Courtesy of Peter Graham
Frederick Foster Graham qualified as a pharmacist (in those days “a chemist and druggist”) and started practice, we believe, in County Durham.
F F Graham moved to South Africa and was registered as a “Chemist and Druggist” there.
1908 (or possibly 1909)
F F Graham returned to the UK. While in South Africa, he met Harry Tipper from Stoke. And since they were both returning at the same time, Harry invited F F to break his journey back to Durham in Stoke. There, F F meets his future wife (also a Tipper) and, when told there was a need for a pharmacy in Smallthorne, decided to stay in the Potteries
1909 or 1910
F F Graham started his pharmacy initially on the right hand side, descending, of Ford Green Road but it then moved to the present premises not many years later.
John Graham, F F’s younger son, started training as a pharmacist, not with his father since that business did not generate enough business to to support them both. John worked at a number of pharmacies in the area – out as far as Northwich – during his training.
John Graham did his academic pharmacy training at Nottingham University and was “registered as a chemist and druggist” in October 1938.
John Graham enlisted in September 1939 at the start of the second world war, originally in the Royal Medical Corps and served with them in the Narvik Campaign (!940). Later, as there was no prospect for promotion in the RMC for non-medics, he moved to the artillery.
F F Graham died at pharmacy. John Graham was given brief leave to sort out the business and until John returned at the end of the war, prescriptions handed in at F F Graham were dispensed at Salt’s Pharmacy about a mile away near Burslem.
John Graham left army, took a pharmacy refresher course at Herriot Watt in Edinburgh and returned to manage the pharmacy.
John Graham bought the shop next to pharmacy (Miss Martins, a haberdashery) and expanded the dispensary, the retail part of the shop and improved storage. Miss Martin continued to live in the flat above her shop until she died.
He started during the 50s to employ a qualified pharmacist as well as a dispenser and shop staff.
Also at that time, F F Graham was the only pharmacy in the area supplying oxygen cylinders to individuals in the area suffering from pneumoconiosis and silicosis (diseases associated with the local coal mining and pottery industries and rife in the district at that time). This involved delivering and installing oxygen cylinders at patients homes.
1960s and 1970s
In 1967, David Jones joins the pharmacy as a pharmacist (and in 1977 becomes a partner with John Graham). Much of the following is based on David’s memories
During the 60s, the pharmacy was starting to move away from the old system of Imperial weights and measures, ie fluid ounces, grains, scruples drams and ounces and some use of the metric system was already evident. David was (fortunately?) trained in both systems. For example mixtures in the BNF ( British National Formulary ) were in grams (Apothecaries grams = 480 grains) and ozs ( weight oz not fluid oz ) – confusing to say the least.
This was pre-computer days. Even in the late 60’s, prescriptions were all hand written in some of the most appalling handwriting you could imagine!
Deciphering these could not be taught but only came with experience. John Graham was a master at this; sometimes using a little detective work e.g. “what exactly is wrong with you?” normally enabled us to arrive at the correct result. As a last resort a quick phone call to the GP did the job. David was quite happy to do this on a regular basis as he thought it would perhaps encourage better writing.
F F Graham’s was one of the first pharmacies in the Potteries to participate in a newly set up Needle Exchange Scheme helping injecting addicts to use clean syringes; this was controversial at the time but still in use today.
During the 1960s and 1970s, F F Graham’s was extremely busy; in addition to John and David, the two pharmacists, there were 8 other staff, all female, working in the “shop”, 4 dispensers and 4 counter staff. In fact it was reputed to be one of the two busiest Pharmacies in Stoke on Trent. The pharmacy would collect and deliver medicines on occasions, years before this became the norm. And oxygen deliveries were continued too. As John’s children passed the driving test, they were enlisted to deliver oxygen too. (Oxygen cylinder spanner among display items at Keele).
The shop had a goods lift operated by a rope counterbalanced by lead weights which enabled the staff to send goods up to the stock rooms of which there were four, with a tearoom too of course! In the late 60’s this lift was converted to electric operation much to the relief of the staff.
David Jones, at times, helped out at some of the other pharmacies in the area – with George Salt who had helped John out after his father died and before he left the forces in 1945, with a pharmacy in Hanley and with Ray Stead at Tipper and Co, London Road, Stoke. In fact John Graham became a partner in Tipper’s Pharmacy for a period. Unfortunately, that pharmacy is no longer trading.
The Pharmacy was open from 9am to 7 30pm including lunch when David Jones started but the hours were good ie 2 late nights 2 early nights (5pm ) Thursday until 1pm and then 6-7pm. Saturdays 9am to 6pm. John and David did alternate Thursday mornings and evenings, and alternate Saturdays.
The girls hours were very good too just one late night per week; in fact one local GP once said that “no one ever leaves F F Graham’s so you must treat them very well”. John, indeed, was a very generous employer who paid well and offered good bonuses too; but he did not accept lack of commitment, poor time keeping etc.
As the 1970s progressed, prescription numbers increased and the focus changed to more branded pharmaceuticals and less formulary mixtures.
In the dispensary we started to have pre printed peel off labels instead of hand writing them; this proved to be a big step forward as we just had to add the date and patient’s name to comply with regulations.
1980s and 1990s
The next big step forward came in the 80’s with the advent of the “Pharmacy Computer”; this enabled us to print labels off on a basic printer and store patient details and labels in the computer memory. John enlisted his son, Roger’s vast computer knowledge to very good use in all this! These early computers led the way to the highly sophisticated ones we use today.
Through the 80’s technology advanced rapidly bringing in electronic tablet counters, more complex computers, advances in available medicines eg new antibiotics, the reduction of barbiturate use in favour of safer treatments. Through all this, John, who although by now having reduced his work load, embraced it all including the computer in his own inimitable style, undeterred by the queues of staff forming behind him!
Into the 90’s, business continued to build although the opening hours reduced to match altering surgery times. John (by then well into his 70s) continued to do the majority of the paperwork and also covered David’s time off. John and David had planned for David to take over the full time running of the business with John taking more of a back seat; however in January 1994 David suffered
a coronary occlusion requiring an urgent angioplasty and on medical advice and with great regret it was decided to sell FF Graham.
Rajen and Hema Morjaria took over the Pharmacy in September 1994 and traded under the title Graham’s Pharmacy.