Murphy’s Drug Store
by Carl Harrison
I grew up in a part of town called St. Vital and the street I lived on was
a couple of blocks from the end of the bus line. Life in the mid 60’s was
simpler and parents thought nothing of kids heading downtown by bus on
Saturday to catch a matinee. Our parents were concerned for our safety but
a movie for us meant afternoon peace and quiet for them.
The bus-stop from downtown was at the top of my street and if it was a
still hot when I got off, and I still had a dime in my pocket I would walk
down to Murphy’s Drug Store. The pharmacy held no interest for me but the
store carried notions, magazines, toys, ice cream on sticks and candies.
You could spend days looking around. It also had a big blue machine off to
one side that Dad would use regularly to test our Viking television’s
As you entered the store the cash register was to the right, next to candy
racks that seemed to go off forever towards the back. To the left of the
entrance in front of the plate glass window was a Coke machine. This big
red thing had an unpainted sheet metal lid that when raised revealed a
water filled cooler loaded with bottles. Each flavour hung by its neck
within individual metal tracks running the length of the cooler. It was a
simple process, you picked the drink you wanted and moved it to the end of
the track and rested it within a closed pair of metal jaws. After humming
and hawing about your decision for a moment or two you’d deposit your dime
while grasping the top of your bottle. As the dime dropped you yanked up
and the jaws released a cold bottle of pop that dripped water all over the
floor. Your drink’s cap was easily removed by placing the top of the
bottle in the conveniently placed opener recessed within the side of the
cooler. A flick of the wrist was all it took. I always ended up with Snow
White Cream Soda.
Mr. Murphy always wore a white short sleeved shirt and a tie. He’d been in
the navy so had an anchor tattooed on his forearm. Tattoos were not as
common back then so this was a big deal to kids. He was a kindhearted guy
but would brook no nonsense. We weren’t allowed to drink our pops inside
so we’d step out onto the pavement between the street and the store and
chug it down. You would never walk home with the bottle because there was
an immediate two cent refund when you brought the empty back. Today
pennies are just a distant memory but two cents had real value in 1965.
Mr. Murphy had endless rows of penny candies and unbelievably an
assortment of sweets at even more remarkable prices.
Bazooka Joe Bubble gum wrapped around a comic could be had for a penny and
edible wax tubes filled with sugar water cost the same. You could fill
your mouth with tootsie rolls or licorice babies at two for a penny. My
favourites were the little jawbreakers that turned your mouth black, a
spectacular value at three for a penny. Most candies were unwrapped and
kids would stick their grubby mitts into the small bins and grab what they
wanted before dropping them in little paper bags. You always hoped the
blue haired cash register lady didn’t notice you’d accidentally dropped an
extra candy in your bag.
Many’s the day I wandered home enjoying seven little jawbreakers.