The 86-year-old San Francisco physician, who as a University of California student helped "kidnap" the Stanford Ax in 1899, is making some moves towards retirement.
He stopped performing operations three years ago. He accepts no new patients, but the old ones keep coming and he sees at least a half dozen a day at his office in the lower floor of his home at 587 Corbett Ave.
Only one other active physician in San Francisco matches his 59-year career and none exceeds it, according to best available records.
Dr. CASTELHUN, who has treated as many as five generations of one family, sums up his long career as "just trying to be a good doctor." There are highlights treating victims of the 1906 earthquake, teaching surgery to University of California Medical students after the turn of the century, serving for nearly 50 years as medical examiner for the San Francisco Civil Service Commission.
His latest distinction is membership in the new St. Luke's Hospital House Staff Alumni Association although, alone among its 340 physician members, he was not an intern or resident at St. Luke's. But, since he completed internship at San Francisco General Hospital in 1905, he has been on the St. Luke's attending staff and still admits patients to St. Luke's.
He has seen many medical advances in 59 years and hopes to see another soon construction of the new St. Luke's Maternity Wing to replace facilities stretched to the limit by the population explosion. He urged support to the $750,000 campaign for the new wing.
Most babies were born at home when Dr. CASTELHUN started his practice. He recalls presiding at three births in three San Francisco homes between 5 and 8:30 a.m., shuttling back and forth in his new-fangled automobile.
His first crisis came in 1906 when he helped pull earthquake casualties from the ruins of a Mission district hotel near his home. Then he made his way to St. Luke's where he and two other physicians labored for days to help victims of the great quake. "And," he recalls, "there were the usual number of people who were sick, and we had to care for them, too."
He also treated earthquake casualties at the temporary county hospital set up at the old Ingleside Racetrack, now Urbano Dr.
Medicine has come a long way since those days. Diseases have changed too, Dr. CASTELHUN says. "I used to carry diphtheria anti-toxin because I knew I'd have to use it in a couple of weeks," he recalls. "Lobar pneumonia and typhoid fever were commonplace. Malaria cases used to come down from the Central Valley every summer. Modern medicine has changed all that, and some doctors have never seen some of the diseases we treated regularly."
As he grows older so does his clientele. Now Dr. CASTELHUN treats degenerative diseases heart problems, arteriosclerosis, kidney ailments.
He is reticent about his part in the Great Ax Raid of 1899 when U.C. students made off with Stanford's Ax after a U.C.-Stanford baseball game in the old park at 16th and Folsom Sts.
"Don't say we stole it," he pleads. "Say we took it away from them." The melee covered several Mission district blocks before the Californians wrested the ax from a Stanford rooter at 16th and Capp Sts. Dr. CASTELHUN recalls that a policeman was about to interfere but his sergeant said, "Leave them alone. They're just college boys."
Still able to drive on long weekend trips, Dr. CASTELHUN hopes that he and his wife Lucy can take a long ocean voyage when and if he retires. Most of their vacationing as been by air, but the doctor thinks it's time to be more leisurely.