by Bob Goldsmith, R.P.
Cars driving northward along Ridge Boulevard, enroute to Evanston and the North Shore were accustomed to seeing the old delivery bike with the large basket and the small front wheel. It had “always” been chained to the lamp post, next to the mailbox, in front of the corner drug store at Howard Street.
That bike, a Schwinn Cycle Truck built in the 1940s, had been in the same place for over 50 years. Teenage employees of the Ridge-Howard Pharmacy had pedaled it on deliveries for generations. Young women from the nearby St. Scholastica girl’s high school stopped in the drugstore for a bottle of pop or a candy bar, or just to get change for the bus, as their mothers had done before them.
In the early days, there was a soda fountain, in recent days (written in 1991) you could buy a lottery ticket or ship a package by UPS.
Every morning the druggist would put out the bike, bring in the newspapers, and put the change in the cash register(s).
Commonly (back then) doctors would stop in after a house call to drop off their prescriptions to the pharmacist for compounding and would ask him to deliver them to his patients in the neighborhood. (“And by the way, would you have your delivery boy pick up a loaf of bread for the patient and drop it off when you send the prescription?”)
The corner drugstore was a place for little kids, teenagers, moms and dads and for the senior citizens to stop in and say “Hi, Doc, can I ask you a question?”
It was the place where salesmen sat in the phone booths with the glass doors closed for half an hour to make their appointments.
Three generations of pharmacists (they were called “druggists” in the old days) worked behind the prescription counter.
Grandpa made the capsules and ointments, and wrapped the sanitary napkins in plain green paper so that people might think they were boxes of candy. Later his son the druggist brought the condoms out of the hidden drawer into full view. He surrendered the soda fountain to competition, and his granddaughter pharmacist coped with insurance companies, public aid, and computerized prescription filling.
It’s over now. There are few corner drug stores remaining – just not very efficient in the “modern business world.”
The bicycle symbolized old fashioned service in the old fashioned drug store.
The bicycle isn’t seen on the lamp post anymore. It was just a sign of the times.