Health Care Part 1 - Dr. Bernstein & Dr. Jaret

Herbert Teicher

by Herbert Teicher






Dr. Asa Bernstein found his way to Middle Village and opened a medical practice in a stately house on Hinman Street near Metropolitan Avenue.   Since the major hospitals were far away, Dr. Bernstein had an annex added on to the back of the house which would serve as a mini hospital. Dr. Bernstein, as most family practitioners of that era, performed minor surgeries such as tonsillectomies, removing adenoids, setting broken bones, stitching all kinds of wounds. Moreover, many children were born in his lying-in facility and were tended by his wife who was also a nurse. It was almost a badge of honor to be able to proclaim that they were born in Dr. Bernstein’s hospital. To digress for a moment, I would like to tell a Middle Village folkloric tale.

On a cold December 11, 1936, the same day that King Edward abdicated from the throne of the British Empire for “the woman he loved,” Eva Teicher walked from her home to his lying-in hospital and gave birth to a cute little baby boy. Since Eva already had four sons, she turned her head to the side, disappointed that she would never have the daughter that would have completed her life. “A son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter is a daughter for the rest of your life!” How true these old adages are! In any case, she walked home with the baby wrapped in swaddling of that era. When she arrived home, she deposited him in a make-shift cradle (the proverbial dresser drawer), told our next door cousins, Phyllis and Shandi that they could have a real life doll to play with, which they did. His name was Herby.

Baby in drawer

Getting back to Dr. Bernstein; he was a kindly man as I remember him. I recall being examined by him in his office and I distinctly recall his gentility and warm smile. Although he had limited medical resources available to him, he was revered by his patients who accepted what life brought them. Perhaps his wonderful bedside manner was the best palliater of that era. A few years hence, I recall seeing the famous Norman Rockwell illustration of a child being examined by her doctor and I said to myself, “That’s Dr. Bernstein!”

Healthcare was just not an issue in those days. One went to the doctor, was examined, diagnosed, advised, prescribed and the patient meekly asked the doctor “how much do I owe you?” almost as an afterthought. “Oh, give me two dollars.” End of discussion! No receptionist, no requests for medical insurance cards, no billing clerks and no threats of withholding services; just a warm, humane understanding between doctor and patient.

If a family was indigent, the doctor would say, “Don’t worry about it, you can pay me some other time.” The same thing was true of hospitals. You paid the bill if you had the assets. You were never dunned or hounded for payment. How does one explain this generosity in light of today’s brouhaha about medical costs? First of all, small town doctors for the most part were held in high esteem and seemed to love their profession. It was relatively inexpensive to open an office since there wasn’t expensive equipment to buy. Certainly, malpractice insurance was not as much of a factor as it is today.

At the end of World War II, Dr. Bernstein retired and Dr. Nathan Jaret opened an office. He was a handsome, charming man and his captivating smile and his easy manner had a way of calming anyone who came to see him. Soon after starting his practice, business was booming. As a general practitioner of that time, he delivered almost all the baby boomers in Middle Village. He had no problem doing house calls in those days. He was also a very enthusiastic numismatist and philatelist. After treating his patient, he would say to the family, “Do you have any foreign coins or stamps?” And, the family, eager to please Dr. Jaret, would scurry around the house and gather their little troves and gratefully present them to him, almost as if the offering would insure good health to the family.

As with Dr. Bernstein and the other medical practitioners, Dr. Jaret had limited medical equipment and depended on their diagnostic skills to keep their patients healthy.

    Things That Might Kill You ***** At one point in my late adolescence, I was suffering a bit from hypochondria.


On one of my periodic visits to him, he concluded the examination by boldly stating to me – “Look, Herbert, get it through your head, no one is going to live forever and no one is getting out of here alive.” As you can see, that statement made a very definitive impact on me since I never forgot it and can still quote him word for word over half a century later.



Leo – Mar 31, 2013

Hi Herb,

Do you remember Dr. Firestone at the NE corner of 68th Road & 79th Street? He was our family doctor. We went to him in the forties. I remember he charged $5 a visit; that was a lot of money at that time.

We used Dr. Lieberman on Metropolitan Avenue for our baby doctor. We took Laura & Leo there. He was very old at that time, but very good. He spent time with you. We liked him very much.

Can you tell more about them?


Spencer Wulwick – Mar 31, 2013

In order to say what I want, I guess I am going to have to make a confession. Are you ready? Please don’t tell anyone, but I am not a native Middle Villager. I was born – are you ready? – in BROOKLYN. I spent some time here – on and off – as an illegal immigrant but didn’t become a naturalized citizen, until I was nearly 6 years old.

In my day, we too had a family doctor. But there was only one “best” family doctor and, naturally, that’s the one we had. For starters, he (remember, there were only “he” doctors in those days) delivered me. So, even when we moved all the way to Middle Village, he was still our family doctor. And, for routine visits, we packed our lunch, grabbed our passports, hopped a trolley and traveled all the way to Brooklyn to see our “best” doctor.


When I was too sick to travel – no problemo! Dr. Waldman simply paid us a visit (remember when Doctor’s made “house calls?”) Smiley Face - Small And all he needed to make me “all better” was his little black bag. It held every modern medicine miracle there was in those days.      Doctors bag 1


When my mother was diagnosed with Diabetes, traveling to Brooklyn (for us) or from Brooklyn (for him) was just not very practical, so my mother had to find a new family doctor and chose Dr. Firestone. We would have to like him – unless he turned out to be really bad – and so, like him we did. But, he always played “second fiddle” to Dr. Waldman, in our mind’s eye.

I probably would have appreciated him much more than I did, had I realized he would be the last family doctor I would ever have. By the time my health required me to have a “regular” doctor, there was no such thing as a “family” physician … now I have (you should pardon the expression), a “primary care physician” {TOOT!} {TOOT!} and he tells me if and when I need to see a cardiologist, or a proctologist, or a gastroenterologist or a . . . . . . . . .


Apr 16, 2014

Dr. Jaret was the best. He came to my home so many times; first-time moms have all sorts of “emergencies”.

Since my husband was a coin collector, a cup of coffee and a walk-through of his collection was all Dr. Jaret needed. (and credit was never refused).

This man deserved to be paid and so when pay day came, I would walk to his 75th Street office and pay him.

He told jokes, laughed at my anxieties, and we loved him


One thought on “Health Care Part 1 - Dr. Bernstein & Dr. Jaret

  1. This may sound silly – but I don’t remember if I wrote the above but I must have because it describes me completely. I joined HIP when I returned back to work & Dr. Firestone was a HIP doctor. We were very happy with his care. I did visit Dr. Lieberman on occasion but I was uncomfortable with him. i found him too stern.

    As a child, I lived next door to Dr. Schwartz, whom we knew from the Brooklyn Lutheran hospital. If my memory is correct, he passed away quite young.

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