Dr. Jones got off to a painful start

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 5, 1999

Features Editor

Dec. 4, 1999 10 PM

Old habits are hard to break.

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So, now that Dr. Allen Jones has entered retirement, he might have a difficult time keeping the words, ‘Open wide,’ out of his daily conversations.

After all, he uttered those two words countless times as he practiced his trade over the past 47 years.

On Tuesday, Jones took down his dental shingle, unplugged his drill and put the lid on a satisfying career of service to his fellow man – a career that started painfully when he was only nine years old.

"I had a baby tooth that was aching me so bad I thought I couldn’t stand it," Jones said. "The dentist pulled it for me and, in that one moment of contrast – of pain and then, suddenly, no pain, I knew what I wanted my life’s work to be. I wanted to be a dentist."

The desire to provide that contrast between pain and no pain stayed with Jones. Even when Uncle Sam called him to another kind of service in 1943, he never lost sight of what he wanted to do with his life.

After serving three years in the army, Jones enrolled at the University of Alabama. His arrival at the Capstone was just in time for him to be a member of the first dental class at the university.

A group of Jones’ pre-dental friends on the Tuscaloosa campus, worked with dentists and legislators to get a bill authorized for the establishment of a School of Dentistry at the University of Alabama.

Their efforts paid off and the School of Dentistry was established with 52 students being selected from 600 applicants. All 52 members of that first dental class were veterans.

Jones and his wife Frances Cox Jones worked his way through school and "by the hardest, we made it."

In 1952, Jones’ boyhood dream became a reality.

He came to Troy to practice with "the best," Dr. Hugh McKinnon and Dr. Charlie Segars. He worked with them for two years before opening his own practice on North Three Notch Street.

"Back then dentists had to do it all, pull molars, set fractured jaws – everything," Jones said. "We took Thursday afternoon off but worked all day on Saturday. Things gradually changed for the better."

Jones said three innovations that greatly improved the field of dentistry were the high speed handpiece, fiberoptic lights and a central vacuum system.

"They made things better for the dentists and the patients," he said. "Like all dentists I wanted to make my patients as comfortable as possible and as happy."

Jones said over the years, he made many friends who came to his chair. These friendships enriched his life, as did those of his employees.

"If there is any credit to be given in my career, it should go to my employees," he said. "I’ve had the best people working for me anyone could have. Some of them have been with me 30 -40 years. Why, altogether, I would guess we had more than 500 years of experience in that office. I appreciate every one of them."

Jones said he had thought he would retire at 72 but stayed longer than expected.

"I found someone to take over my practice that I have all of the confidence in the world in – Benjamin Ji," he said. "I’m leaving it in good hands and I’m looking forward to spending time outside and with my family. I want to do things with my grandchildren before I’m too old – watch them play ball, take them fishing and hunting. And I want to spend as much time as I can outside. As much as I love the outdoors, I don’t know why I locked myself in a building the way I did all those years. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything."