Dr. Stanley Toompas Recalls Fun Times with His Family.
Our Uncle Bud (Mom's brother), and our Dad graduated from Pharmacy school in the early 1950's. They were best friends in high school, college and for their entire lives. After a two year stint in the military during the Korean War, Dad began practicing Pharmacy at Bland's Drug Store in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Uncle Bud, on the other hand, went to work for Eli Lilly Drug Company, and relocated to New Kensington, Pennsylvania. (The dreaded location of Stanley's Tonka Toy accident, see the story, "Twin Falls".) After a few years, Uncle Bud wanted to come back to his hometown area. So, he moved to a house in Clarksburg, and in partnership with Dad and Don Hutson, (we twins referred to him as "Uncle" Don because of the close knit relationship. The epitome of a "good man") they opened a new Drug Store in the Nutter Fort area called Town and Country Drug Store. They were business/professional partners the rest of their lives.
One unique quirk existed in this relationship. Our Dad lived about one mile from the Town and Country store, yet worked at Bland's. While Uncle Bud lived about one mile from Bland's, yet worked at Town and Country. On the surface, this seemed very odd, when they could have walked to "each other's" drug store! However, Dad had grown up near Bland's and had already established a clientele, while Uncle Bud had actually grown up near Town and Country and was familiar with a lot of local citizens. Both Drug Stores exist to this day, and are now in partnership with three others. This drug store evolution is interesting, but this story is about Bland's.
If you are reading this book, and happen to have been a child of a pharmacist, this may sound familiar. Mortals and pestles are manufactured in more sizes and shapes than you can imagine. Also, pills come in more sizes and shapes, and colors, than we thought possible. The $.08 pharmacy stamps were certainly a nice tribute to the profession, but what about the myriad of concurrent memorabilia? We would be remiss, if we wrote this story, yet failed to mention that our medicine cabinet at home was a mini- pharmacy all of its own! We had a tablet, cream, capsule, ointment, pill, liniment, extract, solution, balm, compound, lotion, tincture, elixir, serum, lozenge, powder, mixture, tonic, salve, emulsion, suspension, and/or spray to solve almost any problem. We had a thermometer that contained mercury, and we used square pink aspirin for fever! By the way, Dad "cured" every ailment with his medicated salve called Neo-Cortef. But, enough about the home pharmacy, now onto the REAL pharmacy.
Bland's Drug Store wasn't just the place Dad worked, it was a place for us to explore. In the early years, it had a fountain/snack bar, but we have few memories of it. In the back of the store was a "fish" room. This room was full of aquariums with an assortment of radiant colored fish of all sizes and shapes for sale. As you walked in the front of the store, there was positioned one of our favorite items, a large pale yellow "stand-on" scale. After depositing a penny in the slot adjacent to your birth month, it would inform you of your weight and fortune. We also enjoyed the toy section, especially the revolving style matchbox display case.
Three very long isles of merchandise, along with a storage room full of boxes, a distilling room, a pop machine, a candy counter, and a balance scale with weights, kept our interest for hours. However, the most fun thing about Bland's was not included inside the store. It was parked outside! The red, early 1960's model, Volkswagen Beetle. This was Bland's delivery vehicle. It was easily distinguished from all other "Bugs" in town, because of an oversize, internally lit sign in the shape of a mortal & pestle attached to its roof with the words BLAND'S DRUG STORE. Yes, on the roof, and this sign was BIG! It appeared to us to be bigger than the VW itself. It made the car appear very top heavy and unstable.
Many times Dad would let us ride along with the delivery boy and we really enjoyed this. One specific time was more memorable than most.
One very cold and snowy winter evening, Rodney, the delivery boy, took both of us with him on his last "run" of the night. We were wearing winter garb, but it was cold inside that car. VW bugs were well known for their rear engine design, and their insufficient heating system. We twins sat in the back huddled together, trying to keep our teeth from chattering, as Rodney drove the standard shift Beetle from stop to stop. After he had made his last announced delivery, we were actually looking forward to returning to the warm confines of Bland's. However, Rodney had other ideas. He turned into a large parking lot that was covered with ice and snow, slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop. Rodney turned to us and said, " Boys, we are now going to have a little fun, but you have to promise me that you won't tell your Dad". We twins turned toward one another, each with a very confused look on his face. Sure, we could keep a secret, but as Rodney started revving the Bug's engine, it occurred to us that no matter how tight-lipped we were, the oversize, internally lit, mortal & pestle perched on the roof with the letters: B L A N D ' S , might just "give us away"!
No matter, Rodney popped the clutch, the tires started spinning and we were off. He yelled for us to hang on and we did, to the available straps and to each other. (please remember, this was the 1960's, we did not have seat belts on) as we began to gain speed he abruptly turned the steering wheel, and we were doing "doughnuts". Left, a few circles, Right, a few circles, Repeat. Then he would accelerate, punch the gearshift into neutral and pull the emergency brake, sliding all over that frozen, snow-covered parking lot. Then a few more doughnuts. Due to the large sign on the roof, the car began to lean so much that we thought it would tip over! We twins, who were never the best with equilibrium, began to get dizzy. We assume that Rodney sensed this after we quit screaming and became very quiet. So he slid to a stop, took one look at us, and decided that it was time to head back to town. As we left, we could see a few other cars on the far end of the parking lot, and we knew that there was no way this "fun" just occurred in a clandestine fashion.
We were relieved to arrive back at the drug store alive and well, albeit, cold and nauseated. Rodney reminded us to keep this adventure a secret. When Dad saw us, he remarked that we looked pale, but Rodney interjected that we were just a little "car sick", from riding in the back seat for so long, and gave us a wink. We both sat down to collect ourselves, and waited for Dad to close the store so we could go home.
It was more than our Dad's Drug Store. It was like a second home in the 60's and early 70's. It is now 2011, and Stephen is one of four pharmacist/partners that own Bland's.
A half century ago, this iconic delivery car, owned by Bland's Drug Store, was routinely seen roving the streets of Clarksburg. This photo (circa September 1963), is of a classic, red VW Beetle, albeit, with Bland's Drug Store decals and the unique, extremely large, impossible to ignore, internally lit, mortar and pestle sign mounted on the roof! Juxtaposed to Robert's Hardware, Bland's Drug Store was located at 217 West Pike Street, in the Fordyce building, and served the prescription needs (with Free delivery) of the Clarksburg area for over 100 years, until its closing in 2011. In the photograph, the "drug" bug is parked in the lot across the street from Bland's. Adjacent to the car, you can see the supra-structure being erected for the Lowndes Bank building (currently Huntigton Banks). For those nostalgic and interested, you can read about the "bug's" adventures in a chapter called Blands featured in the book, "I'm the One the Other Isn't." This book, published by Headlines Books and released in 2011, was written by identical twins Stephen Toompas R.PH., and Stanley Toompas, O.D. Their father, Edward Toompas, R.Ph., co-owned Bland's Drug Store form 1952 until his death in 1994. The Book is availble at Town and Country Drug store in Stonewood.
"GROWING UP IN CLARKSBURG" is a special series of stories from former Clarksburg residents recalling fond memories of growing up in the Clarksburg area. These stories are "in their own words" and written entirely by the author. No editing is done by Connect-CLarksburg®. Please excuse any misspellings or grammatical errors and enjoy the stories.
The Toompas Brothers, health care professionals in North-Central West Virginia, have written two books.The identical twin's first book, released in October 2011, is a collection of 31 short stories appropriately entitled, “I’m the One the Other Isn’t”, The Stevie-Stanley Stories. These unique childhood tales from the 1960’s and 1970’s, were adapted into bedtime stories for their children. The twins decided that they should share their memories and their collaborative efforts resulted in a compilation of short stories that the reader will find humorous and engaging.
The adventures begin at their birth on April Fool’s Day in 1958 in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Their atypical childhood includes being raised in a metal house where they constantly shock one another, and continually running away from storms with their Mom.
Identically skinny and small, you will empathize and embrace the twins as you proceed from one story to the next. The text will rekindle your own childhood memories of shopping “in town”, visualizing childhood toys you may have forgotten, and riding a stingray bike with the neighborhood kids. If not, the book will certainly put a smile on your face and maybe even make you wish you were an identical twin yourself.
The sequel was released on October 2012 and is titled, "I'm the One the Other Isn't, Book Two."
It contains 23 stories that the twins did "not" tell their children! Stories include Nutter Fort Grade School, Gin's Pick-Up, The Burgar Chef, Roosevelt-Wilson High School, as well as many identtiy confusion issues typical for identical twins.
The authors, Stanley and Stephen Toompas were raised in the Nixon Plaza area of Clarksburg adjacent to Nutter Fort. Their Dad, Edward, was a co-owner and Pharmacist at Bland’s Drug store in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Their Mom, Evelyn, was a full-time housewife. They attended Nutter Fort Elementary School and graduated as co-salutatorians in 1976 at Roosevelt-Wilson High School; where Stephen was vice-President of his senior class, and Stanley served as Student Body President.
Both twins did their undergraduate studies at West Virginia University. For their professional degrees, Stanley attended Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and graduated cum laude in 1983. Stephen attended WVU School of Pharmacy and graduated cum laude in 1981. Stanley, owns and operates an Optometric practice in Philippi, where he lives with his wide Kim (formally Kim Dean) and their two children, Chris and Kelsey. Stephen co-owns and operates Town and Country Drug Store in Stonewood, WV. He currently lives in Bridgeport with his wife Kim (formally Kim Johnson), and have two children, Amanda and Shelby.
Dr. Stanley E. Toompas, Optometrist
Stepehen E. Toompas, Pharmacist
Co-authors of "I'm the One the Other Isn't, Books #1 & 2