BND Magazine

August 31, 2014

Retirement was tough pill to swallow for pharmacist

Adolph Auer retired twice.

The first time was in 1974 after he sold his south St. Louis pharmacy at Lemp and Arsenal.

"When I got rid of the store and came home, for about a month I didn't work," said Adolph, of Belleville, who turned 100 Wednesday. "I was out there cutting the grass and almost crying. I hated to leave at 60."

He went back to work at metro-east pharmacies, from Belleville's Save-Mart to a Marissa pharmacy, and didn't retire again until he was 90.

"I fell and broke my hip," he said.

On a recent weekday evening, Adolph, seated alongside his wife Emma, 93, told his story. His three children -- Ruth Auer Chady, JoAnn Auer and Chuck Auer, along with son-in-law Dave Chady and granddaughters Christina Chady, 21, and Sophia Auer, 5 --gathered around.

Young Adolph

The son of John and Lilly (Neuman) Auer, Adolph was born at home on Aug. 27, 1914. He attended Henry Raab Grade School, Central Junior High and graduated from Belleville Township High School in 1932.

"My dad ran a tobacco store with a shoeshine in it," said Adolph. "I used to shine shoes when I was 12. It was on the Square. I worked after school and in the summer. I was with my dad so I didn't mind."

His first drugstore stop was at Kysing's, three blocks east of the Square. He was 18.

"I scrubbed floors and made deliveries," he said. "I did a little bit of everything. I was just out of high school."

At the end of the day, he walked to his dad's tobacco store and they walked home together.

"I worked there seven years till I was 25. Then I finally went to college."

With a little encouragement from his sister and brother-in-law.

"Was I good at science? No," said soft-spoken Adolph. "I never liked to go to school too much."

But he's glad he did.

He met Emma, the love of his life, on the job at Central Drugs on Collinsville Avenue in East St. Louis. She was a pharmacist, too.

"There was a black guy who worked there," said Adolph. "He always kidded us. He used to say, 'She sure is a fine young lady.' I was a real poor boy. I didn't have much time for dating."

But he made time to take Emma to the show and dancing.

"He was a pretty good dancer," she said.

Auer's Pharmacy

Adolph bought his business, Auer's Pharmacy, three years later in 1946 when he was 32. The next year, Adolph and Emma danced their way into marriage. Fifty-one years ago, they bought a brick home in west Belleville, where they still live.

"When Dad started, you created medicines," said JoAnn, a pharmacist. "Doctors would call and tell you how to compound it. You couldn't sleep? Phenobarbital. The doctor would tell you what binder and filler to use."

Penicillin was the main antibiotic. For a child's dose, Adoph put the powder in cherry syrup.

After the 1960s, he retired his mortar and pestle.

"It changed from doing everything to having pills and capsules made up for you," Adolph said.

"One (of the mortars) is a dog dish downstairs," said Chuck, an emergency room physician with Memorial Hospital.

Adolph worked six, sometimes seven days a week.

"I opened at 9 o'clock," he said. "Being I was the only pharmacist, I sometimes wouldn't open on time. And, sometimes, I would close a little early."

"How many Pepsis would you drink in a day?" said granddaughter Christina.

"They used to come in a bottle, 16 ounces," said Adolph. "I would take a drink and set it down. Two or three, some days. I still drink Pepsi."

He also had a routine at home.

"Dad would do his exercises in the morning to (fitness expert) Jack LaLanne," said JoAnn. "He's always kind of been an exercise person. He used to put Ruth and me on his back and do pushups."

The kids liked visiting Dad's business.

"I had a soda fountain, the whole set-up," he said. "For years, I sold ice cream. It really was a corner drugstore."

"I thought everything there was free," said JoAnn. "I remember Debbie that lived down the block. We'd have sodas, candy, ice cream. I remember saying, 'Oh, just take it 'cause it's free.'

"When he told me, 'Well, you know it's really not free,' it was kind of a rude awakening. I could have been 10. I was old enough to know better."

They liked to help out, too.

"We would weigh it out on a scale, combine it and put it on wax paper and punch the capsule," said Ruth, a financial planner. "It was fun."

Chuck, seveal years younger than his sisters, had fun with paper bags and baby powder.

"I would go sliding around there," he said.

A newspaper story from 1972 described Adolph's store as "neat, well stocked and exceptionally clean." It talked about the ceiling fan, the giant display case for penny candy and Adolph.

He was a "bespectacled, mild-mannered slight fellow, whose soft,soothing voice is barely audible when he speaks, but is the kind of man interested in everybody who frequents his store."

"I never had any troubles much," said Adolph. "I finally folded it up (in 1974) because the neighborhood went to seed."

JoAnn was a college freshman.

"I was going to be a pharmacist," she said. "I thought, 'Gee, where will I go to work?' Mom and pop stores were kind of waning."

Fond memories

Adolph often had cartoons or sayings pinned on the pharmacy wall. One they remembered: A rich man is not he who has the most, but he who wants the least.

"'Money doesn't grow on trees' and 'A penny saved is a penny earned,''' said Ruth.

With those pennies earned, he sent his children to college. The family visited world's fairs and attended the Olympics in Atlanta and Salt Lake City. Adolph likes boxing. They went on cruises to Alaska and Hawaii, and last year everyone headed to Disney World.

He reads the newspaper daily and attends church (Queen of Peace) weekly. Besides travel, Adolph still likes Pepsi, baseball and exercise.

"I lift weights and I use a walker," he said as Chuck went into the next room to get a hand weight. "Twenty-five times 25 a day. That's almost 500 a day."

Adolph watches just about every Cardinals game. He celebrated his 99th birthday in a Busch Stadium party suite. Friends came and shared stories.

"One told us about a child that had a fever," said JoAnn. "The doctor called in a script, but the mother couldn't leave her child. Dad closed the store, drove it to her and came back."

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