CHRONICLES HIGHLIGHTING THE COLPMAN DRUG STORE
By Farley Wuth
Curator, Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Pincher Creek’s pioneer commercial history is dotted with intriguing tales of that frontier spirit which made our settlement the vibrant community it is today. A prime example of that old time entrepreneurial get up and go can be found in the Colpman’s Drug Store which was a feature on the north side of Main Street from 1927 to 1965.
ADEPT BUSINESS SKILLS
This is very exciting history for just recently (Summer 2021) the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village has constructed a replica of this commercial icon. This frame building complete with period awning faces the boardwalk in the 1920s section of our outdoor historical museum. It is stocked with a vast array of eye catching medicine bottles from our early drug stores including Colpman’s, McCrea’s, E. J. Mitchell’s and Cornyn’s some of which date back to the mid 1880s. Accompanied by frontier furniture and scanned laminated photographs illustrating these places of commerce, the abundance of glass ware show off distinctively on their glass shelves. A wooden floor compliments the structure.
Charles Campbell Colpman (1900 – 1989) owned and operated his drug store in the Pincher Creek General Motors Garage building, located at the corner of Main Street and Bridge Avenue. Flanked by the highway as it snaked through town, this was a busy street corner which generated lots of traffic. A 1927 Bachelor of Sciences grandaunt in Pharmacy from the University of Alberta, the English born Colpman earned the trust of his rural customers through an informal logo of his initials “C.C.C.” which he skillfully marketed as “careful, competent and courteous”. This customer service was essential in a rural settlement, particularly during the tough economic times of the 1930s. One of Colpman’s very loyal and adept employees was Agnes Gillespie Kettles (1910 – 1965) who assisted in the drug store operations for seven years during the 1950s and 1960s.
POPULAR SODA COUNTER
Colpman’s more than a third of a century business venture was supplemented by diversification. Most memorable was the ever-popular soda counter. Here customers could purchase at reasonable prices milk shakes and soft ice cream advertized as “super fresh super creamery”. Two of the soda counter employees were Lloyd Purkis and Joyce Bower. A third employee of the 1950s was Donna Barclay Elliott who according to Pincher Creek Motors owner Jack Morgan made the best milk shakes, sundaes and banana splits. A small cabinet door accessed both the drug store and garage and was from where the garage crew could order their daily treats. Richard Morgan ordered a sundae every day at 5 p.m. The soda counter was well patronized by drug store customers and high school students eager for their favorite after school treats. Patrons fondly remember the chrome counters with accompanying stools.
Colpman’s adept business sense was furthered through his sales of radios, china, veterinary supplies, cosmetics and stationary. A small lending library was well patronized by adults and students. The business’s phone number was 59.
Colpman’s 1927 drug store acquisition was the former D. L. McCrea Drug Store. The earlier drug store was established back in 1906 by Delmar Lorne McCrea (1884 – 1927) who attended pharmacy studies at the Winnipeg Medical College. His father Sam McCrea was a member of the North West Mounted Police stationed at Fort Walsh adjacent the Cypress Hills.
Please stay tuned for further details about our new historical building and exhibit.