Vintage Bones

The skeletal spirit of the 1940s finds new life

In many ways, the 1940s cemented Dooley’s place in the Emory campus consciousness. During that decade, he acquired a physical presence and ceased being just a voice in occasional letters to the Phoenix, Emory’s literary magazine. The spirited Lord of Misrule also welcomed World War II veterans home and survived a kidnapping by Georgia Tech students. He was finding his persona—if not his voice.

The Dooley of this era is now featured in a new line of Emory spirit items, the Vintage Dooley Collection. The renderings were drawn by Nicholas Petkas 49C 51G 54M and other students from the time, and were first seen in yearbooks and other publications.

Petkas is the son of Greek immigrants who left Turkey because of religious persecution. After his father came to the United States to join his brother, the two opened a restaurant in Texas and eventually transferred their livelihood to Atlanta, where they ran the Ship Ahoy restaurant for many years.

Petkas had always wanted to be a doctor and chose Emory because of its association with a medical school. Graduating midterm from the college in 1949, Petkas decided to bide his time before medical school by earning a master’s in psychology, which was conferred in 1951. Though the young medical student doubtlessly met other skeletons, given his field of study, Dooley is the one that fired his imagination. Petkas’s talents as a sketch artist came to the attention of someone on Emory’s yearbook staff, who asked him to do drawings for that publication. “I had no formal training,” says Petkas, “but my cartoons were used in high school publications, so I felt comfortable contributing to the yearbooks.”

That work led to another commission: Petkas was asked to do a half-dozen, life-size, oil renderings of Dooley—of which no known images remain. The compensation was $275, which Petkas used to buy a scooter to get him back and forth to Grady Hospital. Seated on his fire-engine-red scooter in his white lab coat with his black doctor’s bag, Petkas traversed what was then known as the “Emory-Grady Expressway.”

Petkas went on to a surgical residency at the Medical College of Virginia and service in the Army Medical Corps, marrying, and having four children. He became the classic door-to-door family doctor of the time, even delivering children at his patients’ homes. He established his practice in the West Palm Beach area, but health challenges later led him to sell his practice and work independently for much of his career.

Now eighty-five, Petkas is pleased to see his old sketches of Dooley find new life. “To this day, I am blissfully unaware of Dooley’s background,” Petkas says. “I am just happy to be a chapter in that history.”

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