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             Davey Crockett in a  Jewish Drugstore

(C) Edward Ordman 2002

       This story is intended to follow the story of The Musical Elks.   In that story from the 1910's or 1920's, we say Jewish immigrants struggling to understand the English language. Efforts to understand English, and America, had to go on for some time. Here is a story told by my Uncle, Harry Ordman, of a conversation he overheard in the late 1950's.
       Harry was a pharmacist, and for many years he owned and operated "Ordman's Pharmacy", a small pharmacy located at the corner of Main Street and Washington Street in Peabody, Massachusetts.  He mainly sold prescription medicines and had an old fashioned soda fountain. My father had worked behind his older brother's  soda fountain during his college vacations when the pharmacy was new, and I took great pleasure in occasionally playing 'soda jerk' there during occasional visits during my own adolescence. Harry took very seriously the pharmacist's role as 'the poor man's doctor', and  went to some efforts to pick up bits and pieces of the language of each immigrant group that arrived in Peabody -- Greek, Turkish, Italian, and Portuguese among them. He had to understand distressed mothers with no English who were trying to say where the child hurt, and provide a patent medicine or tell them when they actually needed to call the doctor (he would often call and translate) or actually go see the doctor.
        But his store also had a news stand, and a few other non-medical, non-food items. In the late 1950's, Walt Disney had made an extremely popular movie about "Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" and Harry's store had two small revolving metal stands containing Davey Crockett toys (Cap pistols, bow and arrows, fake coonskin caps, and so on.)
        Two older Jewish women came into the store, and Harry overheard their conversation. It took place in Yiddish and I can't resist translating it into accented English to try to convey the flavor.
    "What's this?  Vat's all this stuff?"
    "Toys. Duvud Crockett toys. You know Duvud Crockett?"
    "Yes. Duvud Crockett. Duvud Crockett. Everyvhere Duvud Crockett. Vhat's mid Duvud Crockett? All of a sudden he makes so much gelt [money], Duvud Crockett. Vhat did he do to suddenly make so much gelt, Duvud Crockett?"
    "Same old story. Gelt geht zu gelt [money goes to money]. So much gelt, of course he makes more gelt."
    "Vhat gelt? Before last year I never heard of Duvud Crockett. Vhy did he have gelt?
    "Not Duvud Crockett. His vife [wife]. His vife had all the gelt."
    "His vife? I never heard of his vife, Duvud Crockett."
    "Of course you heard of his vife. BETTY Crockert."

      Again, my family thought of this as a success story.  It gave me the courage and interest to try extra foreign language courses in college, despite how hard I found them and my awful accents, and has always meant I'm willing to try to make myself understood, even in difficult or bewildering circumstances. Some examples are in my adventures with the Turkish Police and in a museum in Odessa, the Ukraine.

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