When their longtime meeting place closed, a well-established group of Alvarado coffee drinkers refused to be ground to a halt.
After the Alvarado pharmacy, The Medicine Chest, was bought by CVS, they tore out the dedicated coffee area, forcing a group of coffee drinkers to go somewhere else.
“If you can't tell, we're mad. We're old, set in our ways, and we don't like change,” laughs Tommy Head, one of the longest-standing members of the group.
After being a loyal daily coffee drinker for 46 years, he explains how the group feels displaced after going to the same place for so long: “It's just not the same,” he said.
Tommy began drinking coffee at the original Alvarado Drug store in old town, when it was owned by Travis Ray.
“Mr. Ray was very proud of his coffee drinkers,” Tommy says. “He treated us real nice, and we always got free coffee.”
Sometimes Ray would sit down to join them. When Ray moved the pharmacy to its present location, Tommy and the others followed him there. After the move, Ray had a special area set up for his loyal coffee drinkers and even brought in original booths from a soda fountain he owned so they had their own place to sit.
When it came time for Ray to sell the pharmacy, he sold it to The Medicine Chest, a small business that kept the coffee counter, booths and continued the tradition of free coffee.
After a tornado damaged the pharmacy a few years back, the Medicine Chest rebuilt the coffee area with a completely new wet bar, tables and chairs.
After finding out that CVS was going to be the new pharmacy, Tommy sat down with the district manager to ask that they keep the coffee area, but the store's policy wouldn't let them keep it, Tommy assumes.
After CVS took over Jan. 1, the group needed to find a new place to meet. Currently, the group has relocated to the Alvarado Texaco and is very appreciative of having a new place to gather.
The employees of the Texaco joke around with them and seem to enjoy having them there.
“If they want to hang out, I have no problem with that,” says Terry, the manager.
The current group includes Tommy's older brother Lawrence Head, who has been attending for about 40 years, and the middle brother, Charles Head, who's been coming for about 10 years. Their friend, Bill Pollard has been drinking coffee with them for about 22 years, as well as their friend Charlie Phillips, who has been part of the group for about 35 years. Some other regulars include Don Baker and Harold Kenny.
The coffee-drinking tradition began many years earlier by a group of farmers who would come to the original Alvarado Drug store to drink coffee, Tommy explains.
The meetings are not simply about tradition, however. Whether it's every day or once a week, “Everyone enjoys attending. We all like being here,” Charlie points out.
The group is an opportunity for “retired old men needing to get out,” jokes Lawrence. “We get to get away from our honey-do lists,” adds Charles, chuckling.
The group is kind of famous for its stories and gossip, and they joke that people around town would come to the drug store, sit with their backs to them, and pretend not to listen, even though everyone knew they were. On Sundays, people in church would ask, “what's the news at the drug store?” Charlie says.
The group likes to talk about all kinds of things, like football, “what used to be,” says Charles, “problems with hearing aids,” laughs Lawrence, and “how much it sucks getting old,” Charles adds.
There is only one topic that the group tries to avoid: “No politics,” exclaims Charlie, laughing.
Tommy also points out that, “Charlie is famous for telling his stories over and over, first to me since we're often the first ones here, then to everyone else as they come in. By the time the day's over, I've heard it five times!”
For now, the group is happy with Alvarado Texaco for being nice enough to let them assemble. They don't know what the future holds, but “Most of us won't be around for much longer,” Charlie says, eliciting a roar of laughter from the group.