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January 9, 2004

The summers of the 1930s are easy to remember. That was the time of the Great Depression. My own personal observation post was behind the soda fountain of our family's drug store on the north side of the square in the building now occupied by Georgia's Fine Furniture. We didn't have any money, but neither did most of our friends. We found ways to be entertained without spending real money (i.e., more than a dollar or so).

Most of our customers at the City Drug Store were regulars, people who dropped in often for a cold drink concocted by one of us professional soda jerks. Or perhaps they needed a prescription refilled, or a new tin of Bayer aspirins, a pack of cigarettes, candy bar—and things more personal. If they came to our store, I listened to their conversations carefully without snooping, and I longed for the day I could be a grown-up person like they were.

Judge William Bowles was among that group. His law office was down the street above the barber shop that had always been there (now operated by Jack Dorl). Judge Bowles had a commanding presence, a leonine manner, and a person sensed without asking that he was a gentleman who knew what he was talking about, no matter where the conversation was headed. Most people instinctively respected him. Another was Mr. Fred Moore, a tall, slender banker from down the street when the Exchange Bank was located just a few feet east of the drug store. Mr. Moore enjoyed a five-cent glass of Dr Pepper. The concoction had an advertising slogan advising customers to have a Dr Pepper each day at 10, 2 and 4 o'clock. Mr. Moore took that literally and he came to the drug store for his cooling sip each day precisely at those hours. He usually occupied one of our booths by himself, relishing a few moments of peace and quiet. Mr. Moore was a kind, gentle man. He and his sweet wife Anna were treated harshly by the Depression, much worse than they deserved. She was the choir director at the Presbyterian church and both of them were warmly regarded by the rest of the community. Sadly, their story was repeated in many families at the time.

Mr. Gus Wollard, who also had an office down the street from our store, was another community leader who came to our drug store regularly. So did Mr. Harry Donaldson of Donaldson-Yahn Lumber Co. Each morning, en route to his office at the lumber yard on east Delaware, he came in for a Coke and a supply of cigars (Roi Tans, I think), and he always had a cheerful thought to express.

All of those fine gentlemen are gone now, and a new generation has taken over the roles of leadership the others once filled. We also have many women who have become hard-driving forces in the business community and elsewhere in our little city. Those fellows mentioned here were not the only ones who handled important jobs in addition to their vocational callings, but perhaps they are typical. I personally felt touched by them and honored to have known them in my minor capacity as a fountaineer at the City Drug Store during those dreary summer days of the 1930's.