Interview with Michael M. Perhach
Is Part Of
Broome County Oral History Project
Interview with: Michael M. Perhach
Interviewed by: Nettie Politylo
Date of interview: 12 July 1978
Nettie: This is Nettie Politylo, talking to Michael M. Perhach of 17 Crary Ave., Binghamton, NY, on July 12, 1978. Michael, will you tell us about your life and experiences in the community? Michael: Where do you want me to start? Do you want me to start with my mother and dad, where they were born and everything? Good. My father was born in Varinov, Austria-Hungary on March 4, 1877 and he came to America in May 4, 1894a—went to American schools—went right to Wilkes-Barre and became a choir director in Wilkes-Barre in 1896—at the salary of twenty dollars a month. I happen to see some old notes here that he wrote about 65 or 70 years ago and I translated. It is written in the Russian language, very nice handwriting, and I translated it from the Russian to the English. He was ordained a Reader in 1905 by the late Patriach Tihon—ordained a deacon May 22, 1909—and the following day, May 23, 1909 he was ordained a priest by Metropolitan Platon of New York City in New York City. The reason he waited until 1909 he was serving with Archpriest Toth who was one of the first who accepted Orthodoxy in America. Father Toth was a priest in the Wilkes-Barre parish, at that time, and he made the remark at one stage, I know, my dad used to tell me that he said, "I don't want you to be ordained a priest until after I die." Well, Father Toth wanted him to remain to be as his psalomshchik or his choir director and reader. But, Father Toth died on May 9 and sure enough, two weeks later my father decided then to be ordained a priest. He received many many nagradi or promotions what we call for his services to the Orthodox Church. His first parish up in Canada—Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba. In fact, at the time he was ordained he had three children, my oldest sister, Alexandra, Nicholas and John - and my sister, Lydia, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and then from there we went to Jacob's Creek, PA. That's where I was born—that's some 66-65 years ago and from Jacob's Creek we went to Brownsville, PA. He had parishes at, then, at Bayonne, NJ, and finally in Binghamton, NY, where he had his last parish—when we came to Binghamton, NY, why, that is the reason why I am in here. I came to Binghamton back in 1927. My mother, however, was born in America—was born in Wilkes-Barre Sept. 26, 1887. She just passed on last November at the age of ninety. My dad passed on will be 25 years this August, August 29. I started to talk about my dad's various promotions, now he received the Bereda, soft Bereda in 1916, then the hard Bereda or the kamilavka, as we call it, in 1917 and became an Archpriest in 1925 and he received a Palitza in 1938. The Palitza is one of the great honors given typical profound zeal for faith and for work for Orthodoxy and is conferred on the record, more or less on the record of honor. I told you, I have two brothers and two sisters and I am the youngest of all of them. we came to Binghamton, of course, because of this parish. My dad then retired.
I went to grammar school in Brownsville, PA, then we went to Mingo Junction. I skipped Mingo Junction, Ohio, where I went to grammar school—then we went to Bayonne, NJ—we were there for a period of nine months. I went for one year of high school then came to Binghamton in 1927. I had two years of high school here, graduated from Binghamton Central in the year of 1930. I stayed out of school a year—in fact, I worked at the Carlova Perfume Factory and while working at the perfume factory—why—my dad wanted me—first he asked—if I wanted to become a priest. I said, "No," I said, "I'll think about it"—although I was close to the church—and all—I was directing the choir at the church when I was fifteen years old and I had a fairly good voice, so, I was singing in the choir, also. My dad said, "All right, stay out of school a year and then decide what you want."
In the meantime, my uncle, John Yosack, in Wilkes-Barre was a undertaker. He wanted me to be an undertaker, so, I was to choose between an undertaker and a priest. Well, I stayed out of school a year—got a job with Carlova Perfume Factory and going to work at 7:30 o'clock in the morning till 4. One morning (winter) when I was going to work in the snow I decided, I said, “Well, this is not for me.” So, I came home told my dad–well, incidentally, my brother, Nick, was a pharmacist—”I think I will go into—pharmacy.”
The following September I went to Albany College of Pharmacy. In that time that was a three year course and I graduated Albany College of Pharmacy in 1934. I was born in Jacob's Creek, like I said, I was graduated from Albany College of Pharmacy in 1934. I came to Binghamton, naturally. I was living in Binghamton. I worked for one year and a half at the Junior High Pharmacy, at the time it was owned by Everett Crone—Crone Pharmacy and after year and half I bought the store, that's in 1936 in February. I've been in business—since 42 years or 43 years. I've been very active in the pharmacy profession. I was a member of Alpha Theta Chapter of Phi Delta Chi Fraternity. In 1949 I took a partner, Charles Jakaitis, we call him, Chick, as a junior partner. One time we had two stores, then three stores, then two stores and now, we just have one store, Junior High Pharmacy. I was president of the New York Pharmaceutical Society in 1953 and 1954, I think it was, and was member of the Executive Committee for about 12 years, and then decided to go to the National Pharmaceutical Politics so, I was a member of the National Association of Retail Druggists Executive Committee became its president 1968-1969. The National Association Retail Druggists is a organization composed of independent pharmacies, some 32 to 35,000—which took me away from the business for a while—for a whole year—was making trips to various pharmaceutical state conventions and also to other meetings and all with the association. The headquarters are in Chicago—at the present time the headquarters are in Washington, D.C. I'm past president, I've also active with the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs, commonly known as the "R" Club. I was president of the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs in 1941-1942 for two years. I was also about three or four years later a member of the Metropolitan Council which is the council of the composed of a priest and three lay persons in the Orthodox Church of America. At that time, the late Metropolitan Theophilis was the Metropolitan.
I was also active with the Exchange Club and a past president of Binghamton Exchange Club, past Exalted Ruler of the Elks No. 852 in Binghamton. In the city, I was on the Recreation Commission appointed by the late Walker Lounsberry some 30 years ago—I served on that commission for about 24 years, and four different times I was its chairman, active in many of the civic and community projects. I’m a member of the Binghamton Lodge Masons #177, Otsiningo Consistory and the Kalurah Temple (Shrine). Also, this marks my 50th year singing in our choir in the St. Mary's Assumption Church on Baxter street. Also, I sang with the Otsiningo Quartet for 10 years. I found in addition to this, I found time to run my business and all and I might say a very successful business. I have one son who is 26 years old now, like his dad, also, went to Albany College of Pharmacy—graduated in 1975—he's a licensed pharmacist and he is taking over most of the management of the business, now.
Nettie: Michael, I think you wanted to add something to this—
Michael: Yes, I married the former Julia Sabol on February 27, 1949. I mentioned we have one son, 26 years old. The story goes—I was married on February 27, 1949 and our son was born on February 21—that was three years later—I am happily married. Is there anything more you want to hear?
Nettie: I was asking you what you think of the generics they are talking about these days.
Michael: Well the generic substitution law, I think you mean, that went into effect April 1st.
Michael: Well, the generic substitution law was a law that was supposedly, a consumer-oriented law, hoping to save the consumers—pharmacy, drug—consumers—money. But, really, it doesn't work out that way. It is added a burden on a lot of pharmacies because they have to duplicate the inventory and it's true, some of the drugs you might be able to buy some of the drugs for $7.50 per 100, you can get a generic for $2.50. But there are good and bad generics. There are some generic houses, in fact, the health department came out with a book—a green book—about 30-40 pages, in which they said these drugs are permissible to substitute and yet, they are not obtainable. Manufacturers, we never heard of, some of the manufacturers—some of the "bathtub"—so-called "bathtub" manufacturers—now some of the drugs don't even dissolve in the system—they’re not absorbed in the system. And the reputable stores, like our own, we handle about 20-25 of the most commonly generic drugs. For example on the diuretic which would be Diuril—hydrochlorothiazide. We handle Park Davis, which is a reputable company, and there is a saving of about 1/3 on what you would pay for your regular brand of the Diuril. The same is true on Librium—chlordiazepoxide. We do have generics on that, and which is quite a saving—where the physician now on all these blanks he has a permission granted for generic substitution or not—if he signs on the left—you must dispense as written and if he signs on the right—then we must substitute. The physician is supposed to discuss this with the patient, of course, physicians are busy. A lot of them do, some do and some don't. However, if they do sign on the left we must dispense as written—if he signs on the right it's not our choice, it's not the customer, patient's choice, we must substitute—if its substitutable and if we don't have it in stock we just have to give the prescription back and have to go to a store where they can obtain it.
It brings to my mind, a man came in with crutches just got discharged from a hospital—he had a chipped bone in the ankle or so. He came in with prescription for a pain pill—the doctor said to substitute—at that time I didn't have a generic—cheaper generic—he said, “I'm in PAIN, I don't care what it is—I want my medicine—I'm not going to go from store to store." Well, I had him sign on the prescription, which is illegal, sign on the prescription, he said, "I’m in pain,” said, “I told the pharmacist to give me the brand drug"—which I did. It only cost him $2.50, how much could he have saved when the man is in pain? So, the generic law, really, isn't all what it ought to be—it has its good points and but it also has its bad points. Now there are some ah—ah—pharmacies, I don't think we have them in our county—somewhere in New York City and other cities who will use the cheapest drug and they still charge for expensive drug—that has been happening—we find that out time and time again. I'm a member of the New York State Board of Pharmacy appointed by Board of Regents. We had many many cases that come before us when we have—5%, maybe less than that, who ruin a profession like just like it’s true of any profession. There are less than 5% of the doctors are bad and 98% are good and that's true with the dentists or any profession—and it’s too bad that is true but it's happening—to be a fact way of life.
But as far as the generic law—then the interpretation of the law when it was first passed, April 1st—the Board of Pharmacy interpreted the law to mean in the event we did not have the drug we can could give another, we can give the brand name. Well, Rosemary Pooler who was very consumer oriented, in fact, she is on the payroll, and a fellow by the name of Haddad who was on Assemblyman Stinegood's payroll and consumer oriented—they said, the Board of Pharmacy is trying to protect the pharmacist and not the public. So, with all of the ballyhoo they said it was not the intent of law, Assemblyman Stinegood said it was not intent so it was not written in the law right so, as long as it was not the intent—why we then interpreted that in the event we have a pharmacist does not have the generic—why then of course, they have to refuse the prescription which is a hardship on the consumer, themselves. But that is the way they want us to interpret. Now, if you have any questions on the law itself—
Nettie: Michael, I think you covered pretty much about everything I asked you to. Is there something you want to add?
Michael: Well, as I said I'm on the Board of Pharmacy and my term expires next June 1979. It is very interesting work and we have hearings in New York City and Buffalo—most of them are in New York City. It is very interesting—talking about three or four days a month. Incidentally, since the first of January, why we have two consumer members on the Board of Pharmacy and one of them happens to be Jim Staley, Legislature right here in Broome County and the other consumer member is a lady from down Long Island. They sit in with us, except they sit in with us on the Board of Pharmacy everything except with the Board Examination and all, which is of course they know nothing about. They, Board of Pharmacy, we do give exams for candidates, I think, this last June we had, it would be a shot in the dark, they had 800 candidates for Pharmacy. Pharmacy is now a five year course and after a pharmacy student, after third year they apply for internship and he had to have three months between his third and fourth year, three months between his fourth and fifth year at which he will be eligible to take State Board.
The State Board is divided into three parts—Part 1-2-3. Part 1 is a written examination—a lot of it is multiple choice—that is made out by the State Education Department of Testing. Part 2, combination of laws and also pharmacy and pharmacology, and that is made up by members of the State Board. Part 3, practical application which you are actually in a laboratory all and it also has to deal with interaction—drug interaction, telephone prescriptions, anything pertaining to the practice, itself. Parts 1 and 2 can be taken without before you can take internship, immediately after graduation, but Part 3 you have your 6 month internship. If you pass your exam, you of course become licensed in the State of New York.
Being licensed in the State of New York you, then after practicing for one year you can reciprocate with any state in the United States except Florida, Alaska, Hawaii or California—those are the four states. However, someone, like myself—I took the Florida board ten years ago—I'm licensed in the State of Florida, also by examination. Examinations are according to the candidates—seemed to be rather tough, but they're not—a lot of them pass and a lot of them don't. After all we have to—Board of Pharmacy, of course, for the protection of the health citizenship state—not for the protection of the pharmacist or for the students. Have you any other questions?
Nettie: No, that's quite interesting, I think very much so. Michael, I just have one more question—I'd like to have you explain the differences in pharmacy, say 20 years ago or so and now.
Michael: Yes, it was quite different when I went into business some 42 years ago. At that time we used to make our own capsules and pills and powders. I used to make a lot of different solutions—some stores even made their own citrate magnesia—we'd make our alexo-phenobarbatal and all, and now of course we buy those in gallons—capsules and tablets in the hundreds or in thousands. We depend on manufacturers on these. At the time, of course, there weren't the number of drugs that we have now. Now we do have so many drugs and with all the new ones coming up chances of interaction is greater—what I mean of interaction is that you taking one drug and if the physician prescribes another drug why either will inhibit the action of this one drug and might in some cases cause death or bleeding. An example is coumadin, which is blood thinner—one person cannot take aspirin with coumadin because they will bleed more. There are cases on record where they have taken aspirin with coumadin where they bled to death. So, there's other interaction between various drugs that we have to know, the more drugs that we have the more naturally there is a possibility there are of interactions, that what our pharmacologists in various laboratories and various manufacturers have to contend with. When they come out with a new drug, the pharmacologists have to test it against all the drugs that are out to see whether there will be any interaction or any danger in taking the drug in conjunction with another one. Of course, the pharmacy itself is a pharmacist’s—the old drug stores, we knew it was a common meeting place where all people meet and everything and they carried all their first aid supplies in addition to lot of sundry items. Nowadays, of course, your larger pharmacies especially our chain stores they have everything, even paint, pickles and everything which, of course, I don't approve of—but we do have a lot of pharmacies that just do stick to the first aid supplies, prescriptions and over the counter items, drugs—but they do have good nice cosmetic outlets—also, good card section, good candy sections, boxed candy and all which of course goes with a neighborhood pharmacy, especially in all. So, the difference of course, in the practice of pharmacy is really changed, we counsel patients now where we did not before. Prescriptions, forty years ago, cost 35¢—you just ring it up, say goodbye, and that was it—and now the same prescription cost is $1.85 in all, but the pharmacists in most good pharmacies talk to the patient and ask them if they are taking any other drugs and warn them for example—tetracycline—you should not stay in the sun too long when you take any tetracycline, which is Achromycin—any tetracyclines. Also, penicillin should be given on an empty stomach either 1 hour before meals or 2 hours after meals—should not take any milk or any dairy product with tetracycline—least 1 or 2 hours apart and all these things—we counsel the patients and customers what to do where years ago that was never done. We’d talk to them and ask how the family is—but as far as discussing the drugs itself, why—it was not done, of course, with Labeling Act we have to label all our prescriptions now and everything is labeled and everybody knows the name of the drug that they are taking—so years ago why when we made four or five ingredients to make one preparation, one powder, why we could not label the drugs and say what was and all. That's about the difference then and now.
Nettie: Thank you, Michael.
Michael: You’re welcome.