Uncle Jack, a legend in his time, maybe a wannabe doctor

who held the staff of Aesculapius high in a cramped little

store in the wind-swept no-mans-land of South Ozone,

Queens, between the Rockaways and Jamaica Bay before

it became Idlewild and J.F.K.

His store was like a battalion aid station between the Siegfried

and Maginot lines where he treated the walking wounded of the

dirty thirties. Called “Doc” by a cavalcade of casualties, he

staunched the flow of gushing blood, splinted broken bones,

snapped back dislocated shoulders and removed thingamabobs

from the eyes. He used antediluvian anodynes, palliatives for the

egregious misery of ingrown toenails, toothaches, earaches, migraines,

scabies, syphilis and gonorrhea. He dispensed belladonna, camphor and

wintergreen liniments for muscle spasms and aching backs, calamine

and iodine for itchy rashes and infections, Carter’s Little Liver Pills

for jaundiced yellow eyes and Lydia Pinkham’s pink pills for whatever

ailed the ladies. For bronchial congestion Druidic nostrums like

horehound extract, mustard plaster and a guggle-muggle, sure to let

one breathe again. He mixed a mash of pitch black tar to subdue the

festering carbuncular and faruncular, counseled the constipated with

Ex-lax and Feenamint, paregoric for diarrhea, purple Gentian Violet

to cure everything from canker sores to fungal toes, advised one how

to tie off dangling hemorrhoids with rubber bands and avoid surgery

with a truss to hold a hernia in place.

Uncle Jack had “a friend of mine” for any problem you might have

and could always refer one to the best doctor, dentist, lawyer, even

had a “friend” in Pennsylvania for conceptions unexpected.

Sequestered in a dank cavernous back room he stirred colloidal

concoctions, healing potions, elixirs and emollients caring for

customers while chomping on a stogy, inhaling noxious fumes

till he succumbed to bladder cancer unable to find the best right

“friend” in time to save himself.

Milton P. Ehrlich 199 Christie St. Leonia, N.J. 07605