Pharmacy Museum a remedy for local history

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Written by City Media

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A piece of the Pharmaceutical past quietly occupies the main street of Castor, Alberta; a treasure trove of the advertising, packaging and commerce structure used to sell medicinal drugs decades ago.
The Castor Pharmacy Museum, owned by Mike and Wendy Bain, was established at it’s current location in 2010 to coincide with the Town’s centennial anniversary. The building has the interior nature of a turn of the century Pharmacy, complete with a wealth of items collected from the late 1900’s up to the 1960’s.
“It wasn’t the first drug store in Castor,” says Mike, “But after a fire destroyed the original ones this was built in 1921.” In it’s present manifestation, the building has it’s original floors (uncovered from layers of carpet, tile and subflooring), safe, desk, shelving units and the dispensing table Mike’s father used when he was apprenticing at that very store.
Mike took over the building in 1977 upon returning to Castor. A working pharmacy was active in the historic location until about 1988, when Mike built the Value Drug Mart that stands active today under new ownership. Between Mike and his father, they claim 62 years of pharmacy ownership in the Castor area.
Mike cites a trip to Ireland – and events thereafter – as piquing his interest in Pharmaceutical curatorship.
“I think what sort of finally pushed us to get me going was my wife and I went to Ireland, and we tracked down relatives which I’ve never met, and one of the relatives pulled out these pictures [of the old store],” says Mike, “they were asking me ‘does the drug store still look like this?’ and I said no, it doesn’t.” Mike then began cataloguing the items he owned that were in the old photos, noticing quite a collection was building up.
Upon their return to Canada, Wendy Bain prompted him to do something with the collection or clean out the store and get rid of the shop. Ultimately, he decided to take the ‘do something’ route and set up the refinished items and collected pieces in the basement of their home.
“Then I started to accumulate stuff,” he says, “and it just got bigger and bigger.”
He says that most of the stock has come from different places all around the province. Mike uses old photographs of the store, and product catalogues from the early 20th century, to assist him in determining what items to look for.
Upon the 100th Anniversary of the Town of Castor, Mike thought it would be neat to re-open the old location to the public for viewing. He said it’s taken about eight to nine years of work to accumulate the collection of items present in the museum.
“[Stock] comes from all over the place,” Mike says, “sometimes we buy stuff, sometimes it’s donated.” Everything from cabinets to countertops, to ‘Dingbat’ Calendars – a promotional tool from a Canadian drug company – are present within the Museum. The collection has been recognized with an award of excellence from the Alberta College of Pharmacists and the Pharmacists Association of Alberta.
The Pharmacy Museum often opens it’s doors to classes of children from the local school, seniors groups and interested people just passing by. For a peek into the world of Pharmacies through the ages, call Mike and Wendy Bain at 403-882-3356.

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