In the summer of 1968 I worked at my uncle Allen’s drug store in Robesonia.
Allen had tired of driving around the countryside selling drugs for Ciba, and when Bright’s Drug Store came on the market, he decided to buy it and really put his pharmacist’s degree to good use. As I had decent typing skills, in addition to waiting on customers and stocking shelves, I would be typing up prescription labels to free up Allen and the other pharmacists from that little task.
Joining me was the former Wanda Schaeffer who had recently married my uncle Reed, who was currently in Vietnam.
My grandfather, Allen’s dad, was also working in the drug store, and Mr. Bright still lent a hand as a part time pharmacist. Rounding out the employees were another college student summer hire and a recent pharmacy graduate.
I learned a lot that summer.
Especially in the pharmacy department, as I was typing up all those labels. For example, it was the first time I had ever encountered birth control pills, although they had been on the market for several years.
I hadn’t realized they were sold in such distinctive packaging; as the idea was to take them one per day during the woman’s cycle, they were sold in a circular container with the pills arrayed in a ring around the rim to make it easy to track when the pills were taken.
Bright’s Drug Store, as I suppose did most drug stores, sold a lot of birth control pills.
Then one day when I was at home and went to the cupboard to get a glass for water, I noticed that there was a pack of birth control pills in the cupboard.
With my mother’s name on the label.
Now this was 1968, and my parents had been born in 1924 and 1925 so they were, well, they were well into their 40’s.
What did my mother need birth control pills for?
So when the other pharmacist, you know, the young fellow who had just gotten his pharmacist’s license, when he was on duty and no one else was in the store, I asked him about other uses for birth control pills. “Might they be prescribed for other things than, you know, the usual things?”
“Well,” he said, “in some cases if a woman has had an irregular period, they might be prescribed to help regularize her periods, but something like that would be very rare. No, they are generally just prescribed for—”
“Uh, thanks. I was just wondering.”
Now you have to understand that I had never seen my parents be affectionate with each other. They never kissed, they never hugged, they never held hands, nothing. So the idea that they might actually be, uh, doing it, was pretty foreign to me.
So I decided that there was only one possible sensible explanation for my mother’s having birth control pills: they had been prescribed for her by mistake.