Closing of Parker Drug means end of 53-year career

Published 10:50 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

FRANKLIN—Audrey Francis has been at Parker Drug longer than any fixture.

When Parker Drug — a 123-year-old soda and gift shop on Main Street — closes on July 27, Francis will walk away from a job she has worked for 53 years.

She may not retire. The 71-year-old said Friday she has been offered a job at Alphabet Soup, a downtown gift shop.

“I don’t want to go home and sit in a chair,” Francis said.

Customers like 90-year-old Malita Askew, who has been going to Parker Drug since 1936, will miss Francis.

“She’s just been a precious friend,” Askew said while having her daily breakfast there Friday.

The drive for more money is how Francis got her start at Parker Drug in 1957. The then 19-year-old was working at nearby Jones Drug for $2.25 an hour and was turned down for a raise.

So she went to Parker Drug, where the owner, the late Charlie Kingery, offered her $2.35 an hour.

“When I was that age, every 10 cents helped,” Francis said.

All but five of her 53 years have been spent working full-time. She’s worked the fountain, the gift shop, and as a cook and waitress. Francis also ran the Hallmark card department.

Her favorite place to work was the pharmacy, where Francis counted pills and did paperwork for Medicare.

A native of Emporia who quit school at age 13 to work at Roses dimestore to help support her family, Francis moved to Franklin in 1955. Her future husband, Joe B. Francis, lived here and they married in 1956.

When Francis had her children, she worked part-time at Parker Drug. Joe B. Francis Jr., 50, of Franklin and Trina Lamm, 48, of Portsmouth grew up around the store.

“They would come to work with me when I didn’t have a babysitter,” Francis said.

She turned down offers to go elsewhere.

“I worked with good people and I liked the customers,” Francis said. “I liked being in the downtown.”

Regulars Mildred Branche of Sedley and Doris Myers of Franklin will miss Francis.

“We love Audrey,” Branche said. “She’s got a heart of gold and she puts the customers first.”

“Audrey ‘is Parkers’ because she’s always willing to help you if you need help,” Myers added.