Today is Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Drug Stores Sold More Than Prescription Drugs

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Mr. Charlie Willett, an attorney in town, would come to Shannon Drugs every day and buy a cherry coke and a cigar. He always lit his cigar with the cigar lighter on the counter. SUBMITTED

The drug store has been around Springfield since the late 1800's. And a drug store would sell more than just what the doctor ordered. Back then opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine were in wide use as an over-the-counter medicine and were made by the pharmacist or manufacturer.

After the Civil War, there were many addicts walking around the town but didn't know they were that way. Many died younger than they would have normally because of the drugs they received. My great-grandmother had pills sitting in a bowl in the kitchen and everyone who felt bad would take one of the pills. Who knows what was in them. Many of the old newspapers produced ads for the "medicines" that the drug stores had available without prescription and today they would be considered addictive and very dangerous.

Many of our drug stores came to be in the late 1890's and lasted many years into the 1900's. Some you may have heard include Hurt & Tanner, Sory & Alley, McCord & Harris, Shannon Drugs and South Side.

Here are some of the items some of them sold: Rubber paint - Rangum Root Liniment - Indian Herb Tonic - Concentrated Bleach for the skin - Lay-Tite Paint - New Aydes Pills - Papoose cigars - candies - drinks - etc.

I once talked with Mr. Dawson Shannon who lived to almost 100. I asked him, "Mr. Shannon, what do you attribute to a long life such as yours?" He answered, "I never let a Coke touch my lips." I realized later that when he was connected to Shannon Drugs cocaine was placed in Coca-Cola.

Many other drugs such as strychnine, amphetamines and barbiturates were common drugs that were dispensed. Almost all drug stores began to have a drink fountain along with the store. The reason was that the drugs were very bitter. The drug store would make a drink that the drug could be taken with to make it taste better. The drug store had syrup and had chocolate. And this was what was used at the beginning in the stores to sell their products so that someone could get it down. The fountain became a place that could mask the bitter taste of the drug. Then carbonation came along.

Remember Alka-Seltzer? The pharmacist found out that by putting carbonation with an aspirin it would help sell the drug.

Then came along the Harrison Act which got rid of the narcotics that were being given out. Then came prohibition. One could not buy whiskey at a bar anymore, but they got around that by getting a "prescription" for whiskey at the local drug store. Actually, prohibition helped soda fountains at the drug stores. That's where you could get the "best drinks in town" as they would say. The word used was "elixir," which meant contained alcohol.

Labels didn't have to say much on bottles back in 1900 but the Pure Food & Drug Act was passed in 1906, which required that ingredients be placed on the labels. The stores knew that cocaine made repeat customers. People were given "tonics" without knowing what was in the bottle. People began to "sober up" and realize that the "tonic" was something they needed to stay away from. When the fountain had Coca-Cola with cocaine in it people flocked to the drug stores for more and more. The drug stores later stopped that and substituted ice cream at the fountain. The "New Aydes" pills advertised then to help someone lose weight without having to diet or exercise. Just take before a meal. It was advertised as a "candy." Take all you want. But they had "speed" in the pill. They didn't tell people about the drug in it that ran up your metabolism. It was like drinking 10 cups of coffee!

Then someone found out how to isolate codeine from opium. It took off with great popularity. It was advertised as "not addictive" but it was addictive.

I could go on and on about what happened way back then. But the bottom line is now it's regulated very closely. The drug stores of 100 years ago, I'm sure, probably hurt a lot of people but didn't know it.

Editor's note: Bill Jones will be taking a well-deserved break from his columns. While he is away, we will be running a series of excerpts from the book, "The Last of The South Town Rinky Dinks" by E. Don Harpe, starting next week.

The book is a memoir of life in Springfield in the mid-40s to the mid-50 that allows readers to take a few steps back in time, to the day of their own childhood, and to all of the great memories they have of those times. From the Rinky Dinks themselves to doctors, lawyers, college professors, etc., the book touches a nerve and brings a smile to most faces. Even those who never heard of the Rinky Dinks and don't know the people in the book find that they have known people like those portrayed and they identify with the little ragged kids who roamed the South Town streets in Springfield and were called South Town Rinky Dinks.

Born and raised in Springfield, E. Don Harpe (Don Harp) is a songwriter and author who many people in Springfield and Robertson County know as the author of the popular 2008 memoir, The Last of the South Town Rinky Dinks.

E. Don has had many of his songs recorded, and now has 11 books and nearly 40 short stories published and available at most on line book sellers, or by contacting E. Don at Harpe now lives in the mountains of North Georgia with Helen, his wife of over 52 years, and is currently working on yet another novel

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