This story was written by Tom Brewer, whose mother worked at the original Lehan Drugs’ location when it was a Walgreen’s Agency store. Enjoy!!!
THE DAY MR WALGREEN CAME TO TOWN
It was 1947. Harry S Truman was in the White House, World War II was over and our boys were back from Europe and the Pacific, and my Mother was a bookkeeper for Lehan Drug Store in DeKalb, Illinois. Me? I was a four year old boy who already had an addiction to comic books. I also had the run of the store while my mother was working. Generally, that was running from the comic book rack in the front of the store to the upstairs office to look at the “funnies”.
Lehan Drugs was quite a progressive store in 1947. The Lehan brothers, Jim and Emery, had remodeled their store into one of the first self-service drug stores in the country. Even the Walgreen chain was still clerk served. Clerk served, or conventional, drug stores meant that when you wanted to buy Carter’s Little Liver Pills, Chantilly perfume and Old Gold cigarettes you asked the clerk for these items and she would flit around the store and retrieve them from the display cases. She’d wrap them up, take your money, and make your change. The Walgreen Chain was aware of this radical drug store merchandising concept and were quite interested to see it in action.
Mr. Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. made an appointment to visit the Lehan Drug Store and the Lehan brothers went to work in preparation. Bud, the stockman, lined up the warehouse, and even the restaurant manager, Cookie, put on a clean apron for the occasion. I was the only one thinking about ball point pens.
Ball point pens were a new invention. They were fat things, about the size of a man’s thumb, and were as likely to leak on your shirt as to make a mark on paper. And I wanted one. When a business man returned a leaker, the clerk replaced it, throwing the old pen into the waste basket. Not to miss my chance, when no one was looking I fished the prize from the trash and put it in my pocket. Of course, my shirt soon had a large black spot and my chest did as well.
Mom rushed me to the pharmacy as soon as she saw the stain; ink might be poisonous. She and the pharmacist washed me up with Walgreen’s Tincture of Green Soap and finished with me just as Mr. Walgreen and his entourage walked in. She grabbed some comic books and took me to the office. We found that other people had brought comic books to the office for me, too. Keep the little guy out from underfoot, you know. Mom waited to be called to meet with the visitors, they inspected the store, and I read.
Soon, my mother was called downstairs and curiosity got the best of me. I snuck down the back stairwell, through the kitchen, and peaked out the double doors into the restaurant. I could see them in the largest booth; the Lehan brothers, three men in identical blue suits and polished black shoes, and my mother with her big ledger book. I immediately knew who Mr. Walgreen was; he looked just like my favorite uncle Wilbur.
Curiosity gone, I returned to the office and lost myself in the world of Mickey, Donald, and Pluto; only stopping occasionally to smell my shirt and the wonderful, lingering, clean smell of tincture of green soap.
Fort Collins, CO