Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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What you see above is an entry from the Boulder Yellow Pages in 1971. The circled listing is for Hodel's Drug -- the pharmacy whose owner produced the amazing ledger that I recently wrote about. I'm a little surprised they had such a no-frills, bare-bones listing -- in part because I imagined them having a higher profile in the community, or maybe just because I can imagine Oscar Hodel writing "Renewed Yellow Pages ad, paid extra for boldface type" in the ledger.

The phone book entry is one of several Hodel-related clippings that have been sent my way. I'll get to that in a minute, but first let me back up a bit to the week when my original piece about the ledger ran. Soon after I posted that piece, I heard from PermaRec reader Gregg Fanselau. He said he had attended high school with several Hodels, and he gave me the contact info for one of them -- a guy named David Hodel -- in case I wanted to get in touch with him.

So I sent David Hodel a note, explaining how I'd acquired the ledger on eBay, asking if he knew how it ended up there, offering to return it to the Hodel family if they wanted it, and showing him the what I'd written about it. Here's what he wrote back:

Oscar [the guy who filled out the ledger] was my dad's older brother. I'm thinking probably one of his kids put the ledger on eBay. Ockie was a bit of an artist and I'm sure the illustrations [in the ledger, like the little turkey for Thanksgiving] are that side of him coming out. They always kept a record of the weather because it affected traffic at the store and gave a way to compare like days to like days.

We don't have any sentimental attachment to the ledger so the Boulder History Museum is probably a good start. My dad [who, like Oscar, was a pharmacist] gave some trays and other pharmacy-related items to the University of Colorado. They were from the era when pharmacists had to make their own capsules rather than have them pre-counted and packaged.

Hmmmm. I like that Oscar's nickname was Ockie -- that's a nice detail. Aside from that, though, David didn't offer me that much information, and I was surprised by how disinterested in the ledger he was.

Fortunately, it was around then that I heard from Wendy Hall, manager of the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History in Boulder, who had seen what I'd written about the ledger and generously offered to do a bit of research for me. The phone book clipping at the top of this page is one of several things she sent me.

Wendy also sent me this newspaper article published in August of 1956, shortly after the store opened (and about six and a half years before Oscar began keeping notes in the ledger I eventually acquired). It describes the physical layout of the store, provides background on the Hodel family, and gives us our first glimpse of what Oscar looked like (click to enlarge):

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The article mentions that Oscar's brothers, Ron and Merv, operated another Hodel's Drug outlet in Denver, and that Merv "was a stellar member of the football and other athletic teams" at the University of Colorado. That sounds like boilerplate praise, but Wendy sent me some clippings showing that Merv (whose full name was Merwin) wasn't just a collegiate standout -- he actually played pro football, albeit briefly, in the NFL! Here are some items charting his athletic career, beginning with a 1949 article touting him as the most promising U. of Colorado athlete "since the days of All-American [and future Surpreme Court justice] Whizzer White":

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Now fast forward to January of 1952. Merv has graduated and is drafted by the New York Yanks, a short-lived NFL franchise:

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As you can see, the Yanks promptly traded Merv's contractual rights to the New York Giants (good thing, because the Yanks folded before the start of the ’52 season). But by May of that year, Merv had decided to forego a football career in favor of entering the pharmacy biz:

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Now skip ahead another year and a half, to the fall of 1953. Merv has apparently had a change of heart and is preparing to play for the Giants:

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Several weeks later, however, Merv had been sidelined with torn knee ligaments:

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That's the last clipping relating to Merv's football career, and I'm pretty sure he never played pro football again after that. He apparently saw very limited action during his time with the Giants: His career stats show that he appeared in two games, carrying the ball five times for 11 yards, and somehow managing to catch two passes for minus-15 yards (a fairly remarkable, if unfortunate, achievement). Still, that was enough for him to be immortalized in the form of a football card, as you can see below:

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Of course, Merv wasn't the one who created the amazing ledger -- that was Oscar, Merv's brother. And Oscar had a son, also named Oscar, who worked with him at the pharmacy. The father was Oscar A. Hodel; the son, Oscar M. Hodel. Our last clipping finds Oscar M., the son, entering the real estate business in 1973:

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Note that he had "previously managed Hodel's Drug in the BaseMar shopping center" -- the same shop whose daily records were kept in the ledger by Oscar A. Hodel. As you may recall, the final month recorded in the ledger was March of 1972, and there were indications that the store's lease was about to run out. Looks like they did indeed shut down, forcing the younger Oscar to find a new line of work.

That's enough Hodel family history for today. Big thanks to Wendy Hall at the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History in Boulder for all the clippings.

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