Mary Goertz with her pharmaceutical items

Couple’s collection of pharmacy artifacts spans 50 years

Mary and Ralph Goertz do not collect teacups, thimbles, tickets, or trains. Tiles? Yes, they have collected tiles, but more about that later. Instead of more ordinary collectibles, the Goertzes have gathered items representing their dual pharmaceutical careers, and their stately rural home was partly designed to showcase this unique treasure trove.

When visitors approach Ralph and Mary’s front door, a colorful stained-glass panel featuring a mortar and pestle, pharmacy’s universal symbol, hints at the displays within. Mary received a mortar and pestle as a gift when she graduated. Now the mantel holds around thirty sets, ranging in size from only an inch tall to much larger. Most are ceramic, but there are also sets made of brass, stone, marble, and pottery, collected from travels or from friends.

Stained glass mortar and pestle on the Goertz's door

Tall, traditional apothecary jars, called show globes, are elegantly displayed opposite the mortars. Originally, these iconic containers created solutions through processes called percolation and titration, but now they hold jewel-toned water. A small centerpiece displays cobalt Wyeth eyecups and bottles. Along the wall in ceiling-high bookcases, guests can spy pill tiles and counting trays, used for hands-on work with prescriptions. There are balance scales, including an impressive one from Rice University, with teeny-tiny metric weights. Ralph and Mary have old copies of the Merck Manual, the pharmacist’s Bible—veterinarian, regular, and geriatric. Mary’s special keepsake is a hand-written ledger in which she meticulously recorded prescriptions and costs early in her career.

In a nearby powder room, antique cabinets reveal rows of small bottles: aromatic oils, formulated syrups, and elixirs, not the stuff of today’s medicine cabinets. Some faded labels tout recognizable brands such as Vicks or Bayer, while other brands haven’t been marketed for years. Mary acquired most of the bottles from small pharmacies in Louisiana that closed during the early 1970s.

Oh, yes, the tiles. Lovely blue and white Delftware tiles accent three walls of the Goertzes’ kitchen; other pieces decorated her Georgetown store. Beginning in 1973, Burroughs Welcome Company promoted the Dutch tiles to pharmaceutical customers, sending scholarship dollars to the pharmacists’ colleges of choice in exchange, a win for everyone.

Besides memorabilia, Ralph and Mary collected loyal customers and strong reputations for caring professionalism over the years. They operated “his” and “hers” pharmacies, rare in any town, on opposite sides of Georgetown from the early 1980s until 1996, when they combined their stores. After selling to Maureen Gallagher in 2000, they formed Goertz Consultant Pharmacists and worked extensively with Williamson and Bell Counties. Today, Ralph is retired, but Mary continues to work as a consultant pharmacist for the two counties and the Wesleyan homes. They’ve seen significant changes in pharmacy procedures since earning their graduate degrees—Ralph from the University of Texas and Mary from the University of Oklahoma. Despite football rivalries, the Goertzes share a love of their careers and of interesting items from pharmacies past.

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