Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
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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!