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DC 68 RIOT MEMORIES

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APRIL 4, 1968

The evening of April 4, 1968 was another of the few evenings I took off from work at my drug store, Smith Pharmacy, at 2518 14th Street, N.W.which I had purchased nine years earlier. My work schedule there generally ran between 60 and 70 hours a week, rather than the then standard 40-hour week.
That evening, I took my two sons, Steve,13, and Stan, who had just celebrated his ninth birthday a month before out to Leoni’s, a popular Italian restaurant in Adelphi, Maryland. After enjoying the well-liked Veal Parmigian, we stopped into Standard Drug, next door to say hello to Doc Lawrence, a pharmacist acquaintance.
Doc’s first greeting was, “Did you hear the news,
Doctor King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee tonight.”
I was stunned by this sad news, but didn’t anticipate any violence. After exchanging a few words with Doc,we headed home to my Silver Spring, Maryland, residence.
Arriving home, I turned on the TV. As I expected, every station was running the sad story of the unexpected assassination.
Suddenly, a news flash reported that a window at People’s Drug Store at 14th and U Street, N.W. was smashed, and rioting, and looting had begun.
Realizing that the mentioned People’s drug was only around six blocks south of my pharmacy, I became alarmed and called Raymond Flowers, my soda fountain manager, and inquired about the announced rioting.He responded that my drug store, Smith’s Pharmacy, 2518 14th Street, N.W. was indeed being looted.
I quickly dialed my neighborhood police station, on Park Road,screaming “Myy drug store is being destroyed”.
Although,the riot occurred over 41 years ago,
I recall clearly the police response, “Sorry, sir,
there is nothing we can do. There is rioting and looting all up and down 14th Street.”
I recall feeling a sense of complete helplessness, and bewilderment. We merchants had nothing to do with Doctor King’s murder. Why were our businesses being looted? Where was our police protection?
In spite of visions of my drug store, where I had worked for nine years, being destroyed, I remembered that on the morning of April 4, 1968, I had gone to the Riggs Bank, on 14th and Park Road,N.W., and removed some important documents from my safety deposit box and placed them in a file cabinet. Once again, I phoned Raymond, gave him the file cabinet location, and asked him if he could locate a brown envelope.
Fortunately, Raymond located the documents, which would have been very difficult to replace. Again, Ray said that the store was a mess.
I thanked him and returned to the TV to view the ongoing destruction, which had now spread to businesses on 7th Street,N.W.and H Street,N.E. According to the TV news, some businesses were already on fire.
It was difficult to sleep that night, as I wondered what the future would bring. I knew I had some store insurance, but wondered if I would be compensated for my losses.
Despite many occasional problems that occurred during my nine years of operation, I enjoyed operating and developing this run down drug store into becoming a successful business.
It was very difficult to realize how my nine years of owning Smith’s Pharmacy had suddenly taken an unexpected change.

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