The Pharmacy Time Forgot

Cards purchased in the 2000s from McMonkman Pharmacy in Lincoln Heights

Not too long ago, at the corner of Daly and North Broadway in Lincoln Heights was a pharmacy untouched by time. It seems the good folks of Lincoln Heights had no reason to buy anything from this store except medication from the pharmacy. This resulted in a drugstore that masqueraded as a museum of products from the 1970s. The store never cleared it’s shelves and items stood dusty on display patiently waiting for an uninformed shopper to carry them home.

As you can imagine, a store like this piqued the interest of a curious person like myself. I would wind through the purposely created maze like shelves – shoplifting deterrents – purveying cosmetic items from decades past. La Maja, the dusting powder my mother and grandmother used featured a vampy raven haired Spanish dancer on the front of the box, and as a little girl, I thought she was the epitome of beauty.

The pharmacy carried a full line of La Maja products, at least twenty years old as evidenced by the same packaging I remembered from my childhood. Under glass was the well preserved display of the little soaps, the big round powder box with duster and a small box of perfume all red, black and gilded with gold. The price was still too high for me, all were well over $20. On my occasional trips down to Broadway and Daly I would duck into the pharmacy just to check to see if they were still there. Someday I thought, I will have a spare twenty in my pocket and in a tribute to my eight year old self, will purchase one of these fancy boxes. On one such day, with a bit of money burning in my pocket, I went in to peruse the Maja products only to discover they had replaced the vintage Maja line with new updated versions. The design was cheap and generic, lacking glamor. You can still buy Maja in places like Rite Aid but why would you? All the magic is gone.

As alluring as those old Maja products were, my favorite relic in the store was a display of greeting cards from the early 1970s sitting dusty on an old brittle and faded plastic revolving rack. Tucked away in a dark corner, the cards were overlooked and rarely browsed. My friend and I would read through them snickering at the old school jokes while the clerks watched us suspiciously. Eventually the pharmacy went out of business to make way for a discount store. Luckily, I snagged a few cards while I had the chance.

A review of Maja perfume and products here.

The history of Myrurgia, the company behind Maja.

While doing a small bit of research on Maja, I found the woman on the box was inspired by the Spanish dancer and model Carmen Tortola Valencia.

One thought on “The Pharmacy Time Forgot

  1. I LOVED Maja!! Growing up on the San Diego/Tijuana border, I could buy it cheap at El Calimax or El Gigante (Mexican supermarket chains). Mostly I just bought the soap (the cheapest fix) which had an intoxicating woodsy smell–like castanets made of ceder with a hint of African oils, blackberries, jasmin and jamaica. It was a staple for those of us with a gypsy duality.

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