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The drugstore merchants of Wellington
Wellington was fortunate to have four drugstore locations on the square in the 1950s and 1960s. They were each unique in design and customer service. At the time, apothecaries were the only place you could get prescription medication, over the counter meds, cosmetics, specialty gifts or pound boxes of chocolate. The drugstore soda fountains were always available for your favorite malt, sundae, float along with tasty Root Beer, Coke, Dr. Pepper and Cherry Lime.
On the north side of the square was the location of Cochran Drugstore. Arthur Luther Cochran (1887-1943) started the store in 1924. When A.L. passed away in 1943, his wife, Ruth Hemphill Cochran (1898-1974), ran the store with the assistance of Mr. Crawford as pharmacist, until her son Jimmy finished college. Ruth was known as the epitome of customer service. She was professional, kind and knowledgeable about every aspect of the store.
Jimmy Cochran (1923-1993) ran the store for several years before forging a partnership with Ham Holton. C&H Drug operated from 1958-1970. Donna Allred remembers her first real job was at C&H as a soda jerk. Ham moved on to Childress and the store became Cochran’s again until 1993. Jimmy was known to deliver medicine in the middle of the night to sick babies or anyone in need. Jimmy and Betty Neal Cochran (1928-2016) were very social and supportive in the community and were members of several clubs and organizations.
Parson’s Drugstore was owned by Sandy Parsons, Jr. (1909-1994). Mr. Parsons graduated from Wellington High School in 1926. He bought Joe Hardy’s drugstore in 1936 which was located in the center of the west side of the square. He later moved his business to the southern corner. The higher ceiling with bright lighting and the additional square footage was much improved over the other location. The displays cases were filled interesting gift items. The soda fountain attracted many high school students after school. After Sandy retired, his daughter Mary and her husband Billy Lockhart ran the store until it closed.
Mr. Parsons worked with the Boy Scouts for over 30 years. He was three-time president of the Collingsworth County Chamber of Commerce and three-time president of the Rotary Club. He also owned drugstores in Memphis, Dimmitt and McLean.
Pruden Drugstore was located on the east side of the square. Fleet and Etha Pruden operated the store for many years. Fleet also worked as a veterinarian and kept a small fenced-in shed behind the drug store across the street. It was usually occupied by a horse or a cow or two. He was active in local rodeos and calf roping until a loop in his rope severed the fingers off his right hand. He hired a number of high school students for his soda fountain and was popular with all students especially the athletes.
Vicki and Jan Glenn remember watching a movie at the Ritz Theater, then walking over to Pruden Drugstore and leaf through comic books until their parents picked them up. Eventually, Fleet became physically unable to fill prescriptions and closed the store. Jan bought several valuable artifacts from the closing drugstore that she still has today. The store now houses the Collingsworth County Museum.
The oldest drugstore was located on the south side of the square on the west end. Thomas Edward Benge purchased the Palace Drugstore in about 1900. He managed the store for 40 years. His son Lester worked in the store after he graduated from high school in 1926. Jack Hurst bought the store in 1945. He was previously a pharmacist for Mr. Benge. Jack died shortly after he bought the store. There was a large group of business women who had coffee at the Palace on a regular basis. Employees included John Clark, Lucille Zeck and Shirley Williams. Dr. Carter Holcomb also worked there in the 1930s.
Many thanks go out to John Clark (WHS 49), Vicki Glenn (WHS 63), Donna Allred (WHS 64) and Jan Glenn (WHS 65), who helped me cobble the research together. The next time you are in Wellington, stop by the Collingsworth County Museum located in the old Pruden Building to view a display of coffee cups with names of Wellington men who had coffee every morning at Cochran Drug.
Dr. Mike Wolf has been a resident of Coldspring, Texas in San Jacinto County since 1983. He is a former charter member of the Coldspring Lions Club and former principal of Coldspring High School. He coached, taught history, government and education at both the high school and university level. Mike spent several years in school administration as principal and superintendent. He enjoys fishing, golf, travel and studying world affairs. Mike attended Wellington schools in the 50s and 60s before graduating from Amarillo Caprock in 1965. He was named to the Distinguished Alumni of Caprock High School in 1999. He has done extensive research on most of the Panhandle as a history professor and says he knows a lot of folks from Quitaque to Quail. He can be contacted at email@example.com.