McGinnis Drugstore operated in downtown Summerville from 1920 until 1994, a remarkable 74-year run for a family business that spanned three generations. Lifelong Summerville resident Gene McGinnis tells the story....
My grandfather, James McGinnis, in a photo taken around 1914. He's with his wife, the former Mary McWhorter, and son Harry. The photo on the right shows my father, Harry McGinnis, around 1918.
My grandfather was a clerk for the Arrington Drug Company (later the site of Jackson Drugstore) until he partnered with Dr. O.A. Selman to open Selman-McGinnis Drug Company. The above photo shows the drugstore on opening day, July 1, 1920. Jim McGinnis is standing on the left. The man on the right is W.E. Turner.
My daddy went to Oglethorpe University in Atlanta and then on to pharmacy school in Macon before returning here in 1932 to join my grandfather in business.
My mother, Edythe, came to Summerville in 1935 from western Alabama to teach at the high school. Her uncle was a Methodist preacher at Valley Head and somehow heard there was an opening over here so she applied. The Greyhound bus stopped at the drug store and that's how they met. They went out on a date the first night she was here.
Back then, teachers could not be married, so they married secretly in March of 1936 and didn't tell anybody until the end of the school year. Afterward, the school board changed the rules.
My mother's maiden name was Hamner. Her brother, "Shorty" Hamner, was a veterinarian and came here after World War II because of the Trion dairy. A lot of people knew them both but never knew they were brother and sister.
April 1958. Long-time clerk Betty Cohen stands next to the cosmetics counter.
My daddy said he did more business on Saturday than the rest of the week combined since at that time, the county was mostly agricultural and the farmers would all wait until Saturday to come to town to do their shopping. There was a gasoline pump out front and they sold gas when the drugstore first opened.
From the time I was born in 1952, we rotated with Jackson Drugstore to open on Sunday afternoons. When Dr. Martin was still alive, he made house calls and my daddy went to town after hours two or three times a week to fill his prescriptions. Sometimes people would knock on the door at our house late at night needing a prescription filled.
March 1959. Jo Parker making an ice cream cone. Loop Furniture is across Commerce Street where Pop's Place is currently located.
We opened at eight in the morning. A lot of people, mostly people who worked in town, came by and got coffee early in the morning. You had Montgomery Knitting Mill across the street that was full of people. Upstairs you had law offices, Sloppy Floyd, T.J. Espy, Mr. Turner's barbershop, and Earl Self. Farmers and Merchants Bank was right across the street and that drew a lot of people. At the courthouse, you had the school board and all the county offices. All the businesses were full; you couldn't find a parking place.
April 1959. Mrs. W.E. Turner enjoys some conversation at the soda fountain.
We had three marble top tables in the middle. You could sit there or at the soda fountain. We specialized in chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches, soups, cherry Cokes, ice cream, and milk shakes. We had Lance potato chips, Moon Pies, peanuts for your Coke, chili, and vegetable soup. In the 1960s, we added Sprite.
When I was real little, we had a candy case and the actual case had a little air conditioning unit to keep the candy cool. The store was always air conditioned when I was growing up. It was a real draw for customers in the summer. On the front door there was a cigarette decal that read, "It's Kool inside. Air Conditioned."
When my grandfather was in his eighties, they would turn on the air conditioning and he'd turn it off, back and forth, back and forth. He sat up front at one of the marble tables the latter part of his life. When he died in 1962 at 86 years old, they had to carry him out of there.
April 1959. Dot Lenderman worked at McGinnis Drugstore for many years during the 1950s and 1960s.
May 1959. Lenelle Hartline Pierce served fried pies, ice cream, and freshly-squeezed lemonade.
February 1960. Betty Cohen poses at the photography counter with boxes of Valentine's Day candy.
March 1960. Jo Parker and Thelma Eason in front of the cosmetics counter.
January 1968. Ms. Dean Cox stands in front of the charge accounts. If I had all the money my daddy and granddaddy lost on credit, I could retire.
Greyhound busses stopped at the drugstore until we opened a new terminal on West Washington Street in 1949. During World War II, there were as many as 24 Greyhound busses stopping in Summerville per day.
The day the new bus terminal opened in 1949. That's my mother on the left. The man sitting on the stool may be Sonny Wood.
The new bus terminal opened in 1949 where Arch Farrar's office is now. Erwin's Cleaners was located at the front of the building. Homer Sanders was a little man who lived there.
My family had the Greyhound agency from the late 1920s or early '30s until the late 1960s. We hade 12 busses, six going north, six going south, from six in the morning until six in the evening. Mother would go down to the bus station at 6:30 in the morning before school to help manage things. Drugs for the drugstore came in on the 4:00 p.m. bus.
I sold the drugstore in September 1994 to the Big B drugstore chain, but I have no regrets. It's much harder nowadays to operate an independent drugstore because of competition from the big chains.
Photographs on this page were provided courtesy of Gene McGinnis. Many thanks to Gene for his recollections of his family and business.
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