For 41 years, local pharmacist Joe Money has been serving customers with the same company, and all in the Northwest Georgia area. But on Jan. 9 he will shutter the pharmacy doors and remove his white coat one last time before starting a new chapter in his life.
Money started working for Revco in Rome in 1979 and continued when CVS purchased the company in 1997. He worked at stores on Calhoun Avenue, in Ringgold, on Maple Street, then Shorter Avenue — and he ends his tenure back at Maple Street.
Tall and slim in stature, with a head full of white hair and a soft voice with an unmistakable Southern accent, many people have come to regard him as a fixture and familiar face in their pharmacy, and his departure will no doubt leave many folks missing him.
“I’m tired,” Money said. “I’m just ready to retire. I’m ready to quit working. I’ve worked all my life since I was 16 years old.”
“I’ve already booked a cruise for 22 days,” he said.
Actually, he has already booked four cruises over the next year. One will take him to South American and Antarctica. Another one will take him to the Baltic Sea with stops in Russia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Yet another cruise will take Money to Alaska.
And for his final adventure, he will cruise around the world for 128 days.
“I’m going to travel as much as I can while I can,” Money said.
Money tracks his beginnings as a pharmacist at the Gala Shopping Center and pharmacist Oscar Bryant. Money’s father had told him to go to the store and observe what they were doing there.
“I liked it, so I went back to school and went into pharmacy (studies),” he said.
His pharmaceutical studies included a lot of science – a subject Money said he enjoyed – including pharmacology, biology and biochemistry. He interned at the Tuskegee Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama, and graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy.
Without doubt, Money has seen countless changes in the pharmacy in his time there.
“When I first started we had a typewriter,” he said.
People would keep their prescription bottles and bring them back to the pharmacy for refills. There were three stamps for a prescription – one for the label, one for the log and one hard copy. Refills were recorded and stamped very similarly to the way books used to be checked out at libraries with cards and dated stamps.
Doctors were easier to reach by telephone. Drugs were fewer in number and less expensive to purchase. A basic prescription, Money said, cost about $3. Now, that same prescription might cost $60. And people paid for their prescriptions in cash because there was no insurance for medications.
There were fewer medicines. People asked fewer questions about their medications. Bacteria-resistant antibiotics weren’t the norm. There were fewer safeguards for dispensing medication. And there were fewer people addicted to pills because there was no widespread use of opioids.
The changes in pharmacy have been the hardest part he has had to deal with, Money said.
“When I graduated I never thought I would be giving injections to people,” he said.
But Money has had a lot of fun and wonderful experiences along the way. He has enjoyed helping people and meeting people the most.
“I’ve made a lot of friends over these 40 years,” he said.
“I’ll miss the people, the customers,” Money said. “I’m sure I’ll miss work but I think I can get over that. When you’ve done something all your life, it’s hard not to miss it.”
He may not leave the business entirely. Money has contemplated working on an as-needed basis.
But, of course, any work would have to be scheduled around his newfound retirement plans of traveling the world and getting some much-deserved rest.