Imagine walking along North 8th Street in downtown Ballinger in the 1930's. On any given day, you might hear the warm baritone voice of Bing Crosby pleading the lyrics of “Pennies From Heaven”, or the warbly toe-tapper of Jimmie Rodgers' Blue Yodel #8, “Mule Skinner Blues.”
Imagine walking along North 8th Street in downtown Ballinger in the 1930’s. On any given day, you might hear the warm baritone voice of Bing Crosby pleading the lyrics of “Pennies From Heaven”, or the warbly toe-tapper of Jimmie Rodgers’ Blue Yodel #8, “Mule Skinner Blues.” The amplified songs that got your attention were played through a speaker cleverly mounted in the outside awning of Daugherty Drug Store. Once inside, you could buy that latest hit 78 RPM. record for just 35¢. While you were there, you might as well get one of Eva’s homemade pimiento cheese sandwiches. Add a root beer float, made with L.C.’s fresh-made ice cream, or a double-orangeade.
Feeling bad? L. C. Daugherty has the cure with a complete line-up of patent medicines. Noxzema miracle cream for pimples, blackheads, chapped hands, razor rash, and sunburn, too--only 49¢. Got bad breath? You need Cert-O-Fied Thyborine. It also works on cuts, insect bites and gets rid of dandruff. You can get a pint bottle for just 24¢! Candy, cigars, cosmetics, gun ammunition, fishing gear, and the latest comic books--all available at Daugherty Drug.
But, Lloyd Daugherty wasn’t always in the drug store business. He started out as an automobile mechanic in Red River County, Texas. William Hopkins, from nearby New Boston, brought his car in for repairs, and it was there that Lloyd first met William’s daughter. Eva Hopkins had just graduated as valedictorian of her senior class. By 1921, Lloyd had moved from the family farm in Red River County to Sherman, Texas, where he worked at Pearce Auto for $5 per day. The next year he married Eva Hopkins in Bowie, Texas.
Soon thereafter, the young married couple moved to San Angelo. It was there that Lloyd would get his introduction into the drug store business. Lloyd took a job as a soda jerk with W.M. Kidd, who owned the Arc Light Drug Store. The Arc Light was previously one of San Angelo’s favorite watering holes, but after The Prohibition began, it became a drug store.
Lloyd and Eva would move one more time, and that was in 1924 when they came to Ballinger. Lloyd went to work for George Holman at City Drug, also on 8th Street. He would work there for just over a year when Lloyd realized his dream to start his own business. On April 7, 1925, Lloyd and Eva opened a confectionary in the old Ike Wooden building located on the Southwest corner of 8th and Railroad, which is today the parking lot next to the credit union. Lloyd and Eva started their little business with no help from family or friends. As Lloyd would say, “It was just us--and the bank!” But, the stars were aligned for the Daughertys as a circus came to town that very weekend and set up right across the street on the mall of the railroad. His business boomed right from the start with all the people that came to town to go to the circus!
The little confectionary grew, so in just a couple of years, the Daughertys moved to the Guion building, just two doors down. Lloyd would greatly expand his offerings with a complete inventory of packaged drugs perfectly displayed on handsome turn-of-the-century hardwood cases, and a large soda fountain, complete with his own ice cream machine.
Lloyd also became an authorized dealer for RCA Victor. In addition to the records, he also carried beautifully ornate console RCA phonographs and radios. Records were sent to the store each week, and were played both inside and out on the street. The music was loud enough that it could easily be heard at the Central Hotel just up the hill. One of the hotel staff would often call down to the store to request a particular song be played. In those days, radios were an attraction and the store would fill up during ball season as people wanted to hear their favorite team play. In one of the pictures you can see the fight card for the Tunney-Dempsey fight of 1927, which would be a huge draw for Ballinger boxing fans. For all the business that the Daughertys did with RCA Victor, they were awarded one of the original papier-mâché Nipper dogs, which was quite a prize as there were only a limited number.
Daugherty Drug has the distinction of being Ballinger’s first, and perhaps the only, Harley-Davidson dealer. The picture of the vested biker taken from the backside is none other than Lloyd himself testing out one of his bikes in the alley between 8th and 9th. Drawing from his repairman days, Lloyd easily had the mechanical skills to market the bikes. But, they required too much assembly time and there wasn’t enough profit to warrant carrying them. After selling a dozen of them, he quit. But during that time, you could buy a Harley-Davidson with sidecar from Lloyd for just $600!
Lloyd also sold guns and ammunition. Both he and Eva were expert shooters, and he worked on them, as well. One day a man passing through town came in with a Remington rifle that needed repairs. Whatever was wrong, Lloyd fixed it in just a couple of minutes. He handed it back to the man and didn’t charge him anything. The next Sunday morning, Lloyd found a hat box on his doorstep. Inside was a brand new cowboy hat with a thank you note signed by John B. Stetson. After that, Lloyd Daugherty always wore a Stetson hat.
In 1929, Lloyd Daugherty engineered a remarkable event in Ballinger. Because of his relationship with RCA Victor, Lloyd was able to book Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, to appear at the Palace Theater, just two doors down from his store. Jimmie Rodgers was one of the biggest entertainers of his time. He was wildly popular and accounted for a full 10% of RCA’s record sales. His songs have been covered many times over the years by artists such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Fogerty, and many, many more.
In order to get Jimmie to come, Lloyd Daugherty had to guarantee his purse. Which meant selling out every seat in the Palace Theater--times four! But, Lloyd took the risk and banked Jimmie to perform in Ballinger. Jimmie Rodgers took the stage for a matinee performance at the Palace Theater in Ballinger, Texas on September 30, 1929. He performed to a standing room only crowd. He performed again for the evening show. The next day, Jimmie Rodgers performed two more shows at the Palace, with all performances totally sold out. No doubt Lloyd Daugherty breathed a heavy sigh of relief! Over 2,000 people saw and heard Jimmie Rodgers in Ballinger. For those two days, when Jimmie wasn’t on stage at the Palace, he was in Daugherty Drug, autographing pictures for his fans. There’s no telling how many Jimmie Rodgers records that Lloyd sold during that time!
In 1938, Lloyd Daugherty ran for Sheriff of Runnels County. The race was quite large. In addition to Lloyd, there was Gerald Black, Calvin Roberson, Robert Wheeless, and J.P. Flynt. Calvin Roberson won the election.
On January 30, 1939, the Texas Theater burned. The Texas was easily the nicest theater in Ballinger, but the Hodge family rebuilt it even better than before. Lloyd saw an opportunity to move right next door to the Texas. The idea was to be in close proximity to theater goers who would need snacks and drinks before and after their movie. So, he closed the store on the West side of 8th and moved directly across the street. Lloyd had to downsize considerably as it was a much smaller location. A number of his fixtures were stored away. But, he did a lot of business out of that store selling candy, drinks, and ice cream.
In 1954, Lloyd and Eva moved their store one last time to the old Masonic building at 816 Hutchings Avenue. Instead of catering to the theater crowd, their business was now geared toward travelers passing through. Lloyd and Eva were able to bring out of storage their beautiful display cabinets and their famous Nipper RCA dog. For the next 22 years, Daugherty Drug did a brisk business there selling magazines, soft drinks, newspapers, fishing gear, and firearms.
In 1976, the Daughertys lost their lease. Lloyd initially wanted to move to another location, but Eva told him, “If you do, I’ll follow you there and burn it down!” Lloyd eventually agreed that after 51 years, it was time to retire.
On September 30, 1976, the doors were closed on Daugherty Drug for the last time. Claud Mansell bought their ice cream machine. All of the Daugherty display cabinets were sold to Earnest Barrow, and were re-purposed for the Earnest and Dorothy Barrow Foundation Museum, located between Eola and Paint Rock. They can be seen there to this day.
Lloyd Cecil Daugherty died June 9, 1985. He was 85 years old. Eva Hopkins Daugherty died August 30, 1991. She was 86 years old. Just as they worked side by side throughout their lives, Lloyd and Eva’s remains rest side by side in Old Runnels Cemetery.
Many thanks to the following people for their invaluable help: Dorothy Daugherty Speck, Allen Speck, Nancy Baker, Jerry Eoff, Suzanne Campbell, James Hays, Gary Glass, La Rita Robinson, Larry Jones, and Neuman Smith.
Sources: The West Texas Collection at San Angelo State, The Architecture Library at Texas Tech, The Ballinger Ledger, and The Abilene Reporter-News.