HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Abe’s Drug Store
By NELL M. WOODCOCK
The entrance to Abe’s Drug Store opened wide like the heart of the man inside who greeted everyone who entered as if they were his special friend. Because of Elias Abraham’s integrity and friendly manner, “Abe’s” became a social center in Lacoochee.
Immediately inside the store, in a line down the center, were three round glass-topped tables with chairs. On their left was a marble topped soda fountain and on the wall to the right and at the rear were display cases, with sliding glass fronts, filled with merchandise and patented medicine. (Prescription drugs came from the company doctor’s office or drug stores in Trilby, Dade City or Brooksville.)
Abe had all kinds of cosmetics, lotions, perfumes, handbags and accessories that any woman could desire. If he didn’t, they were ordered the next time a salesman came through town from the Issac-Levy Wholesale House in Tampa.
The round glass-topped tables served a dual purpose, While customers waited for their merchandise or a treat from the soda fountain they could “window shop” all types of jewelry encased inside those tables.
Each morning a group of ladies would gather at the drug store for coffee and a chance to share the latest gossip. After school, children would arrive for ice cream, candy or snacks. And especially a chance to glance through the latest comic books. In the evenings after supper men would congregate at the store to relax and talk politics. When Elias finally added a radio, his store became even more popular during baseball season.
Passengers arriving in town by bus or train disembarked in front of Abe’s, and at one time, even in the depression days, there was a slot machine on the side walk in front of the drug store.
Since the family had living quarters at the rear of the building, Mrs. (Esther) Abraham was often in the store during opening hours. She didn’t learn to speak fluent English until she moved to Lacoochee. She usually sat quietly listening to their customers and sometimes crocheting dollies which were sold in the store.
Mrs. Abraham was a well educated woman who, like Abe, came to America from Lebanon. Her favorite poet was Khalil Gibran. She thought every young girl should have a copy of Emily Post’s book on etiquette. After the Abrahams moved to Franklin Street, Mrs. Abraham liked to give parties for their only daughter Lorise. It was an honor to be invited to one and her guests were expected to act like ladies and gentlemen.
When their son Lewis was old enough to handle the soda fountain, the handsome young lad entertain the girls with his antics while creating Coca Colas. First, the ice had to be hand-chipped from a big block of ice kept at the back of the store and bought to the fountain in a bucket. As the customer watched, just the right amount of syrup was poured into the bottom of a glass, the chipped ice added, and the glass placed under the soda fountain spout. With a “jerk” of the handle on top, the right amount of carbonated water swished around the contents in the glass and produced the best tasting Coca Cola ever made. Lewis paid no attention to the boys who teased him with names like “Louie the Jerk” or “Louie the Dope.”
The store was not very large and in summer a big electric fan at the back helped cool the inside. During the winter, the heat came from a big black pot-bellied stove, which often served a dual purpose. Mrs. Abraham would soak dried shelled peanuts over night in water to remove their thin red skin. Then, in a cast iron pan she would sauté them in butter on top of the stove. If you were lucky enough to be in the store when they were done, you were offered a tasty treat.
Elias’s special treat at the soda fountain was his “Chop Suey.” A concoction of chipped ice, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, layered with sweet, syrupy walnuts and crushed pineapple.
There was not another place in town, inside or outside the Cummer Quarters, that offered the kind of hospitality and friendship that made Abe’s one of Lacoochee’s unforgettable landmarks.
A decades old sterling silver wedding band that came from one of those glass topped tables is one of my prized possessions today. It was purchased by Josh Groover in the 1930s at the time of his marriage to my only sister, Emma Lou Moody. She died at age 23 after giving still birth to their only child. Josh gave the ring to her parents and I inherited it from them.
Until the No-Name Storm of 1993 hit the west coast of Florida and my home in Hernando County, Florida, was flooded, copies of Gabran’s The Prophet and Emily Post’s book on etiquette were tucked away on a bookshelf. Treasured gifts from Mrs. Abraham.