The McCarthys, continued


This is a continuation from last week’s story about Bill and Ruth McCarthy and the downtown drugstore they were part of for so many years. They began working there in the late 1940s while still in high school and were paid 40 cents an hour, which was a good wage then. They saw the drugstore move twice and finally settle in the current location of the paint store on S. Main St. Downtown was vibrant in the 1940s and there were even two movie theaters which were busy on Saturday nights when everyone came to town.
Our story continues: In 1949, coffee was five cents and when the drugstore closed in 1998 it was still five cents. Several news stories were done by area TV stations and the story even made the national news, telling about the five-cent coffee. Occasionally, someone would buy all the coffee for the day, at about $20, in celebration of a birthday. The McCarthys would bring in the senior citizen band with five or six players, who could play for three hours without any benefit of sheet music. They knew any song requested.
Bill and Ruth married, and in 1953 Bill graduated from pharmacy school and came back to work at the drugstore. They eventually had four children, Will, Tom, Susan McCarthy Chongson and Mary McCarthy Sampsel.
In the early 1950s, the drugstore was known as Wolgamot and Orahood. In 1958, Bill “Doc” Wolgamot, (who had been Bill McCarthy’s mentor) was 80 years old and decided to retire. He sold his share to Bill McCarthy and the drugstore became known as Orahood and McCarthy. Bob Orahood was the other partner, and when he died, Bill McCarthy finally became the sole owner and it was called McCarthys Drug Store. Ruth continued to work part-time with him. So, they met there in 1948 and worked for 50 years together until they sold the store in 1998.
The five-cent coffee drew a regular crowd into the drugstore. Lucille Elk, a long-time Marysville resident now deceased, had a special seat at the end of the counter. If someone came along and mistakenly sat there, they were usually politely asked to move. After all, it was her seat.
Then there was the day that Elwood Sawyer challenged Todd Hoopes to push-ups. It seems they were having a lighthearted discussion about something and Elwood decided the best way to settle it was to do push-ups. His challenge resulted in his defeat. He didn’t know that Todd regularly did push-ups every morning and so, while Elwood did five of them (after all he was a World War I veteran) Todd did many more.
The best story about those who hung out at the fountain counter and booths would be that of Halloween. Two ladies, who everyone knew, came to the drugstore dressed as hookers that morning. Someone called the police department and thought it would be fun to turn them in. Then Police Chief Larry Bunsold showed up with handcuffs and actually arrested them. The women weren’t sure if this was a joke or not and became quite distressed. They were hauled off to the jail, but only for a very short time. Guess they just looked too authentic!
During the McCarthys ownership, the drugstore was robbed three times, always for drugs. One time the store was closed, but two other times the pharmacists were threatened with a weapon and gave the robber what he wanted. One was captured at a fast food restaurant on the edge of town by Marysville Police.
Bill said his prescription business was all cash. If there was insurance, the customers filed for reimbursement themselves. In the early days of the Wolgamot years, there might be only 20 prescriptions filled a day. Now, that number must be in the hundreds to meet costs, according to Bill. He also believes there is a glut of pharmacists and that has resulted in lower wages. Some can’t even find employment.
Bill and Ruth McCarthy had a good life in this long-time business. They may not miss the hard work, but sure do miss the people they saw everyday!
(Melanie Behrens –

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