Milkshakes and mercurochrome

On January 26, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

Remember when your medicine cabinet contained bottles of paregoric and Mercurochrome? On those old fashioned looking small bottles, you could barely make out the words Surabian, Grover, or Sordillo Drugs. There were many, many drug stores in Somerville at one time. Now, not.

A lot of us had our first lime or raspberry Rickey at one of them. Surabians was in Ball Square and it’s the drug store that Dr. Harry Goldenberg sent my parents to with prescriptions. I still remember that “Lud” was one of the pharmacists and he was always smiling and very helpful.

The following is an account of what some Somerville people remember about those drug stores of old. I remember some of them, but if they aren’t exactly correct it’s because our memories aren’t what they used to be (probably from too much paregoric as kids!).  Just Remember, if some of the facts aren’t correct, the paper was free! I‘ll tell you the name of the drug store and where it used to be, according to my sources.

Grover’s was on the corner of Cross St. and Broadway. Winter Hill Pharmacy was on Temple St. and run by Jack Kaplan. He knew his customers by name and took care of people who had trouble paying. Sordillo’s was in Magoun Square and at one time ice cream sodas were only 25 cents. Walnut Drug was on the corner of Sargent Ave. and Broadway, complete with a soda fountain (most of the old ones had them). Adams Drug was at the corner of Willow Ave. and Highland Ave. and their soda fountain had a beautiful marble counter. Kramer’s Drug was on Somerville Ave. where China Delight is now. They used to deliver, too, as many did. In Teele Square there was Furbish and Shute and Kerner’s was at the corner of Partridge Ave. and Medford St. On the corner of Morrison Ave. and Highland Road was Dick’s drugstore where Ball Square kids went for sodas and comic books. Stone Pharmacy was at the corner of Broadway and Holland St. They had a mean vanilla Coke for 20 cents and an “all around” was a mixture of all the soda flavors in one glass. McNeal’s (not sure of the spelling) occupied the space where Primo’s Pizza used to be. Berry and McDonald was at North St. and Broadway. It was robbed one time and the pharmacist gave the gunman some capsules with rat poison in them. Reeds was at the corner of Day St. and Highland Ave. We paid our utility bills there and stocked up on candy before going to the Somerville Theatre. There was a Rexall Drugs in the square also, but the site is confusing. Winter Hill had Paul Revere Drugs, and who can forget Goodell’s in Powder House Square where Dunkies is now. Union Square had Cardillos and Janar Pharmacy (formerly Austin Drug) was also in Magoun Square. They served piping hot fresh Kemp’s nuts. The owner of Janar’s, Mr. Januario, would give neighborhood kids free ice cream for showing a good report card. Do you remember the creepy paintings on the walls of Cardillos depicting “medical miracles?” Lots of times you could bypass the physician and the pharmacist would just give you what he thought you needed after a short diagnosis. Armstrong Pharmacy was in Union Square and Scanell’s was at the corner of Beacon and Washington.

Lots of memories were made sitting for hours at the soda fountain in the old drug stores in the Ville. The pharmacists knew you and cared about you. They wore smocks and often were perched above the customers in a raised area. We were there after school, before school, and when we needed to pick up medicine. Often, we were there waiting for the new Batman or Superman comic. Today, we have CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid, but nothing personal like in the old days. I’m not taking my final thought to the bank but I am pretty sure it’s true. When LePore Drugs closed in Ball Square, a rug store took over the space. All they did was remove the D from DRUGS, and the sign read, RUGS!


12 Responses to “Milkshakes and mercurochrome”

  1. A. Moore says:

    Kramer’s was the second drug store there. I cannot recall the name of the store before him but I remember he had a soda fountain there, thought it started with a p, but been too many years now to recall. Have to see if my parents remember. Over Karmer’s was a clothing place(I think) and later when Kramer bought it they took the top floor off. And the lady who worked at Berry and McDonald used to make eggplant parm(hope I remembered that right) for Tony Bennet when he was in town.

  2. j. connelly says:

    Ah yes…the memories of some great places. Back then when you had the “stomach flu” and it felt like someone had pliers attached to your stomach and kept on twisting…oy veh! the pain….if you went to the E.R. they told you to take Mylanta or something similar…did not work. If you remember the words of the great, “Dr Harry Goldenberg” you bought a bottle cola syrup at the local drug store, took a teaspoon of cola syrup and within seconds the pain disappeared.

    Up till about a year ago you could still go to CVS, Walgreens, etc and buy a small bottle of the cola syrup for abou $2.50. Not anymore, seems there has been a complete stop by all the pharmacy’s from selling the syrup anymore, evidently the drug companies not making a big profit when they can instead sell a more costly Rx for something else.

    Tip o da week….Vermont Country Store (internet) sells large bottles of cola syrup. Good old Vermont Ingenuity…screw the drug companies. I bought mine just in time, two weeks after I got it, I was hit by the stomach flu bug & in less than a minute after having the cola syrup the pain was gone for good. My MD thought I was nuts about the syrup, so I brought the bottle for her to see and informed her that she did not have to extend her student loan for my educating her…lol

  3. A. Moore says:

    Dr. Goldenberg, he was a character. If I remember right he was in the navy, same as the dentist Galitis across the street. But the coke syrup of today is not half as good as the one years ago. Since they had to take out that one tiny ingredient we are not adult enough to use properly.

  4. j connelly says:

    Yes he was a great character, he still made house calls when all the other MDs stopped doing it. I believe you are correct, he did serve in the Navy. He and my Dad would swap stories about WWII. He mentioned a radio that Sony made but did not sell in the USA, so when my dad was in Japan he brought one back for Dr. Goldenberg. I believe his son went to medical school and also became an MD as Dr. Goldenberg mentioned that his son might be doing his internship in Boston

  5. A Moore says:

    Dr. Avalone(spelling) also did house calls and eventually only house calls as his office was gettibg broken into. He was accross from the A&P on Broadway.. One day my dad came home with some pills he gave him. He was sitting at the kitchen table reading the instructions. Called my mother over as he could not understand why he would have to take them for 3 weeks and then skip a week. Birth control pills. To this day we never let him forget that. Goldenberg had new gutters put up and he asked me why the water was running out of them. Simply siad the water could not go uphill to the spouts. I knew the contractor who did it, but he was not too happy.

  6. jimmy DelPonte says:

    I cant believe I forgot to mention my friend Gary Lameiras and Cedar Pharmacy at the corner of Cedar St and Highland Ave , He was a classmate and a friend.

  7. Gerald Hagerty says:

    Barker’s was the drug store before Kramers. Mr Barker lived on Laurel street in a giant old Victorian. The house had a barn where he kept a horse and buggy to about 1966. we used to sneak in to see the horse.

    John Cardillo was great guy always gave us free lime rickeys. His spouse is still alive I believe and living in Vegas.

  8. A. Moore says:

    Thank you. I was going crazy trying to remember Barker’s. I guess p and b are close enough.

  9. Steve Keenan says:

    I remember two drug stores on Mystic Ave near Temple Street. One was run by Sam Cone and Sid Yanoff. After a while he was located across at Taylor Street and Mystic Ave.

    The other one was also on Mystic Ave near Temple Street and was called “Doc’s.” I bought my first model that I made from Doc’s-it was the USS Nautalis(a submarine model).

    Both stores had the soda fountain counters and all sorts of folks that hung out there. That was many moons ago.

  10. Jim Murphy says:

    Wasn’t there a rexall drug where Primo’s pizza was for year before it was there?

  11. A. Moore says:

    Jim, if I remember right, Primo’s was in a yellow house corner of Marshall and Broadway, the other corner now some spice place(?) was Freddie’s Hardware and before that a drugstore. I don’t remember a being up there. That does not mean there wasn’t, I don’t recall one there.

  12. Peter Crane says:

    The druggist who fed rat poison to the robbers who had taken him and some customers hostage was Henry Marmer. The story made the New York Times, in 1979, with the headline “A Druggist Sedates Gunmen, Freeing 5 Hostages.” When I knew him, in 1968-69, he ran the drug store at the corner of Cross and Pearl Streets, on the northeast corner. Miller’s Market was on the southeast corner, and a laundry was on the ground floor of 131 Pearl St., on the northwest corner. I was living in 131B Pearl. I had rented it, sight unseen. It was on two floors, with its own entrance, and the rent was $45 a month.

    I once went into the drug store for a cup of coffee, wheezing badly. He asked me if I had asthma, and I said I did. He came out from behind the counter and pushed his thumbs under my shoulderblades. He asked, “Is that better?” I said it was. “Japanese fellow used to live in the neighborhood, he showed me that.” So for the next few minutes he stood there, not bothered that this might seem odd to people who walked into the store.

Leave a Reply