Hampton businesses of the 40s, 50s and 60s: Part 8

Ferris Column

Marshall Drug

Marshall Drug was established in 1903, and was handed down from father to son. Smokie Marshall, a pharmacist, continued his father’s business into the 1960s. Drug advertised that they were the “Largest drug store in northern Iowa.”

When you entered Marshall Drug, across the sailor tile floor entrance, the first thing you would notice was the soda fountain on the left. Here, until the mid-50s, was a beautiful bar-like counter with high round swivel stools for customers. The soda fountain operator would offer you a chocolate sundae with a cherry on top, milk shakes, malts and fountain drinks of all kinds.

On the right was the cash register counter with cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and candy. Drug stores of this era offered all kinds of patented medicine, first aid supplies, perfume, fingernail polish, lipstick, face powder, bath powder and crystals, candy, gifts and a full line of wallpaper in the basement.

In the back you would get your prescriptions filled, often items the pharmacist weighed out and made up for you.

Upstairs, Marshall operated a little factory producing a patent medicine invented and developed by Dr. J. C. Powers. Marshall Drug continued for over 60 years and when none of his sons wanted to continue the operation, the store was closed.

• Aagesen’s Drug and Koerner’s Drug Store

Aagesen’s Drug Store was owned and operated by Stanley Aagesen for many years and was sold in the late 50s to pharmacist Dave Koerner. Koerner Drug was also a typical drug store. Located on Main Street with a nice glass front. The soda fountain was also on the left and the cash register along with a large area of film, cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and candy with a warming server of all kinds of nuts. Boxes of candy had their own little shelving area out in the aisle.

The drug store also provided a service of sending in film for development. The soda fountain was taken out in the late 50s and replace with glass counter cases full of gift items – perfumes, body powder, face powder, rouge, liquid makeup and fingernail polish. On top of the counters were presenters, which held all kinds of perfumes and lipsticks that one could sample. Eyebrow pencils, eyelash curlers, mascara and Revlon tools were also among items for sale.

One area in the front was devoted to the sale of records, a popular item during that time. Standing on the floor were turning cases filled with watches of all kinds. The shelves on the walls behind the cosmetic cases were filled with hundreds of gift items too.

A large magazine rack just beyond the cash register on the north was a busy place. Playboy magazines were wrapped to protect minors and were sold only to adults.

The middle part of the store contained shelves running east and west and filled with drug store items like aspirin, toothpaste, foot powder and a lot of patent medicines. These owners had their own line of hand cream and lotions, which were a hot item. There were several aisles containing greeting cards, wrapping paper and ribbons.

In the back was the insulin refrigerator and the counter where you could take your prescriptions to be filled. Koerner mixed a lot of salves, powders, potions and pills by hand, which took delicate equipment, and, of course, knowledge. Customers even had the option of having their prescriptions delivered to their house.

Gene Bleich’s sons were in high school and she decided she needed something to do, and although she did not have any retail experience, she knew she was good with people so decided she would try retail. Shortly after Koerner took over the drugstore, she walked into a local restaurant and noticed him and Larry Gilchrist having coffee. She had just heard that long-time employee, Dora Borland, who had worked for Aagesens for years and now was a main stay at Koerners, had fallen and broken her arm. Bleich approached Koerner and told him she had heard about Borland and that she was looking for a job. He hired her on the spot and she worked full-time and then part-time at Koerners and later Koerner-Whipple for over 50 years.

The basement was filled with wallpaper and Koerner’s did a brisk business with Bleich figuring how much paper each customer needed for their home.

My husband and I became friends with Ruth and Dave Koerner when they moved to Hampton and in the 1960s. I worked for Koerner for three or four years. He was a very good, fair employer. One day, Koerner had a huge amount of small benign tumors removed from his back. A week later he wanted to know who would remove the stitches, as he did not want to go back to the doctor. None of the girls wanted to do it, so I volunteered. However, when I saw how many stitches there were I felt light headed. I told him I had to sit down. So, Koerner had me sit while he stood and I removed the stitches, with his instructions.

Koerner double checked all new prescriptions against what you were presently taking and would warn you if they didn’t mix and match. He read up on all medicines and did not need a computer to keep you safe.

Every fall Koerner would tell the employees to pick out the Christmas gift item that we wanted, and if it was still there Christmas Eve we could have it. If it was gone he would pick out a present for the employee. One Christmas I picked out an especially nice item and was thrilled to have it on Christmas Eve. Koerner’s Durng Store was a fun place to work in the 60s.