Just about every small town in Montgomery County had a drug store. The drug store sold a wide variety of items . . . ice cream, soda pop, candy, snacks, medicine, personal items, school supplies, magazines and literally thousands of other things. But more importantly, the drug store was a popular hangout for kids and adults.
I spent many hours at the Darlington drug store when Arthur Friend owned it, and later on when Gene and Mary Ellen "Pee Wee" Harmon owned it. There were five wooden booths, table and chairs, and a counter with stools near the entrance back in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the Harmons modernized the interior, but still kept tables and chairs and put in a modern counter. My favorite treats were "sawdust sundaes" (vanilla ice cream with malted milk on top), "red rivers" (cherry phosphate drinks) and of course a bottle of Choc-cola while opening my new pack of Topps baseball cards . . . and I never did get a card of Mickey Mantle!
The drug store was a great place to meet your friends and catch up on all of the latest gossip . . . and maybe even start some new gossip! While the adults sat and talked, many kids would go to the adjoining room and read comic books or look at the Life magazine. There were always the "regulars" sitting at the counter . . . Hal Royer, Art Crowder and John Thompson to name just a few. I can still hear Hal telling Gene Harmon . . . "just give me a double-dip of vaniller there, Geno."
And the after-school crowd always made things lively, with boys and girls sitting at the tables to study, but mostly discussing the happenings at school and the boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. The adults would mostly talk about politics and the Darlington basketball team, and its prospects for the upcoming season.
Saturday nights were always busy after the Sunshine theater crowd watched their movie, as many of the people would head across the street to the drug store for a fountain drink or dish of ice cream to top off the evening. A theater ticket was 25 cents, popcorn was 10 cents, and a sundae was 15 cents in 1958 . . . a great night on the town for 50 cents! I do remember one particular night . . . after watching a science fiction B-movie about a giant praying mantis, some high school boys caught three or four praying mantises in the library bushes and released these inside the drug store. Boys and girls were screaming and running for their lives as these flying insects winged it through the building!
Sunday morning was always a busy time. The church crowd would visit the drug store to pick up a Sunday paper and maybe some snacks for their relaxing Sunday afternoon.
After Darlington High School closed in 1971, and then later when the middle closed in 1988, the drug store, along with other businesses, started losing customers. The big store chains also appeared on the scene, and the small mom-and-pop drug stores vanished.
Today the building that housed the Darlington drug store is an apartment building. When I am working at the Darlington library, I often gaze across the street and think about the old drug store. I would give just about anything to sit in one of the old wooden booths, eat my sawdust sundae, and open a 1958 pack of Topps baseball cards just one more time . . .

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local histor