The historic building on the southeast corner of Walnut and Second streets in Rogers is called the Union Block. It was built about 1897. Through the years, it has housed many businesses, including McSpadden Grocery (1901), a snooker parlor (1913), Rogers Hardware (1914), the A.B.C. Store (1933), Weaver's Restaurant (1940s) and Western Auto (1940s).
Offices upstairs were the home to many professionals who were influential in the development of Rogers. Among these in the 1930s and 1940s were: Dr. William Edwards, Dr. E.A Currier, Dr. L.S. Adams and John W. Nance, attorney. In the 1950s and 1960s, at various times, the upstairs was the home of Duty and Duty Law Firm, Robinson Accounting Service, the Benton County Credit Bureau and J.Wesley Sampier, attorney.
The business that occupied the corner of the Union Block building the longest -- and without a doubt the most memorable -- was the Rogers Pharmacy of Ivan and Gary Rose. To get the story first-hand, I asked Gary Rose, the son of Ivan Rose, for an interview. Here are excerpts:
"Rogers Pharmacy opened in 1950, the year I was born. Dad borrowed $5,000 from his father to help get it started. After buying out his partners, he was the only pharmacist and worked 7 to 9 Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 on Sunday. I remember many evening meals taken to him."
Gary remembered a story about his dad: "One winter, when I was about 6 years old, we had a terrible snow storm. An old lady called with a headache and wanted to know if Ivan would deliver a 10-cent tin of aspirins to her house. He said he would, and she said, since you are coming, could you bring me a double-dip chocolate ice cream cone? Of course, all she wanted was the ice cream. Dad and I took off in the family car and ran off the icy road into a ditch. We walked the rest of the way with the aspirins and dripping ice cream. She asked Dad how much she owed, and he said, 'Not a thing.' We then had a tow truck pull us out."
I asked Gary about some of the long-time employees, and he mentioned: Norma "Sarge" Sargent, Orvetta Backus and Betty Blood. Some of the pharmacists through the years were Gerald Lynch, Jim Morse, Tom Batie, Bill Harp and Pat Brock. Of course, numerous high school students worked part time.
Ivan Rose expanded his business, and at the time of his death in 1977, he owned or was partner in nine pharmacies in Arkansas. He was named pharmacist of the year in 1964 by the Arkansas Pharmacist Association and served many years in the state legislature. He subsidized young folks to go to pharmacy and medical school without asking for repayment. Sadly, Ivan Rose suffered a heart attack and passed prematurely at the age of 51.
Gary grew up in the store and worked all jobs including cleaning up as a small boy, and he eventually became a pharmacist. When Ivan passed, young Gary was thrust into owner and manager of the Rogers Pharmacy and continued until it closed in 1986.
The store was not just a drug store, but an institution in the lives of many. Following are some excerpts from reflections of Judge Tom Keith in the Rogers Hometown News, Dec. 21, 1994:
"Nothing has been the same since the old Rogers Pharmacy closed its door in downtown Rogers. It was an event that shook the community and the lives of those whose working days were never complete without one or more trips to the pharmacy. ... Its closing in March 1986 marked a change in my life and not for the better. The pharmacy was a drug store and soda fountain located in what was the heart of Rogers at the southeast corner of Second and Walnut ... in the building that still speaks of better days when 'Coca-Cola' was still 5 cents. Understand, it was the No. 1 watering hole in Rogers for the washed and unwashed for 36 years. The late Ivan Rose opened its doors in 1950 and seemed to understand that the best medicine in the house was the associations and companionships found around his soda fountain."
Gary Townzen was a barber in downtown Rogers during this period, and he agreed with Keith about the importance of the pharmacy and meeting place: "I would take a break every day at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and head to the pharmacy for coffee and visiting. Many of the same people would be there every day, and we would talk and tell stories. Some of the regulars were Bob Walsh, Bill Crum, Hardy Croxton and Tom Keith. It was horrible when they closed, the end of an era that was lost forever."
As usual, to get the flavor and a real feel for the business and its owners, I asked for help for memories on a popular Rogers' Facebook site. To my surprise, I received more than 170 comments. Here are a few of the responses:
Jeremy Rose: "Ivan Rose was my beloved Grandpa, and Gary Rose is my dad. Oh, how I wish I could remember more about my grandpa, but people who do remember him still say the nicest things about him. No person was ever denied medication if they couldn't pay. On my grandpa and grandma's marker it says, 'We Did For Others,' and they sure did. I miss them terribly, and I am so proud to carry the last name of Rose. As far as the pharmacy, it was like a wonderland for a young kid. My sis and I explored every inch of that old building. There were old offices above the pharmacy -- including one that still had John Sampier's father's name on it. All the cool stuff for Crazy Days was kept up in those old offices, too. I remember when they found the Coke sign under the old paint on the outside of the building. My dad was none too thrilled, as the days of getting a Coke for a nickel had long passed. What a great place to grow up!"
John Sampier: "Best cherry Cokes I ever had. Those marvelous chicken salad sandwiches -- all served by Betty Blood. Mr. Rose became our state representative. Daughter Judy and I were classmates through graduation. Son Gary is a good friend. Sarge running the cosmetics and gift side. An iconic part of Rogers history."
Dixie David White: "My husband, Bill White, the pharmacist, started working in the drugstore in 1961 at the age of 15 and was paid 50 cents and hour. He was delivery boy, janitor, mixed syrups for the soda fountain, stocker and gopher. He went to pharmacy school because of the influence of Ivan Rose. Needless to say, I was a regular at the soda fountain in order to see Bill. I loved the grilled ham salad sandwiches. Bill worked there as a pharmacist from 1968 to 1973."
Debi Anderson: "Rose Drug Store was a very important part of my Saturday mornings. The first stop was the Record Ranch and listen to 20 records and then buy one, which cost a dollar. The next stop was Rose Drug Store for a cherry-vanilla Coke, look at all the lipsticks, smell the perfume and check out the magazines. We loved that store -- it was so much more than a pharmacy. It's sad that kids today do not have a gathering place like it."
Karen Russell Burks: "The best grilled chicken salad sandwiches and chocolate sodas on the planet. Ate there while working at the Five & Dime at Christmas and in the summer. Also went by every afternoon after school for a Coke, limeade or cherry phosphate."
Linda Spicer Clay: "I had the pleasure of working the soda fountain in 1971-72 with Ivan Rose as owner and pharmacist. I loved making malts, and we had the best grilled chicken salad sandwiches!"
Shery Crum Boyles: I agree about those grilled chicken salad sandwiches served in the little basket. As a kid, I'd get to go to work with my mom at Strouds, and lunch was always a chicken salad sandwich and a cherry Coke."
Susie McConnaughey-Baker: "I worked at the pharmacy from about 1956 to 1958, maybe. I made several thousand grilled sandwiches. Also Kathryn Greenlee worked there then. Made 50 cents an hour, but you had to pay for your food. Needless to say my take-home pay was not much!"
Karen Walls: "My mother, Anita Jones Buttram, worked there in high school as a soda jerk and also helped make the chicken salad with Mrs. Rose. She said Mr. and Mrs. Rose were really nice people."
Randall Backus: "My mother was the bookkeeper -- as they called it -- and worked in the back behind the pharmacists. They called her 'Myrt' as her middle name was Myrtle. Tom Batie and Gerald Lynch were the ringleaders. Ivan was a great boss and Mother and Betty were good friends."
As you can see, the drug store was an important part of many lives and is missed by all in Rogers who were a part of that era. I could write a book with all of the wonderful memories, but sadly, space is limited. Thanks to all who contributed.
NAN Our Town on 03/08/2018
Print Headline: Drug store institution in the lives of many