Recalling a South End institution

In 1980, Eleanor Dunsworth Moore wrote a moving personal tribute after her father, James Dunsworth, closed his drug store on Barrington Street in the South End of Halifax. It had been been there almost 60 years.
She recalled the shop was in busy location because it was not far from a tunnel that lead to the docks. It was also a very important place for local residents to seek medical advice from its druggists.
In Moore’s memoir, which she wrote a few days after the drug store closed, she described going down to the almost empty place to retrieve a few mementos: a small bottle marked oil of hemlock, an apothecary jar, a stained mortar and a prescription file dated 1927.
She recalled during her grandfather’s days, many of the prescriptions he filled were “from scratch.”
The business was a family affair. “I use to enjoy working with my cousin John Dunsworth who served as our bill collector!” When he grew up, he became a well-known actor who starred as the park supervisor in the television series Trailer Park Boys.
The shop reflected the more prudish attitudes of the day. She confides that they did sell condoms but customers looking for them knew that they were always hidden somewhere in the back of the store.
Sanitary pads were also still viewed as being an embarrassing purchase. Women would take their Kotex pads from a box on the counter and wordless place money in a box so that they would not have to speak to the clerk.
Moore also recalls the many sailors from the West Indies who often came to the drug store to buy dozens of bottles of Bermuda Breeze. “They loved this facial cologne but candidly, I was convinced it must have contained a lot of alcohol! ”
She also recalled the prescriptions she filled for customers who often become dear friends. “Faces bounced into focus as if no time had passed. I could still see an image of dear old Mrs. Hennyberry who often bought castor oil for her constipation and, there was Mrs. Connolly who insisted that my mother knew what pills she needed without providing her prescription.”
She also knew that her parents had many special memories they had treasured from their time at their drug store. This included their friendly chats with the waiters who worked at The Lighthouse Tavern next door. And Max who owned a store nearby and always brought them gifts at Christmas and then, would join them upstairs to have a drink of wine in celebration of Hannukah.
Sadly, on May 2, 1980 her father had reluctantly decided to close the store because his wife was very ill. A few days later, she passed away.
Eleanor said “It was the saddest day in our drug store’s long history.”
Editor’s Note: We’d love to have a historic photo of Dunsworth’s to accompany this story. If you have one, please email

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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