The corner drug store is another of those places that I remember. In those days in my neighborhood, the pharmacist or “Doc”, as he was likely to be called was the person who performed most of the minor first aid. You have to remember that there were no paramedics, EMTs, volunteer First Aid Squads, or Rescue Companies. The municipal hospital, imaginatively named The Jersey City Medical Center, maintained ambulance service, but that was primarily used for the more serious injuries. For the run-of-the-mill cuts and bruises, you went to the druggist, who cleaned it up and either bandaged it or recommended further medical attention.
I went to ‘Doc’ more than once. There was one memorable time, when I was about 5 or 6. I fell off my bike and landed on my head. (Lucky, I guess.) When I got home, my mother tried to brush off a piece of dirt from the side of my head. I jumped away because it hurt. (Actually, it hurt like hell, but I wasn’t allowed to say that then.) She finally gave up, and took me to the drugstore, where, upon close examination, it was discovered that I had a small nail sticking in my head. (No comments, please. I probably would have been like this anyway.) As you can tell, my mother was not medically inclined. As a matter of fact, it became a family joke that whenever I needed a doctor, she needed a sedative. The doctor got used to it. He always wrote two prescriptions, one for each of us – one antibiotic and one sedative. Anyway, Dr. Feinman took the nail out, and recommended a tetanus booster. No emergency room necessary.
An incident that occurred in Dr. Feinman’s office will point out how different the times I grew up in are from the times of today. I was sitting in the waiting room waiting to see the doctor. In those days, you didn’t make an appointment. You just went to the doctor’s office, put your name on the list and waited. Unless it was a real emergency, it was first come, first served. Anyway, I was sitting there, waiting. I started talking to a little baby boy who was there with his mother. The baby was about 18 months old and I was about 16. After about an hour (wait times of 3 hours were not uncommon), the mother said there was something she had to run home and take care of. She asked me if I would watch the baby until she came back. I agreed and played with and held the baby for about 45 minutes until the mother returned. Remember, we had never seen each other before being in the doctor’s office together. Can you imagine anything like that happening today?
There was one other occasion that I remember where the story had a little different outcome. I was about 11 or 12 and I noticed a scab on my forehead. Every one in my family tried to get it off with no luck. Eventually they took me to the druggist. (Incidentally, everyone called them that in those days. I guess pharmacist was too hard to say. The Italian for pharmacist was farmacista, but we didn’t use that word either. You figure it out – I can’t.) Anyway, the druggist soaked the scab in alcohol and it came off. Of course, I have a hole in my forehead to this day, due to their efforts. What no one realized was that I was coming down with the chicken pox, and they had pulled the scab off one of the pock marks, leaving a scar. Oh well! Win some, lose some.
Another incident involving the druggist took place when I was about 14 or so. My mother asked me to run to the drug store for a few things. No problem. Then my aunt asked me to also pick up a box of sanitary pads. WHOA! NO WAY! There was no way that I was going into a drug store where people knew me and ask for or purchase a box of THOSE THINGS. So we argued back and forth with all sorts of threats if I didn’t buy them. I was adamant. They could rip out my fingernails, but I wasn’t buying THOSE. Finally, someone said that they thought it was terrible, after all the things my grandfather did for me, that I wouldn’t buy something for him. Now let me tell you, I was one confused kid. What the hell did my grandfather need with those things? When I said as much, everyone looked confused. Then they realized what I had been thinking and they all started laughing. What was needed was a box of sanitary gauze pads to put on my grandfather’s eye. (He had an eye infection.) VERY FUNNY! Ha! Ha!
When I was older, maybe 16 or so, the druggist would let me fill prescriptions for him. (Just a little illegal, but what the heck.) I would read the prescription, locate the medication and dispense the correct amount. He would fill out the label with the dosage information and would usually check what I had put in the bottle, but not always. There were no complaints, so I guess I didn’t make any mistakes. At least, I hope not.