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    Pharmacy in Blue Ridge: Two generations of small-town pharmacy

    There are as many paths to rewarding pharmacy practice as there are pharmacists. Bill Tarr’s career has spanned community pharmacy, the military, and academe [“Flying into pharmacy”]. Pete Kreckel’s family can count retail, clinic management, university teaching, and third-party MTM ["All in the family”]. Fred Schenker practiced in the big city, but with a hometown touch [“Pharmacy: The family profession”]. Now Bill Prather remembers an old-fashioned pharmacy in a tight-knit small town.

    My dad, NL Prather, RPh, is 95 years old, but he remembers very clearly the day that his widowed mother told him, “NL, I have made arrangements for you to attend Southern School of Pharmacy in Atlanta.”

    My grandmother’s decision was based on her respect for and friendship with Dr. Whitfield at the Tate Drug Store in Tate, Ga. Unlike some of today’s young people, Dad was not going to argue with his mother, so he went to Atlanta and became a pharmacist. 

    Upon graduation in 1941, he entered the U.S. Army, was attached to the 96th evacuation Hospital as a pharmacist, and served in Europe from D-day until VE Day.

    The move to Blue Ridge

    Dad had a job opportunity in Tate, but he decided to come to Blue Ridge, Ga., to begin his pharmacy career, hoping one day to own his own pharmacy. In fact, that’s how things worked out. Dad went to work for Blue Ridge Pharmacy in December of 1945 and very quickly was offered the chance to purchase the pharmacy.

    Because of his Army service, Dad had never actually operated a pharmacy, so he called a classmate, W.A. Walden Sr., who had graduated in 1938 and operated a pharmacy before going into the Navy and serving as a pharmacist’s mate in the South Pacific.

    Dad and Bill purchased Blue Ridge Pharmacy on a handshake and the promise to send the previous owner some money when they “got ahead.”

    What ensued was a partnership that spanned from 1945 until 2010. 

    Two dads, two sons, 65 years

    Mr. Walden had a son, Bill Jr., and Dad had a son — me, Bill Prather. Bill and I both attended Southern School of Pharmacy in Atlanta (now Mercer University School of Pharmacy), just as our fathers had done, graduating in 1969 and 1970. We both came back home to Blue Ridge and went into business with our dads. It was truly a family affair, featuring NL and the three Bills.

    Blue Ridge Pharmacy was what today would be called an “old-fashioned community pharmacy.” We had a soda fountain and a full-line front end, stocking everything from Epsom Salts to Save the Baby*, Lydia E. Pinkham**, and Hadacol***.

    The store was open from 8 a.m. till 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. till 10 p.m. on Sunday. Those hours changed through the years, becoming 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. We operated under the credos “You can’t sell it if you don’t have it” and “You can’t sell it if you’re not open.” 

    Bill Prather, RPh
    Bill Prather is a member of the Georgia Board of Pharmacy. E-mail him at [email protected]

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