Health care delivery in the early 1930’s | Jeanne Peck
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Any child in the New York City neighborhood in which I grew up would have had to be very sick indeed to have been taken to a Doctor’s office. A Doctor was for the serious stuff. For the little stuff – the every-day, run-of-the-mill, equal-opportunity, minor physical ailments that afflict all human beings from time to time – there was the local pharmacy (commonly referred to as the “Drug Store”). The local Pharmacist was the primary medical care-giver of an ailing child – or for that matter, an under-the-weather adult. In our neighborhood it was Nachman’s Pharmacy (at least I think his name was Nachman. I can’t be sure. It was many years ago, and I’ve grown old. But it’s a pleasant enough name – and will do for my purpose here.). Mr. Nachman was relied upon by every mother in the community to solve all of life’s little mishaps or miseries. He was a kindly-looking fellow – much like Santa Claus without the beard. He was round-faced; not too tall; not fat, really, just a little chubby, as if he really enjoyed food. And he was always smiling and cheerful. He considered no complaint serious, and always readily curable. “Oh, this is nothing to worry about, he would croon, “We’ll have you all fixed up and good as new in no time.” No one could dispel anxiety like Mr. Nachman. There was never a charge for his advice, his services or his time. No fear though, that Mr. Nachman would go without recompense. His diagnoses always carried with them a treatment involving some syrup of other for a cough; a small round tin of sticky black “drawing salve” for a boil; or a tube of cream or ointment for localized infection or an annoying, persistent itch. And before leaving the store, Dad would perhaps remember that he had just used his last razor blade; Mom might wonder if there was enough toothpaste left in the tube, or whether the new issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal had come in yet. And of course, no child would ever leave the store without taking full advantage of the situation and pleading for a candy bar or a comic book to help with the healing process. Yes, there were sufficient additions to Mr. Nachman’s cash register drawer. It’s true that many of the miseries presented to Mr. nachman would have cleared up on their own, without benefit of Pine Brothers Honey Cough Drops, Vicks Vap-o-rub or Calamine Lotion. He could, however, claim credit for some very good calls and quick referrals to the local Doctor – and for helping many of the neighborhood folks over lots of life’s little rough spots. Beyond that, it was always so comforting to know that in the Drug Store just down the block, was a respected, knowledgeable friend who was concerned about your family’s health and well-being. And he never once violated the First Commandment of any medical practitioner – “Thou Shalt Do No Harm”. When you think about it, Mr. Nachman’s Pharmacy, and others like it all across America, were the prototype – the very first of the “Walk-in Clinics”. And no one ever even dreamed of thinking that the friendly, beloved neighborhood pharmacist was practicing medicine without a license. Life was ever so much simpler back then.