Historical scrapbook: Peerless Drug Store

Brownwood Bulletin
Ronnie and Donnie Lappe

Om June 9, 1983, the old Peerless Drug Store, a landmark in Brownwood's past closed its doors.

This building is located at 300 N. Center St.  A State Farm Insurance office now in the building.

The building which housed the drug store has been in existence since the 1870's and has served not only as a drug store, but a post office, furniture store, and a women's ready-to-wear business, and other things.

M.J. Coggin and S. R. Coggin built the historical building, and, at one time the Brownwood Bulletin was housed on the second floor.   The building was long used and will be remembered as a drug store.  The Ehrke Chiropractors also occupied the building for many years.  Through the decades, the Camp family operated Peerless Drug Store, beginning with D. S. Camp Sr., then D. S. Camp, Jr., followed by D. S. Camp III,.  The drug store stayed in the  same location, thrived, and was very much a part of the heartbeat of the city.

David Camp III finally sold the store to Eddie and Donna Knight, and they operated it for three years.  The drug store continued to serve the people of Brownwood until June 9, 1983 when the  Knights sold the building to the Southwest State Bank.

Larry La Roque, vice president of the bank, said that the inventory from the store was sold and all fixtures, including the soda fountain, were  sold.  After that, the building itself was sold. La Roque said the bank did not consider selling it to anyone who would have it destroyed.  Because of its historical significance, historical restoration-finance  programs were available for the building's restoration. To  the people of this area, the building is a landmark.

When Camp, retired, he lived with his family at a ranch just off Park Road 15 in north Brown County.  True to the old tradition, he kept on devoting at least part of his life to the pharmaceutical world. He was a relief pharmacist at Campbell's Pharmacy in Coleman.  He  found the name a coincidence,.  Actually, the Old Peerless Drug was an off-shoot of the Old Camp-Bell Drug Store.

Camp explained that the store started with Camp and Shropshire in 1897.  The two original partners in the Camp-Bell Drug store were D. S. Camp Sr. and A. H. Bell.  The drug store changed hands through the years, but the Camps were always part of it and in the late 1970s David Camp III was sole owner.

When the Knights bought the business, Jack and Larry Ehrke bought the other half of the building where the old Carl Derrick Cafe was located.

All prescriptions from Peerless Drug Store were sold to Winn Pharmacy.  The medical history of many, many, Brownwood residents could be gleaned from the five million or more prescriptions in the Winn Pharmacy files.  Camp explained that he and his father at Peerless had filled 1,750,000 prescriptions at Peerless.  “We had bought the Renfroe prescriptions when they closed their store which represents 1.5 million prescriptions, he said.

Among the accounts  bought by Winn Pharmacy were all the old Camp and Shrophsire, and the Camp Bell Drug store prescriptions, as well as all the prescriptions from all of the Renfroe stores in Brownwood, Camp said.

Also among the prescriptions files that went to Winn's were the old Childress, JRB prescription files.  All these plus the old Hallum Drug Store prescription files, already at Winn Pharmacy may have totalled over five million,.

Both Camp and Roland Winn offered these files to the University of Texas College of Pharmacy.

One thing that was sadly missed was the old Peerless soda  fountain. The fountain,was a gathering place for kids,and was known for thick milk shakes.   In its early years, the drug store was a hangout for the registered nurse candidates from Dr. Daugherity's hospital located down the street a few blocks.   Several Brown County residents met their future spouses there.  The student nurses would drop in during the evenings and some of them later married guys they met at the drug store. Some that Camp remembered were Bill Moore, C. Q. Davis, Cutter Cunningham, Cullen Johnson and Myron Embry.

The Peerless Soda fountain often had 14 trays outside for curb service,   During Prohibition people managed to surcomvent the law by getting whisky prescriptionsfor medical purposes   When the practice became rather too rampant and somewhat questionable, Camp's  uncle, grandfather and father solved that problem by  not renewing their alcoholic license.  They did not really need the business, and it interfered with the regular prescription business anyway.”

Camp recalls that through the years the soda fountain offered many a job to Howard Payne and Daniel Baker students.

Also even the shoe shine boys are a part of the drug store's history.

A relief pharmacist  the drug store had was Seth Thomson, who gave the store his  ti,r after he retired from Parke Davis and Co. after serving around 40 years on the road.

David Camp III was born and raised in Brownwood graduated from Brownwood High School in 1947.  He attended Howard Payne University for two years and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1954.