May is here and that means Mother’s Day is right around the corner. I stopped over at my Mom’s house last week, and over conversation asked her if the previous generations of our families Mothers (Wickel, Oswald and Kester) had been involved much with the store.
She and I both assumed that my great-great grandmother Sarah Ann Wickel did not have a lot to do with the store as it was not appropriate for women of the 19th century to do so. My great grandmother Susie Wickel Oswald took on quite a bit when husband Louis Oswald bought the business from W. W, Wickel. She would work the counter during busy times and was the goodwill ambassador for the store. During the depression, Susie and daughter Helen pitched in so the pharmacy was able to survive those tough years. Susie also attended almost every National Association of Retail Druggist (NARD) convention with Louis. They were held all over the United States annually. In our “antique” case next to the pharmacy you can see many of the badges that she wore at these conventions.
My grandmother, Helen Oswald Kester was involved in many of the decisions that helped transform the store into a cutting edge 20th century pharmacy. She was very involved in our community, serving as president of the Women’s Club, Chairwoman of the Hospital Auxiliary and extremely active in her church. Many of you may not remember how extensive the stores cosmetic department was back then, but for many years it was the largest outside of Chicago. She was responsible for attracting many of the exclusive franchise lines including Elizabeth Arden, Lucien Lelong, Chanel and Revlon. Helen made sure the department had highly trained cosmeticians behind the counter. The card and gift sections of the store were also under her direction. Taking up where her mother left off, she attended Rexall and NARD Conventions with her husband Harold.
My Mom, Jean Kester Anderson grew up in the store. She filled in at the counter but is best remembered for her expertise at the soda fountain. She worked the phosphate, ice cream and soda mixers through her college years. I remember my mom, with four children at home, running dinner down to my dad on Sunday nights. The store was open from 8:00 AM to 10:30 PM on Sundays (actually every day) and the pharmacist would work the entire day – open to close! After dad bought the store, my mom would attend the Chicago Gift Show to add new and fun merchandise to the store. After retiring from teaching, she went to work at the company’s newly opened Downers Grove bookstore.
My wife Nicki, worked for the store in the bookkeeping department before we had children. She attended her first gift show while we were still dating! We have attended a bunch pharmacy conventions over the years, sometimes bringing the kids. Her input along with my Mom’s and Grandma’s over the past years has been invaluable and I don’t think the store would be anything near what it is today without their love, insight and support. Happy Mother’s Day to them and all of you Moms everywhere!!