Early Friday morning, I phoned the police and inquired whether it was safe to proceed to my drug store. They replied that the turmoil had subsided. It was my decision. As I left my home in Silver Spring, Maryland, I became very apprehensive. Reaching upper 14th Street,N.W.,D.C., I began to see the havoic–many stores with glassless windows, some burned, most streets covered with trash and debris.

 I reached my pharmacy,and parked in front of the store–I rushed into my “second home”, not needing a key because the glass doors were lying down on the sidewalk. I will never forget the sight of my vandalized business. On the floor lay my smashed Sweda cash register,that had been recording sales for nine years, with no drawers in sight. Most of the glass showcases were turned over, all the merchandise gone! Metal shelves lay strewn all over the floor. My safe was not cracked, but a metal cabinet in the back of the store,had been penetrated,and some money stolen..

   As I surveyed the store damage, my eyes suddenly focussed on a strange sight.On top of one still standing display case was my wire rack of Easter card,untouched.Not one card had been desecrated! Apparently the looters respected Easter.  My brother Sam ,whose 5 and 10 variety store at Georgia Avenue and Lamont Street,D.C. was also looted,with the Easter greeting cards remaining untouched.

With the exception of a group of teen agers outside the store,everything was quiet.Perhaps, it’s all over, I thought. How wrong I was.

For the next hour or so, I phoned my insurance agent,accountant, Glass Company and other business firms,not being able to contact anyone.Sundenly, the quiet atmosphere was broken by the sound of a lady crying. I rushed utside to observe a group of teen agers throwing beer and soda cans at the proprieter of Tower Cleaners. The kids then ran away.

As I searched my store for anything of value among the ruins, my phone rang–it was my friend Eddie advising me to leaave because widespread burning was taking place and could be dangerous.

I looked around one more time,clutching some unused money order blanks from the safe,said good bye  to Smith Pharmacy,and headed home.

 Again I stood glued to the TV,watching the looting,and burning, wondering when this riot would be over.

My phone rang,with my soda fountain manager on the line,his first words uttered,were “DOC,YOU’RE GONE-THE STORE IS BURNED DOWN!”

It’s difficult to recall my exact feelings of this important loss.Down the drain went 9 years of hard labor–As a merchant, I had nothing whatsoever to do with Doctor King’s assassination.Again I felt that as a US citizen, President Johnson,or Mayor Washington,or the DC police were supposed to protect innocent merchants. How to accomplish this protection was their problem.

 Later that evening, I heard from many sources, that National Guard troops were summoned in the late afternoon,instead of early morning on April 5th,1968.When the Guard arrived, many businesses in the three main neighborhoods were already in flames. Had the National Guard been summoned to duty early,some of the looting and burning might have been stopped. That evening, I went to bed with many questions of future events,on my mind.I could not believe that so many unexpected events had occured in such a short time.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Comments RSS Feed