Editor’s note: The following article is a reprint from Nov. 2. 2006.
As I drive through downtown Minden, my thoughts go back to when “time was” and that means the thirties and forties for me. Sometimes it seems that I can remember all the details of life as it was fifty years ago better than I can remember last week. Old age, perhaps?
Some places have a special place in my memories and in my heart. One of these would be City Drug Store. Back then my mother and I were not able to afford a doctor for every little cold or sore throat or upset stomach I might have had. We came to rely on the judgement of Mr. Rollin Williams Sr. for his advice and recommendations.
Often I had colds, (now I realize that it was mostly allergy) and mother would send me with a little change and ask Mr. Williams what he thought might help me. He would mention several “patent” medicines and then say he thought a certain kind would help. Often it was not very expensive, and we could afford to buy it.
I have written about the time I swallowed the prune seed and thought I might die. I rushed down to ask Mr. Williams, and he calmly and sweetly told me to just go on back home and it would be alright. I trusted him, and I did live.
Perfumes and Soda
Later after I went to work I would go by and look at all the cosmetics, the perfumes and other things that he stocked. As you entered the front door, these were on the right hand side of the drug store in glass display counters. The left was the soda fountain where stools held the customers as they ordered floats, cokes, and so on. The soda fountain had sheets of marble framing up the counter there. In between the soda fountain and the cosmetic glass counters were the little tables with the wire legs and the little chairs that also had wire legs and backs. There you were seated and served whatever you ordered. I always wished that I had the money or the time to sit at one of the little tables and order something. But I had to be satisfied to buy an occasional coke at the motor company where I worked.
The perfumes lured me to smell the different scents, and try to decide on one. It was hard to make a choice. A Mr. Mildred Alexander worked there and I liked how he pronounced one perfume I liked. It was Indiscrete. He gave it the French pronunciation “awn de scray” and I was just captivated by that name. I bought it and really enjoyed that scent for many years. Oh yes! I never knew his name was Mildred, because they always called him “Alex.” I never knew who worked behind the soda fountain, but there were several people there, girls as well as boys.
At the back of this area I think was where the boxes of candy were displayed. I remember seeing them all together, and I think the display backed up the cash register and the accounts that were on large sheets of metal with clips to hold the different tickets for people. Back here was where the shelves were filled with patent medicines that could be bought without a prescription. Behind this area was the place where Mr. Williams, and his two sons filled prescriptions. They would bring the filled prescriptions up to the register, and either ring up a cash sale or put it on your account. They allowed me to open an account and that helped a working girl on a new job. There were several different girls who worked back there from time to time helping with the prescriptions. Also there were other druggists who worked there, too. They were always busy.
Years went by and I married. Still we traded there at City Drug Store. They were so helpful. If I needed medicine for one of the children or my mother at night they could go down and get it for me. On at least one occasion they brought medicine to my home for someone who was sick.
There is something about a hometown drug store that brings back so many happy memories. I cannot imagine trying to talk to a pharmacists in one of the “chain” drug stores, and I miss that small town ambience that we all enjoyed. Mr. Williams was such a gentleman, and so were his sons, David and “Froggy.”
With both children having severe allergies and my mother was bedridden and ill, we had a big drug bill, but they never “dunned” us or mentioned how much we owed them them. We always paid up, but sometimes we had to make two or three payments to cover the balance.
Mr. Williams and his son “Froggy” are both dead, and David is retired. When I pass the building where City Drug was I recall those days of long ago, of the trust I had in those men, and what a pleasure it was to do business there.
I just wish I could go back and be able to tell Mr. Williams what he meant to that little twelve year old who swallowed a prune seed, prepared to die, and then to feel so wonderful when Mr. Williams assure her that she would be alright in a day or so. Maybe he knows, suppose?
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.