These stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Looking Back in Time” program. Each week’s radio story will be posted in its entirety here on our website.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
May 14, 2023
On August 3, 1967, Amos Fikkan was honored for 50 years as a pharmacist with an article in the Roseau Times-
Region. I’ll read from that article today.
His license reads July 25, 1917 … but in fact he graduated from pharmaceutical school two years before that and
spent mornings, after school and holidays working at a drug store in his home town of Elbow Lake before he went to
college. Amos Fikkan chuckles when he recalls his life of a pharmacist in the “old days” … but he says it has been
interesting, has provided him with time to do other things and has become a complex professional service with a
tremendous record of change and benefit in his lifetime.
He worked about six places before coming to Badger in 1921 when he went to work for J. J. Prickner. “Then they had
a doctor, two banks, two drug stores, a big general store, jewelry store …,” he recalled. He bought out Prickner and
operated his own drug store there until 1931 when he moved to Roseau where he has been since.
Amos leaned back in a chair in the new drug store he has built here and remembered what it was like. “In those days
we had to compound most of our own ingredients. It was before the day when everything came all put up,” he said.
“We made our own cough syrup, our own tinctures … and all the bottles on the shelves weren’t for decoration. They
were used!” He smiled as he remarked that he had washed enough bottles to “reach here to the Panama Canal!“
before he went into business for himself.
But bottles weren’t the only bane. In those days every drug store was expected to have a soda fountain. “We got the
ice cream shipped in packed in ice. We had to re-pack it in our fountain … then re-charge the fountains and worry
about keeping it over the weekend.” Amos doesn’t feel pharmacies and soda fountains mix. “But just when the
electric freezers came in and ice cream was delivered to our door … I moved to Roseau … and I didn’t put in a soda
fountain,” he declared.
Another big change, he recalls, is the cigar counter. “We used to handle about 20 brands of cigars and such tobacco
as Prince Albert, Duke’s Mixture and Bull Durham as well as the pipe smoker’s favorite, True Smoke. Now it’s mostly
cigarettes. “The drug stores have changed in other ways too. The traditional wallpaper and paints are nearly gone as
are phonographs and some other “multitude of junk.”
There are a few of the old remedies remaining … such as Lydia Pinkham’s compound, Mentholatum and aspirin.
“When aspirin first came out there was only Bayer’s,” Amos revealed. “Other companies had to call their product
acetyl salicylic acid … until the copyright name ran out and everyone could call their product aspirin. “It’s still going
strong! And has a good medical value,” he added.
He still remembers the names of the old “patent” medicines which he characterized as “more benefit than plague.”
“It’s true some of them were sold more for their alcohol content than medical value,” he chuckled, “but druggists
could look at the label and weed out that problem.” He praised the pure food and drug law and the good it has done
saying, “you can tell a story from the labels if you can interpret them.”
He reached up on a shelf and brought down a bottle of H. W. Barker’s “Nerve and Bone Liniment.” It was for “man or
beast” and it claimed to cure such ailments as sprains, bruises, rheumatism, chilblain, boils, cuts, aches and pains,
ring bone and etc., etc.” “It sold pretty well,” Amos recalled with a twinkle in his eye. Sloans liniment did too … and it
still does, he revealed.
In the old days (and even yet) the druggist was called on for a lot of things … from prescribing something for ailing
animals to doing first aid work. “When I was in Badger I used to do a lot of first aid work and then send the patients
to Dr. Delmore, Sr.” That was after the doctor had left Badger. There will be a lot of people who can remember that
There have been several big changes in 50 years, one of them being the introduction of packaged pharmaceuticals.
“The new drugs [are] created through research and are wonderful. The research has meant reliability and more
standardization. Doctors can prescribe with more exactness from the wide choice available … and the patient is well
protected by the thoroughness of chemical and medical tests,” he continued.
While his drug store had to have a large space for the liquids and powders he had to mix himself in the old days, it
now must provide greatly enlarged space for the “miracle” products that research has created. “It has meant more
continuous study to keep up with the deviations in just the antibodies and tranquilizers alone,” he said. There are
some problems … such as the different systems of identification by different companies; and the cost of keeping an
adequate stock of the tremendous selection of pharmaceuticals necessary today. “Duplication is necessary as we
must give what the doctor prescribes … even to brand names. In fact we have many penicillins … many antibiotics and
other products.” He still mixes some remedies. “Some of the old medicines will never be obsolete,” he says.
Drugs have often had a big impact on pharmacists and one of the largest he remembers is the discovery of insulin.
“Suddenly they said ‘this is it!’ and it was. It was a Godsend to diabetics and saved countless lives. And it is about the
same today as it was then while the penicillins have branched into many types … and we are still getting new forms of
What are the satisfactions? “While the credit must go to the doctor for making the right prescription, it is satisfying to
know that something you may have helped prepare has saved a life. There are other simple little things like advising
non-prescription things which may have helped someone in some way,” he reminisced. Amos figures he has issued
well over a million prescriptions in his years as a pharmacist. “I figure it’s over ¾ million in Roseau alone.”
What does the future hold? He feels drug stores will go more and more toward the professional type store where
even clerks will be registered pharmacists. “I feel the sale of critical products must be carefully regulated,” he
emphasized. This, he feels, will take more professional people.
Whatever the future holds, he has made good use of the past both in pharmaceutical service and in public service. He
served in the State Legislature, has been in Scouting over 40 years and is a recipient of the Silver Beaver Award, the
highest in Scouting, and last year won the Award of the Year for service with the Tuberculosis and Health Association
… with which he has served since 1921. He is presently president of the Northwest Advisory Committee which covers
Amos has served with the Red Cross, been chairman for 27 years and is still providing Red Cross service for military
men. He has been president of the Roseau County Historical Society for many years and was also chairman of the
school board in Roseau. He was defense director of the county during World War II (he served in World War I in the
Medical Corps) receiving the Governor’s citation for service.
He has been a member of the American Legion since it was formed and has held many offices in the post in Roseau as
well as being a charter member of the 40/8 as well. He was chairman of the Roseau County Communities Association
for years (“I hated to see it die as it did a lot of good,”) and was also village clerk at Badger and treasurer of the fire
department there. He managed the ball team for years there also.
Amos has been chairman of the Roseau planning board; a charter member of the Lions Club, of which he was deputy
district governor; and is a Master Mason and Past Worthy Patron of the Eastern Star. There are many other posts he
has filled to show that he didn’t spend all his time “washing those bottles.”
One last thing we tried to pry out of him was how he could read the doctors’ writing on prescriptions! “Oh, it’s easy,”
he laughed, “you just have to know how.” It is evident Amos knows how. You learn a lot in 50 years!
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.