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Home Learn & Share Local History Gilpin’s Drugstore Roma Gilpin—Employer, Mentor, Friend
Gilpin’s Drugstore

Roma Gilpin—Employer, Mentor, Friend

by Mirriam Cron Jones

I started working at Gilpin’s Drugstore in 1944 at the age of 15. I worked for Roma Gilpin—she was always called Mrs. Gilpin, never Roma—and I made $11 a week and was very happy with that amount. A lot of high schoolers worked for Mrs. Gilpin, and she taught us many lessons to be remembered. She raised a lot of kids in that store!

As you entered the drugstore, the display cases for jewelry and cosmetics were on the right. Past the cosmetics, in the back corner, were the patent medicines. Apothecary cabinets and shelves lined the walls and were filled with specialty products—Vitalis, Mum, cod liver oil, cough syrup, aspirin, Ben-Gay, vitamins, dental cream, foot powder, Carters Little Liver Pills, Band-Aids, pain medicine, liniments, tonics and ointments of all kinds. Underneath the counter was a metal bracket with a large roll of white paper that we used to wrap everything—we didn’t use bags. There was no pharmacy in those days, not until Roma’s son Bill graduated from college and came back to work as the pharmacist.

The magazine rack was on the left, and people young and old would stand there and read the magazines without buying them. When Mrs. Gilpin came out from the back room, they would scatter. She never had to say a word. Past the magazines were two vinyl booths with tables, and the soda fountain was across from them. There were five chrome counter stools and a big mirror behind the fountain. The floor was a checkerboard pattern.

A pie rack stood on the end of the counter. We had homemade pies, and when we brought them out they would still be hot from the oven. We’d serve them à la mode, and the ice cream would melt over that warm pie—delicious! My mother, Helen Cron, and Bea Schmalzle made the pies, and they made delicious pies. Freda Frey helped for a while and was known far and wide for her peanut butter cream pies. Everything was served on dishes—white ironstone with a green stripe around the border. Ice cream sundaes were served in footed glass dishes. Sodas were mixed with syrup and club soda from a machine and served in glasses. We washed all the dishes by hand in a double sink behind the counter.

Elva Phillips was the mainstay of the drugstore. We all looked up to her. If there was anything we needed to know, we asked Elva. After we finished putting the newspapers together on Sunday mornings, she would fix bacon and eggs for everyone. At Halloween we always made chocolate chip cookies for the kids. Mrs. Gilpin would invite the town kids in for hot chocolate and cookies, thinking that would keep them out of trouble, not knowing their dirty work was usually already done! I remember one Halloween when the boys let Minnie Ziegler’s chickens out. They got caught and had to round up all the chickens, and each boy had to pay for a chicken. Another time Mrs. Gilpin and I watched them run a milk can up the flagpole in front of the school, but she said we never saw anything.

The kids would come in after the basketball games, and if it was an away game it could be quite late, midnight or later. When I worked the night shift, I rode down to work with Brownie [Lorimer Brown] on the afternoon school bus, and then I’d stay overnight with Mrs. Gilpin. Another time when the kids came over from school was for their annual dental check-ups. Mrs. Gilpin provided space upstairs for Dr. Kizer’s dental clinic, and he would see any child from school who didn’t have a regular dentist. She did that for many years.

Mrs. Gilpin’s piano was in her living room. If we weren’t busy we’d gather around the piano and sing, and sometimes the kids would dance. Mrs. Gilpin did the piano playing, and her favorite song was “Clair de Lune.” People would be coming in the drugstore, and we’d be in the back singing away. Frank Valenzano, who everyone called Frankie Valentine, would come over from his barber shop and sing with us. I sang harmony while he sang opera. That was the start of my love of singing. My dad took me all the way to Scranton to take voice lessons. I sang high soprano at the time and sang in the school chorus and the church choir and later at many weddings. When we were seniors, Bruce Banks, Jimmy Grimm, Ellis Akers, Johnny Steiger, and I had a singing group called The Four Hits and a Miss. We sang “April Showers” at May Day, accompanied by Noble Gilpin, and we also sang at our graduation in 1947. I still sing with the Wayne Choralaires.

I worked at the drugstore again in later years, but the best years were working the soda fountain. I visited Mrs. Gilpin after she retired and she said, “You know, you and I have been good friends for many years.” That made me very proud, to be regarded as a friend.

Note: This is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in The Greene Hills of Home, Vol. 28, No. 4.