Clipped From The Baytown Sun
Nostalgia lives at old pharmacy NEDERLAND (AP) — He sits in his docker at the window, enticing .young and old to come in and tell him what they want for Christmas. "Several people have said they'd!like to sit on our Santa's lap because he looks so real," KathylCrawford says. "But, of coursf^hey can't because he's notre^l." Mrs; Crawford designed the . jolly old fellow based on a 1953 Christmas Coca-Cola advertisement "that was my Santa when I was growing up. I was six years old then and that's how I always envisioned him to look like." A touch of nostalgia, perhaps. But then, so is a visit to the Nederland Pharmacy, where Santa^Claus is the newest window display in drugstore that also features another trace of times,past, a lunch counter and soda fpuntain. Useft to be, a long time ago, every'; neighborhood drug store had a* soda fountain and lunch counter. Mrs. Crawford's husband,; James, fountain operator and antique toy enthusiast, is known by lunch counter regulars for Kis displays that cover almos| every available space inside ttje fountain area. Mrs! Crawford spent nearly two nionths building the papier mache Santa. Except for his ' boots« and long underwear, everything is handcrafted. "When-I started on him, I didn't know if he would come out," she says. "But it was worth a try and I think he looks great." Indeed, he does. Santa's bright blue eyes appear to twinkle with delight arid his chubby cheeks are rosey red, perhaps from the nippy North Pole cold. The Santa window display isn't Mrs. Crawford's first. The window saw Christmas elves and toys the year her husband first took over the lunch counter. "My mother was very ill last year and we really couldn't decorate the window," she says. Her mother died earlier this year. "But this year, we went all out." A lot of people have asked about a Mrs. Santa for next year or inquired about a Santa for their own homes. "I've always liked making things," she says. "I have a degree in commercial art from Lamar University. But what I really like to do is make things out of scrap, the stuff no one else wants. It's a lot of fun to see what can come from someone else's junk." The displays of antique toys started three years ago when Crawford took over the lunch counter. At that time, pharmacy owner Kenneth Sheffield was about to close it down and tear it out. "But James came along and decided to have a go at it," Sheffield says. VHe's done a real good job with it, too." The pharmacy itself goes back to the turn of the century, Sheffield says. The soda fountain and lunch counter stand in the pharmacy's original building, which was known in the early 1900s as the Half Way House because it was halfway between Beaumont and P.ort Arthur. -"Back then, every drug store had a soda fountain," Sheffield says. "But that was a long time ago and things have changed. We really like our fountain because they're becoming almost extinct." According to local accounts, C.X. Johnson opened the pharmacy's doors for the first time hi 1900. Legend has it that Johnson used the "X" because he didn't have a middle name. He had the first telephone in Nederland Installed there and the pharmacy was the center of town on election nights before the days of radio and television. F.A. Roach bought the pharmacy in 1922 and updated the fountain to include curbside service to the Increasing number of automobiles in the area. "When I was in high school, there were five boys out there car-hopping," Sheffield says. Ella and Marvin Wagner bought the pharmacy in 1946, and a year later, Sheffield began working there. After Wagner's death in 1949, Sheffield became the pharmacist. "It's the first and only job I've ever had," he says. Ella Wagner instituted several changes, the most noticeable being the pharmacy's expansion in 1968 to include a spacious area for medications and sundries. Sheffield bought the pharmacy a few years later and things have "pretty much stayed the same," he says. "We've repaired the fountain, and tried, as much as we could, to leave it like it was. We put in new paneling and wiring, as it was back then." For Crawford, running the lunch counter and soda fountain "is the best Job I've ever had. "I've been a restaurant manager for a long time, I've] worked a lot of places, but this one Is home for me," he says. "I'm really fortunate to have this place to display my collection. "At least here, I can enjoy them and so can other people." He started collecting about 20; years ago when his father gave him an old iron bank. "It started out with cast iron banks and took off from there," Crawford says. "It's getting pretty hard to find cast iron, but I find a lot of tin toys. Every now and then though, I run across a cast iron toy or someone will bring one to me." Crawford isn't worried about the value of his collection. "It's hard to say how much they're worth. It doesn't really mean that much to me because I have no plans to sell anything. "That's the problem with me, I can't sell anything, but I'll sometimes trade," Crawford says. Besides being home to the Crawfords and his toy collection, the soda fountain is home for a lot of other folks, too. On any given day, the lunch counter will be so busy that people are waiting in line for a seat, Crawford says. The kids stop in on their way home from school in the afternoon for a cold soda, a drink of water, or even to indulge in one of Crawford's honest-to- goodness, real malts. "It's the best malted you'll ever taste," says one long-time patron.