|Part 1 – Dr. Bernstein & Dr. Jaret
(Click here if you missed it) *****
Part 2 – Dave Leblang & Frank Lauria
(Click here if you missed it)
|Joe Velardi owned the pharmacy next to the poolroom. It was in many ways similar to Leblang’s and the other drugstore; Ex-Lax signs and lettering adorned the windows. Dave had an abundance of employees so there was no work for me. One day I walked into Velardi’s and asked Joe if he needed help. I don’t think he bothered to look up at me or attempt to interview me, but said “Sure, come in on Saturday.” No discussion of duties, wages or hours. I was more interested in the work than the money I would earn|
The following Saturday morning I eagerly ran to his store in anticipation of a new career. He seemed to leave me pretty much to my own devices. I cleaned the shelves, straightened out the merchandise and even waited on the customers and, of course, watched him compounding drugs. I was fascinated as he filled the capsules, little pills that would restore health and bring life. All the while, one after the other, he lit and deeply inhaled his Pall Malls. Occasionally, he would send me on a delivery or asked me to bring a note called a K.O. (Kindly Oblige) to another pharmacist and pick up a needed ingredient. This little cooperative gesture showed me that there was a guild-like structure between merchants. Each had a territory and was not threatened by his competitors.
|In the late afternoon he directed me to his Dodge sedan parked on the side of the store and told me to get the hose from the basement. With that, I washed his car. At the end of the day, he went to the cash register and took out one dollar and handed my day’s wages to me. I went back for one or two more weeks and then stopped going. As would be my lifelong habit, I was happy to live a fantasy and then move on. There was something about Joe that intrigued me. He operated the store by himself, six days a week. From time to time, his widowed mother would be in the store to give him some relief. Otherwise, he was there alone with his Pall Malls.|
Joe and his brother, Dr. Paul Velardi, both bachelors, lived with their mother in a high stooped brownstone on Metropolitan Avenue. Paul had a modest office in the ground floor; modest in furnishings and modest in patients. I suspect that the brothers were loners, seemingly content with their lot. But we will never really know the truth of other people’s lives. We are not even certain of the truth of our own lives. After all, this is what I know (remember) about the Velardi brothers.
|***||In one of my hypochondriacally oriented fits, I decided to consult Dr. Velardi. After being reassured that I had no fatal disorder and would live, since he had no other patients in his office, and he seemed to have no other pressing engagements, we had a nice conversation.|
As his brother, he lit up one cigarette after another while we conversed. Somehow he related to me that his social life mostly involved sitting at the bar in the Village Inn every evening. He rambled on and told me that if he discovered that he had a fatal disease such as cancer of the anus, that he would commit suicide and just be done with his life.
Later on, I found out that is exactly what he did. I forget who died first, but Joe Velardi dropped dead of an apparent heart attack in the store. Whatever happened to their mother, I do not know. I am probably the only person in this entire, infinite universe who has thought of these three people in the last fifty years. So be it.
********************************* ….. the end – hope you enjoyed it!
Apr 16, 2014
Wow – What a jolt to my memory that was.
Apr 17, 2014
My family used the Velardi brothers for our health care needs. Joe was very friendly with us – perhaps due to both he and my mom were first generation Italian-Americans.
Anyway, as Mr. Teicher recalled above about running “KO” notes to other pharmacists, Joe also had me on occasion do the same, although I remember only going to Mr. Leblang.
When I became a LI Press boy, I used to bring my weekly silver (i.e. coins) to Joe and he would give me the equivalent in paper money so that I could pay my bill to the Press location on 75th Street.
When my family moved to Staten Island in the fall of 1953, Joe had sent a nice letter to us, with, I believe $50, thanking us for our friendship and how much he will miss us.
Several months later, in February 1954 (I believe) we were told that Joe was found dead in his store. My father was the only one able to attend the wake.
Dr. Velardi was a great doctor who, like the GP’s back then, made house calls. I know that he was awakened after midnight on at least one occasion to tend to me with my 104/105 temperature.
I don’t recall exactly when he died but I know it was sometime after Joe.
Occasionally, when I think back on my Middle Village days, I always remember Joe and his flasks and the other paraphernalia in the back room. I seem to remember that brothers had siblings, but that’s all I remember.
Mrs. Velardi was a nice person and very dignified and I think she outlasted her sons.