A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Monday, May 16, 2011

B & B Drug Store

During my junior and senior years of high school, I had a part-time job at B&B Drug store on Main Street.  My job description was eclectic:  I did janitorial duties like vacuuming and taking out the trash, made an occasional delivery of medicine, and also filled in at the counter as a "soda jerk."  I kind of just happened upon the job; I had worked the year before as a "sweeper" at school, sweeping the high school classrooms after school, and evidently Bill Black, the pharmacist and owner of B&B, had called the school to see if they could recommend someone to work for him and they had recommended me.  So, I went to work at B&B, working from 3:30 to 7:30 Monday through Saturday.

When I first started there, Bill was off every Wednesday and Thursday, and the pharmacist on duty was Mrs. Baber, whose husband had started the business.  Mrs. Baber was quite elderly, but I looked forward to the days when she would work because if a medicine delivery had to be made, I got to drive her car.  She drove a new Oldsmobile Delta 88, and it was by far the slickest vehicle I had ever operated.  It even had a retractable radio antenna that was controlled by a switch on the dashboard.  I had a few regular deliveries that I made, and there was often a delivery to be made to the Nursing Home.  Mrs. Baber retired after I'd been there about a year, and Bill had other pharmacists come in to work the two days he was off.

Bill and Dr. Wright went fishing every Wednesday.  Sometimes Dr. Wright would come in late in the evening when he finished up at his office and drink coffee and read magazines.  We had a section for magazines and B&B was one of the few places in Waldron where you could buy an album or a 45 single of the latest big hit.  Well, it might not be the absolute latest big hit; we had a guy who came around about every 6 weeks or so to update the albums and 45's.  I was always so excited to browse through the new records, and I often spent a good part of my $18 weekly paycheck on records!

When things were slow, I would spend a few minutes swatting flies up at the front of the store.  I would pull an ice cold Fresca out of the coke box, and drink it while I cut down on the fly population.  Those big windows were fun to look out of, because you could see everything that happened on Main Street.  One of my jobs was to wash those windows every week, and without fail I always got a little shock when I touched the neon sign as I cleaned the inside windows.  One day I was outside cleaning windows, and a total stranger came up to me and said that he always used old newspapers to clean windows, because it would get rid of the streaks.  I tried it and sure enough, the old newspapers made the windows gleam!

It took a while to get the hang of working the soda fountain.  We got coke syrup in large, gallon-sized cartons, and I filled the reservoir in the dispenser with syrup every day.  The dispenser mixed the syrup with carbonated water.  We had several varieties of bottled pop that we kept in the coke box at the end of the counter.  We also had a tap that dispensed carbonated water which we used to make sodas with cherry syrup.  We made milkshakes and malts, but our number one item was the nickel cup of coffee.  Bill surely must have lost money on coffee sales, but he kept the price at 5 cents a cup all the time I worked for him and many years after.  We had a lot of regular customers who came in at the same time each day for their cup of coffee. 

B&B was part of the Rexall chain of drug stores, so every spring we had a big Rexall sale.  It was exciting because we got lots of new merchandise that we had to find display space for.  In fact, it's amazing to think of the variety of products that were sold at that little store.  If you needed glycerin, salt petre, or cattle dewormer, B&B had you covered. 

When Bill would tally up the days proceeds each night, he would put the leftover loose change in a cigar box.  In the back storage room, shelves were lined with cigar boxes that all had loose change in them.  One day, Bill decided to have me count up the change and roll it, so to make it easier he borrowed a change counting and rolling machine from the city.  I had never seen anything like it before; it had a round "bowl" where you dumped the change, and then you turned a big crank that slung the coins against the side of the bowl, where they would fall into the slot that corresponded to their size.  It took about 3 days of working a few hours each day, but we ended up with over $700 in rolled coins.

Working at B&B was a great experience for me; I learned the importance of having a strong work ethic and being dependable.  I got to work with some great people:  Bill and his wife JoAnne, Virgie Montegue, Paige Bethel, Shirley Slaughterbeck, Gwinda Scott, Beverly Self, Vickie Owens, and Evelyn Thompson, among others.  A drug store with a fountain is a rare thing nowadays; and I'm pretty sure there aren't any nickel cups of coffee around anywhere.


  1. Linda McDonald McKayMay 16, 2011

    Bill, I worked at the B&B Drug Store to, My favorite thing we served was Orange Pineapple dipped Ice Cream cones,I Worked at the fountain with my sister Janet Hutchens & Phyllis Ridenhour, My dad Arvel McDonald or better known as Mack or Silver Dollar Mack was a regular 5 cent coffee drinker every day, He told me one day he went in to have Coffee and offered to buy the people at the bar a cup of 5 cent coffee one lady said I have drank two cups but I will take the nickle, he gave her the nickle, we have had lots of laughs about the 5 cent coffee at the B&B Drug store.

  2. Can never think of B&B without remembering your "much told" joke of the guy who came in and ask for a "Snicker and a Shake".....

  3. Damn it, I haven't been by here enough lately. Always great stuff. Time for me to cruise the recent archives!