Dispensing medicine and history

After 108 years in the same location, East End Drug still maintains a ’50s aura

Whaley’s East End Drugs is a Jefferson City Landmark.

Whaley’s East End Drugs is a Jefferson City Landmark. Photo by Stephen Brooks.

Safely tucked away in the basement of East End Drug in Jefferson City were the original stools to the soda fountain counter.

Owners Darryl and Connie Hubble discovered them during their renovations to the corner lot at Lafayette and East High streets several years ago.

For the 21st century owners, the stools were a neat find that would help re-create the 1950s-era look, along with the Vitrolite moss-green glass and checkerboard floor tile.

Only later did the Hubbles learn the full history behind the nostalgic seats, when an older, black couple asked to have their picture taken sitting on the stools.

Many visitors have enjoyed the “time travel” of walking into the drug store for a Cherry Coke from the fountain.

But this couple made the request because the last time the stools were in place, segregation was an issue, Connie Hubble said.

Curtis Forest (Red) Whaley, who owned the business during that time, removed the stools after white customers complained about sitting beside blacks, his daughter recalled.

“(His) response was that if everyone couldn’t sit together nicely, they wouldn’t sit at all,” said the 2008 nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

The original soda fountain was operated by soda jerks. Mostly, the fountain sold phosphates — cherry, lemon, lime and cherryvanilla cola — made from store-made syrups. Milkshakes and malts and flavored Coca-Colas also were popular.

The small area of three tables was crowded daily after school, with a bus conveniently stopping out front, recalled John Eidson, a former soda jerk. When the students left, the neighbors would come in for handpacked ice cream, which was not yet readily available at grocery stores, the nomination said.

According to Sanborn maps, the building was constructed between 1892-98, being first a meat market and grocery store.

A drugstore has operated in this same location and under the name East End Drug since at least 1904.

“From the time East End Drugs was established, there have been remarkably few pharmacists in charge,” the nomination said. “Even more remarkable may be the fact that the business has operated continuously as an independent pharmacy, with no chain store affiliation, for (more than) 100 years.”

East End Pharmacy was located at 700 E. High St., across Lafayette Street from today’s Whaley’s, in the 1900 city directory. It was a second location for Fischer & Co., which owned a pharmacy at 105 E. High St.

Fred Ott purchased the business from G.A. Fischer, with whom he had been partners, in 1904 and renamed it East End Drugstore at the 630 E. High St. location.

C. Forest (Red) Whaley, his wife, Peggy, and Fred Tanner purchased the business in 1943 — when the store still made tablets and ointments, according to Whaley’s daughter Karen Connell.

Whaley served as a Missouri Pharmaceutical Association board member.

And his community involvement included serving as president of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, involvement in the committee which dedicated the “new” Missouri River bridge, city mayor and Jefferson City Parks and Recreation commissioner, and serving on the original board of directors for Jefferson Bank.

By 1940, East End Drug was the anchor of a commercial district spanning two intersections and including nine stores, two restaurants, an awning factory and an upholstery business.

In a neighborhood with a “strong sense of togetherness,” the corner served many of the officers and guards who responded to the 1954 riots at the Missouri State Penitentiary.

Connell remembers Whaley stayed to protect the store that night and her mother, Peggy, “was scared to death.”

Red Whaley’s son Jim Whaley became a pharmacist and joined the business in the mid-1960s.

Jim Whaley added his family name to the store. Darryl Hubble was hired by Jim Whaley in 1973 to manage the original store when the second store on Southwest Boulevard opened.

“Thirty-nine years, and we’re still here,” Connie Hubble said. “And we have some customers who have been here longer than we have.”

Darryl Hubble and Keith Dahler bought the business in 1998.

While preserving the building’s past, the business continues to change to meet the times.

In Red Whaley’s day, pharmacists still mixed the prescriptions by hand.

Today, the Hubbles have added a PacMed, which automatically sorts and individually packages doses to be used by Pro Care Services, which serves patients in nursing homes. And, pharmacists give shots, do screenings and host nutrition programs.

“It’s not just counting pills,” Connie Hubble said.

Customers used to trade eggs or vegetables for their medicine; now, health insurance regulates costs.

As government regulation created a more formalized industry, East End Drug maintained its focus on customer service.

Although teenagers delivering by bicycle has become adults delivering by car, the Hubbles strive to provide that consistent, neighborly feel.

In restoring the rare, independently owned neighborhood drugstore, the Hubbles also returned to the 19th century concept of residential living above the commercial.

Six years ago, the couple renovated the apartment above East End Drug for their home. And now they are updating second-floor apartments in neighboring buildings.

“Our goal is to share the history of the ‘corner drugstore and the soda fountain within’ with those youngsters who have not had the opportunity to live the 1950s as so many of us ‘baby boomers,’” she said.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments