Scanning Around With Gene: The Death of Free Calendars and Local Drug Stores

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Two developments this week lead me to today’s topic. First, I began my search for my main 2013 calendar – I like to get a calendar a few months early so I can start writing important dates in it prior to the new year. And second, the last remaining independent drug store in my town went out of business and closed its doors forever.

Independent drug stores are a dying breed thanks to the big chains like Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid. I guess the little guys just can’t compete. I worked my way through high school delivering drugs for a local mom-and-pop drug store, so they remain close to my heart. Every town had a couple in those days, and personal service (including free delivery) was just assumed. The store where I worked had been in business since the 1920s and still had the remnants of a soda fountain down in the basement. Today’s images are monthly illustrations and some ads from a free calendar given out by Gallaher Drug Stores in 1962, locations unknown. Click on any image for a larger version.

Of course even in 1962 there were drug store chains (Gallaher obviously had more than one location) and the calendars were mostly produced by wholesale distributors who would imprint local store information on them. They were able to give them out free because they contained advertising for popular products and remedies of the day.

But you still felt like you were getting something of value. Most free calendars had illustrations or photographs adorning each month and were meant to be attractive hanging by the kitchen phone.

I’m sure there are still free calendars out there, though I don’t see them like I used to. Perhaps, thanks to smart phones, people don’t use calendars the way the once did.

Yet I still see plenty of calendars for sale in stores like Staples and Barnes and Noble, so I assume there is still a pretty big need out there.

We gave out calendars at the drug store where I worked for several years back in the 1970s, and people really looked forward to getting them. They became somewhat of a tradition in many homes. I’d take them with me when I delivered drugs to the older folks, who really appreciated getting them.

Working at a pharmacy, by the way, was a terrific high-school job, even though I got paid $1.35 per hour back then. It was fun helping out the pharmacist and waiting on customers. On Saturdays it was just the pharmacist and me, so I got to do a little bit of everything.

Yet I have to admit that I did not, in recent years, support the local pharmacy in my town. The convenience of CVS being open until 9 and on the weekends was too compelling and so I switched to the big chain.

This year I’ve decided on a non-themed, office-style calendar that has no pictures or illustrations – just big squares with the date in them. I couldn’t find a subject matter that appealed to me and that I thought I could stomach for a whole year.

I guess the era of free calendars and independent drug stores is pretty much gone, much like many of the brands shown in today’s column. Things have changed, that’s for sure, from the days when you could get your prescriptions (and your free calendar) delivered by a 16-year-old kid driving a beat up old Chevrolet Corvair.

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