|Part 1 – Dr. Bernstein & Dr. Jaret
(Click here if you missed it)
|If the doctor gave his patient a prescription, the next step before going home was to one of the five drugstores scattered around the village. Our drugstore of choice was owned by Dave Leblang, assisted by Frank Lauria. These single proprietor drugstores with soda fountains, and leeches were a few steps ahead of the old apothecary shop and have virtually disappeared from the American landscape, replaced by big box stores.|
In some instances, pharmacists were frustrated physicians. For whatever reason, lack of financial resources, racial and religious quotas imposed by medical schools, promising young men were shunted off to pharmacy school. Because of their frustration, whenever the opportunity arose, the would freely offer medical advice.
After a few questions to rule out serious diseases, they would choose a remedy and confidently say “Take this for a few days.” The remedy usually worked.
In those days of flying cinders, everyone was prone to getting something in an eye. You would immediately run to Leblang’s and apprise Dave or Frank of the situation. Either one would stop what he was doing and with gravity prepared for surgery, you were invited in to the back of the pharmacy. He fashioned a cotton swab, sat you in a chair under a light, searched for the offending cinder, and then deftly, with the skill of a renowned ophthalmic surgeon, plucked out the tiny but irritation offender, “How does it feel now?” he would ask. “Great!” You would then profusely thank him and dash out of the store, across the street to the vacant lot and continue one of the numerous activities to which the area was dedicated: playing marbles, roasting mickies (potatoes), catching grasshoppers or playing soldiers in the high ragweed stalks on a summer’s day.
My interest in chemistry deepened as I approached my twelfth birthday. I sought mentoring from anyone I knew who was involved in science. I befriended the pharmacists, from whom I purchased various chemicals – saltpeter, flower of sulfur, potassium permangament (guess ehat I was concocting in my basement laboratory, but that’s another story). Sometimes I would go to Leblang’s and walk to the back and watch Dave or Frank study a prescription, mix an elixer, compound some powders in a mortar or deftly rolling suppositories. They never seemed to mind my curiosity and they were always interested in answering my many questions. I was so flattered to feel welcomed in this inner sanctum. I guess on those quiet winter evenings they also welcomed the company of an enthusiastic young boy.
|Frank Lauria could never sit on a chair. He told me that soon after he finished pharmacy school he contracted severe arthritis and his lower joints were locked and frozen. Hence, he wended his way round the village in his rigid, stiff gait steadied by a cane held in each hand. When I saw him in the Arion, he would stand watching the screen from the back as if he were in the standing room section of a theatre.|
He had a contraption in the back of the pharmacy against which he could lean and rest during a lull. He never complained about his affliction and was always of cheerful disposition.
For the most part, he and Dave got along in their symbiotic relationship: Dave had time for other activities; Frank had a job near his home, an apartment he shared with his sister and her family. He made the most out of what life offered him. Although he never married, it was rumored that he had a relationship with a Village woman or at least, a friendship. When I was told this, I thought to myself, good for him. He retired when Dave finally closed the store in 1974. For many years, Frank was quite active in the Middle Village Senior Citizens Center, formerly the Hebrew Institute. In 1988, on one of his excursions to Manhattan to see a Broadway show, he fell in the street and suffered a brain hemorrhage when he banged his head on the sidewalk. Although life was not completely kind to him, Frank knew enough to make lemonade with his lemons. I don’t know why, but I think of Frank from time to time and see him so clearly; very erect, not by choice, shuffling along holding firmly on to his two canes, walking slowly but with determination to be somewhere.
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Apr 16, 2014
I remember Frank well! Thanks for reminding me. And — yes, Dave took dirt out of my sons’ eyes several times.