Take the turn off of Route 10 in Chester onto Harrowgate Road and you will immediately see it straight ahead. An old, two-story, odd-shaped brick building that has been painted over with gray paint. Odd-shaped to fit the plot of land where it was built, it’s sort of our southern version of Fenway Park.
Get a little closer and you may see the strange embossed symbols of a mortar and pestle and Rx above the doorways. This building has changed tenants many times but it was once a Chester landmark that many people still remember with affection. It was the first home of Magee’s Drugstore.
James Magee bought the building in 1953 after it had already served as a Pharmacy for many years and opened the Drugstore which bore his name. This was during a time when drugstores played a much more vital role in a small American town than they do today with our superstores virtually on every corner. It was the place you bought everything from aspirin to diapers, filled your prescription or had a soda. During its life the building also housed the Chester post office, the Draft Board, a doctor and an insurance salesman among others. Surely then it was no wonder that Magee’s felt the need for expansion and as the decade of the fifties moved on, that is what they did. You can still see those remnants of those expansions attached to the old building including a small house where the Magee family lived for a time.
“When I was 4 years old I was able to watch daddy at work through the store window from the house,” one of James Magee’s sons, Tom Magee, said.
One of the biggest improvements in the early days was the installment of a lunch counter. Local Realtor, Courtney Wells, remembers when this quickly became where many of the men of Chester congregated to discuss the business of the day over a cup of coffee or a sandwich.
Younger people flocked there as well for soda and ice cream.
“I remember two-a-day summer high school football practices when we would bombard Magee’s for those homemade limeades, all 50 of us.” said Robert Tucker, life-long Chester resident. “The soda jerks hated to see us coming because it took hours to finish our orders.”
Sadly, James Magee died of a sudden heart attack in 1963 while working in the store. He was survived by his wife and six children. The store was eventually purchased by Sonny Currin who moved it across the street to a newer building facing Route 10 where he continued with the Magee’s name for more than three decades.
Although Magee’s Drugstore is gone, there are these gentle reminders of that different age that are still around us. So as long as there are fond memories of Chester in the hearts and minds of the people, then it will not be forgotten.