“Lo Stano Medico; The Strange Doctor” is the seventh in a series of 1990 skits from “My Corner of Boston” performed at the North End Union, produced by resident Rosaria DiFinzio. See all the scenes here.
There was never a shortage of doctors in the North End, they were on every corner, up one flight. Most were Italian/American but some were Jewish, left over from when the North End had a substantial Jewish population. Common wisdom was, if you were only a little bit sick you went to one of the Italians but if you were really sick you had to go to one of the Jewish doctors. These doctors all made house calls and most children were delivered at home. All my father’s siblings were born at home and you only went to the hospital if you were dying.
North End doctors had modest general practices and supplemented their incomes by doing insurance exams, especially those involving auto accidents, and giving injections of testosterone when it became available right after World War II. These testosterone injections were the salvation of many middle-aged North End men who had young girlfriends. Midwives, levitrice or comare, were common and also performed abortions when young women got into trouble.
The Italian word for throat is gola but in the dialect of Rosaria’s region it became ganna. North Enders knew there were medical specialists for different parts of the body so if someone had a sore throat, a ganna inflammata, they might go to a “gannacologist’, just like the Americans.
This sketch is based on a true story of what happened to one of Rosaria’s aunts when she went to a gynecologist for a sore throat. She couldn’t understand why he wanted to examine her down there when the pain was up here.
If you missed the previous skits from Rosaria’s My Corner of Boston, see all the scenes here.
Nicholas Dello Russo is a lifelong North Ender and columnist. Often using vintage photographs, Nick tells the stories of growing up in the North End along with its culture and traditions. It was a time when the apartments were so small that residents were always on the streets enjoying “Life on the Corner.” Read more of Nick’s columns.