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George Jay Drug Company’s 125th anniversary


A Special Supplement to The Valley News Copyright September 2013

2 September 2013

George Jay Drug Anniversary

The Valley News

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George Jay Drug Anniversary Jay Drug has been serving the community for more than a century

The Valley News

September 2013 3

By KRISTAN GRAY Staff Writer

For 125 years, residents of Shenandoah have been faithful customers of George Jay Drug on Sheridan Avenue. The year was 1881. George Jay Sr. received a license to practice pharmacy and by 1888, he established George Jay Drug Co. at 612 W. Sheridan where it remains a vital part of downtown Shenandoah commerce. In 1909, George’s son, George S. Jay, Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps by acquiring his own license to practice pharmacy. Before joining his father at the store, he had worked as vice-president of ER Squibb & Sons Pharmaceutical Co. and was a national sales manager for Proplylactic Tooth Brush Co. In the same year, Seth A. Bergren, also received his license to practice pharmacy and became another longtime pharmacist at Jay’s. Three years later, in 1912, Carl Burnside was handed a pharmaceutical license, and worked as a pharmacist at George Jay Drug

Co for more than 50 years. It is said that, “Carl Burnside never met, nor was himself, a stranger to anyone he met.” The famous soda fountain was remodeled in 1938, and Francis “Red” Braley also began a 50-year association with the drug store the same year. A lifelong resident of Shenandoah, Red earned a degree in pharmacy from the University of Iowa in 1943. During World War II, Braley served as the head pharmacist with the 62nd General Hospital near Paris, France. It was during the war that customers would wait in a long line outside Shenandoah’s downtown drugstore to receive cigarette rations. Cigars and cigarettes were common products in drugstores in the earlier years, but Jay’s no longer sells tobacco products. The most significant event in 1943 though, was when penicillin was introduced to the Midwest. Through the efforts of George S. Jay and Dr. Robert Powell of Farragut, a sufficient quantity of the ground-breaking medicine was obtained from a Boston hospital to treat Mrs. Delbert Rupp of rural

Congratulations! to a long time Shenandoah business Help Them Celebrate 125 Years!

Clarinda. Rupp was treated at Shenandoah’s Hand hospital for streptococcic empyema. In 1964, Gary Laughlin joined the Jay’s family of pharmacists. Laughlin had grown up in the Imogene area, graduated from Shenandoah High School and went on to earn his degree from Creighton University. But Jay Drug was not new territory for Laughlin; several years earlier he had worked behind the Jay’s soda fountain and developed quite a fondness for the fountain, as well as the pharmacy. In 1973, Jay’s began serving Garden View Care Center and Elm Heights Care Center by providing a unit dose service for delivery of medication. Also in ’73, Jay’s Clinic Pharmacy opened at the Shenandoah Medical Clinic. Floyd McDonald operated it from 1973 until 1980. For following three years, until the operation was closed, Jacque Lashier managed the clinic pharmacy. It was 1978 when George Jay Drug Co. purchased the adjoining City National Bank building, and remodeled it as Jay’s Hallmark Shoppe, a card and gift shop. Jay Drug received an honor for its onemillionth prescription filled since 1946. The pharmaceutical company, Parke-Davis, presented Jays with a large framed painting of Avicenna, the Persian Galen. The presentation was made to store manager Gary Laughlin by Jim Burch, district manager of Parke-Davis, and Mary Real, professional sales representative. After 20 years of employment at Jays, Gary Laughlin purchased George Jay Drug Co., in 1984, from the George Jay Trust. The iconic drug store has had only four owners in all of those years. The wives of two of those owners are Mem Laughlin and

Jean Braley, this year’s ShenFest Grand Marshals. “Gary really loved the fountain so much that he created the National Association of Soda Jerks,” Mem said. “He and Billie McNeilly, who was a KMA Homemaker, and Betty Davis started it together. They went to conventions all over the U.S.” Mem said that in 1984 when RAGBRAI came through, the store was opened on Sunday for the special occasion. “We sold ice cream floats,” Mem said. “I went to Hy-Vee and bought all the vanilla ice-cream that I could. The clerk at the store asked, ‘What are you going to do with all this ice-cream?’ I said, ‘We just like icecream!’ When I got to the store, Gary had them all lined up at the back door to take it inside.” 1986 saw tremendous changes when the first computer system was installed to manage the pharmacy and patient records. Another notable event in 1986 was when the famous brother band, Don and Phil Everly, visited the soda fountain. The Shenandoah natives were honored with a homecoming parade and celebration downtown and performed in concert at the Depot Deli down the street. “People still come back to Shenandoah to go to Jay’s for a malt or fountain drink,” said Jean Braley, wife of pharmacist Red Braley. “When the Everly Brothers came back to visit, they went to Jay’s and asked for a Green River and Gary knew what it was and served them. They could hardly believe he knew what it was, yet alone how to make it.” (A Green River is a lime soda with a hint see JAY DRUG, Page 8A

Congratulations Jay Drug on 125 Years!

116 South Blossom Street 3HENANDOAHs Drive-Through: M-F: 7:30am-5:30pm, Sat: 7:30am-12pm Lobby: M-F: 8am-4pm, Sat: 8am-12pm 24 hour phone banking: 888-559-9274


1106 W. Sheridan Ave., Shenandoah, IA - 712-246-5100

4 September 2013

George Jay Drug Anniversary

The Valley News

DEDICATED... This above photo is of George Jay writing at his desk in 1920. REMARKABLE... To the left, in the 1940’s during World War II, customers would line up outside the drugstore for cigarette rationing. Although cigars and cigarettes were common products in drugstores decades ago, tobacco products are no longer sold. Also at the far left of the picture is the Hallmark portion of the business, which at that time was a bank.

Thank you to George Jay Drug for 125 years of service to our community.

We look forward to another 125 years. Jay Drug and SMC delivering “Care you can count on” www. smchospital.



Thank you George Jay Drug for your partnership in serving the region for 125 years.

The Valley News

George Jay Drug Anniversary

September 2013 5

HISTORIC... This above photo of Jay Drug Company was taken in the 1890s. Notice the gas lights. In 1881, George Jay, Sr., received his license to be a pharmacist. In 1888, he opened George Jay Drug Company.

IMPRESSIVE... This above photo is that of a Jay Drug window display. The displays were used to advertise the latest merchandise as well as used to promote or inform the public of a special message. The display above was known as the “Old Settlers Window”.

What do you like best about George Jay Drug?

• Meeting friends for coffee Barbara Cunningham, Shenandoah

• I love that we know personally everyone that works there and that we

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George Jay Drug Anniversary

DEPENDABLE...A photo of the soda fountain after it was remodeled in the late 1930s. If you look closely, it hasn’t changed too much over the years.


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LEGACY...In 2009, Annie and Chad VanHouten purchased George Jay Drug from Mems Laughlin, left.

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The Valley News


6 September 2013

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The Valley News

George Jay Drug Anniversary

September 2013 7

What do you like best about George Jay Drug? The history and nostalgia along with the top notch service. Brian Daoust, Shenandoah Chocolate Milk Shakes, at the old fashion soda fountain! Bill Greenleaf, Shenandoah

GROWING...In the summer of 2012, owners Annie and Chad VanHouten added frozen yogurt to the soda fountain. Pictured are a group of kids enjoying a free sample the first day it was offered. Sadly, co-owner Chad Van Houten, pictured to the left, passed away in July.

They have wonderfully helpful and friendly staff. They are great examples for the best customer service! Jan Frank-de Ois, Essex My favorite thing about Jay Drug is the friendly and helpful people! Dick Hunt, Shenandoah

CHANGES...Viola Barton, right, assists customers at the Kodak counter in the late 1970s. Left, Gary Laughlin joined Jays full-time as a pharmacist and would later own the business.

N O S TA L G I A . . . F r a n cis “Red” Braley, right, worked as a pharmacist at Jay Drug for 50 years. To the left, Carl Burnside, who was a pharmacist for more than 50 years and was employed most of his professional life by George Jay Drug Co.


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MEMORIES... In 1992, the National Association of Soda Jerks met at Jay Drug. Owner Gary Laughlin, and charter member of the National Association of Soda Jerks, gave a short talk with respect to the history of Jay’s and the Soda Fountain. And of course, all members enjoyed their choice of treats at the soda fountain, served members in traditional soda jerk attire.

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617 West Sheridan Ave • Shenandoah, Iowa 712-246-3097

8 September 2013


Continued from page 1

George Jay Drug Anniversary Braley, Laughlin selected Shenfest Grand Marshals

of lemon in Coke.) In 1992 The National Association of Soda Jerks met at Jay Drug. Gary Laughlin gave a short talk with respect to the history of Jay’s and the Soda Fountain. And of course, all members enjoyed their choice of treats at the soda fountain. “The most fun we ever had at Jay’s was when the National Soda Jerks came to town,” said Mem Laughlin. “One of the stipulations Gary made when he later sold the store in 2009 was that the buyers, Annie and Chad Van Houten, keep the fountain.” A barber quartet provided live entertainment. “Jay’s,” Jean said, “always had employees with longevity.” Viola Barton, a current employee of 35 years, was one of the first to know of Laughlin’s 1978 building expansion plan. “Gary called me when he was going to knock out the wall to City National Bank to put in the Hallmark store and said, ‘I want to talk to you,’ and I said, ‘My son Chris is graduating and I’ll have to call you next week,” Barton said. “We talked a while and he said, ‘You’re going to have to tell me right now, because nobody else knows I’m buying it.’ He asked me to work full time and sent me to Kansas City for training.” At the time, Barton was working at May’s Seed and Nursery in the accounting department. “Gary told me I could work Monday through Friday, but I told him it wouldn’t have been fair to not work Saturdays, so I did. And, I worked Thursday nights until 8 p.m.,” she said. “His wife Mem is a great person; we go out to eat whenever we can. Gary was a great guy to work for because he was friendly; he just loved people.” Barton relayed that when she needed heart surgery, it wasn’t long until Gary also had heart surgery. “I became diabetic then he did too, and he said, ‘Viola, quit giving me everything.’ But then he had to get one leg amputated below the knee,” Barton recalled. “He was just an outstanding man. Anyone could call him at night if they needed some medicine and he’d go down to the store to go beyond his duty. He always said the customers come first.” On May 1 of 2009, the ownership of Jay Drug changed hands when Annie and the late Chad Van Houten purchased it. In January 1988, when Annie Van Houten was a teenager, she started working part-time in Jay’s pharmacy. She is a certified pharmacy tech who attended nursing school at Iowa Western. Jay Drug remains a cornerstone pharmacy filled with dedicated employees more than one hundred years later.

The Valley News

By KRISTAN GRAY Staff Writer

Two Shenandoah women have been chosen to share the title of ShenFest Parade Grand Marshal to honor the upcoming 125th anniversary of their former business. Jean Braley and Mem Laughlin befriended each other through their husbands, Francis “Red” Braley and Gary Laughlin who were co-owners of Shenandoah’s iconic George Jay Drug Store. Mem, as she is affectionately called by friends, was given the name Mary Ellen Minette at birth. “Everyone just always called me Mem because of my initials,” she said. Originally from Columbus, Neb., Mem graduated with a nursing degree in 1961 from St. Joseph Creighton Memorial in Omaha. While at Creighton, she met Gary, who was studying to become a pharmacist. They married in 1962, the same year Gary graduated. A 1964 job offer from George Jay Drug lured the pair to Shenandoah. The couple had two sons; Scott was born in 1963, and Joe in 1965. “I thought she had the cutest baby I’d ever seen,” Jean Braley said of Mem’s son Scott, adding, “…the baby was as bald as Gary. He looked exactly like him.” Jean chuckled as she said, “Mem was a surgical nurse for 40 years at the hospital in Shenandoah. She worked for the eye surgeon, and it was the worst pairing I’ve seen because he was so tall and Mem only came up to his waist.” Mem’s mother, an aunt and two sisters were also nurses; and following the same career path, her son, Scott, graduated with a biology degree from Northwest Missouri State University, then Clarkson’s School of Nursing. He now lives in Shenandoah and works as a nurse in Omaha. Another great feat of Scott’s is providing Mem with six grandchildren. Mem takes great joy in spending time with her family. Her son, Joe graduated from the University of Nebraska and is a computer programmer in Lincoln. One of Mem’s favorite hobbies is taking touring club trips with Joe. “We’re preparing for our third Neihart Tour; in October we’ll go to Kansas City to see actress Diane Cannon (in a

theatrical play.) We’ve been to Branson, Jamesport, and Springfield, Mo. to see an Amish Community and Abraham Lincoln’s history. We’ve also visited Mark Twain’s area in Hannibal, Mo.,” she said. “Joe and I took two weeks to drive to California last year; we saw the Grand Canyon and the Boulder Dam and Yosemite Park and went sightseeing in Utah.” Mem also loves photographic nature walks with Joe. “I’ve also driven as a support person for him on RAGBRAI. He’s been riding in RAGBRAI since he was a teenager,” Mem said, referring to the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Mem has served on the St. Mary’s Catholic Church Guild and was active as a member of the building planning committee for the newest church addition. Her hobbies also include attending her grandchildren’s sporting and dancing events, and doing yard work. Mem has also stayed busy over the years volunteering for the sorority service group Beta Sigma Phi. “I was also in the Child Study Club and helped with American Red Cross blood drives, and was an assistant Cub Scout master when my boys were small,” said Mem. “I never really did anything for the town when the boys were small, but I was kind of the steam behind Gary; I just always had the babies as an excuse,” she said. “When Gary was in high school in the 1950s, he worked as a soda jerk. When he became the owner, he taught all the help how to make proper malts.” Mem said Gary became Jay’s manager in 1970 then bought the store in 1984 when their boys were both in college. “He bought the store from Jay’s Trust, and was just the third owner in all those years. The Hallmark Store used to be City National Bank, but Gary bought that building in 1978,” Mem said. Gary passed away in 2007. Mem also speaks fondly of the family of employees that had longevity at Jay’s Drug. Ole Weircamp worked at Jay’s for 17 years and said, “Oh, Mem is a beautiful lady and Jean is such a lovely lady, too. I enjoyed working there very much. I loved my bosses, the people I worked

with and all the customers that came in.” Mem’s counterpart, Jean Braley, also volunteered much of her time to Shenandoah service organizations. “When I came to Shenandoah,” Jean said, “I was a new mark for any organization. A lady came in to the newspaper and said, ‘Jean, we’d like you to join the Old Settler’s group.’ I didn’t know if that was because she thought I was old, or what,” Jean chuckled. “I was with the junior chamber auxiliary; Ken Gee asked me to work in his office once. Red and I were both so busy with different organizations and things in town that there was once a period of 10 days where we weren’t home at the same time.” Jean was in a book club, volunteered for the Red Cross, P.E.O., the Presbyterian Church and had also served as a Bible school teacher at the Congregational church. “I was also president of the American Field Service, which is now simply known as AFS,” Jean said. She also remains an avid bird-watcher. Jean was raised in a small town near Waterloo, Neb. She too met her husband while attending college. After one year as a pre-law student at the University of Iowa, Jean decided speech and radio subjects were more up her alley, and changed her major. Braley said her husband “Red” loved his job as the co-owner and pharmacist of Jay’s Drug Store in Shenandoah. “I worked in banking and then for the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel newspaper as a proofreader.” Braley said. But she wasn’t a street reporter. “I didn’t go out to get the news – it came to me.” Annie (Campin) Van Houten who nominated Mem and Jean to be this year’s Grand Marshals, purchased Jay’s on May 1, 2009. Annie began working part-time in the pharmacy as a teenager in January 1988. “I’ve been there 25 years,” Van Houten said. “I knew Gary and Mem before I started working there, because I was friends with their son Scott, even though Joe was my age.” Van Houten is a certified pharmacy tech who attended nursing school at Iowa Western and is the wife of the late Coach Chad Van Houten. Jay Drug was first established in 1888, and remains a cornerstone full-service pharmacy in downtown Shenandoah

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