Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
They showed up your house at all hours of the day or night in all kinds of weather. They healed the ill in the Ville. They carried their black leather bag and they brought comfort. The family doctor used to make house calls to visit their sick patients. We all have memories of the man who made us all better. We also feared him because he was also the one who may have had to give us that dreaded…shot.
There were a lot of doctors in Somerville back in the day. When your parents called, they came. We all remember trips to the doctor’s office too. It had a very distinct smell. A sort of mixture of leather and rubbing alcohol, and sometimes tobacco and Old Spice. After I share some personal remembrances of the family doctors all lumped together below, I will list some of the noble healer’s names.
“He (the doctor) would show up with his little black bag, in a black suit with a crisp white shirt and tie. We would walk to his office where we would and read Highlights for Children magazines. When he showed up at our house, I remember my siblings and me hiding, especially when he had his big silver needle to give us a shot.
He was our dear and respected family doctor, and we miss the good old days of family house calls.
“Our Doctor delivered me and my sister…twins…at Somerville Hospital…years later I had surgery when I was around 18 or 19…while being the operating room…who walks in…our old family doctor!”
“I think he delivered all of us (well, except one who came too soon and was born in an ambulance). It was an honor when he came for a home visit to be the one who got the chair from the dining room to put beside the couch (where the patient was), so he could sit on it.”
“He made house calls and when I did go to his office I was always rewarded with a visit to Loud’s Candy Store (Powder House Square) a block away for candy or ice cream.”
“Three generations of my family used the same doctor.”
“He made many house calls all hours of the day and night. $3 or $5 if you needed a shot. I can still remember the smell of his sterile office on Holland St. Funny how years ago just one doctor could do everything from treating ear aches to doing major surgery. No insurance forms, I remember my medical records being on an index card. Every time he made a house call he had to help my mom pull me out from under the bed!”
“He came to our house routinely for all our childhood illnesses, measles, scarlet fever, chickenpox, mumps, etc. He wore gray wool three-piece suits complete with pocket watch and fob, carrying his little black bag. I remember I hated his stethoscope because it was cold when he placed it on my back. I told my mother and the next time I saw him in the office he heated it up for a few seconds in his sterilizer. He was my hero from that day forth.”
“Our doctor saved my father’s life. He had a ruptured spleen and if he didn’t make that house call that day my dad would have died. I remember how afraid I was as a young child. Thank you, doctor, for giving me my dad for so many more decades.”
“Our family doctor delivered all nine of us (siblings).”
“With nine kids the Doctor was always at our house!”
“He was a funny guy who always made us laugh.”
“He always showed up with a black bag and lollipops!”
“My parents named my brother after him (our family doctor).”
“My ankle got stuck in the back spokes of a bicycle riding double at the old Morse School, 51 years ago. They sewed my ankle up with over 40 stitches the doctor came almost every day for three months checking on the gangrene that was creeping up my leg.”
“We would put a bowl of M&M’s out for the doctor when he came because he loved them.”
“The Norman Rockwell pictures of kids getting shots hanging in his office scared me.”
“Once my sister was so sick he came and stayed the whole night.”
Here is a partial list of the doctors of Somerville way back when: Dr Goldenberg, Dr. Mucci ,Dr Baldassari, Dr. Rosenthol, Dr.Russo, Dr. Russman, Dr. Ciampa, Dr. Sewell, Dr. Kusna, Dr. Kelley, Dr.Bloom, Dr. Receputo, Dr. Sokol, Dr. Picariello, Dr. D’Orio, Dr. Schwartz, Dr. Frasier, Dr. Thomas Kelley, Dr. Sweeney, Dr. Giobbe, Dr. Smith, Dr. Carr, Dr. Connors, Dr. Dwyer, Dr. Giobbi, Dr.Robinson, Dr.Hodos, Dr. Arthurs, Dr. Rosenberg, Dr. Martin, Dr. McSweeney, Dr.Crocker, Dr.O’Brien, Dr.Bloom, Dr.Marcus, Dr.MacDonald,
Dr.Harry Goldenberg’s office served as a haven for me when stress and anxiety drove me to walk out of school. I would show up at his office and he would talk me into going back to school. And he never told my parents.
In closing, I would like to pay tribute to another one of my favorite physicians, the infamous Dr.Vinnie Boombatz.