Larry French

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Freel & Mason as Seen by Larry French

DF: Would you please state the date and location of the interview before we begin?

LF: It’s Sunday at our house.

DF: Please state your full name.

LF: Larry L. French

DF: Do I have permission to tape you via audiotape?

LF: Yes.

DF: And do I have permission to submit this information to my history class at school and to the Marion Public Library?

LF: Yes.

DF: Ok. Would you please describe some of your experiences at Freel and Mason? What was sold? What were the different things you could do there, because it wasn’t just a drug store, you sold, you guys sold other things right, you had a soda fountain…?

LF: The first part of Freel and Mason, we had a typical old fashion drug store. We had a Keeling Nut display where the nuts went around in a circle. We sold pecans and cashews and all those things. We had a cosmetics section that had perfumes and fragrances for the ladies. We had just an assortment of things besides medicine. And then we had a soda fountain, luncheonette I would call it, in the back of the store where people came everyday to enjoy either coffee with a friend or lunchtime to have lunch there.

DF: So would you say that the luncheonette part would be a uh a place where people could get together to just, uh, experience each other in Marion, I mean…?

LF: That was the gathering place of down town. Probably more law cases were litigated there than some of the courts because the lawyers would sit back there, the police would come in on their breaks. There were the regulars. The Mayor would come in; Mayor Blackman when I first started. And, uh, there were regulars that came in every day. That was before the K-mart on the mall and the mall on Baldwin street expansion of stores went downtown from the city hub.

DF: Ok. So could you like give a timeline of Freel and Mason from your perspective. Like when did you like, um, first begin to work there? Any changes in management or things of that nature?

LF: Freel and Mason started in 1903 on the square with George Freel and Elmer Mason. Some of the relatives used to come in and tell us that they were related to the Freels. It was then taken over by C. B. McDonough early on and then his son started a drug store in gas city and his nephew, Lester Metcalf came. I think C. B. worked there for over fifty years and Lester worked there for over forty. I came in 1969 and became a partner in like 1973, or early seventies; let’s just leave it there. And it kinda transfigured from the old-fashioned drug store since we were getting a lot of competition from these new malls and other stores to a supplier of medication.

DF: Ok. So is Freel and Mason Still around today or has it moved, changed names, any thing like that?

LF: I sold Freel’s and it was owned by somebody else and he’s sold it since then. Um, we were still in the nursing home business until it was taken over by another company. I believe we made it a hundred years at 2003, but I don’t believe in any form it is still there.

DF: What were some of the benefits of working for a smaller, local, drugstore rather than like you said, K-mart or some of the other big names.

LF: You knew all the people. You knew them by their first name. You got personalized service. You got to know your employees like they were like family. Which I’m not so sure in today’s environment where you have to fill so many more prescriptions just to break even that that’s even a possibility.

DF: So when you were at Freel and Mason, what type of work did you do? Did you actually make the medicine, or did medicines get shipped to you and then you just sold them?

LF: You know, we made very few medications; they were all in capsule or tablet forms by the time we got them. Ointments were already made. Occasionally, we would get a dermatologist or somebody who wanted a special formulation. But for the most part they were already made.

DF: Um, you said that you went into more nursery home care, um...

LF: Nursing home.

DF: What’d I say?

LF: Nursery home.

DF: Oh, nursing home care, um did you move from downtown to be closer to any of the nursing homes? Did you do anything special with the buildings or anything like that?

LF: Well we moved from downtown simply because, first of all, we put some operations in the basement and we took out the fountain and all and just out of the downtown location. Actually, a building was built out near colonial oaks which was much more minimal to our operation

DF: Would you say that decline of the soda fountain, and the luncheon and more of the old-school drug store was brought about by the competition from the other, larger rivals, or would you say that it was more just a decline in that type of culture?

LF: Well I think these grocery stores used to be mom and pop operations and then the larger stores took over, the same thing happened in the pharmaceutical industry. As things got much more advanced, and more pharmacists per store, automated machines, computers obviously played a big part in that and um you got what you see today: Walgreen’s, CVS, some of the majour guys. Very few Mom and Pops left.

DF: Right. In your opinion, would you say that the Mom and Pop stores are better because there’s more of a face to face basis that brings more unity to the community or do you think that it is better to have the large, the larger chains?

LF: Well I can’t say better, they’re just different. It depends on what you enjoy doing. If you want that impersonal, um more impersonal, type of relationship, the larger stores can provide that. I mean, Wal-Mart has a humongous pharmacy, but I wonder how many of their clients they actually know.

DF: Well, I think that’s all I have for you. Thank you for your time.

LF: You’re welcome.


This interview was conducted and transcribed by Dan French and submitted to Mr. Munn's IU US History class on May 18, 2008.