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The Coyne Years

Arthur James Coyne
The tenure as pharmacist owner by Randall’s successor, A. J. Coyne, was a relatively short one, essentially during the period of World War I or the Great War, plus a few years post war. Coyne had an earlier and second pharmacy at 116 Lake Street in nearby St. Catharines, as did some of the other custodians of the Niagara Apothecary. The relative brevity of his stay may have been influenced by his own assessment of the situation some 40 to 50 years later as the restoration of the Apothecary proceeded. He summed it up succinctly by declaring essentially that he had been “run off his feet in the summer and starved in the winter!” Until recently, that sentiment might have been shared by many recent shop keepers, some of whom only operated full time when the tourist trade was heaviest during the busy summer season, otherwise weekends, and around Christmas time.

Coyne may also have been the only one of the six pharmacist owners who wasn’t related to one or other of his predecessors in the apprentice/preceptor succession of professional development and qualification. Born in October 1885, he graduated from the OCP School in 1909 with his diploma to practice and also qualified for the optional University of Toronto Phm.B. degree.

However, as noted elsewhere, Coyne certainly has a very direct connection with the wall, to the right as one enters the Apothecary, of drug jars and bottles originally imported from Britain by James Harvey, Jr. Coyne generously returned, for a very modest consideration, those Harvey containers that he had preserved for just slightly less than half a century and in time to make the restoration of the Apothecary as complete as it is. Quite apart from their current value as antiques, the containers are priceless in terms of their long connection with the practice, culminating at the present site. It should also be noted that a small group of the same jars and bottles had been sold at some earlier period and found their way by a circuitous route to the Academy of Medicine, Toronto, until they were identified by the Apothecary’s curator and returned to the restored Apothecary.

It was especially fitting that when the restored Niagara Apothecary was dedicated and opened in May 1971, A. J. Coyne and his wife and other members of their family were present to enjoy the event. At that time, Coyne was still practising in St. Catharines at his original pharmacy, but retired not long after for reasons of concern about his ability to continue. When he owned what has survived as the restored Niagara Apothecary, he used “Coyne Drugs” for the name of the practice, prominently displayed on the exterior signage.

Period photographs shown above show that along with medications, he continued the practice initiated by Randall of selling gasoline, “Kodaks” (cameras and photo supplies), cigars. The first photo shows an electric car on the tracks next to the pharmacy, with locals crossing to the park. Another, shows the train, as well as a sign on the pole outside advertising tickets for the electric cars. There are also a couple of early automobiles, both being driven by ladies in fashionable broad-brimmed hats, on the street beside Coyne’s. The signs for gasoline on the front of the shop are now as prominent as those for drugs. A large sign on the side of the building advertises the electric cars as a convenient means to see the latest construction of the Welland Ship Canal, billed as one of the wonders of the world.