THE RICE BLOCK - Alice Ervin Colwell

The Rice Block at 420 S. Keystone Avenue was built around 1904. It was the only three story brick building in West Sayre. It consisted of two storefronts, two apartments and the third floor was a hall used for dancing and bingo.

The drugstore was owned by Doc Rice, who was an amazing man for his day. He was a businessman, pharmacist, doctor and dentist. He always wore a blue suit and a grey felt hat. The store was open seven days a week. As far as I know, he never took a vacation or days off.

The drugstore also had a post office. You could buy stamps and mail packages at the window. There was a mailbox out front to drop your letters in for mailing.

The kids loved penny candy. It was lined up in a row and in apothecary jars. It took some doing selecting your favorite if you only had a penny to spend.

He had a pay phone booth. Doc also owned a parrot that he kept in the store. One day I went over to use the phone and spent a nickel saying “Hello” to the parrot.

In the back of the drugstore was a separate room with a dentist’s chair.

Back in those days, you could buy fireworks. A round ball (bubble gum size) could be thrown on the sidewalk and it made a loud noise. They were called cherry bombs. We discovered that you could throw them in the alley by Doc Rice’s and it made twice the noise. We proceeded to do that. Mrs. Rice didn’t like it so she would come out on the upstairs porch and poured a bucket of water on us. It missed all of us. The next day we bombed the alley with a lookout for Mrs. Rice.

Nowadays we run to the pharmacy the first of the month to get our prescriptions filled. Back then it was a home remedy or the pill of choice was either aspirin or “X-Lax.” Although Doc did make a good cough syrup that did the trick.

I don’t remember all of the people who rented the storefront next to the drugstore. One was Jack Binghman, a dry cleaner. Louis Gore rented it for use as an art studio. When it was vacant, a group traveling through would decorate it with crepe paper and cardboard figures to advertise cigarettes. There was a beauty shop and Gord Lattimer had a barber shop there. There was also a lawyer’s office at one time. The last tenant there was Janet Seely and her antiques. She used both storefronts. Janet was there 7 years. She called the place “The Happy Packrat.” I can only remember the Air Force Recruiting Station renting the storefront where the drugstore was located.

The apartments were rented by various people. The third floor was converted into two apartments. For a long time, Eddie Dunn’s Bakery was located next to Doc Rice’s. Erba Dunn sold it to Dorothy Pennay, who in turn sold it to Gene Parrish in 1991.

The owners of the Rice Block were:

Fred Rice 1904; Hiram Rice, 1958; Lucy VanBove, 1967; Fred Douglas, 1973; Louis Ciotti, 1976; Paula Webster, 1977; Ed Webster, 1980; Jack Thorpe, 1986; Gene Parrish, 1991; Sayre Christian Church, 2001.

On November 17, 2001, the building was razed to make way for a parking lot for the Sayre Christian Church.