Louis Ives spent his entire working life at Tobin's, a drugstore on West College Street in Oberlin, which was the site of several transformations during his tenure there. He started as a "Boy Friday" at age fifteen and retired at age seventy-five. His story reveals his rise within the business and his devotion to it:
"In 1908, I started working for Tobin's when I was fifteen. We had to make our own ice cream. I helped to do that; we crushed ice on the back porch to help make the ice cream. I did all the things around there like sweeping the walk and store and dusting and taking stuff up and down stairs and putting away stock. Our line of ice cream was quality.
Because of my work in the store during high school, I decided to become a pharmacist. I went to Ohio Northern in Ada, Ohio, in 1916, and graduated in 1917 as a registered pharmacist. I then went back to work for Mr. Tobin as a pharmacist. The unfortunate part about being in the drug business was that one day was the same as the rest. You had to work on Sundays and holidays, and when we did close at noon, I more or less stayed around the house. I would have liked to spend more time at home and play with my children. But by the time I opened up at seven in the morning and didn't close until ten at night, I didn't have much time to do anything but sleep.
Medication changed tremendously over the years; especially from the medical standpoint. We used to compound a lot of stuff. Nowadays it all comes prepared. We buy it from the manufacturer and the physician prescribes what he wants. There's been a big change to fancier packages. One fellow said he didn't need to take the medicine but he bought it because he like the look of the package.
You know I eventually bought the store. I think it was about '44, maybe '45. I remodeled and modernized it. I threw the soda fountain out and then all the other merchants did the same. It was costing too much for material for new fixtures and everything. We had a nice bunch of people to wait on. In fact, in my sixty years of dealing with the public, I never knew of any racial discrimination of any kind. My girls that worked for me, they treated everyone alike and no one was ever refused credit. They were older women. We got to where we called ourselves the 'over fifty club'.
Well, I closed up in 1968. I was then seventy-five and I talked it over with Mrs. Ives, and she thought we had better take it easy. And 'the girls' wanted to go part-time and take Social Security and I didn't want to break in a lot of new help, so we decided to retire. Mrs. Ives and I owned the building. So we sold out and also sold the building."
Click here to return to the homepage of the Electronic Oberlin Group.