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City Drug Store of Gleason, Tennessee

There are a great many things inheritable that can run in the family, and for the Smyth-Robisonís, being a druggist is written in their genes. Three generations now have served the Gleason community and surrounding area through the City Drug Store, and there is no doubt that after around 97 years of service it is safe to say their work can truly be called a labor of love. If written, the tale of America would begin with words of courage and then shift over to the telling of hard work all the while and then finally ending with perseverance that continues on from the present into the future unknown. Well, that story is also the story of the City Drug Store and its rich heritage.

A young man, no older than 16, by the name of Robert ďBobĒ Smyth began the family legacy when in 1918 he sought employment at the Ammons Drug Store on Front Street of Gleason, Tennessee. The pharmaceutical work interested him so that he decided to take his career a step further by completing more pharmacy training in Birmingham, Alabama in 1928. After Mr. Bob came back to Gleason, he married Ms. Lucille Cochran, and from this union, two children were born: Bobbye Lu and Robert. Here is where the courage came in. Some time during the Great Depression in the early 1930ís, Bob Smyth and his half-brother Henry Scott went out on a limb and bought out the Ammons Drug Store, changing the name to City Drug. In 1936, Henry Scott bought an empty lot on Main Street and built a new building that has housed the City Drug Store ever since. Bob and Lucille ran the drug store with great pride and good business sense, and those old enough to remember could never forget the soda fountain and ice cream served there. Even a number of notable Gleason residents like Butch Sanders, Jack Dunning, and Thomas Morris put in their time as ďsoda jerks.Ē The store also served as a meeting place for the men of Gleason who would hover around the old potbelly stove in the back and the tables out front recounting tall tales, smoking fine cigars, and bragging, or exaggerating, about how many birds they killed on their hunting trips! Mr. Bob put in countless hours of hard work, even opening at night for emergencies, and in 1967, he retired thus relinquishing ownership of his beloved City Drug Store to his daughter and son-in-law, Bobbye Lu and Buddy Robison. Mr. Bob continued to work there and even worked on the day of his passing. A true testament to his dedication.

            Mr. Buddy Robison had served as a corpsman in the Navy, and after his tour, he went to pharmacy school in Memphis in the 1960ís. Returning to Gleason, he worked for a few years under his father-in-law before assuming ownership of the drug store. Mr. Buddy may have been a pharmacist, but he had a few extra skills the town of Gleason needed when Dr. Jeter was not available to help. Being a Navy corpsman, he was able to doctor any bruise, scrape, or cut that any youngster incurred. He truly loved Gleason and its residents, and his wife Mrs. Bobbye Lu made this clear when she said that any time he would see an ambulance go by he would worry day and night, maybe even make a few phone calls to see what had happened, because he was scared he may have given someone the wrong medicine. The Robisonís operated the drug store from 1967 until 1999, having continued the family business with integrity and pride.

The Robisonís had two daughters that followed in the footsteps of their father and grandfather: Kris Morse and Kim Sturgeon. Both received their pharmaceutical education at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy. On January 1, 1999, ownership of the City Drug Store was transferred over to Kris who still runs it today through hard work and perseverance and the help of her sister, Kim. Ms. Kris still holds true to her roots, and in the spirit of those who came before her, she will even open the drug store for emergencies at any late hour of the night. That is a service she will proudly tell you that you cannot receive at any chain pharmacy store.

            The next time you are sick, donít forget about the City Drug Store and its operators that have helped countless people become well, enjoy the simple things in life like ice cream, and provide a place for amiable interaction for almost 100 years. The Smyth-Robisonís story and legacy enrich not only Gleasonís history but more importantly its health, both being truly priceless (Story by Ben Rollins) .  



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