“LOST IN THE FIFTIES” … THE OLD LEAKEY DRUG STORE
This story brings to mind the melody of the song it is named for. The interview with Ms. Joanne Fisher took me back as if a time machine had brought to life the black and white monochrome images strewn across the tabletop and hanging on the walls. It was almost as if I could hear the old telephone ringing and the voices of happy children from yesterday...*Photo of Norris Fisher used by permission of Joanne Fisher to accompany this article.
In 1954 Highway 83 doubled as a football field in front of the old Leakey Drug Store. The kids played football in the street in the afternoons. Their parents would call Joanne or Norris Fisher to check and make sure their children were there. The kids would begin to meander home later and as 5:00 pm rolled around Edith Childress would call and have them send Tollie (her husband) home for supper. He'd be at the pool hall outback where he was playing dominoes!
Elsewhere in the world Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio,
mothers and wives were moving back into the workforce and the economy continued to grow. "Father Knows Best" was popular, Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock" topped the
charts, and Elvis Presley cut his first commercial record. Car engines got bigger and more powerful and gas cost 29 cents a gallon. The first mass vaccination of children against Polio began and Brown v Board of Education made segregation in US Public Schools Unconstitutional.
None of that affected life in Leakey though... not then anyway. The kids put in their orders for lunch and Norris and Joanne would have it waiting for them. Even kids who were not in school that day would slip in the back door for their lunches and when Dud Sansom, (Superintendent) would walk in, “those truant children would scatter leaving their food behind,” Mrs. Fisher chuckled as she fondly remembered.
Norris Fisher sold the first television set purchased in Leakey and installed one at the Drug Store. On Wednesday nights the entire community would gather to watch wrestling on the TV, sip their soda’s and rip and holler!
The first drug store in Leakey was located on what is now a vacant lot beside Alamo Grocery and was owned and operated by Lewis Casey, who also served as Mayor, electrician, and doctor. Naturally, when the Fisher’s opened their business in 1954 that distinction passed to Norris Fisher and he was nicknamed “Doc Holiday.” Joanne said they studied and learned how to make those “butterfly bandages” and anything they could manage, they patched up at the store!
To encourage doctors to remain in Leakey the Fisher’s offered six months free lodging above the Drug Store and were successful for a while! She remembers one day a gentleman came in pale and shaken with his hand wrapped up. She helped him upstairs to the doc. He had severed his finger while moving his car seat backward. Dr. Gentry and Mrs. Fisher retrieved the severed finger, the doc sewed it back on, in the room above the Drug Store and when it was healed; the finger was good as new!
Dwight D. Eisenhower was our President and Sir Winston Churchill was Prime Minister. White Christmas and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers played at the “Movie Theater” and people were reading The Lord of the Rings Series by Tolkien, and Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming. The first nuclear submarine was christened the “Nautilus,” Russia opened the world's first atomic power station near Moscow, and Germany introduced the Mercedes 300SL coupe, with its gull-wing doors.
Here in Leakey, old cypress log benches lined the sidewalks and people, mostly men, sat there to visit and chat. The kids ruled the sidewalk from Hill’s Restaurant (where the Annex building is today) to the Brice’s Supermarket. Toddlers in diapers, baby walkers and laughing happy children were a common sight along that well-worn trek!
When General Motors produced it's 50 millionth car, the Boeing 707 took its Maiden Flight and Swanson introduced the first TV Dinners; Mrs. Mabel (Fisher, Norris’ mom) was cooking in the small kitchen, an ancient air conditioning unit cooled the store and heat was supplied by one small propane heater.
To the left, as you walked in were rows of shelves laden with something for “anything that ails ‘ya” and just about anything else you may have had a need for. The Leakey Drug Store was open from 7:00 am till 10:00 pm and was the community gathering place for 26 years.
They served up a mean meal, had Rx, vet, fishing and hunting supplies; kept an eye on the kids, patched up the sick, supported the local teams and had broad shoulders and caring hearts for the entire community. After home games, they would open late and have cherry limes and malted milks waiting when the crowd arrived.
By the time the sixties rolled around many people had purchased television sets from the Leakey Drug Store and TV Westerns were the favorite. Like the post-war world in which they reigned, you could always tell the good guys from the bad, and none of the guns were fully automatic. Gunsmoke, Roy Rogers, The Virginian, and Big Valley.
There was still a little western in Leakey too. Mr. Pullin, affectionately known as Uncle Pooh-Pooh worked at the Bushong place. On days off he would tie Lullabelle (his horse) to the chinaberry tree to the left of the Leakey Drug Store and hitch a ride to Uvalde. Nine times out of ten he came home snookered and Lullabelle would faithfully carry him home; until the fateful day that Lullabelle forgot to turn and Uncle Pooh-Pooh woke up over the mountain in Camp Wood. The Sheriff had to bring him home and Lullabelle had to walk home by herself!
I got carried away into a by gone time that was simpler, cleaner and kinder as she talked about the kids that “cut a rug" to the jukebox and the sense of happiness and peace in that world the Fisher's shared. I could almost feel it as she told me about recognizing the kid's voices without having to look up and automatically knowing what they would want!
Joanne Fisher summed it up when she told me… “We lived in the best of times."