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Desert Drugs is History

By Bob Boze Bell

True West magazine, April 2003.

A skinny kid in a Little League cap runs to the front of the drugstroe and scans the three rows of magazines in the window. He grabs one and his mother adds the purchase (a whopping 25 cents!) to her prescription bill. The boy scrambles to their car to read the latest exciting issue of his favorite magazine.

The year was 1957 and True West was already four years old. But to the lad in the cap, it was brand-spanking-new. Revolutionary, really.

The kid wasn't alone. For anyone who avidly watched the wall-to-wall Westerns on TV every night, the magazine answered the question, "I wonder how much of this is true?"

April is the actual anniversary of when our founder; Joe Small, scraped together enough advertising to find out if people would buy a magazine about true Western history.

Of course, that kid in the cap was me, and I'm proud to say there are enough other "kids" out there who agree that this title should live on and prosper. But, as anyone who casually looks out the window will tell you, not everything worth saving survives.

When we were getting this issue ready, I wanted to honor the historic location (to me) of the place where I discovered gold. I called the Mohave County Historical Society in Kingman, Arizona, and asked if they had any photographs of Desert Drugs in its prime.

"You haven't heard?" Asked library manager Rosanne Rosenberg, after I informed her I already had a modern photo taken two years ago. "They tore it down three months ago."

Why is it that in the West, when someone says a building is older than, say, 1953, there's a gasp (or a shrug) and then a rush to tear it down? Get rid of it. It's old, no good, out of date.

Desert Drugs photo courtesy Mohave County Historical Society


Desert Drugs is gone, but for the kid in the cap, the memory remains strong. To this day, when I separate "desert" and "dessert" in my mind, the mental clue is the indelible image of the nighttime neon of Desert Drugs, with one "s".

Sadly, the only difference between True West magazine and Desert Drugs is that someone cared. Unfortunately for Desert Drugs, no one rode to the rescue.

Yes, True West has survived for a half century and that is a mighty fine milestone. But my wish, my hope, is that as we begin our second 50 years, somewhere a kid in a cap is reading this.


Editors note This article has been reprinted to show one of the many stories most of us could tell. We are affected by our built environment, historic preservation is multi faceted, it has to do with much more then famous personage or architectural merit, it is the meaning these places give to our lives. The publisher Bob Boze Bell is a friend of the Coons, and SOHO carries the popular magazine in the SOHO Museum Shop.

2003 - Volume 34, Issue 2

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Private Property Rights


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Deadline Extended


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How to Be a Preservationist


Desert Drugs is History


Highway 101 Association


Remembering Larry Booth


People In Preservation Awards


Attention Coronado Craftsman Era Homeowners

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