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Part 2: Memories of Grays Drugs

From 1961-1975 Mr. Jimmy Maupin wrote his life timeline on the wall going up the stairs to the second floor. The stairs are gone but the timeline remains for the public to take a walk back in history. Notice the 7-20-69 entry
"Man on the Moon".
Photo by Carole Robinson

Chandeliers wait on gears left from the old elevator until its time to be
hung over a table or booth in the GRAYS on Main restaurant.

Photo by Carole Robinson

The sign for Gray's Drug has been a fixture of Downtown Franklin
for many years.

As Joni and Michael Cole prepare to open the former Gray's Drug Store as a restaurant called GRAYS on Main, they are also jogging memories and “recycling history” from people who worked at Gray’s and people who frequented the store during its 100-year history. Stories once buried are working their way back to the surface as the store-turned-restaurant comes back to life.

“Today it is all about recycling the history of this building but we’ve been blessed to recycle stories and the history,” Michael Cole said. “I love the architecture part, but I know I’ve been tugged at the heart strings with the stories we have heard from families spanning half a century.”

In the 1950s and 1960s Franklin’s population was 3,000 to 5,000 people. It was a different type of town – the town residents and planners are trying to recreate that time through preservation practices.

Mary Beth Duke and David Garrett were practically raised in Gray’s Drug Store. Mary Beth’s father, Ralph Duke (1956-1998) William Miller (1939-1990) and David’s father, William Garrett (1961-1998) were partners and pharmacists.
“Everybody in town came to Gray’s,” Mary Beth said. “It was truly an icon in Franklin. Every memory is just precious.”
Gray’s was very much a family store, David said.

“Most of the customers were really family – a lot of them were related to our employees,” he said. “When someone left the store, [the employees] would do their family tree.”

As a little girl, Mary Beth’s mother often dropped her off and the ladies babysat. When she was old enough to walk to the store (she lived on Fair Street) Mary Beth spent the day “hanging out” and “helping.”

“I learned to wrap packages and make bows,” she said. “Those precious Southern ladies – Jenny Gant had the biggest smile as she would say ‘Hello darlin.’”

In small town Franklin the pharmacists knew everyone’s medical and family history. Prescriptions were stamped with a number, bundled every evening and placed into a cigar box – many on display at GRAYS on Main. When the second store opened in the late 1950s next to the Williamson County Hospital when it was on West Main Street – now the County Administrative Complex – and a prescription needed refilling, the pharmacist just called the Main Street store, David explained.

Gray’s opened early, closed late and was the only store providing charge accounts – at no interest until the 1990s – and a delivery service.

For 32 years Joe Pope delivered prescriptions and dry goods to Franklin residents.
“It was fun for me to have a job like that,” he said. “I met a lot of interesting people, saw a lot of interesting places in town. They were nice people to work for – I was surrounded by people who were so nice to be around.”
As the city expanded, so did Joe’s route taking him as far as Carothers Road, Cottonwood and new subdivisions like Sullivan Farms.

“Several people I delivered to liked to talk,” he said recalling a Fifth Avenue resident who always kept him about an hour. Another lady in Cottonwood said she knew the Kennedys, he said.

“She predicted in the ‘60s three people with the initial of K would be killed. Sure enough, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were killed. I spent a lot of time with her because she was interesting.”
From 1961 to 1975 Jimmy Maupin clerked at Gray’s. When his son Billy turned 16, like many Franklin teens, he took a part time job there.

“I remember the old soda fountain,” Billy Maupin said. “Cherry Coke was my favorite drink – much better than today, it was made with thick, cherry, sugary stuff, then the glass was filled with fountain coke.”

In cooler weather Gray’s had the best hot chocolate, he added.

Gray’s was always an exciting place for kids, Billy said recalling the Mr. Peanut machine with trays of hot nuts.
“We used to sneak in and pick out the cashews,” he said. “Going back to school was a big deal – Gray’s carried all the notebooks we needed. It was a general purpose store.”

Business didn’t end when the lights went out. Billy recalled many late night phone calls for prescriptions.
Dad went to the store, filled the prescription and delivered it, Billy said.

Jimmy Maupin kept track of his personal life in a timeline on the wall going upstairs to the second floor. In GRAYS on Main, the stairway has been removed, but the Maupin family history – and some national history – remained.

“When I watch Mayberry, I feel like growing up in Franklin in the ‘50s was like being in Mayberry,” Billy said. “There are so many special memories on those two blocks of Main Street.”

As teenagers, David and his friend, Scott Sawyer, worked at the store.

“Mr. Duke liked everything clean,” he said. “We had to dust every one of the shelves, then take down all the medicine bottles, dust them and put them back exactly. When we finished all that, he would send Scott and me to dust the second and third floor – that was storage. Mostly medical stuff so we invariably played with the crutches and wheel chairs.”

The front sidewalk was also swept each day. David recalled one morning, while sweeping he saw shoes sticking out from under a car.

“I told Mr. Duke, he called the police. It was Spareadime, the town drunk. Apparently he laid down and rolled under the car and nobody saw him.”

The second floor [Mr. Moran’s bedroom, which is now a stage] also had another use. If Santa Claus finished making toys for area boys and girls, he would store them at Gray’s for his Christmas Eve delivery.

“We’d sneak up to see the toys [Santa] got done with early,” Mary Beth said. “How is it we grew up on a movie set?”
As an adult, Mary Beth was a clerk at the store. She recalled ladies would call her when they needed a birthday card.
“Some of the ‘old ladies’ would call and ask me to pick out cards, sign them and deliver them,” she said.
The layout of Gray’s was much like the layout of other drug stores.

“William Miller was my uncle – my father’s brother – and I visited the drug store often as a youth and as an adult,” wrote Henry Miller in an email. “Every time I see [the movie] ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ I’m still struck by how much that Bedford Falls drugstore reminds me of Gray’s when it still had the soda fountain. Like in the movie, the soda fountain was on the right as you walk in and the pharmacy was in the back.” 

When Mr. Miller lost his eyesight, he would still visit the store and sit with his store family, David said.
“All through the history of the store, all the owners always helped people out if they needed something – that was before government benefits,” David said. “They also supported the community buying ads in annuals, sponsoring teams and being a part of community organizations, like my father, who was in the Lions Club.”

See GRAYS PART 1 for the first installment of the story.

Posted on: 7/24/2013


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