On the evening of April 17th, 2012, I stood shoulder to shoulder with many 'junk afficionados' at what could possibly be one of London's biggest & most interesting estate sale auctions to date. It was one of the highlights of my young picking career. It was me against the senile with pockets so deep, deeper than my rectum canal. Well, almost.
I wasn't sure what had gotten into me when I kept surrendering my bidding card as if my life depended on it. It was between myself & a mysterious bidder on the other side of the room. Who kept outbidding me? I needed to win, damnit. Win? This isn't a game! This is my hard-earned skrilla, yo. Even if it meant going over my budget -- wait, what budget?
I didn't exactly have a game plan. I thought I could easily swindle these veterans by doing a bit of homework before the sale. Foolish thinking on my part. I was bidding in blind rage, the adrenaline rush seeping through my pores, nooks, & crannies. I have buyer's high, on the verge of 'greening out' so to speak. I didn't care because I was about to own a part of interesting London history. Look at me! I'm waving my card up in the air like nobody's business. I tried to hold my pokerface, but the flicking of my right wrist screamed, "tourettes".
In those last futile seconds, the auctioneer finally motored the words "SOLD! To bidder #212 for $xxx!" Oh my fuck. I looked down at the floor, regaining consciousness. Shit! Did I just spend an arm & a leg on a bunch of century old drugs? Oh well. I stood still, trying to catch my breath as I felt a sea of silver foxes, staring at me in bemusement. So what if I didn't get my hands on any of the gorgeous, glistening glass & porcelain apothecary jars strewn around the room? Those lots went for excessive amounts, far beyond my reach. I got something better. I got drugs, motherliker! Some still in its original packaging. Mm-hm.
"Excuse me", a silver fox, adorned in suspenders, approaches me, "I am wondering what you plan on doing with these? It's all very curious", he queries, eyeing the two overflowing boxes. It took me a few moments to realize he was speaking to me.
"Oh? These? Well, I, uh, may potentially resell some, & keep some as part of a collection. Also, I want to do some research; the history & the artwork intrigues me."
In my mind, I also thought it would be nice to share them with the public as part of a micro-exhibit (it wasn't until early June, that I had the opportunity to do so at Bedroom Eyes Gallery). I took it upon myself to learn more about the estate that was being auctioned off. The impressive collection belonged to the late Mr. Eric B Chapman (1903-1991).
Mr. Chapman, a graduate of the Ontario College of Pharmacists, & his wife Pearl were the original shop owners of what many know today as "Chapman's Pharmacy". Back in its heyday, "Chapman's - The Apothecary Shop", as it was once called, was a place that attracted many locals & tourists alike. Established in 1946, Mr. Chapman's shop was originally located on the corner of William & Dundas. His shop was like no other because he took his hobby of antique collecting to a whole new level. Borrowing ideas from 18th century France, he remodelled his shop with winning results.
The result was a gracious, colourful atmosphere, an arresting storefront & a collection of early European equipment, show globes filled with brightly coloured liquids, antique apothecary urns, ointment jars, & dispensing bottles. It was a wondrous sight to behold! One had to be there to absorb the rich history & haunting beauty of his collection, which also included 400 year old Italian apothecary jars & early medical instruments such as bloodletters & bone saws. In 1982, after 36 years of service & collecting, Mr. Chapman called in for retirement. Since then, the shop relocated to 648 Dundas St & has gone through several different owners. Today, Chapman's Pharmacy has caused a ruckus within the community for dispensing methadone since February 2011. Although, Chapman's Pharmacy is seen as 'London's armpit', it is important to preserve its history of a place that once brought joy & enriched many lives through the years.
I'll be throwing a popup event, a part of Sweet Magic London, which will showcase my collection of Chapman's pharmacy artifacts. Please join me to celebrate Old East's history on August 6th, 2012 from 7pm-9pm on 637 Dundas Street in an empty storefront across from Chapman's Pharmacy. This event is FREE. There will probably be snacks, refreshments & a game of Dr. Mario, or something. Anything & everything is possible. The exhibit will run throughout the month of August. Check out the event post for the details or head to sweetmagiclondon.com to find out more about the micro-festival and other cultural facets of London.
photos courtesy of: dm tran, n.j.harrison, London Free Press, & t.cermak
Below are some more photos (courtesy of London Free Press) of Chapman's from back in the day.