No announcement yet.

Phartmacy in the 50s

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Phartmacy in the 50s

    Pharmacy in the 50s

  • #2
    I was 16 in 1950 and had just decided that Pharmacy was my future. I was told needed A levels when I had at first dreamed of a possibly exciting life in weather forecasting.
    However. Pharmacy sounded much more fun and thus I arrived at the local Boots after securing a Saturday job. My first experience was weighing up Peanut Butter into ponds from a large 14 lb tin. WE had no jars and it was sold loose wrapped in paper. A levels required at the time were Chemistry, Physics, and Biology.
    I did well and was awarded a County Major Scholarship. In my ignorance, I had not applied and naively thought That I would go to Boots college.
    For advice I saw the Regional Manager and he advised me to apply to London at Bloomsbury Square. This was in September and Prof Berry ,the dean, said no room that year but I could put my name down for a place in the future. So now I had a decision to take. National; Service or a two year apprenticeship. I settled for the latter.
    (to be continued)


    • #3
      In 1952 I entered my apprenticeship with Boots. No premium had to be paid and I was to receive £100 for the first year and £250 for the second. Very low even in the 50s.
      For a time I continued with my paper round. My first job was to clean the dispensary. I cleaned the shelves and dusted each drug round. I sniffed the contents.
      I had to refill where necessary. About this time there was a case in the PJ where a pt had complained about the taste of Mist Sod Chlor. The dispenser said she had dispensed this and took a large swig to prove OK. She died. Then discovered that instead of NaCl, thr drug round contained NaF (Sodium Fluoride). After that drug rounds were abolished and we threw ours in the bin.
      Later saw many examples on Bargain Hunt as antiques.
      The sink was made of lead which I proudly cleaned and polished to a gloss, which lasted a day. Most popular script was for 12 oz bottle of Mist Gent Alk. Often with added Phenobarbitone, Belladonna eyc. At this time the use of metric weights was coming in and the two systems coexisted for a time. An elderly locum received a script for Mist Gent Alk plus amphetamine sulphate 3mgm per dose. The script was hand written and the pharmacist confused mgm with grains. 1gr was equivalent to 60 mgm. So the pt received 180 instead of 3.
      She died. The Imperial system was binned.
      Gradually mixtures were replaced by tablets although we still had customers wanting scripts "'s only tablets."
      Finally came the day when my apprenticeship "cheap labour" was complete and I got on the train (weekly tickets were only 10p) to Bloomsbury Square. I still remember the first day.
      Most of the boys were 20 and straight from National Service. I soon met a couple of Grammar Schoolboys and found one was from my old school. However, most were from Public Schools and from families who owned pharmacies. One came from Eton and was the grandson of the Ransom family. He owned a nice MG.


      • #4
        Really appreciate you sharing Johnep. Always fascinating to hear some of the occurrences that have shaped the activities that we no longer undertake as a result of major incidents.

        Definitely sounds like a different world
        I remember when a blog was an individual boot.


        • #5
          In the 50s we could spot a problem before they actually arrived at the counter. Often a mother and daughter. The mother would say "my daughter has got herself into trouble, can you help?".
          Widow Welches pills were popular. We would get requests for Quinine, Pennyroyal oil, ergot etc. Also requests for "slippery elm bark" this was a product that produced a mucilage on contact with moisture. It was used by insertion into the vagina and into the cervix in an attempt to cause an abortion. Worst were crystals of Potassium Permanganate? which could cause dreadful ulceration. Then there were the local Mrs Drakes (watch the film) who would use a catheter or knitting needle. The latter could puncture the womb.
          It was a great relief when the Morning After pill was introduced. For this we had to interview the girl and check their age. I would ask for the date of birth. Sometimes the girl was in a panic as she was out shopping with her parents and time was very short. Also £25 was a large find for a schoolgirl. Over the 1978 weekend we sold out. I then kept addresses of local advice clinics in my locum bag which I had to fight to be allowed to take on to the sales floor. Likewise my early mobile.
          Older women would often want to use me like a confessional. Mothers would sometimes say "my daughter is going on a gap year and I want to ensure she has a supply of EHC"
          Those were the days!


          • #6
            Mobile phones: strictly not permitted on the shop floor in most areas.
            47 BC : Julius Cesar : Veni Vidi Vici : I came, I saw I conquered.
            2018 AD : Modern Man : I shopped, I clicked, I collected.
            How times change.

            If you find you have read something that has upset or offended you an anyway please unread it at once.


            • johnep
              johnep commented
              Editing a comment
              I insisted but promised not to make any out going calls. Reason I wanted it was always left contact details when locum so coulf be contacted if any problems. Was random searched regularly when working at CMK.

          • #7
            My days in Uni started in 1954. I well remember that first day. Was struck by the toilet design that was Victorian. They had a platform inside the bowl so that stools could be examined. This resulted in some ribald humour. The very first lecture was given by Prof Linnell and concerned series in organic chemistry. Methane, Ethane, propane ect. Chemistry practical was on the top floor and we were soon introduced to analysis. First pharmacology lesson was on Urine and how it was analysed using Fehlings soln. I had acquired some Acetest tablets to compare results. After a month or so we learnt how to "pith " a frog which involved shoving a hatpin down its spine.I decided that I would not be a pharmacologist.
            Pharmacognosy (study of plants used in medicine) involve clearing plant specimens in rising strengths of alcohol and heating slides in chloral hydrate solution which had a very strong odour.Towards the end of the second year we were interviewed by staff re choice of subjects and also had a personal discussion with the Dean , Prof Berry . I had already made up my mind to do Chemistry and Engineering for the 3rd. Year Prof Berry was also head of Pharmaceutics. Someone had said that I would get a better degree if I took Chemistry and this did not go down well. Pharmaceutics practical was to prepare Tolu balsam syrup and a turpentine liniment. I forgot about the high SG of syrups and how this would affect volume. I was left short at the end. I looked in the BP and decided to copy the method which used soft soap. The emulsion I had made cracked and separated. I failed that exam. I could not retake for a year and no exceptions. Grant and fees were immediately stopped and my father had to pay £50 for mr to attend and retake Pharmaceutics the following year. \national service was also pressing for me to go into the army. I managed to persuade them to allow deferment for the year. PhC exams were every six months and I decided to try my luck as the ph\c was roughly equivalent to Part One of the B.Pharm.. I took written at Chelsea and the practical in Edinburgh. This was December 1956. I had two good friends in pharmacy. Geoff Swain was at London .
            On the 27th I received a phone call that Geoff had collapsed and died. I knew he had a heart weakness but in those days no operation available. I could not attend the funeral as on my way to Scotland. Then, on returning home I was contacted and Brian Millard had been killed in a road accident. To cap a dreadful month, another friend started behaving oddly and was diagnosed as schizaphrenic?. He spent several years in Severals Hospital Essex.
            Me, I became a pharmacist on 16th Jan 1957. I was not supposed to work under National Service regulations. I decided to do so as had no income. I worked at week ends as reasoned any inspector would be working 5 days a week. I decided to get some night work experience. This was at Boots Aldgate. Time was 8pm to 8am . 8 hours on duty out of the 12. Could be 8-4, 8-12 --4 hours sleep. Woken at 6am and work until 8am. For this shift, I found a dose of Nembutal worked quite well.
            I also did 3 weeks at the local hospital. Every week we received a radioactive soln from Harwell for the skin clinic. It was used for scalp problems. 20 years later many patients developed scalp cancer..
            I was told that Harwell would want the lead container back but not the radioactive soln. I asked the lady how this was to be disposed " down the sink" was the answer.. I was careful not to stand too close. On the first day I enquired where I could eat. Expecting to be in the Consultants dining room, I was told I could eat with the porters.

            When I went to collect my £15 per week, the lady commented that this was far too much. I never worked in a hospital again.
            I passed the exams at the end of the year and took pleasure from displaying my certificate during the exam. Now I had my grant back and thoroughly enjoyed my third year. I gained a 2:1 and was in the top 6. However, I was still not free of National Service and was offered teaching instead
            . £3 more per week and able to locum at weekends and holidays. A few adventures . To Follow.