Bentley#039;s Pharmacy has reminders of old medicines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 30, 2003

Anyone who wishes to take a stroll down Memory Lane into Ironton's past could do so at Bentley's Pharmacy

At the drug store, patrons can get a glimpse at some of the interesting medical quirks of days gone bye.

Antique medicine bottles and old-time products line a shelf above pharmacist Dan Bentley's head as he distributes modern medicines that differ greatly from those his predecessors used.

Email newsletter signup

Unusual products such as Dr. LeGear's Hog Prescription, cough medicines, camphor oils, mortar and pestil sets and numerous other salves, elixirs and cure-alls provide a window into Ironton's pharmacy history.

After getting his first antique medicine bottles in 1973,

Bentley has amassed quite a collection of interesting antiques and items over the years.

"This all just came to me. I never paid for any of this stuff," he said. "I try to keep all the stuff from Ironton. That is why they have museums is to learn from the past."

Ironton has been home to numerous pharmacies and drug companies over the years, many of which made their own products and had their own labels. Bentley has at least one item from many of them on display in his store.

In the back, he has a copper plaque that came from the old Marting Hospital on Fifth and Vernon streets, showing doctors caring for patients.

"Someone came in and said it was from the room they were born in," he said.

Another of his favorite items is a prescription that was written for a patient who needed alcohol in 1926 during prohibition.

"It was the only one I have ever seen," he said. "It is kind of unique."

As a testament to the inflation of health care, a receipt for a tonsillectomy from Lawrence County General Hospital in 1939 showed that the patient paid $74.20. Nowadays, a routine office visit could cost at least this much.

Bentley opens an old cigar box and removes a leather-bound notebook that shows its age. The book contains diary entries, prescriptions and recipes dating back to the early 20th century from Arnold's Up-To-Date Drug Store and the Otten & Tyler Pharmacists.

Another item, a well-worn ice cream scoop, does not have local ties but has great sentimental value to Bentley.

His wife Cheri's uncle ran Holbrook Drugs in Morehead, Ky., from the 1940s to the 1970s and used it on the soda fountain.

"To me, that one is important because it is family," he said. "When we first we got married and moved to Atlanta, he made sure we had some money."

One of Bentley's employees, Ironton resident Mary Mills, worked for the E.J. Merrill Wholesale Drug Co. at Second and Railroad streets from 1954 to 1972. She remembers talking with one employee who would go out and sell the products.

"It was extremely interesting to sit and listen to Elmer Mayne," she said. "He could remember back into the 1800s and tell story after story of traveling out into Kentucky on horseback."

She appreciates the fact that Dan has preserved part of the city's past.

"This is history that would have been lost," she said. "It is great that other people can see it and learn about it. There is a lot of history up there."