Historic pharmacy reenacts past to preserve Hoosier heritage

Historic pharmacy reenacts past to preserve Hoosier heritage
Anna Ventimiglia shows how drugs used to be made at Hook’s Drug Store Museum and Soda Fountain at the Indiana State Fair. Ventimiglia is a fifth-year pharmacy student at Butler University and a fair volunteer. Rachel Brammer/ BSU Journalism at the Fair
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The state’s largest hog and head of cabbage. Live spaying and neutering of animals. Deep-fried Oreos. A sculpture made of cheese.

Add to these only-at-the-Indiana-State-Fair-experiences a small 1910-style drug store, where almost half a million Hoosiers will visit these next two weeks.

The Indiana State Fair has been home to Hook’s Historic Drug Store and Pharmacy Museum, dedicated to Indiana pharmacies from a bygone era, when medicine was produced by hand. Approximately 600,000 visit the store for its old-fashioned soda-fountain drinks and pharmaceutical relics every year, said Autumn Bussen, a museum manager.

A Fair Tradition

On Sunday, a woman in a red cardigan stood with an ice-cream soda in her hand as she peered into the glass.

“I used to come here when this wasn’t a museum,” fairgoer Helen Goldstein said. “My dad was a physician and he used to take us here once in a while for a soda. And there used to be a bar and stools you could sit at. He would just sit there and point out all chemicals on the wall as we drank our sodas and told us how they were used or how he used them.”

Andy Klotz, public relations director for the Indiana State Fair, said Hook’s is as much a tradition to the fair as riding the Ferris wheel.

“It’s one of those things people come for year after year,” Klotz said. “You come and get a corn on the cob and come here to get a soda. I know I always try to make it out there once or twice every fair.”

Hands-On History

Another thing drawing fairgoers to Hook’s is the chance to watch pharmacy students make pills by hand.

Beth Koselke and Katie Washburn, pharmacy students working at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, took pieces of Play-Doh and rolled them into thin tubes and placed them on a pill mill, a board with ridges, to mold the putty into a pill shape.

“We don’t actually make pills by hand anymore,” Koselke said. “They take the active ingredients and pour them into a vats for mixing. Then that mixture gets put into molds. It’s much more precise, compared to what it used to be like.”

Koselke added if they do make anything by hand now it’s usually for liquid forms of the drugs, which is always done in a sterile environment.

Day manager Becky Vinson said the museum offers the chance for pharmacy students to role-play as an old-timey pharmacist so the exhibits are more active with its visitors.

“We just try to get people engaged and involved with what’s going on,” Vinson said. “We just want to promote the preservation of the Hook’s pharmacy chain.”

Bussen added that preservation is important for the future of pharmacy.

“By preserving this, we can see where we came from and where we are going in the future with pharmaceuticals,” she said.

Temporary Becomes Permanent

The Hook’s museum is one of the largest, if not the largest, pharmaceutical museums in the county, according to Bussen. It opened in 1966 with Indiana’s sesquicentennial.

“Hook’s was one of the biggest pharmacy companies in Indiana at the time,” Bussen said. “They opened their first store here in 1900 and were really well-known.”

Hook’s originally planned to have the store open three months but proved such a success it remains to this day.

All artifacts inside the museum are original pieces and have never been refurbished, some pieces coming from family descendant Bud Hook’s private collection. They have been drawn from old pharmacies and candy shops from all over Indiana in order to create a place that reflects what a drug store would have looked like between 1890 and 1910.

“It was always a real treat to come here,” fairgoer Goldstein said. “They used to have a hundred different types of candy canes and rock candies that you could get here for only a penny or a nickel.

“Our dad made it a big deal for us and it was.”

Alan Hovorka is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a Ball State University immersive-learning project placing 25 student journalists at the heart of the Midway to tell the weird and wonderful stories of the 2014 Indiana State Fair.