Back in 1950 when I was going to high school, I got a part-time job at Eaton's Drug Store then located at the corner of State and Pleasant streets. At the time, there were six drugstores in Newburyport. Five were located in the busy downtown and one in the South End. All were family businesses and owned and operated by people who lived in the local area.
The Davis Drug Store was located at the corner of Pleasant and Green streets. It was owned and operated by Charles L. Davis. He founded the business on State Street in 1878 and moved it to Pleasant and Green in 1926. Mr. Davis' business was all about good health, no tobacco products or other items that might hinder a healthy lifestyle. Pharmacist Frank Jaques was a long-time employee of Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis was active in his business until shortly before his death in March of 1957 at the age of 100 years. He was the oldest licensed pharmacist in the state and when he gave up his license to drive an automobile on the event of his 96th birthday in 1952, he was the oldest licensed driver in the state.
Further down Pleasant Street at the corner of Inn Street was Hoyt's Rexall Pharmacy, which was owned and operated by Russell Hoyt and his sister Ruth Eaton, and was a family business for many years. They had a large following of faithful customers and were one of the first 100 Rexall franchises granted in the country. They also had a popular soda fountain.
Down at the corner of Market Square and State Street, Nick Kafalas ran the Central Pharmacy. There had been a drug store at this location for many years. Previous to Mr. Kafalas, it had been Perry's Drug Store. Sometime before 1955, Nick moved his business to 240 Merrimac St. and operated it successfully for many years at that location.
At the corner of State and Essex streets at the time was Lynch's Drug Store, owned and operated by Daniel Lynch. This was another well-run and popular business. It was also the local agency for the Greyhound Bus Company. Buses going north and south stopped there daily. Because of its affiliation with the bus company, Lynch's had a spectacular neon sign out front. It had two outlines of a greyhound. When the sign was turned on, the two outlines flashed back and forth and it appeared the greyhound was running at top speed.
The Lynch Drug Store was destroyed in a fire in February of 1954. Soon thereafter, Mr. Lynch reopened at the corner of High Street and Carey Avenue. The business continues to be run at this location today by Louie Andriotakis and his wife Stella as the only remaining independent drugstore in the city. Louie was a longtime associate of Dan Lynch. He went to work there in 1952 while in high school, continued during college and beyond, and bought the business in 1967. Hopefully he will remain there for many more years to come.
Saunders' Drug Store was at the corner of Lime and Purchase streets (note that all the drugstores were on corners). Mr. H. Chester Saunders was the owner of the store. He was assisted in the business by his daughter, Priscilla, also a pharmacist. Following her father's death, Priscilla ran the business for many years. It was a very convenient and popular stop for the residents of the south end of the city. Cecile Pimental, Mr. Saunders' granddaughter, who also worked there for many years, tells me that he always made it a practice to hire neighborhood people to work in the busy store.
Getting back to Eaton's Drug Store where I worked, it was owned by Herbert and Alice Eggleston, who lived in the Newbury section of Plum Island. He was a retired major in the Army. Several family members were employed. Two well-known local men were pharmacists there when I was there, Irving Fram and Haydn Eaton. These two men would play important roles in the downtown drugstore trade over the next 40 years. In August of 1958, Haydn Eaton purchased the Davis Drug Store at Green and Pleasant and operated it at that location as Haydn's Drug Store until June 1966. At that time, he purchased Hoyt's and moved his operations to the corner of Inn Street, where he stayed until his retirement sometime in the mid-1980s. Meanwhile, Irving Fram purchased Eaton's from the Egglestons in June of 1962 and ran it for many years until his death, when his son Steve continued the business until the late 1980s or early 1990s. Today, there are not any drugstores in the downtown.
Hoyt's, Lynch's, Saunders' and Eaton's all had busy soda fountains. Davis did not and I am not sure if Nick Kafalas had one or not, but I think probably not, at least when he was downtown.
Like most of the other small business operations of the good old days, the drug business of today is controlled by the chain store giants.
When I look at the new CVS store in Salisbury Square, I am sure that all six of Newburyport's drugstores of 1950 would fit inside of it and there would be enough room left for Zabriskie's Drug Store of Salisbury Square of the 1960s.
Joe Callahan is a former fire chief of Salisbury who is interested in historical accounts of the area.