Richard Hall of Coupeville offers this account of the business his grandfather, Stanton Hall, built in Everett. Stanton Hall later served as a member and as president of the Washington State University Board of Regents.
Stanton Hall and His Pharmacy
During the 1920s a young man from the wheat fields of Eastern Washington developed a successful pharmacy in Everett, a city only recently torn by violent labor strife. The history of Hall’s Pharmacy is a story of entrepreneurial risks taken and innovations applied as the city of smokestacks developed into a city of aircraft production and commerce. Hall’s Pharmacy would grow with the city center, but as downtown commerce declined in favor of the suburbs to the south, Hall’s Pharmacy would cease to exist.
In 1892 Stanton Hall was born to Joseph Banyan and Annie Stafford Hall in the small Eastern Washington town of Edwall located near Spokane in Lincoln County. Stanton’s father had been a follower of mining strikes and had been attracted to the silver strikes in the Couer d’Alene region. However, Joseph Hall didn’t go to the mines. Instead he “settled out” and homesteaded land near Edwall. He initially raised cattle and wheat but soon established a blacksmith shop in Edwall. Stanton and his siblings became the first generation of the Hall family to graduate from high school. Having broken the high school graduation barrier, each of the Hall children also attended Washington State College.
Stanton Hall enrolled at the state college in Pullman in 1912, beginning a course of study in pharmacy. While he attended college he worked part time at White Drug Store in Pullman. After his graduation from the two-year pharmacy program, Stanton Hall worked in a Palouse store through 1915, then found employment in the Hillyard area of Spokane. In 1916 he returned to Pullman where he was employed at White’s Drug Store as a clerk (Stanton Hall to Dick Hall, October 18,1982). By 1920 he had acquired a half ownership in White Drug Store. Hall described the White Drug Store as a fine store, but he was restless and ready for a new challenge (Stanton Hall to Dick Hall, October 18,1982).
In 1923 Stanton Hall sold out his partnership in the Pullman store and bought a pharmacy offered for sale in the mill town of Everett, Washington. Stanton and his wife Ruth Doty Hall with their two sons, Gordon and Harold, left the wheat fields of the Palouse Hills for Puget Sound and the smokestacks of Everett. (Stanton Hall to Dick Hall, October 18, 1982) For Stanton and Ruth, who had been brought up among the wheat fields of Eastern Washington, the move to Everett was a major change.
The Everett that greeted the Stanton Hall family in 1923 was a city which only recently had begun to heal from wounds left by class warfare between mill owners and workers. In 1916 this animosity had erupted in a divisive shingle weavers strike and the Everett Massacre of November 5. In 1923 Everett was still a mill town with often tense relations between mill owners and workers, but with more enlightened mill owners and less militant laborers, the city was about to embark on a less chaotic and more rational era.
Stanton Hall’s newly purchased Commerce Pharmacy was located on Hewitt Avenue. Hewitt was the main east-west arterial that linked the bayside mills, piers, and railroad depot with the riverside mills. This was the avenue that in 1916 had been the site of the Wobbly (IWW) anti-capitalist rallies that became a factor in the Everett Massacre.
If the workers had come to Hewitt Avenue for political and union rallies, they had come for pleasure as well. A description of Hewitt Avenue in 1910 revealed the street to have been the location of many saloons and houses of prostitution:
"...saloons never closed; some sold openly to minors; others brought in the customers with gambling, prostitution and narcotics. These lurid dimensions of Hewitt Avenue were no secret -- the idea was that they not be secret -- and they were soon offensive even to many of the most tolerant citizens...many were not able to understand that the honest interests of business men demanded a carnival of whores and drunks from bayside to riverside" (Clark, Mill Town, 1970, p. 102).
The wide-open nature of Everett had become so odious to its citizenry that when inspired by a visit and crusade led by the nationally renowned evangelist, Billy Sunday, a brief local experiment with prohibition was attempted. A prohibition law was enacted in 1910 and repealed in 1912. By 1923 Everett had reverted, although to a more limited extent, to some of its pre-1910 characteristics.
While Everett was an adventure for the family, the pharmacy proved to be an even greater challenge for Stanton. The Commerce Pharmacy, which Stanton renamed Hall’s Pharmacy, adjoined the four story Commerce Building located on the corner of Hewitt and Rockefeller avenues. The pharmacy was on the ground floor of a two-story building built prior to 1920. The words “Drugs,” “Sodas,” and “Prescription Specialists” were painted on the glass display windows at the front entrance of the store facing Hewitt Avenue. The words "drugs" and "prescription specialists" obviously referred to the pharmaceutical business while "soda" made reference to the store’s soda fountain.
Drug store soda fountains dispensing soft beverages and ice cream products were quite common in the 1920s. The popularity and financial success of drug store soda fountains were an indirect result of the prohibition on alcoholic beverages. The influence of America’s most familiar soft beverage was clearly evident in a large painted advertisement appearing on the upper side of the store building not adjoining the Commerce Building. The painted advertisement proclaimed, “Drink Coca Cola, Delicious and Refreshing” (Photograph, Gordon Hall collection).
The pharmacy’s 1923 soda fountain menu provided a wide variety of offerings for the customer. Listed as choices of ice cream soda flavors were vanilla, chocolate, caramel, marshmallow, strawberry, pineapple, cherry, coca cola, root beer, orange, maple, wild cherry, ginger, mint, and julep. The ice cream sodas sold for 15 cents. Twelve choices of “refreshers” (beverages) were also offered. The options included coca cola at five cents a glass, root beer also priced at five cents, lemonade at 10 cents and Budweiser ( perhaps near beer) at 25 cents. The menu’s four choices of egg drinks, a precursor to milk shakes, included egg malted and plain malted milks. The malted milks sold for 25 cents. In addition to beverages the fountain offered 15 varieties of ice cream sundaes ranging in price from 15 cents to 25 cents (Commerce Pharmacy Menu ca.1923, courtesy Karen Hall Elgin).
Although the soda fountain provided a venue for wholesome social exchange, directly above the drug store less respectable activities took place. On the second floor above the pharmacy were apartments from which prostitutes plied their trade. On Friday and Saturday evenings mill workers and loggers congregated near Hall’s Pharmacy, providing undeniable evidence of the “house of pleasure” located above the pharmacy. Stanton’s oldest son, Gordon, recalled that as an eight-year-old boy he was directed to make a prescription delivery to the second floor. When Ruth discovered that Stanton had sent their young son to make a delivery to one of the “ladies” on the second floor she was furious. Gordon recalls his mother “raising heck” and “mother didn’t like that very much” (Gordon Hall, Interview, 1998 ). In regard to his new business Stanton remarked, “It did not look very good and had a poor location on Hewitt Avenue” (Stanton Hall to Dick Hall, October 18,1982).
In spite of his store’s “poor” location, Stanton Hall made the former Commerce Pharmacy profitable. Although having experienced moderate success, he had business ambitions beyond the Hewitt Avenue store, and after two years Stanton Hall was willing to take a business risk and move to a new and unproven site.
In 1925 the six-story Medical Dental Building was being constructed. The Medical Dental building was the most prominent of a series of major buildings built in Everett during the 1920s. The Everett General Hospital, a new city hall, the Central building, Monte Cristo Hotel, and YMCA were also built during the business boom of the 1920s. The Everett building boom represented a subtle change in emphasis from mill town to a slightly more commercial city. The Medical Dental Building marked a move of the city center from the east-west direction of Hewitt Avenue, which linked bayside and riverside mills, to a north-south arterial, Colby Avenue, which connected commercial establishments. When the Medical Dental Building opened on January 21, 1926, it became Everett’s tallest edifice. It was to maintain that distinction for over 50 years (Larry O’Donnell, Everett Past and Present, 1993, p. 44)
The potential of the Medical Dental Building and impending shift of Everett’s commercial center to Colby Avenue was not obvious to most Everett businessmen. Thus, Stanton Hall was handed a great opportunity.
The Medical Dental Building, as the name implied, was designed to house the offices of physicians and dentists. The complex also needed a pharmacy. Everett pharmacists were offered the opportunity of moving to this new location. All the pharmacists, with the sole exception of Stanton Hall, rejected this opportunity. Stanton, a new pharmacist in town, was the last to be extended an offer (Gordon Hall, Interview, 1998). Hall was desirous of leaving his “poor location on Hewitt Avenue” and he readily accepted the opportunity presented by the new Medical Dental Building.
To obtain the necessary fixtures for the new store Hall borrowed from the drug wholesale firm of McKesson and Robbins. He also put up $1,200 of his own funds for the start up inventory and the new drug store was opened for business during the 1925 Christmas season (Gordon Hall, Interview, 1998). The new Colby Avenue Hall’s Pharmacy soon became a success.
Hall’s Pharmacy’s business success was not based entirely on the real estate maxim of “location, location, location,” but also rested on innovations installed by Stanton Hall. The Medical Dental Building location brought the pharmacy into close contact with the physicians and dentists who wrote drug prescriptions. This communication was strengthened through an in-house intercom or phone system that connected the pharmacy with each doctor’s office, facilitating prescription drug orders. This phone system allowed a doctor to call directly to the pharmacy’s switchboard without dialing and using the phone company’s more cumbersome system. Hall’s Pharmacy also provided each doctor with paper writing tablets to be used for writing prescriptions. On each tablet page or prescription form was printed the name Hall’s Pharmacy along with the pharmacy’s address and phone number (Gordon Hall, Interview, 1998).
Although the core of the pharmacy’s business was prescription drugs, Hall’s Pharmacy provided other services and retail items. Hall’s Pharmacy, like most drug stores of the era, sold cosmetics and gifts and provided sandwiches, coffee, ice cream sodas, and milk shakes through its soda fountain.
Through Stanton Hall’s resourcefulness and personal connections, his pharmacy became noted for its quality and variety of cosmetics products. Hall’s Pharmacy was able to garner the unique distinction for a family drug store of being a retail outlet for Elizabeth Arden products. The Elizabeth Arden dealership was obtained through Hall’s friendship with a Pullman Squibb drug salesman. The drug salesman went on to become the vice president of Elizabeth Arden. Hall maintained contact with his Pullman friend and through this individual was able to gain the dealership of Elizabeth Arden products for his pharmacy (Gordon Hall, Interview, 1998).
The successful cosmetic sales also led to the first hiring of a female employee by Hall’s Pharmacy. In 1925 Hall’s Pharmacy, as was typical of drug stores, had only male employees. By 1940 Hall had hired June Montgomery to oversee the cosmetics and gift sales (Gordon Hall, Interview, 1998).
Another of Stanton Hall’s successful promotions was expansion of the fountain service. Hall encouraged lunch sales and expanded the eating area by bringing out tables and chairs during the lunch hour. Ice cream sodas were particularly popular. As a result Hall’s Pharmacy became a popular lunch or snack spot for many high school students, teachers, and nearby business proprietors (Gordon Hall, Interview, 1998).
The pharmacy prospered in the Colby location and Stanton Hall remained active in the store until he was 80 years old. Stanton Hall’s eldest son, Gordon, who also became a pharmacist and shared the management of pharmacy with his father, acquired ownership of Hall’s Pharmacy after his father’s retirement.
However, in the 1980s Everett’s downtown underwent a severe economic depression as the mills shut down and Everett’s commerce moved out of the business district to the malls of South Everett. Doctors also left the downtown for outlying clinics. This change in Everett resulted in the closure of Hall’s Pharmacy in 1989.