By Mary Ellen Shaw
I get to take a trip back in time whenever I stand at the counter of Beauchamp & O’Rourke Pharmacy on Woodstock Avenue in Rutland.
To the right of the register is a photo from 1959 of the store owners, Fred Beauchamp and William O’Rourke, as well as the pharmacists who worked there. My father was one of them. In the picture he is wearing a white jacket that all pharmacists wore back then. Governor Robert Stafford is shown presenting the Lederle Meritorious Community Service Award to the owners. The store had written its millionth prescription that year.
A look at the store’s website refreshed me on the history of this legendary pharmacy. It all began in 1920 on the corner of Merchants Row and West Street. An ad from the 1922 Rutland Directory lists them as “prescription pharmacists” and “truss specialists.” I was surprised that “cut flowers and funeral designs” are mentioned in the ad along with confectionery items and cigars. What an interesting combination of products and services!
My father worked at Beauchamp & O’Rourke during my high school and college years. While I was a student at Mount St Joseph Academy in the early 60s I found the store location a convenient place to drop off my books and then head to Woolworth’s soda fountain. The quickest route from school was to walk up Forest Street and turn onto West Street. From there it was a short distance to the pharmacy. I think my father paid for more than his fair share of sundaes and milk shakes over the years. If I had a friend with me my father handed me enough money for both of us to get a treat!
I remember a conversation I had with second generation store owner, the late Bob Beauchamp. He told me that when a child asked for candy from the display case and the mother had to say “no” because she didn’t have the money, my father would offer to take care of the cost. With the mother’s approval the child got the candy and he or she was a happy camper! When there is a candy counter near the cash register and the child is at eye level with it who wouldn’t want a piece? I appreciated Bob telling me that story about my father’s act of kindness.
It’s always a surprise when something from my youth in the 50s and 60s is still around today. Not only is Beauchamp & O’Rourke Pharmacy still in existence but so is their hand lotion that I used to see the pharmacists compounding in the back section of the store. On their website the late Bob Beauchamp recalled that his father, Fred, developed the lotion to help his brother, Arthur, who had hands that were split and chapped from handling dirty castings in the foundry where he worked. It became a popular item in the store and has always been a part of my own daily regimen. It reminds me of my father’s days at the pharmacy whenever I use it.
Not only were the father and son team of Fred and Bob Beauchamp working side by side in the Merchants Row pharmacy but J Robert (Bob) Dupaw and his son, J William (Billy) also worked there together. History repeated itself on Woodstock Avenue with the father-son team of the late Bob Beauchamp, his son, Barry, and Barry’s son, Travis. Barry and Travis are currently carrying on the father-and-son team work that has been a part of that pharmacy for so many decades.
When Beauchamp & O’Rourke was located downtown it was a challenge to find parking. Fortunately, my mother and father had to be at work at the same time. They decided that the easiest solution was to park up by the library on Court Street. They walked down Center Street hill together to their respective places of employment. There were no meters up there “back in the day.” I bet they would have loved the parking garage that downtown employees can use now.
I remember my father thinking that Woodstock Avenue would be a great location for a pharmacy if a move from Merchants Row was ever considered. He passed away long before Beauchamp & O’Rourke did exactly that! It’s now located at 62 Woodstock Avenue, just a few blocks from our family home. He could have walked to work… no more trudging up and down Center Street. He would have loved it!