By RUTH MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News
Feb. 14 is the day set aside to celebrate love and friendship. Many traditions have been passed down through the years of how friends, families and couples celebrate this special day we call Valentine’s Day. Interlocking hearts, also known as the truelove knot, represent two hearts joined as one. Sometimes the truelove knot is joined with a capital “A.” The “A” stands for the Latin phrase “amor vincit omnia,” meaning “Love conquers all” and a good thought to remember.
A valentine advertisement from Hartness and Redus Drug Store read: “The last word in Valentines, cards, candies in beautiful shaped hearts is Pangburn’s and Nunnally’s. Order now before it all has been exhausted. We carry Valentines for any member of the family. Every gift a ‘Heart Winner.’ See our many selections for this Valentine’s Day. Hartness and Redus is Starkville’s most modern drug and jewelry store.” This drug store had one of the largest candy sales in the United States.
James Hartness and Hulon Redus were partners in the Hartness and Redus Drug Store. Both men lived on College Drive down the street less than a mile from the store. Redus was the pharmacist and was also the postmaster at the post office (now Reed’s) which was built in 1935. His little daughter, Evelyn, laid the cornerstone. The Hartness house was built as a “model home” with over 1,000 visitors touring the home during open house. The lawn was designed and planted by the college greenhouse employees. The purpose of the open house was to encourage the building of homes. An article appearing in The Commercial Appeal told of the Redus home. Mr. Redus built a concrete wading pool for his daughter in the back yard when there was a polio outbreak in Starkville because the swimming pool was closed. Later, he designed a fountain for the pool which was made with a car headlight rim, tin cans, stovepipe and wire coat hangers, and the top was a hose spray nozzle. Goldfish were added, which grew to be a foot long. The home was moved to the Bouchillon Estates when the property was purchased for apartment complexes.
A window and sales contest in which Hartness and Redus was the winner was published in The Starkville News in 1928. It read: “The progressive local drug firm of Hartness and Redus was entered in a window and sales contest featuring ‘La Creole’ toiletries. A carefully dressed window attracted much attention. An effective advertisement carried exclusively in the Starkville News added much to the event. Mr. Redus dressed the window, had a picture taken of it, attached a copy of the convincing advertisement carried in the news, all of which coupled up with a sales record in the store captured first prize, competing against 309 dealers in Mississippi who entered the contest and 2,710 who entered the contest in the United States. Pasted in the window of Messrs. Hartness and Redus store can be seen a check for $75 which was the first prize. The check is sent out with a very complimentary letter from Van Vleet Mansfield Drug Co., owners of the ‘La Creole’ laboratories. We congratulate this firm on capturing the first prize and giving to Starkville much favorable publicity throughout the entire country. When asked how he found business Mr. Redus says, ‘By going after it!’”
In 1951 Ernest Coleman Taylor moved to Starkville where he became the pharmacist of Hartness and Redus where he worked for 41 years. He was a native of Henderson, Tenn. and attended East Mississippi Junior College in 1938 and Bowling Green Business University. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served for three years. He was a pharmacist mate 1st class with the 3rd Battalion, 19th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. He received the Asiatic-Pacific Area Medal with two stars and the World War II Victory Medal. He attended the University of Mississippi and received his pharmacy degree. He purchased Hartness and Redus in 1953 but did not change the name of the drug store. He also worked at Weir’s and Starkville Discount Drugs. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, the Mississippi Pharmaceutical Association, the American Legion and the Order of the Eastern Star. He was a Mason and a Shriner.
His wife, Cattie Taylor, long-time librarian in the Starkville Public School System and daughter, Dixie McMillan, still reside in Starkville. At Christmas, Mrs. Taylor said, “I enjoy displaying a small Santa Claus which showcased diamond rings in the show window of the store.” Some ladies in town remember that their diamond wedding ring was purchased at Hartness and Redus Drug Store. Mrs. Taylor also reminisced about the manner in which her husband treated his employees and clients. She said, “He gave an employee a hundred dollar bill and told her to go down to Montgomery’s and find something for his daughter for Christmas. When the employee returned, she had purchased a nice bracelet. She handed it to her boss and said, ‘I am not sure you wanted me to spend all the money, but I did,’ and handed the bracelet to him. He handed it back to her and said, ‘This is your Christmas present.’ Another time, a client came in to get a prescription filled and did not have the money to pay, and Coleman just gave it to her and never wrote it down or charged her for the prescription.” Mrs. Taylor said, “Every semester I would carefully write the name of each college student on a form letter and mail. This was our personal letter of commitment to each of them. I still have some of the form letters.”
“Drug stores” have just about vanished, but those in Starkville years ago remember that the town basically operated around three drug stores which carried everything from diamonds to school supplies. Puller’s, Weir’s and Hartness drug stores were known by everyone in the household including children because they went there to get their school supplies or stopped in to get a soda when they were in town.
Ask a friend where they get their prescriptions filled and most likely the response will be Walmart, Walgreen’s, CVS, Starkville Discount, Fred’s, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly or Super Save on Drugs. The old-time drug store has faded but their memories remain in the minds of those who frequented them.
Do you remember the old-time drug stores before the explosion of prescription medications which can do everything from keeping your legs from shaking to putting hair on your head? These were the days when the druggist had a small arsenal of drugs on his shelf behind the counter. The pharmacist didn’t operate in a world where the medications the doctor prescribed may be dictated more by the incentives offered by the drug company representatives than your true needs. You were the person who mattered most.
The late 1980s brought the advent of the chains, which were the signal for the demise of the drug stores, but older folks remember them. These were the days before you had drug coverage as part of your benefits and when most folks paid cash. The big chains brought down the small-town drug stores.
Well, the old stores may be gone, but there are still good things found in the big stores today. With all the medications today, there are many issues about getting them or questions about how and when to take them. This necessitates printouts with detailed information. What was simple has become complex. Times have changed.
Puller’s Drug Store advertised “drugs, schoolbooks, candy, soda water, paints, oils and window glass,” and J. S. Puller was the druggist.
R. K. & F. L. Weir, “The Old Reliable Drug Store,” advertised “field and garden seeds, house paints, Kodaks, Fountain Pen, Schnook Books, School Supplies, Window Glass, Prescriptions a Specialty—Prompt Delivery. Phone 37.” In later years, Weir Drug store purchased Hartness and Redus, and one section of the store was a specialty card shop which carried the finest greeting cards. This was before the days of our Hallmark Shop.
Hartness and Redus, “A Live Drug Store,” advertised prescriptions “delivered day or night, just phone 295, we deliver to your home free.” At Christmas they advertised “Santa Claus Specials. Jewelry –Watches-Diamonds. Keepsake diamonds, Elgin and Bulova watches, sterling silver, birthstone rings, and radios (Emerson and Motorola), 1,000 pairs Dupont Nylon Hose (no limit). See our show windows, Hall Mark Christmas Cards and Sheaffer Fountain Pens.”
Sena Harris remembers that her father - “Daddy Raymond” as she and her siblings called him - Raymond Akins, was the deliveryman for Hartness and Redus. He knew every street in town and always wore a starched white shirt because her mother took in washing and ironing so she was set up to keep his shirts cleaned and pressed. Akins started to work at the drug store as a young boy and worked there for more than 30 years. At times, he would be late coming home at night which meant they ate supper late because her mother would not serve the meal until all were seated at the family table.
Billy Petty of Petty’s Carry Out remembers going to Hartness and Redus for an emergency. As a young boy on the farm, he accidentally swallowed some gas while siphoning it. He said, “The pharmacist, Coleman Taylor, gave me something to drink immediately.” Petty credited this to saving his life that day.