Do Pharmacists Sell Farms?

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Staten takes us back to a time when the corner drugstore was the place where mothers met in the morning to trade gossip, where businessmen met in the afternoon to lunch and cut deals, and where teenagers gathered after school for a soda and a smile. It was also the place where many people had what their doctor was doing to them explained so they could actually understand it. Here Staten will walk you one last time through those narrow, cluttered aisles and answer many of the questions that have plagued customers ...
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1998 Hardcover Good Connecting readers with great books since 1972. Used books may not include companion materials, some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, and may not ... include cd-rom or access codes. Customer service is our top priority! Read more Show Less

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Overview

Staten takes us back to a time when the corner drugstore was the place where mothers met in the morning to trade gossip, where businessmen met in the afternoon to lunch and cut deals, and where teenagers gathered after school for a soda and a smile. It was also the place where many people had what their doctor was doing to them explained so they could actually understand it. Here Staten will walk you one last time through those narrow, cluttered aisles and answer many of the questions that have plagued customers since time immemorial. What is this V7 that makes Vitalls so wonderful? How does Greclan Formula know what color my hair used to be? What ever happened to Preparations A-G? Did Trojans use Trojans? Staten offers the stories behind the salves, nostrums, and patent medicines that you could once find on every corner, giving us the secret histories of all the people, places, and above all, things that made up this centerpiece of Americana.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is charming, nostalgic history by the author of Did Monkeys Invent the Monkey Wrench? Staten takes readers back to the 1970s and before when the local drugstore was virtually a community center, where women bought hair products, men cigars and teenagers hung out at the soda fountain after school. But, as Staten makes clear, the day of the independent corner pharmacy has waned, with the chains now owning more than 50% of the stores and doing 84% of the business. The book is informative about the most popular products marketed by today's drugstores, from Rogaine and Vitalis to Dr. Scholl's Foot-Eazer arch inserts. Amusing are the stories of manufacturers' attempts at advertising sanitary napkins and condoms in a nation that preferred to hang on to the legend of the stork. Making Staten's book even more delightful is his appendix listing 50 old-fashioned corner drugstores still extant around the nation. June
Kirkus Reviews
A lighthearted look at a fading American institution and the products found on its shelves. Staten (Ol' Diz: A Biography of Dizzy Dean, 1992; Did Monkeys Invent the Monkey Wrench?, not reviewed; etc.), who fondly remembers the corner drugstore of his own youth, briefly recounts the history of this fixture of American small-town life as "pharmacy and apothecary, drugstore and general store, prescription center and community center, soda fountain and social hub." However, the greater part of his attention is devoted not to the institution itself but to its merchandise. Starting with the head and working his way down to the feet, Staten profiles selected items from aspirin to corn removers. Hair products, especially hair restorers, seem to have a special fascination for the balding Staten, who inserts regular reports on his personal experience with Rogaine (yes, he grew some hair, but not nearly enough). Among the capsule histories included here are those of dandruff shampoos, toothpaste, Band-Aids, Vaseline, condoms, and diapers. The curious can discover how Maybelline and Ben-Gay got their names and the real people behind Lydia Pinkham's Herbal Compound and Dr. Scholl's Foot-Eazers. Inexplicably, Staten adds an appendix listing the addresses of the 71 remaining drugstores in the country bearing the name Corner Drug. Rather less than a social history and far from comprehensive, but full of entertaining if trivial facts presented with good humor.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684834856
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 5/5/1998
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.75 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Ch. 1 Down at the Old Corner Drug: Elbowing My Way In 13
Ch. 2 The History of the Drugstore: Or, as Much as You'll Ever Need to Know 25
Ch. 3 From Head to Toe: Starting, Naturally Enough, with the Head 48
Ch. 4 The Hair: Or Sometimes Lack Thereof 57
Ch. 5 The Face: The Place Is the Cosmetics Case 81
Ch. 6 The Mouth: Through the Lips and Over the Tongue, Look Out Stomach, Here I Come 100
Ch. 7 From the Underarm to the Top of the Shorts: The Real Middle America 120
Ch. 8 The Stomach: Clearinghouse for the Soul, Repository for the Burger 134
Ch. 9 The Privates: Uh, Not About a Bunch of Soldiers and Their Misadventures in the Drugstore 146
Ch. 10 The Foot and Leg: Going to Extremities and Finding the Toe 180
Ch. 11 Checking Out: Maybe for Good 189
App The Corner Drug Census 201
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First Chapter

Chapter 1

Down at the Old Corner Drug: Elbowing My Way In

There we are on page 97 of my high school yearbook: Cynthia Perry and Dale Hickam, Jean Rogers and Danny Pomeroy, Steve Lambert and Mary McAlpine, and my elbow, just creeping into the frame. We were posing for the yearbook photographer at the local teen hangout, the soda fountain of Armour's Drugs. Armour's was just two blocks from school. An easy walk, except that no one walked. We drove. We were seniors.

Armour's Drugs was the place to see and be seen, to nurse a cherry Coke for an hour while you kept your eye on the front door, hoping that SHE -- whoever she was this week -- would stroll in. And also hoping that SHE wouldn't be with some other boy. And maybe she would sit down next to you and you could call out to Mabel to get you another straw and you two could sit there, sharing a cherry Coke, like a picture out of The Saturday Evening Post.

Maybe that's why I got cut out of the picture that long-ago day. I wasn't with someone; I was watching for HER.

That was the drugstore of my youth. A social center for teenagers, and a community center for adults. While we sat around posing for that photo perhaps a dozen moms came in, some to pick up prescriptions, others to pick up what are today grocery items: toothpaste, shampoo, aspirin. They would stop and talk with old Doc Armour, because he was the master of ceremonies of the drugstore. He did more than dispense drugs from his perch in the back of the store. He also dispensed gossip and advice. He knew it all -- who was sick, who was well, who was in the hospital, who was back at home. There was always a new patent medicine to cure the common cold,a new ointment for backaches and a new powder for itches. Maybe he was practicing medicine without a license, but that's what family pharmacists did in the sixties.

Drugs were Doc Armour's main business. That was, after all, his middle name: Armour's Drug Store. Back then, no one just ran into the drugstore, grabbed up their stuff and ran right out. The drugstore was a place to linger, to catch up.

Even eat. I had many a drugstore lunch in my youth. When my mother and I would "go to town" (a weekly event, even though we only lived five hundred feet outside the city limits), we'd always have lunch at Freel's Drag, home of the best grilled cheese sandwich in America.

The drugstore was the cracker barrel of the city.

Armour's Drugs was the place where my crowd congregated after school. But by the time we got around to posing for the yearbook photo, Armour's was on its way out as the place to see and be seen. Heck, it closed at six o'clock.

There was this new place up the road, right across the street from my father's hardware store, as a matter of fact, and this new place stayed open well into the night. There was no counter and no booths and no place to sit except on the hood of your car, but by 1965 McDonald's was well on its way to supplanting the corner drug as the gathering spot of our culture.

Corner Drug.

No name says "small town" like Corner Drug. No name evokes memories of soda fountains and Saturday afternoons like Corner Drug.

Corner Drug is where Grandma met Grandpa, where Mom bought her first home permanent and Dad his first rubber (that's condom, to you kids). It was once a staple of every downtown, the place where mothers met in the morning to gossip, where businessmen lunched and cut deals, where teenagers crowded in after school for a soda and a smile.

My godmother, who got married in 1934, celebrated with a wedding dinner at the soda fountain of Bunting's Drugs in Bristol, Virginia. "We got three hot dogs for a dime. He ate two and I ate one."

But downtown corners have lost their luster, replaced by malls, and Corner Drug stores have been snapped up by Rite-Aid and Revco, who may give the old Corner Drugs a big-time name, but they rob the places of their identities.

There are only seventy-one drugstores named Corner Drug remaining, according to my search of business phone directory listings. There's no way of knowing how many there once were, but every town had one.

A few of the remaining Corner Drugs have moved away from the corner to a strip center, retaining their old name if not their old location. But most have held on to that coveted downtown corner, even as downtown has changed. As the owner of Corner Drugs in Llano, Texas, put it, "We've been here forever."

I surveyed the surviving members of the Corner Drug fraternity to find out how they've changed and how they've remained the same.

Of the seventy-one drag stores named Corner Drug, fifty-one agreed to answer a few questions. (Isn't it good to know that fully 28 percent of all Corner Drug store owners are suspicious of someone who calls on the phone claiming to be writing a book about drugstores?)

Changing times and changing fashions have hurt the soda fountain business. In 1948, 60 percent of America's drugstores had working soda fountains, according to that year's edition of Remington's Practice of Pharmacy. Only 20 percent of today's Corner Drugs -- ten stores -- have soda fountains. And only four of those ten serve lunch. One serves ice cream only; the others offer fountain service. In a nod to modem times, two other Corner Drug stores have coffee bars. Photo finishing, a drugstore staple for a century, has fared better: 70 percent of Corner Drugs still offer that old drug store standby.

The day of the family-owned pharmacy isn't over either. But the big corporations have made an attempt to corner the Corner Drug market -- they now own 40 percent of the drugstores I surveyed.

How old are Corner Drugs? They are as old as God and as new as Zantac 75. Corner Drug in Sigourney, Iowa, was founded in 1875, the year before Rutherford B. Hayes was voted into office. (The state was only twenty-nine years old at the time.) One encouraging sign about the future of Corner Drugs is that they are still being built in the nineties. Corner Drug of Buffalo, Missouri, opened in 1991, and the Corner Drug Store at 451 Third Avenue in New York City opened in 1992. The average age of these Corner Drags is sixty-seven (founded in 1930). If you're into math, the median age is sixty-nine.

Most Corner Drug stores are legitimate corner drugstores, located on the corner of two intersecting streets in the downtown area. But one -- Corner Drug of Durant, Oklahoma -- is located "in" a corner. Three used to be on corners, but have moved. Corner Drag in Lake City, Tennessee, used to be on the corner, but other businesses in the east Tennessee town have built up around it and now it is in the middle of the block.

Corner Drag of Cattaraugus, New York, is on a dangerous corner by a steep hill, and the store has been hit by cars several times. One druggist -- that guy at Corner Drug in Llano, Texas -- felt compelled to tell us that his store had only been on a corner for ninety-nine years. It didn't move to the corner until 1898, five years after the store's founding. The Corner Drag in Driggs, Idaho, gets our nod as best source for one-stop shopping: It's called Corner Drug & Hardware.

Whether the store is an old-timer or a newborn, the folks at Corner Drag have some stories to tell. That's because in most places the local pharmacist is much more approachable than the doctor. He'll even pick up the phone.

At Corner Drag in Columbus, Texas, they still laugh about the woman who thought "free delivery" meant that she didn't have to pay when they delivered it to her house.

A woman called Corner Drag in Lander, Wyoming, panicked that her children had cooked her birth control pills in the toaster. She said they were a little brown and wondered if they were still good. (They were.)

The ladies at Corner Drag in Bethany, Missouri, were taken aback the day an old guy forgot he was in p

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