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End of a Repository of Vanishing Lore

November 20, 1982. New York Times, pg. 26.

At one time, pharmacists at W. M. Olliffe Apothecary would weigh and wrap raw opium for their neighborhood customers. They prescribed eucalyptus leaves to ease a cold and squirming leeches for bruises, and Dr. Olliffe's Epileptic Mixture sold well.

All that is left now are dusty handblown apothecary jars (some still holding strange remedies) and serveral old-fashioned scales ready for auction today at noon. Toy Wong and his brother Buch are closing for good the 177-year-old pharmacy, one of the city's oldest, at 6 Bowery on the edge of Chinatown.

It had been theirs since 1962, but now Buck, 62, wants to retire.

"Everything's always changing, especially down here," said Toy, looking out the window onto streams of new immigrants and, behind them, the modern apartment high-rise called Confucius Plaza.

A group of investors envisions a bank in the brick apothecary shop with its white-paned windows, marble counters and fancy chandeliers. The brothers hope to auction off antique bottles of sumac berries, cuttlefish and gelatin, a copper printing block for labels and an enamel bed pan.

Already the history is fading. Asked what sumac berries were used for, Toy Wong said with a shrug, "I have no idea."


Copyright 1982 The New York Times Company

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