I was walking through Glover Park the other day with my wife and she made a great suggestion to do an “If Walls Could Talk” on the neighborhood favorite Pearson’s on Wisconsin. This place has been around for a really long time (since 1933). Your grandfather (or great-grandfather) probably would have purchased some booze from them (if he lived in D.C. back then). Given the natural history of this place, I’m going to agree with my wife and do some research on this local business. A place that used to supply President Truman with some booze for his weekly poker game is definitely worth out time.
So, let’s give some love to a different ‘hood and dig into some Glover Park history.
Plain Old Pearson’s
The skylight bandit
Here’s an interesting story I came across from January of 1934:
Yeggman dropped through a skylight early yesterday to break open a drug store vault and escape with a quantity of drugs, whisky, perfumes and cash. Samuel Eisenberg, proprietor of the store, at 2448 Wisconsin avenue northwest, estimated his loss at $388.
Loot included $210 in cash, $10 in stamps, heroin and morphine tablets valued at $150, perfumes valued at $10, and a quantity of whisky.
Damn, that’s a loot worthy of a scene in Trainspotting. Heroin and morphine tablets? And who or what is yeggman? Well, I did not know this, but yeggman is a variant of the word yegg and slang for a safecracker or burglar. I learned something today.
Pearson’s Pharmacy advertisement (1934)
Coroner’s jury to hear driver on traffic death
There were a few traffic deaths in the District in 1941. According to the Washington Post, there were 60 deaths by the middle of September. Harry Zender, 57, of 804 17th St. NW was one of the unlucky 60 and was killed while standing in a streetcar loading zone at Wisconsin Av. and Davis St. in Glover Park. Below is an excerpt from the Post’s article on September 18th, 1941.
Louis Bryant, 24, Negro, of 11 Virginia Avenue Southwest, driver of a delivery car owned by Pearson’s Pharmacy, 2436 Wisconsin Avenue, will appear at the hearing.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Ida Shenk, 44, of 1305 Fairlawn Avenue Southeast, who also was struck by Bryant’s machine, which later crashed into a tree, was reported improved at Mount Alto Hospital yesterday. She suffered a fractured right leg and skull.
The driver told police yesterday he lost control of the automobile when the brakes failed to hold.
Sounds like tragic and freak accident.
Liquor dealer tells FTC of price fixing
In March of 1949, the Post reported on allegations of liquor price fixing. The Federal Trade Commission was holding hearings on charges against Middle Atlantic Distributors, Inc., claiming that they unlawfully used their agreements and understandings of the local market to fix minimum resale prices for liquor. One of the witnesses to testify was Samuel Eisenberg, the owner of Pearson’s Liquor Annex at 2436 Wisconsin ave. Below is an excerpt from the article.
He testified he had raised prices on three Hiram Walker products after receiving a letter from Middle Atlantc [sic] in February, 1948, ordering the new price policy.
Eisenberg said he believed he had asked a Middle Atlantic salesman at one time “in case some competitor would sell it (Hiram Walker products) for less than I do, what protection would I get, and I believe I was told to call him up and let him know.”
Ultimately, the FTC examiner, William L. Pack, concluded that “a seller has the right to select his own customers” and “may legally establish the prices at which he wishes his goods resold.” There was not enough evidence against Middle Atlantic, so the charges were dismissed.
Yule nippee ends badly for Shippee
This was an amusing one I found from December 23rd, 1949. A man by the name of Leonard C. Shippee had broken into the liquor store and helped himself to some whiskey. I’ll let you read the rest.
Police Pvts, H. E. Harmon and J. A. Payne, in Scout Car 72, found a front show window smashed, about 5:30 a. m., at Pearson’s Liquor Annex, 2436 Wisconsin ave. nw. Later, store officials said 43 fifths of whisky were taken.
43 bottles of whiskey? Good God, that’s a lot of booze for one dude.
Harmon and Payne launched a search of the neighborhood. First place they looked was a vacant lot across the street. It is in use for sale of Christmas trees and wreaths.
Prowling among the trees, they said, they found Shippee.
Also, they said, the found:
An almost empty fifth of whisky beside Shippee.
Four more, full, in his pockets.
That he was less than coherent.
That there were other fifths snugly hidden around the lot, under the spruces and balsams and holly.
That Shippee had fragments of broken glass on his clothing.
Adding these findings up, they arrested Shippee.
Plain Old Pearson’s advertisement (1947)
Pearson’s staff donates blood
On December of 1951, there’s an article that talks about the liquor store’s staff closing for three hours in the middle of the holiday season rush to give blood for the Korean War effort. The interesting part about it is that Pearson’s took out a big ad in the Washington Post, talking about this, and made no mention of liquor sales.
You see, the entire staff had urgent business elsewhere. They were going down to donate blood for the GIs in Korea. As the ad put it: “If we hurry, perhaps our gift will reach someone near Heartbreak Ridge in time for Christmas. Maybe it’ll fulfill his greatest wish-just being alive this Christmas and many more to come. Why don’t you join us?”
Evidently, the ad was a smashing success as letters, phone calls, and telegrams (yes, telegrams) poured in. They came from all parts of Washington, but also from all over the country.
Pharmacy manager accused of embezzling $1,018
Well that’s not a good headline to read. It was in the July 3rd, 1952 Washington Post.
The manager of Pearson’s Pharmacy, 2448 Wisconsin ave. nw., was held for grand jury action yesterday on a charge of embezzling $1018.49 from the firm during a six-month period.
Bernard A. Lowry, 40, of 7701 Eastern ave., Takoma Park, Md., voluntarily came to Police Headquarters for arraignment before Municipal Judge Andrew J. Howard, jr. Lowry pleaded not guilty, waived a preliminary hearing and was released in $1000 bond.
That was a fair bit of money back in 1952. Second, Bernard commuted all the way from Takoma Park to Glover Park for work? Man, that’s a hell of a commute.
Price fixing again … and a $6 million anti-trust suit
In November of 1955, Pearson’s again was part of a group of liquor stores crying foul against big liquor distributors for price fixing. The stores were asking the United States District Court for an injunction barring Seagram from establishing minimum retail prices and refusing to sell to retailers who don’t abide by their rules.
The worst luck
Here are some smaller anecdotes I dug up on Pearson’s.
On January 10th, 1958, D.C. police tracked down a burglar by using the serial number on a $1 bill. Pearson’s clerk, Bennie Lee had randomly noted a few serial numbers from bills in the store on the chance one of them might win a prize offered by a local radio program. Burnice Jackson had a bill in his pocket with serial number N-94985346-I, one of the numbers written down by Bennie. The night before, someone had broken into the store and stolen $25 in small change, and unfortunately for Mr. Jackson, he took one of the bills which had been recorded by Bennie. Tough luck, Burnice.
Sarah R. Eisenberg, 75 years old
I came across an obituary for Mrs. Eisenberg from July 7th, 1989.
… Mrs. Eisenberg was a native of Poland and moved to the Washington area as a young girl.
In 1933, she and her husband, pharmacist Samuel Eisenberg, bought Pearson’s Pharmacy on Wisconsin Avenue. With the end of Prohibition, its small liquor department soon eclipsed the pharmacy operation. In the 1940s, the couple sold the pharmacy and opened today’s liquor store several doors away at 2436 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
“Mrs. E.” was a fixture behind the store’s counter and cash register through the years, not retiring until about 1980. Her husband of 55 years and other family members continue in the store.
I’m sure a number of readers, who are long-time residents in Glover Park, remember Mrs. E. and her impact on the neighborhood.