Pine Island’s First Pharmacy

Reprinted from my weekly column in the Pine Island Eagle.

There were rosebuds for the ladies, cigars for the men and suckers and bubblegum for the children.  This according to someone who was there.  So what was this cause for such celebration?  Their team just won the World Series?  Their first baby was born?

In October of 1961 the first pharmacy on Pine Island opened, and residents were celebrating.  The Island Pharmacy, as it was called, opened in Matlacha and had a soda fountain and luncheonette.  It was owned and operated by Dr. and Mrs. P.N. Crawford and was open every day from 8:00am to 8:30pm, with Dr. Crawford on call after those hours.

Today we go to the pharmacy to buy medicine and essentials like suntan lotion and bug spray.  But in the old days pharmacies were destinations and served an important function as a public area where neighbors could socialize and exchange community news.  Pharmacies added soda fountains to allow the pharmacist to interact more with their patients by giving them a comfortable place to talk, something that is often lacking in today’s chain pharmacies.  Many soda fountains expanded their menus and became lunch counters, serving light meals as well as ice cream and sundaes.  Soda fountains reached their height of popularity in the 1940s and 1950s.

Many of the pharmacies had pressed tin ceilings and shiny tiled floors.  They may have had an old phone booth or two with a tiny bench to sit on and a fan that went on when you closed the door.  There would be floor to ceiling shelves jammed with all the ingredients the pharmacist would require to mix your medicine requirements.  And they would have their counters and swivel stools that were bolted to the floor.

Coffee was served in ceramic cups and soda was served in those paper cones that fitted into plastic holders.  They would make “cherry coke” by putting a little spoonful of cherry syrup in the bottom of the cup before filling it with real Coke.  A “green river” was made the same way, with a dipper of syrup in the glass and filled with soda water.  There were also egg creams (which don’t contain eggs or ice cream), cherry phosphates, black cows and all different flavored ice cream sodas.  And after consuming too much, there might be a dispenser that measured out a dose of Bromo-Seltzer that you could get along with a glass of water.

One other note of pharmacy history: in the mid-1960s, only 8 percent of licensed pharmacists were female.  Today, about 55 percent of all pharmacists are women.

So do you think that when Eckerd Drugs opened in 1980 in Pine Island Center they offered rosebuds for the ladies and cigars for the men?  Probably not.

As a follow up to the above article; the pharmacy was closed soon after it opened when it was determined the doctor was not licensed.  The pharmacy was located on the southwest side on Pine Island Road at the entrance to Porpoise Point.

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