I remember my first visit to a drugstore in Washington Court House. It was in the early 1930’s and my father took me into the Blackmer-Tanquarry store on Court Street, near the Washington Saving’s Bank, if my memory is correct. I was fascinated by it and all the patent medicines that lines the shelves. My father knew the employees and allowed me to look around while he visited with them.
I was just a toddler then, having come along when my siblings were aged from 9 to 15 years. I must have really been a surprise to my parents in one of the worst years of the Great Depression. Mother was almost 40 and dad, 47.
Next, I remember mother taking me to Haver’s Drugstore for a dish of ice cream while she was shopping. Mr C. S. Haver greeted us warmly, as did his daughter, Miss Jeanette. That store had retained the informal elegance of a bygone era, with dark woodwork, and metal ceiling tiles. There was also a row of drawers near the tables that bore interesting labels – so much-so, I asked mother to explain what was in them (“Salt Peter” was clearly marked…).
By the time my pals and I were in the sixth grade at Cherry Hill School, (the first one, built in 1914), we were itching to go on to town school, already longing to get away from the regimen of elementary school walk the long distance to Junior High School. It seemed as though the sixth grade would never end, but finally, it did.
We were “big shots” at last as we met at Finley’s Drug Store after school. We often had little more than nickels for “Cokes” and had been known to have to put two straws in one small glass or walk home dehydrated.
Mrs. Finley made several kinds of delicious salads for sandwiches and when I had received the week’s allowance, which enabled me to take in a matinee at the Fayette Theater, I’d stop in for a ham salad sandwich on the way home. (Food for the gods). Then that drugstore became “Frisch’s” – as modern as tomorrow and we made it a lively place each afternoon after school. We girls were encouraging the boys to become acquainted with us, for we knew that those informal get-togethers would one day come dates for sock-hops and proms. (It was easy to ask a girl to dance if you had whiled away the hours after school braiding straws and dropping ice down her back). The management there must have been sorely tried by our antics, but they were good sports about it. After all, one day we would be patronizing them as adults.
Mr., and Mrs. Hall opened a modern drugstore near Montgomery Ward’s and it was certainly a credit to our town. By then, I was a young mother.
Gillen’s drug store opened during our last two years in high school. It was very popular, but alas, I was by then playing piano for Johnny Godfrey every afternoon from 3:30 until 10 p.m. and all day on Saturday, so I missed out on the fund there.
This brings me to the Downtown Drugstore. How well I remember when Johnny Godfrey outgrew his studio and rented the rooms above the Downtown Drugs. The building was owned by Miss May M. Duffee, local poet and former businesswoman. When the kids danced, so did all the bottles on the drugstore shelves below. There was only one solution: the dancing school had to move out. This was sad because we had such high hopes for the rapidly-growing dance classes. We had enjoyed ballroom dancing in one of the big rooms there. Johnny had bought a new radio-record-player console. It was fun to look out over Court Street while learning dances that would serve the students well, come the annual Christmas Dance at Washington High School.
The Downtown Drugstore was a popular place and the employees were well-known in the community. It was like “Old home week” whenever you went in there. In the summer, you had only to step inside the front door and the big overhead fan would cool you on a hot summer day or evening. It was advertised as a “cut rate” store and people watching their pennies could shop there in confidence.
If I remember correctly, Tommy Christopher was the pharmacist. I was in school with his son Tommy and we attended many of the same parties. I was also fond of Ruth Beaver, whose handsome sons Roddy and George attended school with me also. Their father owned the “Beaver Auto Sales” all over Columbus and he and his second wife lived in Upper Arlington. Ruth and her sons lived on Grand Avenue, just off Leesburg Avenue. I am sorry that the name of the other employees there have escaped me, but the enjoyment of shopping at the Downtown Drugstore never has.
Which brings me to lament the closing of our major downtown stores through the years. Our once-thriving little town with quality merchandise in its stores is no more. I have a theory that if one brave company would come to town, offering competitive prices on its merchandise, that others would follow…One can only hope we will see our downtown thriving again. We never dreamed our stores would desert us! Or did we desert them in lieu of one-stop shopping?
Jean Mickle is a local resident who writes columns for The Record-Herald