For much of the 20th century, Incline Drug and Surgical Co. in St. Elmo was a hub for healing and a center for commerce.
A 2017 column in the Chattanooga Times Free Press noted that, "Before mobile phones, Lookout Mountain doctors would stop at Incline Drugs on their way home to check phone messages or touch base with their spouses for milk and bread orders."
This photo, from the News Free Press photo collection at ChattanoogaHistory.com, shows Incline Drug and Surgical Co. in 1960 with a small fleet of delivery vehicles out front. ChattanoogaHistory.com is a digital archive of historical photos curated by local history enthusiast Sam Hall.
The pharmacy, which took its name from the adjacent Incline Railway at the foot of Lookout Mountain, was operated by the McDonough family from 1939-1996, according to a November 2000 report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The McDonoughs sold Incline Drug to Revco pharmacy in 1996, and it was purchased by CVS two years later, according to news reports.
Steve McDonough, who retired in 2017 from the St. Elmo CVS at age 66, was the third generation of his family to dispense prescriptions in St. Elmo, a family legacy that lasted 78 years. For a short time in the 1970s, Steve McDonough, his father "Buddy" McDonough and his grandfather, company founder M.F. "Marti" McDonough Sr., worked together at Incline Drug.
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If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non‐digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
A 2017 article in the Times Free Press explained the origin of the business:
"Martin Fleming McDonough, the family's modern patriarch, was born in 1901, the son of a court bailiff. He was named after a childless local judge, Martin Fleming, who promised to look after the boy if his father died before the child reached the age of maturity. As it happens, Martin McDonough's father did die, and the judge kept his word by buying young Martin yearly Christmas gifts, clothes and school supplies.
"As a young man, Martin McDonough became an apprentice pharmacist and eventually worked at several downtown Chattanooga drug stores before opening Incline Drugs with a few hundred dollars in seed money. So eager was young Martin to get his business going that he pushed aside his superstitious tendencies and opened the drug store on Friday, March 13, 1939."
An advertisement published in the Chattanooga Daily Times in 1939 noted that the new Incline Drug Co. store sold vitamin-enriched pablum for 43 cents and pint bottles of rubbing alcohol for 9 cents each.
In April 1961, a newspaper report noted that it took the pharmacy 22 years to fill 1 million prescriptions. But just six years later, in 1967, the pharmacy had filled its 2 millionth prescription.
In January 1959, Incline Drug was involved in a flash fire that did extensive damage to the store. News reports of the day noted that the fire started in a corner of the prescription department and caused chemicals to explode.
By the late 1990s, the St. Elmo area had become saturated with pharmacies including CVS, Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo and Walgreens.
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