Healthcare professionals have proven themselves to be heroes indeed over the last year and a half — and we’re so grateful.
But the current landscape for medical practitioners is vastly different now than it was in the last century.
As part of our engaging Takeover Series, join Ted Weyn, Jr., host of the informative Heroes of Healthcare podcast, as he interviews a lively retired pharmacist and business owner who served his community for over six decades – his father, Ted Weyn, Senior.
“He interviewed me and I got the job. I worked Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 3-6 and got 33 cents an hour.” — Ted Weyn Sr.
The Good Ol’ Days
Starting just after the Great Depression, Weyn Sr. began his career as an errand boy for the local pharmacist. Born in 1929, his story is touchingly similar to Jimmy Stewart’s childhood employment in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Ted Weyn, Jr. and his father reminisce about the role of the local pharmacist in the mid-20th century:
- Creating medicines like headache relief or cough syrup by hand daily.
- Serving as “nurse practitioners,” providing basic medical care to underserved areas.
- Weyn Sr.’s pharmacy near the United Nations was the cornerstone of neighborhood well-being.
- Hilarious anecdotes from Weyn Sr. from his many years as a pharmacist, business owner, and pillar of the community.
”It was very interesting. We made a lot of extemporaneous drugs. We made our own remedies. Cough medicines were always more or less compounded. We made suppositories, we made a lot of lotions and emulsions – everybody had their special formula.” — Ted Weyn Senior
Better Than Home Remedies
Ted Weyn, Senior started his pharmaceutical career with the princely salary of six dollars a week – enough to pay tuition for a semester at St. Agnes Academic High School in Queens, NY.
Pharmacies in those days were much more than the conglomerates today. Family owned, they made their own pain relievers and intestinal tonics fresh by hand, according to a closely guarded recipe.
Weyn Sr. shares a tidbit about having to quickly manufacture coconut oil-based suppositories in the refrigerator, as there was no air-conditioning back in those days.
”People didn’t want to pay the fee for a doctor. This was coming right out of the depression years. And with simple things, they would come into the store, like constipation and an upset stomach. You’d have a little impromptu consult right there with the people in the store. That’s true. And our time was given freely.” — Ted Weyn Senior
When the Pharmacy Was Your Healthcare Plan
After the Depression and WWII, people still didn’t have quick access to doctors and hospitals like we do today, and there were few emergency walk-in clinics – doctors were still making house calls – if you could afford their fee.
Local pharmacists acted as nurse practitioners, diagnosticians, and triage care for neighborhood children. Some couldn’t afford to see the general practitioner, and some just steadfastly refused – trusting instead to the compassionate, friendly staff at the neighborhood pharmacy.
Setting broken bones, curing stomach ailments, soothing distraught nerves – these resourceful local heroes did it all with a smile.
An NYC Icon
After achieving a master’s degree and working with a brilliant mentor, Weyn Sr. was eventually able to open his own pharmacy in New York City near the United Nations.
He recalls meeting Roy Wilkins, a leading light of the Civil Rights Movement through the 1970’s. He proudly served the lawyers, engineers, scientists, and diplomats that kept the UN running smoothly.
A savvy business owner, Weyn Sr. was one of the first pharmacies in the Northeast to computerize their systems. He also donated freely to neighborhood charities, and worked closely with Medicaid to defeat fraud at a prominent New York mental hospital.
This heartwarming and hilarious stroll through pharmacy life in the mid-20th century is definitely worth a listen – and shows the deep value in serving your community with pride… and a sense of humor.
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