ProPharma Nelson manager Barry Nicholas and pharmacist Deirdre Magee with some of the invoices that were found in the ceiling during renovations of the Victory Square Pharmacy. Photo: Kate Russell.

Old invoices found in new pharmacy

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A ‘blast from the past’ has been found stashed away in the rooftops of one of Victory’s longest running institutions.

A stack of pharmaceutical invoices dated from 1973 were found during renovations of the St Vincent St/Toi Toi St corner site late last year, when Victory Square Pharmacy made the move back to its old premises.

The pharmacy’s roots in Victory go back to the 1950s, moving several times around the shopping village until current owners, Sean and Deirdre Magee, decided to take the pharmacy back to the corner site.

But Sean made an interesting discovery when they were re-wiring the building.

“I was up in the roof with my head torch on and I started biffing these things out, just thinking they were rubbish. But then Deirdre took one look at them and realised that they were the old invoices from the first owner of the pharmacy,” he says.

“For some reason he just stored them up there for safekeeping and they just sat there for over 44 years.”

And what makes the discovery even more interesting is that the man who wrote the invoices – Barry Nicholas – still works for the pharmaceutical supplier as the local manager and happened to recognise his writing on them.

“We were just having a casual conversation, and Barry walks through the door as we were looking at them,” says Sean. “We said, ‘Barry, these might mean something to you’, and he said – ‘yes, that’s my handwriting’.”

Barry started as a delivery boy for Kempthorne, Prosser and Co. when he left Nelson College in December 1965, and then he became one of the reps. He is now the Nelson manager for ProPharma.

“We had a warehouse where the State Cinema building is on Trafalgar St. There were two or three of us who used to go around all the pharmacies in Nelson and Blenheim and get the orders and we would do deliveries twice a day,” says Barry.

The products ordered are “very different” to what is ordered today, according to Deirdre.

“They would have made a lot more things from scratch, whereas now the majority of it is already made up. Cough medicine would have come in a bottle and dispensed into smaller bottles for patients,” she says.

Among the items ordered were Infagel antacid, baby food, hair perms, Corlan pellets, ‘action acne lotion’, bathroom scales, white coats for the pharmacists at $11.70 each and Kodak film processing.

“There are a lot of substances that are banned now like Sudafed elixir, Pseudoephedrine – which is now a restricted medicine.”

Sean says the discovery has prompted a long-time Victory resident to bring in a medicine bottle from the original store.

“A lot of customers have lived in this area all their lives, so when we moved a lot of people came in and told us their memories.

“It’s neat – it’s like a little time capsule and a nice connection between reopening here and the original pharmacy.”