Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Getting Liquored Up
My folks bought the old drugstore in Harrold when I was in the 7th grade. It really wasn’t a drugstore any longer, since Doc Martin started mixing his own prescriptions the pharmacy business dried up. My dad renamed the business the ”Harrold Sundries”, which was very apt since the shelves were full of patent medicines, candy, vet supplies, paint, jewelry, horse gear and saddles, greeting cards and magazines, a soda fountain with grill, and booze. The store served as the town’s off sale liquor sales location, and keeping the shelves stocked was one of my after school chores. It was quite a feat.
We stored the cases of liquor in the basement. The truck would bring in cases of booze once a week and my job started with hauling the heavy boxes down the steep rickety stairs to the basement and putting them in the slot assigned to that brand, then taking inventory of what was needed on the shelves behind the counter upstairs. The shelves were only wide enough to hold three or four bottles and some popular brands had to be replenished daily. I would take the inventory down the stairs, fill the order in an empty case and haul it back up the steps. Before the bottles could be put on the shelves each one had to be tagged with the brand and price on the tag, which would be taken off when the bottle was sold. The tally of the tags at the end of the day was record of what had been sold. The price of a broken bottle came off of dad’s commission, so I handled each one with great care.
That first summer we were in the store several of my cousins came to stay for a week. One afternoon a storm came rolling up, dark and full of wind and hail. I was playing with the cousins at grandma’s house when the phone rang. It was dad, telling me to come to the store quick and bring the cousins. I envisioned all kinds of things as we raced to the store. The tone of dad’s voice and the looming storm scared me. We jumped off our bikes and ran into the store, with me expecting the worst. When dad saw us he acted somewhat relieved. His first order was for us to get behind the liquor counter. I thought he wanted us to get under something to be safe. Instead he instructed us to face the liquor shelves in an athletic stance. “When it starts to storm,” he said,” watch the bottles on the shelves and if one rattles off because of the wind, catch it!” We looked at each other and started to laugh, that is until the first blasts of wind hit the side of that old building, shaking every bottle on the shelves. Every once in a while a bottle would come tipping off a shelf and when one of us caught it, we would cheer. When the storm passed and no bottles were broken, dad made malts for us as a reward. Laughing, he said, “I’m glad you kids know how to handle my liquor.”
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Dad used to tell of his first job when they moved from Marion to Harrold in 1928. He was ten years old, big for his age, and needed to help the family earn some money.…