David H. Schuman, owner of the Champlain Drug Store in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1948 until 1961, took some pictures in early 1950 that, amateur though they may be, perfectly fix a moment in time. Schuman’s son Michael, who sent them to us, recalls that his father proudly told him many times how, in the unimaginable era before people in his neighborhood owned television sets, they would gather in the drugstore to watch TV on a set perched high on a back wall.
Here they are one day, passionately engaged by the newest mode of mass entertainment. Enough of the viewers are wearing fedoras to remind us that halfway across the state the city of Danbury had built (and ultimately would lose) its fortune on hats, and in one photo a counter features hairnets —another item in low demand these days. There is the expected soda fountain, along with plenty of booths, since pharmacies once served up milk shakes and chicken-salad sandwiches and were a fine place to pass the hours. What program are these drugstore denizens watching so intently? The Magic Clown? The Television Shopper? Alas, since David Schuman died in 1980, the answer has vanished with those shows into the ether.