Monday, 12 March 2012
By Nancy Leitz
In 1967, I was was in a serious funk. The excitement of our Air Force/NASA days was over and I was wondering what to do with all the time I had left over now that things were settled and all the kids were in school.
When I found myself turning on Captain Kangaroo in the morning and I was the only one in the house, it dawned on me that I had to find a little part time job to get me out and about in our little town and meet some people.
There was a small pharmacy on our Main Street and I went there and asked if they needed any help in the store. The owner told me that the store was covered but that they needed a pharmacy assistant and would I be interested in that?
The owner was also the pharmacist and he had two other pharmacists who worked when he needed time off. So, it was decided that I would work on week days from 9AM to 3PM.
So I started the job and began to learn about medicines and prescriptions and how to look up prescriptions for refills for the pharmacists. It was fun because it brought me in contact with so many people who were my neighbors but who I might never have known if it were not for the drug store.
The Vietnam war was on and we were pleased when we would look out at the counter and see a soldier standing there. We always made a big fuss over them and told them how happy we were to see them safe and sound.
Once I looked out and there was a soldier standing there in full camouflage gear. I walked out as if to speak to him but walked right past him and returned to the back. I said in a very loud voice to Herb (the owner/pharmacist), "I thought I heard someone out there, Herb, but when I got out there nobody was there."
The soldier called again and this time, I went out and looked all over for him but again, I couldn't spot anybody. He kept calling and we kept looking for him.
Finally, we gave in and noticed him and by this time, the whole store was laughing and hugging the guy. He was pleased with all the attention and we didn't charge him for the things he purchased. It was such a fun thing to do.
One young fellow came in when he was on leave from Vietnam. His name was Jimmy DePaul, we knew his family very well and we were really pleased to see him.
He said he was home for two weeks before going back and we would see him again before he went. A few days later, he came in with a package from the small grocery store down the street. He had a pound of American cheese and called to me to please come out from the back because he wanted to ask me about the cheese.
He opened it up and said, "Is this square cheese? My Mom sent me for square cheese."
I called the others to decide whether it was square cheese or not. Herb said, "Well, it's not round. Or rectangular. What do you think, Nance?"
"I think it's square American cheese and it's safe to take it home to your Mom."
After he left someone said, "This is why we can't win that goddamned war over there. These young kids are not even old enough to know shapes!" It was true; Jimmy was just 18.
A few months later, Mr. DePaul came in and we all asked about Jimmy. He was okay but very homesick. We got his address from his Dad and wrote him a card telling him how much we missed him and we all signed it.
The next time I saw his Dad, he told me that Jimmy was always writing to them about the camping trips the family used to take to the Pocono Mountains. Or the trips they took to the shore. Or the time Mr. DePaul took him on the train to Washington to see the Capitol. His Dad was so happy that Jimmy was reliving those trips while he was over there so far from home.
He told me that their house only had one bathroom and they had four kids so he and Mrs. DePaul were always saving to build a nice new bathroom. BUT, he told me, "Every time we saved enough for the new bathroom, we would say, oh the heck with the bathroom, let's take the kids to the seashore instead." And they did that over and over through the years.
Then, Mr. DePaul said something I will never forget. He lowered his voice and spoke very quietly as he said, "My wife and I are so happy when we get those letters from Jimmy talking about the good times we had on the camping trips and the weeks we spent at the shore. Do you think he would ever write to us and say, "Hey, Dad and Mom, didn't we have a terrific bathroom?"
I am very happy to tell you that Jimmy DePaul came home from Vietnam in great shape and married his high school sweetheart.
Now SHE sends him for square cheese.
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