax was kicked in by a horse and, uh, built coroner found bruises and passed away. And, and John Henry was, was caught with him handling such a large area. So in two weeks I put my resignation and in a few weeks time came to Halifax and been here ever since.

Ray Long (12:17):
So, so you were in Tatamagouche in that generally a couple of years, did you say?

Ross Ainslie (12:21):
oh, nine months.

Ray Long (12:23):
Nine months? Yeah.

Ross Ainslie (12:23):
Yes, it was, it was, uh, it was fulfilling, but I could see no future, you know, cause agriculture was changing over and uh,

Ray Long (12:32):

Ross Ainslie (12:33):
They, they didn't have a good market for the products. So it was, it was, it was, um, not a progressive practicing per se.

Ross Ainslie (12:41):
The local pharmacy had had an inventory vendor drugs that was twice or three times eye size line. So it, they were servicing cause they'd been, they had men who went in the community and do some cabins of

Ray Long (12:53):

Ross Ainslie (12:54):
So it was, it was, it was difficult for me to come in, in, and uh, change all that sudden. So I figured that what's best to move on to something more potential.

Ray Long (13:05):
Sounded like a good opportunity here in Halifax. So talk for the next, uh, little while about, uh, what happened after you came to Halifax?

Ross Ainslie (13:13):
Well, I came to Halifax, and I still recall going in at a rent down price, coming down here on Easter, uh, weekend and Henry said, well, another veterinarian is here and I don't need to win. So I arrived at the practice and, and uh, there something like, uh, 90 animals in there and uh, dogs, and cats, the other boarding room or under treatment or whatever. So I was thrust into this suddenly and having to answer questions, uh, with the help of Hellen Helmedale and, uh, gradually learned a little more and progressed from there.

Ray Long (13:49):
And there'd, there'd be when you first moved here, there'd be, uh, a significant, uh, rural of practice too I'd say.

Ross Ainslie (13:56):
And oh yes. The 50% of the growth came from large animals, horses, uh, side horses, uh, work horses or, um, race horses and cattle that some of the large institutions had cattle, big herd, other institutions, five big herds of cattle in the area at the time.

Ross Ainslie (14:18):
So I, I was of course put on the road as a, the new veterinarian, all this gets on the road home. I was on the road doing miles immediately with the, uh, with my journals, which suited me fine, but still I had a chance to get into the small animal aspect of very quickly cause we worked every, we were open every night.

Ray Long (14:40):

Ross Ainslie (14:41):
Every evening, all day and every evening in the hospital and uh, all day, Saturday and Sunday morning, so, and we did emergencies at night. So it was a, it's been, it's been hard life. And we, we lived for three years above the hospital in front of the road.

Ross Ainslie (14:56):
so actually I, I had, uh, I sort of, uh, acquired all emergency calls cause I was on the spot and it was, it, it, it was a good way to start out. And, uh, as time went on, I would see people leaving the city and moving to the outskirts. And at that point, uh, we decided to run service those people, their needs that we would have to set up other hospitals, hospitals. So started Dartmouth first one in Dartmouth and Fairview, then Sackville. And, uh, then we went to [inaudible] and, and I had one in Sydney for 18 years.

Ray Long (15:41):
Yes. Yeah. So-

Ross Ainslie (15:43):
You and one in then one in, uh, after, after, Ross Mitton and I separated our partnership, I know in, in, in Woodland which is now [inaudible].

Ray Long (15:54):
So you must have had, uh, uh, seven or eight, uh, practices? Actually.

Ross Ainslie (15:59):
One time I had had six free standings,

Ray Long (16:02):
six freestanding. Yeah.

Ross Ainslie (16:03):
Then I, then I went into renting places, but most of the time I freestanding where we just, we keep moving and moved. It's probably another place probably last year. And we're gonna move over. The old place was been there since 1939 as a hospital.

Ray Long (16:19):

Ross Ainslie (16:20):
We're going down the street rent, um, property for our building from the soviets.

Ray Long (16:23):
Oh yes.

Ross Ainslie (16:25):
So that'll give us parking, which you never had.

Ray Long (16:31):
Yes. You plan to do that in the near future?

Ross Ainslie (16:33):
Immediately. Looking Into November.

Ray Long (16:37):
Oh yes. Now you covered a lot of, uh, territory there in the development of all those practices and the changes from sort of the, almost the disappearance of rural practices that have seen in so many other communities and the, of a number of satellite clinics and uh, very, very busy, uh, practices. Uh, are there any other comments on those that you might like to mention before we go on anything that kind of is special or that stands out?

Ross Ainslie (17:09):
Well, Uh, I guess, uh, when, when the colleges started rain, that was, it was, uh, it was difficult to anticipate what would happen to, uh, our practice.

Ray Long (17:23):

Ross Ainslie (17:25):
Our, our, our other practices. So I thought, well, now it's going to, the area, area would be flooded as as was proved to be true, new graduates because in Halifax, Dartmouth was really the largest conservation people. We belong to half a million people. So it's, uh, at that time I thought, well, I better sell some of these practices because it'll be worth much, um, when my market has got it. So, but I, I still have three left here. Now I saw one through Frank and Frank Richardson and, uh, and then went to new and cross and took the other one. And, uh, um, it's, it's really, uh, I guess the biggest turning point was, how long do I wanna go or how long can I go and running, operating these hospitals.

Ross Ainslie (18:11):
And my son came along, uh, 16 years ago and with the background business administration from, um, local college. And he, uh, so he took over as my manager. Well, If I had him 10 years before and we probably wouldn't have sold anything. He's, he's handling all that management and now I'm just doing medicine and coming back a little bit.

Ross Ainslie (18:35):
So this is really, uh, has changed my life. We can keep the practice in the family as long as we can, and then constitution coming over college with the association and he'll be able own a part of that. And, uh, I mean his life work pass on to him, which

Ray Long (18:55):
... Certainly yes,

Ross Ainslie (18:57):
So that, I guess that's, that's the main, that's the way it's heading now. Right. It, I work on as long as I can. I'm still having a license to practice, with practical half time, it is fulfilling my recurrence association and, uh, it's not straining too much because I'm used to going and doing a lot more. And it's nice to be still in touch with people that you, that had, uh, this been through the years. It's it's it's every time I go into one of the offices, half the people there say, well, I remember coming in some years ago. And, uh, it's a good feeling to have been part of that.

Ray Long (19:35):
Yes. Most veterinarians that have had a long career in practice as you have, that's their very comments too.

Ross Ainslie (19:40):

Ray Long (19:41):
And people, regardless of where they work, when they retire, they often say, well, I didn't miss, I don't miss the work, but I certainly miss the people.

Ross Ainslie (19:49):
Exactly. And this is, this is it's unfortunate, uh, in this province that, that we as veterinarians have, I guess, talked to our children out of being veterinarians right now, right now there are people, veterinarians who are going to have to sell their practices because they don't have parents coming on to them. So it's, uh, a serious situation. And they, other thing was, it's been practicing been good for me to me. I I'm a, I've got I, a lifetime member of CMA cause of the, the service rendered to the associations and the-

Ray Long (20:24):
That's that's wonderful.

Ross Ainslie (20:25):
And the AMA put me on their honor list, which means I go to convention down there free of charge.

Ray Long (20:31):
Isn't that great.

Ross Ainslie (20:31):

Ray Long (20:32):
Nice to be recognized and certainly deserve it.

Ross Ainslie (20:35):
And then the, the Governor general or the general left governor came up with inaugural award recently, I think you were there that night.

Ray Long (20:46):
I was, I think it was the 21st of April if I remember correctly.

Ross Ainslie (20:54):
Yes, that's right.

Ray Long (20:55):
Yes. A huge crowd there.

Ross Ainslie (20:55):
180 people. And they, it was, it was fourth. The, the vet veterinary college and PI they got this, started as a fundraiser.

Ray Long (21:02):
Yes. Yes.

Ross Ainslie (21:03):
So people, all these people paid $125 to come and everybody eat and listen to what was going on and just cathartic.

Ray Long (21:13):
It was a wonderful gathering and a great testimony to you. It made us all proud.

Ross Ainslie (21:17):
Well, thank you.

Ray Long (21:19):
You know, as we get ready to close here, you want any other comments maybe you'd like to make about your, about Isabel or your other children, or, I mean, in the sense of the roles that they played in your life and ultimately in practice and in, in direct sense?

Ross Ainslie (21:33):
Mm well, Isabelle um, had, uh, she came from a similar back, born on a farm and, uh, in fact, her family farm that brought up there as a child in a children's summer camp.

Ray Long (21:46):
Oh yeah. It's interesting.

Ross Ainslie (21:49):
And, and, uh, as a result, she understood the demands that animals place on you, as far as you knows a seven day a week, uh, 24 hours a day service. And, and, um, so she was very patient with me doing all this work and she brought up the children and in those days, well, you didn't work in the... a wife didn't work in the practice, or didn't, uh, go to work. There was, seemed to be enough to do caring for the household.

Ray Long (22:12):
Yes. And answering the phone at times.

Ross Ainslie (22:16):
Yes. Answer the phone with initially there were, the phone was busy, but then, uh, after things later on and things eased off, but it was a matter of getting meals for me when, uh, I'd come off the road and-

Ray Long (22:26):
Yes, all times of day.

Ross Ainslie (22:29):
Day and night, and then getting up in the middle of the night, going on a call. So it's, it's, it's a sort of life that a young, uh, maybe most young women wouldn't want to go through because after hard days work themselves, they don't want be, have the phone ring all night.

Ross Ainslie (22:42):
But so there was, there were a lot of, uh, sacrifices we made. And, uh, but we had, we had good years. We two boys that we brought up and Peter who is with me, that was the most important one, and Kevin's up in man. And he's, he's working up there. He didn't have so much to do with the hospital. Peter, Peter worked as a student, in a hospital. So he, over the years been, uh, more beneficial, more input into the business than Kevin. So, uh, that's about, uh, all I can say there, I don't know of any, if their children want to be veterinarian say nowadays, uh, I would like to see one on, be veterinarian and take this over and keep it in the family for a little longer, but, um, time will tell.

Ray Long (23:35):
Yes, indeed. But it'd be wonderful opportunity for them. If that is their interest. There's so many opportunities for young people today. They hardly know which one to head for.

Ross Ainslie (23:42):
They always think that they, they wanna do something glamorous and that they really, really veterinary medicine is, is coming into its own. Now there's so much you can do, we have a laser machine now and we have, uh, you know, cryo surgery and we have, uh, you know, ultrasound, these, these are, and next thing we're getting into endostomy. So it's, there's so much coming on that I just hate to get out of it everywhere. It's really getting interesting.

Ray Long (24:10):
It's come a long way since you graduated in 52.

Ross Ainslie (24:13):
Exactly. It has so.

Ray Long (24:14):
Ross, it's been a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks very much to, for agreeing for this interview. And I'm sure it'll be enjoyed by many people.

Ross Ainslie (24:22):
Well, thank you a my pleasure.