Dispensing History

Retired pharmacist Bob Smith’s preferred medium is pencil, and his preferred subjects are historical figures and John Wayne.
Trish Popovitch

Militia men, presidents, cowboys and 18th Century revolutionaries adorn the Pages of Bob Smith’s sketch pad. Bob has had two driving forces in his life: pharmacy work and art.

Ever since he was a boy, Bob was fascinated by the pharmacy business. Growing up in Indiana, he puts it down to the soda fountain and drug store in his childhood hometown.

“Right after I turned 15 (1944), the local druggist in my hometown offered me a job, so I went to work for him,” he said. “He taught me everything imaginable about the store. Six weeks before I was 16, I became an apprentice pharmacist.”

In the 1940s, employees of drugstores could send in their dollar and receive their apprentice pharmacist certificate.

Bob had found his path. “I set my course,” he said. “I never wanted to be anything else but a pharmacist. I loved every minute of the day when I was working.”

An after-thought elicits a broad smile. “And I made the best soda.” In between learning how to dispense pills, customize prescriptions and take the sting out of eye drops, Bob began to sketch in his spare time. As his passion for the pharmacy trade grew, so did his love of art.

“I did a little sketching down through the years, even starting when I was a kid. I’ve got my old fifth grade history book over there. It’s got all kinds of sketches and scribbling in it.

You can tell I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention,” he said with a grin. Bob worked at the pharmacy throughout his boyhood, then left for college to become a licensed pharmacist in his own right. Halfway through his senior year at Purdue’s School of

Pharmacy, Bob was drafted into the military for the Korean War. Bob married Marty (his wife for 64 years until her death), finished his senior year and enlisted
in the Navy.

Upon returning from service abroad in the Philippines, Bob was offered a pharmacy job working for a fraternity brother’s father back in his hometown in Indiana. That, of course, was before moving to Wyoming.

After working at several stores, taking over one pharmacy, owning his own drug store, going into partnership for another and working as the executive director for the Wyoming State Board of Pharmacy, Bob retired completely from the pharmacy trade in 2005.

His entire professional life was devoted to the dispensing of medicine. And the profession never stopped fascinating him.

Bob got to watch the pharmacy business as it morphed over the years, moving further away from the roots of one-on-one service and taking your time with
each customer to the fast-food style of dispensing today.

“In my day, we made a lot of things,” he explained. “You could fill 50 prescriptions a day in those days and make money. Now, you sell 500 and barely
get by.”

After he retired, Bob began devoting a lot more time to his art. That’s when he truly discovered his love for drawing.

“I prefer working with pencil. Because you can walk by it, look at it, see something,” he said. “With acrylics, you can’t do that. Charcoal is messy. I do it for fun
and relaxation, you know.”

With a penchant for history, Bob chooses characters from American history, copying from other sketches, as in the case of his Revolutionary War Era figures
or photographs in magazines or museum brochures.

With each sketch, Bob imparts a little American history, placing the art in a very definite space and giving it purpose. Bob gives the historic figures their aspect and public persona new perspective found only in the view of the impassioned historian.

His favorite movies also serve as the subjects of his drawings. He’s a big John Wayne fan and has several pictures of him in various roles.

Colorful and full of character, animals and family members also become Bob’s art, which he often giving his work away as gifts.

His life, too, serves as an inspiration, especially when it comes to his father. Although he lost him when Bob was 11, he is heavily influenced by his father, who also combined art and history.

Bob points to a few of his pieces on the wall of his apartment. His more recent works adorn the walls of the hallway outside. There’s a few of John Wayne, as well as a sketch of his late wife Marty. His new wife, former Glenrock mayor and an impassioned historian in her own right, Linda Care, mentions Bob’s other project—a book on the history of pharmacy.

The book, “My Life in Pharmacy,” has suffered a couple of Technical hitches, but Bob is determined to finish the manuscript while he has the time to do so
and would like to ultimately see it published.

“Picking the job you do like from the very beginning can lead to a fulfilling life,” he said, “not to mention enough material for a really good history book.”


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