The Birmingham Drug Co.
1940's - 2000
by: Russ Lancaster
There are lots of places in Hamlet we like to remember. Some of them are long gone and only memories. Then there are those that have stood the test of time. The Birmingham Drug Co. is one of these.
Located at the lower end of Main Street, it has been there as long as I can remember. The elongated perpendicular neon sign advertising its existence is still there though I think the neon lights may no longer work. It still advertises as being "The Rexall Drug Store" as it did during the 50's when I remember it best.
In the 40's and 50's it featured a long soda fountain. Teenagers would often hang out there after school sitting in one of the many booths or at the soda fountain itself. The order of the day would usually be a cherry Coke or even a vanilla Coke (my favorite back then). Ordering something was not required but usually would keep you from earning an early exit by the looks of the soda jerk. It was a place where you took your girlfriend or looked for a new one. Or sometimes, you just hung out with your buddies reading the magazines and made sure you were noticed. It was the thing teenagers did back then. There were no shopping malls in Hamlet. Birmingham Drug Co. was the place to be.
I believe the drug store was owned by Lewis Holland during the 40's and 50's. The drug store is now owned by Billy P. Horne and his son, Bill Horne. I have known Billy for a long time and have recently met his son. Susannah Horne also works there part time but will shortly be off to further her education. There are also others you can count on when you need assistance including Daphne Smith who has been there for 30 years. There are lots of customers but no lines at this place. They are friendly and efficient.
The Birmingham Drug Co. has its own history as well as being a part of Hamlet's history. The walls, both sides, are adorned with photographs of trains from the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad which was and is the heart of Hamlet. The photos range from as far back as 1939 to the 1960's. Most customers probably take them for granted having been there so many times. Next visit, stop and take a look. You will be surprised what your eyes often saw but your mind may have ignored.
If you have time, talk with one of the Hornes next visit. They will tell you stories of the history of this old place. My last visit there Bill told me of the possibility of treasures up on the second floor where no one goes very often. Dust covered artifacts from long ago are probably there waiting for someone to reclaim them. As a matter of fact, Bill showed me a 1967 yardstick advertising The Enterprise Hardware from across town on Hamlet Avenue that he had recovered from just a peek upstairs. He says it has been at least 20 years since the upstairs has been disturbed. He thinks the old soda fountain and maybe even the booths we used to sit in may be there.
The Birmingham Drug Co. and its friendly owners allow a group of retired and semi retired men to use the front of their store to talk over anything worth talking about each day. This group of folks is featured in another of my memories called "The CRS Club". The only point I want to make mentioning it here is just how down to earth and friendly the Hornes are. Small town America certainly has its advantages when friends are concerned.
The soda fountain is gone, the booths are gone, but the expert friendly service remains and the CRS Club gives the Birmingham Drug Co. an ambiance not found any other place I know of. Prescriptions, over the counter drugs, first aid kits, old time and new remedies for whatever ails you are abundant at the Birmingham Drug Co. But they are just as available elsewhere. The difference in getting them at the Birmingham Drug Co. is the feeling that someone really cares about you there. No cold shoulders here. Nothing but some of the nicest people I have ever met dealing out a lot of friendship along with their wares. I salute the Hornes and all the folks of the Birmingham Drug. Co. for showing how a business can be successful and plain old down to earth friendly at the same time. They do it well!
Yes, I remember the Birmingham Drug Co. And.... I remember Hamlet....
This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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