DRUG STORE CENTENNIALby
family drug stores with soda fountains are among our vanishing East Texas landmarks.|
you'll be pleased to know that at least one, the San Augustine Drug Store, will
in May celebrate a hundred years of doing business at the same location in downtown
one of the reasons it has endured is a fountain drink known by the sinister name
of "The Grapefruit Highball."
Pharmacist Alonzo Rushing
opened the drug store on East Columbia Street in 1904. Among Rushing's employees
was a young soda jerk named John Tower, who became the first Republican
to serve in the United States Senate. At the time, young Tower was the son of
Methodist minister Joe Z. Tower of San Augustine, a brother of Kate Rushing.
Ace and Alonzo Rushing operated the store until they sold it to Casey Jones,
who had also launched his pharmacy career working at the soda fountain in the
While mixing up soda drinks, Jones came up with the Grapefruit
Highball, a delightful mixture of ingredients that have remained secret to this
day. When Jones decided to retire, he sold the drug store to Therman Bridges.
Following in her father's footsteps, Debbie Bridges became a pharmacist,
married fellow pharmacist Mike Jackson, and they took over the store in
the drug store and its fountain have remained in the same location since l904,
today's store is much different. The original store, a landmark in San Augustine,
burned in July of 1988, but was rebuilt on the same ground.
The fire, unfortunately,
claimed several pieces of local history -- the pharmacy licenses of the Rushing
family and Casey Jones. The Bridges and Jackson licenses were salvaged.
Presumably, the recipe for the Grapefruit Highball -- which, by the way, is a
non-alcoholic drink -- survived, too. It has been made continuously since Casey
invented it in 1928.
Each first-time customer to the drug store gets a
free Highball, served straight from the soda fountain in a glass cowboy boot.
At a recent convention of the East Texas Historical Association, which was held
on East Columbia Street, hundreds of free Highballs were dished out.
soda fountain, which still produces many of the drinks drug stores were famous
for in the l940s and l950s, remains a gathering place for the town's coffee drinkers
and the best corner in town for catching up on San Augustine's latest gossip.
Ed Clark, the late ambassador to Australia, and Ben Ramsey, a former Texas lieutenant
governor, were among those who frequented the stores. Both maintained homes in
When office-seekers came to town to see Clark and Ramsey
-- two venerable titans of Texas politics -- they often shared cups of coffee
and, presumably, Grapefruit Highballs at the drug store's soda fountain.
May, Mike and Debbie Jackson and son Tyler, who also works in the store, will
throw open their doors to a centennial celebration. They plan to close a portion
of East Columbia Street, invite their customers to a barbecue, and do a lot of
remembering. And perhaps a few Grapefruit Highballs.
April 27, 2004
Published with permission
column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Distributed by the East Texas Historical
Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a former Association president and the author
of 30 books about East Texas.