December 12, 2012

After 44 Years and Many Memories, An Old-Fashioned Doctor Calls It Quits

MEDICINE AND MEMORABILIA: Surrounded by a small section of his Brooklyn Dodgers collection, Dr. Carl C. Hoyler is preparing to pack it all up as he retires. The Princeton native, an internist, also counts the University of Pennsylvania and aviation among his varied interests, and both are represented on the walls of his soon to be vacated office on Witherspoon Street. (Photo by Lewis Bloom)

Carl C. Hoyler remembers when Route 1 had a speed limit of 35 and drivers sometimes had to stop to let cows from a dairy farm cross the road. That was back in the days when Princeton Medical Center was a small-town hospital and Dr. Hoyler, an internist, was one of the 120 or so physicians on staff.

“It was a small, county hospital, which was what I wanted,” he says, recalling his decision to practice in Princeton, his hometown, some 44 years ago. “Bigger is not better, at least in terms of a hospital. I’m sorry that it’s come to this — a big, mega-hospital. And that’s one of the reasons I’m retiring.”

Once the University Medical Center of Princeton added “at Plainsboro” to its name last May following its move to much expanded headquarters on Route 1, Dr. Hoyler knew it was time to close up shop. The 253 Witherspoon Street office building, which has housed his practice since 1969, is scheduled for demolition. His suite of offices, lined with photographs and memorabilia of his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers and his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, is slowly being dismantled.

“It actually feels very good,” Dr. Hoyler says of his pending retirement. “We have two grandchildren and one on the way, and there will be more time to visit them in California. But I’m really going to miss the patients. We’ve been sort of a family, and I’ve tried to make a supreme effort to get them to the right doctors. It’s very important.”

Most of Dr. Hoyler’s patients are senior citizens, some of whom have been with him since he started. “That was when Medicare just began,” he says. “Now close to 90 percent of them are on Medicare. They are very dear people. We’ve had a good run.”

Dr. Hoyler was five years old when his father, a physics professor at Lehigh University, accepted a job at RCA Labs and moved the family to Princeton. He went to elementary school in the building on Nassau Street that now houses Princeton University’s arts programs, and junior high at the old Quarry Street School, now the Waxwood Apartments. “That was a very important time in Princeton because of the integration that took place there in 1948,” he recalls. “Some of the best teachers I had were at that school.”

After graduating from Princeton High, Dr. Hoyler enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). He attended New York Medical College before returning to Penn for his residency, which he finished in 1969. He is currently the proud president of the class of 1959.

Dr. Hoyler knew, when he finished his training, that he wanted to come home to Princeton. “I always liked this town,” he says. “I was a townie. A lot of people on staff may have gone to Princeton University, but not many grew up here.” His first two associates were Marvin Blumenthal and Joel Feldscher [“another townie,” he says], and he remembers them fondly. “They were among the most brilliant men I ever met in my life,” he says.

As Dr. Hoyler’s  practice grew, so did his collection of Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia. “There’s nothing here after 1957,” he says of his walls of photographs, magazine covers, and other relics of the famed baseball team. The year 1957, when the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn for Los Angeles, “was a dark period in my life,” he continues. “I lived and died with that team. I can remember every game the Dodgers played between 1947 and 1957. I began collecting as a kid, and this is only a small part of what I have. I’ll probably give it to [the Baseball Hall of Fame at] Cooperstown. It’s really one of a kind. I could spend hours discussing every picture in here.”

While he won’t be making his daily trips to the office anymore, Dr. Hoyler, who lives with his wife near Drumthwacket, will still be using his bicycle with bright yellow fenders to travel around town. “I got this at a hospital rummage sale several years ago,” he says. “If you’re riding around Princeton, you don’t need a fancy 25-speed. Mine is a three-speed and it’s fine. I don’t wear a helmet because I actually think it’s dangerous. You lose your peripheral
vision. But I have the yellow fenders as a concession to my wife, who was worried about my safety. So everyone can spot me.”

Dr. Hoyler leaves 253 Witherspoon Street with mixed feelings. “This building probably should have been torn down years ago,” he says. “It’s archaic. So I’ll shed no tears when it comes down. I refer to it as the dungeon. But there have been good times here. It’s been a nice scene for many years. I think I’ve seen the good of medicine in this town.”