family drug stores with soda fountains are among our vanishing East
But 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 San
And 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.
Brothers 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 l920s.
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 1990.
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
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 San
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
Things Historical April 27, 2004 column
Published with permission
A syndicated 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.
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories,
landmarks and vintage/historic photos, please contact