Curtsinger’s Drug Store: The Social Center Of Old Frisco

My grandfather, Sam Curtsinger (better known as “Papa Curt”), moved his family back to North Texas in 1922, after spending several years in the town of Paint Rock, Texas, in Concho County, where he operated a drug store. He purchased a store in Frisco just a few months before the horrific fire of 1922 that destroyed most of downtown. Fortunately, Papa Curt’s store was not affected. A few years later, he moved his store to Main Street, just west of 4th Street, which became the final location for Curtsinger’s Drug Store.

Ironically, Papa Curt moved to Frisco because his store in Paint Rock was destroyed by fire. He also wanted to return to his roots. The store was located just three blocks from the Frisco school, in the center of downtown, which consisted of two blocks. Consequently, Curtsinger’s became the gathering point for the community. Most high school girls and some boys, at one time, worked behind the soda fountain. It was almost a rite of passage.

For many years, the store served as the bus station for two bus lines — one from Greenville to Denton, the other from Sherman to Dallas. The drug store had the only radio in town. During the World Series, a large scoreboard was set up in front of the store and the game’s progress was noted for all to see.

Curtsinger’s also had one of the first telephones in town. The phone number was “3.” I can still see the wall-mounted phone where you picked up the receiver, turned the crank and called the operator, Mrs. Allie Riddle. She would ask who you were calling, and on many occasions, would advise that they were not at home, but were at the cafe, grocery store or drug store. She pretty well knew where everyone in town was at any given time. Of course, there were only about 600 folks in town, and most had no phone.

The 1940s were a special time in Frisco, especially for me. I spent many Friday nights with the Curtsingers, my maternal grandparents. On those nights, I had the run of the soda fountain. For a 10-year-old, that was like being in heaven. There were malts, shakes, ice cream and candy — unbelievable! My grandmother, Mama Curt, would usually walk home early, around 8 p.m. Papa Curt and I stayed until he closed. The local night watchman, Jarvis Hayes, who was also my school bus driver, would come in about 9 p.m. for his five-cent coke, and we would visit a while.

Not much happened after 10 p.m. I would sit patiently while Papa Curt walked from the pharmacy to the front door and looked down Main Street. If he walked back to the pharmacy without saying a word, I knew that Prod Wall’s drug store was still open. My grandfather was not closing before Mr. Wall closed his store.

Offices in the rear of the store provided office space for Dr. W.L. Saye Jr., where he practiced medicine until his death in 1952. He was a visionary who spent much of his time, when not delivering babies or taking care of families, at one of the alabaster tables near the soda fountain, planning roads for North Texas. Truth be known, Dr. Saye and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn were likely responsible for planning the routing of Texas State Highway 121. It runs from Bonham (Mr. Rayburn’s home) to Fort Worth. Today, that road is known as the Sam Rayburn Tollway. I walked into the drug store one day and Dr. Saye was sitting at his table. He pitched me a set of keys and told me to drive his new Packard automobile around and report back to him. Big thrill for me! Dr. Saye was quite a man and one of my heroes. He also happened to deliver me in 1935.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Frisco was strictly a rural farming community. Saturday nights were special in Old Frisco. The farmers came to town to do their weekly shopping and visit with neighbors. All the stores stayed open until about midnight. Kids went to the movie, usually a “shootum up,” had refreshments at Curtsinger’s, then played hide and seek on 4th Street until their parents were ready to leave. There was a piano in the back of the store which was usually brought out. My mother, Irene Curtsinger Roach, and my uncle, Claude Curtsinger, would play and entertain on most Saturday nights. Oftentimes, musicians from other towns would join them and people would sing, visit and have fun. It was a great era in which to grow up and live. Curtsinger’s Drug Store was open every day of the year, except the day white perch fishing began.

Those days were memorable, and I will cherish forever the opportunities and experiences that I enjoyed in Curtsinger’s Drug Store!