Remember When: Alva Marr, Part 2

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This is from the I Remember When Series.
This article was written by Alva Marr, owner of the Elk City Drug Store shared by his family.

If you missed Part 1, read it now


Harmon Block taken in 1911

We carried many patent medicines for people and livestock. The children enjoyed the small book and rhymes that accompanied many of the medicines such as Castoria for babies that read “Castoria Dick, or Little Dick Green, Finest baby you’ve ever seen”

The veterinary products were for ailments of chickens, horses, cattle, sheep and other animals.

Running the store took a lot of time and hard work. Even bookkeeping was a chore. Since there were no adding machines, handwritten accounts of business transaction were kept on a sales pad. Close watch also had to be kept on the store’s merchandise. If the store was running low on any merchandise we would have to make a trip to get it if the salesman and delivery didn’t come. The ladies would then have to tend the store while I was gone.

To begin with, our girls were assigned little odd jobs such as sweeping out the store and dusting the many little items on the counters and on the shelves. Then they graduated to helping the customer by weighing things for me and dividing them for some things come in volume. The girls liked the ice cream area and making sodas for that is where most of the young folks hung out.

Almost everyone wanted “just a little more” syrup in the soft drinks, or “just a bit more chocolate in the milkshake.” Put a little more on” they’d (customers) say and I’d say “fill it to the line”.

But the customers were the worst with ice cream cones. They’d really pour it on.

We sold a lot of five and ten cent drinks. After a good day, I would always give the girls extra money.

Our store had the big metal awning out front that made a very popular place for customers and others to meet and stop and rest and of course visit. Whether it was just to trade or to sit and pass the time, the store provided a good place to go.

I had to get up at night a lot to fill prescriptions. The phone was an important part of our business in the store and at home.

We didn’t then have telephones all over the house like people do now. Our phone was in the living room down stairs White’s put in a loud bell on our phone so we could hear it upstairs.

To stock, care for and sell so many different types of commodities necessitated a great deal of work. You worked from sun to sun. Anytime the sun caught you in bed, you were sleeping too late. The store opened anywhere from six to seven-thirty in the morning, evening, and on many Sundays. Sweeping out the store and tidying up were done before we left in the evening but there was always more in the morning before the customers began to arrive.

Usually there was enough help in the store that the girls could take turns eating lunch. The back part of the store served as a kitchen if there was not enough time to go home to eat and return in an hour.

Afternoons would be the busiest at the store. Since chores were over and the noon meal was over, housewives would come to the store for various items. Closing hours were indefinite. Sometimes the store stayed open until all the customers stopped coming, but generally seven or eight was closing time. Many times the girls would have to come back to the store after supper to work when there was a band concert or Saturday Picture Show, and we would be there until very late.

Not many customers would arrive too early in the morning except on Sunday. Everybody wanted the Kansas City Star, a lot of times we would get it read before we would go someplace, but some would want something at the store and one of us would open up and get it for them.

The Santa Fe had four trains a day that stopped at Elk City. The Kansas City Star came in on the train, for years. I went to Wichita to buy Sundries. The supplies would come by freight and Ras Rowe carried our freight from the station and delivered it.

Later when the station closed and trains stopped coming, we went to Fredonia or Independence to pick up freight.

The drug store was the one stop. There was much regular business from that. Hazel Caufman taught school in Winfield and rode the bus regularly back and forth.