A LOOK BEHIND THE COUNTER

Regulars at Hermiston Drug's lunch counter enjoy visiting friends and eating the homemade soups and pies along with old-fashioned chocolate sodas to be found at the downtown Hermiston business. Some patrons come nearly every day for food and conversation.

By Karen Hutchinson - Talaski

Staff writer

HERMISTON — Looking for an old-fashioned chocolate soda or milkshake? A slice of fresh apple, berry or custard pie? Delicious clam chowder or chicken noodle soup? A fun place to meet old friends and make new ones?

Then Hermiston Drug's lunch counter is the place for you.

Tucked at the back of the drug store in downtown Hermiston, and reminiscent of the old soda fountains of yesteryear, the lunch counter at Hermiston Drug serves delicious homemade soups and pies, fresh sandwiches and hamburgers, fresh home-made bread on Fridays and the best chocolate milkshakes in town from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

For Gene and Pauline Lindsey, coming to Hermiston Drug is a Friday tradition. Before Pauline gets her hair done, the Hermiston couple eat lunch and visit with the other patrons at the counter. The Lindseys met at a soda fountain over 55 years ago in Salmon, Idaho, so coming to Hermiston Drug is like a walk down memory lane.

"I was going down to get ice cream in the Rexall Drug," said Pauline, "and there he was."

Gene says coming to Hermiston Drug is a good place to eat.

"We come to eat homemade soup and bread," Gene said of the counter. "It's kind of a come-on. You enjoy it and you get to see all the faces in town."

Seeing people from around town is one of the reasons Joan Cherry comes in nearly every day. A Hermiston resident since 1977, Cherry comes for the food and the people.

"It's a social thing and the food is excellent," Cherry said. "It reminds me of the soda shops in the '50s back east. Everything is good."

Even the employees come in on their days off.

Betty Walker has worked at the counter for the past two years. She says she likes the work and loves to see people.

"It's a good place to see a lot of them," Walker said. "We have good hard ice cream, good milkshakes, sodas and floats. Lots of people come in. I even come in on my day off."

The first time Hildegard Piersol came to Hermiston Drug, she was coming to Hermiston to meet her husband and came by bus. The bus stop was at Hermiston Drug, but for some reason the bus driver did not realize he had a passenger to drop off in Hermiston.

"He said we were passing through Hermiston and I told him I needed to get off in Hermiston," Piersol remembered. "He dropped me off near where Highland (Avenue) is and I walked down to Hermiston Drug where my future in-laws were waiting for me."

Piersol says Hermiston Drug has the "best chocolate sodas."

Counter employee Kay Eddy says seeing the same people every day has created a family-like atmosphere.

"We know the people," Eddy said. "When they don't show up, we ask about them until we find out where they are."

The lunch counter has been in the drug store for about 50 years, says owner Bob Mullay. As far as he knows, there are only about two or three lunch counters like Hermiston Drug's left in Oregon.

He says as long as he has people who want to work the counter, he will continue to keep it open.

"It isn't about dollars and cents," Mullay said. "It's a place for people to meet and visit as well as a place to eat."

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