Brisbane History – Gil’s Drug Store

BY: Dolores Gomez, Brisbane historian, brischic@sonic.net

GIL’S DRUG STORE

BY: Dolores Gomez, Brisbane historian, brischic@sonic.net

Gil’s Drug Store, was one of a kind. It was a variety store, medicine and prescription store, small five and ten cent store also a meeting place for Brisbane residents. This humble, small wooden structure at 49 Visitacion, (painted fire plugs are there now) had two windows in the front and customers entered by opening a screen door. Gil was a wise, kind, and intelligent pharmacist, residents loved him. He also served as Brisbane’s first police commissioner. Gil’s glasses were always on the tip of his nose and he wore a rumpled wrap around tan apron, like grocers used to wear. “Gil” Gillman’s drug store was constantly busy, a social gathering point where residents visited, received free information on most any subject, advice for their ailments and oh yes, he did fill prescriptions! The store was heavily cluttered with boxes and in a constant state of disorder. Customers were used to it being that way and no one complained.
I could see only a part of the top of the soda counter, a beautiful swirled colored marble, but it was piled high with boxes, supplies and papers! Sticking up behind the counter top, were the high chrome shiny soda pumps. I never saw anyone sipping a soda or enjoying a dish of ice cream! Scattered tables in the store hosted a variety of cough syrup bottles, bobby pins, hair tonic or Duncan Yo-Yos, and more, creating a continual hunt for wanted items. When a customer had to ask for an item, surprisingly, Gil knew where everything was to be found in the store! The residents relied on him for their information, medical or personal advice. I remember one time he told me for exercise don’t walk on level ground, walk on uneven soil. Dr. Guardino, our much loved town physician and Gil were very close friends. At times they could be heard arguing in the store. Dr. Guardino had to remind Gil constantly, in a pleasant way, that HE was the doctor!
Early Thanksgiving morning in 1949, it was sad and heartbreaking sight. Residents found flames shooting from the roof and front windows of Gil’s store. Volunteer firemen rushed to extinguish the blaze, but the unique drug store was a total loss because of poor electrical wiring. Gil had cancelled half of the expensive fire insurance two weeks before! He soon opened another drug store in the Bayview district of San Francisco.
After the fire, a young pharmacist opened a new drug store up the street. He wore a starched white jacket and on display in shiny new glass cases were a lovely variety of gifts for sale. Stock on the shelves and on the counters was all neat, clean and in perfect order. There were no tables to be found in the new store!